The Writing Newbie

Writing is an adventure. Enjoy the journey and write the way you love!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014 and Exciting News!

Hello everyone!

Yes I'm still alive, and no I did not completely forget about my blog. It's been a busy year--actually that's an understatement. A lot has happened, some of it not that great, and it resulted in me neglecting Wribie. 

But as you all know NaNoWriMo is around the corner, creative juices are flowing and I thought I would try to start posting blog posts and reviews here again! "Try" being the key word here.

Right now I'm really excited about NaNoWriMo starting again! This blog isn't the only writing I have been neglecting and hopefully I can get some writing progress and perhaps even some sort of writing schedule *hopeful* 

Are you trying NaNo for the first time this year? Or are the jitters coming back and you've quite forgotten how to prepare for next month? Well, that brings me to the exciting news!

A couple of weeks ago I started a book-themed YouTube channel! It's called BooksandLetters, where I chat about books I've read, recommend books, show my insane bookhauls and right now, talk about NaNoWriMo! 

I hope you'll have a look and hopefully I'll see you sooner than... February...March...Apr--eh.. a couple of months (*coughprettymuchayearcough*)

Keep Writing!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss

It’s Review Tuesday!!!
Just kidding, there is no way I could actually keep to a schedule. I have, however, read tons of books already this year and thought another review was long overdue! Here is what I thought of Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins:

I love books that make me want to experience new things. Or better yet, books that make me feel as though I was the one experiencing (in part) what the main character was going though. Anna and the French Kiss was definitely one of those books.
To be honest, I had pretty much no expectations going into this books. I only knew it was a romance novel about a girl going to France, and that it was read by a lot of Nerdfigthers. Obviously that was enough for me.

The plot is as following: Anna is send to an American boarding school in Paris by her father who believes it will be a good experience for her. There was no discussion, so Anna feels like she has been cruelly ripped from her old life and her friends and potential boyfriend. She is quickly adopted into a group of friends however, which includes the beyond gorgeous √Čtienne or st. Clair as they all call him. Unfortunately he already has a girlfriend… These friends drag Anna from her room and show her how beautiful another culture can be, even if you don’t speak the language. At all.

What struck me almost right away was the humour and the quirky voice of Anna, a girl who loves films and does not dream to become a movie star or a director—nope she wants to be a film critic. I have been reading a lot of dystopian and sci-fi novels lately and I needed something upbeat and lovely and cheerful as this book. Not to say that there weren’t darker moments as well; the book deals very realistically with Anna’s feelings of being separated from her home and stuck in a strange country. I myself felt a lot of the things she was going through when I went to study in England for a year. Then there is relationship trouble, the horrors of cancer, an abusive father…

Perhaps the thing that I loved most, aside from the romance and humour, was Paris itself. Together with Anna you get to explore the City of Light and are introduced to not only the major tourist attractions but also lesser known caf√©’s, districts and cinemas. It made me want to travel and made me wonder why I have never been to Paris, when it’s relatively close by the Netherlands.

In short, this book is funny, well written, has the occasional nerdy reference that I can really appreciate and should appeal to anyone who is interested in romance, young adult and travel!

Keep Writing! & Reading!


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Silence Please!

I think I’ve written about this before, but I simply need to know again: What is it with people talking in theatres?
I mean, is nothing sacred anymore? Should I just sit there while everyone acts like they are sitting in the privacy of their own homes commenting on a TV show, instead of a public place where other people are trying to enjoy the movie?

As Firefly so brilliantly teaches us, there is a special hell reserved for people who talk in the theatres.

But what about people who constantly check their phones, blinding the people behind them for several rows. Or the people who actually—and I kid you not—start CALLING someone during a show. “No I can talk.”  …. No you really can’t. You’re in a freaking cinema!

A (good) movie is a form of escapism. It provides us with about two hours of fun in which we get to be someone else and not worry about our own problems. Even as a kid I loved that feeling a good movie could give you, walking down the stairs to the exit, feeling for a moment longer like you were the hero of the movie and just did all those kick-ass stunts or delivered that clever dialogue. And whenever I see someone whip out their phone twenty times an hour, horror images from 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Feed, A Brave New World and several Doctor Who episodes featuring the Cybermen come to mind. And I wonder how much of those novels is still completely fiction. What is so important that it couldn’t wait two hours? Are they really so addicted to their phones that they don’t even notice?

I won’t lie, I usually have my phone ready as well and it has spared me many awkward moments where you are waiting for someone, with nothing to do and can be saved by not just pretending to have a text, but actually playing a game or surf the internet. But thankfully I am still able to refrain from checking my phone constantly during other activities such as reading, having a conversation or being at the movies.

