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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Better Than Before?

More Coffee Required - Maria A Smith

Stick your hand up if you love editing? Slashing text, rearranging words and sentences, moving paragraphs, killing off characters and in some cases, telling a very different story to the one you started out with?

Some of us can't help it, we don't know when enough is enough, always telling ourselves that if we tweak this and that, it'll do the story justice. I'm not bad these days, I don't edit as I write anymore. There was a time when I'd write a paragraph and then go back and mess with it, change words for ones that fitted better. Add a comma. Remove a comma. You know what I mean. Over time, I learnt to keep writing, after all, its a first draft! I could return after I'd spewed the story out onto the page, I could tinker with it later.

Most of us, drive ourselves crazy editing. What is your editing process?

Do you put your work aside for a week after you've finished? Or maybe you need longer?

On screen editing or a print out of your manuscript?

Red pen or cut and paste?

What about spelling and grammar?

Do you read it aloud to yourself, or anyone else?

Give it to beta readers?

I let my novel rest for a while (probably for too long) then read it  through chapter by chapter, and then edited on the screen. Next I read it into a voice recorder, and listened back. Unfortunately, at that stage I realised it needed a lot of rewriting.

Short stories I find much easier to edit, and usually start shortly after I've finished the story. On screen first, then I print a copy out and get to work with my red pen.  

Please share your tricks and tips on  the editing process.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Plans Change (Goals Part 3) - 26th April 2015


Image Credit - Pixabay

I set out with best intentions last Sunday, however the best laid plans can be turned upside down. It's irritating, but you have to get on with things don't you? A few changed appointments scuttled some of my 'booked' writing sessions, but that wasn't the main culprit, unfortunately, I had a Scrivener issue, due to lack of knowledge, and I did something to mess up my manuscript. Never mind, overall it was  slower week, but progress was made.

1. Phoenix Writing Group Challenge -  DONE - Friday teatime wasn't the ideal time to do this considering I needed it on Saturday morning, but it was a tricky challenge. I had 150 words to write about eating my favourite food, and finding something nasty within it. I wrote from the point of view of a cat finding a tablet in their fish dinner, and their plan for revenge! It proved a hit with the writers group and I got a few laughs too.

2. #writingchat  - DONE - Good topic on Wednesday evening, all about promoting yourself, and your writing. Quite a gathering on Twitter, and some very good ideas came out of it.

3. Blog - DONE - You can read all about rewarding yourself here.

4. Novel Rewrite - DONE mostly everything I wanted to achieve this week, although lots of technical issues as my original Word document became corrupt! As well as me not being very competent on Scrivener too. I edited a couple of chapters, and that involved some rewriting, and had to be a bit brutal and cut even more of the manuscript. Also made quite a few notes in between times when I wasn't behind the desk. All in all, I managed to work on the novel, five out of seven days.

5. Flash - DONE - Decided to try my hand at a comedy flash piece - well it took on a life of its own, and is heading towards a short story now. I sent it over to a friend who regularly writes comedy, and he said it made him laugh, so I'm on the right track hopefully. It was fun to do, but a hard challenge for me.

Having unexpected stuff happen meant being away from my desk, I didn't get to write something every day. I missed two sessions but all things considered, I'm happy with my output.

Real Life - Very busy. Managed between work, hospital appointments, exercise, and running the home. Like lots of you, I juggled through the week, stopping along the way for lunch with a friend on Wednesday, and a good session at the writers group yesterday. Even managed some reading, so I'm pretty pleased with the last week overall. I will admit, the early nights I'd planned didn't happen, and that is regretful.

The Week Ahead 

1. Novel Rewrite - More of the same - Lots of editing, and one character needs more work. At some point I'm going to have to do some research too.

2#Writingchat - More writerly chatter on Twitter on Wednesday at 8pm - 9pm GMT. Topic to be revealed later.

3. Blog - A midweek post

4. Exercise and Diet - As writers we sit on our bottoms quite a lot. I must avoid this at all cost, due to recent back issues, instead it's crucial I get a good variety of exercise to stay healthy. Walking, sitting and standing needs to be alternated.

