Monday, 31 December 2012

Last Word

Maria A Smith - December 31st 2012
The last twelve months have passed quickly, 2012 has been amazingly busy, especially here in the UK, well that's my excuse anyway. We had it all, the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, London 2012, the rain! Even though they predicted a drought...its been horrendously soggy. In future I shan’t take any notice when I’m told there is a drought on the way. 

On the writing front, when I look back, I'm staggered at what I’ve done! I can assure you I don’t blog about every writing related event or happening in my life either, so its actually a lot more besides what you read on the pages of this blog.

Lets begin with blogging though...

I took part in a month of blogging each and every day during April, known as the A -Z Blog Challenge, it was a crazy month of daily deadlines, it was hard, it was crazy, it was silly, it was fun! I thoroughly enjoyed the process. You should sign up next year...

Afterwards, it so inspired me to give talks to a group of writers, on the subject of starting, and maintaining a blog of their own. I helped three of them to get started. All, are doing very well, and as far as I know they are enjoying the adventure.

I’ve supported fellow writers with critique, on manuscript, memoir, poetry, film and performance, as well as continuing with the second draft of my own novel. I've received a wealth of critique, and opinion myself, from lots of happy talented people, through writing groups, and on Twitter. Thank you!

I've visited lots of blogs, where people seem to exist only to help other writers, the warmth and welcome is fantastic around the blogosphere. People are amazing. 

I've attended writing conferences, pitched my novel to an editor in 3 minutes, took part in several workshops, spent a day at a writers summer school, and enjoyed many catch ups with fellow writing buddies over beer, coffee, or pasta... 

Its been wicked!

Things I liked about 2012

Friends - Meeting Twitter buddies for the first time. 

The ‘Get Writing’ Conference - Scary! In a good sort of way.

Alt Fiction - Friendly and fun.

Long walks with my camera - Creative.

Yoga - Totally relaxing.

Costa Coffee  - Time well spent with friends, catching up on gossip, and life in general.

Spa days - Ragdale Hall.

Cake - Finding delicious yummy treats in new venues.

London 2012 - The Olympics, I never thought I would, but I did enjoy the pomp and ceremony, and the games themselves were very entertaining!

Things I didn’t like

Rain, rain, and more rain - Flooding, and major disruption to holiday plans

Minus 13 degrees on my birthday when I had to travel - Two hundred and fifty miles round trip in freezing fog. No joke!

Bad manners - I won't elaborate.

Poor teaching - 'Fail to prepare, and you prepare to fail' wise words.

Asthma - Having to make lots of changes to my life.

I've enjoyed 2012, its been a happy, productive year. Lots of you have taken the time to read and comment on this blog. I really appreciate your time, it makes a difference. Thank you.

Incase you've been wondering about my absence this last month, I was forced to take things easy due to my health, which is now greatly improved. I am happy to report, normal service will be resumed.

As you can see, I'm standing in the rain again! My last thoughts on 2012... 

'It was an adventure.'

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 2nd December 2012

Cake Glorious Cake - Maria A Smith

Last week there was cake! As you can see I was spoilt for choice, I can't resist a delicious slice of  cake, and I love traditional teatime treats, like Victoria sponge and Coffee cake. I'm a self confessed addict, and I don't care who knows it! Shameless, but going out for cake and tea makes me happy...we all deserve treats from time to time don't we?

There is something very comforting about sitting down to a nice pot of tea, and a sweet treat. Savouring each mouthful as we relax, and forget about what is going on all around. I don't know about you, but I find real life can be quite mad, and really you couldn't make up some of the things that happen!

I'm on the road to recovery, at last, I think I'm making progress, although I've never been quite as tired as this for a long time. I must have been very run down, and coping with everyday stuff has been tricky to say the least. I'm really glad I didn't sign up for NaNoWriMo this year, I just wouldn't have coped with it at all...

Well done to everyone who did, you did it! Its a great feeling, and one not easily explained to those who haven't completed the marathon of words that is NaNoWriMo. My advice is REST! Take time out, leave that manuscript to settle. If only for a few weeks. Do take time out for yourself.

My November plans were somewhat scotched by my health, but I did manage to work well in the early half of the month on my second draft, I've revised many scenes, and now they are broken down into much more manageable chunks I'm happier going forwards. Although my word count has slipped, I'm happy with progress made.

Also, my foray into setting up a 'Subs Club' after my writers group session is up and running. We have had two meetings, the last being yesterday, and members have submitted work to either publications or competitions. Everyone is very positive, and only time will tell how successful the group is with getting their work out there.

So what is next? December has landed. Crept up on me actually. Below is a simple list of things I'd like to do throughout the month.

  • Read - I haven't read very much fiction lately, and I have a huge reading pile I need to make a dent in, otherwise I'm not allowing myself to buy any more books! Yes, really. It has gone beyond ridiculous, the pile of 'real' books is insane, and the Kindle is hiding a lot more besides. It can't just be me, can it? Do other writers have the same issues with HUGE stacks of books waiting to be read?
  • Exercise - I want to get back to walking.
  • Novel - Tidy up more scenes.
  • Make a plan - Before the end of this year, I would like a clear plan of what I want to do in 2013 
  • Rest - I'm off for 8 whole days as of the 25th, until January 2nd 2013, and I want to organise things so that I get plenty of rest! What do you think the chances of that are? I'm determined to try my best to organise things so that I can take a proper break from everyday stuff.

This week will be spent concentrating on recovery. A little walking, some writing of course, and perhaps I'll start to plan a menu or two for the up and coming festivities. What about you, what are you going to do?

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 25th November 2012

The Cultural Quarter Leicester - Maria A Smith
November is drawing to a close...and December is almost upon us. I can't believe there is just one month left of this year. I'm starting to think about the next twelve months already. 

Making plans is good. I don't know about you, but I have lots to think about, I've got lots of ideas for future projects. I'll talk more on this topic next month.

