Friday, 31 December 2010

Goodbye 2010

Where have the last twelve months gone? Time passes incredibly quickly, and to coin a phrase, makes you realise 'Life is not a Rehearsal' as they say...

I won't long list what I've been up to in the last year, its been a Roller Coaster ride though, with the first six months spent adding to my first attempt at an Urban Fantasy novel. I've been on the project on and off for the last two years. Some of you out there in the Blogger sphere will no doubt be thinking I've been procrastinating far too long with it - well initially I thought the same. I now know this particular story requires more time, than I was prepared to give it. I realised when I took part in NaNoWriMo in November. I'll come back onto that shortly.

Far from sitting back, I've been busy on the writing front, steadily making progress whilst holding down a busy job, juggling a family and dealing with a bad back! My health has slowed me down a lot this year.

I've had a short story published in The Speculator, a speculative fiction magazine, and the same story has been adapted and made into a short film which will be released in March next year. I've been informed it will be going onto some short film festivals as well, so that is quite different and all new to me. I have also written a first draft of a brand new novel, which is resting, waiting to be worked on very soon.

This novel was born out of NaNoWriMo - my first attempt at writing a novel in 30 days. I know, I know, I promised to come back and write about my experience. My excuse, snow! I've seen enough of the white stuff to last me five years but we won't go there.

I can report, NaNoWriMo is hard work. You need an iron will to condition yourself into writing 1667 words a day! Your life is not your own for 30 days, and no matter what happens, you have to keep going. Beyond that the real worth, in my humble opinion is what you learn about yourself along the way.

What did I learn?

  • I can write every day
  • Sometimes I write well
  • Sometimes I write utter rubbish
  • I can reach my goal
  • All writing is re-writing (I knew this one really)
  • I am capable of anything I put my mind to do
  • The only person holding me back is me
  • Some stories can't be rushed (first novel) move on to something else
So...writing buddies everywhere, NaNoWriMo is a learning curve. I urge you to give it a try sometime.

Signing off now, goodbye was a hoot!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

I'm a NaNoWriMo Winner!

Yes folks, I've done it! And after I've had a little time to pull my self back together (and deal with the rapidly falling snow!) I'll post my thoughts about the experience here.

Feeling utterly exhausted.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Day 15 NaNoWriMo

I've amazed myself, my word count stands at 28294, I'm feeling upbeat tonight. This is the official halfway day. And I'm ahead Yay! I won't fib,its not been easy, its been hard work. There have been times when I've been so short of hours, and not really been able to believe I've managed to get my word count registered with only two minutes to go before midnight!

I've written whilst I've been cooking, putting down words in between preparing vegetables and cooking pasta. I've written mainly at home, but other locations have included cafes, hotel lounges, and libraries. I've doodled ideas during meetings, and brainstormed characters in the supermarket.

I had worked out a very brief outline, two days prior to the start line, I soon ran that off its feet at day four, and found myself flying by the seat of my pants.

At last I believe I've learnt how to switch off my internal editor! Its taken me years, but now I can say "this is a first draft, I'll go back and put it right later, but right now, I have to go on". It really disciplines you.

The concept of NaNoWriMo forces you to write. There is no giving up! Along the way, I've turned down all sorts of invitations, felt guilty about not seeing family regularly, had a crisis, worked full time, dealt with various teenagers issues, as well as workmen at home, and had pain in my back, and been to the swimming pool at least twice for my sanity!

I do worry each day about what I'll write, its scary! Will the words come to me? And guys, there have been two days I didn't make the word count. I felt bad the first time, but pushed forward and caught up, the second time, last Thursday, had a very negative effect on me. I had to spend time kicking myself into shape, whilst recovering my writing Mojo. Thankfully, that happened over the weekend. I even managed to push the hoover around upstairs. But downstairs will have to wait. Maybe next week, the house can stand it. I have fifteen days left to write a novel!

Monday, 1 November 2010


NaNoWriMo what's it all about?

