2018- My year in review

It’s been a long time since I’ve been on WordPress.

Yeah, that’s an understatement, but in my defence, it’s been a pretty hectic year. I didn’t realise quite how hectic until I made this post.

  1. Firstly, I started this blog this year. Even though I haven’t used it that much, it marks a turning point in my life, from when I changed my mind from pursuing science, which is what everyone around me wanted, to pursuing English, which is what I wanted.
  2. I got my first group of Beta Readers this year. Admittedly, they’re not the best, but we’re all busy, and they give some great feedback, and most importantly, give me someone to talk to about my characters and storyline. I never thought anyone would even volunteer.
  3. I started learning to drive this year, and am going to take my practical driving test next February.
  4. I got my first job, and earned a little money, yet thanks to driving lessons and Christmas, I am now totally broke.
  5. I visited universities for the first time, and decided that the university of Nottingham is (hopefully) the place to be.
  6. I completed my UCAS application, and wrote a personal statement, and received all 5 of my offers (they are all insanely high)!
  7. I took over as head editor of the college newspaper, and have just secured some funding from the college to print 30 copies, when last year there was only an online version of the paper.
  8. I’ve edited a third of my novel, and whilst it’s slow going, I’m really hoping to finish it by next year. I hope. A-levels are really stressful…
  9. I started my own etsy shop! After making candles for my friends, and selling some inside college, I took my business online- very exciting.
  10. I used ebay for the first time… That was… An experience.
  11. I started going zero waste, cutting down my own plastic use by a third, I now take my own reusable straw and bottle everywhere, and limit my unneccesary plastic consumption, even when going out.
  12. I was offered a partnership with a zero waste company on Instagram who said they would contact me in the new year about becoming a beta tester for them.
  13. I finally bought my dogs bandanas. This is the most important one so far. They look so snazzy. We even gave them bowties to wear for my sister’s wedding.
  14. Oh yeah my sister got married!
  15. I dyed my hair purple at one point.
  16. I volunteered for an autistic charity.
  17. I started volunteering for my local library.
  18. I actually started wearing makeup on a day-to-day basis and have now accumulated way more eyeshadow than any normal person needs, and yet still have no concealer…
  19. I came out! How could I forget that? Yep, I hosted a massive gay party at my house, where my friends and I made rainbow paper chains for my parents to come home to. I love my friends.
  20. I went to see Dara O’Brien live with my parents literally the night of my coming out. It was wild.
  21. I went to my first proper get-drunk-and-wear-amazing-costumes party where I went as the corpse bride in my mother’s wedding dress. It was amazing.
  22. I played dungeons and dragons for the first time- it was honestly kind of amazing.
  23. I started listening to my body and mind more, so I’m starting to recognize when my body is at breaking point, or what is triggering me. It’s not perfect, but I’m getting there.
  24. I got screwed over by a nursing company and wrote my first strongly worded email.
  25. I wrote an EPQ and learnt more than I ever need to know about forensic linguistics.
  26. I donated blood for the first time which I’ve wanted to do for years! And almost passed out… it was an interesting experience.
  27. I volunteered at Keech Hospice for a little while.
  28. I went on my first stag night and had the best steak I’ve had in my entire life. Like seriously.
  29. I went to more parties than I ever have in my entirely life… And drank way more too.
  30. I started to like tea!

And that’s a wrap. This doesn’t include the mountains and I mean mountains of studying I’ve done this year, and some of the mental turmoil I think we’ve all gone through, but I’m still proud of everything I’ve done.

I really recommend doing this if you haven’t already. At the end of a year it might seem like you’ve achieved nothing, but I promise when you write it down you’ll be amazed at all you’ve actually accomplished.

By the way, I’m really sorry I disappeared. I kind of forgot I promised myself I’d do this.

-Lauren

 

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Pitch Wars- Preparing

So, anyone who follows this blog will know I’ve been working on my novel since about November last year, perhaps a bit earlier.

