Sunday, 26 May 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 26th May 2013

What a week!

Where I've been - Not far. Work, home, and latterly my bed! I went down with a particularly nasty virus on Tuesday morning, staggered through the working week, and spent most of yesterday resting, and recovering in bed, which is totally unheard of for me.

What I've seen - Watched a DVD called Source Code, a science fiction cyberpunk movie, which I enjoyed a lot, and it was my second viewing, as I saw it last year too!

What I bought - Writers' Forum magazine, which has a good article on submitting ideas to magazines, as well as lots of other useful advice for writers.

My goals for last week got a bit skewed, as you'll see below.

Writing - I got little editing done, the printer went to war with me, and it took me three days to sort out the problem, then illness put paid to any further work on my novel.

Reading - I've read no fiction, like I wanted to, other than the first few chapters of a fellow writers novel.

Music -  I haven't had any recommendations, and I didn't get around to checking anything out.

De-Junk - Great effort here, sorted several bags and boxes out and cleared some space. It felt quite liberating.

Friends - I said I'd catch up with people I haven't spent much time with of late, and I did see two friends one night last week, we enjoyed a meal and caught up with each others news.

This week, my goals are simple.

Writing - There are just six days left of the 15K in May challenge, I shall try and do some more on my novel.

Rest & Recovery - I'm going to take it easy.

What plans have you got for this week? Are you working on any projects with a deadline?

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Day 22 in the 15K in May House

It's Hopeless! - Maria A Smith

The slogan on the back of my mug is apt. I'm unwell, have had a horrid sore throat, a runny nose, and the headache from hell since Monday evening. I've been incredibly lucky, I've managed to avoid all the nasty viruses around for a long time, so I guess its my turn.

Word count in the last week has been almost non existent, instead I've been hacking my WIP to pieces, and have resigned myself to the fact that I probably won't write 15k, although I have chopped a staggering amount of words from  the story.  

I can't think straight, apologies for such a bland midweek post. I'm off to bed now.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 19th May 2013

Bluebells at Calke Park - Maria A Smith
Today I've been out and about in the glorious sunshine. After a lazy morning, doing nothing much at all, I took off with my camera for Calke Park in Derbyshire to walk in the ancient woodland there. Calke's 600 acres are a designated National Nature Reserve, mainly because of its varied landscape and rich wildlife. A great place to walk,  I've blogged about it before, its one of my favourite places. I can always find something new, or different on each visit, and today was no exception. The bluebells are out! They look wonderful, set against the backdrop of the woodland. I couldn't believe how green and lush the landscape looks.

Heron at Calke Park - Maria A Smith
 The shot of the heron above was a pleasant surprise, even though he was some distance away across the water. I've tried to capture him with my camera before, without success, so I was pleased to see him today.

Deer at Calke Park - Maria A Smith
This fellow fancied a snack, and wasn't shy about getting what he wanted either. Again, I was quite a distance away, so very pleased to get the shot. It was a case of right place, right time.

Ancient Tree - Calke Park - Maria A Smith
I enjoyed my afternoon, it took me away from everything, and gave me time to regroup my thoughts on the last weeks progress, as well as goals for the week ahead.

This last week I've tried to reach my goals, and here is a round-up of how I got on.

Writing - I've continued with the 15K in May challenge, its been tough going, and still is, but I'm making progress. Many thanks to those of you who came to my rescue mid week, when I really wanted to chuck it in and run away.

I also wrote a a blog post, and did some flash fiction. Researched an idea for an article, and checked out some writing competitions. Caught up with a few writing buddies briefly, and read a few pages of the latest Writers Forum magazine.

Walking - I wanted to do twenty minutes at least three times in the last week, and I've exceeded my target, blending urban walks into my week as well as somehow managing a country walk across fields midweek. It feels good to be walking regularly.

De-Junk - A fail I'm afraid - I ran out of time.

 Laughter - There was indeed some laughter, but there is room for improvement.

The week ahead...

Writing - More editing for my 15K in May challenge.