Then there are the people who just comment constantly on what is being said, in a voice loud enough so that the whole theatre will be able to hear them. Only a few days ago I went to see Last Vegas with my mother and this guy next to me kept on commenting on EVERY JOKE. Instead of laughing, like a normal human being he kept on shouting things like “Oh that’s good. That there is brilliant, who wrote this. That is quality work” etc. Etc. Etc. That’s just as bad as being one of those people who keep saying “LOL” or “That’s so funny” instead of giving you a chuckle. Still, I could live with it. But to top it up he then started to have this whole loud conversation with his girlfriend, while I tried to actually hear what  was being said on screen.

After a while I got too pissed off to enjoy the movie so I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to be quiet. The same thing happened that usually happen when I ask this, mostly in the silent compartment of trains: *eyes widen like they had no idea other people could also hear their raised voices and they weren’t living in a private glass bubble* (Reminds me of people who say ba
d things on twitter about @someone and then are surprised when they find out) “Oh I’m sorry. Sure!” and then turn to the girlfriend to say in a very loud whisper that I want them to be quiet.

And of course, nothing changes. Only now they are aware of my annoyance. To their credit, they didn’t start another conversation, but still.

And don’t get me started on people who walk about several times to go to the bathroom, get a snack etc. etc. Especially since in the Netherlands there is a 15 minute break in between the movie! I swear if I had a remote to pause the film every time something like this happened, I would still be in there now…
What cinema horror stories do you have? Or do you think talking at a cinema should be allowed? Let me know!

And as always, keep writing!


Ps. Yes I use movies and cinema and theatre. I always speak a mix of American and British which really messes up my grammar! In the Netherlands we call it ‘Naar de film gaan” (or bioscoop) aka “going to the films.”

Monday, January 6, 2014

Avoiding Endings

I am not good with endings. In pretty much every sense of the word. I hate saying goodbye to people knowing it's pretty much forever (mostly when they go back to their countries and I go back to mine and you say you'll be in touch, but really, it's going to be a "like" of status relationship on facebook) and I hate ending a fun night out with friends.

I also have quite some trouble with finishing books, as anyone who have seen my "reading" shelf on Goodreads will know. Or, maybe more accurately, I have a short attention span and tend to start way to many new books. There are probably many reasons for this. One of them is that I simply want to read EVERYTHING and it's so hard not to start a book that just came in the mail and which you've been waiting for for ages--when you also have twenty other books you still need to finish.

Sometimes, on rare occasions a book simply isn't working for me and although I hate not finishing books (I usually finish them eventually, even if it can take more than a year) some juts don't see worth my reading time to finish.

Mostly though I get this reluctance to read on because reading on means that the book will end--and then what? (It's a wonder that it didn't take me three years to finish Harry Potter. I devoured the last book, my curiosity of what was going to happen even larger than not wanting it to end).

This problem in finishing things manifests in pretty much everything in my life. From the drawings that still need to be inked, coloured in or completely sketched out, to the guitar that I still haven't really learned to play even a little, to songs on the piano that I only know halfway.

But maybe the worst thing is when it happens with writing. Because I love my stories and I want them to be told, even if no one but me is going to read it. I want to know what happens to my characters and I feel like they deserve to have their story told properly, ending and all.

As most of you probably know, endings are incredibly hard to write and so hard to get right. I've probably re-written my endings and beginnings more than anything else in my stories.
Which is why one of my stories, that of Meggie, was lying silently in a metaphorical drawer, waiting to be finished, while I darted around editing this, starting that and re-visiting old stories.

Now that it's a new year and I've decided to write 1500 words a day, I decided to spend that time on Meggie, hoping that a sense of schedule of habit will help in finding an ending. And so far it's working! It was really hard in the beginning and I had to really fight to get words. And then suddenly this morning they just came, easy as in the middle of the story and I had new ideas and my characters went off in new directions that I hadn't even thought of and that were more surprising and better than some rough sketches of "where it was going to go".

Endings are worth it. They resolve things, they make sure that the characters had the time to make their say. It gets the story told. Which is why I urge any writers who have unfinished projects waiting for some attention, to just sit down and start writing until the ending comes to you!

Somewhere this week I'm going to the music store and get some new guitar strings. Then I'm going to start all over and start to learn.

Keep writing,



Friday, January 3, 2014

The Opportunity of a New Year

The new year for me has always felt like a clean slate. The perfect opportunity to make some drastic changes in your life and to change any bad habits you might have acquired over the past year(s). And for me this is probably why I love the holidays. Not just because you are reminded of how loved you are and how thankful for all the things in your life, but also because I made it up in my mind to be this big event. When really, all it is are the ticking of the clock and fireworks. 

