National Trust: Literary Edition

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Days out with the National Trust are always good fun, especially when they help maintain lots of houses and estates where famous writers once lived! From my experience, they really maintain the authenticity and atmosphere of the times, which always makes it a really rewarding experience. Here is my list of National Trust places I want to visit.

1.

Bateman’s, Burwash

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I’ve actually already visited Bateman’s! This gorgeous Jacobean house was once home to Rudyard Kipling, the writer of The Jungle Books. At Bateman’s, Kipling wrote his first major work, Kim, and soon visitors will be able to see Park Mill after some extensive restoration. Also, Bateman’s has a collection of gardens which makes it a great place to visit in the summer. Bateman’s is open all year round from 11-5pm and costs £10.40 for a standard adult ticket.

2.

Monk’s House, Rodmell

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This 17th-century house was once home to Leonard and Virginia Woolf, before her death which occurred at River Ouse, not too far from the home. After her body was found, it was cremated and buried beneath an elm tree in the gardens of Monk’s House. I’ve just been to visit this house, recently, and it was amazing to see where Virginia lived and wrote. She even had a “room of her own”, her writing room, at the end of the garden. Monk’s House is open Wednesday through to Sunday, after lunch until 5 pm, until the last week of October. A standard adult ticket costs £5.75

3.

Greenway, Devon

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This grand estate was home to the famous crime writer Agatha Christie and was specifically the holiday home for her and her family. Like Bateman’s, there are lots of gardens that make it perfect for going on walks, and dogs are also welcome according to the website. Greenway is open from 10:30-5pm, every day until November when it only opens at weekends through to December. A standard adult ticket is £11.00

4.

Hill Top, Cumbria

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This 17th-century farmhouse was home to Beatrix Potter, and resides in the northern part of England, compared to the rest of my other picks. Ms Potter bought the Hill Top farmhouse with the proceeds from her first book The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Those wanting to visit, be mindful that entry to the house is ticketed to prevent overcrowding. Tickets cannot be bought in advance and a sell-out of tickets is possible. Hill Top is open every day until November, from 10-4:30 pm and standard adult tickets are £10.40. Access to the gardens and shop is free during opening times.

5.

Hardy’s Cottage, Dorset

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Thomas Hardy, the writer of Far From the Madding Crowd and Tess of the D’Urbervilles, was born in this cottage in 1840. It was built by his grandfather and has been maintained ever since, and Hardy actually wrote Far From the Madding Crowd in this very house! Thorncombe Woods is nearby, providing a beautiful picturesque walk for all who visit. Hardy’s Cottage is open every day up until November, where it only opens Thursday-Sunday. Opening times are 11-5pm and a standard adult ticket is £6.30.

I’ve put all of these National Trust estates on my list of places to visit. Have I managed to sway you too? Let me know in the comments!

#CampNaNoWriMo – Week 4

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I did it! I managed to write 50,000 words in 30 days! AGAIN!

This last week has been a real uphill struggle for me, as I really felt like I was burning out, but I managed it none the less. At the end of week three, I managed to stretch ahead and get back on target as I was a day or so behind on my word count. It’s funny how just skipping out on one day can sometimes really make you struggle to get on target again, but I did it, and in the final week four, all I had to write was a further ten thousand.

Most of that ten thousand went on back story, filling in the gaps and structure. In my story, there is so much that goes on behind the scenes that the main protagonists don’t know about, that it’s important for me to get straight in my head what’s happening so I can correctly convey the story and how much information to reveal to the characters and when. Some of this information I translated into the story in different ways, some I left as “extras” for myself to refer to. I did consider a multiple POV at one stage, but firstly, I would have had to go back and interject the other points of view which seemed like a lot of work, and secondly, it really felt much more powerful and harrowing if we kept the characters, and to the same extent the readers, in the dark about the true nature of what’s going on outside of their circle.

My plan moving forward with this story is to be more ruthless with the structure, as I really just let the words flow without worrying too much about what was going in which chapter. I don’t know when I’ll be revising the piece, as right now I’m going to be taking a well-earned rest from writing, but hopefully soon. I also want to write in, and incorporate, lots of other short stories and creative works that really formed the foundations of this book. I had the initial idea in my first year of university which was almost six years ago now, and there’s a lot in what I wrote then that I want to rework into the form it is now. I’m really, really proud of what I’ve been able to achieve with this story, and it’s true what they say about never throwing anything away. You don’t know when it’s going to crop back up into your mind again, in different clothing or fully formed.

How did your April #CampNaNoWriMo go? Did you manage to complete your word count? Or did you find it as difficult as I did? Let me know in the comments!

#CampNaNoWriMo – Week 3

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This blog post comes a day late due to technical difficulties with my WiFi and also with my laptop. I’ve managed to push through and so here we are! These are the stats for my week three stint of CampNaNoWriMo.