Reading - I'm missing my fiction fix, its time to spend some quality time with my nose stuck in a book.

Music - Any recommendations? I want to hear something new this week.

De-Junk - That old chestnut again. I must try to fill a bag, or a box this week.

Friends - I'm going to catch up with people I haven't spent much time with of late.

I hope you all had a good week too, and made good progress with your goals. Do let me know, I love hearing about your week.

Make it a good one!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Day 15 in the 15K in May House

Oh dear! Its all going horribly wrong - or is it? If you look at the stats for my word count, then yes, it looks miserable, because by this point I should have written at least 7,500 words by now. Instead, I find myself in a strange place I'm not familiar with, and if I'm honest, its not a nice place. Anyone who has edited a novel will understand what I mean only too well!

I've re-read my novel, and as a writing friend describes it, I've started 'serious' editing, cutting anything not needed, pruning back the dead wood. Mostly everything that doesn't move the story forward in some way has to go, and now the plot has lots of bigger holes. Argh! I've made a list of what I need to fill later.

I've overwritten, here, there and everywhere, and I know sooner or later I'm going to have to make some huge decisions on cutting scenes, and possibly a character too. I have a fear of making BIG cuts, I need to get over it!

I'm tired, make that VERY tired, and I'm not sure if its the hectic life I lead, or all the reading and thinking, and decision making associated with editing. My concentration wanes considerably after a few hours, so I've recently had to switch to working in bite sized chunks. Am I enjoying it? No - an easy answer, I'm hoping things will change, and SOON.

I've been offered lots of writerly advice, thank you, keep it coming. I'm finding it very useful, and I have a list of things I need to 'fix' when I do begin to write words again, but right now, I'll continue hacking, and dropping the offcuts into my new 'Dead Darlings' file.

I have created an emotional outline, this is helping me keep track of the structure, I've asked myself what each character wants, and I'm tracking their progress throughout the story. Hopefully, its all going to link up soon.

Having others along for the ride helps, there are a few of us doing this challenge, we communicate through twitter using the hashtag #15kinmay and we have a daily email doing the rounds too. We're not all editing, some are blogging, writing first drafts, or working on unfinished short stories. Each has a target in mind, and slowly, we're making progress. My word count may be a bit pants, but I know I wouldn't be this far along if I hadn't taken up the challenge.

Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday - ZERO
Thursday  - 366
Friday - ZERO
Saturday - ZERO
Sunday - ZERO
Monday - ZERO
Tuesday - 298

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Goal List Week Commencing May 12th 2013

Breakfast - Maria A Smith

I've just returned from a weekend away, at Leeds Castle in Kent, I started today with tea, toast and sunshine! It was relaxing, and getting away for a few days gave me a chance to step back from my normal routine, rest and recharge.

Last week, I said I'd do the following,

Writing - I'll be concentrating solely of 15K in May

Relaxation - Lots this week, I intend to concentrate on sleep, walking, photography, family and friends.

I managed to achieve all my goals, in yet another hectic week, I did it. Perhaps not as much writing as I'd of liked but everything else

In the last 7 days, I have...

  • Been very tired, but managed to get some early nights
  • Caught up with good friends over a relaxed meal
  • Enjoyed listening to an audio tour around a castle
  • Been for a walk in the rain
  • Spent time with my camera

My goals for this week are simple. 

Writing - Continue with 15K in May challenge. I've been reconnecting over the weekend, and hoping to get a fair bit done this week.

Walking - Twenty minutes at least three times this week, somehow.

De-Junk - I seem to have taken a few steps back with this task, the house is filling up with junk again. This week I'll make a start on putting some of it in a charity bag.

 Laughter - Its good to laugh! And what is wrong with being happy anyway?

What are you going to do this week?

Leeds Castle, Kent - Maria A Smith

Friday, 10 May 2013

Reflecting On The A to Z Challenge 2013

April was hectic, a month spent blogging every day, except Sunday, mostly on the topic of writing. It was fun, it was tiring, it was a wonderful opportunity to push myself to see if I could do it again.
My second A to Z challenge. What have I learnt this year?

