Developing Sophie Lives

Although I started to write Sophie Lives for a peice of coursework from Foundations in Creative writing with the Open College of the Arts, I am going to make the use of social isolation to continue with writing this novel. I’m not concerned about making rapid progress, just little steps. There’s no need to rush.

It’s not easy to develop the initial idea, but I have added more to the first chapter, which begins with the link to Sophie Lives above. However, saying it’s not easy doesn’t mean to say that I havent been able to continue writing, because I have, and further possible developments have come into my mind. Although I am currently adding to the day that Sophie comes round from her overdose, her sister has come into the frame, although we haven’t met her as yet. This has opened the pathway towards Sophie getting to A and E, and then how she ends up in a psychiatric hospital.  I have already written a very small part of that scene, which can then  move me into the second chapter.

I’m pretty sure that I am not following the best plan for writing a novel.  I have previously read that people develop a plan for the novel before they begin to write; ideas for structure and how the  book progresses. All I know is that I am going to write of Sophie’s journey through her pain and into recovery, intersperced with flash backs from the abuse that she suffered at Mar’s hands.

It’s quite intense to write about at the moment to be honest, and I am writing this reflective commentary for my diary, which allows my thoughts to crystalise. It also means that I can have a break form the mental and emotional intensity.

What I Could Do During Social Isolation – Freewriting

One thing that I’ve already mentioned before is writing Sophie Lives. Not that I expect to write the whole book, but I can write more of it. There’s lots of writing that I can do, I intend to keep up with my freewriting on a daily basis, whether that’s on here or in my notepad.

Meditation has been a part of my life for many years, although I have let that slip recently, and I we would like to take that up again, whether I do breath awareness or use the Insight Timer app. I like to put wax earplugs in, shut out the background noise and just focus on my breath, so I set the intent of meditating today.

My photography portfolio hasn’t been added to for s while. I think it would be beneficial if I went through all of my photos and created a folder for all of the best ones. It’s nice to know that I have taken a few good photos over the past few years and I need to make the most of these. If I have them all in one place then I can get back onto curator space and submit some of them to exhibitions and competitions.

My eating disorder recovery has involved attending online 12 step meetings, and I have a weekly routine of attending three. As well as keeping up with those, now might be a good time to log into some others, which would increase my social contact.

Of course I should continue reading as well. Currently I’m reading Palestinian Walks: Notes On A Vanashing Landscape by Raja Shahadeh. It’s a fantastic piece of non-fiction about the life of a Palestinian from the West Bank (Occupied Territories) and his walks through the landscape. It’s beautifully written, and naturally it touches upon the political landscape of living under Israeli occupation and how the illegal settlements have interfered with the physical environment. I have an interest in the political environment between Israel and Palestine, the conflict has been going on longer than my lifetime, it would be nice if this conflict would end at some point before I die. I hold out no hope for this, but I guess people didn’t believe the conflicts between Republicans and Unionists in Norther Ireland would ever end either.

During the 12 week period of social isolation I am aloud out for short walks and to the shops as well, which is something I will most definitely do.

There are more things that I can do, and this piece of writing has helped me to solidify my ideas from my previous post. I wish all of you safety, peace and love and pray that you all get through these challenging times safely and that you remain in good health.

Freewriting In Response To My Book Review

I just wrote a book review, one which I found incredibly difficult to write. The book was confusing for me because it was so heady, and I lacked an emotional connection with it. How would I write a book which is dynamic, gripping and with emotional connection from the beginning? I’m not sure, I cannot answer that at this stage of my writing career, but I expect I would need to write from a place of passion and emotional involvement myself. I can see that writing a novel is hard work, and that developing a writing style isn’t easy. At the moment I’m writing short pieces of a story, and I have no idea as to how to develop and connect these so that a book appears. Beaumont has done this, but it was bloody hard going. I’m relieved that I’ve managed to cobbke together some kind of book review, although I’m displeased with what and how I wrote. I have two pieces of non-fiction to read next, books that I would not normally read; this has been suggested in the coursework. I’m certainly looking forward to the Arthur Miller play.