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As you can see I’ve been lagging about a day behind with my writing due to the day I missed. It was a simple case of life getting in the way and so my creative project suffered for it. I know lots of writers have a similar problem balancing those areas of their lives, and I definitely struggled with balancing mine last week. Having said that, I only missed one day of writing, and have continued on never the less.

Last night was actually the night where I had a break through with my piece. I was in the shower, which is one of the many places I find I have good ideas, and it felt like a light bulb had been switched on over my head. At risk of giving too much of the plot away, it concerned something that I had been struggling with for a few days. I knew what I wanted my characters to get, or achieve, but I didn’t know how to get them there, or really what “there” looked like. I got there in the end, and it gives me hope that eventually I’ll be able to work all the kinks out and have a really strong arc if I just give myself the time.

I’ve also been considering the structure of the novel this week. I had originally split the piece into three parts as I usually do to help with structure, but it the plot has presented itself in very straightforward “before” and “after” pieces. The “after” section that I’ve been working on has, for the majority, been made up of the part three section of the story, and so I’m thinking it’s going to be a much more fluid, and full of pace, if I move with where the story takes me and leave figuring out the structure to a later draft. At the moment, I’m only concerned with getting my characters from A to B, and getting the words down.

With my writing epiphany yesterday, I happily only have ten thousand words left to write of my piece, which is going to lift a lot of pressure from this final week. I feel like I’ve asked and answered a lot of questions, and I’ve really been smoothing out areas of the plot that were very grey, and almost invisible to me at the start.

I hope your third week of CampNaNoWriMo has been going well. Have you had a similar journey to me this April? Let me know in the comments!

#CampNaNoWriMo – Week 2

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This week’s blog post comes a little later than usual, as in the past twenty four hours I haven’t been doing as much writing as I should have. As is the usual with most of my NaNoWriMo attempts, the second week has been incredibly difficult compared to the first. I have frequently lost my writing thread, and due to a combination of reality and emotional stamina, and because of this I haven’t arrived at the place I wished I had by now. Having said that, after I complete today’s word count, I’ll be halfway through my manuscript. My goals are still within reach. And I know that I’m being incredibly hard on myself because I’m a perfectionist.

My writing this week has had me jumping all over the place. I wrote sections of the last third of the novel, the epilogue and of course more of the beginning. I like to know where my characters are going to end up. It gives me a much clearer goal for them, and me, to strive for. However, trying to piece all of these bits together has proved challenging. Having said that, if I’d had to write in a linear fashion, I would have been stuck by the various ideas I’ve had along the way. It’s swings and roundabouts.

Coming into the third week, I’m hoping to pick up the pace and get on target with my daily word count again. I’m also back to work after having two weeks off which will help me establish a routine. I just need to make sure that I’m striving every day to get the words down on paper, and not let the weight of the struggle keep me from achieving. I’m going to try and get some of the middle section of the novel done so that I can string together the beginning of the last third I wrote in the first week. Being able to do that will make me much more confident and give me a direction.

It’s so important to get words down on paper during this time and worry about them after wards! I hope everyone is still doing well with their CampNaNoWriMo challenges? Let me know in the comments!

#CampNaNoWriMo – Week 1

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In April 2017, I’ll be embarking on my fourth NaNoWriMo attempt and my second of the camp edition. This year I’m working on a brand new story, and a brand new genre. My story, The Elementals, is a YA magical realism story, with a hint of mystery and adventure too. You can read about my preparations for this year’s CampNaNoWriMo in my blog post here.

My goal this time around is to write 50,000 words by the end of April. When I embarked on CampNaNoWriMo last year, I managed to write 50k without much of a plan. This year, I have an outline and much more of a clue which direction I’ll be going in, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to achieve it. Reaching 5,000 words in the first three days went well. I’ve been placed in a cabin with lots of other lovely people and cheering each other on was a great motivation to get moving. I mainly wrote for an hour or two after dinner as I found this was when I was the most productive.

Towards the end of the first week, my social calendar got a bit busier and so finding time to write was challenging, but I still managed to get the word count in every day, even if I was writing right up until my bedtime. Let’s have a look and see how my stats are at the end of the first week.

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So as you can see I’m over a quarter of the way done, which is perfect considering I have four weeks to complete my piece in. Tomorrow, the first day of week two, I’ll be tipping over onto the 15,000 word mark which is really exciting!

What I’ve been concentrating on this week is back story and foundation. I wrote three chapters of the third section of my novel, as there needs to be a lot of back story injected into the conversation between the characters, or a reveal of who/what/when/why/how as one might do when revealing a murderer in a who-dun-it. I then made sure that my characters were asking the right questions in the foundation section of the novel, which was mainly at the beginning. I had to make sure that the characters were held off from knowing too much too soon, and so crafting this balance was what has been my main focus this week.

