The Book of You: A Review

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My copy, against my unfinished canvas.

So I just finished reading this and as usual, you can’t go wrong with a Richard and Judy Book Club recommendation! This isn’t really a ‘summer read’ – more of an autumn/winter type thriller but I’m trying to catch up on all of their recommendations at the moment and am very very behind.

The Book of You is a really gripping read about extreme stalking behaviour and the psychological and physical implications of this. It is based on true events that occur in the UK every year and is actually a topic that does not receive nearly enough attention or seriousness by the media or the police. It is only very recently – 2012 – when stalking was made a criminal offence. Stalking is not an experience that is alien to me, having had close family have to deal with such encounters and issue restraining orders on multiple occasions.

I actually bought this book to read whilst I was on jury service, because the main female character in the book is also on jury service, but I never got around to reading it then due to having to work on my painful CIM essay at the time ERGH. Anyhow, at least I have managed to get around to it now!

This is a very well-written book, and the narration interchanges between 3rd person and 1st person- which is quite hard to pull off but this was done with a fine balance by Kendal. 1st person narrative was used for the voice of the victim / central female character – which for me really bought out the intense feeling of claustrophobia induced by her stalker, trepidation and the escalation of her fears. What I liked a lot was that I learnt a great deal from reading this book- I didn’t realise as the victim of such unwarranted attention the onus is upon you – the victim – to collect evidence against your stalker, and how such evidence can be so easily twisted in court (although frankly after my time on jury service, this no longer surprises me at all). I also really had no idea how the ending was going to pan out which spurred me to keep reading- I hate it when I guess the ending within the first few pages! I admit the climax and ending surprised me quite a bit, and did nothing to quell my trust issues with men lol.

I am currently getting back into thriller books with psychotic characters- what can I say- I like my crazy ppl. I am really enjoying my current reading sprint. All I want to do is huddle under my duvet with coffee at arms reach and a gripping read – no better time for it than in the lead up to autumn and winter in the UK! Watch this space for my review of Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman – another Richard and Judy recommendation which I have not been able to put down so far!

Rating:⭐⭐⭐ out of 5 – really great read but didn’t move my mountains.

 

Fat to Fit: Stepping Up on the Cambridge Weight Plan

So it’s been a while. It’s been busy. Life has been a little crazy but I’m proud to say that I’m still going strong on CWP and have recently stepped up to Step 3 – even Step 4 briefly in the past few months – and I’ve still managed to lose weight steadily – exciting stuff!

I actually wrote a huge chunk of this blog post a few months ago when I was on the former CWP Step 3 plan but never managed to finish it;  I am now on the new – much improved – CWP Step 3! I find the variety of options regarding Step 3 + on the revamped plan very empowering in terms of making sensible food choices, reincorporating normal foods back into your diet and long-term maintenance.

I am VERY CLOSE to my goal weight – which is super-exciting and motivating in itself – and I have been uber-100% on plan these past few weeks (I had a bit of a slow loss on Step 2 on the new CWP plan – but suffice to say I don’t think I did a week where I was truly 100% due to family/social events). My Consultant recommended I go up to Step 3 as it may jig up my weight loss a bit, and also because I wanted to increase my exercise. I had gained a bit of weight during Ramadan in June 2016 (when I decided to take a break from the plan) – but that’s all gone now, so just the last stretch left! I have never been so focused on my goal, and knowing I am doing 100% everyday is probably the best feeling ever (I mark it off on a monthly wall calendar hanging in my room).

After the success of my previous blog post on top tips for staying on track on CWP, I thought a follow up post on survival tips for moving up the Steps on CWP would be most fitting. Stepping up on CWP from the lower Steps can take both a brain and body adjustment and it can be easy to veer of course. This post covers situations and questions that I have encountered since losing a huge chunk of weight, and my personal experience and tips on staying on plan and smashing it!

Questions

⭐ Will I still lose weight?

It can be a bit daunting going up the Steps – Step 3 allows carbs which got me unnecessarily worried – and this was one of my very first questions. The straight answer is yes! You will still lose weight on Step 3 and 4 but just at a slower rate than Step 2 e.g. averaging probably 7-8 pounds a month, but you must stay 100% on plan to expect these results. Do remember you are still only taking in approx. 1000 cals – which is very low and not a drastic leap from Step 2. I’ve lost quite a bit on Step 3, although it hasn’t always been a week-on-week loss due to me blipping occasionally and not giving the Step the stringent dedication it requires (this was more so the case when I was on the former Step 3 plan – whereas with the new modified plan, it’s been pretty smooth so far). My biggest worry is probably stepping onto the scales during weigh in and not having lost any weight – but this hasn’t happened so YAY, but you gotta stick to plan 100% people. It’s worth noting that Step 3 and 4 are usually for those who have reached goal weight and are moving onto maintenance and weight stability, unless you start on those Steps or are working your way down the Steps due to your personal situation or medical reasons.

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Damright

⭐ Do I still have to drink 3 litres of water a day?

YAAAAS. According to my Consultant, one of the things that tends to happen as people go up the Steps is that their water starts to drop, since you get some water from your food intake, and also tend to feel fuller because you’re eating more. DO NOT DROP THE WATER INTAKE PPL. This is really critical for good weight losses week on week.

