MY WRITING RULES. LIKE THE BUC RULES, I’VE BROKEN MORE THAN I’VE KEPT…

1. The idea.

So… where to start? But the hardest thing with all writing is getting started, isn’t it? Even as the second hardest thing is tearing yourself away again once you get into it! The first thing you need is a good idea (obviously) – but preferably one that’s original and sellable. Then, read some books on how to structure your story. There’s a brilliant book called Story by Robert McKee (which Harry tries to get Holly to read, in Break Up Club) – eventually she does and it helps her work out how to write her film. It’s a long old book but it’s great on how to structure your story – whether it’s for a film or a book, the three-act structure thing still totally applies. I also went on a really good one-day course run by Vicky Grut in London – she’s worth looking up!

2. Fill the page.

Procrastination: the art of finding any part of the house that needs cleaning or reorganising – and your inner critic are, I think, a writers two biggest enemies!

So let’s take them one at a time. If you find yourself re-ordering your sock drawer, or spending too long on Twitter – just remember – all it is, is fear of getting started. And to defeat that, all you need to do is fill the blank space. It doesn’t matter with what! It’s just a way of getting going. There’s this amazing quote I read once:

“The only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts. If one of my characters wants to say ‘hey there Mr Poopy Pants’, then I let him.” So says Ann Le Motte, and ever since I read that quote, it’s been a kind of mantra to me!

Everyone writes differently, and my own way of writing is pretty strange. Some people write a paragraph of beautifully crafted words at the end of the day that would be ready to print, but I prefer to go through and mark out the whole story first before going back and finessing. A bit like dancing – learn the routine first, mark it roughly, and give it your own style later. My process is never very linear either. I might get an urge to write chapter 17 before I write chapter 6, just because I feel I can see that bit happening more vividly at the time. Writing is definitely rewriting!

Secondly – I don’t know how many people suffer from their inner editor or ‘doubt monster’ taking over when they’re trying to write, but I often grapple with an evil little bugger I like to call Cedric (did you ever see The Raccoons?). He is that curmudgeonly voice in your head, trolling you while you try and write. He’ll be like, ‘Doh. This is all rubbish and you should never write another word ever again.’

So another bit of advice is to lock all traces of your inner critic away in a cupboard until the end of your first draft. Then when it’s time for rewriting, you can open the door and welcome Cedric in with open arms and a cup of steaming coffee. You do need to be critical of your own work, but there’s a time for that, and it’s not when you’re trying to get going!

3. Give yourself constraints

As an old writing friend John Simmons always says. Have you ever sat on an aeroplane, or other transit setting when you don’t have a writing implement of any kind, and your phone is turned off? Have you noticed that your brain picks that moment to give you ideas? I very often come out of the swimming pool and have to run to my locker, dripping wet and stand there in the changing room, writing thoughts down onto receipts and tissues, out of whatever writing material I can find. Why? It’s like my brain knows and picks that moment to be free, to release the good kind of thoughts. Anyway, those constrained moments are often when I’ve had my biggest breakthroughs. So I recommend doing that; getting offline, going under water, stepping away from the rigidity of laptop and the blank page, of even having a pen. There’s magic in that sometimes.

4. Play to your strengths.

Figure out when your best time of day to write new stuff is, and when your best editing brain is. I think everyone has a different ‘magic hour’ – (mine is any time after 6 pm by which time I’ve just about woken up).

Then, work your schedule around it. And do other sorts of writing before you get going, like emailing friends or social media posts, or planning. It’s like stretching your muscles or doing scales on the piano – it warms up your fingers before the real writing begins.

5. Run like the wind.

I’m not especially fit (although I’m much more fit than Holly in the ‘Forrest Grump’ chapter!). I can’t really get further than 5k, but the reason I do it is for my brain. I’m not fussed about having a toned bum – which is lucky! The reason I run is that I have what my mum generously calls a ‘Butterfly-Mind’, so without running to help channel my focus, I would go completely insane! So if concentration is a problem for you, then I recommend a quick run round the park – as well as eating lots of fish/omega 3, and meditating…

6. Measure out your ingredients.

Figure out your characters before you start writing. With my first two, shorter novels, I didn’t have such fully formed characters as they were done in a lot less time. With my third, I had the luxury of writing it very slowly and allowing each character time to germinate. I did this nerdy thing where I wrote a list of what they were really like – e.g. what’s their favourite music, what shampoo do they use, what are their flaws, what do they eat for breakfast (Bella in Break Up Club, eats microwave popcorn for breakfast– which gives you those last points in one go).

I like to call it my cookery programme analogy – (either that, or an elaborate excuse for procrastination). You know, where the chefs obsessively arrange all their ingredients into neat little bowls, before they even think about starting? Well that’s how I think it should be ideally. As much as you really want to jump in and start writing, it’s good to make sure you’ve built up just the right amount of depth to each character first. It sounds anally retentive, but that way, when the fun does all kick off, the characters will behave in a more three-dimensional way.

7. Restraint.

Don’t show your drafts to too many people – it can get really muddling juggling conflicting feedback and you go round in circles a bit. Stick to just one or two people you trust!