  • I like writing non-fiction. I want to pursue it further.
  • I'm capable of meeting deadlines, I can do routine.
  • I can follow a brief
  • I really should have written a few posts ahead of the game, writing daily doesn't suit me, even though I thought it did.
  • Contrary to my best intentions, I still couldn't visit many blogs
  • The A - Z bloggers are awesome, I have made many more writing friends


When I visited other peoples blogs, I noticed quite a few weren't following the rules, I suspect some were not visiting many or any blogs, and certainly not starting with the blog below their own. The truth is, it is very difficult to do everything. Perhaps we need another month afterwards to read and comment on the posts. I am still visiting blogs whenever I can. 

Some blogs were difficult to read, black backgrounds with white text didn't work for me, I struggled to read them. It was also very hard to comment on some platforms, some Wordpress bloggers struggled to post here as well. Word varification on blogger was a nightmare. Much worse than last year. 


I checked my stats, and I got many more visitors than usual, although numbers dwindled as the month wore on towards the end. I've followed several new blogs myself, and I have gained some new followers too. Overall the A - Z challenge has been as good as I remembered it to be last year.

I had fun, and isn't that what it was all about?

All that remains, is for me to thank the organisers, and all the people working tirelessly behind the scenes to make the challenge as successful as it is, and I'll be doing it again next year. If you haven't done it before, put a note in your diary for next year. Sign up and give it a go!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Day 8 in the 15K in May House

Way Out - Maria A Smith

As many of you already know, I started this challenge a week ago, the idea is simple, write 15K in May. I'm doing it because  I want to move my WIP along. My novel, 'Broken Child' was written in November 2011, it was a messy first draft. I've since worked on it at a snails pace. The second draft has proved elusive. Out of control, I am struggling to reign it in and fix the plot holes.

I imagine I have the same problems many writers have had before me, but I can't seem to get a grip of them, so the only way, is to write something everyday, and read, and rejig what I've already written. I know some writers revel in the editing process, it appears I'm not one of them. Strange because I really thought I would enjoy it.

My progress so far has been up and down, and I could list the reasons, instead I'll just say, working long hours, tiredness, and perhaps some procrastination.

Here are my daily word counts.

Wednesday - 297
Thursday - ZERO
Friday  - 521
Saturday - 150
Sunday - 714
Monday - 202
Tuesday - ZERO

Making a grand total of  1884 words. which is not as productive as I need to be, if I'm going to succeed. Reconnecting with my WIP is more difficult than I ever imagined, I've realised there is a lot of reading involved. An enormous amount of of rearranging sentences, and scenes. And even more thinking about plot. I cannot panic, I must stay on the path, grit my teeth and plough on, whatever happens.

If anyone has any tips, or advice on how they edit, please share, it would very much be appreciated.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 5th May 2013

St Pancras International - Maria A Smith

What  I liked about last week...

  • Fruit Smoothies - Rediscovering juice! While I was working away from home last week, I changed from drinking several cups of tea, to a large fruit smoothie each day. Fresh fruit, yogurt and pure 100% juice. Delicious! It definitely made a difference to my day, when I was flagging, after standing for hours at an exhibition it was a welcome relief. I felt energised again afterwards.  I might even dust off the liquidizer, and start making my own.

  • St Pancras International - The most fabulous Victorian railway station I've set foot in, a fantastic place for photography, eating, and shopping! I commuted through twice last week, and happened to stay a while on my return journey. Although, there wasn't much opportunity for photography, I managed to get the shot above.

  • 15K in May - The beginning of another writing challenge. 

  • Book Giveaway - Finally, I took some of my pre-loved paperbacks to my writers group and gave them away. It felt good knowing they were off to new homes. I really want to de-junk this year. I have collected far too many books and magazines. 

  • Music - Nina Simone, I love you! You are most definitely the high priestess of soul. I purchased The Very Best Of Nina Simone a few weeks ago, a fabulously relaxing album.