KEEP THAT WATER HIGH.

Sometimes I even drink up to 4 litres if it’s really hot or if I go to the gym that day. You’ll end up peeing like a fountain but remember it’s all worth it. Great for clearer skin too. To make it easier for myself – I now carry a 750ml water bottle with me and make sure I refill and drink from this 4 x or more a day, everyday.

⭐ How should I decide what to eat and how much of it?

Step 3 now has a lot more flexibility in terms of food choices and the new plan also has a Green, Amber and Red coding system to indicate how often you should eat the foods. The advice that I have been given here is that as long as I stick to 1,000 cals per day, I can eat whatever I wish from the list. However, the rule here is not to go crazy on the carbs ppl – don’t forget the good habits built on previous Steps! There is a healthy plate diagram in the booklet for a reason – it’s important to make sure that your food is a) cooked in a healthy way, b) balanced – have a portion of veg, protein, carb and fruit a day, c) aligned to your activity levels.

The way I have managed to keep it simple for myself is by spreading my meals over the day:

  1. I have a bar with coffee or shake for breakfast in the morning;
  2. A low cal sandwhich (2 x Warbutons wholemeal bread (55 cals per slice), with low cal spread and salad – IT’S REALLY BASIC) and an apple for lunch;
  3. Half a bar in the afternoon with tea for my tea break;
  4. In the evening I stick to having my protein and veg allowance with some fruit if I have cals left over, occasionally incorporating carbs into my evening meal if I have hit the gym before;
  5. Finally the other half of my bar with another cup of tea or coffee as ‘dessert’.

I eat my carbs for lunch mainly because I need the energy at work and has the day to burn off 🙂 And in the evenings I tend to fill myself up on lots of veg as they’re really low in cals.

Honestly my meals are pretty much the same everyday – I like to keep things straightforward and am a creature of habit. I am no master chef so investing in a George Foreman grill has changed my life – takes about 5 mins to cook chicken and fish – not even kidding! Sometimes to make things a bit more interesting or if I’m spending time with my family at the end of the week – I have a burger or pitta wrap night! The food allowance on Step 3 + allows you to do this – just keep it healthy and don’t go crazy on the sauces (you can see my tiny squirt of mayo in the pics below🙂 )

As you work up the Steps it is critical to stick to the daily calorie intake (1,000 cals on Step 3 and 1,200 cals on Step 4) as slight blips can increase the amount of calories you are taking in daily and this can have quite a big impact on your weight loss over the course of a week if blips keep happening regularly.

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Shaking it up

⭐ The weights/calories of foodstuffs in the booklet don’t always match the products/calories of foodstuffs I buy, which should I follow?

So I encountered this recently when I bought some sea bass; the book says 100g of white fish is about 75 cals, whereas the packet with the sea bass said it was a lot more – naturally I text my Consultant asking her what to do and she said to follow the guidelines in the book – so that’s what I’m doing! I’m not sure how it works, but if I stick the plan, and continue to weigh/measure everything, it works – so that’s all I need to know.

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Love my sea bass

Things that start to happen

⭐ Your clothes start looking frumpy on you

This is both a good and bad thing – a) you feel great that you’ve lost tons of weight, but b) you don’t fit into your favourite clothes anymore (well this was the issue for me at least)! My mate called me a ‘frump’ the other day because all my clothes were so loose, but I didn’t mind! For me it was a reminder of how far I had come and I love seeing my clothes baggy on me because it makes me proud of the dedication and commitment that I have made to myself to make a healthy change in my life. So I say enjoy it! Go out and buy smaller clothes, even if they don’t fit you right now, they will in a few weeks time! It’s such a great source of motivation. Although your bank balance might start to suffer lol… I have never really been a fan of shopping or counted myself among the fashionable in the world… but I have discovered a new enjoyment in this now that I know I can pick up a size 8/10 and fit into it – it definitely makes internet shopping a lot easier and enjoyable!

⭐ People start noticing that you’ve lost weight – you’ll have the haters, and you’ll have the supporters

The other day one of my sisters was like: “This diet isn’t sustainable and you should be able to eat what you want.” This made me really angry – it’s EXACTLY BECAUSE I ATE EVERYTHING I WANTED, WHENEVER I WANTED, WITHOUT A SECOND THOUGHT, THAT I BALLOONED IN THE FIRST PLACE. Dieting is hard, and I don’t need the people closest to me telling me that once I come off plan I will regain everything back. It’s probably the most disheartening, annoying, and inconsiderate thing anyone could say to me or anyone on a diet. She also gave me grief on my approach to keeping on top of what I’m eating – essentially saying that calorie counting is bad/unhealthy for me and that I should be living a healthy lifestyle and not calorie counting – backing herself up with “I can eat whatever I want and I don’t gain weight blah blah”. I have heard enough of this rubbish that I get a headache just thinking about it. The best way to deal with the haters is to respond with:

“I AM EATING WHAT I WANT – I JUST CHOOSE NOT TO EAT UNHEALTHY SHIT.”