8. Patience.

Don’t submit a partial MS to agents or publishers. You’ll only end up under a world of pressure finishing it if they do buy the rest of it; but more importantly – the end product will be so, so much better when you write the whole thing. You’ll invariably go back and rewrite the initial chapters, laying seeds, strengthening characters. And then you’ll regret not having sent it out in the best shape. It’s always tempting – but patience is everything. And being more patient will prepare for you the nail-biting waiting game that follows when you are eventually submitted!

9. Spines aren’t just for books.

This is the least sexiest bit of advice EVER but – get a proper ergonomic writing setup! I wrote all through my twenties with just a laptop, crappy desk and dining chair, and as a result I’ve acquired some shitty disc damage. I now can’t write without a special screen that’s eye-height, separate keyboard, a desk that’s exactly level with my elbow, and a massive bright blue swiss ball inflated to within an inch of its life. Rock on!

Good luck!

 

Originally posted as part of the ‘Break Up Club‘ Blog Tour 2016.

http://www.reviewedthebook.co.uk/2016/02/loreleimathias.html#sthash.0vATjbQT.dpuf

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HOW TO SET UP YOUR OWN ‘BUC’… BECAUSE A BREAK-UP SHARED IS A BREAK-UP HALVED.

reader3I wouldn’t wish a break-up on anyone. But if you do happen to find yourselves in a similar position to the characters in my book; or if like Ally Sheedy’s character in The Breakfast Club, you have nothing better to do, then here’s a rough guide to creating your own warm, fuzzy and prosperous BUC…It feels pressing to point out that ‘The Real BUC’ was nothing like this um, regimented – these are based on the fictional one! Here goes.

  1. Find at least one other poor sod that has just had a break-up, or is thinking about it. Your dream scenario is finding someone in the ‘love him/love him not’ limbo like yourself. Then you can both agree to perform what’s known as a synchronised dump. Hurrah! You’re in.
  1. Once assembled, the main thing is to colonise your Sundays. It’s the saddest day of the week, so make sure you’re never alone, even for a minute. Where possible, congregate in time for brunch (see Rule No.5) with a view to staying over at a co-member’s house. Leave a ‘Boyfriend Pack’* there, of duplicate toiletries, undies and a toothbrush.
  1. Not to sound like I’m encouraging self-destructive behaviour, but booze really, truly is an integral part of any high-functioning Break Up Club. Stock up well on Prosecco, beer, ale and vodka.
  1. You’ll want all the members of the Carbohydrate family represented. Stock up pasta, garlic bread, pizza, popcorn.  And cheese. All of the cheese.

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(here’s Mark, one of our Co-founders, and Lauren, foraging.)

  1. Also, have lemsip, paracetamols and ginger standing by for when your inevitable a bout of break-up flu strikes. It happened to all of us, during each break-up cycle. It’s cold-hard medicinal fact – something to do with your white blood cells working extra hard to clear all the ex-toxins out of your body? So prepare well.
  1. You’ll need a soundtrack involving lots of New Romantic songs, and this track by The 6ixths, called ‘Falling Out of Love with you’ which my friend Gaz first got me in to. It’s that perplexing combo of euphoric yet melancholic. The tone is happy and gay; the lyrics stick a knife through your heart. Then you’ll need the other kind of cheese jump around to – and ideally an old, non-precious sofa like the one in the book. To make life easier for you, I curated a  Spotify Playlist for #breakupclub. But I’ll be walking you through the peaks and troughs of that at another stop on my blog tour…
  1. Keep a notepad, paper and blue-tac to hand. Just in case one member needs to list out everything they don’t like about their ex, to remind them they weren’t right for them after all.
  1. Keep a laptop or ipad to hand, for deletion ceremonies (see rule No. 6).
  1. Keep box-sets of Girls, Sex and the City, Catastrophe to hand – for when your co-members’ funny-bones are out and you need the professionals.
  1. Get a large duvet with a good amount of togs.
  1. While it’s good to take it in turns to ‘host’ at each others houses, it’s also sensible to have a few bars or pubs as regular venues. Just so you can practice being ‘out’ in public, from within the warm supportive bosom. You’ll need places that are small and cosy enough that you can have the odd shoulder sob without being stared at. For us, the main BUC HQ was The BreakFast Club in Camden Passage, Angel, London.

reader2Sod Disneyland: this is the happiest place on earth. You cannot be depressed about having had your heart ripped through your bum – in here, while surrounded by all the warm eightees nostalgia and pancakes with bacon, banana and maple syrup. It’s so wonderful that I had my 30th here and even once interviewed the rather lovely BC founder, Jonathan (aka Ferris)

Since then, there are now about a hundred branches of The BC all over London, so those living in the capital can have their pick. The Angel one’s the cosiest and most fun. So much so that ‘The Real BUC’ and I are going back there tonight for dinner! There’s a bunch of other places to go but I’ll be exploring them in another post called the ‘Heartbreak Guide to London’, coming soon to the internets.

  1. Lastly, you’ll want to get away from it all at least once a year for your ‘AGM’. Take an excursion somewhere really, really bleak, preferably involving camping in the rain in a badly equipped tent from Lidl. But more on that on this guest post I wrote here!

