Sunday, 26 January 2014

I Am A Positively Productive Writer

Late Afternoon, January - Maria A Smith

I've had a peaceful week spent relaxing away from work, and home. Someone else has done all those tedious tasks, the cooking and cleaning, and of course I haven't had to commute much at all this week which has been great as the roads around are dire with either roadworks, burst water mains or flooding from torrential rain! 

I've been writing, and doing other related activities, sending emails, and reading. In fact having so much time out has boosted my reading immensely. I re-read one of my favourite writing books, The Positively Productive Writer by Simon Whaley, it's a motivational read. Simon deals with those nagging fears all of us have from time to time when we feel we aren't doing enough.

Less, really is more when you follow his good advice on how breaking your writing down into small sessions really does go a long way to finishing that bigger project. It's a great book for us writerly types who need a kickstart from time to time. Go buy it!

Novel News 

Over the next few weeks I'm going to flesh out the characters in my novel to get a deeper sense of each voice, so I've decided to write a monologue for each of them. My thinking is that if I dive deep inside their heads, I'll see how and what they think about, and how they express themselves.

I'll go with whatever train of thought pops into my head at the time of picking up my pen (yes, I'm going to write with a proper pen straight onto a writing pad.) My aim is simply to separate each character from the story and scene, so that I'll get a feel for how they see things, their way of thinking and what they value, and what they think is important. I've no idea where this will take me, but I'm hopeful I'll learn something new about each one, which I can bring into my story. How do you flesh out your characters? I'm open to trying different ideas and would welcome any thoughts on the process? 

I'm also working on a piece of flash fiction I want to enter into the Flash 500 competition, it needs more work, a tweak here and there, according to my writing buddies. However, they thought the idea worked well when I aired it at the meeting on Saturday.

This week then...

Apart from the monologues, and some more novel editing, I'm going to submit a story to a competition, and that'll be my lot! 

What are your plans?

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Picture This! - A Winter Walk

Sitting On The Fence - Maria A Smith

I captured this little fellow whilst out walking, and it got me to thinking how popular the robin is in this country, with its bright red breast, its easy to spot year round, but especially on frosty mornings.

January has been very mild so far, and there has been no sign of snow, and not many icy mornings either. As far as I know we have none forecast in the near future. What a contrast from last year, when  most of the UK was white over for weeks. I'm not complaining, because it means its easier for me to get out walking.

I always feel much better after a brisk walk, not only am I getting some much needed exercise, I also get to listen to some music, or more recently I've been downloading audio books, and listening to them as I plod the streets near to where I live. Its great because I'm multi-tasking!

January Afternoon  - Maria A Smith

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Mad, the Bad, and the Crazy - Welcome to My World!

The Hide - Maria A Smith

I was very tempted to post a picture of a headless chicken today, then common sense prevailed and I thought probably not the best idea, but honestly this has been the craziest week so far in 2014! I have no doubt there will be others, and I will have to deal with them in my usual way. Whatever life throws at me I just get on with it, and to be honest I do strive on a bit of stress, I expect it nowadays. Its the times we live in isn't it? The world has somehow speeded up! However I made myself a deal earlier in the month to unbusy myself.

This was just one of those weeks. The day job has been very busy, add to that major issues with travel due to a huge burst water main on a major road nearby, which caused chaos for miles and miles around. Lots of family related stuff, as well, and  some looming deadlines to get my writing submitted, made for a proper crazy week.

One highlight early in the madness was attending a writing related event, which I blogged about here 
Another was meeting up with my writing buddies at the weekend to discuss getting more work out to editors and competitions. As well as some lively discussion about the writing life.

I did write. Flash fiction, a proposal, and edited a short story, but alas I did not get stuck into the novel. I am not worried, I am working on it in my head. I'm sure you writerly types will understand what I mean?

The week ahead is definitely going to be more calm. Do you know why? Because I'm on holiday, yay! I'm going to do very little now for the next week, my aim is to relax and recharge, and I may do just a little writing to fill the gaps.

What is it they say?

Strong walls shake, but they never collapse.

Have a good week friends.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Picture This! - Liars' League

Filming at Liars' League - Maria A Smith

What on earth is Liars's League you might ask? The answer is themed fiction evenings, giving writers the opportunity to hear their work read by professional actors. I first heard about these regular events on BBC Radio Leicester, and last night I attended my first Liars' League evening. The theme 'Blood & Guts' intrigued me, what would the writers come up with? How would the actors interpret their stories?

I wasn't disappointed, all of the stories I heard were entertaining, some were funny and made the audience laugh out loud, whilst others were dark and serious, which made the mix all the more interesting. The actors made the stories come alive, breathing life into the characters as they read the narrative from the page, and mimicked accents. It was interesting to see how they performed the stories, and made for a good evening out. The event was recorded live too, and they put the recording up onto their website, its worth having a listen. Last nights stories should go up soon.

Getting Into The Story - Maria A Smith

Anyone, from anywhere can submit their stories for consideration, there is always a theme advertised well in advance,  and details can be found on their website. I hear they are looking for a mature female actress, so if thats you, or someone you know,  and you or they meet their criteria, why not get in touch? Alternatively, Liars' League is franchised around the world, including London, New York and Hong Kong, do look them up, and if you have one nearby, get out there, and enjoy! I know I'll be going to another Leicester event soon.

Camera, Lights, Action! - Maria A Smith

Monday, 13 January 2014

Commit To A Plan

Watermead Park - Maria A Smith

Last week I committed to writing some words every day, it was a good plan, and mostly worked. I wrote something for five out of the seven days, and my total word count varied each day from seventy five words, to almost a thousand a day. What have I learned? Writing regularly keeps my novel close, it exists easily in my head, and I'm more engrossed again. However, I've also learned, I need a break, a few nights away, time off to rest, or get on with domestic stuff. So this week, I'm readjusting the plan to do just that, and we'll see how it goes...