“EVEN IF YOU EAT HEALTHILY AND YOU EAT SAY 4,000 CALORIES A DAY – YOU’RE GONNA GAIN WEIGHT. FACT. CALORIE COUNTING IS THE MOST OBJECTIVE WAY TO KNOW AND BE CONSCIOUS OF WHAT GOES IN YOUR MOUTH. YOU CAN EAT HEALTHILY AND ALSO COUNT CALORIES – IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE ONE OR THE OTHER.”

I understand that calorie counting can become an obsession with some people – but it works for some and not for others. You have to find your happy medium. I personally think as an initial way of being mindful of what you eat and becoming more aware of the amount of calories in food it’s a really useful tool and something important to be conscious about – as I never was before starting CWP.

Another friend of mine also said: “OH I AM SURPRISED YOU’VE MANAGED TO STAY ON THIS DIET FOR SO LONG” when she saw me earlier this year. She doesn’t know the full story anyhow i.e. I haven’t told her that I have a Consultant etc. because I could sense her overall negative undertone and energy towards me. I didn’t tell her the full story because I knew I couldn’t rely on her for her support because she is a naturally jealous person and struggles with other people’s success/es (she openly admits this too…). She recently saw me and exploded at me over dinner: “HOW DO YOU EXPECT ME TO EAT THIS BURGER WHEN YOU’RE SITTING THERE EATING A BLOODY EGG?!” Going on to say that I made her feel guilty for eating… although she acknowledged that it wasn’t my fault she felt this way. Anyway, she’s started her own diet life thing now, but honestly, I didn’t realise me losing weight would have such a profound effect on those around me. I’ve found that when I was overweight people didn’t seem to comment on it that much – now that I have lost the weight EVERYONE SEEMS TO HAVE AN OPINION ON IT. I was really not expecting this.

I confided in a friend I trust when it all got a bit much one week and he said people find it hard to deal with change – so “give it time and once people are accustomed to seeing you in your new weight it will become normal”. Sound advice if I ever heard one. And it’s true, even for myself, when I catch a glimpse in the mirror, my brain doesn’t always recognise the change and I still imagine that I am the chubsy girl back in Jan 2016.

So my advice here is to be careful with whom you choose to confide in/surround yourself with or seek support from, because you don’t need negative energy in your life. It’s bad enough with your own self-sabotaging thoughts and demons that come up. Ignore the haters and/or let them motivate you, but don’t ever let them get you down or off-track! It’s not worth it. You know what this diet can do for you, you’ve seen the changes in your body.

The supporters are great though – they can see you’ve lost weight, they are complimenting you and hey, you can even inspire them to start a diet/embark on a healthier lifestyle! My colleague at work has started her diet and although not CWP, she has her own style and is gymming, and it’s through talking about my #dietlife with her that she has decided to do it. So there you go. Choose to share with the right people, and you can inspire each other and support each other.

⭐ “You’re so skinny!”

The compliments will come – and they will keep on coming for a while it seems. I get a lot of compliments at work from my colleagues – which is super lovely and keeps me motivated. The other day I was just heading out of the kitchen and a colleague cried: “You’re so skinny!” – I literally stopped and was like: “Are you talking to me?” – I am sooo not used to such compliments and would never have expected anyone to say that to me – it’s amazing what has changed in such a short space of time. Another colleague said to me this morning: “You’re just getting thinner and thinner”, Me: “That’s what I like to hear”.🙂

A lot of people have also got in touch with me via my social channels who have noticed that I have lost weight and congratulated me on the achievement. Mind, I didn’t post any pictures of myself for several months at the start of the diet, and only recently started uploading them as I’ve been going to more events and things. So enjoy it. Enjoy shopping in smaller sizes. You’ve worked for it. You’ve #earnedit!

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lolz – but truf

Things to watch out for

⭐ Beware of the nibbles!

My Consultant warned me this might happen. When I started on Step 3 on the old plan, this happened quite a bit (I no longer have this issue with the amazing new plan but I thought this was a point worth mentioning anyway). AVOID THIS AT ALL COSTS. Remember, every time you put something in your mouth that you’re not supposed to, that’s just prolonging your weight loss journey. It’s not worth it! If it happens over the course of a week you’ll most likely go over your calorie limit and not get the losses you were expecting.

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lol.

⭐ Don’t forget that fruit has sugar – and lots of it!

I love fruit and was waaaay excited about the fact I get to have it on Step 3. But I have found that it’s easy to get carried away – especially with not having had it for so long and with smaller stuff like grapes and strawberries. Make sure you weigh them and stick to the recommended daily amount of calories for the fruit! Remember your body doesn’t know the difference between processed and non-processed sugar. I find it’s usually a lot easier for me to keep to the recommended amount with chunkier stuff like apples and bananas so I don’t end up mindlessly picking.

⭐ Always remember: CARBS ARE EVIL.

When or if I over-indulge, unfortunately it’s with the carbs. JEZUZ I LOVE BREAD SO MUCH. BREAD IS MY LIFE. I’m not one to encourage the demonization of certain foods/nutrients but everything in moderation! And unfortunately for me carbs = more cravings of carbs, so I keep my guard up on this as much as I can lest I fall down a slippery slope. My advice is to stick to the guidelines in the book and the healthy plate balance and it should all be A-ok.