But right now, at the start of 2014, I feel quite different. Because this year there were a lot of bad things I had to go through. Today, I am not the person I want to be and I am utterly different from the person I was two years ago. And just because we now write a little 4 instead of a 3 whenever we have to note down the date, does not mean that I suddenly stopped going through all those things. The love and cheer of the last couple of weeks has not changed everything that was wrong. 

And I suppose I am taking it all a little harder than I thought I would. I still wouldn't want to swap my life with anyone else out there, no matter how happy or successful or loved they might be (or appear to be from the outside). I am happy with my life because it's mine. It just needs a little work. And some changes aren't easy. Some are hard and you have to fight for it and keep fighting even when you are too ill and tired to fight or when you're constantly pushed back when you think you are getting better, or when you do not even understand what is exactly wrong to begin with. 

What I am trying to say with all this rambling, is that I probably shouldn't be too hard on myself. A new year doesn't change anything, it just presents an opportunity. And I still intend to take that opportunity. There just isn't a magic wand that makes it all better once the fireworks go off. 

I have already made some promises to myself for 2014 as I am sure many of you have as well. I've added 75 books to read in 2014 as a challenge again on goodreads and have started anew on my query letter and research for agents. Which is why some more writing tips/chatter might be coming along.

I have also challenged myself to writing 1500 words a day for the whole of January... excepting January 1st because I only thought this thing up yesterday. 

If you want to follow that process, or if you want to join me in trying to write each day (whatever the amount you want) follow me on twitter or via #1500WordsaDay and #amwriting

You can befriend me on Goodreads if you're curious what kinds of books I read by searching for "Noortje de Graaff".  

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2014! May it be filled with lots of writing.
Thank you for sticking with me another year :)

Keep writing!


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Just Keep Smiling -- AKA The Day from Hell

Yesterday for the first time in a long while, my father, mother, brother and I all had a day off and nothing planned. So we decided it would be fun to drive to Amsterdam and do some shopping, go out for dinner and see the special Christmas Lights all over the city.

You've read the title...

The day started off wrong. I woke up with a horrible pain in my right foot, so bad that I could hardly stand on it. I'd had this pain before a couple of weeks back and already resolved to go to the doctor once she was back from her Christmas holiday. To be honest, I hadn't expected it to come back so soon. I got ready and the pain subsided, so I thought I would be alright and we set out to Amsterdam.

Only... we had quite some trouble getting out of the house. We probably went back upstairs and back inside three or four times until we finally made it to the car. That was when we realized we had forgotten our navigation system and my brother had to hurry back inside to get it. Once we had everything and were good to go--we saw the tank was nearly empty. 

Looking back, we should probably have taken all this as a sign.

Our next bout of bad luck came when we reached the Ajax stadium where we always use the park & rail service. There was a line. With dread we realized that there was a Christmas circus in town, which probably explained all the traffic. We only hoped there wasn't a match on. 

When we finally reached the front of the line we were informed that the park and rail was closed today (it is NEVER closed!) and handed a leaflet with the orders to keep driving and try one of the other P&R's. 

We drove a while until we could find a spot to actually look at the leaflet. Which, of course, was in Spanish--very helpful. None of us speak Spanish but we could still read the map and made our way to the next P&R. We couldn't find it. After driving in circles and following crazy directions on our nav system, in between other confused drivers, we finally realized that the P&R didn't exist anymore. 

Getting frustrated, but trying to laugh everything off as something you'd find funny later, we started for the nearest P&R one that I had been to recently, so which should technically still be there.

Of course, so did everyone else.

There was a line. There were no spaces. It was already past two in the afternoon. 

We don't give up easily though, so we made our way to IKEA, knowing that they always have plenty of (free) parking spaces. IKEA, naturally, had a huge sale and it was incredibly busy. By some sort of mercy from a higher power, we found a spot and made our way to the nearest metro station.

Which is when I found out that, really, I wasn't fine and that I couldn't actually walk on my right foot anymore. Still, I didn't want to be the one ruin our day (aside from, you know, luck, fate and several bored lesser deities at least). So we made our way slowly to the train and bought our tickets.

Everything seemed to be a little better and we were actually on our way to the city centre of Amsterdam. What could possibly go wrong now?

We left the metro-train and just before it left, my mother realized that one of the footrests of her wheelchair was missing. My brother jumped back in the train to look for it, but it wasn't here. He jumped out just in time and the train left.

Guess where it was? 

That's right, on the train tracks. It had somehow magically managed to wriggle it's way free and fall through a gap that by rights shouldn't even be big enough for it to fall through. 

My brother then sprinted after a man with a yellow vest, already leaving the platform. He called in one of his colleagues who then waited with us, while we all waited for the rescue team.