I'm two weeks into a Pilates class to strengthen my core muscles and help maintain a strong posture. It's very hard, and in truth, I haven't looked forward to going to either session, but once I've been, I'm glad I made the effort. I'm also striding up and down the pool every other day which I don't mind at all as this is valuable thinking time, and better for you than walking according to the physiotherapist. Although walking is pleasurable in its own right, and later this week I'll be slipping off to Derbyshire to do a little Nordic walking, I can't wait to get out into the fresh air.

Eating a healthy diet is tricky when you love food, but I'm keen to get into some shorts this summer, so for the next few weeks, I'm going to try extra hard NOT to eat too many naughty treats. I'm not banning them altogether because that won't work, I need a few to get myself behind the desk to write! Lured there on a Sunday evening on the promise of tea and chocolate, works wonders for the word count, except tonight it'll be a low calorie hot chocolate drink at the end of the hour instead.

I'll be 'editing' my diet a little over the next few weeks and hopefully, I'll be sporting some shorts by July! Any tips?

Right, the sun is shining outside my window, so time to go - Do share your plans for the week, or tell me what you achieved last week? I love hearing from you...

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Reward Yourself

Spring Has Sprung! - Maria A Smith

Do you reward yourself for your writerly successes? You're so worth it, and by rewarding yourself you're saying well done. Here are some ideas, please feel free to add your own in the comments.

1. Retail Therapy (Controlled) - Take yourself off to you favourite stationer and revel in looking round at all those notebooks, pens, designer Kindle covers and anything else that takes your fancy. The trick is to give yourself a budget beforehand to avoid any shopaholic tendencies, try imagining someone has given you an amount of cash, which you must stick to religiously. 

2. Away Day -
Get out and about, do something different, take the train, or go on the bus, visit your nearest city, find the tourist information centre and act like a day-tripper. Take part in a blue badge walk, ride the open top bus, visit the museums, and art galleries, and soak in the culture. You'll be amazed at what you didn't know about your locality.

3. Pampering - There is nothing wrong with a little self-indulgent pleasure. How about a massage? Or a facial, a manicure or a pedicure?  Or a super luxurious day at the spa? Is there a better way to give yourself a pat on the back for all those words you wrote?

4. Breakfast - Yes really, going for lunch is nothing new, but ringing a friend and inviting them for breakfast for a writerly natter or otherwise, is different. A lot of hotels will let you waltz in and order up! Premier Inn are particularly good at this, and don't charge big bucks. Lingering over a hearty breakfast will set you up for the day.

5. Take a class - Learn something new. Be impulsive, book an artisan bread making class, or take time out to do a photography workshop, or perhaps you've always fancied learning how to knit, or sew? There are so many things you could learn from baking to racing around a track for the day, Step out of your comfort zone and surprise yourself.

6. Chocolate - Do I need to explain?

7. Reading - Afford yourself the time to slip into a good book, without worrying about when you've got to come up to do anything else.

Over to you now, how do you reward yourself? What carrot do you dangle in front of  yourself? Big or small, tell us all about it.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Progress So Far (Goals Part 2) - 19th April 2015

Let There Be Cake - Maria A Smith

I made a plan last week, top priority being health and relaxation, I'm pleased to report, I looked after myself. Lots of walking, water therapy, and my first Pilates session. Not too hard, although I was eating those words the following day.

This is how it went writing wise. I made the schedule, planned in the time, and cracked on with it! I set my 'bar' in hours, rather than word count as I wanted to get an idea of how long it would take me to do all the writerly things I wanted to achieve during the week. Eight hours wasn't enough, in total I did just over eleven hours, and I didn't complete the list. I'm not upset, I feel its been a good first week, and I've learned a few things along the way.

The Novel - Because I'm dealing with a rewrite, its very difficult to gauge it by word count, although I do need to keep a tally. Also, if I'm to finish by my deadline, I need to make it my priority. Instead of doing other stuff. However, I know me, I'm the sort of writer who performs better with a variety of stuff going on. Put simply, I'm the multitasking type, I like variety. It inspires me, and sparks my creativity, but I need to get the balance right. I'll be working on that one this coming week.