Tipsss

⭐ Download My Fitness Pal

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This is a life saver.

This app is a great way to keep a tab on what you’re eating/no. of calories you’re taking in during the day – but you have to be brutally honest with yourself however and log everything. It’s actually quite fun. I think it’s also a great way to help with maintenance in the long-term because it really makes you realise how many calories foods have – even small items which you wouldn’t think twice about can have gazillions of calories.

⭐ Plan your meals

My biggest tip here is to PLAN PLAN PLAN and take the decision-making process around food on a daily basis out, by planning thoroughly in advance for the week ahead. When you’re hungry, or unprepared, you’re leaving yourself to the mercy of your stomach and not your brain. This is why planning is so important – it puts you in control and lets your mind mentally prepare ahead. I keep things simple, buy food for the upcoming week, make the food the night before or on the morning before I head to work, and have my evening meals planned out so when I get home I don’t think about it, I go straight to the kitchen and cook it. Once I have eaten my quota of food for the day – I don’t touch anything else. I also don’t buy anything I am not allowed to have from the list either – so that way it’s easier as I am not tempted by anything – out of sight, out of mind!

⭐ Celebrate your success

If you’re stepping up on the Cambridge Weight Plan, then you’ve come a long way and should celebrate your success, whether it’s in your head before you go to bed for staying 100% on plan or 100% on top of your water, celebrate it. If it’s buying a smaller dress size or going out for the evening to watch a show etc. Do it. Reward yourself (not with food though lol). It’s important as it’s easy to get complacent as you get smaller and sometimes you can lose sight of your goal if other things in life get in the way or you get busy. You need to remind yourself how far you’ve come – never lose sight of that – and that you’re in it for the long haul. This means staying motivated and positive :thumbs up:

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⭐ Exercise regularly

The best thing I have done in the past few months is get a Personal Trainer. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing in the gym most of the time. Having my PT has really helped in terms of toning and strengthening exercises and shaping up my body the way I envisaged it. Not everyone can afford a PT however, but you don’t really need one – just get your body moving by doing something you enjoy – whether it’s badminton or dancing or making the effort to walk more (10,000 steps a day can burn around 400-500 cals!). When I am not in the gym or having a session with my PT, I usually hula hoop for about 30 minutes with a weighted hoop at home, interspersed with strength-training exercises and try and make sure I exercise 5-6 days a week. Regular exercise is really important – helps to lose the weight, tone and maintain in the long-run – i.e. muscle burns more calories than fat does at rest.

⭐ Learn about nutrition

I have found that it’s been really useful to learn more about nutrition and understand how the body works and needs to maintain itself. I have used the NHS website for my research as well as undertaking a free course on FutureLearn (Nutrition and Wellbeing, and The Science of Nutrition). Knowledge is power! It’s also good to keep in sight that although food can be a pleasurable thing, it is ultimately a fuel for your body. See it this way and it will help to control your portions and keep your reaction/s to food in perspective.

It’s all about maintaining a healthier and positive lifestyle and approach to food in the long-run. Don’t listen to the haters who say that it isn’t sustainable. Prove them wrong. Show them that it is and that you didn’t work this hard to just pop back into your previous shape.

I will be writing a post once I get to target and maintenance so watch this space! Hope this was useful.

You can follow me on Instagram or Twitter to stay updated with my latest stuff.

Only Ever Yours: A Review

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Published by Quercus, 2014

Just finished reading this and it’s been a while since I’ve managed to consume a book in a day! This was recommended to me by my friend Isha a while back when I still worked in publishing in London. I bought the book last year and have been meaning to get around to reading it for a while – as with all my other books, its been gathering dust on my over-crammed bookshelf. I have needed some hermit time for a while now so have cut myself off from social activities and Facebook (hate it so much!!) to re-focus and re-energise and so have finally got around to enjoying my favourite pastime.

The plot takes place in a futuristic society where women – referred to as ‘eves’ – are built purely to fulfill the desires and satisfaction of men – at the age of 16 men decide whether they will become their companion (i.e. wife and bear them plenty of sons), concubine (join their harem) or become a chastity (a chaste woman whose duty is to raise the girls at the school where the story takes place).

The thing that was unique for me about this book is that the main character of this book is brown-skinned (O’Neill has said that she is of Indian descent), although this isn’t apparent at first due to her desire to have paler skin, as she is always comparing herself to the other girls in the school, and believes that this will also make her more attractive to men. I say this is unique as someone who has read a large chunk of the library and rarely comes across a main character who is non-white. Although this never really bothered me growing up (coz I would just imagine myself as the main character anyway) and probably never gave it much thought, now that I’m older, the lack of representation or stereotypical representation of different ethnicities in books sticks out to me like a sore thumb and actually find bothers me a lot. So yes, I was pleasantly surprised that the main girl was brown-skinned but I also understand the author’s reasoning behind doing so – it helps to showcase the expectations and beauty standards around her in more of a vivid contrast.

