Paula Writes

Paula Puddephatt – Author

Books: Vibrant Carousel, and Alternative Landscapes — March 20, 2020

Books: Vibrant Carousel, and Alternative Landscapes

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As many followers of, and regular visitors to, the Paula Writes blog will be aware – I’m currently revising my novel, Distorted Perceptions.

If you’d like to know more about the novel or/and read an extract from Distorted Perceptions, two of my recent posts should be able to help you.

To say that the process of writing my novel has been exhausting and extremely challenging, in so many ways, doesn’t begin to describe the process I’ve been through, to get to the current stage – which is advanced.

The purpose of this short post is to mention two of my additional publications.

I’ve recently produced a poetry mini-collection called Vibrant Carousel.

It was really a bonus project, and the ebook didn’t end up happening, because of the frustration levels involved – technical issues.

However, the print book is available through Lulu. It will hopefully soon be available through expanded distribution, also: Amazon, and other channels. Watch this space.

I also, towards the end of 2019, did publish a short story collection, entitled Alternative Landscapes.

This is free to download, in ebook format, and can also be purchased in paperback edition.

As there are multiple options for this one, it’s easier for me to link to my Paula Writes book page.

 

Hopefully, I’ll soon be able to provide more specific news, regarding Distorted Perceptions.

From Chapter Thirty-Four – Distorted Perceptions (WIP) — February 4, 2020

From Chapter Thirty-Four – Distorted Perceptions (WIP)

paula-novelpaula-writerKeeping in mind that I’m veggie (although not vegan) myself…Made this fun to write.

From Distorted Perceptions, Novel Extract

Background: Lucy and her younger sister, Sarah, have gone for a meal at Cynthia Jackson’s. Cynthia’s daughter, Hannah, is married to Lucy and Sarah’s brother, Danny. Hannah’s brother, Phil, is in town, and Danny and Hannah are trying to encourage a Lucy/Phil romance.  

 

   “I’ve made vegetable curry,” said Cynthia. “I hope that’s fine with you all. What with Hannah being vegetarian, and Phil vegan, I thought it best to make something we could all enjoy. I’m as sure as I can be that everything’s vegan.”

   Okay – so, as if his sister being veggie wasn’t enough, Phil Jackson had to take just bloody awkward to new heights, and insist upon being vegan.

   “I’d love to be vegetarian or vegan,” said Sarah. “I’ve often thought of it.”

   I rolled my eyes. “You have? You surprise me, Sarah. I can’t see you giving up your McDonald’s – hamburger or milkshake.”

   “I hardly ever have McDonald’s any more.” My sister was blushing. I had to be right about this: Sarah liked Phil.

   Well, he was an improvement on Farooq, at any rate.

   Trouble was, Phil wasn’t looking at Sarah. He couldn’t take his eyes off me. And Danny and Hannah, for their part, couldn’t stop looking hopefully, from one of us to the other. They clearly had their hearts set on a Phil and Lucy romance.

   “Veggie curry is fine, Cynthia,” I said.

More about the forthcoming novel

Details of recent short story and poetry publications

about-distorted-perceptions-the-novel

Writing Romance and Women’s Fiction; Modern Historical and Contemporary — January 30, 2020

Writing Romance and Women’s Fiction; Modern Historical and Contemporary

 

paula-writerI’m currently revising my novel, Distorted Perceptions.

This story doesn’t exactly fit easily into any genre or category. It’s also a Modern Historical, set primarily in the 1980s.

I don’t always know where/how to “position” my work, which I can deal with, but it can also become frustrating.

I don’t feel that my fiction has a “literary” style, but will describe it as General/Literary, where this seems to be the most appropriate option. This doesn’t feel entirely accurate. More of a compromise, I suppose.

I’ve always resisted writing genre fiction.

My reading has fluctuated wildly, and I’ve not consistently read a favourite genre, or type of fiction.

But lately, I’ve found much of the Horror and darker Crime, that I used to love, as a reader, much too triggering. So, I’m focusing upon reading Romance, along with some Women’s Fiction and classics.

Even though I wrote a blog post called Writing Romance (Even When You Don’t), I’m currently experimenting. I’m hoping to develop the Romance and Women’s Fiction side of my writing.

I’m also open to writing Contemporary, as well as Modern Historical.

And I would like to explore different story lengths.

My current WIP is 84k, as it stands. I’ve written a very limited number of short stories, most of which I would describe as flash fiction, although some are over 1k, and that technically makes them shorter short stories, but not quite flash fiction. At any rate, not by some definitions.

I would actually like to work on slightly longer short stories, and possibly novellas. At this point, that appeals to me. I honestly don’t want to write another 84k novel in a hurry, once I’m done with Distorted Perceptions.

I definitely hope to blog more, once Distorted Perceptions is complete.