Each year in November thousands of writers worldwide sign up to National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. My understanding of it is that you sign up to commit to writing 50,000 words of fiction during the month. That works out roughly at 1667 words a day.
Now, I’m sure for some of you reading this, like me you have just taken a sharp intake of breath, thinking to yourself, how the hell can I keep that up! On top of everything else we have to fit in and around our everyday lives. Well, it’s an excellent way to force yourself to write. So let’s brainstorm it together.
It helps if you have a plot rolling around inside your head already, I do, sort of, at least I have a beginning, possibly a few scenes in the middle and a rough sketch of an ending. So maybe this is my chance to sit down and write it? But I already have a novel in progress, and some would say, “ really should be getting on with that before you start something new.” The thing is though; NaNoWriMo doesn’t really allow that, it’s against the rules. You see, you are allowed to brainstorm prior to the start, jot down an outline even sketch out a rough synopsis but they really consider it cheating if you pick up an existing manuscript. Fair enough.
So, is it worth it? I’m bad when it comes to getting on with things, and usually write, right up to the deadline on anything. I procrastinate, and then go mad to get the thing sorted out last minute. So how would I cope with NaNoWriMo?
Added to that is the little rule about not editing a word. Nope, you are not allowed to go back and edit a single word of the manuscript in progress. You are actively encouraged to plough ahead regardless if you feel you are writing complete and utter drivel. The thinking behind this is that once the month is up you can go back and re-write - as we all know that good writing, is re-writing ,and getting it down on paper in the first instance, is the main thing as far as NaNoWriMo is concerned.
I have to admit, I’ve given it some serious thinking. Even to the point of how I might attempt it, possibly breaking the word count into chunks each day, to say around 500 at a sitting.
That would mean at least four sittings a day, and it would take me, if I was on a roll, about 40 minutes at each sitting. I’m writing this at exactly that speed. I could do one session before I left the house for the day job, one at lunchtime, and two in the evening. Somehow I think I’m being a little ambitious there, but it’s one idea.
I need to dangle myself a reward too, something I really want, maybe a whole day at the spa as a reward in December. I’m confident, that would motivate me.
It’s no good rattling on about turning the TV off, as I don’t watch anything these days. And ignoring chores like cooking and cleaning is not really an option. I’ll just have to make them brief, or pass on anything I can get away with altogether.
Dealing with emails, and other forms of communication will be tricky and difficult at times, as will going to work, and doing family stuff which will be necessary. But I won’t be alone. From what I understand NaNoWrimo has a good support system in place, and I have some very good writing buddies who I know will spur me on and motivate me to try my best to get on with it. I know real life will hinder the process, but then a little voice inside my head keeps saying “Go on, try...better to try and fail, than not to try at all.”
It seems to me NaNoWriMo is about quantity of writing and not quality, but that’s okay, because I think it’s a lesson I need to learn. I need to turn off my internal editor. Stop agonising about each scene. I need to be forced to get the words out.
And then when it’s done, I know I am more than capable of going back and re writing scene after scene if necessary. I’m laughing - of course it will be necessary. But then I think, this could be a really exciting project. Imagine what I could put down in thirty days?
If I adopt a completely open approach to my writing. I may well start with one idea and then run off in a different direction altogether as often happens to many a writer.
I believe I’ll learn a lot about writing in the thirty days of NaNoWriMo, about the nuts and bolts of writing, and the whole process of putting a novel together against the clock. The question is - do I have the courage to write badly, to let ideas flow, and can I shut my inner critic up for a month? I’ll never know unless I try, will I? And remember this - no one can edit a blank page, can they?

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Back on Track

Last night, I met up with a couple of writing buddies I've known for some time. We swapped news, and ideas, and read our manuscripts out aloud to each other, which was lively and entertaining, as well as useful.

I enjoyed hearing them talk enthusiastically about their own projects and found it uplifting to hear their intentions for the next three months.

Its made me realize, I haven't actually set myself any objectives or goals. So I'm going to go away for a while now, and think about what I'd like to do...

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Fresh Start

I've titled this blog post "Fresh Start" because I'm feeling terribly guilty that I have completely neglected writing anything on the blog for such a long time.

You might wonder what happened, well, writing wise I've kept going with the novel although after the Writing Industries Conference I noticed I had slowed down a lot, and I began to feel disillusioned about my writing life in general.
I don’t think the conference had any bearing on how I felt, looking back now, I think it was a coincidence that I’d opened my eyes, and looked around, seeing things in a different light.

