Monday, 18 January 2016

My Writing Scrap Book

by Addy Farmer

Did you know that January used to be known as the Wolf month? Well, that's what the Anglo Saxons knew it as - when food was so scarce that the wolves dared to enter the villages. There's still something of the wolf about January...

How'll I find those ideas??

Now, January is a time of non-wolf voluntary dieting. It's when garden life seems to hibernate (usually) and the shops are like old news and Christmas sparkle is packed away. But January is also fresh-faced and full of promise; maybe you wrote an entire novel in November with NaNoWriMo? Maybe you packed in some story-making during the Christmas holiday? Now in the month of the brand new year you have sent your precious babe out into the woods in the hope that she is picked up by someone who will love her to bits.  Even if you are not waiting and waiting, sometimes January can be a curiously creatively empty month. So it's best to crack on and fill it with ideas because you never know - one of them might become a proper real story.
“What are you?" I whispered.
He shrugged again.
"Something," he said. "Something like you, something like a beast, something like a bird, something like an angel." He laughed. "Something like that.”
David Almond - Skellig
Really, I'd like to take a short cut to stories and have a massive brain capable of downloading and storing all the ephemera and whimsical bits and bobs of images and words that tickle me. Then I could have a good old rummage during January and pick out the ones which appeal the most. But my brain won't let me do that; ideas and information mostly end up as some sort of Mindless Mind Palace.

So what to do? I write them down on a scrap of paper which I lose. Or pop an idea into a notebook in close type and think that it's the most marvellous idea EVER and then never go back to it. Or keep it in a box ready for Doomsday and forget where the box is. Useless? No, not at all because somewhere, something happens and my brain sifts and sorts so that far from being a palace it becomes more of a compost bin and every so often something germinates.

Food for thought
Polly Dunbar has put together some lovely thoughts on ideas ideas...

Soooooo, ideas and where to always be able to find them.

Weird Science. 

This is a great source of fun and inspiration. How about The Henn-na Hotel, which translates to "strange hotel," and is staffed almost entirely by robots. Or some very important research which answers the question, 'Where should Americans retreat in the event of a zombie apocalypse?' The answer to this and more science stuff can be found in Live Science.

Old inventions

With their tortuous methods and construction old inventions make my heart skip a beat. In fact, I like then so much that I based an entire character around them with my Wilf's World Blog. Wilf loved inventions (as should we all) like the fantastically named Tempest Prognosticator or the more ordinarily named lawnmower and its inventor, Edward Bear Budding. A lot of these Victorian inventors also had brilliant names like Sir Godlsworth Gurney who invented giant machines for heating large spaces like cathedrals and who nearly blew up the Houses of Parliament.

The Tempest Prognosticator - early weather machine

News stories for new stories. 

There is so much weirdness out there (or maybe I'm just very tame) and it's interesting to be an onlooker

You Can Now Pay To Have Someone Call Your Friend As A Turtle

The Huffington Post is a repository of odd stories. Who wouldn't want to have a call from a turtle and mistake it for a real turtle who has gained astonishing super-powers and sends your hero off on a trail of the mad scientist who has captured this innocent creature and seeks to exploit it ...

Fly-tipper sought to blame imaginary twin brother for his crimes

Brunch news reports a fly-tipper who blamed an imaginary identical twin for illegally disposing of car tyres. Yep, there's a story right there ...

Blame the other one
And inevitably, there is Buzzfeed for the best cat stories and other strange-but-trueness

This Cat Making Biscuits On Himself Is The Most Magical Thing Ever


There are some images that I've taken or seen which stick in my head. I keep everything on Flickr.

Honey and Izzy fall out about who is trundling through the bendy tube first

Stuck in the mud 

Wheel on fire

Ruin in the woods

Tell me a story

Books by the side of the bed. 

Along with my to-read pile, there is also a permanent stack of books which I go for ideas.

Fantastic book for spooky/funny/ridiculous stories

Magic is real ...
dipping in to find stories behind stories

There is so much more, so many places you can go, places you can see, people you can meet, astonishing stories to uncover. They won't all stick but they'll be one or two that do and what fun there is in the finding. Finally and perhaps most importantly ...


  1. Great post Addy - I want to add National Geographic and New Scientist to your science catagory! Brilliant.

    1. Oh yes - New Scientist is brilliant! I was on Twitter with Virginia Bergin (who wrote Rain) the other day, and found out that we both wrote books from an idea after reading something in New Scientist...!!

    2. So true, Kathy and Teri! I used to subscribe to New Scientist (that was back when I thought my maths was good enough to become an astro-physicist). National Geographic is a world of beauty. When we were on Orkney, we met tow photographers taking photos for NG. They spent an entire day, taking images of one incised stone and the results were AMAZING

    3. ... not just science and news. History is full of surprising and unlikely stories!

  2. I wonder if January sometimes feels difficult creatively as a direct result of the proliferation of no-cake-no-wine resolutions? There is a limited amount of willpower in one soul, after all!

    I like your pile of books for inspiration. Wasn't it Hemingway who said that in art you can steal anything if you can make it better?

    1. p.s. so I'm guessing Pullman stole that idea from Hemingway... ;-)

    2. I don't mind the no-cake. I can't cope with no wine. Currently trying big-lunch-no-dinner.

  3. Love the phone call from a turtle. Having just finished writing a trilogy, January is a genuinely blank page and it's very exciting. I'm using it to top up my ideas tank with guilt-free musings and meanderings. I would add museums, travel and people-watching.

    1. Is this Oy Yew? Oooh very excited to read the rest of it.

    2. Thanks, Ana. Ah, people watching is so fun! I once stood at the top of the underground waiting to meet someone. A loving couple came along, kissing. They parted with looks of sweet sorrow and the girl went the wrong way down the up escalator. It's the sort of thing I do.

  4. I always look forward to January as a me time. My brain is empty of all the Christmas planning and to do lists and I feel ready to be creative. I have a good tidy up of all my writer's stuff, clear the desk, sort the computer files and I'm ready to roll. I love January! Am I the odd one out?

  5. What a wonderful post, Addy! I loved it. I'm looking down a deadline this January and after an exilarating trip to the Philiippines, I'm struggling to empty my head of all the other Stuff. Here's to an explosion of creativity in a tough month.

    1. Oh! And may I add to your list? Read a FANTASTIC book. I can recommend There Will Be Lies and There Will Be the Truth by Nick Lake. Apart from an intriguing plot and lots of surprises, very beautiful words. I love beautiful words. They make me want to write.

    2. Explode away, Candy! I'm checking out Nick Lake now! Also going to write, NOW!

    3. Btw commenting on great blogs is my procrastination of choice.


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