Through watching many, many, booktubers and reading similar blogs, I discovered Pitch Wars.

Mainly, I wanted to ask if anyone had any experience with the platform, and wanted to share their thoughts about it, and how to prepare for it.

Honestly, the idea is great, but I’m not sure about the execution.

I want an agent, yes, but is pitch wars the best way to go about it? I don’t know. Could my book really be as successful as a real agented book with a big publishing company because of Pitch Wars?

My novel is still in it’s beta stages right now, however I know I’m happy with the first and second chapters. They need very little editing whatsoever, my only worry is how long it will take me to edit the whole manuscript once it comes back from my betas. As of yet, none of them are finished in their edits, having only had 2/3 weeks to work on it. However, this still makes me a little anxious to say the least.

Still, since I’m doing my A-levels right now, I don’t have much time to work on the novel in the most productive way I would like, which makes me think that a mentor and eventally an agent is the most productive way I can go about getting this novel published.

One can only hope at least.

Do you have any experience with pitch wars? Please let me know your thoughts on it.

If you’ve not heard of it before, here’s the link:

Pitch Wars Website

I really feel like it should be as well known as nanowrimo, since it seems like the most obvious next step.

-Lauren

P.S: Sorry it’s been so long since my last post. Being on summer holidays really makes you lose track of time, and it seems my last post didn’t actually publish. I am such a professional!

Editing the novel-night 7- Beta readers

So, it’s been a while huh?

I finished my first edit, somehow. It was a struggle to say the least, and then I got to a stage where I thought, now what?

Despite how much I wanted to, I still didn’t feel ready to give the novel to my closest friends or god forbid my family, but I also knew I’d gotten as far as I could for now by myself- without taking a massive break between the next edit.

I needed people I didn’t know to read my book. I needed beta readers.

The only question was, how to get them. As any sensible person would, I turned to the internet.

Specifically, I turned to tumblr. I have a relatively good following on there, and very few friends follow my tumblr, which meant less of them would be offended that strangers were going to read the novel before them.

So, I put out a casting call, telling people the basic plot and genre of the novel, the LGBT themes, and asking prospective beta readers to fill out a little form, with their favourite books and tv shows, as well as their age, sexuality, and their beta experience. Then, once that was submitted to me, I followed up the ones I liked, asked why they wanted to beta, decided that I was happy to have their help, got their emails, and sent off the manuscript.

Many of them have already started reading it.

It is a very surreal experience.

I ended up with 7 beta readers in total to start with, which was more than I had first hoped for if I’m being honest. At the beginning I thought I would be lucky to get 1 or 2, if that. My friends were supportive, and reblogged the message, and I submitted it to LGBT writing blogs (yes, they exist), and eventually, I got the submissions I want.

Since sending out the manuscript though, I’ve been at a loss. I did the maths, and I know it will take each person roughly 5 hours at least to get through it. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s without them writing little comments for me, and that factors in some skinning time for them- when parts get boring. Problem is, I’ve asked them to highlight whenever the manuscript gets boring, so they don’t have that skimming time, which means it’s going to take them longer.

Not to mention that they have their own lives to do too- many of them are in school, the same as me. I’m so lucky that they gave up their time to help me, and I’ll leave their tumblr URL’s at the end of this post.

The thing is, they’ve had the manuscript a week now, and I’m still waiting on feedback, which of course I know is normal- they have a monumental task to do! But now, without the novel weighing on my mind, I realise how many hours of the day it takes up to write and edit. I have so much free time now that I’m not sure what to do with.

The logical answer is to study, which is what I’m trying to do- trying to work on my EPQ reading list, and start on my English poetry analysis. Not to mention I haven’t looked at a science textbook in a little over a month.

School goes back in about a month too- I need to get back to studying. Once my sister’s wedding is done this week, I think I should be back on track. I can do this.

-Lauren

 

Editing the novel- night 6

I’ve spent the last few days doing pretty much nothing but editing the novel. Well, that’s not strictly true. The other night, I went to a friend’s party (because why not? I needed a break!) and the entire time people asked me when they were going to get a copy of the first draft.

