Monday, 9 January 2012

The Great App Review - for Writers

Hello again!

Today's blog is going to be less about writing and more about tools to help your writing. In this technological age, I believe there is an app for everything. In most cases there are. Even when it comes to creative writing.

With this in mind, I went looking for an app via the Android market, that would allow me to make notes whilst I was not at home and, sure enough, there were plenty. However, a rather peculiar app called 'How to Write a Book' made its appearance. My cynical nature sneered at this and thought 'No way can this actually help anyone'. But I looked at some of the reviews (now I believe to be forged) and downloaded it. It is free so I haven't lost any money. Just time.

I kid you not, the first sentence has a spelling error in it.

My hopes plummeted from there on.

Not only does this app stink of an over-inflated ego who doesn't really have a clue what he is talking about, it also gives you helpful bits of advice like:

'If you want to be an author or a best-selling author the truth of the matter is whether you think you can or you think you cannot, you are right!'

Well...that has certainly improved my writing career I can tell you.

The rest of the introduction is some strange pep talk that has nothing to do with the craft of writing but rather achieving 'celebrity status' and 'being a best selling author'. If I wanted to be a celebrity I can think of much quicker ways to get there like, sleeping with a footballer then telling every magazine about it. Just as an example you understand.

Then, there are the audio recordings.

Oh. My. God.

The first audio recording, two minutes long, starts off with an american guy talking about, how, when you are dead you want to be remembered and blah blah blah. It then goes on and on about what 'God given talents' you have and how you can use them to enlighten others. Then it talks about a beach. Cue the dodgy metaphors.

So if you are into American style pep talks, get this app. It's made for you.

Chapter two talks about human desires and how they are 'hard-wired into our DNA'. Apparently if you wish to write a book on ANY of the three desires he names, which are 'FOOD, MONEY AND LOVE' then you are in the money my friend. Also, it doesn't even have to be original!


I stopped listening after that. My ears could no longer stand it.

So please be wary of this app - it is not helpful in the slightest.

And if you were wondering what is good for just taking down notes, then Natural Notes will do you no wrong (not that I have experienced at any rate).

Happy writing!


Friday, 11 November 2011

In Remembrance

Private Nathaniel Dance, H Company of the Second Border Regiment, died on the 26th of October 1914 in Flanders. He was 27 years old.

Up until a few years ago, I had no idea he even existed. I hadn't begun delving into my family history yet, and so therefore, whenever Remembrance Day came round, I never thought of anyone specific. I always thought of the families who were left behind; how terrifying it must have been for the soldiers in the trenches. How phenomenally brave every single one of them was. How brave every single one of them is today.

But this year was different. This year, I thought of one man. My great great uncle. I don't really know much about him. He was born in 1887, lived in Enfield and died in the war. I don't know what he did before entering the war, I don't know if he was married or had a girlfriend.

But his character?

I have two postcards written by him from his time in the war. I have no idea whether he wrote anymore, or these are the only two he sent, but that is not important. It told me all about him.

He was brave. He was kind. He was caring.

Here is his first postcard, written in April. ( Or August, the date is not clear)

'Dear " + "

Just a line to let you know I am still living and in the best of health, this is a ruff lot.


And in May

Dear " + "

Did you receive that last Postcard I sent you, please write if there is anything wrong. Don't be afraid.


A man who, even in the heat of war, thinks about his family. He tells them, through his own terror, to not be scared. A man who, even in peril, wants to be there for his family; to support them. A good man. A brave man.

Remember them.

Never forget.

R.I.P Nathaniel Dance.

Saturday, 18 June 2011


Recently I joined a new writers website which is specifically for teenagers or people who like to write YA. Happily, I fit into both of these categories. However, it wasn't till I joined this website - called inkpop- that I realised how much the beginnings of stories can determine whether I carry on with it or not.

For example, if a story starts with speech, I don't bother reading onwards. Stories should start with a sentence, in my experience at any rate, so anything that contradicts that, I immediately dismiss it. In some cases I do try and read onwards and often, I notice that the line after the speech is exactly where the story should start. Or even, if there are three or four paragraphs that seem to waffle on, I dismiss them. I want the story know - start!

I am not being horrible, I am merely pointing out that readers hold a lot for the beginning of a story, and an author asking for people to 'bear with it' isn't really a realistic approach to getting their books published. You wouldn't ask readers that you don't know to just keep on going with the narrative because 'it gets better as it goes along' would you? You would want the beginning to be spot on and to guide you in.

There is a gem of a story on inkpop though - called Extraordinary. The author certainly is. She has large amounts of talent when it comes to story telling and I am not surprised it is in the top five! Her introduction was good and as soon as I started reading it, I didn't want to stop.

Underdog has been put on hold until exams are done but am on chapter four now so it is moving onwards :)

Hope you are well

Ellen x

Monday, 9 May 2011

Please Don't Rush!


As a teenage writer and having belonged to a YA writing community, I have noticed there is a lot of focus on becoming published for younger writers - some of these people are thirteen years old. I am not saying that thirteen year olds cannot write, merely that they should not be so concerned with publishing at their age. In fact, it seems to me that half of these people do not realise a) what publishing actually involves and b) what it would mean for them to be published.

It startles to me that someone on one of these boards only did three drafts of their novel before deciding to write a query letter and synopsis - only because they thought it was the 'right time' rather than if their book was in any state to be seen. Also, this person made it immensely clear it was because they were pressed for time that they had to get this published - before they were of a certain age (or at least that is what I reckon at any rate).

