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Sunday, 15 January 2017

The 15 Minute Writer



I've become a fifteen minute writer. How did that happen?

I needed a daily writing habit. Something that would fit into my busy life, something that didn't make me feel overwhelmed at the thought of starting. I'd heard mutterings about writers that wrote for fifteen minutes at a time, but I'd dismissed the idea as silly, and what was I going to achieve in just fifteen minutes anyway?

Actually, you'd be amazed at what is possible.

In fifteen minutes I can write a fully formed 150 word piece of flash fiction, okay it will need a an edit, but, it can be done in another couple of fifteen minute slots at most. I can start a blog post, and sort out an image to go with it. I can probably come up with a decent title for it too.

I can rewrite a couple of novel paragraphs, sometimes a whole page. I can start a character profile, draw a mind map of my next chapter, or make a list of things I need to include in the next scene.

I'd like to encourage you to try it if you're struggling with procrastination, or if you genuinely think you're too busy to write your novel, or a short story, or enter a writing competition. If you have a goal, dream or desire to write, this is a good way to do it. What's more it can be slotted into daily life.

The best news is that it doesn't just apply to writing, try decluttering a room for fifteen minutes. Or tackling the household chores. it really makes a difference and after a few sessions you begin to see the benefits, and how you can be effective.

What can you do in fifteen minutes?

How Did My Writing Week Go? 

Not so well, my ear infection crept back, and made me feel really poorly, so I've been taking it easy.
I did some writing, a blog post, and also listened to podcasts on writing from The Creative Penn to keep me inspired and motivated.

Other Stuff I Did

Meditation Class
Re-invented myself with a new hairstyle.
New Lippy to go with the new look.
Booked a break in Wales for later in the year.
Ate too much chocolate.

Plans For The Week Ahead 

To rest and recover.

How was your week, and what are your plans?

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Hit The Ground Running - And Keep Going!



Last week I wrote my writing goals down for the year ahead, finish my novel, blog regularly, enter competitions and write some articles. If I say it quickly, my list doesn’t sound daunting does it? Truth is, a lot of work needs to be done, I’ll  have to project manage everything to keep on track.

I’ve written each goal down and worked out the steps needed to achieve them. In the last week I’ve spent time taking action. I’ve got myself a week to view diary, and written down what I need to do each day for the next two weeks. Being honest it’ll take me a while to get into the habit of fitting things in, shuffling stuff around, and generally getting back to normality.

We’re all full of good intentions, and change is hard, however, I believe we’re all capable of doing it, but it requires discipline and effort. And then of course stuff happens that we have no control over, so that has to be allowed for too.

Little and often works for me, I’ve broken everything down into manageable chunks.  My novel is being written in short bursts, in fact fifteen minutes a day is my target. Yes, really. This works better than doing a few hours and then not touching it again for a week. Why? Because the story remains fresh in my head if I connect with it every day.                                       

Most of us have dreams we want to realise, things we want to change in our lives, therefore we should never underestimate the power of intention. I’m only a week in, it’s early days, but if it doesn’t work out this way, I’ll change course and find another route. 

How Did My Writing Week Go? 

3 hours 20 minutes spent rewriting the novel
150 word Flash Fiction challenge done
Took part in #writingchat on Wednesday
Attended Phoenix Writers on Saturday
Wrote a blog post (400 words)
Wrote a book review on Amazon 

Other Stuff I Did 

Went back to work.
Lost 1lb Pound in weight!
Did two gentle exercise classes, Relax and Unwind and Stretching for Health
Had tea with friends
Won a £50 M & S voucher
Lost my new hat, and found it again.

Plans For The Week Ahead

More of the same on the writing front. I’ll also be trying out a beginners meditation class and deciding where to go this year with the caravan.

Have a great week - Let me know how the first week went for you? 