Although the world building in the book is pretty limited and confined to the school in which the story takes place, and there is a lot of repetitive behaviour, dialogue and thoughts (which can be laborious to read over and over again but I appreciate the effect O’Neill is trying to create – that these girls have had these thoughts and rules grounded into them from such a young age they can’t think beyond them) and the characters are all quite two-dimensional, I enjoyed reading it. It is an exposition and commentary on patriarchy and societal beauty norms and pressures, and it is all frightening real – the story takes place in the future but the experiences of the girls are very much that of today.

For me it was also an interesting insight into the obsession around insane female beauty standards and the pressure to be thin, as this is again not something that I had given much thought to the past always having been more focused on my academia, as opposed to what I wore and how I looked. However, I related to it throughout as it touched upon many things I encountered/felt growing up – being brown and not identifying with the images of beauty that surrounded me, going to an all girls school during my critical teenage years and witnessing the obsession with makeup and boys and thinness, being overweight for a large majority of my life, thinking I’d be overweight for the rest of my life, and then actually having lost the weight etc. and being thin, seen the competitiveness and sometimes rivalry, it has inspired in the women around me.

The book deals with profound issues – from mental health, weight, addiction, eating disorders, paranoia to hopelessness, friendship, the need to be accepted, sexuality, homophobia and more. Overall, I just love a bit of dystopian fiction – it really helps to bring out the the emo in me lol. The downside for me was that the book doesn’t actually endeavour to tackle the issues it foregrounds. Which is a shame really because I feel YA fiction lends itself to very effective components to do so and with a very engaged audience too.

Also, a side note – Quercus there are so many spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in this book I don’t know how it was even allowed to be published in this condition – sort your shit out.

Gonna give it a rating of 3.5 stars. Feeling arbitrary. But also because I don’t think the book was as ‘deep’ as it could have been.

Happy Sunday people and keep reading! X

Introduction to Writing Fiction: Lesson 5 – Sentence Structure

Hey all, many of you may remember my commitment to write up my Introduction to Writing Fiction lesson notes in blog form for the benefit of all would-be writers out there back in November 2015, and many of you may have noticed that I sort of didn’t manage to post anything after the 4th lesson… actually I’m pretty sure no one noticed but it’s nice to pretend I’m Internet famous eh. Anyway, it’s nearly August 2016 now (holy cowww), and I am back on my writing game and wanted to share all the tips Jen left me with at the end of last year. I have started my Instagram mini-side-project #ANovelInAYear to motivate me to complete my initial novel draft by the end of this year, and my desire to enter the Write Now call out by Penguin Random House that I stumbled upon recently, has also re-energised me to get on top of my writing game. I found that re-reading all my writing blogs have been really useful in helping me refocus my writing and refining it, so without further ado, here’s all the useful stuff from where I left off.

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Here we go!

So this lesson focused on sentences and how to make them great. Sentences need intention, purpose, meaning and sometimes, not always, some punch.

Jen shared with us some examples of great sentence structure:

1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

“Even now that there is no real money anymore, there’s still a black market. There’s always a black market, there’s always something that can be exchanged.”

This is a great sentence as there is so much possibility laced in this. The sentence is ominous and strongly alludes to the character’s (or even the author’s) opinion of human nature/greed, underlining a larger social commentary on society (somehow even if we got past capitalism and money, this black market, the ability to exchange goods would still be there) and setting the stage of the world they live in. Further, there is a beautiful inner rhythm to this sentence. I finished reading this book a few months ago in fact and would highly recommend🙂

2. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”

This is said by a very strange child who is both eccentric and mature due to a great trauma he has experienced. It is a rather overwhelming, emotional sentence; visceral and creates intrigue. Profound. It is good to alternate sentences between poetic and short sentences to move the plot along. I haven’t read this but it will go on my To Read list.

3. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine.

This is a powerful sentence. It puts you in a certain frame of mind and immediately intrigues the reader by mixing sudden death and beauty.

4. The Angel in the Alcove by Tennessee Williams

“In eight yearstime such characters disappear, the earth swallows them up, the walls absorb them like moisture.

Again, a very powerful image is created, especially “the walls absorb them like moisture.”

5. A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You by Amy Blume

“I have made the best and happiest ending that I can in this world, made it out of the flax and netting and leftover trim of someone else’s life, I know, but made it to keep the innocent safe and the guilty punished, and I have made it as the world should be and not as I have found it.”

An undercurrent of morality is evident here as well as the writer’s technical grasp of syntax and diction.

Alternating Sentences

It is important to alternate between long and short sentences in your writing, otherwise sentences get verbose, chunky and frankly boring. Long sentences enable you to set the scene and tell the story in some sort of stylistic way, and short sentences allow you to create pace and build tension. It is good to try and disperse action and dialogue between longer and shorter sentences.

Key things to do:

  • Intersperse your writing with action and dialogue so it keeps moving forward.
  • If unsure whether your sentence is effective or not, ask: Is the sentence conveying what you want it to? Or is it just exposition to get character?
  • Avoid unnecessary exposition: write with intention and meaning; write what’s necessary, interesting and beautiful, and gets somewhere.