Reference

Beaumont, S; 2008; Thirteen; Newcastle Upon Tyne; Myrmidon

Thirteen – Book Review

Oh my gosh, I haven’t a clue how to write this review. Thirteen (Beaumont; 2008) is a very complicated book. The bizzare thing is I’ve enjoyed the book, and also felt a repulsion to it at the same time, I’ve felt gripped by the story, and yet put the book down on several occasions not wanting to read anymore. This is a duality that I’ve never experienced with a book before. I’ve continued to read it so that I could write a review for the benefit of my own creative writing (reading for writers).

The first half of the book is written in a heady or perhaps overtly interlectual manner in which I didn’t have an emotion connection, but the suspense kept me going. By the second half of the novel I was connecting more emotionally and the narrative came to light.

I believe that the author was revealing his own story, his life experience, perhaps not the same circumstances, but the same feeling as the main character, Stephen, who also had the same initials. Beaumont was definitely writing ‘what he knew’. He was a taxi driver before taking up writing as is Stephen.

The story begins with Stephen being depressed, and it appears that is because the business which he inherited from his father has collapsed. His life has lost its meaning and he has become increasing depressed and isolated. Having lost the business he finds himself unemployed. He has no idea what do for employment, and he is broke.

An old school friend Graham, who has moved to the United States is on holiday in Brighton and Stephen bumps into him. They share some of their experiences with each other, and Graham asks Stephen if he would commit to taking the work as a taxi driver for one year.

Stephen takes up the suggestion and drives all the hours he can. Taxi driving ultimately brings in the money, as Stephen is working night shifts most nights of the week.

Exhaustion creeps upon him, and he begins to have bizzare experiences. Picking up Valerie and taking her to a group she attends at a day centre. Valerie is sick with cancer. He wants to meet her again, and asks the taxi controller about the house he picked Valerie up from. She says it doesn’t exist. Stephen drives around, and sure enough it doesn’t.

Stephen comes to realise that he is zoning out when he’s exhausted at work, and when he does this Thirteen appears, and he has other strange experiences whilst he is doing so. He comes around from these experiences by being parked in a car park that’s locked, and away from where he last remembers driving.

(This review is dull and heady just like the initial part of the book.)

He continues to take Valerie to her social event when he’s zoned, but also meets a couple of  other people, Helena and Seymore, who become main characters of the novel.

These people, along with Valerie, begin to take him on a journey of self exploration, although they pop up at unexpected times, and Stephen cannot bump into them when he wishes. However, driving to number 13, he sometimes finds it there, and at other times it doesn’t exist.

On one of these occasions he knocks on the door and gets beaten up and told not to go back, and another time he seeks up to the window and witnesses a man being stabbed. He builds up the courage to return to and enter the house and he himself gets tied up and stabbed in the same manner as the witnessed stabbing.

During all of this he continues to build up a relationship with Helena. She introduces him to others, however, all but Seymour are bit part players that add dimension to the story.

Ultimately, the relationships between Stephen, Helena, Seymour and Valerie lead Stephen to a series of self realisations.

Valerie gets younger as the story unfolds and the emotional strength of the novel develops. Neither of the main characters will answer Stephens questions and he has to work out what is going on for himself.

When Valerie becomes nine years old the book has a major twist, and Stephens childhood memories begin to unfold. He and Graham had started a fire at the same age, and it turns out that the fire had killed a child called Lisa and her aunty. Valerie represents Lisa, but isn’t Lisa either.

Discussing these revealed memories with Helena, Valerie and Seymour becomes an expression of and relief from Stephen’s shame and guilt which he had blocked out throughout his life.

There is certainly a credible moral message within the book about the need to face, accept and move on from the past so that a happy life can proceed.