2. Scrivener - I dived in head first, and have made progress in learning the basics.

3. Accountability - I mentioned, my writing buddy last week, but failed to introduce him. How remiss of me, so let me do it now. My accountability partner is Wayne Kelly, he blogs over at Kelly's Eye and you can find him on Twitter here, under the guise of @MrKelly2u where he tweets regularly.

4. Other Writerly Stuff - Mostly everything else got done, except subbing two pieces of writing, which I'm racked off about, as I scheduled the time. However, instead of staying on plan, I ended up turning a 100 word flash piece into a short story of 1200 words! Good to have another short story written, BUT, it wasn't in the plan this week. I'll try harder not to deviate.

The writers group was fun, lots of good stories, and some really useful critique. Afterwards, our Subs Club met, and we discussed progress and plans for the next month. Everyone is so positive and focused. I feel so lucky to be part of something so good.
I blogged midweek, but didn't use my own images, although I have today (I'm honing the camera habit) and also took part in another good session of #writingchat too, so looking at the big picture, I've had a really good week. Much better than I thought I'd do, and I'm motivated to go forward.

The week ahead...

Mindful of the past week, I need to work on less projects.

1. Phoenix Writing Group Challenge -  I'll be going to the group on Saturday, so I'll need do the 150 word challenge  beforehand if possible, and not on the morning of the meeting, which I've done before.

2. #writingchat  - Wednesday on Twitter at 8pm  - 9pm GMT, feel free to join in with other writers, talking about the craft.

3. Blog - A mid-week post.

4. Novel Rewrite - Some good feedback on Saturday on my last chapter, means a few more edits before I move on.

5. Flash - Almost forgot, going to try my hand at a comedy flash piece.

I'm going to commit to writing EVERYDAY, (I managed it last week) but at least four sessions must be on the novel. As for how long I spend, or how many words I get down, I'll keep a note as I'm still very much settling in with the new schedule, and expect I'll have to work at it, to get the best fit for my lifestyle.

Regarding everything else, I'll maintain my fitness programme, work on getting to bed before 11pm a couple of nights, and aim to relax with some reading.

How did your week go? Was it as productive as you hoped? How do you plan your week? Pen and paper 'To Do List?' Spreadsheets? Or is it all in your head? Whatever you're planning, make it a good week.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Finding Your 'Inner Reason'

Image Credit - Pixabay

Lost your way a bit? Hit a slump?

Maybe its time to ask yourself, what is my motivation? Or put another way, your  'inner reason' for writing? Lets be honest, inspiration comes and goes, but if you know what your motivation is, then you're sure to keep pushing forward.

Money isn't my motivator, BUT, I do understand if its yours. It could be you want to win a short story competition, or get an article published? Maybe seeing your name in print makes you want to write? Or perhaps seeing your script played out on the stage, or you want to stand up and perform your poem? Or maybe you are writing purely for fun. Whatever it is, you need to know your 'inner reason' and focus on it.

Perhaps like me, you desperately want to finish your novel - my 'inner reason' isn't because I'll earn lots of money, I'm not that naive! I want to see my book in print, hold a copy in my hand, and be able to say to myself, 'you did it!'

Progress is never linear though, making plans is all well and good, but plans often change. You can't predict illness, job changes, family issues, and other commitments. Know this though, you'll learn that you'll progress more at certain times than others. When your 'life' workload is high and you're too tired to write into the evenings, or rise early in the mornings, its hard. When you come face to face with challenges that come between you and your writing, don't give up the fight, NEVER, give up. Accept you'll progress slower at certain times, and you'll be faster at others. As long as you keep trying, even when things are slow, TRUST, that they'll pick up again.

If you've hit a slump, and who hasn't...here are a few ideas to help you find your motivation again.

1. Start really small - Do just one thing. Don't aim for 10,000 words this week, aim for 500 instead. You don't have to knock yourself out with big word counts, try writing less and see what happens. Chances are, you'll engage with your characters, and fall deep into the story.