  • Lush - Treated myself to some of their fabulous hair products, and a body scrub. Because I'm worth it!

  • Work - Yes really, it was good to do something different for a week, and I was in the company of decent colleagues too, there was much enthusiasm for the task, and it makes a difference. 

And what I didn't like about last week...

  • Standing Up - All day long at the exhibition, and no amount of footwear changes made a shred of difference. Standing on hard concrete for hours isn't to be recommended for good foot health. Ugh! At least its done now. I have promised my poor feet a pedicure.

  • Cake - Lack of cake all week meant I had to cram two portions into the back end of the week. Mind you, both were very yummy! So it wasn't all bad.

  • Sunshine - Being indoors most of the week meant I missed the gorgeous sunshine. 

  • 15K in May - Not getting off to a good start, but more about that below.

Here is what I achieved...


A to Z Challenge - Completed! It felt good to get over the finish line. I really enjoyed it.

Weekly Flash Fiction - Written on the bus journey to the group. 

15K in May - Okay, I started, and in truth it was much harder than I expected to get going with it. I put this down to working away, and having such long days, and evenings. I had the tools with me to write, I just couldn't find time alone to get on and do it!

Since getting home, I have been bone tired, this has affected my output. I'll post more about it on Wednesday, as it'll have been running a week by then.

Phoenix Writers - Attended Saturday, and although we were a smaller group, there was still much activity and good critique given, and received. Its good to be amongst like-minded individuals.


Can you recall my list last week, Ideally, I'd like to read, chill out in a jacuzzi, go for a walk, visit an art gallery, eat a  delicious meal, and sleep! Realistically, I'll settle for a couple of things from the wish list.

Well, I did manage a couple from the list, I had a quick half an hour in the jacuzzi last Sunday, and a lovely Italian meal in London later in the week. I suppose if you count commuting across London too, I had two short walks. And an urban walk around Leicester yesterday.

Not bad for a very busy week, I'm counting it as mostly successful. Lots of reasons to be happy, and cheerful.

The week ahead then...

Writing - I'll be concentrating solely of 15K in May

Relaxation - Lots this week, I intend to concentrate on sleep, walking, photography, family and friends.

That is enough to be going on with, do let me know how your week looks?

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The next BIG Thing - 15K in May

Do It - Mara A Smith

Good morning, and welcome back to the First Draft Cafe. April kept me busy, as I took a roller-coaster ride of blogging daily, which required not only discipline, but the stamina to write and publish something on the blog everyday. And so I got to thinking... What if?

What if I could do something like this to help me get closer to finishing my novel. The WIP I often describe, and refer to as a wading through a 'field of treacle' where I trudge wearily, not really making the progress I need to reach the finish line. My thinking - if I turned up to write every day in May, like I had for the A to Z, challenge, switching to fiction, would it make me more productive? Could I get the rhythm going to write fifteen thousand words?

And what if other writing buddies wanted to join me on this quest? Other writers who want to finish a novel draft too, be it the first, second or twentieth?  Wouldn't that make the journey better? Knowing I was in good company. Yes! Of course it would, and it would also make us accountable to each other too. And so, a plan began to form in my mind.

I'll be doing the challenge with two other writers I met via Twitter, @MrKelly2u (Wayne) and @lynneinpborough (Lynne) and between us, we've decided to call it '15K in May' we'll be using the hashtag #15Kin May on Twitter to shout out any news or progress.

I plan to write every day except Sunday, they'll be a fair amount of rewriting, and reading, and filling in plot holes, in my case, and I'll need to do about 556 words every day, which sounds more manageable when you break it down like that doesn't it?

Regards the blog, I'll be posting twice a week this month - Sunday will be my usual goal list for the week ahead, and on Wednesday I'll update my '15K in May' progress, as well as anything else on my mind.

This plan will require a new determination, a lot of juggling and organising of my time, and real life continues as usual, but I'm ready to give it my very best shot. What about you? Are you up to write 15K in May?

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...