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year - Fresh Start


Hello friends, I wish you all a very Happy & Healthy New Year!
It's a great feeling to have a blank canvas isn't it?  Have you made plans and set some goals for yourself? Mine are simple this year, I want to be healthy and happy, and do lots of writing.  Okay, it's not quite as simple as that, because I'll have to put some real effort into all of them. It helps to know what your desired outcome is though, and that will help you to stay on track when you start to focus on the details.

 Here's My Plan

Health - All the usual things I do already, like losing weight and exercising. Although, I'll have a delayed start with exercise as I've got an ear and chest infection, and sinusitis.

Happiness - The deeper you dig into this subject, the more you realise, it isn't always what you think that makes you happy. Personally, I love to feel the wind in my hair, whilst walking through beautiful countryside, or sharing tea and gossip with friends, or curling up in a comfy chair with a good book. or writing. I like to surround myself with positive people who make me feel upbeat, and I love to motivate others and see them shine. So I'll be trying hard to do more of all of those, and I'll be finding other ways to feel happy.

Writing -  More of the same, and something new. I'll be continuing my novel, anyone who has written a novel will know how difficult rewriting is, and how long it can take. I'll be continuing to get it as good as I can make it.

My blog will update every Sunday, and hopefully, you'll find it interesting enough to stick with me. I really do value and appreciate your comments.

This year I'm going to sub at least twelve pieces of writing, which may not seem a lot to some of you, but a lot of my time is committed elsewhere.

Lastly, I'm keen to have a go at writing articles.

If you've set goals, I'd love to hear about them, and how you intend reaching them.
That's it from me for now, enjoy the first day of the new year, and I'll be back next week to let you know how I'm getting on.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

My Positive Year - Looking Back at 2016



As this year draws to a close, it's time to reflect. Back in January, I decided I was going to keep a record of the positive things that happened throughout the year. I've got a lousy memory, so I updated this post as the year progressed.

January - I felt happy and well, and managed to get off to a good start with Slimming World, and lost a pound and a half at my first weigh in of the year, and even made Slimmer of the Week! The following week, I lost another pound, which meant I'd lost a stone in total. Unbelievably, I made Slimmer of the Week again, and almost put my back out carrying the prize (a massive bag of fruit and vegetables) home.

Exercise started well - Aqua, Stretch, Pilates. Candlelight Stretch, and HIIT (a sort of circuits)

Had a lovely surprise when my friend Louise sent me a parcel of pre-loved books out of the blue that she was rehousing.

Mid month I went to Ragdale Hall for a couple of days with a girl friend. Spent every moment being pampered, and it was lovely to have so much 'ME' time.

Writing wise, I reincarnated a story I found written in an old notebook. I didn't change much, and it was very well received by the critique group, somebody said it was the best thing they'd heard me read in ages.

February - The Leicester Comedy Festival arrived in the city, and what better way to cheer up a wet and windy February is there? Just the tonic you need to make you forget all your woes. February 8th was UK Pun Day and I went along to the UK Pun championships, hosted by Lee Nelson, it was very funny. Later in the month I saw Ed Byrne at The Curve, which was another good night out which made me laugh out loud. I don't think he likes Audi drivers though.

My birthday was spent working away from home in London, there was no time to celebrate, and in any case I was alone. Oddly though, I met another lady on the night, and it turned out we don't live too far from each other, and both use the same exercise venue. We swapped contact details, and have since kept in touch, and even met up for lunch! I made a new friend.

I made up for the lack of a birthday celebration at the weekend, and was treated to breakfast by a writing buddy.

February also saw my first attendance at PlayShuffle over at Derby Theatre, where writers, actors, and voyeurs turn up to watch and listen to the actors performing a script they have literally been handed by the writer, just minutes before. I was put in the 'voyeur category as I didn't bring a script  with me, and I didn't particularly want to act on my first visit. It was fun and something different for me.

March - Started well with a visit to Birmingham to the RNA Writers Day, you can read how that went here 

March 20th - Conquer Stroke, An Evening of New Writing  - Fabulous evening of entertainment. Special because I had a piece performed and so did several of my writing friends. Keith Large who organised the evening pulled out all the stops. Several of the writers went away in awe, saying they wanted to have a go at writing a script!