2. Find inspiration - Hang out with others who write regularly, visit blogs that inspire you, read magazines and books on the craft, immerse yourself in the world of writing. You'll soon not want to miss out.

3. Build anticipation - Make a plan, set one or two goals, set a date in the future. Mark it on your calendar. All of these things will increase your focus, delaying your start,  will increase your energy for the project too. So when the date does come round, you'll be raring to go.

4.Get support - Join an online forum, pair up with another writer, attend a writers group, or start one!
Find your network, and stay in touch. Knowing you have the support around you is your comfort blanket. You're not alone.

5.Small succeses  - Build on the small steps you make to reach your goal. You can't fail if you start with something easy. Edit a couple of pages of your manuscript, or go out and buy a new notebook. Clear your desk, or print out your WIP in readiness.

Before you know it, you'll have found your 'inner reason' and you'll be back on track.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Tackling the Mountain (Goals Part 1) - April 12th 2015

Getting Started - Image Credit Pixabay

Isn't life strange, last week got busy. On Wednesday I returned to work on reduced hours. I'm getting stronger each day, increasing my physical therapy steadily, and  I'm about to embark on a rewrite of my novel.

In truth, I'm not looking forward to tackling it, at the moment it looks like the highest mountain, its not enough to show up with my gear and a guide book, it requires strength and stamina too. I'm hoping once I've started I'll soon get on track. I'd like the rewrite finished by October 31st 2015. Yes folks, that is a deadline!

I've sorted the plot out whilst I've been off my feet, done 75% of the rewrite outline, and now I need to get back to the writing. This week, my goal is to do the following.

1. Make a Schedule - Every day I need to find snatches of time to do writerly stuff. Like a lot of writers, my biggest problem will be sitting down and getting the work done. Therefore a schedule, written into my diary will help me to keep on the straight and narrow. I need to set a bar, therefore as its my first week, I'm going to say eight hours, rather than a word count.

2. Use Scrivener - I've decided there is no easy way to learn this programme - I'm going to jump in and do it! I expect some initial frustration but this is the tool I want to use for this novel.

3. Accountability - Apart from putting my goal list here on the blog, I've got an accountability partner, a writing buddy to keep me on the straight and narrow. Therefore, I'll be checking in with him later today. We've agreed Sunday fits with both of us.

I'll be recording my progress here, most likely rejigging anything that needs to be fixed. Its time to get it written. Writing a novel is tough, time-consuming, and scary, but also exciting!

Apart from the novel, this week, I've got other writerly things happening.

4. Writers Group Challenge - Invent a new cliche to replace an old one. Hmm, not sure what I'll be doing for that one.

5. Attend Phoenix Writers Group - I am so lucky to belong to such a proactive group of writers.

6. Run Phoenix Writers Subs Group  - After the general meeting, a smaller group meets to discuss opportunities for subbing our work. I need to send out an email, and prepare.

 7. Submissions - I need to get back to subbing. Two pieces minimum, this week.

8. Blog - One post to help me get back into the habit of regular blogging, which I enjoy, and also, fifteen minutes spent visiting other blogs.

9. #Writingchat - Another session of writerly chat on Wednesday evening 8pm - 9pm GMT Do join in, its fun and informative, and we have a different topic every week.

Other Stuff

There won't be huge junks of time for anything else, but top priority will be health and relaxation. Water wading at the pool, and making sure I get some sleep.

I want to get back to using my camera, now I can get out and about, and the weather is better. Using my own images on my blog is important to me, however Pixabay has been invaluable these last few months. A great resource, you can use their images for free as they have all been donated by people like myself, and are free of all copyright, and are distributed as creative commons. If you see fit - its not obligatory - you can donate the price of a cup of coffee for the use of an image.

Right, I'm off to find my ropes and backpack, I've got a huge mountain to climb this week.  I'll let you know how I get on next Sunday, or if I stray off the path. What are you up to? Have you got a particular goal in mind?

Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Day After

Image Credit - Pixabay
A round-up of last week

The day after Sunday was Monday...