Last week, I took things easier, I edited another scene from the novel, and got some critique on it, just a few more tweaks and I'll be happy with it. 

I did my last stint as the Chair at the Phoenix Writers group on Saturday, its been a busy month, and attendance has been very good. There are some very talented writers in the group, and its been a pleasure to hear their words. 

Saturday was busy, and wet, I took the picture above at 4pm, on my way home out of Leicester. The city was glistening with rain. It steadily got worse as the evening wore on, and many rivers around about burst their banks causing a spate of flooding through the county.

This week, I'm mainly resting, and recovering. I may just do the 200 word challenge set by Phoneix Writers group, and leave it at that!

What are you up to?

Monday, 19 November 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 18th November 2012

A Walk Around Hardwick Hall Parkland  - Maria A Smith

What a week! It started badly, and ended well.

For a while now I've been having allergic reactions to a variety of different food and drinks, things I can normally take without any problems cause me to wheeze, and gasp for breath. I've been quite unwell, as the symptoms have been steadily getting more severe. I'm undergoing tests, and have been advised I've 'probably' got asthma. The Doctor has given me an inhaler, but I'm not convinced, I expect time will tell who is right.

Consequently, my plans to continue with my WIP got put on hold for a few days, while I recovered, and excluded different things from my diet. I'm doing this off my own back, I'm learning what triggers the attacks.

I really didn't think I'd get much done, as its been tough trying to juggle work, family and with feeling under the weather too, its been tough! Amazingly, when I sat and listed everything  last night, I decided to cut myself some slack.

In the last seven days, I have...

  • Re-written a chapter 
  • Prepared for, and chaired a writers group meeting
  • Read a book
  • Ate cake twice!
  • Met up with writing buddies
  • Edited a scene
  • Been for a walk
  • Juggled a full time job
  • Dealt with family stuff
  • Ran the home (not quite so well) 

How have I done these things? I made a deal with myself, I said I'd do stuff  for just five minutes. I decided that I'd try and make some progress, rather than no progress. Five minutes is still action after all, and sometimes I got carried away, and did fifteen, or twenty minutes. 

I need accountability, otherwise I'm aimless, I have to motivate myself. We all do! But I celebrate my small victories too with treats, cake usually, although this week I rewarded myself with some new music, Ellie Goulding's new album Halcyon. Its amazing by the way.

Yesterday, I spent time with my writing buddies after our meeting, it was lovely to catch up with them all, taking time out over a coffee to chat and relax, without having to rush off to work, or meet a deadline. A nice way to end the week.

And so to the week ahead...

I'll be concentrating on my novel. I'm going to continue working in the same way, breaking the novel down into scenes, and working on it that way is working for me. 

Apart from that, I want to get out walking, and I've already made a start today, as you can see from my pictures above. The weather was lovely and sunny all day, and I couldn't resist making a run for the hills in Derbyshire, Hardwick Hall is a National Trust property, and although the house is closed now for the winter months, the gardens and parkland are open.

The trees were amazing today, really beautiful colours, and although it was very muddy in parts, the walk was well worth the effort. 

How will you fill your time this week?

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 11th November 2012

Today I woke late, after a disturbed night spent wheezing, and coughing. I stayed in bed until mid-day listening to the local radio station who were covering the Remembrance Day service in Leicester.

I thought about the lost souls of war. The families left behind, without their loved ones, and it made me feel sad.

 It is right and fitting that we should honour the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice, so that the rest of us may live freely today.

I sincerely hope we never forget.


Last week passed in a flash, and I got quite a bit done on the WIP, especially after I watched a documentary which followed the best selling crime writer, Ian Rankin as he wrote his latest novel. If you missed it you can read, about it here where you'll find a link to the programme on BBC iPlayer, its well worth a view. You will be motivated.

I've split my novel into scenes, I'm re-working each one. Its a more manageable way for me. Mainly because I'm so time poor, and I can focus on one scene more easily, instead of trying to wrestle huge chunks of the story.

In other writing news, I've started  a Competitions and Submissions club, and on Saturday I held the first meeting which was well received. I was pleasantly surprised at the turn out, a very enthusiastic bunch of writers set to and made plans, it'll be interesting to see in a month how they have each got on in their quest to be published. 

The week ahead will be spent working on the WIP and there definitely be cake! What are you going to do for the next week? 

Friday, 9 November 2012

Ian Rankin - Sharing the Fear

Ian Rankin - Image Credit
The other night I felt really fed up, and insecure about my current WIP, questions kept popping up in my mind, was it any good? Why am I writing it? Will I ever finish it?  I HATE THIS BOOK! Tired and weary with the feeling I was wading through thick treacle were stronger than ever, and if I'm honest, I felt like quitting!

 I'd been working on the manuscript for hours, after a tough shift  at the 'day job' and my mind had decided to go into negative mode. I don't usually watch TV, but because I was feeling so low, I sauntered into the lounge and flicked on the screen. Mindless television was looking attractive.

Instead, I found myself at the beginning of a programme called 'Imagine' and if you have time, do take a look, its here on BBC iPlayer until Christmas day. Its especially valid if you're feeling low about your own writing, because this programme follows, Britain's most successful crime writer, Ian Rankin, as he writes his next novel.

It made me realise, that even someone who writes a 'Best Seller' every time, has the same fears, concerns and doubts as you and me. During the programme you'll learn a lot about Ian Rankin and you'll identify with what he says about the writing process.

I'm back on track now. Its still hard, and hateful, and lonely, and yes, I still have fears, and doubts, but now I know I'm not alone, and it makes all the difference.

Let me know what you think?

P.S. Ian's new book, Standing In Another Man's Grave is out now...

Monday, 5 November 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 4th November 2012

Yesterday, I escaped to Calke Abbey in Derbyshire for an hour. It not too far, only a short thirty minute journey in the car. Why? I wanted to see how the seasons have left the park since my last visit in September. 