Meanwhile about seven trains passed and each time we kept praying that the momentum of the trains wouldn't move the footrest and they wouldn't de-rail or something. 

The rescue team finally came, utterly amused and had to STOP TRAFFIC for us so that one of them could hop down and get the footrest. We thanked them and could finally go up above ground. I honestly wondered whether this wasn't all a sign that something horrible was about to happen if we set foot in Amsterdam. Maybe fate was actually trying to save our lives.

We still went, being the no-nonsense Dutch we are, and found our way to Dam Square. We were certain the worst was behind us and our luck would turn.

We went down Kalverstraat, which is the Amsterdam equivalent
 of Oxford Street, meaning it's a whooooole lot smaller and less interesting, but still the main shopping street. It was already late and we had about two and a half hours of shopping time left if we still wanted to eat at a relatively normal time.

We were about twenty meters in when suddenly there was a wall of people in front of us and a wall of people formed behind us and within seconds we were completely sandwiched in a huge body of people. Nobody moved. 

Now I study in Amsterdam and I walk through the Kalverstraat all the time. I've been there in Summer when it's filled to the brim with tourists. I have been there at Koninginnedag when there isn't a spot of non-orange left and you are just swept away with the crowd (search for Queensday or Koninginnedag Amsterdam on google and you'll see) and this has never, NEVER, happened to me before.

We were stuck. Instead of being logical and each taking one side of the road, our side didn't leave room for their side to pass, and the same thing was happening over to their side. SO NOBODY MOVED. and we couldn't even go back anymore. We were stuck.

I don't get claustrophobic that easily, but after a while (especially when they started pushing) I couldn't breathe. I held on to my brother but we had already lost our parents somewhere in the throng. Slowly we inched forward. After about twenty-freaking-minutes of trying to move forwards we reached a point where there was a small side-street where half of hte people was trying to get into, and the other half was still trying to go forward.

Not fun.

We finally broke free and from one moment to the next we could move again and the whole problem was gone. For us. Not for the poor suckers still stuck behind us.  

We laughed it off, me reminding the "horrible thing" I had thought would happen. If someone started to really panic in that mass of people, hysteria could have easily broken out and people could have gotten seriously injured.

Fortunately we were OK and most people se
emed more annoyed and bewildered than panicked. So we hurried on, my foot by now so bad I was more limping than walking.

Then, as crown on the cherry, we finally reached a store my mother has wanted to go to for ages and... of course.... it was closed.

We still managed to visit some bookstores though and see a few of the lights. By now I felt so tired and sore that I really wanted to go home so we made our slow way back down (fast lifts, apparently are science-fiction in public transport and large department-stores).

Here our luck finally turned. By rights we shouldn't have caught our Metro-train which was already on the platform when my mother and brother were still waiting for the lift. But it left late for some reason and we still managed to board it. Then we made our slow way to IKEA, just in time before the kitchen would close, ate delicious if slightly cold meatballs with fries and finally went back home. 

Right now my legs are sore, my foot still aches ... but yesterday surely was a day to remember and something to laugh about: The day luck was against us. 

I hope you all had a lovely week.

Keep Writing,


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Writing with Rain

The weather outside is already turning: rain is pattering against my window and yellowing leafs are dancing in the wind. It's hard to imagine it being anything other than autumn, never mind that only several days ago I was complaining about the heat, melting in my thin t-shirt and shorts. Welcome to the Netherlands! Where the seasons come and go within a week. It will probably be snowing soon.

Personally I don't really mind. Autumn is probably my favourite season of the year because if you ask me, it's by far the coziest one. Something about stormy weather outside, comfy warm clothes and cups of hot tea make me want to crawl behind my computer and just start writing away, or cuddle with a nice thick book and just spend the entire afternoon reading.

Recently I've given the editing process a well deserved rest and am focusing on a middle grade fantasy story about a young girl who just can't seem to get the hang of magic and keeps blowing everything up. 
In the few short periods that I can actually bring myself to write I am enjoying myself immensely. 

The last few months I've had a lot of things I had to deal with and come to term with all, in some way or another, keeping me from editing and writing. Resulting in me absolutely moping around the house, because if I haven't written in a while, I just get this horrible itch that I can't seem to scratch and I just want to get back to writing, even if my mind is to clouded and tired to allow me to.

For all those of you who share this problem of not writing as much as you would like, here is a site that a friend showed me:

It is filled with all kinds of adivce on writer's block, lack of inspiration, but also on different genres on specifics like how to begin a story or how to end it. All neatly here together on one page. 

Enjoy! I am going back to writing! I'm nearing the end of this story, which for me is always the most difficult part, but also very exciting!

Keep Writing!



Ps. How excited are YOU that there is going to be a new movie set in the Harry Potter world?!!!