Am I glad that I continued to read the book? Yes. Would I read it again? Definitely not. It was hard going, hard to get into and I felt that the ending was rushed. I couldn’t even give a rating out of 10 for this book. Not because it doesn’t deserve one, but because the writing style felt inconsistent. To be gripped by a book that I put down for a werk and not wanting to read anymore is highly confusing for me.

Reference.

Beaumont, S; 2008; Thirteen; Newcastle Upon Tyne; Myrmidon

Reflection On Coursework Part One

Wow, I’ve completed the first section of the coursework and I’m proud of what I have achieved. Writing has been stimulating and satisfying. I have been able to write snippets for a potential novel or short story, a book review, auto-biography and poetry, as well as add ideas to my notebook, and reflections upon my writing in my diary.

The freewriting has been incredible, I have thoroughly enjoyed it, and it has now become part of my daily routine. It makes for a good start to my day. A lot of the time it has been auto-biograohical and has felt therapeutic to me, but it had also brought around a couple of poems, alongside ideas and short pieces of writing for Sophie Lives (a potential short story or novel). The guidance about the freewriting said that there’s no need for it to have structure, and yet I have felt the structure had been their naturally for me. Freewriting is fabulous.

Due to my mental health I struggled with the motivation to begin the course, and I had initially felt that the Open Foundations in Creative Writing was second best to the photography degree which was my dream. I no longer feel this way. I am now very enthusiastic for this course.

The use of the diary had been such a useful tool, it has helped me to consider how authors develop their characters, my perceived weakness at my ability to develop the personality in writing my own works of fiction, and how important freewriting has become for me. I have used my diary to reflect upon the coursework exercises, but I don’t do this everyday, just when I feel that I have something to reflect upon.

Sophie Lives is very exciting. I’ve written three parts to the story now, and I have reflected upon the research that I need to do, the structure of the novel, and ideas for the direction in which I would like to take to take this piece of writing.

The wonderful thing is that I see that I have the potential to develop my writing.

Assignment One

The Brief; You already have a body of work – congratulations!

Get out all the work you’ve done in Part One and read through it carefully. This will include:

  • The work you’ve done for the exercises in projects 1 to 4
  • All your extra freewrites
  • Your notebook work

Choose two or three pieces of work from this. They don’t all have to be the same length but they should be the pieces that resonate with you the most.

You don’t have to write a story, a poem, or any specific form for this assignment. You just have to show your tutor your writing – what you’ve already been doing.. If your writing by hand, you now need to transfer your work to a Word Document or similar. Submit approximately 1,000 words for this assignment. Use the word count facility to check how long your pieces are. Use the spellcheck too (but with care, as it can substitute a completely different word from the one you intended!). If your chosen pieces don’t make 1,000 words, you now have the choice of extending them. Only do this if you have some good ideas though. Otherwise, include a fourth piece to make up the word count.

Submit your work as soon as you have a fair copy. You may be surprised at the words of encouragement you receive, even if you thought your piece was not all that good.

Sophie Lives, from exercise 1.3

Sophie was horrified with the reality that she was in A and E and having to wait for a psychiatric assessment, she felt ashamed of herself and guilty for wasting so much of the doctors and nurses time. She had thoughts that other people were seriously ill and that they needed the medical attention that she had taken away from them. Waiting for the psychiatrist was daunting, seconds seemed to drag by. All she could do was think. She had never tried to end her life before, despite thoughts of this being a constant companion for many years. How could she explain what she had done, or the harm that she had suffered at the hands of Mark. Initially she hadn’t considered it to be domestic abuse, like thousands of other women she had always believed Mark’s words about how useless and pathetic she was, and how he had to put up with her failings. Deep in her core she knew he was right, and these beliefs were so intense tonight. Only a failure of a human being would try to end their own life. She knew the psychiatrist would judge her and believe it was all her fault.

Winter is a Bastard, from exercise 1.6

Spring is most definitely in the air despite the periods of relentless rain. Crocus and daffodils are pushing their necks out of the ground, and they are adding glorious pockets of colour to my days. Such joy. My mood is improving slowly but surely, I’m isolating less, and I’m having more clarity of thought. Gratitude is what I’m feeling as I write this short piece of freewriting (I adore freewriting, it’s shown me that I do have lots to write).