It was also the last day the house and gardens will open until March next year. I didn't go in, I've been around the house many times. Instead I walked up to the gardens, and looked back over my shoulder at the Abbey, its one of my my favourite spots, and I've taken a picture each time I've visited this year, so I've almost got a set now - one for each season.

Calke Abbey in Autumn 2012 - Maria A Smith
Last week passed in a flash, I haven't felt at all well. As October came to a close I found myself running around like a headless chicken at work trying to get everything done.

At home, I cleared the decks ready to start in earnest on my novel re-write/mega edit. I even managed to get to Staples for new stationary. Coloured index cards, reporters note pads, and a good supply of decent pens.

I set to, printed my manuscript, and wrote each scene onto a card, and clipped it to the corresponding  chapter. This is good for me, I'm not a planner, yet here I was doing something which passed as a plan of sorts.

I took one of the chapters along to my critique group to read out and receive feedback. I wasn't disappointed, I got encouraging comments, as well as sound advice on the errors I'd made. Its good to have other writers opinions. As  I read aloud, I could hear where it jarred, where it wasn't working, and what I needed to fix!

For those of you who like competitions, here are details of two closing soon.

The Word Hut Short Story Writing Competition

Closing November 18th 2012
First Prize £60.00, Second £30.00, Third £15.00
The winning story will be published on the website.
Entry Fee £4.00
Short stories up to 1000 words on any theme, or in any genre. More details here.

Almond Press Short Story Competition

Closing date November 30th 2012
First Prize £100
Entry FREE
Short stories between 3000 and 5000 on the theme of 'Fall' (in all the meanings of the word)
Read the rules here

I'd better get on now. How was your week?

Friday, 2 November 2012


I need a wake-up call today. Already slipping behind with my 'Putting My Writing First' month. Too many people trying to muscle in on my time.

Lets have some music...I'm going to write during my lunch break. Lets go!

Hit it!


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Putting My Writing First

Usually on November 1st, I'd be embarking upon NaNoWriMo, the month long word marathon which, if you haven't heard about, and frankly I'd be very surprised if you haven't, you can catch up with here.

I'm not taking part, but this doesn't mean I won't be grafting, instead it means I'll be 'putting my writing first' during November, and knuckling down to re-drafting the novel I began twelve months ago today.

The story is written. However,  the characters need more flesh on their bones so to speak, they're a bit flaky, and the back story is lacking in places. One character has to go. There will be lots of changes, and this will be my project for the month. I want to add 20,000 words. Tighten everything, and make sure it has clarity.

I'm apprehensive, but also excited, its like a new project all over again. I'll let you know how I get on throughout the month.

This does mean the blog will be different. Thats as much as I know.

Just before I knuckle down to some writing, check out this competition   but hurry! Its closing soon, and with FREE entry and prizes its surely worth a go?

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 28th October 2012

Last week was tough, for lots of reasons, and I have no idea how I've managed to keep sane.

My intentions were good, however, the best laid plans can soon be bulldozed! The walking started well on Sunday, and ended well yesterday with a five mile urban walk, but apart from that I didn't get out through the week as planned.

Work has been very busy, and I've been playing catch up for the last five days. I had dental and doctors appointments, and then someone ran into my car on Wednesday. Its been very stressful trying to sort things out. Consequently, I didn't get very much writing done at all other than a few blog posts, and a piece of flash fiction.

The 'Me' time I promised myself didn't turn out too badly. On Sunday I spent time in the jacuzzi pool at the gym (I do not go in the gym - just so you know) following up with a short session in the steam room. Afterwards, I had a lovely long massage, it was bliss!

Wednesday, I changed my hair colour, its gone darker for the Autumn, and I'll post a new profile picture soon. I always feel so much better after a good cut, and colour, it gives me a boost.

Tuesday I read a magazine for half and hour, it might not sound much to you, but believe me, I don't get much reading time these days.

I had tea and cake on Friday afternoon, and managed to get to my writers group yesterday. So all in all, I managed to achieve time for myself in the midst of a hectic life!

On the downside, I forgot to write what I'd done in my writing journal...And we won't talk about sleep, or the lack of it! I am learning to get used to inhalers for allergic asthma.

All change this week. As the clocks alter and we embrace November, I shall be using the month to 'put my writing first' I'm not going to do NaNoWriMo, this year, but I want to spend everyday on a re-draft of my novel. I have daily targets mapped out, and am in the process of clearing the decks in readiness.

This will have a huge impact on everything else, including blogging, therefore I have decided to blog as and when I can for November, and hope you'll stick with me as I try and achieve my November goal.

Maybe you have something you want to concentrate on for the next month? Or perhaps you are doing NaNoWriMo this year? Do let me know, I love receiving your comments, its good to know we are in this writerly life together.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Flash Fiction - Thought for Thursday

Ever thought about writing Flash Fiction?

Flash fiction, short-short stories, minute tales, or whatever you want to call them, they are all mini chopped down stories. As a writer of such, it means you don't use any words that don't speak the story. Easier said than done.

Much must be revealed in a very short piece of prose so there is no time to set up a scene, or build a character, and don't have too many of them either. Your character should have one compelling need only. Focus is everything when you have so few words to tell the story.

Take us straight to the heart of whats happening, and show us the conflict straight away, don't fret about the reader, they'll adjust and work it out.

Make best use of dialogue. Show, don't tell. Every word needs to justify its place.

With such an economy of words you need to focus on one scene, choose it well. Use shorter choppier sentences, they'll raise the tempo, and keep the story moving forward.

There are lots of competitions calling for flash fiction. Word counts vary, and as a rough guide, up to 100 words is called micro fiction, and 100 to 1000 is known as flash fiction, although I class 1000 words as a short story myself! Here are a few competitions to whet your appetite.

