Sharing A New Writing Challenge – 1,000 Happy Thoughts

Sharing A New Writing Challenge – 1,000 Happy Thoughts

Writing challenges always appeal to me. They’re great for keeping the creative juices flowing.

I decided – well, actually, I didn’t decide at all. The challenge appeared, fully-formed, in front of me and I didn’t really have any choice. I’m excited about it, and I’d love you to join in too.

1,000 Happy Thoughts by Harriet Young

1,000 Happy Thoughts

The premise is simple. It’s about sharing positivity, in as simple or as complex a way as you choose. The great thing is that you can join in any way you want to, taking up as much or as little time as you want it to.

The idea is to share a happy thought each day, to take a few minutes to appreciate the wonderful things – however big or small. Essentially, it’s a gratitude journal, but one we can share. To make it a community, we can use #1000happythoughts on Instagram. I’ll be browsing through the hashtag and sharing whenever I can.

1,000 may seem like a lot. I considered 365 – one a day for a year. But there are so many things to be happy about that it seems wrong to limit it. Let’s keep it going for as long as we can! I may well fall out of the habit at times. Please feel free to kick me back into it.

Here’s how I will be participating:

    Each day, I will be writing my brief ‘happy thought’.
    I’ll share it on my Wattpad here: https://w.tt/3sdpI5w – there are two there already so please do check them out to get an idea of what it’s all about, and follow to help me accountable!
    I’ll also share the link on my stories using #1000happythoughts

Here’s what you could do:

  • Share your happy thoughts on Instagram with #1000happythoughts
  • Comment your happy thoughts on my Wattpad (through the link above)
  • Write them on a blackboard, in the sand, anywhere! The value is in the doing.

Getting Started

If you’d like to join in, it would be amazing to have you. You can start sharing whenever you like, and you can share as many happy thoughts as you like each day. There is only one rule – that we share 1,000 happy thoughts. The when and where and how are completely and utterly up to you.

It’d be wonderful to have you following along on my Wattpad if you are interested. The more the merrier! Here’s the link again: https://w.tt/3sdpI5w

Any questions, comments or suggestions? Let me know! This is a challenge for anyone who wants to spread and feel a little positivity. I would love for you to join in too ❤️

Reasons Why Writing Is Good For The Soul

Reasons Why Writing Is Good For The Soul

Black and white cat sitting at a desk with piles of books

Writing as a hobby is often overlooked in favour of those (allegedly) sexier and more fashionable pastimes which come and go as frequently as lockdowns – there’s a simile for our modern times. Cross stitch, banana bread baking, jigsaws, the evergreen computer gaming – all of these are commendable hobbies and I’m not here to dictate how you to choose to spend your valuable free time. Do what brings you joy! But my point is that writing rarely finds its way onto these lists.

However, I am here with a delightful writing form of inception to share why writing IS a wonderful hobby, whilst also writing as a hobby.

Here we go…

It requires almost nothing to get started

Got a pen and paper? You’re ready to go. A fancy, brand new laptop? Great, open up the word processor. The notes app on your phone? Go, go, go! A dry pavement and a watering can? How artful.

Writing doesn’t need anything special (although very little can beat the feeling of a fresh, empty notebook) and you don’t need to do any training – unless you want to, of course. For me, although I’m well aware that it is different for everyone, writing as a hobby means not worrying if it’s good or bad and not striving for improvement, though that happily comes the more you do it.

If you want a course to direct your mind as you write, there are many available and they often crop up on websites such as Groupon. I did one a few years ago and found it quite fun, although I ended up pressuring myself to finish it.

It opens you up to yourself

Although this is definitely true when journaling, I find that any type of writing does this. Write for long enough, and you’ll find something of yourself. Writing a diary, where you slow down your thoughts and take the time to lay each of them gently on a sheet of paper, forces you to take the time to consider how you feel. It doesn’t matter if you store your diaries for the rest of your life or burn the paper as soon as it’s written. The process is what is important, not the finished product.

It resonates with other people

If you choose to share your writing (and you certainly don’t have to, it is just as valuable either way), there is the inevitability that someone out there in the world will stumble across your words and feel that you have managed to scribe their exact thoughts and feelings.

