Blog 52: Stage Fright – Jen Hughes.

I was a bit worried. Not overly worried, just a little. My little brother was having a party. (I can’t call him my “little” brother anymore, seeing as he’s 6 ft and I’m 4’11” but oh well). He wanted me out of the house, not because he hated my company or anything but because it was a teenage party. Full of spotty youths being drunk and falling over. Not really my kind of thing, but it does dent your ego a touch when the dog is more likely to get invited to a party than you are.

Luckily for me, I had something else to do that night. Stage Fright was on. I hopped on the number 6 bus to the little café at Queens Court, Ayr which is run by local cultural movement Freshayr. For those who don’t know, Ayr is a town on the west coast of Scotland and is best known as being the hometown of our national poet, Robert Burns.

Robert Burns is most famous for New Year’s Eve favourite Auld Lang Syne, however he has written many poems and songs adored throughout the world such as Tam O Shanter, Tae A Moose (where Steinbeck’s novel ‘Of Mice and Men’ got its title) and My Love is Like A Red, Red Rose to name just a few. Not surprisingly, Ayr has milked tourist revenue to ridiculous proportions, with countless Burns themed pubs, restaurants, festivals, statues, you name it, it’s got a Burns reference somewhere. Yet it has little to offer to actual poets who live in Ayr, which is why Freshayr came into being. read more »

Blog 51: What Writing A Novel Looks Like.

When I tell people that I’m an author and that I write YA fiction, I am often met with looks of wonder and awe. Most people seem to think that writing a book is an amazing feat, something that ordinary people just cannot do. It is flattering to say the least, and as much as it does take a certain type of person with a good imagination and determination, a lot of it actually just comes down to hard work and perseverance. These looks of wonder and awe are often followed by questions about my work and life. Questions which I struggle to answer adequately on the spot, so here is a picture instead.

This is a conservative picture of what my work and life looks like when I’m working on a novel. I say conservative because this picture is minus the caffeine, sleepless hours, hundreds of binned crumpled notes, dozens of typed draft versions, culling of characters, the rewrites, and the final edit. This picture is just part of what it takes for me to write a story, a story I’m not sure anyone is going to read or like at the end of the day, and as for sales, well, I hope so!

People often ask me how do I write a book and what is it like? read more »

Blog 50: So I Guess I’m A Blogger? – Jen Hughes.

I wonder how I should start this… Hello, I guess? I am on a quest to find out the meaning of the blog. What is it to blog? What does it mean? Is it just talking fluff about yourself or is there some deeper meaning?

But “who are you?” I hear you ask. And “what are you doing on the Diary Of A Young Writer?” My name is Jen Hughes. I’m not your conventional blogger, and the more you read of me, the more you’ll know why. I hope to be a novelist, create and write some great films and TV shows- maybe the odd Doctor Who episode or series- and make poetry cool again. I say ‘I hope’ because I’ve only ever completed one novel, forgotten how to write scripts and, well, there are already people out there making poetry ‘cool’.  I just want to be one of those people.

I wrote a whole big memoir piece about my writer’s mind, so I won’t go into that again. I’m also going to study English Literature and Film at university, so I expect to have some anecdotes to share with you whether you want to hear them or not. But that wasn’t where my days of talking fluff about myself began.

2010/2011

I was in first year at secondary school. I was becoming a teenager faster than you could even say the word. Instead of being the kind of teenager who had a social life, I spent most of my time writing. At this stage it was ideas for teen romance novels, Young Adult fiction, terrible song lyrics and lots and lots of diary entries and lists. The lists weren’t part of my actual writing, but more an opportunity to dream about my future, write down my notions and feelings. I didn’t see the significance of them at the time, and especially after I realised I didn’t have the drive to realise the goals I wrote down.

2015

I’m in my final year at school and dating some man I met on a dating site. He suggests that I start a blog, as that’s what writers do right? Maybe he noticed the fact that I was hitting a major bout of creative block. My brain went from a hive of buzzing bees to a void over the course of a couple of months. I did attempt a ‘Facts About Me’ post, which I knew wouldn’t do anything because I didn’t feel it was serious writing. It wasn’t that fun to read and I felt pretentious even considering posting it (not that I knew where to post it on), so I dropped the notion and got on with my studies.