Book Week Scotland 2012 Flash Fiction Competition

Cazart Flash Fiction Competition

Flash 500

If you haven't tried your hand at writing Flash Fiction before, then why not give it a whirl, its quite addictive once you get the hang of it, I love it! And you might too.

Now here's a different type of Flash for you.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Next Big Thing

I've been tagged! Who did it? It was both Elizabeth and Patsy and now I have to answer questions about my current work in progress.

1. What is the working title of your book?


2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

Somewhere deep within my sub conscious, and that is all I know because I'm a total panster, and I had no idea when I began where I was going to go. Why? Because my novel was written as part of NaNoWriMo last year, and I was roped in to take part at very short notice. I think I had just under twenty-four hours before it began.

3. What genre does the book come under?

Supernatural Crime, or Supernatural Crime with elements of Romance. That sounds better. I hate having to choose a genre.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie of your book?

Difficult one, I'm glad I won't have to think about that...I'll leave it to the Casting Director.

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.

6. Will your book be self published or represented by an agency?

I hope it will be represented by an agency.

7. What other books would you compare the story to in your genre?

I haven't come across a similar story.

8. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Thirty days. The novel was written as part of NaNoWriMo last year, and no I won't be taking part this year. There is still much to do on this novel.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I haven't got a clue, it was in my head, but I had no idea it was there until it was unleashed during NaNoWriMo, and I have no idea how it got in there.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

The story is dark, and set in both Victorian and present day Leicester, hopefully it will appeal to the locals, as well as a worldwide audience.  

And now its my turn to tag someone, this is the difficult part, its hard to choose, and I know you're all so busy scribbling away, and some of you have already been tagged, so I'm not going to pick on any one of you. If you would like to take part, drop me a comment, and if you don't, drop me a comment anyway. No pressure.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 21st October 2012

The past week has been tiring, lots of unexpected stuff happened, as does in life, and it threw my good intentions out a little.

Things I did

The walking went well until Wednesday, I got out every other day, then I didn't get another opportunity until Saturday, on the whole though I'm happy with my progress.

Writing wise, I wrote and entered a piece of flash fiction to 'The Times Short Story Competition', edited a  story I want to send to The People's Friend magazine, wrote two of the three blog posts I had planned, attended my writers group, and judged a flash fiction competition. I didn't have time or energy to write the novel outline.

I had cake twice! Coffee and Walnut on Wednesday, and Chocolate Truffle cake on Friday. I call that an excellent result!

A complete fail on the sleep front though...

Things I did better over the last seven days

I spent less time on Twitter

I remembered to write what I've done in my writing journal

Things I want to do this week

Continue with my walking, I can't add anymore time, so perhaps I can quicken my pace.

Take some 'Me Time' at least an hour a day, for the next seven days. This is a tall order, but I'm going to try. Walking doesn't count, I see that as keeping fit and well!

On the writing front, I really need to get started on the revised outline. As well as doing some research, and doing my piece for the writers group meeting. Oh, and I'm setting up a 'Subs Club' at the writers group, (specifically for members who want to submit work for publication, or competition) once a month, beginning in November, so I need to do some groundwork for that too!

Sleep. Maybe I can combine this with 'Me' time. You would think all the walking and writing late at night would tire me, wouldn't you?

Things that might get in the way

Procrastination, it creeps up on me and sets in if I don't watch it, so I'll have to keep moving forward with the list, and putting a cross through what I've done. That usually weakens it!

Work! The day job keeps spilling over into my time. Not good, I shall have to be very strict there, and start taking control. Saying 'No' to stuff would be a good start.

What have you been successful at this week? What makes you feel happy that you got it done, and what does the week ahead hold? Do let me know...

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Writing Competitions

Maria A Smith

A few competitions I'd like to share with you over breakfast. I'm treating myself to a bacon sandwich this morning, washed down with a brew of tea. Yum!

Ink Tears are looking for short stories between 1000 and 3000 words on any theme, so lots of scope, and all the details are here. The closing date is 30 November 2012, giving you plenty of time to get one sorted out.

The Write Place are looking for entries to their short story competition, in support of the participants of an extreme fund raising event, 'Arctic Survival Challenge' in Sweden next year. Monies raised will be given to EllenorLions Hospices and the Children's and Young People's Service (ChYps) who are very much in need of funds.

You do have to write to the theme of 'Survival' and in no more than 1500 words. Again the closing date for this one is also 30 November 2012 allowing plenty of time to write and submit your story. Details here.

Two to think about for all of you writerly ( I just made that word up) types out there on this bright, blustery Tuesday morning. Have a good day.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 14th October 2012

Image Credit

I'm a bit late posting my list because my feet haven't touched the ground much this last week.

Things I liked about the last seven days

I managed to get out and do  my walking. How? I made the time. Mostly immediately after my evening meal, sometimes later. Once again, it proves, if you really want to do something you will!

I did more writing than I expected. I know this, because I have kept a journal over the las seven days. I've entered everything I've done that is related to writing. It has stacked up, everything from editing a short story for a competition, reading other writers manuscripts, writing three blog posts, chatting with other writers about writing relevant topics, everything from e-publishing to running workshops, and more!

Eating out. Lovely Italian food.

New clothes!

Watching my daughter graduate and pick up her certificate from the National Citizen Service. Teenagers deserve more credit than they are given.

Things I didn't like about the last seven days

Not managing to get out and take some pictures with my camera. I was simply too short of daylight hours. When I had time, the weather was against me.

Cake wasn't on the menu very much, and this was a hugely disappointing state of affairs.

Time spent on Twitter. I kept a record, and added it all up, I'm shocked at how all those minutes add up into hours I could of spent them being more productive elsewhere.

And now I want to tell you about the week ahead. 

There will be cake! There will be writing, there will be lots of walking, and there will be fun! I also hope there will be sleep...the tea hasn't been as successful as I hoped, but I don't give up easily.