But winter is a bastard, an effing c of a nightmare that I often struggle to get through!

This year my mood dropped at the end of December, and my thoughts darkened. I began to obsess about suicide, and I researched methods on the Internet, and purchased some pills which I believed would end my life.

Motivation and pleasure from activities deserted me and I felt hopeless. Situations which involved close contact with others was a struggle and I avoided people. Ultimately I was overwhelmed and tried yet again to take my life. Disappointed that I didn’t succeed, but the disappointment that I tried to end my life pushed me into accepting help. I’m now attending a therapeutic day unit. It’s a short term program for a few weeks, enough to get me through until I am able to keep myself occupied and productive.

My energy always improves in the spring. If only I could hold back the self destruction long enough to get me through to the lighter, brighter and warmer days.

My thoughts are much clearer now, and I am enjoying my studies. I had my coursework for over a month before I could even open the folder. Eventually I realised I had to just begin the first exercise, I couldn’t wait until my motivation returned, I had to simply take action without expectation. I’m so grateful that I did because I find it has brought joy and satisfaction into my daily life.

I’m looking out for signs of spring now. I’m not waiting for motivation I’m acting as if I’m motivated, and I’m finding signs of spring right now. Recovery is action. Hope is important but I can’t hope my way into feeling better, I have to put the effort into hunting for joy and gratitude.

Rabbit Hide and Seek, from exercise 1.6

I was running through a dark forest when

A rabbit did appear

A ball of white cute fluffyness

I’m sure his look was queer

He bounded right up too my feet

And then he looked at me

And beckoned me to follow him

And hid behind a tree

“I can’t play hide and seek with you”

I really don’t have time”

His face became so sorrowfull

I said “oh dear, yes, fine”

So we played a little game or two

The rabbit he did win

I thanked him for the game we played

And his smile became a grin

Book Review – The Shepherds Crown

Terry Pratchet wrote The Shepherd’s Crown whilst he was dying, and fittingly one of his most loved characters, Granny Weatherwax died at the beggining of the story.

Her death left a gap in the barrier between Discworld and the land which the elves live. She past her cottage and roles as lead witch to Tiffany Aching.

The elf Queen, Nightshade, has her wings torn off and is thrown out of the elf kingdom by Peaseblossom. He did this because he felt that Nightshade had become to soft on goblins, and that she should be organising an attempt to take over Discworld now that the barriers were weaker.

Tiffany struggles with meeting her duties in Lance and on the Chalk. The Nac Nac Feegles live on the Chalk, and they also have a duty to look out for Tiffany. Nac Nac Feegles are blue, 7 inches tall, and they speak with a Scottish accent. They love to drink and fight.

The Nac Nac Feegles reluctantly agree to Tiffany’s request for them to guard Nightshade, who Tiffany refuses to kill because she is injured. She hopes to convert the elf Queen to understanding humanity and developing a cooperative attitude rather than a hostile one.

Meanwhile, Geoffrey, who left home due to bullying  from his father, wishes to become a witch under Tiffany”s guidance.

As the elves begin to prepare for war Tiffany calls all of the witches together to prepare to defend Discworld and banish the elves forever. Geoffrey unites the local men and they develop weapons to prepare for the war. Elves are harmed my metal, so they build a catapult and gather scraps of iron to fling at the elves.

As Geoffrey and the men defend Lancre, Tiffany, the witches and the Nac Mac Feegles defend the chalk. At the start of the war Peaseblossom kills Nightshade, but the are ultimately beaten when the King of the elves turns up, and overthrows Peaseblossom.

All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The characters were believable and my imagination was gripped throughout. I could picture the different people and events in my mind. There were moments of laughter, excitement, compassion, sadness and dislike. I love the humour in Pratchet’s writing.

