Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sunday Snippet....on a Saturday

I know that I'm posting this week's 'Sunday Snippet' early. However, the phone company is doing some maintenance work on our line and we have resorted to using what's left of our 'Pay As You Go' Internet, which could expire at any time!

Anyway I digress. Here is this week's 'Sunday Snippet':

Page 20: 'Marijke stood in Martin's office next to his computer, trying to steady her hands enough to thread the needle in the pool of yellow light from his desk lamp. Their flat was very dark; Martin had papered over the windows and she could only tell that it was morning by the white light that showed the Sellotape at the edges of the newspaper.'

'Her Fearful Symmetry'- Audrey Niffenegger

Have a great weekend and normality will resume on the blog shortly!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

'The Vet's Daughter'- Review

Publisher: Virago Modern Classics

ISBN: 0-86068-1637

Length: 190 Pages

Opening Line: 'A man with small eyes and a ginger moustache came and spoke to me when I was thinking of something else.'


'The Vet's Daughter' by Barbara Comyns is another reading recommendation. A friend saw a review of this novel on another book blog and decided to read it herself. Then, because she enjoyed it, she passed this novel on to me.

'The Vet's Daughter' is set mainly in Edwardian London. The main protagonist is Alice, a girl in her teens who lives with her ailing mother and tyrant of a father, in a house which doubles as her father's veterinary surgery.

When her mother dies, Alice is trapped in an oppressive life. She unloved by her father, ridiculed by his new partner and acts as a slave to both of them.

Then a man arrives at the surgery, whom Alice nicknames Blinkers. He works as a partner in the veterinary surgeon and becomes besotted with Alice. Seeing that she is unhappy, he suggests that she travel to Hampshire, to work as a companion for his mother. Although Alice does not share the same affection for him, as he has for her, Alice decides to use Blinkers as a way of escaping and so, she agrees.

Life in Hampshire is rather dull. However one day, Alice meets Nicholas, a handsome boat builder. Alice then has the dilemma of whether to stick with her loyalties and marry Blinkers or follow her heart and pursue Nicholas.

The story then takes on a supernatural twist. One night, Alice discovers that she is not as ordinary as she first thought.

Most of the time when I finish a novel, I can instantly decide whether I enjoyed it or not. However with 'The Vet's Daughter', my opinion wasn't as clear straight away. In fact even now, I'm not entirely sure what to make of this novel.

It is so unusual, that at times I wasn't sure what this novel was supposed to be. It is both a novel focusing on the oppression of the Edwardian period, but also, it has elements of the supernatural. Therefore whilse reading this novel, I found it difficult to work out.

In my opinion, I think this is a good thing. The reason is because even after reading the novel, I'm still thinking about it and I have also been discussing it with my friend. Most novels I read, think 'I did/didn't enjoy that' and then more on to the next novel. So it is because 'The Vet's Daughter' is so unusual, Comyns has effectively held her audience, even after they have read the last page of her novel. I have only ever come across one other author who is able to do that and that is Guy Burt.

The main element I absolutely loved, was the atmosphere this novel portrayed. It demonstrated both the oppression of the age and also of Alice's life. There was an almost macabre atmosphere running throughout this novel, even when reading happier parts of the story. Even now, I can't quite put my finger on how Barbara Comyns was able to achieve this, but I think it's because the vocabulary is simple, therefore it has more impact than if she had used more complex language. Also the wonderful, dark visual imagery, adds to the atmosphere.

I loved Comyns characterisation. All of the characters are well rounded and I loved the underlying darkness through each character. It is evident that people such as Alice father should be portrayed as menacing, but even Alice, who is supposed to be innocent, is portrayed as imperfect, as she plays with the affections of people like Blinkers. This added interest and realism to the story.

The pace of the novel was good, but the unconventional story and ending, may leave some readers disappointed. However, I found this novel compelling, thought provoking and unlike any other book I've ever read.

I know that I have given 'The Vet's Daughter' a very mixed review, but over all, I really enjoyed reading this novel. In fact, I think that this novel deserves to be read more than once, in order to really appreciate it.