I'm going to enter The Times Ghost Story Competition  which will test my metal, as its a story in only 50 words! Why not join me?

I'll be judging a flash fiction competition for a writers group.

I have a story ready to send out, so I need to find a suitable place to submit it to, that matches the word count etc

I need to write a new up to date outline of my novel chapters, so I can see where I'm up to, and where I'm going with it.

What are your plans?

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Don't Edit As You Write - Thought for Thursday

Image Credit
Don't edit as you go. This is something you hear a lot in writing circles, but do you follow this advice? I'll hold my hand up and tell you its something I've found very difficult to master.

I'm much better these days, but its taken years to get here, and sometimes I slip back into the habit of tweaking things here and there as I write.

I'm good with flash fiction, most pieces I write call for no more than 200 words, so I'll set my timer and just keep writing until I get to the end of the story, or the alarm sounds. I've usually overwritten by 150 words, so I'll take a hatchet to my work, and par the story down to the required length. This takes two, maybe three edits until I am satisfied.

Longer works prove more tricky, I have to summon up the willpower not to start fiddling. Re-reading, changing a sentence here and there. Realising I need to add another two sentences to get things to make sense now, because I've changed something crucial. So I add a clue, remove a character, change tense, delete dialogue and before you know it I'm screaming and pulling my hair out, three hours have passed and I've only written fifty words!  Sound familiar?

If you are constantly worrying about spelling, syntax or tense, then you're interrupting the flow.  Stop it, and worry about revisions in the editing stage later. Just get the story out on the page.

What do you think? Can you resist the urge? Or do you get along fine editing as you go?

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Finding Neverland

Curve Theatre Leicester - Maria A Smith

Last week I went to see Finding Neverland at the Curve Theatre in Leicester. It was a wonderful performance, entertaining young and old alike. The Curve is a fantastic venue, and I feel quite proud that Harvey Weinstein decided to bring the £7 million musical to Leicester.

The show is based on the hit film by the same name, and follows the story of playwright James Barrie, and his relationship with the family that inspired him to write Peter Pan. Sylvia is an Edwardian widow with four young sons, whom James meets in Kensington Gardens not long after the failure of his new play The Wedding Guest. 

A longing develops between James and Sylvia, which is frowned upon by society, and there are many sad, as well as funny heart warming moments which stay with you long after the performance has finished.

Finding Neverland is quality stuff with a strong cast, performances from Julian Ovendene who plays James Barrie, and Oliver Boot who plays Hook were particularly good I thought. As were those from the children.

There is talk that the show will move to the West End, and then onto Broadway. I do hope that happens   and more people can enjoy the magic of Finding Neverland.


Sunday, 7 October 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 7th October 2012

Another busy week has passed, and I've struggled to get any quality sleep again. I've tried not to worry about getting by on only a few hours. Instead I've brought some delicious tea to soothe my busy mind. It tastes rather lovely, and is almost refreshing, I'm not sure if it will help, but I shall try it each evening this week in the hope it make a difference.

Maria A Smith
This is what I did over the last seven days.

Writing - 

Submissions - Sent a short story out for consideration

Met up with a writing buddy for lunch.

Blog - Wrote three posts.

Wrote a very short monologue.

Went along to the writers group and offered critique on prose.

Relaxation - 

Walking - I managed to get out a couple of times.

Music - Listened to Mozart

Something to entertain me - I went to the theatre to see Finding Neverland!

New Recipe - Made a speedy chicken dish

Boring but necessary - 

Household paperwork - I cleared a huge tray of stuff.

The next seven days will mainly be about getting organised to increase my writing output, blogging, and getting out to do more walking. If time permits, I'm going to take some pictures too.

How did you get on last week, and  what do you plan to do this week?

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Writing Competitions - Thought for Thursday

Thursday again. Work has been hectic, I'm not sleeping well, and as usual, I'm behind with everything! Never mind, I'm upbeat and happy, and there is still enough of the week left for me to get on with my 'to do' list.

While I remember, have you got a good personal story to tell? The story of your life could win you a small fortune. A £10,000 advance, and a publishing deal is up for grabs in a writing competition run by Woman & Home Magazine. The closing date is 31 October so get your skates on, and have a go. All the details are here.

Another competition I spotted yesterday made me smile. Take a look here, I'm sure the theme of 'Bingo' will inspire some funny stories.

Right, I'm off to check out the new cookery book I brought yesterday. 'Jamie's 15 Minute Meals', in the hope I can actually make them in 15 minutes! Jamie Oliver has challenged the nation to cook one of the recipes from his new book, send him a video of you or a friend, making it, and if he likes it enough, he'll wine and dine you and a guest at one of his Italian restaurants as a prize. Wow! All the information is here.

Time for a brew now.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Downton Abbey

I don't watch very much TV, but one programme that keeps me coming back every week is Downton Abbey. First aired back in September 2010, the drama has become hugely popular. It is reported that 10 million of us tuned in to watch the third episode of series 3 on Sunday evening.

We simply can't can't get enough of it. The period drama has won many awards and accolades, and has been shown all over the world. Set in the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey we follow the lives, and antics of the Crawley family.

I think its wonderful and heartwarming to see that people still appreciate good stories and interesting characters, and now there is talk of a prequel to the show.

The writer, and co-creater Julian Fellowes has revealed he is working on a prequel telling the story of the courtship of Lord and Lady Grantham. I can't wait!

What do you think? Do you enjoy period drama? Or are you riveted to something else on the TV?

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Goal List Week Commencing September 30th

Image Credit

October is a day away. I have no idea where September went, I just know it disappeared. After much deliberation, I am having to make some harsh decisions about my writing. I can't do everything. Therefore I must choose carefully what I spend time on, and when I do it.

More about that in another post, lets see how the last seven days went...