You know that thing where you read something and think ‘huh! I thought I was the only one…’, or that thing where you read a sentence and it just…sticks. It almost becomes a mantra, because it feels so you? Your writing can do that too. It’s not about likes or shares or anything like that – it’s about the magic of human connection.

Perfection is not only unnecessary, it’s impossible

There is absolutely no book, or poem, or letter, that everyone on this earth likes. Trying to write one that everyone does is completely futile. The key, in my opinion, to successful writing as a hobby (and by successful, I mean that it becomes a hobby that sticks) is dropping all expectation and just letting it take you where it takes you.

As soon as you stop striving for perfection, your output will be greater and your enjoyment will be higher. And – curiously – you’ll also probably find that your writing is better.

It can be anything you want it to be

If you want to write a novel, great. If you don’t, also great. If you want all of the spelling and grammar to be spot on, great. If you want to just let it flow and forget about full stops and stressing about spelling, also great.

If you struggle to get started, try checking out my blog post on Writing – How to Start and How Not to Stop

What do you love about writing? Let me know in the comments.

If you fancy checking out more of my writing, you can buy my debut novel, The Hellion, here or read more about it here.

The Hellion To Be An Audiobook

The Hellion To Be An Audiobook
Cover artwork for the Hellion, by Harriet Young

Fantastic news everyone! The Hellion has been snatched up by heavyweight audiobook publishers W. F. Howes, to be released as an audiobook which will be available through all the usual audio sources (audible, libraries, etc.)

This is truly wonderful news and I can’t wait to listen to it. The Hellion will be narrated by Melanie Crawley, a highly experienced voice actor who has narrated a wide range of audiobooks. She will bring a perfect, northern voice to the characters, suiting them and the setting flawlessly.

The audiobook is currently available for preorder at Book Depository, with a release date of 4th March 2021.

The Hellion is the story of three of the women accused during the 1612 Pendle Witch Trials.

Now just waiting for Netflix to get in touch for the rights for the film adaptation 😉

The Hellion – Harriet Young

The Hellion by Harriet young

The Hellion will be released on 4th March 2021 and can be preordered online from most major bookstores.

The 1600s were a time of fear, mistrust and darkness. The early days of James I’s reign, in particular, were plagued by unease.

James I of England had already reigned in Scotland since 1567 and became King of England and Ireland as well following the death of Elizabeth I in 1603. James is described by many historians as being serious, knowledgeable and scholarly – but it is impossible to overlook the terrible devastation that he caused to many families through his fear of witchcraft.

In 1589, James sailed to Denmark – a country notorious at the time for its obsession with witchcraft and the hunting of witches – to marry Anne of Denmark. Their journey back to Scotland was hit by storms, and the newlyweds were forced to shelter in Norway for several weeks. It was clear to James that witches had summoned the storm in attempt to kill him, and on his return to Scotland the North Berwick Witch Trials began. These 1590 trials are not as well known as those that occurred later, but it can be argued that they were the catalyst that led to an estimated 3000-4000 women and men being executed after witchcraft accusations in Scotland alone.

The accused in the North Berwick Witch Trials confessed to their supposed crimes, following torture. Agnes Sampson was fastened to the wall of her cell by a witch’s bridle, an iron instrument with four sharp prongs forced into her mouth. Dr Fian had his fingernails removed and iron pins thrust into the open wounds. The brutally was horrific, and the confessions unsurprising. By the time the trials were over, about seventy people had been accused of witchcraft, although it is not known how many were executed.

Following this, James took a keen interest in what he saw as the stamping out of witchcraft. He took part in the interrogation and torture of suspected witches, and attended many trials. In 1597, James wrote Daemonologie, a tract denouncing witchcraft and which was spread throughout Scotland and England.

Although some say that James’s attitude towards witchcraft mellowed in the years following this, the damage had already been done. When James took the English throne in 1603, his new courtiers were desperate to please their new king. Noblemen all over England looking to gain favour with the monarch researched him and what his leanings might be – and read Daemonologie.

It is against this backdrop that the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612 took place. The gruesome hearings led to eleven deaths – ten by execution – including three generations of one family. The Hellion follows this family, always chased by a whisper of evil, right to the gallows.

The Hellion by Harriet Young – Q & As

What is your book about?

