The Writing Newbie

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

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Feel Good and Write

There is nothing worse than wanting to write, but finding that you are unable to. Whether because of work, school, family visits or that pile of dishes that really, really should be getting cleaned by now; it happens. 

So here is what I have been doing with myself the last couple of days: 

There seems to be periods in the year where everyone is ill or under the weather at some point and you just know you'll get it too, dreading the moment. Because it will strike and it will be at  the most inconvenient time possible.

As you might have read in my last post: I'm ill. Still. This is turning out to be one of those horrible illnesses that just drag on and on. Even worse because I'm fit enough not to lie in bed all day but feel horrible enough not to do anything of importance.

Sufficient to say I've watched a lot of movies this week. In fact here are my four favorites of the (waaaaaay too) many that I watched, in no particular order:

1. Eat Pray Love -- Yes I've seen it before and yes I'm a sucker for these kinds of movies. I love feel good travel to another country movies, especially if it involves writing/writers in any way. Which brings me to:

2. Under the Tuscan Sun -- which I've literally just finished five minutes ago. And I LOVED it. Very much the same feel good vibe of EPL and it is awakening that ever present urge in me to just quit everything, pack a bag and go see the world (which grows with every passing day that the weather gets warmer. It's bad). 

3. Finding Forrester -- Just loved to see how the kid struggled with his writing and how everything worked out. Amazing movie! At one point Jamal had to write anything just at that moment, and he couldn't do it. I got so frustrated (along with William in the movie) that I wrote a page myself.

4. Home for the Holidays -- an oldie but I had never seen it before and LOVED it. 

There were many more I assure you--all good--but I won't bore you further :) 

There is some actual news on the writing front! Together with a few friends on Twitter I've foolishly, bravely and madly started something which Kerry Schafer (  delightfully called #insanonano .... because ... you know... it's insane

Basically we're doing the same thing as NaNoWriMo every November but now from 21 Feb till 21 March. So far I've got 7153 words.

Even though it's crazy and hard work--I love these kinds of things. I love how it "forces" you to write and I love the encouragement from my friends on twitter and the sense of community of knowing that no matter how mad it drives you, that you're not alone. 

For anyone interested in our progress please follow me on twitter (@Lordkiwii), I would love to hear from you! 

What I wrote at the beginning is my frustration at wanting to write but feeling to drained and tired to actually do it. Which, as I'm beginning to realize, is utter nonsense of course because I'm writing all this to you now.

Who's been stalling as well, telling themselves they couldn't write? Go! Stop reading and write right now! 


Still here? That's alright. I hope you're all doing well and manage to escape from this horrible flu season and write lots and lots. Or at least a few words which you really enjoyed writing. 

Keep Writing!

Xx Noortje 

ps. Sorry for the gigantic white lines. There not here when I type and can't seem to get rid of them :') 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Never Stop Dreaming

Last night I had one of the most inspiring flu induced dreams in a long time. It made me wake up with an incredibly happy and nervous feeling at the pit of my stomach and I swear, the minute I opened my eyes I was wide awake (which for me, is very special). I wanted to jump out of bed and run towards my laptop, enthusiastically diving into what was sure to be a very successful and fulfilling projectmy novel.

Unfortunately there were two things stopping me from writing:

1, I had the flu and 2, I had a massive pile of homework waiting for me. And being ill is no excuse to my teachers.

What was this wonderful dream? I dreamed I was getting published. I know all of us share this dream and most of us have probably spend some wonderful hours at night believing we already had the succes we so desperately crave
only to wake up and find you're still working on that horrible third draft. 

But this dream was different. It was so vivid ... so real ... (again I had the flu) and for a moment I believed it was true. Not that I woke up and believed my books were in the hands of many eager readers, but the idea was completely true. The prospect of getting an agent and success was there, I just had to wait patiently and it would come to me.

And I realized that believing is what we really need. Of course you need stamina and a story idea and talent might be helpful as well. But if you don't believe in your story, don't believe you'll get it published, then how can you make someone else believe? Like the publisher for instance? 

What I'm trying to say is, we all get our doubts. So if you're stuck or feeling down... just close your eyes. Do it right now, right after you've read this post. Just let everything go for the moment. Ignore everything around you and imagine the phone ringing. You pick it up and it's Mrs. Agent telling you that she loved the manuscript you sent so much that she simply had to call right away. In fact she has taken the liberty to discuss it with her good friend at *insert awesome big publishing company* and they loved it!

Just believe it! Dream it! Live it! For a moment let everything be true and wonderful! 