Pratchet, T; 2016; The Shepherd’s Crown; London; Corgi books.

Richard Keys

Richard516716

Assignment 1

 

 

Sophie Lives – Exercise 1.13

Here are two sentences taken randomly from The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer (2013, p97) :

“In life there are milestones. Events that mark out certain days as being special from the other days.” 

Write these at the top of the page then fill the rest of the page with your own writing. Use Filer’s words to kick start the process of writing about your own milestones. 

In life there are milestones. Events that mark out certain days as being special from the other days.

It was August or September 2018. I woke up dizzy and found myself struggling to move. Visiting London was a positive experience in many ways, and I was due to change my Airbnb accommodation. I headed to King’s Cross with both of my back packs to catch the train towards where I would be staying for the next few days. As I got off the tube I felt sick, light headed and light heades. Taking my back packs off I leaned against the wall, almost in tears I felt hopeless. My thoughts were flickering between going home or staying on my holiday.

As I looked up I could see a young woman, who I presumed was homeless, going up to passers by and asking for money. As she approached me I figured that she was going to ask me for money. She looked at me in a kindly way and said “you look ill, is there something wrong? can I help you?”

This act of concern and kindness was just what I needed on that particular day. A thought crystallised in my mind “If this young woman who is so vulnerable and in desperate need herself, who didn’t ask me for money and wants to help me, then I need to accept that I’m ill, my Anorexia has me beat.” With that thought I decided that I would go home and accept treatment for my anorexia. That women’s generosity was my turning point and helped me to move into recovery from my eating disorder. It’s been a long journey and my life has changed in many ways. I still struggle with my eating disorder, and it has morphed into compulsive over-eating, but my eating disorder has improved and so has the quality of my life. Whoever you were I thank you and wish you the kindest of blessings which the universe can bestow.

Now try this with a book of your choice. Open it at a random page and read the first sentence that catches your eye. Once again, write it down at the top of the page and fill the rest of the page with your own writing. Make the page your own, although it doesn’t matter whether you write with that authors style, or in a style of your own.

Make notes in your writing diary about how well this went. Did you find the first part of the exercise easier because you hadn’t read the book?

There are two levels of social welfare protection – trusteeship and guardianship.” (Larsson; 2008; p209)

Sophie was horrified with the reality that she was in A and E and having to wait for a psychiatric assessment, she felt ashamed of herself and guilty for wasting so much of the doctors and nurses time. She had thoughts that other people were seriously ill and that they needed the medical attention that she had taken away from them. Waiting for the psychiatrist was daunting, seconds seemed to drag by. All she could do was think. She had never tried to end her life before, despite thoughts of this being a constant companion for many years. How could she explain what she had done, or the harm that she had suffered at the hands of Mark. Initially she hadn’t considered it to be domestic abuse, like thousands of other women she had always believed Mark’s words about how useless and pathetic she was, and how he had to put up with her failings. Deep in her core she knew he was right, and these beliefs were so intense tonight. Only a failure of a human being would try to end their own life. She knew the psychiatrist would judge her and believe it was all her fault. 

Make notes in your writing diary about how well this went. Did you find the first part of the exercise easier because you hadn’t read the book?

You can repeat this exercise countless times, using all your favourite books.

Rather than write my reflections in my writing diary I am going to add them here.

Two prompts, two pieces of writing and both of them felt easy. The prompt from Filer took me straight back to that fateful day in London during which I knew that my anorexia had taken over my life and left me unable to function. I’ve written a lot about my eating disorder over the past two years. I find it relatively straight forward to be authentic about this illness. I haven’t read The Shock of the Fall so I had no idea of Filers writing style, this gave me the freedom to write in my own authentic way. Auto-biography is most certainly therapeutic for me and has helped me to develop an online community, and readers who connect with and value what I have to say.

I have read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo previously, and was a book that I felt gripped by and the people and action was intense and believable.