The Hellion is a novel based on one of the families accused during the Pendle Witch Trials. Elizabeth, her daughter Elizabeth and her grandchildren, Alizon, James and Jennet all lived at the notorious Malkin Towers. Plagued by poverty and their own internal struggles, their lives follow a path that leads inextricably to Lancaster Gaol.

How long did it take to reach the publishing stage?

The Hellion is being published by Unbound. I started writing the novel in March 2017, and began approaching publishers after completion in late 2018. It was accepted by Unbound in mid 2019, and it was fully funded for publication in October 2019.

What is the release date?

Release date is 4 March 2021. If you have preordered, you will receive your copy as soon as it has been published. I can’t wait for you to start receiving your copies!

How long did your research take?

Research was an ongoing process throughout the writing of the novel and for around four months prior. The limited sources mean that there are conflicting accounts of what happened, and it took some time to sift through this.

Did you have any particular author in mind when writing the novel?

I didn’t – there are many historical fiction novelists that I enjoy reading, but The Hellion is written in very much my own style. It is fast paced and, I hope you will agree, extremely readable.

How are you feeling about publication?

This is my debut novel and having a book published has always been my dream. It is terrifyingly exciting – holding my book in my hands will be an indescribable feeling, but of course I am anxious that you all like it too!

Will you write another?

My second novel is already underway. I don’t want to give anything away, but I’m very excited about this one too.

Where can I get The Hellion?

The Hellion is available for preorder through the links below:

Unbound

Waterstones

W H Smith

Book Depository

Blackwell’s

Wordery

Bookshop.org

Amazon

Thank you so much for your support!

You can also find The Hellion on Goodreads here.

The Hellion was recently featured in the Lancashire Telegraph, Cheshire Live and the Oswestry and Border Counties Advertizer.

Contacting the author

If you would like an interview, guest blog post or any other information about The Hellion, the writing or publication process (or anything else!) please feel free to contact me at harriet@thesenovelthoughts.com and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Writing – How to Start and How Not to Stop

Without doubt, writing can be both the best and worst thing in the world. The feverish force of creation can pull at you, power you – and, just as easily, petrify you like Medusa.

When gripped by that glorious sense that you could write forever, and what you are writing is good, there is nothing better. A shame then that this occurs so rarely! Whether you are a seasoned writer or just starting out, there are so many things that seem to want to trip you up. Writer’s block, procrastination, imposter syndrome…these can so easily affect all of us.

I am by no means an expert, and the advice I will share here is merely a mishmash of other, wiser people’s words, but it helped me immensely when writing my first novel (The Hellion – now almost funded through Unbound publishers! You can still preorder now).

1. Just get started

I am certainly guilty of this. Finally getting the idea for a novel and being unable to start until the plot is perfect and all research has been completed. The problem is, no matter what your novel is about, research can never be finished! There is always something more you can learn. So, when you get that idea, start writing. The plot and research can happen alongside, but get some words on the paper first. Then you’ll learn whether this really excites you, or whether it feels like too much of a chore (notice I say too much – however much you enjoy writing, there can often be times when it feels like a chore).

2. Don’t feel that you always have to write your best work

You wanted to write a chapter today but, on sitting down at your laptop, you discover that you have lost the ability to string a sentence together. No matter how many times you try to form the words, it sounds clunky and trite. Don’t worry! Just leave the sentence as it is and keep writing. Get that chapter down. It doesn’t have to be the best thing you’ve ever written – not even close. You can go back and edit it later.

3. Be your own cheerleader

Who here is their own worst critic? Who thinks that everything they write is terrible, and can’t muster the courage to show it to anyone else? It is difficult to change that mindset, but it is important to. Reward yourself when you’ve written a set number of words or pages – it’s an amazing achievement! Think of the advice runners are always given – no matter where you place in a race, you have beaten all of the people on the sidelines or tucked up in bed at home. Everything you write hones your skill. Celebrate it. Be proud.

4. Find a schedule that works for you BUT don’t beat yourself up when it fails

For too long, I thought that if I wasn’t writing every day then there was no point in doing any at all. If I was tired when I got home from work and chose not to write – well, that would be it for the next few months. The chain of writing every day was broken, so I might as well stop forever. Totally wrong! It’s just that I hadn’t found the way I best write yet. It was only when I tried NaNoWriMo that I found what suits me – high volume, short time – a month of writing 1500+ words a day. The ridiculously high target forced the words out of me. This is how I’ll write (or at least finish) all of my future novels; no slow burn here. But the important thing – I didn’t actually write the target of 50,000 words in my NaNoWriMo months, more like 25,000-30,000. Is this a failure? No! I was way further on than I had been at the start of the month. That is a win.