I hope this post is making at least some sense (flu... and general silliness on my part) and I hope that none of you have given up on your dreams. Stick with them and you might be pleasantly surprised :) 

I promise you my next update will be less cheesy! I'm off to bed now and hopefully will dream more good dreams!

Keep Writing!

Xx Noortje  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Freedom of the Sea

There is nothing quite like the freedom of the open sea. 
At least that's what my father told me last night with the sad apologetic smile that he had been wearing for days. 
This morning it didn't feel real. When we climbed into the carriage it didn't feel real, when we road down the familiar streets it certainly felt far away and even now; my hands gripping the railing so tight that I can see my knuckles turning white, it still feels like I'm dreaming. A horrible frightfully fantastic dream.
One of the crew members shouts something and father gently squeezes my shoulder, whispering "this is it."
It felt strange standing above water. The creaking floorboards of the ship suddenly didn't seem like enough protection against what lies below. 
A strong wind rustles my skirts and I close my eyes, clutching onto the wooden frame for dear life itself.
'Look at it, sweetheart!' father urges. 
For a moment I resisted. If I didn't see myself leave, I wouldn't really be gone. But the rocking of the ship underneath me is making me feel nauseated, so I gingerly open one eye and then the next. 
There was Amsterdam in all its glory. My country, the city I had grown up in. I knew every street by heart, yet looking at it now from the sea, I felt like I had never really seen it. 
It felt sad but oddly liberating to leave the world behind for open water. And although I fear the open waters, fear not knowing what lies ahead, I could now clearly see what father had meant. 
The chance of a fresh start. The frightful freedom of the sea. 

This is the result of a 10 minute creative writing assignment I had this morning in my grammar class. A professor of theater came into our class to talk about an exchange with Australia (where she teaches) and asked if we would write a short scene of what it would feel like to leave on a boat or arrive on a boat ca 18th century. Her drama class will use this and the pieces of my classmates to help them understand the emotion behind leaving/arriving. 

Hope you like it any critisism/feedback is greatly appreciated! 

Keep Writing!

Xx Noortje

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Costume Hunting!

When I realized I was going to have a four day weekend this semester I cried and danced in joy (metaphorically) and fantasized over all the hours I was going to spend writing and doing fun things while my less fortunate family members would go to school or work. 

Of course that's not how it works. Turns out those free days are there for a reason ... for the gigantic load of homework we have been assigned. After having spend the greater part of Monday and this morning on homework (and still barely scratching the surface) I had enough. 

So me and my mother decided to go to some secondhand shops and search for items and clothes we could use for our costumes. Why costumes? Well this year I've managed to convince the whole family to go to the Elf Fantasy Fair!

This fair is held twice every year in the Netherlands and it's a place where people come and dress up like elves, dwarves, warlocks, Jedi, Sith, hobbits and many more crazy things. I've never been before but I've been wanting to go for ages. 

This year two very special guests are coming which meant I had no choice but to go. None other than Christopher Paolini (writer of Eragon) and the acclaimed fantasy writer Robin Hobb (of whom I shamefully have never read a book but my good friend Daphne, who is coming as well has been telling me she's awesome for months) will be at the fair to talk about their work, and writing and maybe even to sign a few copies. 

I'm not sure how it is in your countries, but in the Netherlands we don't have many festivals and fairs and events like that. So it's pretty special to get a chance to meet them. I'll be spending the next month reading Eldest and The Assassin's Apprentice and working on my costume.

I've been thinking a while about the costume and finally settled on a Steam Punk outfit (for anyone who doesn't know what that is ... Google can explain it much better than I). I've been searching Etsy for some props and will start ordering soon. But I had no money for the beautiful clothes that are on sale all over the internet. 

I went to our local second hand store, expecting to find nothing of value and ran into this beautiful blouse which is almost exactly what I had in mind and looked brand new! 

We drove one town over and in another store I found a leather jacket... and fell head over heels in love (it is valentine's day after all). The second I had it on I knew I had to buy it!

Here's a picture of how it looks:

And here is a (very, very bad) picture of me wearing it. In the bad light it looks almost black but trust me it's brown. 

I can't wait till it's April and when the EFF comes I'll be sure to make lots of pictures and give you a full account of what happened! 

Now I really have to go and write! Which I have hardly done all four days of this weekend *shame*.

Keep writing!

Xx Noortje 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lazy Sunday

It is Sunday already. How is it that some days (usually school or work days) time just seems to slow down to a point where it drags on, making the day painfully long--whereas other days (usually free days) seem to have less hours in them?