2017

I’d been knocked out of my work schedule by a horrible chest infection and have spent the past three weeks trying to shake it off, without much progress. I’ve had a website set up on WordPress since June last year, and I was posting a weekly stream of flash fictions and the odd poem. I was also managing to have some of my works, such as short stories, published on online magazines and journals. Sadly, combining ill health with a six-day work schedule meant that I had no time or energy to even think creatively, let alone write another flash fiction. I needed to apologise to the (very few) people who actively followed my work and give them an idea of my plight.

Thus, my first somewhat readable blog post was born – Down With The Sickness. I thought it was hilariously appropriate to use a heavy metal song by Disturbed as my title. Not just because of the title summing up my life at that point, but sometimes the vocals sounded like my actual coughs. (Yep my chest infection was that bad.) Besides, if you don’t laugh you’ll cry, right?

But I didn’t catch the blogging bug until I wrote a reflective piece about being a teenager – 11 Life Lessons from my Thirteen Year Old self. I mentioned earlier that I wrote lists when I was younger and didn’t really think much of them, but I looked at this one that I’d totally forgotten I’d written, and thought ‘Gosh, she has some points.”  I wanted to keep it as relatable as possible. We’ve all been teenagers at one point. I also wanted to structure it in headers for each lesson, to make it easier to read. After all, the more relatable it is, the more people want to read it, right?

So I hope that I can add to Diary of A Young Writer with my own experiences and learning processes. And who knows, maybe someone out there can benefit from them.

 

 Jen Hughes will be a regular contributor to Diary of A Writer’s Blog. She is a young writer from Ayrshire, Scotland who has been writing since she was seven. Her work has been published on a variety of online journals and magazines such as the McStorytellers, Minus Paper, Oletangy Review and Pulp Metal Magazine to name a few.

If you’re liking what you see so far, you can find more of her work in the links in the article/down below and on her website dearoctopuswriting.wordpress.com. (Her website is full of original short stories, poems and flash fictions.) You can also follow her on Twitter (@dearoctopus4) or Tumblr https://dearoctopuswriting.tumblr.com/  or give her a like on Facebook (Dear octopus writing).

 

 

Blog 49: Four Twitter Micro-Stories

I’ve written several micro-stories for Twitter, but inevitably tweets are drowned and lost in the thousands of tweets posted every second, which on average is actually 6,000 tweets per second. So I thought I would share my Twitter micro-stories for you here, just in case you missed them. Writing a micro-story for Twitter is no small feat if you ever want to try it yourself, you have 140 characters to play around with and that includes all your spaces and punctuation too. Here are four of my micro-story tweets and I shall explain my thoughts and ideas behind the writing for these pieces.

For this micro-story I was actually daydreaming about characters, more specifically creating characters and how our ancestors gifted certain circumstances and natural objects to human-like deities. read more »

Blog 46: An Interview With Young Writers’ Short Story Competition, 2017 Winner, Holly Kybett Smith.

  1. I loved “Laboratory Angel” and the exploration of science ethics in your ideas. Science is obviously something that interests you. Do you have a science background at all?

To be honest, I don’t. I’ve got GCSEs in physics, chemistry and biology but that’s about as far as my background certifiably extends. My interest in science – biology especially – has always had a strong influence over my writing, though. A lot of what I read is science fiction, and when I was studying biology at school I had a very enthusiastic teacher; she taught my class way more than what was on the syllabus and all of it with this crazy-excited gleam in her eyes. These days I think any background I have in science can be classed as hobby-work. I like reading and learning about it when I have the time.

  1. What are your thoughts on AI and the growing trend for creating intelligent robots?

I love this question. The whole concept of AI – specifically robots mimicking human cognitive functions – seemed like absolute fiction when I was growing up, and it astounds me to think that that wasn’t even very long ago, considering how far scientists have come since then. Personally I’m both excited by the prospect and terrified. While I would love to see where we could go with these sorts of technologies, I’m worried about how we as humans will play it. I don’t want things turning out the way they did in Laboratory Angel, for example! read more »

Blog 44: The Language And Terminology We Use In Writing.

I already touched on this topic in Blog 37: On The Importance Of Words, but I wanted to write more about the language and terminology that we use.

As a writer getting the language and terminology right for your characters, setting, plot and storyline is important. The writers who nail this often have the best-selling novels, whilst the writers who don’t, often trail behind. Now that’s not to say that every best-selling novel is a good book and every other book is bad, but you can definitely tell when a book is more likely to be good, based on the language and terminology that the author uses.