Writing - 

Send the short story out - I am stalled, I did a final edit, but need to run over it again as I am not quite happy with it.
Write two blog posts - I wrote four altogether.
Do some work on my novel draft - Yes, but not on the novel I was working on this month. Instead I dragged my first novel out, and reworked the prologue.
Flash fiction - 100 words for Saturday- Yes, done. Not as well received as I had hoped though, so I will look at it again.
Phoenix Writers Saturday session - A fun session, very busy, lots of prose to get through, and lots of lovely talented writers. Critique was fast and fierce but always constructive and fair.

Additionally, I've purchased Scrivener, an amazing piece of software for writers, and I hope to learn how to use it over the next few weeks. I'll be asking you all for tips, and tricks.

I've also researched a magazine I am targeting to write an article for in the near future. Yes, really. Article writing appeals to me, and its something I'd like to explore further.

Relaxation - 

A massage, because its long overdue - Oh yes, see here to read all about my lovely midweek break. Its a distant memory now, but I very much enjoyed it!
An evening out - I went to the pictures, and saw The Dark Knight Rises, I've been looking forward to going to see this movie for a long time. It didn't disappoint me. Very dark, and Gothic in a strange sort of way.
Discover a new recipe - Nope! Didn't get time this week. Although I noticed Jamie Oliver has another new book out this week. I'll be checking it out soon.
Tea and cake. Yum! - A very good week on the cake front. Coffee & Walnut, a cherry scone, and a Bakewell slice. Not all at the same time.

Boring but necessary - 

De-junking - Take a carload of stuff to the charity shop - I didn't get around to this one. I simply ran out of time.

Really pleased with the balance this last week, it seemed to work out much better.

The plan for the week ahead looks like this

Writing - 

Submissions - I will be sending something out this week.

Blog Posts - Planning and writing three posts.

Monologue - My homework from the writers group, and its going to be entertaining, the brief being, I have to write from the POV of an object that I share my early mornings with...something to do with breakfast. I will have to have a think about this one. Usually, I write very much on the hoof, however I can't see me pulling this one off if I leave it last minute.

Relaxation - 

Walking - I have planned two sessions as a minimum.

Music - Something new. No idea what, but I am going to do it.

Something to entertain me - Working on this one.

New recipe - Good Food Magazine arrived a few days ago, I'll pick something to whip up for tea.

Boring but necessary - 

That'll be the de-junking I skipped last week.

Household paperwork - Ugh!

That is the list for the week ahead. What are your plans?

Friday, 28 September 2012

Competition News

A quick post to let you know about a competition doing the rounds, and also an opportunity to write fiction  for the Women's Magazine market.

First off a very topical genre, a competition suited to anyone that thinks they can write steamy sex scenes. The Daily Mail is running an Erotic short story competition. See here where you'll find lots of tips to help you pen a spicy story.

And in complete contrast, (seriously) 'The People's Friend' magazine is having a revamp, and they have  changed their short story submission guidelines. Do have a look here and see if you might be able to write either a short story, or even a serial for them. They are one of the few women's magazines accepting short stories from new contributors.

That's it folks, until Sunday when I'll share more of my week in writing, and what I've been up to out in the real world. Have a good weekend, and if you have any news of competitions to share, do let me know by leaving a comment - I love hearing from you all.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Don't Pick Dull Titles - Thought For Thursday

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How do you come up with a title for your short story, or your novel? Do they come to you easily?

Sometimes it can be difficult to choose a really good title. Like puzzles they should provide clues or hints to what lies ahead.

I usually keep things simple, for flash fiction and short stories, a single word, or two at most. It isn't often I'll go for anything lengthy, and I definitely don't feel comfortable using whole sentences.

I'll try for something relevant to the storyline, a keyword is often enough to spark an idea.

When writing a longer WIP, I'm a bit quirky, I need a working title to begin. Doesn't matter if its not exactly right but I must have one in place. Something meaningful to the theme of the story, which will create a tone, the title needs to communicate something to the reader.

How do you select yours?

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Time Out Tuesday

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I am having a delightful time, full of treats and self indulgence, total me time. How you may ask, have I managed that in my mad world? Well, I’m at Ragdale Hall, away from the stresses and strains of everyday life. I only arrived at 2pm this afternoon, its barely teatime, and already I feel totally chilled out.

The wonderful people of Ragdale greeted me with a warm welcome on a blustery wet afternoon, and while I sipped Earl Grey, my overnight bag was despatched to the most gorgeously decorated room - purple and lilac, my two favorite colours. And so I was off to a very good start on my Overnight Reviver break.

After a quick visit to the jacuzzi I had the most amazingly relaxing body massage. I asked the therapist if she could give me a scalp massage too, as I’ve had an irritating tension headache for the last few days. ‘No trouble at all,’ she replied, ‘I’ll do your pressure points for you too.’ And she did! Wow...truly the best massage I’ve had in years.

I felt so good afterwards, and still do! Not only did my head feel better, but Bev, my therapist managed to undo some of the stresses in my lower back. I am pain free.

Afterwards, there had to be cake. To celebrate a lovely self indulgent afternoon. 

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 23rd September 2012

The Way I See It - Maria A Smith

Autumn is here, and its time for me to make changes to how I spend my time. As the evenings get darker, much earlier, its likely I'll not do as much walking after my evening meal. Therefore I'll be looking for ways to pull some walking into my day.

I want to settle to writing earlier in the evenings too, allowing me to get to bed at a reasonable hour. I think I will function better if I get a decent nights sleep.

For these plans to work, I must get organised. As part of that organisation, I've decided to make a few changes to when I post on my blog, as well as what I post. Its also time for a change. Therefore, from now until further notice, I intend to post to the blog as follows.

Sunday - Goal List - To keep myself on track.

Tuesday - Catch Up Post - I'll be putting the kettle on, and over a brew, I'll converse about whatever is topical in my world, as well as a little progress on whats been happening, or not as the case may be.