I’ve missed it. But I’ve not been able to do it all, especially taking into account various ongoing health and life issues. That’s just the reality of the situation.

 

Keep believing. More from the Paula Writes blog soon, I hope.

 

Happy New Year — January 1, 2020
Mental Health in Fiction: More Harm Than Good? — December 20, 2019

Mental Health in Fiction: More Harm Than Good?

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Addressing mental illness in our fiction should be positive.

Yet, if it’s done poorly, it can definitely do more harm than good. It can reinforce stereotypes, and cause offence.

And it’s complex. With certain controversial issues, we’ve actually come full circle.

For example, rape.

Everyone says that everyone says syndrome is, in my opinion, at work here. People regularly claim that stranger rape is what we hear about, not date rape.

As a survivor of the former, I would disagree. Stranger rape is more common than people realise, and I hear it discussed less frequently than date rape, nowadays.

And to constantly hear that it’s “just a stereotype” that people are often raped down alleyways – not sure that’s going to help much, if you’re one of the many people who is raped in an alleyway. Which, yes – does regularly occur, hence the fact that it became a “stereotype”, to begin with.

Ideally, we should address mental health issues in fiction, as much as possible, but we need to take care, when doing so.

We will cause offence. The subject is a controversial one. But we should aim to be as sensitive as possible, and hopefully, that way, we will do more good than harm.

My novel, Distorted Perceptions, does address mental health issues, in many ways. Real and raw – not the “pretty” version. I also hope to explore the subject further, in future fiction projects.

Physical and Mental Illness: Fiction Writing Perspective — November 28, 2019

Physical and Mental Illness: Fiction Writing Perspective

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I’m in the middle of creating a series of posts, relating to mental health, from a fiction writer’s perspective. See my previous post, in which I shared some thoughts regarding research. Now, I’m going to cover an area that’s particularly close to my heart.

As someone with both mental and physical health issues, I face many specific difficulties: one of which is feeling that I’m never quite represented, by organisations, awareness campaigns, and so on, which tend to focus upon one or the other.

And the fact is that, at this point, there is actually more of a tendency, within mental health communities, to be tactless and insensitive about physical disability, than occurs the other way around. Yes, I said that.

I’m not a wheelchair user myself, but do have multiple physical health issues, and am fed-up, to put it mildly, with seeing images of crossed out wheelchairs on social media images, relating to mental health awareness.

Yes, it’s true that many people out there do assume that terms such as “disability” refer exclusively to physical disabilities, and of course that is wrong. But, as the saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right. In this case, that is certainly applicable.

Making people with physical health issues feel unwelcome within mental health communities is simply not acceptable.

It is also an unhelpful generalisation that all physical illness is visible, and that the opposite is true for mental health.

Can you see a migraine? Would you necessarily know, simply to look at me, that I have dyspraxia?

And are self-harm scars invisible? Or the extreme weight loss associated with anorexia nervosa? In fact, eating disorders, and many addictions, such as drug addiction and alcoholism, are, by definition, both physical and mental health conditions.

Cancer doesn’t avoid us because we have a mental illness. People who use wheelchairs may also be struggling with mental health issues. Assumptions are harmful.

And how does this relate to us specifically, as fiction writers?

Well, we should ensure that we take this into consideration. I myself feel that I probably neglect physical illness in my stories, certainly compared to mental illness, and hopefully, simply becoming aware of this, will plant a seed in my mind.

I would like to be able to say that I cover both, and that I represent the challenges faced by many of us, who struggle daily with mental and physical health issues. That matters to me.

 

Researching Mental Illness as a Fiction Writer —

Researching Mental Illness as a Fiction Writer

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Research is vital, when it comes to writing about mental health issues, in a fictional context.

I can’t place enough emphasis upon this point. We need to get the facts right, whether or not, as I mentioned previously, we have personal experience of struggling with mental illness – because each case is different.

In an area where there is already much stigma and misunderstanding, it’s of particular importance not to make matters worse, by spreading inaccurate information.

Research should not be limited to official sources.

It should definitely include them, but not exclusively.

Personal accounts, from a variety of sources, sufferers and also carers, are essential.

One of the many resources that can help with this is You Tube, where many people openly discuss their own mental health journeys.

Books, blogs, and talking to people you already know, who have “been there” – all of these are readily available, and can provide so much insight and inspiration.

Of course, you shouldn’t actually use any particular person’s actual story, in any way that is identifiable, but listening to various people, who are willing to open up about their struggles with mental illness, will help you to deepen your understanding of mental health issues in general.

The reality certainly cannot be reflected in dry academic accounts alone.

 

Latest post: Physical and Mental Health: Fiction Writing Perspective

Personal Experience, and Addressing Mental Health Issues Through Fiction — November 27, 2019

Personal Experience, and Addressing Mental Health Issues Through Fiction

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Refer to my previous post, in which I discuss why writers should consider addressing mental health themes, through their fiction.