My regular writing activities were changing. Things I did were leaving me feeling jaded, and I struggled to admit it to myself, that I wasn’t enjoying doing them anymore. New stuff was surfacing which held no interest for me as a writer. Yet for some unknown reason I felt obliged to run with the herd. I couldn’t work out if I was simply tired of everything, or bored out of my skull with it all? Did I need a break? Or had I lost my writing Mojo?
Unable to find any answers, I decided to look at everything I was doing. Sometimes, you have to admit it, if something isn’t working for you. So I stopped writing for a few weeks. Quit my writing group, and decided to take the summer easy.

Looking back now, I think perhaps it was a combination of tiredness, back pain and all of these other things coming together at the same time, that made me put everything under the microscope . The decision to quit my group was difficult, people I valued had left already, and I struggled to get any constructive critique on my work. I wasn’t getting anything out of the meetings. There had been a lot of changes. Or maybe I had changed. There was no one else writing a novel, no one writing short stories, that I knew of, and I felt I didn’t gel with anyone enough to discuss anything. I wasn't attending regularly and there wasn’t a serious writer in the group. In fact it had turned into a social club, of which I didn’t want to be part of anymore.

On top of this, the Saturday critique workshop I valued had become a place where I was giving everyone else feedback, but not receiving any in return, and although I would always help any fellow writer who valued my opinion enough to ask for it, I realised I needed more than I was getting out of attending the workshops. Consequently, I didn’t re-enrol. I think it is true to say I have had a flat summer in the writing world.

However, recently I’ve added words to my novel, penned a few flash fiction stories and met up with some buddies here and there. Things are beginning to change, and I believe I'm about to start afresh with my writing life.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Writing Industries Conference 2010

Yesterday I went to my first Writing Industries Conference, and if I had any expectations beforehand, I can report here and now that they were very definitely exceeded. What a fabulous event for writers. Much of the credit must go to Loughborough University and Writing East Midlands. In particular, Damien Walters who worked hard to make the day a success. I know how much goes on behind the scenes to make these events happen. So to you and your team Damien, many thanks for such a great day out.

I arrived at 9.30am with my writing buddies, and already we could feel the buzz of enthusiasm in the main foyer as we joined the queues of eager wordsmiths. All waiting to receive goodie bags and our agenda for the day ahead.

Graham Joyce gave us a brilliant keynote speech to begin, all about the new technologies which will affect us as writers. He spoke fondly of the book as a Tardis, bigger on the inside than on the outside, with the ability to take you anywhere. With true affection for the printed page Graham went onto tell us that we would all have to “face up or fossilise” because the digital age is here.

As we listened eagerly it became clear that an industrious writer willing to diversify could do well, and that there are opportunities out there all around us. I wanted to know more.

I learnt about the array of possibilities open to writers everywhere. Apart from writing a novel on the page, we should be open to other outlets for our creativity. Digital streaming and downloading onto e readers like the Kindle is going to be big. Something we should perhaps try ourselves. What about teaching others the writing craft? Performing our stories, going into schools to talk to pupils, or giving after dinner speeches, all these things are other income streams for the writer. Non- fiction, screen development, online drama, and computer games all need writers. Graham concluded by telling us that “diversifying is not just about making money, it is so they don’t break your writers heart.” I couldn’t agree more.

I managed to get along to hear some of the panels, although I understand I might be able to listen to those I missed via podcasts sometime soon. Those I attended before lunch included How to Sell Your Script and See It Produced, and Writing in the Digital Era:Telling Stories that Fight Back.

Eating was a hurried affair, many freindships were renewed and new ones formed as writers came together to grab snacks, swap ideas, update each other on projects or just to generally chat about their love of the craft.

After lunch I went along to Breaking into Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror and Traditional Romance vs Paranormal Romance. As you can see there was much on offer. A lot to take in between caffiene breaks. I didn't make it to any of the workshops, there simply wasn't enough time.

An enjoyable day.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Incredibly Valuable

A few hours ago I had the pleasure of meeting up with some writer friends. We started the evening with a simple warm up exercise, where we all received the same short list of words. The idea was to produce a piece of prose which included all the words on the list. The exercise lasted fifteen minutes, after which we each read our efforts out.