Thursday - Thought for Thursday - Mainly about writing.

And that is how I'll proceed until December, when I'll review how things are going.

Now a recap on the goals I set myself last week.

Writing - I have edited and honed the new short story. I haven't sent it out yet.

Reading - Whatever I fancied I said, so it was mainly magazines, and newspapers, and blogs. It felt good to chill out and read. I even managed a few short stories too.

Cake - I have said cake is therapy, and it is...I had a a lovely cream tea, and then a walk through ancient woodland with my camera.

De - Clutter - More de-junking has been done from around the house. I even managed to throw some stuff out of my wardrobe.

The week ahead.

Writing - 

Send the short story out
Write two blog posts
Do some work on my novel draft
Flash fiction - 100 words for Saturday
Phoenix Writers Saturday session

Relaxation - 

A massage, because its long overdue
An evening out
Discover a new recipe
Tea and cake. Yum!

Boring but necessary - 

De-junking - Take a carload of stuff to the charity shop

That is how my week looks, what about yours? 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Find Your Autumn Motivation - Thought for Thursday

Here in the UK, it will officially be Autumn on Saturday - my favourite season of the year. There is a distinct nip in the air already, temperatures have dropped, and evenings are much cooler.

Very soon the foliage on the trees will turn shades of yellow, orange and red, before fading to brown. Leaves will flutter to the ground, creating a rich woodland carpet with that deliciously distinct scent of pine and damp earth.

Autumn at Calke Park - Maria A Smith

Thoughts turn to spending cosy evenings in, and outdoor activities will be put on hold until Spring.  The lure of a roaring fire in the log burner, and a steaming mug of hot chocolate is already conjured up in my writers mind.

As we hibernate in our homes, how will you look at your work with renewed energy and interest?

I've learnt over time that its very hard to constantly find ways of staying motivated. We must refuel regularly and not let the tank run dry.

I'm assuming you already have the desire to achieve your chosen goal, write more short stories, get on with the novel, enter competitions, or maybe pitch some articles, whatever, but maybe you're a little like me, you can't take the right actions for a consistent enough time, and therefore you aren't completing your goals? So before you do anything perhaps what you need to do is recharge.

If you've found your motivation has faded, its probably your bodies way of telling you to take it easy. Have a break from writing. Stop pushing yourself so hard, and get a good nights sleep, or better still get two or three.

Book a day away. Go for a picnic in the park, a long walk, and enjoy the changing season, or enrol on a workshop for the day, do something totally different. Learn to knit, make chocolates, bake a cake, or paint with watercolours. Whatever, you chose, make a day out of it.

Afterwards, come back to your desk, sit down, and write your goal down. Next, write down the reason why you want to Then make sure you connect with your reasons often. Look at the reason daily and commit it to mind.

How will you find your motivation to go into Autumn?

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 16th September 2012

Making the Transition  by Maria A Smith

Why did I even bother making a list? Looking back over the last week it has become clear to me that I am veering further and further off track.

The plan I had has gone off course, and I feel jaded. And annoyed with myself.

This time last week I said I'd do a lot of stuff, lets recap...

Writing - I said I was going to carry on with my WIP. I didn't. This has got to me more than anything else.

I did write a new short story, and a couple of blog posts. I do enjoy the blog, especially when I get comments from you dear readers. Thank you.

Reading - Writing Magazine did turn up, and I started to read it.

Cake - I said I needed my fix! I got it...

Walking - I did very little walking, only a couple of very short walks, but I did go to yoga.


I said I'd submit a piece of work. I didn't, because its the new short story I've written, and it needs a final edit.

I'm finding it hard to get back into regular writing. As we move into Autumn I like to prepare. Get ready for the months ahead. For some reason this year its much harder, and I don't know why.

Maybe, because we haven't had a decent summer I feel its not time to move towards dark evenings.

Anyway, I will try and get back on track this week. I hope to do the following...

Writing - Edit the new short story and get it sent off.

Reading - Whatever I fancy.

Cake - Its therapy.

De - Clutter - Its time to continue with this necessary task. There is still a lot of junk to shift to the charity shops.

I'll be busy. How does your week look?

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Happy Saturday - The Searchers - Sweets For My Sweet (1966)

Hands up who can remember  'The Searchers' then? Formed in 1959, this beat band were around at the same time as the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and the Merseybeats. It is said that they took their name from the film The Searchers, a western starring John Wayne.

Here's a bonus track for you, Don't Throw Your Love Away, one of my personal favourites from this group. Released in 1964 it went straight to No.1 in the UK and Ireland single charts.

Enjoy the music - Happy Saturday!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Are You A Happy Writer? - Thought for Thursday

Maria A Smith
Have you got a happy writing habit?

I've overheard many writers talk about what they think they need to make them happy. A lot believe they won't be happy until they find an agent, and then when they do, they won't be happy until they get a publisher.

If and when they get a publisher, they realise they are under pressure to not only write frantically to produce another book, but they must promote it themselves. Join Twitter, Facebook, keep a blog, do book launches, set up a web site etc.

That's all fine if its what you want?

Alternatively, I have writing buddies who will always write regardless of if they are ever published. For some it is simply fun, for others its therapy. And then there are the totally crazy writers I know. But then that is another post topic entirely.

Its important to find a writing habit that suits your goals and style, whatever is motivating you to write.

Here are a few essentials.

1. You have to write - Just do it! Its as simple as that, but then its not is it? Stop procrastinating.

2. Discipline - You have to focus, make a plan, and finish! We all need structure. Whoever has the answer to this one, please post a comment and share your formula.

3.Support - Don't isolate yourself, you need the support of the writing community. Join a group, get a blog, tweet, whatever, but make that BIG scary step. Share your thoughts, and your writing. Get helpful positive feedback that you can use to move forward and complete your project.