And I can't for the life of me think what I did on Monday? Thats a bit rubbish! I do recall going for my second dose of Electro Acupuncture, a twenty five minute zap to sort my sciatica out. It seems to be working well, and I decided to cut the remaining pain killers. Time to go cold turkey.

The day after that was Tuesday...

Busy day, doing physical therapy exercises, walking and visiting my GP, hoping to discuss a phased return to work. It wasn't to be, the GP decided I must go back to him next week when he hopes to see me stronger. I felt deflated, but the last thing I want to do is wreck the good work I've done to recover.

The day after was Wednesday, and I took part in #writingchat 

Patsy Collins and I started #writingchat on a Wednesday evening on Twitter as an experiment. We wanted to see if there was anyone out there who would appreciate some writerly chatter. Or if the world of Twitter was simply full of autobot tweeting. All I can say is, WOW! There are lots of writers out there who enjoy an hour 8pm - 9pm GMT of on topic talk. Last week we discussed the topic, 'Should Writers Be Paid?' and we got a good response, and a few different views. Its all good stuff, and for the foreseeable future we'll continue to network with each other via Twitter. Do join us, by searching the hashtag #writingchat  don't be shy, dive in, make friends, interact, share your views and maybe learn something to help with your writing life.

The day after Wednesday was Thursday

Decisions, decisions...what to do with the novel in progress. It has been said to me several times now that my WIP would make a good Young Adult novel. This has come as a bit of a shock as I know nothing about the YA market. Not a thing! In fact, I've maybe only ever read a handful of what would be classed as YA books.What to do? I have no idea.Where can I go to learn about YA writing? Does anyone out there know any good resources apart from the library?

The day after the Leaders Debate was Friday

What a debacle, first, poor, poor choice of set, made the politicians look more like contestants on a game show. Akin to 'The Weakest Link', although no sign of Anne Robinson, it had the same sort of feel about it. Whatever your views, I will not be bias to any one of the brave men and women that stood up on live TV, in front of millions of viewers on Thursday evening. Some members of the public, who before the show, had preconceived idea of who they wished to vote for, reportedly changed their minds after viewing the programme. Such is the power of a live debate.

Human behaviour is very odd, did anyone else notice how some people really wanted to be there, whist others looked like rabbits caught in the glare of headlamps as the debate opened? Depending on whose poll you believe, YouGov are saying Nicola Sturgeon owned the night. Whereas ICM were quick to report that Miliband  beat Cameron by a whisker! And the Daily Mirror had them in a tie, with Farage coming up behind. Natalie Bennett came out last on everyones list. Well, I wonder if the public were voting for the political views of these people, or for the star entertainment? No doubt the circus will continue over the next few weeks. I need to do more writing.

The day after the Leaders Debate was also Good Friday...

The oddest Good Friday ever, not venturing out, I made the best of a rainy day and set to and organised my writing life. We all get disgruntled with things, and quite often can fall into bad habits if we don't regroup and look at the big picture. Which is exactly what I did on Friday. one thing I want to introduce, is a list of all writerly activities, so that I can keep track of what I'm doing. Even a little thing is an achievement these days. All of us probably do more than we think we do.

The day after that was Saturday...

A day of writerly stuff. Some tweeting, some re-jigging of an outline, reading my old synopsis, and a chewing of the bottom lip over what to do about the YA thing? Cat among the pigeons springs to mind, and although I don't want to be saddled with something I'm not keen on, I feel I must explore the unknown and find out more before I proceed a step further.

More electro acupuncture followed in the afternoon, and afterwards on the drive home, hearing Leicester City had won a football match! Hurrah! Hopefully, they've turned a corner. Not nice to keep trying, and never getting there. We writers know all about that don't we? I really must submit some writing to competitions this coming week. Once home, on with the chef's hat, then  the final of 'The Voice,' oh I'm easily pleased these days. I also started a pen and printout edit on a friends manuscript, so not exactly slacking all night.

The day after that is today, Easter Sunday...Happy Easter!

