Geekery and Creepery, Musings, Twitter

In the Footsteps of Bram Stoker

I spent last weekend with my family in Whitby, up on the Yorkshire coast. It was a birthday present for my husband, who turned 30 this month. We used to visit Whitby in the days before we had children, and it was a wonderful weekend full of nostalgia and unhealthy food.

It was also a weekend full of literary delights. Whitby has an important literary history, more of one than I had even realised, so it turns out!

Whitby, and more specifically, it’s abbey that sits, in ruins, above the town and the sea, is the spot that inspired Bram Stoker to write his famous book Dracula. He spent six years living in Whitby, taking walks each morning, looking over at the abbey, the 199 steps leading up to it, and watching the cargo boats coming in and out of the bay. Enter Dracula. I just had to seek out the sights, walk where he walked.

 

While I was looking for the location of the blue plaque that marked Bram Stoker’s history in Whitby, I stumbled across evidence of another literary visitor to the town. Apparently, before Stoker came here, Lewis Carroll, creator of Alice and Wonderland, was a regular visitor to Whitby. He stayed here six times, in a building that overlooks the same abbey that later inspired Bram Stoker to put pen to paper.

 

And then we found a second plaque for Mr Stoker. Well, I had to sit here and ponder the view for a while. Did it inspire me to write? Frankly, this entire town does. It’s brimming with history, all wrapped up in fascinating little backstreets of crooked houses crammed against one another. I’d quite forgotten how much I love this place.

A bench looking at the view that inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula
Me sat looking at the view that inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula

 

The guesthouse in which Bram Stoker stayed, is actually still a guesthouse today. You can rent his room, which has been restored to Victorian grandeur. Yes, I am planning to stay there. A writing retreat, I think. Watch this space!

When it came time to, sadly, bid farewell to Whitby, we drove onto the historic city of York for the day, where another literary delight awaited us!

A Harry Potter shop called The Shop That Must Not Be Named

Business of Writing, Thursday Thoughts, Twitter

They’re Not Always Right, You’re Not Always Wrong

ReaderWe all need advice, a helping hand, a guide. And that’s when we can turn to someone with more experience, who’s been there and done it, so that, hopefully, we can avoid the common mistakes and pitfalls.

Whether you’re just starting out, or already seasoned in publishing, there’s always more to learn. Technology and the internet changes so rapidly, and strategies that worked yesterday, don’t always work today. As authors, we can never stop learning and adapting. But with that, comes the feeling that we’re still inexperienced, still naive, just stumbling blindly along the path, and it can be all too easy to follow those ahead of you, blindly, assuming they know exactly where they’re going.

These people, and their advice, aren’t difficult to find. There are countless podcasts and blogs and books covering just about every aspect of writing, publishing, and book marketing you can imagine, and even some that you hadn’t yet thought of.

For the most part, they know exactly where they’re going, and you can happily follow them. But it’s worth bearing in mind that sometimes, their destination might be different to yours, or, even if it’s the same destination, their route might be different to the one you wanted to take. And occassionally, you’ll meet one of those people who speak with absolute assuredness, but they’re actually completely lost.

So, how can you tell the difference? How do you know when to follow, and when to make your own path?

For one, trust your instincts. Will they always be right? No. But if you stay true to yourself, and to the kind of author you want to be, you can’t go too far wrong.

And second, don’t be scared to make mistakes. We all do. All the experts have too. And we learn far more, and far quicker from our own mistakes than we do from other people’s. No one has a flawless journey, there will be roadblocks and detours, dead ends and circular routes, but if you remember where you want to go, you can find your way back.

Always stay open to advice, to trying new things, to being persuaded and changing your mind. Always. But listen to your gut too. You’re a lot smarter than you realise.

Blog Hop, Insecure Writer's Support Group, Twitter

You Don’t Need Socks to Write!

You Don't Need Socks to WriteOne morning, I was desperately trying to get my five year old to do his homework, and he, as usual, was coming up with every excuse he could think of, ending with “I need my socks on.”

“You don’t need socks to write!” I replied, chalking it down as yet another one of those sentences I never imagined I’d ever have to say to another human being. But it got me thinking, and, actually, it’s very good writing advice.