I'm loving my Pilates this month!

April - This was definitely a shopping month for me. A lovely Cath Kidston bag was purchased at St Pancras International Train Station, I love that place it's a destination in it's own right. There were new Sketchers too, fabulously comfortable shoes. And there were notebooks from Covent Garden, my favourite has a picture of a bear riding a bike, and words on the cover saying, 'Do more of what makes you happy' and I surely followed that advice all month.

I read Peter May's Coffin Road, I listened to live jazz, and heard a fellow writer play drums. Some people are way too talented.

I also Beta read a friend's novel this month and really enjoyed the experience.

May - I met up with the ladies from the Leicester chapter of the RNA for lunch, and as usual it was a fun event.

Leicester City won the football league! Wow! What a party that was...

I went to Brighton to see a short film premiere written by a writer I'd met earlier in the year at the Conquer Stroke event. The weather was atrocious, but I had a great time and lots of cake!

June - I love a good writing workshop and I wasn't disappointed by Developing Your Novel by Alison May, it was a good informative day spent in the company of lots of other writers.

At the end of June I went away to Wales for a few weeks, and relaxed.

Catching up with family and friends and a heavy workload slowed me to a halt with the blog. I decided to take time out to recharge and recover.

July - The weather hasn't been brilliant this year, but I tried hard to enjoy the good sunny weekends we did have by relaxing with a good book in the garden.

August - This month flew by at such speed I almost missed it. Mid month, I had a lovely day out with friends at the spa, it was lovely and peaceful.

I started blogging again.

September - I felt really well in September, I rediscovered the music of my youth, like Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, and spent time out with the people that make me happy.

I also decided to start reading real books again. I'm still in love with Audible, and Kindle, but re-discovering the joy of a paperback has energised me.

October - I finally met Carol Bevitt and Patsy Collins, my #writingchat buddies. We had a walk, and spent hours chatting in a cafe.

I also received a lovely long letter from a writing buddy I met a few years ago at a Twitter Tweet up!

And I was lucky enough to be part of an organised walking tour in the deer enclosure at Calke Park.

November - This month I celebrated Autumn, getting out as often as possible to walk amongst the fabulous changing landscape. Walking featured heavily, and I loved it. I had two days away with good friends, which was definitely food for the soul. my camera went everywhere with me.

I returned to writing flash fiction.

Went to a great Article Writing workshop run by Graeme Marsh in Nottingham Waterstones - That place is amazing.

December  - Small pleasures are often the best, and it was lovely to see my fellow writing buddies getting together for a shared table at our final Phoenix Writers meeting of 2016. How lucky am I to be in such a good critique group.

Feeling happy for several writing friends who published books this month.

My final weigh in for 2016 was a positive one, I lost half a pound.

So folks, that was my positive year. I'm so glad I kept a record.

I'll be back with my plans for 2017 tomorrow.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Writing Feeds My Soul



Did you know that according to Twitter, it's World Kindness Day? I didn't, but then I haven't been on Twitter very much lately. Not because it's a time suck, more because there hasn't been any time to spare.

I haven't been doing quite as many writerly things lately. Instead, I've been out and about enjoying Autumn. It's been great to be outdoors, breathing in the fresh air. I love this season best. The trees turning from one colour to another, rich reds, bright yellows and dark golds, the earthy smells as the worms pull the fallen leaves deep under ground, and the last rays of sunshine on my face. Even the shorter days have their benefits, heralding the beginning of log fires and hot chocolate days ahead.

Walking is one of my passions, and I was determined to get out and see October unfold into November this year. It's been good, and has given me some space in my head again.

However, now it's time to change things around a bit. It's true that writing really does feed my soul and I'm most happy when I'm regularly putting words down. It feels good to write something every day, even just a few words. They don't all have to be on the novel in progress either.