It seems that half of these people want their stuff to get published asap rather than when they are ready for it. It takes years to perfect the craft and it takes even longer to gain experience to write. You have to have lived a little.

If any new writers come across this blog listen closely: there is no rush to be published before you are twenty years old. I know there are dreams of becoming the next J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyer and earning loads of money - but if you are in it for the money my friends, then perhaps a different route would be more suitable. The harsh reality of it is, is that many authors do not get fat wedges of cash for their work which means they are set for life (what happened to Rowling and Meyer was exceptionally rare). Royalties tend to come to about thirty five percent of the books price. It's not even half!

Using Rowling as a prime example of why it is good to wait - she spent seventeen years altogether, completing and finishing her series. Now look at her. Patience is a virtue - and in writing it is even more so.

But it's not all doom and gloom. I am not saying give up on your dreams if you ADORE writing, instead why not enter competitions for teenage writers? That way you can already start to rise above of your ages. Or join a local writers circle - they are always looking for young writers.

I joined one and have never looked back. It's been a wonderful experience. The people you meet there will inspire you and teach you invaluable things.

There is really no rush. You have the rest of your lives to be published. You should only feel ready to publish when you are a) ready and b) have a spotless novel that you have completed and have utter confidence in.

Here are some articles that I have collected over the years...

I was first shown this article about a year ago and have subsequently favourited it. It hurts to read it the first time round, but there is truth in it. It's not the end of the world though, do what I did, feel the need to prove this guy wrong and keep on writing and developing your writing as much as possible!

And a video by the delightful writer Maureen Johnson

Hope you guys are well and keep on writing!

Ellen x

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Holidays and such...

You know, I stupidly thought with the Easter holidays here that I might actually be able to write some more. I was wrong. All I've been doing is revising (well I say that, today I've been a bit lazy but have done some work, just not as much as I should have) and coursework. Gah...I cannot wait till June is over...

Underdog I have typed up the Prologue and first chapter and it is about 7000 odd words, which is quite a bit. I am amazed by how much I have actually written...and worried about how much of it needs cutting out. Ah well, Chapter two to be typed up next!

Burgess Hill...I wish I could say that I have been writing that one, but since the start of Part Two I am finding it extremely difficult to get into this characters head. I'll persevere but I'm not sure how it will end up. I just really want to get it finished.

I am going to go and do some more revision now...sigh. Life just keeps on bringing more thrills...

Ellen x

Monday, 18 April 2011

Science Fiction in YA

I was reading one of my friends blogs (which incidentally you can find here: ) and in this, he talks about science fiction not being a genre that is ever discussed

It then lead me to think what YA novels I have read that are science fiction. The only one I could think of was the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Even then I would put it more under the fantasy genre. I racked my brains for a few more minutes and couldn't think of anything else. I even went upstairs to look at my bookcase to see if there was anything, but all the science fiction I have is written for adults, not for the YA market.

Where is the science fiction in YA? What happened to it? All I can think of in YA at the moment IS fantasy - with the whole dark romance section where Twilight and the House of Night novels are found (neither of which I particularly like), or where all the spy stuff is (Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series comes to mind) or chick lit like Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging (another series which I despise). I sincerely hope this is nothing more than a trend. Science fiction is a brilliant genre, one in which you can explore and make your own aliens or whatever to suit you.

There's a dip in the market right there. I am not sure WHY it isn't popular considering how well adult science fiction is but I guess people do not think we would be interested in that sort of stuff? But yet look how well The Hunger Games are doing so obviously it is something we do want to read.


Ellen x

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Mary Sue...

Recently, a good friend of mine posted an article up on the website Fantasy Faction. You can find the article here:

It got me thinking as to what my Mary Sue story was. Originally I thought it was Blood Moon, but it couldn't have been - Izzy was nothing like me and neither were any of the other characters.

My Mary Sue story was the one prior to Blood Moon. One I don't often talk about, mainly because it was a starter piece and not a particularly good starter piece at that. Not really a 'serious' story or at least something I took seriously. And it showed. I was about fourteen or thirteen when I first wrote it, so I am not surprised that it wasn't brilliant.

My main character was called Michelle (which happens to be my middle name) and she had brown hair with streaks of red (I had recently dyed my hair a reddish colour and hadnt done it properly), she also had green eyes (yeah I have green eyes) and..she had a black and white cat called Draco.

Yep, you guessed it. I had a cat called Draco who was also black and white.

The boy in it was called Hunter. He was the 'nice guy' that every teenage girl dreams of having at one point. Sigh...

Mary Sue was pratically screaming itself out by that stage. I don't regret writing Night's Secrets (as it was called) because I learnt a lot about writing in that period. I prefer writing in first, than in third (well I mainly found that out with Blood Moon) and I cannot plan a story. I have to let it take me where it needs to go. I hate knowing what happens. It sorta ruins it for me. Nowadays I tend to have a bare outline as to what will happen, but nothing is set in stone.

Underdog is going well. Read the first bit out to the writers circle last night and they seemed to like it, so I was quite pleased. Just hope the rest is good enough....*gulps*

Burgess Hill is moving slowly. I will write some more of it tonight. I have found a way to make it work (thanks to the suggestions given on bbc bitesize, you guys are wonderful :) )

Hope you're all well m'dears.

Ellen x