It hasn’t really struck me until now that other people are going to have to read an imperfect version of my novel before most of the others read a ‘perfect’ version. That thought is really scary, so I procrastinated editing the novel an extra 9 hours more than I originally thought I needed to finish the first edits last night, because if it’s not done, other people can’t read it right?

Unfortunately, that means I’m stuck waiting on people to read it before I can get my first critiques and overall response. The waiting is awful- especially because I don’t know what to do with myself. I’ve dedicated so much of my time lately to editing the novel that now that I have to wait and force myself to take a break from it, I suddenly have so much more time that I’m at a little bit of a loss.

The waiting is made worse by the idea that I could have spent so long on this novel, and they could hate it. It could be too cheesy, or forced, or too dark, or not funny. There are so many things wrong with it, that I just don’t know how to fix on my own.

That’s why it’s so important to get others to read your novel; to not just keep it locked to yourself. It’s a fresh perspective, and those people need to give honest opinions on it for it get any better.

Doesn’t make me any less stressed though.

What’s worse is having to send it to particular friends who you know won’t pull their punches in telling you exactly how they feel about it, because if they hate it you know it’s going to take a while to recuperate and get back up again, but what’s worse, is that I’m worried that they will pull their punches, that they’ll lie in saying that they like it, and, even though I know it’s not perfect yet, I’d still rather they said what they really felt to my face.

Can you tell this is stressing me out?

I’ll let you know what some of the responses are tomorrow hopefully…

-Lauren

The journey to become an English literature student- night 3

For those of you who don’t know, I’m an anime nerd. That’s right.

This week, I’ve been re-watching one of my favourites; Ouran High School Host Club, and I’ve been doing a little bit of fantasizing about Oxford while I do. That probably sounds weird, so let me explain. Ouran High School Host Club is set in an ‘elite private school’, and every so often in some episodes, the camera will pan out into a birds-eye view of the school, and something about it really reminds me of oxford university.

Image result for ouran high school building

Do you see what I mean? I think it’s the courtyards, and also the joining of a lot of different buildings that are rectangular around the grass, or something like that.

Forgive me, I’ve spent all day at work- my poetry is not at it’s finest.

Anyways, every time the camera pans out into a shot like this, I get the same feeling I get whenever I look at Oxford. I get almost teary, and emotional when looking at it. I really can’t explain it. Sometimes I think it’s just the beauty of it that makes me want to cry, but I think it’s a bit more than that. Longing? Maybe. Belonging? Also maybe.

The thing is, I really don’t have the grades for oxford. A*BB really isn’t what they’re looking for, but that’s what happens when your brain is geared for English and you choose two science subjects, whilst trying to learn latin at 8:30am on the side.

Yeah, you can guess which subject I got the A* in…

I get upset when I think about that for too long- I’m only a grade off by ucas points standards; the English course at Oxford asks for AAA, and an A*BB is the same thing as AAB in ucas terms, so you can understand why I’m annoyed, but I wouldn’t make my teachers change my predicted grades to make them higher. I know there’s no way I could get above a B in chemistry. I might have been able to in Biology, but that’s beside the point now I think.

Still, those things are beyond my control now. I’m sure a lot of other A-level students can relate to that, and I have to make my peace with it, but a girl can dream, can’t she?

I’m so invested in my dreaming in fact, that I’m visiting oxford on my own whenever they can fit me in because I can’t make an open day, I keep looking at Magdalen college on google satellite (where Oscar Wilde studied!), and I’m still going to apply, even when I know I have no chance;

Because I have more faith in my writing than in a stupid grade, and I think that’s really important. Isn’t that all that should matter? I’m a great writer. I know I’m a great writer, and I’ll prove it.

I’ll prove it if that’s what it takes for them to give me an interview- because then they would realize that not giving me an offer would be a grave mistake.