Language and terminology can be used to add colour and complexity to your characters without compromising on your word count. Sticking to stereotypes for now, the evilness of your antagonists can be increased with the language and terminology that they use. If their language is mean, cold, and/or condescending, it is likely that the reader will ‘dislike’ these characters. Similarly, the goodness of your protagonists can be amplified by the honesty, good-will and politeness that may shine through in how they speak and interact with other characters. Not only this, but the language and terminology used by characters when they talk about other characters, can be used to paint pictures and nudge the reader’s opinions of those other characters. This happens all the time in real life, you see it in advertising, music, the media, and pretty much every single thing that is written, everyone has an opinion and their own lives, and naturally this will come through in their work, their mannerisms and what they say, even if they’re not aware of it. read more »

Blog 37: On The Importance Of Words.

When I was in high school and studying English Literature, we read books like ‘Of Mice And Men’ and ‘An Inspector Calls’. One day that I remember clearly, a student asked the English teacher why we were bothering to study the sentences in such detail. This student was sure that writers would not and did not plan every single sentence they wrote. They thought that if a writer chose to write that the curtains were blue then they simply were blue and that it was not a subtle attempt at drawing out feelings of sadness from the reader. My teacher didn’t have a reply at the time, but after writing a book, reading hundreds of other books and many years later, I do have a reply. read more »

Blog 35: Ten Tips On Writing A Short Story.

Outlet Publishing and their team have kindly asked me to help judge their short story competition, and even though I haven’t written a short story myself, yet, and I’m certainly no expert. I am an avid reader and I have been through the writing and publication process, so I do feel in my humble opinion that I have a basic understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

Over the past two months I have read dozens of entries written by young, hopeful candidates. Some have been very good, others not so, but as the entries have been piling up around me I have noticed similarities and reoccurring patterns. The same mistakes have been cropping up again and again, and there appears to be a preference towards particular genres and themes. The latter is neither strictly bad nor good, but the former is most definitely bad. With this in mind, I am going to share with you some insight into what I feel short story competition judges are looking for, and hopefully help you and your short stories shoot to the top of the winning pile.

 

Tip Number 1: Read The Rules.

This may seem obvious, but make sure you read the competition’s specifications, rules and guidelines. I don’t know if it was because candidates couldn’t be bothered to read the rules or if they simply misread them, but a couple of the short story submissions I have recently received didn’t sit within the required word count. Judges may be able to forgive a word count that falls 10% above or below the maximum and minimum requirement, but if your story is more than 10% above or below then don’t submit it. Also, some competitions state a specific age range or country of residence, so make sure you read everything carefully before submitting your work.

Tip Number 2: Quality Over Quantity. read more »

Blog 32: An Interview with ‘In the Depths of Darkness’ Author Sean Fletcher

Image result for in the depths of darkness sean fletcherQ1) Briefly, how would you describe ‘In the Depths of Darkness’ to someone who hasn’t read any of your previous work?

In the Depths of Darkness follows a group of outcasts blackmailed into joining the oppressive Earth Alliance army, only to discover they’re the test subjects for an advanced neural Chip that will make them into super soldiers. If they survive. But once the rest of the galaxy finds out they have the Chip, they are forced to go on the run and find somewhere—anywhere—safe.

It’s a YA Star Wars meets Firefly with some Ender’s Game thrown in.

Q2) How long did it take for you to finish and publish ‘In the Depths of Darkness’?

This was my most ambitious project to date. Book one took me about six months to write and do my edits on. Then another 2-3 months to have readers/editors take a look and input their edits. I was actually done with it near the middle of 2016, but I held off to release it so I could get the second one started. I haven’t released Book 2 yet, but it’s done, and I have just a little editing left before letting other people look at it. read more »

Blog 25: An Interview with ‘Consensus Breaking’ author, M.S. Dobing

Consensus Breaking 2

Q1) In one or two sentences, how would you describe your novel ‘Consensus Breaking’ to someone who hasn’t read any of your previous work?

Think an urban fantasy of the Matrix! It’s the sequel in the Auran Chronicles, and follows a young protagonist — Seb — who’s pulled into a secret world within our own where sheol (terrifying daemons that can possess humans) battle the warriors and mages of the Brotherhood and Magistry. In Consensus Breaking the fallout from the events of book one continue, with Seb and his alllies facing a new foe that not only serves as an entirely new level of adventure and threat, but also  serves to delve deeper into the underlying mythology and scale of the Auran Chronicles universe.

Q2) How long did it take for you to finish and publish ‘Consensus Breaking’?

It took about 6 months, which included first draft, multiple edits, a professional edit, and then final rewrite.

Q3) Have you always wanted to write and when did you first discover that you wanted to write? read more »