I’m now hoping to expand upon this, and create a series of connected blog posts, and this, therefore, is the second post.

I’ve covered aspects of the subject before, but felt that it deserved more specific attention.

Of course, when it comes to why we might want to address the subject of mental illness in our fiction, often personal experience will be a factor.

Certainly, in my own case, my personal experiences of both mental and physical health issues do motivate me, and make me especially determined to not only cover, but do justice to, the subjects of mental and physical illness.

I definitely don’t want to limit my writing to what I’ve been through.

My characters aren’t me. In fact, they experience many mental health issues that are similar to mine, and many that are not.

I feel that, having been through mental illness of any kind, does make us more compassionate, and able to relate more readily, to many of the extreme emotions, much of the deep distress, associated with other conditions.

In combination with research, this natural sense of empathy and understanding will be invaluable to us, as writers.

Never more so than when it comes to exploring less familiar mental health symptoms, in our own work.

Many mental illnesses are very similar, in certain respects. If you’ve had problems with alcohol, or even eating disorders, this can help you to relate to aspects of heroin addiction, even though you would obviously need to thoroughly research the subject, in order to do it justice.

Also, OCD has a great deal in common with, for example, BPD and Bipolar Disorder – so don’t assume that you necessarily understand very little about a particular mental health problem, merely because you have never had a particular diagnosis.

I would actually advocate thorough research, even if you do have the same mental illness as one or more of your characters, because every case is different. Additionally, not every diagnosis given is even accurate, or as clear-cut and definite as may have been implied by health professionals.

More about research methods.

 

Please also read my recent update about my novel, Distorted Perceptions.

Why Address Mental Health Themes in Fiction? —

Why Address Mental Health Themes in Fiction?

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Let’s begin at the logical starting point, and ask why.

Why should we address mental health themes at all, in our fiction?

The subject tends, after all, to be controversial, and often dark. And in truth, not every work of fiction does need to address mental health themes.

Yet, mental illness is a part of life.

It happens. It has a huge impact upon, not only sufferers but carers, and many others. It has an impact upon both individuals, and society in a wider sense. It needs to be addressed, and to ignore it is damaging, and potentially dangerous.

Fiction, whether it takes the form of a novel, novella, short story, screenplay, or any other type of story, is a powerful art form.

The need for characters, within our fiction, to reflect the true diversity of people that make up society – in terms of, for instance, race, religious beliefs, sexuality, and class background – is, increasingly, being recognised.

We all deserve to find characters, within the fiction we consume and enjoy, with whom we can identify, for a variety of reasons.

The fact is that, within real communities, people do struggle with mental health issues. If far fewer characters apparently deal with similar challenges, we need to examine why this is – and begin to rectify the situation, through our own stories.

 

I aim to address the subject of mental health in fiction in future posts, on this blog.

I continue to make slow but steady progress on revisions for my novel, Distorted Perceptions, and this novel does address mental health themes.

Distorted Perceptions: My Novel — November 11, 2019

Distorted Perceptions: My Novel

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I’m currently revising my WIP, Distorted Perceptions – so time to start discussing the forthcoming novel.

Distorted Perceptions, in its original form, was a novel which I began at the age of eighteen. I wrote it, on and off, in extremely difficult circumstances, until finally forced to give up, when I became severely depressed, at twenty-six. I’d almost completed my first draft, at the time.

For many subsequent years, I worked on other writing projects, and was prolific as a poet, but Distorted Perceptions has never left my heart.

I started to write it again in recent years, but from scratch, since I could only find parts of the original outline, which had pages missing, and none of my previous manuscripts or notes. Anything that is worded as it was before, would literally have to be some part of the novel that I remembered, having read it over so many times. The opening paragraph is, I believe, close to the original.

I retained most of the original plot, although for many parts, had to go by memory alone for the details. I changed a few aspects, which in itself, presented issues. Still more alterations occurred, as I wrote – some of which were major. I did try to stay as true as I could to what I felt, in my heart, my eighteen- to twenty-six-year-old self would have intended, since I do see it as her story, first and foremost. However, the ending changed drastically.

There are strong autobiographical elements, but it is by no means an autobiography or memoir, and should not be read as such. However, I have used the novel as therapy, and it has helped me to work through many of the painful events in my own life.

The novel doesn’t fit neatly into any genre or category. This is perhaps appropriate, as I have never fitted in, either. Coming soon – my novel, Distorted Perceptions.

The story is dedicated to all who have believed in and supported me. You know who you are.

about-distorted

 

Sample my fiction, via a collection of my short stories, Alternative Landscapes. Or read an extract from Distorted Perceptions.

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