5. Procrastinate less

This is the most difficult one for me. I am a master procrastinator. I find starting hard, so I set myself a time in my head. At 6pm, I’m going to start writing. In the half an hour until then I can do what I like, browse the internet, cook tea, dust the shelves, but I’m starting my writing at 6pm. If I get the urge to stop and do something else while I’m writing, I do. I let myself take little breaks. As long as I’ve started, I can feel good about my progress.

What do you struggle with when you’re writing? Share in the comments below!

The Story of The Hellion

You may have noticed recently that my Instagram account has been taken over by my new book, The Hellion. In case you weren’t aware, my first novel has been picked up by Unbound Publishers, and it is currently undergoing a crowdfunding campaign in order to get it published. At the time of writing, it is 58% funded and I am tentatively hopeful that it will get there!

I wanted to write a series of blog posts about writing and the publishing process because I know this is of great interest to lots of you. When I asked what you would most like to read about, one of the instantly most popular responses was ‘what is the story of your book?’ Or, ‘why did you write your book?’ Or ‘why did you decide to write this book?’ So, I thought I would comply and tell you the story of The Hellion.

I have always written. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t had a work in progress. It used to be my favourite thing at school. I remember I would write pages and pages in smudged cartridge pen in primary school, feverishly getting the next important story down. In Friday share assemblies, I would often be picked to read my work aloud in front of parents and pupils, with the whispered entreaty from my teacher, “just try to cut it down a little bit?” – apparently my audience would not appreciate six pages about a Bengal tiger that appeared in a kitchen when a tiger printed plate was smashed.

As I grew older, of course writing was pushed aside in favour of other things. Going to university, working, getting on with life. It was always in the background though. I’d be hit by a creative fervour every now and then, spend a week or two writing 10,000 words, then drop it when I felt the story wasn’t going anywhere.

Eventually, I started blogging. It was a food blog to start with, and writing little stories to go with my recipes was enough for a while. Then, that fell out of favour too. It was too much, cooking, writing out the recipes, editing the photos. But, after I had stopped doing that, I noticed an emptiness. I needed something to fill that hole.

The start of The Hellion coincides exactly to the day with the start of my Instagram account. In the Spring half term of my teacher training, during an extraordinarily difficult term, I decided I needed a distraction. So, I began writing again. I had come across the Pendle witch trials again, through some Wikipedia browsing, and thought the story of Jennet was so interesting that it needed a novel (more on that in another blog). I don’t know why, but after I wrote the first page, I set up an Instagram account. To start with, my account was going to be for writing rather than reading, but it’s definitely evolved! If you scroll back to my first post, all the way back on 4th March 2017, you’ll see that it’s a screenshot of the first page of The Hellion! I felt immediately that this was the first novel I’d actually finish. At the time, it was called Novel.

I spent a few months researching and writing intermittently while I finished my teacher training. A few words here, a few words there, until finally I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo in November 2017. In case you haven’t heard of it, this is National Novel Writing Month and the aim is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I failed, but by the end of the month, my novel – now with a spanking new name ‘Dear Jennet’ was 21,000 words long. This was the most I’d ever written, I was proud of it, and I couldn’t drop it.

Without that first NaNoWriMo, The Hellion would never be where it is now. However, it needed almost complete rewriting! I spent the next year picking over every word until November 2018, when I spent NaNoWriMo finishing the novel. It was at this point that I decided a new name was needed, and finally settled on The Hellion.

By this point, it was a labour of love. To spend that many hours researching, crafting, sweating over a story, it would be a fallacy to do nothing with it. I felt there was nothing to lose in sending it off to publishers and agents – but I’ll save that story for another day.

That is my story of writing. And it seems so strange that I’m just 42% away from having my first book published! If you haven’t already, and would like to preorder my book to help this dream become a reality (and get a first edition with your name printed in it!) please, please follow the link to my Unbound page and make a pledge today.

Thank you so much!

If you have any ideas for other blog posts, please feel free to get in touch!