4 Types of Sentences

  1. Declarative/narrative (statement, explains something)
  2. Interrogative (asks a question)
  3. Imperative (instruction, command)
  4. Container sentence (expresses sudden thought or emotion; dialogue and then continues/dialogue exists within sentence)

6 Basic Structures

  1. S-V = subject verb
  2. S-V-DO = direct object
  3. S-V-IO-DO = indirect object
  4. S-V-PN = predicate normative
  5. S-V-PA = predicate adjective
  6. S-V-DO-C = compliment
  • Subject: who or what, noun or pronoun, compound sentence (more than one noun in a sentence)
  • Direct object: receives action directly
  • Indirect object: relates to the action
  • Predicate: speaks to verb or verb associated with subject. If modified, it can be an adjective or an adverb
  • Compliment: words adding meaning to subject or verb; it clarifies meaning in a sentence

How do we create good sentences?

3 rules to follow people!

1. Clarity

It’s easy for meaning to get lost in figurative or fancy language so it’s very important to make sure your sentences are clear. Writing in plain English usually works best. Remember: readers want to be entertained first, educated second and challenged third!

2. Concise

If your concise, then you’re probably clear in your writing – but it’s important not to confuse being concise with being brief. Being concise helps to confirm clarity of sentence structure. As a rule of thumb/quick test check, if more than 4 words separate the subject of the primary verb, then your sentence might not be that concise and so is worth reviewing.

3. Active

Active voice is when the subject performs the action denoted by the verb e.g. the man ate five burgers vs. five burgers were eaten by the man. This is more effective as it takes readers along for the ride with the characters and makes the story/sentences more interesting. It also helps to create a clearer visual picture, tends to be less wordy and sounds more natural – most people speak in active voice.

Jen’s 2 Key Rules of Writing

1. Show, don’t tell

Young writers have a a tendency to tell when they’re writing e.g. Jack was a pretty boy. To make your writing more powerful, interesting and impactful, show that Jack was a pretty boy e.g. Jack had luscious curly black locks that fell into his eyes, which were framed with the most beautifully long lashes. All the girls in class would squeal in delight if he as so much glanced at them accidentally. Always try and show rather than tell, focusing on body language, senses, visceral experiences and using techniques like phonetic sounds e.g. ‘glub, glub, glub’ to make your writing really come alive. If you’re reading a sentence and it seems bland and is telling, and not showing, then get into your character’s head and ask yourself what is the purpose of this sentence? What am I trying to say? Is it necessary for the reader?

Some more examples:

  1. The man was angry -> The man clenched his fists and hissed beneath his breath
  2. The girl was sad -> The girl hid her face behind her hair
  3. The man stabbed his toe -> The man swore loudly as he walked into a table
  4. They were best friends -> Her friend walked into her house unannounced

2. No adverbs

This rule is important as it helps you take a good look at the language you are using and demands you to use the right verb. Adverbs should be avoided at all costs; it should be loaded into the verb. If you have the right verb then you won’t need unnecessary adverbs that chunk up your writing and demonstrates a stronger writer! Examples:

  • I ran quickly -> I sprinted
  • I shouted loudly -> I screamed
  • I walked slowly -> I dawdled

Writing Session 1: Using long and short sentences

Describe a room in one sentence, using as many words as you can.

This is what I came up with:

‘The walls of the room were purple and white with books hanging off shelves that had been fitted so precariously, they looked as if they may fall at any minute on an unfortunate soul in need of a book who had unwittingly stopped by to have a browse.’

Write this passage again using sentences that can have no more than 6 words.

‘The walls of the room were purple. It had white bits streaking through. One wall had some precarious shelving. It was lined with books. All at peculiar angles. Waiting to fall on someone passing.’

Writing Session 2: Show vs. Tell

Examples of Tell:

  1. She’s dead.
  2. He’s single now.
  3. They got lost.
  4. The party is over.
  5. The vase broke.
  6. The child cried.
  7. The car crashed.
  8. He fell down the stairs.

Task: Take all of these and make them longer and more show than tell.

  1. She lay there, her chest not moving up and down, up and down, as I had expected, but still as sea water with all the sea creatures and life removed from it.
  2. I had been watching for a while now, and pleased to hear that he broke up with his girlfriend at the local pub. Yes! He’s single now.
  3. They were in the car and the satnav had decided that it had a life of its own and that it would be entertaining to play games on the driver and the passenger helplessly looking about for a map. The satnav had took them all over the city. The were officially lost.
  4. She ran into the room, her face blotchy with mascara drenched tears and yelled “The party is over! Get out! Get out!” The blaring music in the room stopped suddenly and there was an uncomfortable silence as everyone looked at her, standing there with her fists clenched and her face pale.
  5. I was angry. How can one be ditched so easily by a friend for a stranger. I picked up her favourite vase, and just like that, without meaning to, I dropped it on the floor. It broke.
  6. “I don’t want to be here if HE is here!!” the child cried. Their mother stared down at her daughter angrily, “HE is YOUR BROTHER and he will stay here whether you like it or not.” The child threw her face into the back of the chair and continued to cry at the top of her voice.
  7. It was my fifth driving lesson and my instructor did nothing to quell my fears. Instead he made jokes about my incompetency jovially while I struggled to focus on what was happening on the road ahead. I was feeling dehydrated; it was an unusually sunny day and the heat was burning the right side of my face. My foot slipped. I turned the wheel dramatically. The car crashed into the side of the pavement. I sat in my seat squirming as I heard the wheezing of the front tyre as it slowly deflated.
  8. They guy at work who I had seen last week have two perfectly functioning feet came in today with one broken foot. He was using a pair of crutches to get around and as he was using them to slowly trod down the stairs, I said helpfully, “Hey! There’s a lift just there you know.” He looked up at me, “I’ll be fine thanks” he said, and continued to slowly plod down, one stair and one wonky leg at a time. What an idiot. He fell down the stairs about 30 seconds later.