 

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*More on Boyfriend Packs in another blog

8 PLACES TO TAKE REFUGE FROM SMUG MARRIEDS THIS V-DAY

Forget fifty romantic places to woo your lover, this is an indispensable guide to the places to drown your sorrows in London town, either in solitude or with other members of your #Break-UpClub… especially on this most bleak and pointless of days.

Readers, if you’re single on Sunday or worse, newly single, take comfort. London is a city full of heart – even when yours is broken. As someone who has just written a book that takes a merry dance through the darkest and cosiest nook and crannies of our city, I would love to be your tour guide. So, here we go.

(1) One Tree Hill, Honor Oak Park, SE23

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Literally, the flip-side to the view from the top of Primrose Hill. Swap smug marrieds and sprogs for the birdsong and casual dog-walkers of One Tree Hill. It may sound like a half-baked American teen drama, but it’s actually a lovely spot flanked by cemeteries, to remind you of the fragility of life and shove everything into perspective. Watch the sun set on your relationship in peace in this well-kept secret in South East London. Makes Parliament Hill look cheesy, and is far enough away from everything to give you the distance you need to heal.

(2)The Breakfast Club Angel, N1

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Take a slow brunch at the cosiest little food-nest, and an 80’s time-warp in all the right ways. Fuck Disneyland: this is the happiest place on earth. You cannot be depressed about having had your heart ripped through your bum – in here, while surrounded by all the warm Eightees nostalgia and pancakes with bacon, banana and maple syrup.

(3) Theobalds Park Camping & Caravanning, Waltham Cross, EN7

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Go on holiday by mistake, at this eerie campsite in Waltham Cross, barely twenty minutes from Liverpool Street. An excellent place to dance in the rain next to some trees, static caravans and a stagnant canal called The New River, that is ‘neither new, nor a river’, according to its plaque.

At Theobalds Park, incomparable vistas vy for your attention – a dual carriage way here, a Slough-esque trading estate there. And if you’re lucky you’ll be able to jump around on an old abandoned fence like it’s a trampoline. ‘The Real #Break-UpClub’ spent a few days there in a badly-equipped tent from Lidl. It turned out to be one of the best weekends of our lives, and inspired a whole chapter in Reader, I Dumped Him. There may have been copious booze consumed though. So don’t attempt to go there without at least a crate’s worth.

(4) The Big Red – Holloway N7 

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The pub where nobody knows your name. Lower your expectations as low as they can get, and you shan’t be disappointed. The Real BUC also go there in the book, but they renamed it The Big Blue, which seemed more apt.

(5) Feeling Gloomy, N1 and WC1

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Club Night in Soho, WC1 and Angel, N1 – Lose yourself to New Romantic classics, from the 80s and 90s, to songs which sound happy, but they are LYING. This is unsung club night spins tunes which are euphoric and melancholic in equal parts. From The Cure to The Smiths, you’ll be able to cry and jump around at the same time, and ‘reclaim’ any songs lost in the break-up vortex. (if you don’t know what a reclaim is, you’ll need to read the book I’m afraid)

Not open on actual Valentine’s Day but they did a Speed-Hating event which sounds amazing – look out for it next year! Their next club night is Saturday 5th March at The Phoenix in Soho.

(6) Swing Patrol, Lindy Hop dance lessons, all over London

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Swinging out is the best way to get over a break-up. You simply cannot be depressed about your failed relationship when you’re being twirled around to Ella Fitzgerald by a sweaty stranger, in a room full of other sweaty but ecstatic strangers, led by two even-more-perky Australians in headsets.

(7) The British Film Institute, SE1

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Not only is it right on the beautiful South Bank, so you can walk over the bridge and stare moodily out at the river before you get there, but the BFI boasts a best-kept secret called The Mediatheque, where you can binge-watch movies old and new, for free, from the privacy of your own booth. Look, even the Queen’s cottoned on!

If you’re lucky you’ll be able to watch some of the old movies and TV shows featured in this montage of break-ups. Bargain! Don’t miss out.

(8) The Serpentine Lido

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For evening booze picnics, followed by a sudden bracing dip in the 7 degree waters, clothed or otherwise. Nothing like a short, sharp shock to the system to wash away the old memories of your once-perfect-but-now-laid-to-rest relationship. And it’s a cold hard medicinal fact that wild-swimming cures melancholia. But more on that another day.

(9) Scrap all that. Hide indoors with friends, and have a Palentine’s Party.

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You could also do none of the above on Sunday. Another very sensible option is to batten down the hatches, stock up on booze and cheese, and hide out with your mates ’til it’s the 15th. Friends are the best – especially when you’re fresh from a conscious un-coupling. This is going to sound pathetic but ‘The Real BUC’ and I once played a game of ‘Secret Cupid’ where we each composed anonymous poems and wrote them in Valentine’s cards, then had to guess who wrote them. Like Secret Santa, only sillier, and with much more vodka. One of them began ‘Love is a funny thing… it sometimes ends up, in the bin.’

With that in mind I’d like to wish you all a very #HappyPalentinesDay

Relationships come and go, but good friends are for life!