In the last week, I've written a new monologue, edited some words, written a long letter to a friend, and joined in a writerly conversation on Twitter. I've responded to emails, and articles I've read on other writers blogs. I've taken part in a non-fiction writing workshop which entailed a lot of written exercises, and I've reviewed a book I've recently listened to and enjoyed. Each and everyone of the above fed my writer's soul, and made me happy and glad to be a writer.

Now's the time to batten down the hatches, make your writing space cosy, and surround yourself with all that you need to write. My goal for the week ahead is simply to write 'something' every day, and to buy some drinking chocolate, and to dig out my fleece throw.

Let me know what you're up to - do you change your writing habits with the seasons?

 And if you missed World Kindness Day, you can still celebrate and promote it today. Go on, make someone's day with a smile, a compliment, or a small deed.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Well That Was Enlightening!


Last week, I decided to keep a log of what I did with my time. It's been an eye opening experience, and a complete fail in terms of getting things done. I'm hoping that last week was just one of those awful out of control weeks when nothing went my way, because I got hardly anything done on my 'to do list' and on top of that, I ended up doing loads of extra stuff too.

However, I've remained fairly calm about the whole thing, probably because I've been dealing with the fall out of the week, but mainly because I know, that this was an experiment, and whatever it showed I was going to have to deal with no matter what...

What I've learnt is;

# A big chunk my life is spent at work, or travelling for work.

# I go to bed far too late.

# The best laid plans go awry.

# I'm maybe too ambitious

This is what I didn't and did achieve;

# No early morning writing sessions, not a one due to being far too tired to get up at the crack of dawn, or because I was traveling (driving) to work early.

# No #writingchat session due to travelling back from work.

# No Phoenix Writing Challenge (I didn't go - see why further down)

# No letter writing.

# Restarting Phoenix Subs Club didn't happen.

# No Pilates, no sessions in the pool, and no visits to the gym.

What did I do? I missed going to my writing group, and spent the time working on my novel instead. Then in the afternoon I went out walking. Throughout the week I listened to about an hour and a half of my audio book whilst driving or cooking.

What went wrong? 

Too many things to individually list here, albeit to say, it was one of those weeks! And I'll leave it at that. I have realised a few things though - I need to get more sleep, I need to take a long hard look at where my life is going, and perhaps not make such ambitious plans.

I suffered from what I call the 'knock on effect' a lot last week. For example, I went to bed late because I stayed up to watch something on catch up TV, I woke up tired the next day, and couldn't face my early writing session.

The work day was manic, I skipped lunch, or had a late lunch on other days, the roads were horrendous, too many vehicles, too many roadworks. I was late home, far too late to cook meals I had planned, and often had to go with plan B, different food, that I could prepare quickly.

By the time it was served, I had missed my Pilates, or gym sessions too. I was much later starting necessary chores, like laundry, cleaning and shopping etc and the day and evening just disappeared.

I'm going to continue with the time log again this week, as I want to get a true reflection of what is happening to my time. As for making a 'to do list' I think I need to keep it very simple.

Goals for the week ahead

# Work on the novel

# Restart the Phoenix Subs Club

# Take part in #Writingchat on Wednesday over on Twitter at 8pm - 9pm  - Do join in.

# Do some exercise, any exercise!

# Derby Writers Day

What I was grateful for last week

# Fresh fruit - Lots of it, pears, apples, grapes, banana, pineapple and raspberries which kept me going.

#  The friend who sorted out some administrative stuff, and saved me time.

#  The walk through the deer enclosure at Calke Park

That's it! Hope your week went better than mine and you've made plans for the week ahead. Do share them with us here at the First Draft Cafe.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

How Am I Going To Finish This Damned Novel?



So here we are in October. Just three months of 2016 remain, and I'm thinking, what can I do to make the most of what’s left of this year? Maybe, before I do that I ought to quickly review what I’ve already achieved, and practice the glass half full mindset, rather then getting downhearted about what I haven’t done. 