Writing Session 3

Here are 3 scenarios:

  1. Someone recently bereaved
  2. Man running away from and angry mob
  3. Dull Monday afternoon in a care home

Choose one scenario, write both long and short sentences, and make sure you are showing, not telling.

I chose numero dos: man running away from and angry mob. Here’s my spiel:

‘I am a man. I am unfit man. Running is not something I enjoy doing, or ever wish to do, or ever think about doing. I will only do it if my life is in danger, or someone threatens to interrupt my meal times. So being chased by a mob of football hooligans because I accidentally spilled my Coke Zero over some skinhead as I was navigating down some small steps in the park is possibly the worst thing that had happened since I found that I had killed my 8 year old cat by unwittingly mistaking it for a cushion on my couch. For clarification, yes, I sat on it. Perhaps I should stop running and I sit on one of the hooligans chasing me. That might make them stop.’

Activity

Here’s an activity Jen suggested to get used to writing alternating sentences between long and short and establishing a symbiotic balance that works and look at the different effect/impact they can create.

  1. Write a short story of 500 words
  2. Then re-write with short sentences
  3. Then re-write again with long sentences
  4. Read out loud to friend
  5. Get them to take notes on which sentences delivered the message you are trying to get across most effectively – this will help you figure out what work!

What I wrote for this exercise is really rubbish – a real poor effort on my part (it was the end of the lesson and I was starting to get hungry / lose energy) so I won’t bother sharing it here but it’s definitely a worthwhile exercise to do!

Finally….

Sentences should take you on a journey

Jen gave us a simple story and showed us that sentences should take you on a journey: Towards evening, after all; my mother was a bear. This was really random for my but she divided it and explained it in the following way:

  1. Towards evening, (beginning) -> indicate to reader where we are in the day, little reminders
  2. after all; (middle) -> compounds make for very interesting sentences, connect seemingly unconnected ideas
  3. my mother was a bear. (end) -> being playful, so many infinite meanings/ways to describe people; you can compare them to art, music, movement etc.

Haiku

This tip is about using poetic language and converting it into sentences. Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry based on syllables  (5-7-5):

  • 5 syllables in the first line
  • 7 syllables in the second line
  • 5 syllables in the third line

For example:

What I like the best

Is that no matter the stakes

You don’t bat an eye

Haiku is about the syllables; the poem itself doesn’t have to make sense (apparently). The tip here is that you can convert these into sentences; for instance, look at assonance, alliteration, sentence structure, diction etc. Haiku helps to create a certain rhythm when turned into sentences. Although naturally novels are remembered for their ultimate sentiment, when reading, sentences help to create the experiences.

So that’s all for the short whizz intro on sentences, next lesson: Style, Symbolism, Tone and Imagery!

Photo Project – A Novel in a Year

I am currently in a place where I am hatin on life right now. I think I must have a compulsive habit of overwhelming myself with activities and simultaneously listening to depressing music, which just makes me feel even more nihilistic and gloomisome (I know that’s not a word but I don’t care). After probably the most emotionally traumatic experience on jury service last week (which by the way made me lose all faith in humanity and this country’s justice system), I am expected to return to normal life as though my psychological well-being is still intact. Right now I am trying to balance my CIM Diploma in Professional Marketing deadlines, the coming of Ramadan, prepping for my holiday in Singapore (which is in two weeks aaah!), all alongside the demands of my current job, keeping on top of this #dietlife (hardest shit I’ve ever done, gimme Cambridge finals any day) and, oh yeh, trying to ward off my Mother’s attempts to introduce me to ‘nice guys who can cook and clean’ -_-. Not to mention my flailing attempts at learning how to drive (my instructor recently text me asking how my theory was going -_-… ). I also recently decided that I want to run as a local Councillor – because why not? Government is taking everything to the dogs and unfortunately for them I have something to say about it.

The thing about all this stuff – life stuff – is that it gets in the way of what I really love doing in my spare time – which is writing and dedicating time to my art and photography and – wait for it – creating websites (lol). I mean, I haven’t even had time to upload a blog post for two months – but I have about 15 draft posts on the burner! I just can’t seem to find the time to finish anything off. I guess it’s all about priorities, and the thing about priorities is that they all come at you at once.

life
Yup.