I have no sciatic pain. Another hurrah! However, I feel rough after a terrible night of waking on the hour, every hour and tossing and turning in my bed. Possibly withdrawal symptoms from stopping the painkillers? And so thirsty, I had to keep getting up to have a drink in the early hours. Consequently, I feel lousy! BUT, as ever, I've done my daily exercises first thing. It was an effort. Then went out for a walk to help take the stiffness out of my back - it hasn't worked though.

This afternoon, I put my feet up, finished the edit I'd started,  and read April's Writing Magazine, I'm so far behind with reading and know that the next issue will be here any day soon.

Right, I'm off here now, because my hour is up and I've been standing typing this, and I need to stretch, and sit down. I'll be back soon to share my goals for the week ahead.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Take a Chance

Image Credit - Pixabay
TAKE A CHANCE

Tom tried not to stare at the woman standing on the other side of the road. She'd been there for a while, looking left, then right, and then across the road at him, or perhaps at his shop. She'd  folded her arms, and then unfolded them. Then folded them again. Willowy tall, and quite beautiful, he'd done a double take when he'd glimpsed her there, golden highlights glittering in the early morning sunlight, pink lips, and those long tanned legs. Hard to miss beneath the knee length floral skirt.                                                                                                                              

Tending to his window display, he'd been hanging strings of freshly made sausages on steel hooks, placing bacon in uniform rows, lining up plump chickens, arranging pork chops, and joints of beef, lamb and pork. A task he did every morning to tempt customers through his door. Although trade had been sparse in recent weeks. Today he deliberately took his time, enjoyed the sight of her, and his heart skipped a beat when she gave him the occasional  glance, and he'd look away in haste. What was she doing there?

Busying himself with the counter, he heard the bell over the door jingle; he looked up, surprised to see her standing there. Her perfume wafting in on the breeze, jasmine and lavender and something else he didn't recognise, it was delightful.

'Hi,' she said, smiling at him.

'Good morning, what can I do for you?' He wiped his hands on his apron. Feeling ridiculous, like a schoolboy, caught doing something he shouldn't have been.

'Ania,' she stuck her hand out for him to shake, reaching across the counter, 'you need help, and I'd like to apply please.' Her fingers were cool in his hand, but her emerald eyes had a warmth that made his heart swell.

'Pleased to meet you, I'm Tom, but there must be some mistake, I'm not hiring.' He couldn't place her accent, perhaps Polish or Romanian he thought.

'Are you sure Tom?' She tilted  her head to one side, 'I think perhaps you could increase your sales, if you utilised that corner over there,' she turned and gestured to the area. 'Easily,  you could squeeze three maybe four tables into this alcove, and a posh coffee machine over here.' She pointed to the vacant space behind him.' 'Together, you and I, we could run a butchers shop and a posh deli serving good coffee, cake, and savoury eats. What do you say?'

Taken aback by her boldness, he searched for something to say in reply. True, business wasn't as good as it could be, since the cafe at the end of the street had closed down, there seemed to be less footfall. Things weren't exactly booming, and the rent had increased to make matters worse. Perhaps he should think about her idea.

'Come on Tom, I'm a hard worker, I have money to invest, the neccesary skills, and most of all, I have  lots of passion and energy. We could perhaps have some tables and chairs outside on the pavement. What do you say? It will be good for you, yes? Are you willing to take a chance?'

Flabbergasted, and somewhat amused, he didn't know what to think. He'd never thought about a collaboration, let alone a business partner, someone to do that side of things. Maybe it could work. He imagined his customers sitting, sipping lattes or tea, eating cake. And he definitely liked the idea of passion.

'Tell you what Ania, I'll think about it, find out if its feasible, I'll need  to make some calls, speak to the council before I can give you any decision. They'll be be able to tell me of any restrictions. How about you come back late afternoon, I close at 4.30pm, we can talk about it over a cup of tea?'

'Wonderful! I shall bring cake,' she clapped her hands together, 'you will see what a good baker I am, and we will make plans,' she smiled, and Tom thought,  perhaps, just maybe it would be a wonderful idea.