We are creative, we need help with our ideas, and our dreams, so make writing a happy habit!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 9th September 2012

I've been way from home since Wednesday last week, and its funny how the change has knocked me out of sync so to speak. I didn't make big plans last week. Its a quick list to review.

Late Summer Poppies - Maria A Smith

Writing I said I was taking a break. I did. Apart from some ideas scribbled in my notebook, I can't claim to have written much beyond a very short post for the blog yesterday.

ReadingI didn't begin the novel. I did catch up on magazines.

Walking - I did loads! Worked very hard and got out and about everyday. A tally of twenty two miles for the week. Mainly because I was away from home.

Getting away gave me time to think about things. I want to try and crack on with the WIP again, its taking me forever to get through draft 2, and its frustrating that I can't get it done.

The week ahead looks like this.

Writing - Carry on with WIP.

Reading - Hopefully Writing Magazine will have turned up, I know they have had some issues with the printers.

Cake - I need my fix!

Walking - After cake, there will have to be exercise, so seeing as I made a good start this last week, I will try my best to continue.


Submit a piece of work - That old chestnut - I am so very lazy about getting my work out there. I am going to force myself to send something out, somewhere. Maybe some flash fiction, or an article, or filler.

I'm interested in what you all think about submitting work. Do you do it? Do you like the idea, but like me, you're, well...lazy? Or do you have a formula, a plan that works to ensure you are submitting work on a regular basis? Do share, and let me know what your plan is for the week ahead too. I love hearing from you.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Happy Saturday - Walking On Broken Glass - Annie Lennox

Walking on Broken Glass was released in 1992 by the Scottish singer-songwriter Annie Lennox, and the music video is based on the film 'Dangerous Liaisons'. The lyrics describe a woman who is anguished over a break up.

The song appeared on her first solo album, 'Diva' in 1992, and went straight to number 1 in the UK album charts, as well as going on to win many awards. A huge success it has since sold 1.2 million copies worldwide.

Happy Saturday!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 2nd September 2012

Maria A Smith

Last week was tough going.

I was pleased to see it out - I didn't achieve all my goals. However, I was well chuffed with what I did do.

Writing I managed the flash fiction for my group meeting, and did have a think about where to be heading for the rest of 2012, although I've not fully decided what I want to do next.

Reading -  I flicked through Writers Forum, but didn't get to start the new book! In Too Deep by Portia Da Costa 

De-cluttering Really pleased to report I've cleared a lot of rubbish out of the way! Amazed with myself, as its been a HUGE bug-bear for a long time.

Lots of household paperwork has been dealt with now, as well as a major re-cycling programme. The bins are full!

The week ahead.

Writing - Very little. I'm taking a break this week.

Reading - Begin the novel, In Too Deep, and catch up on magazines

Walking - Time to get back into some regular exercise, the benefits of walking are ten-fold. Not only does it strengthen your heart and lungs, it also boosts your immune system as well as aiding sleep, improving mood and helping with weight loss.

I always feel so much better when I'm walking for short bursts everyday. So this week I'll be trying to get out as often as I can for at least 30 minutes a day.

What are you up to? Do you fit exercise into your daily life?

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Happy Saturday - Berlin - Take my breath away (Top Gun soundtrack)

A great song. And Top Gun was a fabulous movie too. Listening to the song has made me want to watch it all over again. Was it really 1986? My, how time flies...

Happy Saturday - Enjoy!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 26th August 2012

A Ridiculously Long List - Maria A Smith
I set myself quite a few goals last week, some have turned out to be far more involved than I expected, which made it a tough week getting everything done. However, I broke the back of most of it...

Photography - Spent a lovely afternoon wandering around with my camera, got some lovely shots, you can see them here.  

WritingManaged more on the novel, and got a good critique from a writing buddy. 

Flash challenge piece - 150 words: 'Jack raised his rifle, and pointed it towards the cigarette glow. 

Yes! Did it late Friday evening, took it to the writers group on Saturday morning where it was read anonymously with nine other pieces.

Its a good exercise hearing your work read out by others, although I would have preferred to have seen all the pieces on the page too. Especially flash fiction because its so short. We didn't have time to do this as we had a lot of manuscripts to critique this week. Lots of good stuff!

Second part of 'Getting Started With A Blog' - I worked hard on writing part 2 of my mini workshop, and presented it at the end of our writers group meeting. I had fun doing it, and I'm hoping I've inspired some of the group to set up their own blog. I enjoy helping other writers.

Apart from that, I did a couple of blog posts, brainstormed more topics for September on the blog, as well as thought about where I want to go next. More about that soon.

I also picked up the latest copy of Writers Forum yesterday. 

De-clutteringI can confirm I've cleared a lot of the neglected paperwork, things are looking much better, and although I still have masses to file away, I've ticked lots of overdue tasks off my list. It feels good.

More charity bags have been filled, and I'll be making a trip to deliver these to local shops very soon.

The week ahead.

Writing - I'm going to take it easy this week. Apart from a couple of blog posts, and some flash fiction for my next group meeting, I want to have a good think about where I'm going, and what I want to do next.

Reading -  Writers Forum, and I have a new book! In Too Deep by Portia Da Costa I like a bit of erotic romance now and again, and I'm well overdue a good read, and its a real book! As a Kindle owner, its not often I read paper pages anymore. That sounds quite shocking, but its true. I still love real books though.

De-cluttering - I need to continue in earnest with this task.

What plans have you made for the next week?  

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Happy Saturday - Madonna

Madonna, singer, songwriter, dancer, actress, author, entrepreneur! What a woman, often controversial in her views. Whatever you think of her, she is a superstar. Born on August 16, 1958, she has to date sold more than 300 million records worldwide.

Take a look back with me now at the sheer diversity, and creativity of this woman. Most of all enjoy her music on this Bank holiday Saturday.

P.S. The following is a photographic diary of the many changing faces of Madonna.

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...