At the start of this year I made a devout declaration to myself that I would complete the first draft of my novel by the end of this year. I’ve been writing in a bitsy manner for years and having met an agent at the London Book Fair in 2015 from Conville and Walsh (who gave me some really great advice regarding my work), I decided that I really had to kick myself into gear and WRITE GODDAMIT JUST WRITE WITHOUT FEAR OF JUDGEMENT AND WOTNOT. In 2015, I was a mess and didn’t have much of an idea of what I wanted to write and was really grasping at the straws of other great writers and trying to mash their ideas up and make it my own but it just wasn’t working. I couldn’t take ownership of those ideas because I didn’t feel like they were my own. I didn’t want to return to writing fantasy stories like I did when I was younger – I just wasn’t in that mindset. What I really wanted to write was something that would EMOTIONALLY DESTROY PEOPLE after they read it. But pfffft. No ideas.

2d510e65298deba7e6bc750b5c123161
Me being devout and making promises to myself.

At the start of 2016 however, during my standard online wasteful perusal of Twitter, I stumbled upon a competition that The Guardian was holding in conjunction with 4th Estate (book publishers) to get more BAME writers on the scene. Spurred on by this, and the looming deadline, I started writing regularly. Ideas didn’t just come out of nowhere btw; they had been circling in my mind for a while, if not several years, from things I had witnessed in my dreams, images and scenes that my mind had conjured whilst day-dreaming or phasing out while people were talking to me, or when I’m half asleep on the bus. But the competition all of a sudden gave these ideas a clarity and a somewhat coherent storyline that wasn’t there before. The competition also made me feel like I could manage it in my spare time – the limit was 8,000 words. I had also started my diet at that point, which meant that I had my lunch times free as I wasn’t eating as much.

All writing advice that I have come across in some capacity always emphasises the following: write everyday and dedicate a part of your day to writing, everyday. So this was my new routine: writing everyday at lunchtime. This way I incorporated it into my work day so that when I got home, all excuses like I’m tired, not in the mood, I’m hungry, I’m angry etc. etc. could not get in the way. And guess what? I was super productive. I would take my laptop and sit in the sunshine in the cafe next to my building, drinking my Costa and eating my protein bar and I was able to write 500-1000 words within the hour depending on the inspiration flowing through my veins. Sometimes I would tear up because the scenes were so deep (lol – it was actually hay fever). Other times I would laugh like a maniac because what I was writing was so ridiculous (I ignored the stares of people sitting next to me). But it didn’t matter – I just needed to get my thoughts on paper – I could go back and edit it all later. I realised soon enough that I could easily write more than 8,000 words and could turn this short story that I had started into a full-blown novel. To date I have written over 20,000 non-sensical words and passages (only 60,000+ to go yey!). For some reason however, I fell out of this routine after a couple of months, and instead I started to work through my lunch breaks because things got so busy (at work).

And this is where my sticking point is – my writing is important to me, and yet it’s usually the first thing I neglect when life starts to get in the way. Like all meagre human beings, my motivation fizzles fast, and I need a constant prodding in the back to keep me on track. My sisters are good at hounding me on the regular, but what I have found that motivates me a lot are other writers’ posts of their own struggles, challenges and experiences of writing. I find that the writing community and their insights inspire me the most and spur me to action. One such project that I immediately loved upon seeing it, is Catherine Banner’s #YearInTheLifeOfAWriter project on Instagram. I love social media, books and photography – so this was right up my street! Catherine’s aim in starting this project was to explore how social media can be used to tell stories, specifically honest stories about the day-to-day life of a full-time writer. The whole writing process and the hard grind that authors put into writing is in many ways shrouded in mystique. By uploading a picture a day, with insightful captions might I add, Catherine is bringing to light the various elements that go into the writing process and seeing a novel through to fruition. Also, as a Marketer, I think this is probably one of the most creative projects I’ve seen in a long while, and the execution and thought behind each photo really admirable. I was super enthused by this project and have used the hashtag in various Instagram posts of my own relating to my writing efforts. As you know I’m sure, the more popular or widely used a hashtag, the higher the chances of the content being viewed by a greater audience. I always endeavor to support other authors and try to buy books to support the industry.

However, I am not a full-time writer; I am a part-time one and, due to the nature of my personality and as mentioned above, I like to have ownership of things (a bit like Voldy), otherwise I do not truly feel like I can make them my own. Inspired by Catherine’s photo project, I recently decided to start my own one too on Instagram to motivate me to FINISH A BLOODY FIRST DRAFT BY THE END OF THIS YEAR. I shall be using #ANovelInAYear to chart my writing woes and (hopefully) progress. Anyone who follows me on Instagram will know how obsessed I am with the whole channel. I won’t be uploading a picture a day in relation to the project however (that’s too intense for me right now), but as and when I feel relevant or pertinent to my writing process.

writing books
Pretty much got inspired yesterday when I checked these out from the library.

You can follow me on Instagram to keep up to date with my posts. I also plan to reveal bits of the story in the captions along the way, as many of my photos have some relevant part or context to the story I am writing. See here for my very first post and a little ‘reveal’ about the initial setting of the novel. I hope by the end of this year I can upload another blog post saying that I have been successful in drafting 80,000-100,000 words and that this photo project has been a great motivator along the way. High expectations I know. Even if it is an exercise in itself for me, I hope that other writers who may stumble upon it find it useful – or entertaining at the least.

Right, I need to stop writing about writing and actually do some writing! X