-Lauren

P.S: Did I fool you with my confidence? Didn’t think so…

Editing the novel- night 5

So uh… Here’s an update…

I didn’t get the edits done.

Well, that’s not true, I got 3 out of 4 pages of edits done. When I say 3 of four pages, I mean I made a list of things to change, and got 3 pages of it done, which isn’t bad, but I’m still annoyed at myself.

I was so annoyed with myself and just life in general yesterday, that, in fact, I went out for a run, put some angry music on, and blocked out the world.

When I did, I ran the best I have in a long time. I almost finished perfectly. Almost. And then I spent the walk back beating myself up over the fact that I didn’t finish perfectly. It was at that point that I realized that my reaction mechanisms probably aren’t healthy.

I never thought I was a ‘glass half empty’ type of girl, but here I am. I never praise myself for things I do unless they’re completed or done perfectly. Otherwise, I just get angry at myself for not doing the absolute best that I could.

When I was doing my GCSE’s this was helpful, and I left school with an almost perfect report card, with almost A’s or A*’s completely down the board, but that sort of way of doing things doesn’t work when you get to college, or anything higher, or when you’re doing anything that you don’t constantly have other people to spur you on for.

When you constantly bring yourself down about not being the best, your motivation and stamina decreases. When I joined college I got B’s. Something I wasn’t used to, and after that my grades got worse instead of better, because every time I got something wrong I thought I was worthless, and I was so far away from where I wanted to be that I would never get there.

It’s likely that I’ll finish this year with predicted grades A*BB. If I told my 7 year old self that she would be unbelievably disappointed with me, but the truth is I wasn’t prepared for reality. Unlike most other students, I have 3 8:30am starts and 2 10:05 starts, which means it’s less likely that I’ll retain information from my classes. On top of that, my classes are an hour and a half in length, meaning it’s more likely that I will forget a third of everything I’m taught.

More than this, I take 2 science subjects. I know now that if I had taken all essay based subjects like my English literature class, I would have gotten 3 A*’s, because those are my strengths, but the truth is, my strength is English literature, and I honestly don’t know what other two subjects I would have taken other than science subjects.

At the time of choosing my A-levels, I chose Biology and Chemistry because I thought they would make me ’employable’. I thought I wanted to go into medicine, I was almost 100% certain on it, because I knew there was a job for me at the end of it.

I have a horrible fear of failure. Specifically, that I’ll never get a job to pay the bills. Once I confronted that fear, faced it, and pushed it aside, I focused on what I really wanted to do with my life- which was to tell stories that would affect other people’s way of life.

I’m sure many of you out there can relate to that.

So I changed my degree plans, told my English teacher, threw myself into my lit studies, cancelled science related volunteering plans, got a job, and changed my university visits.

It was terrifying.

And at the time, I was disappointed in myself, because I had made my family be disappointed in me.

But now, I’ve never been more proud of myself. That was the volta in my life so far; my turning point, and if I hadn’t taken it I would have been miserable.

My point is, stop beating yourself up over things that didn’t quite go to plan, because sometimes you need to make those mistakes for something good to come out of them. If I hadn’t failed a few of my science tests I never would have thought that science wasn’t for me. If I hadn’t gone on that run I never would have seen how well I could run when I had the motivation to.

What I’m saying is, congratulate yourself on the things you did do, and accept the things you didn’t. And if something you didn’t choose to do makes you unhappy, you can go back and change it.

-Lauren

Editing the novel-night 4

Today has been a not very productive day. I realized that I don’t think I’m giving myself enough hours in the day to actually get stuff done.

I like to keep to a schedule, which, over summer, is to wake up, read a bit in bed, and then get up, force myself to eat breakfast, get some novel editing down, take dogs for a week, eat lunch, and edit again.

However, when you actually do the math on that, that’s not that many hours in the day I’m giving myself, and those hours that are supposed to be ‘only editing’ time, can be broken down into procrastinating and trying to find the right music, editing, procrastinating watching youtube, editing, ‘giving myself a rest’, lather rinse repeat.