Some people wait for the perfect conditions to write. Whether that be an active muse, a quiet house, a private space, the right weather, the moon in their star sign, whatever their particulars are. I’ve done it myself. Put off writing because I didn’t feel right, or the house was noisy, or the table was messy.

The truth is, as with most things, there is no perfect time, and if you sit around waiting for this magical moment, you’ll never write a word. Sometimes, you just need to sit down (or perch somewhere, or stand, or whatever) and get some words out of you. They may not be perfect words, they may not be any good at all, but the more that come, the better they will get. Who was it who said you can’t edit a blank page?

So don’t fret over the particulars; don’t worry if the sun isn’t right, or your chair is a little uncomfortable, or your coffee is a little cold, just write. Get some words out. Wonderful, imperfect, foolish, misspelt words. And remember: you don’t need socks to write.

Insecure Writer's Support GroupThis post was written as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

Business of Writing, Monday Motivation, Twitter

Feeling Determined vs Being Determined (How I Got More Hours in the Day)

Monday MotivationI’ve felt determined for a long time. Years and years. But despite my burning sense of determination, I just wasn’t managing to get things done. There was always something conspiring against me. I was too busy with the kids, or I didn’t have somewhere quiet to write, or the muse just wasn’t with me. I was a victim of circumstance. I wanted to do it, but there was too much against me.

I wailed about it on social media, grumbling about how blessed other people were with their writing nooks, their school-age children, their luxury of free time when I had none. They were lucky. I, however, was not.

It has taken a long time, a good number of pep talks, and a whole load of failure for me to finally figure out my problem. There is a difference between feeling determined and being determined. And the difference is action.

There’s no big secret here, no grand revelation, and there is definitely no luck involved. It’s about changing your mindset. It’s taken me years, and I feel so foolish for taking so long to realise it. Feeling determined is not being determined. I’ve only just come to understand that.

Last year, something clicked. And, you know what? Over the last few months I have not stopped. Not for a second. I am constantly on the go. Insanely busy. But it’s productive busy, happy busy, exciting busy.

The old me was busy too. But that was I-don’t-have-time-for-this busy. That was not even trying to write because I knew my toddler wouldn’t grant me anything close to an hour of peace and quiet. That was thinking anything less wasn’t worth the bother. That was feeling determined.

New me writes two sentences on the way back from the toilet. New me types while she’s eating lunch. New me takes a notebook and pen to toddler groups. New me writes like the wind while her toddler naps because he might sleep for four hours, or four minutes. New me doesn’t wait for the muse. New me grabs her by the throat and says “Now!” And sometimes the words flow, and sometimes it’s like pulling teeth, and sometimes it’s the worst thing I’ve ever written. But I do it anyway. That’s being determined.

I’ve recently started setting a 5am alarm. I get up and write while the kids are still asleep. When I posted about it on social media, I got a number of people telling me I was ‘lucky’ to get an hour of peace and quiet in the morning. I smiled at that. That’s what I used to say to other people. But it’s not luck. It’s getting up at 5am. It’s not waiting for my muse to show up. It’s writing while the kettle’s still boiling. It’s getting words down no matter what. Because some mornings I do get an hour before my boys get up. Other mornings I get two minutes. But two productive minutes are better than ten minutes of waiting for the perfect moment.

It’s not luck. It’s being determined.

Geekery and Creepery, Twitter, Writing

Where Are Your Stories?

Victorian correspondence My dad deals in stamps, and postmarks, and the like (you’d be surprised how much some postmarks can be worth!) Every now and again, he gets hold of piles of old correspondence: letters, envelopes, postcards, personal documents. And he lets me take my pick of the items that aren’t worth much.

To him, the interest is in the stamps and the postmarks. He can track and trace them, and that’s where his stories are. Where the letters have been, how much the postage was, where and when they were sent.

To my brother, the stories are in the actual paper itself. That’s what he gets excited over. The embossed pictures and patterns, the scalloped edges, the watermarks.

But to me, the stories are in the words. The names and addresses, the contents of the letters. The lives lived, the news shared. Even the seemingly mundane business correspondence has a story to tell.

This latest batch are all Victorian, dated between 1870 and 1900. Some still have their sealing wax, melted and pressed on more than 100 years ago. And even a Victorian mourning envelope, edged in black, used to inform of a death.

I love imagining these people; what they looked like, how they lived, and how this particular correspondence may have changed their life forever.