Its amazing how many different ideas can come from the same set of words. Each was like a mini story and could be turned into a longer piece of prose given more time.

Next we swapped news of what we had all been doing for the last month. I discovered we write far more than we each realise.

This was followed by a read around of our current manuscripts. I like this bit the best, as everyone takes part, offering helpful critique. These people have developed good listening skills. They pick up on mistakes I've overlooked in my work. Be it poor grammar, typing errors, overly descriptive, or over written writing, or perhaps I've changed point of view where I shouldn't have done.

Its incredibly valuable to have honest and encouraging people in a group. They don't pat you on the back and say well done, nor do they batter your words and sap your will to write another word. Its simply what worked and what didn't work in the piece. They guide you and point out concerns, helping you to look at your writing in different ways. They critique the writing, not the writer, and its all taken in the spirit it is intended. I do the same for them, and each of us will go away and think about what has been said...we'll change some things, others will be left unchanged.

The last fifteen minutes were spent discussing market news. Publications and competitions that might fit with what one of us is working on at present. We'll talk about events happening in the area or further afield, but mostly we spend time encouraging and supporting each other with our writing.

It was a good evening.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Help raise funds for LOROS

Not blogged for a while, my diary has been busy.

Something I'd like to broadcast is the above event. Please click on the poster, and if you're around in the Leicester area, then please come and support a very good cause.

You'll hear a selection of excellent stories and monologues on the night, as well as performances of spooky scripts, with humorous twists. It should be a lot of fun.

You can find out more about the good work LOROS does here

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Tisbech Terror

I have some wonderful news to share with you all. One of my best writing buddies, Keith Large, has won a National writing competition.

First prize in the Freelance Market News Short Story Competition is a fantastic achievement, well done Keith! His story "The Tisbech Terror" won their first line competition, beginning with "It was the first time..."

Keith read the story out at a Manuscript Clinic at the Writing School in Leicester in early 2009, some of you reading this will remember it well as it made us laugh. Although I'm not sure the tutor knew what to make of Keith's humorous tale of a Yeti on the rampage.

He was however, given some very encouraging critique, from both tutor and fellow writers.
And as always, Keith took it on board, and made alterations to shorten the story and lose the dialogue. Which was a shock. Those of you who know Keith will also know he uses dialogue to best effect. It was obviously very good advice on this story.

You can read Keith's story in the January edition of Freelance Market News, available on subscription. A good resource for anyone wanting to keep up to date on the latest information about the publishing world, it offers news, views and the latest advice about new publications.

There are usually several pages about publications looking for new writers as well as news of competitions and festivals etc. Articles on writing, book reviews and a competition of course!

It is a great feeling when one of your friends has success with their writing, it gives us a buzz, and I know Keith won't mind me saying this but it reinforces what he often tells us.

"Get it out there"

Congratulations Keith, what a fantastic start to the new year.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Taking notes

My first post of 2010, and yes, I know I've missed posting on the first day of the year. I used most of yesterday relaxing and thinking about what I wanted to write, before I started tapping on the keyboard. A mere 500 words might not seem a lot to some of you, but I'm happy with my output for the first day of 2010.

Later, after I've had some sleep, I intend to get started again. Although, due to a heavy list of "real life" commitments I'll have to write freehand into a note book. Mainly because note books are portable and I'm on the move a lot in the next twenty four hours. It's the best I can do to fit writing around my life, and will be interesting to see if I'm able to produce much between tasks.

Talking of note books, I also keep a small one with me to jot down anything interesting I overhear, or anything I might see that sparks an idea. Sometimes I jot a single word down, if it takes my fancy. I have a section at the back of the book where I list possible titles for chapters in my novel, or for a new short story.

Carrying a small note book is a good habit, because you never know when an idea will pop into your head, and sometimes just as quickly disappear again if you don't jot it down immediately. My memory isn't as good as it used to be, perhaps its age or maybe everyday stress. Whatever. Carrying a note book works for me.

Making Things Happen

Bluebells in the grounds of Chatsworth, Derbyshire - Maria A Smith Nearly two months ago I made this list of goals - See how I've g...