Getting the words down hasn’t been too much of an issue so far, as once I got the ball rolling, I generally found I could keep going until I ran out of steam and gave me a good chunk of the word count for the day. I know that the second and third weeks can sometimes be hard, so I’m preparing for that by having my outline on hand to keep me going in the right direction.

I hope you’re all having a wonderful time either participating in #CampNaNoWriMo or cheering on friends that are! Keep up the good work everyone!

Bookish Places to Visit in England

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I love travelling as it is, but what I love more than that is travelling to places of literary interest. London is a great place to begin, it being the capital and all, especially as there are so many blue plaques to find. But there are many more places outside of London that you can visit. Here are a few I hope to get to in the near future.

Oxford

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Oxford is probably one of the most literary places in England! The origins of CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, and even Lewis Carroll who attended Christ Church College. You might be aware of the famous Inklings who, together with Lewis and Tolkien, met often at the Eagle and Child pub to share their work. To top it off, even a few scenes of Harry Potter were filmed around the city.

Yorkshire

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Yorkshire is world-famous in particular for the Bronte family. Charlotte, Emily and Anne were three sisters who wrote some of the most prolific and well-loved classics, and they lived with the rest of their family in Haworth, a small town not too far from Leeds where their father was the priest there. Another noteworthy literary site is the burial place of Sylvia Plath in Heptonstall, which also resides not too far from Leeds.

Edinburgh

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I didn’t realise that Edinburgh was as literary as it is, but in fact, it is very literary! Arthur Conan Doyle was born and raised here, in 11 Picardy Place, where there is a Sherlock Holmes memorial statue and the Conan Doyle Pub to celebrate the writer’s life. JK Rowling also wrote the majority of the first few Harry Potter books in and around Edinburgh. The Elephant House Cafe boasts that it housed the writer as she was drafting the famous Potter books.

Dublin

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Dublin is home to many, many literary greats! Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and James Joyce to name a few! It’s picturesque and hygge aesthetic is enough to set any blogger’s and book lover’s hearts alight! Joyce even based a short story anthology around the city he loved so dearly, titled Dubliners. If you’re looking for a bit more information on Dublin Writers History, there’s even a Writer’s Museum to get you clued up.

Devon

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In particular for fans of Agatha Christie, whose holiday home Greenway is now owned and maintained by the National Trust and well worth a visit if you’re a hardcore fan. Devon was also home to Sylvia Plath’s husband Ted Hughes, and was also the setting and inspiration for the popular Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.

These five places are on top of my literary bucket list, and hopefully after this post, they’ll be on yours too. Is there anywhere you’d like to go and visit? Literary or otherwise? Let me know in the comments!

Preparing for #CampNaNoWriMo2017

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I absolutely love participating in NaNoWriMo whether it be the Camp edition in April/July or the regular write-along in November. There’s something so infectious about setting time aside to write and celebrating the art of words with people all over the internet.

I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo for the first time last April and really, really enjoyed it. What I liked was that the Camp edition has the added bonus of cabins, which means you get put into a chat room with other writers where you can spur each other on, ask questions and get feedback. This is something that isn’t available in the November challenge.

This April, I’m going to be working on a brand new story! The last three attempts at a NaNo challenge, I’ve written completely new ideas. So I’ve begun to structure my first writing project of 2017 in preparation. As usual, I like to break it down, usually into three parts, and I give myself 20,000 words per part. That way, I have a 10,000 word grace period if I’m feeling stuck. (And sixty goes into three better than fifty does!)

Also, following the trend of my last few projects, I’ll be tackling a new genre. This time I’m going to try and combat magical realism, but it will of course be YA because I can’t stray too far from who I truly am as a writer. I, so far, have never written magical realism before, even though I’ve had this seed of an idea in my head for years. I’m looking forward to the new challenge.

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot yet but it’s certainly going to be mysterious, because again, I can’t stray too far from who I am. I love mystery! And packed full of drama. I also have a working-title too: The Elementals.

I’ve also dedicated a new notebook to this entirely new project which is always exciting for us stationary fiends. I’ve been carrying it around with me and filling it up with new ideas for the book, letting my imagination run wild and really mulling over the story before I put it down into words. I’ve been dreaming it up before I go to bed, whilst waiting for the kettle to boil and whilst waiting for a train. In my opinion, it’s in those blank spaces of life where we write our best work.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to in the run up to Camp NaNoWriMo. I’ll be doing weekly updates here as usual, so I hope you’ll enjoy hearing about my (hopefully, fruitful) progress.

Are you going to be doing Camp NaNoWriMo this year? If so, what are you writing this year? A new project or an old favourite? Are you waiting until November to get your write on? Let me know in the comments!