I swear that my free days feel like this: I wake up around nine, somehow have my breakfast at 12 and eat lunch at 3 and dinner around 10 at night. Then I have one hour left before I start to think about sleep.
Yet of course my days aren't (always) really like that. Free days just seem to go by with a few bits and pieces missing and before you know it you have to get back to work or school again. 

When I woke up this morning I got rushed so that we could go to my grandmother before it would snow again. Just when I was wide awake and ready to go (having hurried everything) did my parents inform me that the weather would probably be too bad to go, so I could just relax and take it slow.

...So I decided I would. 

I was reminded of an Italian sentence which seems perfectly fitting for today:  il dolce far niente. Basically it means “The sweetness of doing nothing”.
And I thoroughly enjoyed doing pretty much nothing all day: I sat around, thought about a great number of silly things and talked with my mom about everything and nothing. 

We watched Eat Pray Love together (where I got reminded again of the phrase and which awakened once again this irresistible urge to just pack my bags and go into the wide, wide world and travel. Fortunately this feeling is not so strong in winter, when it’s cold and grey, and stronger with my in spring and summer. So I’m good. No travelling for now).

(By the way the ice cream she is eating in this picture is from a store called Blue Ice and its The Best Ice Cream EVER! If you ever come to Italy try it!)

I read some (will come back to this). I played a card game. I surfed lazily on the internet and now I’m sitting warmly wrapped in some blankets on the couch writing this blog post while listening to soundtracks (Eragon at the moment) and wondering whether or not I have the energy to get up and exercise a little on the home trainer.

Sometimes we just need days like these, where we don't feel obliged to do anything and can just relax and take some time for ourselves and our family.

Do any of you get days like this? Do you feel like you need them?
My body has this not so great mechanism where, whenever I feel too pressured or am too busy with school and friends and life--in other words when I don't get these free days--my body shuts down and I become ill. I'm forced to take some time for myself.

Trust me this isn't great when you're in an exam period. But it does show that we should all take a break once in a while. 

About what I am reading (told you I would get back to it), it's a book called Write to be Published by Nicola Morgan. I'm not sure I ever told any of you this, but I'm a sucker for "how to write" books. I really enjoy reading them, even if I heartily disagree with whatever the author tells me to do, or if I already know everything in the book.

I like reading new and different ideas and to find out how other authors handle the business of being an author (whether unpublished or published). It often gives me inspiration and new courage to get back to my story.

This book in particular I really really like. A lot of things Nicola talks about are crucial points and warnings that I have yet to encounter in other "how to" books.  

I'll talk about it a bit more once I'm finished but for now I encourage people to go to her blog. I haven't had much time yet to look at it properly but if it's anything like her book, it's got to be good.

It's time I go back to my tough decision whether to read something or to exercise before diner. I hope you've all had a lovely weekend and are ready for next week! 

Keep Writing!

Xx Noortje 

Friday, February 10, 2012

School, Basements and Celebrities

Wednesday was my first day of the second semester--and it's been exhausting. I suppose first days and weeks of everything are especially tiring. We see new faces, go to new places and experience new things. And that wears us out. I will probably get used to it by next week... but let's just say that no writing has been done since Wednesday. 

My first day of the second semester started out fine, and I think it was the first time I've ever seen Amsterdam during the snow, but I'm not sure. Of course I forgot to take my camera so I have no pictures to show you except the ones I found on the internet. But let me assure you it looks like this. 

I always love snow; it gives everything a peaceful quality and reminds me of Christmas and snow fights and ice skating and other great memories. Speaking of ice skating, the Netherlands has been going crazy about the "elfstedentocht" (which is an ice skating race where the participants skate on natural ice, and pass 11 Frisian cities). Unfortunately the ice isn't thick enough in most places, but here in the neighbourhood children have been skating for days! 

After our first class we went to this adorable little tea room near the Dam and whilst we were waiting for our orders my friends spotted no other than Paul Turner from The Voice of Holland, which was pretty cool. My friend who's a really big fan asked him for a picture and he was really nice.

Yesterday was pretty horrible with lessons all over Amsterdam (including a basement) but I think the lessons might be interesting.

I don't have much else to say except that I've woken up at an ungodly hour for the past few days and that the cold has gotten to me. So I'm going to wrap up in a blanket, drink some tea and get started in   Great Expectations (some of the better homework).

I'll write again soon and hopefully have more interesting things to say! Hope you've all had a great week and have written lots and lots on your stories! I'll try and catch up on the past few days tomorrow.

Keep Writing!

Xx Noortje 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Books, Snow and Homework

 So yesterday I faced the cold weather again to go to a meet up at the station. Right now the railways are a mess with all the snow and ice and especially over the weekend hardly any trains were riding. The ones that were, were all of course late. 