So if you like reading something that dares to be different, particularly if you enjoy watching Tim Burton films, then I would definitely recommend this novel.

Monday, November 8, 2010

'Melissa's Writing Month'-Update on week 1

Last week, I decided to follow 'Melissa's Writing Month' on the 'This too' blog. This required setting myself realistic writing goals and sticking to them. After a month, you should report back on how things went. Well, I've decided to do things differently and write a progress report each week, to tell you how it's going.

In general, it's going well. I wrote 1833 words last week, which has taken me to the end of the 4th chapter of my short story. I have slightly clearer plans about how the plot is going to progress. However, I still have a few things to clarify for example, a few location problems and names for fictional towns. As I'm not great on geography, I seem to find it difficult too look at the landscape my characters are placed in, as a whole. I mostly concentrate on where the characters are at each specific moment and I really need to develop the landscape as a whole, so that my readers are more immersed in the story.

I have also set myself the target of finishing the first draft of this story, in 8 weeks. I could probably finish this story in less time, however, I like the idea of writing at a slower pace. This is because I like to have a little freedom to change things and this approach allows for leniency in plot, in case some element unexpectantly organically (I should really plan my stories in a more rigid way, but I just find it difficult to work like that). Also, I think that giving myself an 8 week writing plan, helps me to fit my writing around things going on the real world, like house work and other obligations that I have.

So ,week 1 has been successful I think. I just hope that I can maintain the momentum and get my story finished!

What about you? Are you participating in 'Melissa's Writing Month? Or have you set yourself any of your own writing challenges? I would love to know how you're getting on.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday Snippet

I haven't really done a lot of reading this week, so I'm still on 'The Vet's Daughter' by Barbara Comyns. I'm planning to use today to catch up on my reading. Here's this week's 'Sunday Snippet' :

Page 153:'The day after my experience in the wood began badly. No hot water was brought to my room, and only weak, cold tea and toast appeared on the break-fast-table.'

'The Vet's Daughter'- Barbara Comyns

Happy Sunday!

Monday, November 1, 2010

For those who write....

Some readers of the blog may know, that I am an aspiring writer. I haven't had anything published yet, but dream that one day, I'll be able see one of my novels on book shop's shelves.

One big problem I have, is that at the moment I have 2 projects on the go (a children's novel and a short story) and sometimes, well actually most of the time, I lack the motivation needed to finish anything. I am lucky though, because I have a fellow author friend and we meet up regularly, to encourage and help each other with our writing. This support keeps me going, but I feel that I lack a writing structure/timetable, to stick to.

This morning, whilst browsing through the newest blog posts, Melissa at 'This too...' blog highlighted something called 'MeNoWriMo' . This an initiative in which writers have to force themselves to write 50,000 words, without censoring what they write. Coincidentally a short time after reading this post, a friend sent me an article about 'MeNoWriMo' (maybe they were trying to tell to get off my butt and do some work!) and you can read it here.

To be honest, I don't think that I will take part in this. It could be a great motivator but in my opinion, by simply writing without thinking can bring an awful lot of rubbish, in which you have to sift through at the end. Slow, considered writing would be better in my opinion, although not completely free of total jibberish.

So, I have decided to join in with 'Melissa's Writing Month'. This entails setting realistic writing goals and then sticking to them. On 1st December I will report back, to tell you how the month went.

My goals for this month are :

1.) Set out clear, fully planned out plot and character structure for my short story. It's mostly there, but I still have a bit of ironing out to do.

2.) Write a time plan when I want to get to the editing stage of the book.

3.) Then start! Sticking to my time plan.

For those of you who write, are you planning to join in with 'MeNoWriMo'? Do you think that forcing yourself to write 50,000 words in a month is a good idea? Or do you prefer to write at a slower pace?

Also, are you able to motivate yourself to write and how do you do it? I realise that I have ended this post with many questions, but I would be interested to get an insight into how other writers motivate themselves. I would also be glad of any tips on self motivation.