What else has been happening? Not a lot thank goodness, I've been out and about very little. Every time I tried to get out for a walk, it rained! All I could manage was a brisk two miles early one morning before I went to work, and a longer more leisurely walk at the weekend. Not good enough.

Maybe I'll find an aqua aerobics class this year, then at least I won't have to worry about getting wet!
Seriously though, I'm trying to be less busy aren't I? Downtime has consisted of listening to an audio book, and watching a DVD at the weekend. Sleep has been evasive though. Never mind, another week lies ahead.

More writing, more walking and hopefully some sleep.

What about you?

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Picture This! - A Wet And Windy Afternoon in January

On The Farm - Maria A Smith

Looking at these images its hard to believe I took them earlier today, between showers of rain and blustery gusts of wind! I can assure you I did though.

Both images were grab shots, with my phone camera as I walked through the farmyard to the shop, to purchase some greek yogurt and a lemon. Over the last year I've totally changed my diet, since being diagnosed with adult onset asthma, which is triggered by the preservatives in food and drink. Its been a gruelling journey, weeding out what makes me wheeze, I'm sensitive to sulphites, to my complete surprise. Things that I used to eat, and drink freely, now make me feel very ill indeed.

Magnificent  - Maria A Smith

I scrutinise every food packet, every can, and every bottle, and its worth the hassle, because I'm mostly in good health these days, unless I get caught out by hidden ingredients, with disguised names.

Changing over to organic is an ongoing journey I'm really quite enjoying. It can be extra work though, as the vegetables are straight from the field, and aren't clean and orderly as you find them in most supermarkets. Yes, its more expensive too, but I buy less, and plates aren't piled high anymore, portions are better controlled, and the upside is, I'm discovering lots of farm shops, and delicatessens in my area. I'm exploring...

I'm going to have a go at growing some of my own vegetables this year too, so if you've any tips on quick easy growing vegetables, do leave me a comment. Or if you've recently gone organic I'd love to hear your take on it?

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Unbusy Your Life

Flicker Commons

Parts of the country are under water from severe flooding, and the forecasters are saying there is more on the way. The devastation is heaping more difficulties onto an already precarious situation, and my heart goes out to anyone who is affected. There is flooding nearby, but it is nothing in comparison to happenings elsewhere.

Work restarted on Thursday, the 'deadzone' as I call it, the time just after New Year, but before the country gets back to work proper. A gentle lowering into 'real life' the place where I go everyday, where everyday stuff kicks in to delight or annoy. None of it, is as exciting as the place I go to after hours. The joy of writing, is to be able to go somewhere outside of your 'normal life' a place of escape, somewhere deep inside your imagination.

A novel takes up a great amount of space in your head, and I'm about to go there. Today I'm jumping off that bridge again, I'm returning to the novel in progress, and its exciting, because things happen that could never happen in this reality. The story, its third draft, but I won't worry it'll be repetitive or boring, I'll build upon the foundations of what I already have, and I am in no doubt, more secrets will come out. More flesh will be put on the bones of my characters, and every word will have to count. I'll write everyday, and yes, I know some days it will only be a few hundred words, but for the next seven days, I'm keeping a log, so I can see my progress. My aim is to complete a chapter.

For my method to work, I need to 'unbusy' my life. My to-do list can't be trailing on the floor any more, and yes, I have a home, a family, work, home improvements, illness, car issues etc like all of you, but things must change if my new plan is to succeed.

This is the first step, and if busyness is forced upon me this week over which I have no control, I'll deal with it! But, I won't be throwing any extra responsibilities on the top of my already stacked pile. If you've been feeling the pressure, take a look at your commitments and responsibilities now. Its a good time to begin, its about accepting you have to let go of some stuff. Or some people.

Yes, that makes me feel uncomfortable too, but unfortunately, some people are time-sapping monsters, and being too busy has become a catch all excuse for me. This doesn't mean I won't be taking some time out to do nothing each day, I'm going to be practising 'doing nothing' too, because I know I'll feel less stressed, happier and healthier.

Have a good week, let me know what you plan to do?

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

2014 - A Blank Canvas

Picture Credit - Flicker Creative Commons Attribution Licence

Today is the beginning of a new year, a blank canvas, a brand new journey, I'm very eager to begin, I love making a new plan don't you? New challenges motivate me, and make me feel energised. I love to set goals! Here they are folks, all shiny and new.

I've got a list of things I want to do, compiled throughout last year as things occurred to me. I wrote them down so that I didn't forget about them, take a look, at my list of Fifty Things I Want To Do   in 2014.

And then of course, I have my writing plan. Which I hope is SMART - specific, measurable, achievable realistic and time-based. I asked myself what I wanted to accomplish in 2014, and this is what I came up with...

  • Complete my novel
This is my main goal, and its what I'll concentrate on this year. Of course, I will do other stuff, but this is my focus. 

Apart from the novel, and my 'Fifty Things I Want To Do' list, I'd like to lose some weight, at least a stone would make me feel healthier and happier. 

Regards the blog, from now on, I'll be making a few changes to keep things fresh, starting with my weekly goals post. I'll still post on Sunday, but it will be integrated into a more general post about my writing journey. Then I'll blog midweek, on a Wednesday, but this post will be something different. As we go through the year I'll mix things up a bit, but for the first two months, Wednesday's posts will be called 'Picture This' and will centre around an image I capture in the previous seven days.

Its nearing the end of the first day of 2014, here are three things I'm grateful for today.
  • Special friends, who make me happy with their warmth and laughter.
  • Refreshing peppermint tea.
  • Spending an hour with my mum, chatting and putting the world to rights.
Happy New Year! 

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...