It’s getting to a point where I’m worried where all my time is going, so I’m doing something drastic for night 4 of editing.

I made a list today, of all the editing that needs to be done to my manuscript up to page 124. That’s more than halfway through. Everything wrong plot wise is in there.

Here’s some pictures so you can get the idea:

 

And I’m going to try and get it all done today.

It feels slightly scary to actually write that down.

This is a terrible idea isn’t it?

It’s just, I only have until the end of this week before I have to start work, which is Monday to Friday, 7:30-5:30, every day of every week until summer ends. Plus 2 hour driving lessons after that.

No, I’m not trying to kill myself, I just really need the money.

So this is how I’m going to spend my time today, and if I have to pull an all-nighter, I’ll pull an all-nighter.

I am so scared to do this, my heart is a little jittery oh god.

Okay. Wish me luck, and I’ll see you on the other side.

-Lauren

Editing the novel- Night 3

I’m feeling a little- okay, a lot- overwhelmed right now. My manuscript is almost 200 pages now, which probably doesn’t sound like a lot, but it feels like a lot, and the editing is taking forever without me feeling like I’m making any progress.

Every time I make an edit, I feel like I’m making 3 more things that need to be changed without actually fixing anything. For the most part, I’m happy with the beginning of the novel, and I’m starting to get more happy with the end, but I hate the middle. I think if I could just solidify the end to the point where it’s finished, I can go back to ‘the beginning of the middle’ if that makes any sense, and start editing from there, but right now it’s getting pretty disheartening.

On another note, I finished ‘One of us is lying’ today, and I gotta say the ending had me a little underwhelmed, but the journey to get there is really great. It’s easy reading, and I’d honestly really recommend it for that. Without spoilers, just know that I really didn’t understand why Cooper was in it for a really long time, and now at the end I’m so happy he is in it!

I’m also sorry for the haitus- I was at my sister’s hen night, and I think maybe that’s why I’m feeling disheartened by the lack of progress in editing- I keep forgetting I was literally away from my novel for the entire weekend, so of course I’m behind schedule. I’m sure if any of you are writers out there you can probably feel and understand my frustration, but you should know that just because you’re getting distracted by other things, or not feeling motivated, you should still feel really proud of yourself for putting the work done.

It will get done. It will. This really isn’t the sort of thing you want to rush.

-Lauren

The journey to become an English Lit student- Night 2

Another day passes, and still no real addition to my editing of the novel. The only real thing that happened today was me scaring myself half to death, as when I opened my manuscript to work on it, I noticed I was several thousand words down compared to yesterday.

You can imagine the heart attack I had before I realized I had opened the wrong document.

Other than that, I’ve spent most of the day making wedding plans with my sister- her hen night is this weekend, and somehow I don’t think much editing will get done for a while after that either- and reading. Knowing people who work at Waterstones has it’s perks, and I’ve been reading ‘One of us is lying’ by Karen M.McManus. I really hope I spelt her name right…

It’s a pretty great book so far- although I’m only about 1/3 of the way through- and I really recommend it. Simon was my favourite character at the beginning, but well… not anymore.

It’s been a while since I’ve finished a book, honestly. Especially one that I wasn’t made to study for A-level or other kinds of study. Mainly, I think it’s because when you study books, and when you write them, you get a bit exhausted, and can’t help but analyze almost everything.

Part of the beauty about One of Us Lying is that it’s so brilliantly simple. There’s no questioning the basic premise, or why the writer decided to write this story (apparently the most important question to think about when writing a book of your own), there’s simply the analysis of the individual characters. Since this is something pretty much all of us do on a daily basis, I think this makes it so much easier to read, and I’m hoping it’s a book that will allow me to start reading like I used to again.

Honestly, it’s a pretty exciting idea.

Let’s hope I feel the same way about this book when it’s finished.

-Lauren

P.S: As of now, I think the liar is Bronwyn, but honestly? I have no idea. I just have a hunch.

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