So, I’m still doing edits on my novel, and those edits have led to huge chunks of the story being rejigged, which in turn has led to changes. And of course changes mean rewriting. What I’m trying to say is, goal posts have moved and I’ve had to move with them.

Mentally, I don’t feel I’m any further ahead, but I must be? The question I’m asking myself now, is how, and more importantly, when will I finish this damned novel? It’s down to time management, and motivating myself to reach my goal. Which is a finished novel, ready to send out for a professional edit. 

I’m very lucky, not only do I have some amazingly supportive writing buddies to champion me along the way, I also belong to critique group where I get constructive feedback. I’m also in a good routine having changed from night owl to lark this year, I write at least four mornings out of seven, as well as one evening. The issue is the small amount of time I am spending on it, and although it's good to be chipping away, I'm not making big strides. 

So what can I do to aid me getting finished? It boils down to carving out even more time to write, and becoming more focused than I am at the moment. Honestly, I’m sitting here thinking, how on earth can I find any more time in my already busy week, unless I cut the other stuff I do now? Can I cut any more stuff? Do I want to cut anything else out? How many writers reading this are in the same position? You want to write, you really want to finish a project, but you are struggling to ‘make’ the time. And like me you have other necessary stuff that you really, really have to keep, be that caring for children, looking after an elderly relative, or even yourself. And then of course you might work too. Or have other pressing commitments.

I’ve been reading Give Up Ironing -  A Writers Guide To time Management by Kathleen Mc Gurl which goes a long way with trying to deal with writers who procrastinate. Yes, I’m reluctant to use that word but it’s the only one I can think of, or maybe I should use ‘time poor’ instead. Which ever it is, it’s making me frustrated and unhappy. Which is no good because it’s taking away the enjoyment of writing, and makes me think, do I want to be a novelist? 

From today, I’m following Kath's advice to keep a diary of what I’m doing with my time. For the next seven days I’m going to look for the gaps, where frankly I could be writing, because even though I think I’m filling my hours wisely,  I can’t be using my time as well as I think, otherwise I’d of been finished by now. 

It’s vital I also invest time in my health and well being, so I must continue with exercise to keep my back healthy, and to be honest, my head too, as we all know that exercise makes us feel happy. Once you’ve made the effort to start that is…and that’s the same with the writing too!

PLAN FOR THE WEEK

Writing  - Editing my novel 5 days out of six, Phoenix Writers challenge, writing a letter, and taking part in #writingchat on Twitter on Wednesday evening. Oh and re-starting the Phoenix Subs Club. Otherwise known as getting my work out there! 

Exercise - Two pool sessions, one pilates class, and one gym visit. Any walking will be a bonus. 

Reading - Continue listening to my latest audio book. 

I'll also have to do all the stuff real life chucks at me, like working, and family commitments, but I shall give it my best shot, and I’ll keep a log, to see where my time is seeping through the cracks, and could perhaps be used more wisely. However, I will definitely have to factor in some relaxation too. 

THINGS I’M GRATEFUL FOR 

# Catching up with friends and family. Although they were only small snatches of time, I’ve managed to catch up with family and friends this week.

# Meeting fellow writers and #writingchat folk, Carol Bevitt and Patsy Collins is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while and it finally happened yesterday. It was lovely to meet them in person and catch up with writerly topics. We even went for a short walk before the heavens opened and forced us into the cafe for refreshments. 



# Losing a pound and a half at Slimming World - In the words of Tesco, every little helps. As we move into Autumn, I’m looking forward to soups and stews.

# Receiving a letter. Yes, a real letter. Full of news from a writing buddy I met on Twitter a few years ago, and then in person, and now we are pen pals. 

It looks like I'm going to be very busy, and I may not succeed to get everything done, but I'm going to give it my very best shot. I’ll let you know how I get on next week.

Do let me know if you’ve made plans for the last quarter of the year, and if so what they are? I love hearing from you.

Have a good week!