There is less narration and more first person portrayal in Larsson’s writing style than there is in the buds of my potential novel Sophie Lives. I’m finding that I’m writing snippets of a book; ideas that can be built upon at a later date. Writing a novel is something completely new for me, and it’s hard to write more than little excerpts at the moment, but I’m sure that in time I will be able to take this further. I find the little passages are free-flowing and they come to me relatively easily, and I guess that’s because Sophie and I have had similar experiences; Sophie as an adult and me as a child. I’m really enjoying the process. What will help is for me to conduct research and read about domestic abuse and recovering from it; survivor stories. Although I’ve experienced many psychiatric assessments I don’t know how to describe these for the novel, nor how to write them in ‘first person’ speech rather than narration. I found the exercise to be quite enjoyable though.

References

Filer, N; 2013; The Shock of the fall; New York; Harper Collins Publishers; p97)

Larsson, S; 2008; The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo; london; MacLehose Press; p209

 

What Would I Like To Read – Exercise 1.12

Are there any books you haven’t read but which you would like to read? They don’t have to be classics, just anything you’ve been thinking about reading and haven’t got round to yet, whether it’s the latest bestseller or something that’s been on your shelf for years. Make a note of some titles in your writing diary and then read one over the next couple of weeks.

If you struggle with this exercise, go to your local library or bookshop and browse the shelves for inspiration. Join the library if you’re not already a member – librarians are very helpful and will be happy to assist you with both joining and selecting material to take home. Pick a book and read it over the next couple of weeks.

I like the idea of joining the library, I have some free time today, so I’ll go ahead and do this whilst it’s fresh in my mind.

You know, there isn’t any particular book that I would like to read, and without this piece of coursework I would just go onto to the fiction trilogy that I have. But this had got me thinking. I like Yuval Noah Harari, I enjoy history and quantum physics floats my boat, so I’ll see what I can find.

I also want to say that I don’t like reading poetry. I don’t know why, somehow it doesn’t do that much for me. There’s the occasional poem which I enjoy, but the thought of reading an anthology fills me with the dread of the boredom and frustration. I know that’s bad to say, especially as I like to write poems, but it’s true I’m afraid.

The Kind Of Writer I Would Like To Be – Exercise 1.11

In your writing diary make a few notes about what you’ve read in the last six months. Your reading matter might include fiction (thrillers, horror, romance, literary fiction, etc.) poetry, drama and non-fiction (history, travel writing psychology, etc.) as well as newspapers and magazines.

Think about what kind of writer you would like to be. Perhaps you’re not sure yet, or perhaps there are several avenues you’d like to explore? Record this in your writing diary where it can be kept private. Writers can be very secretive about their hopes and dreams.

Firstly, I’m tired of this snowflake attitude to secrecy. We are students at the moment, and we should not be singled out as being special and different to other students. We should all be expected to complete our studies on a blog. Photographers, painters, film makers, textiles are expected to do so, along with their understanding of their processes, and these are just as personal to them as our writing is to us. That’s not to say that everything should be published, excerpts from novels we are writing, pieces of unfished journalism, poems we need to review and rework and personal projects are private until ready to publish. But not putting our coursework on a blog is patronising and being treated like anxious kids. Yuch. Rant over.

There are many genres of writing that I would like to develop, especially poetry, auto-biography, and academic style photo essays (I particularly enjoy), and I’d also like to write a short story or a novel.

My reading over the last six months has been limited to fiction and journalism to be honest. I read the Guardian online everyday,  and I have read The Maze Runner trilogy and Lord of the Rings, and I’m currently reading Thirteen by Sebastian Beaumont (a hard book to read, and I’ll write a book review once I have finished). I’m aware I have read one other book and written a review of it on my blog, but have forgotten what it was. Ah ha, my memory returns, it was the Shephards Crown by Terry Pratchet. I have another trilogy to read once I’ve finished Thirteen. After that I’m going to try and broaden my scope of reading. I’m also currently reading through a book about anorexia and bulimia, which would fit into the genre of psychology.

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