I met up with a woman to buy some second hand books for my next semester. This lovely pile: 

I can't say that I'm really looking forward to another semester of school and tests and exams, but at least it will give me something to do. I always get a bit bored when I have a holiday for too long. What's really annoying is that whenever I'm busy I always have tons of story ideas, really want to be writing and have a million fun things I would love to do. 
Then the second I have a day completely to myself, I get bored and just don't feel like doing anything except maybe hang on the couch, watching bad TV. Does anybody else get like this? 

This is going to be a short post because I already have some homework (gotta love the internet. Teachers you haven't even met before can just send you homework via email). 

But here are some pictures I made when I went out for a walk last week. Hope you like them! :) 
Sorry it's gonna be a bit long but I just couldn't choose! I made like 100 photo's and here are the nine I love the most!
Just click on the first picture of you want to see them close up in a slideshow :) 

They are all a bit similair but the sky was just so beautiful!
Hope you like them. I'd better get started on my homework now.

Keep writing!

Xx Noortje 

Friday, February 3, 2012


Look what I woke up to this morning! 

 I think I'm going to cancel my writing schedule I had planned for today to go outside and take some pictures! 

Is anyone else having this much snow? (or more) 

Xx Noortje 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Baking Bricks

Yesterday was not much of an success, but great fun.
I decided to take a day of writing (I'm on holiday, one of the perks of being a student) and spent some time with a friend doing what we almost always do when we meet up: bake.

We poured over some newly acquired baking books and decided that we would try our hands on making bread. I mean how hard could it be right?

Well our problems started when we couldn't find the right ingredients so we decided to improvise and buy the next closest thing... which was probably why after we spend a long time kneading the bread ( till our arms ached ... I'll never underestimate a baker's strength again) and even a longer time letting it rise... it... well didn't. The dough was supposed to double in size but stayed the same. 

We decided to make some bread anyway which unfortunately were a bit hard... and heavy ... both in the hand and on the stomach (We bravely tried one). 

Yet it was still great fun and fortunately we had some back-up brownies (our specialty). 

I went to bed yesterday with the great expectation of waking up early and dedicating myself to editing 20 pages or so of my first novel. 

--Instead I woke up late, spend the entire morning watching Sherlock Holmes behind the scenes and then found I had a massive headache and went back to bed. 

(On the left here our finished product from yesterday)

Fortunately I feel fine now and will wrap up this post in order to go back to my story. I find editing really hard especially because my attention span isn't that great and I tend to find a million fascinating things to do instead of editing. 

Which is why I am now holed up in the attic with strict orders on my family not to bother me for anything except maybe tea. 

I hope everyone is having a lovely week and is having more success with writing than I have at the moment! (I probably should turn of the internet as well) 

Xx Noortje 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A New Start

It has been bothering me for a while now that this blog is essentially slowly dying. The reasons for this is that I simply have nothing more to say on tips on writing ... at least for the moment. Because as writers we never stop learning and I for one still have a long way to go. So instead of giving more advice on things I've already written about or (even worse) trying to give advice on things I know nothing about, I decided to try something new.

I'm going to start by introducing myself because I believe that I have never properly done that. 
My name is Noortje de Graaff. I'm currently 19 years old and I started writing my first "novel" when I was nine years old. 

I grew up in The Netherlands in a lovely town just an hour away from Amsterdam. Last year I embarked on an exchange year to England and have very much enjoyed my time there. In fact I can't wait to go back this summer! 

Right now I'm studying English Language and Culture at the University of Amsterdam and am about to begin my second semester. University is not really what I had expected (probably because most of my expectations came from books and movies that were set in different countries) but I am enjoying myself. 

For a while now I have been working on a fantasy series, currently consisting of three books. Almost two years ago (February 21 2010) I created this blog and mentioned that I was working on book three. Well I'm still working on it.

Although I haven't been sitting still over the past two years. I've participated and won two NaNoWriMo's and am now busy re-writing my first novel! 
From now on I'll post more about my life as an unpublished writer (which might look familiar) and see if it is fascinating enough to continue. If not you will always know where to go when you have trouble sleeping! 

I've posted shamefully little in the past couple of months and will try to do better. Of course this new twist for Wribie doesn't mean that you can't still come to me with questions! On the contrary I'd love to help anyone who thinks I have something to offer them :) 

This is it for now.
For the Nerdfighters who are reading this enjoy International Nerdfighting Day!
And to the rest of you,

Keep Writing!

Xx Noortje