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Saturday, 31 December 2016

My Positive Year - Looking Back at 2016



As this year draws to a close, it's time to reflect. Back in January, I decided I was going to keep a record of the positive things that happened throughout the year. I've got a lousy memory, so I updated this post as the year progressed.

January - I felt happy and well, and managed to get off to a good start with Slimming World, and lost a pound and a half at my first weigh in of the year, and even made Slimmer of the Week! The following week, I lost another pound, which meant I'd lost a stone in total. Unbelievably, I made Slimmer of the Week again, and almost put my back out carrying the prize (a massive bag of fruit and vegetables) home.

Exercise started well - Aqua, Stretch, Pilates. Candlelight Stretch, and HIIT (a sort of circuits)

Had a lovely surprise when my friend Louise sent me a parcel of pre-loved books out of the blue that she was rehousing.

Mid month I went to Ragdale Hall for a couple of days with a girl friend. Spent every moment being pampered, and it was lovely to have so much 'ME' time.

Writing wise, I reincarnated a story I found written in an old notebook. I didn't change much, and it was very well received by the critique group, somebody said it was the best thing they'd heard me read in ages.

February - The Leicester Comedy Festival arrived in the city, and what better way to cheer up a wet and windy February is there? Just the tonic you need to make you forget all your woes. February 8th was UK Pun Day and I went along to the UK Pun championships, hosted by Lee Nelson, it was very funny. Later in the month I saw Ed Byrne at The Curve, which was another good night out which made me laugh out loud. I don't think he likes Audi drivers though.

My birthday was spent working away from home in London, there was no time to celebrate, and in any case I was alone. Oddly though, I met another lady on the night, and it turned out we don't live too far from each other, and both use the same exercise venue. We swapped contact details, and have since kept in touch, and even met up for lunch! I made a new friend.

I made up for the lack of a birthday celebration at the weekend, and was treated to breakfast by a writing buddy.

February also saw my first attendance at PlayShuffle over at Derby Theatre, where writers, actors, and voyeurs turn up to watch and listen to the actors performing a script they have literally been handed by the writer, just minutes before. I was put in the 'voyeur category as I didn't bring a script  with me, and I didn't particularly want to act on my first visit. It was fun and something different for me.

March - Started well with a visit to Birmingham to the RNA Writers Day, you can read how that went here 

March 20th - Conquer Stroke, An Evening of New Writing  - Fabulous evening of entertainment. Special because I had a piece performed and so did several of my writing friends. Keith Large who organised the evening pulled out all the stops. Several of the writers went away in awe, saying they wanted to have a go at writing a script!

I'm loving my Pilates this month!

April - This was definitely a shopping month for me. A lovely Cath Kidston bag was purchased at St Pancras International Train Station, I love that place it's a destination in it's own right. There were new Sketchers too, fabulously comfortable shoes. And there were notebooks from Covent Garden, my favourite has a picture of a bear riding a bike, and words on the cover saying, 'Do more of what makes you happy' and I surely followed that advice all month.

I read Peter May's Coffin Road, I listened to live jazz, and heard a fellow writer play drums. Some people are way too talented.

I also Beta read a friend's novel this month and really enjoyed the experience.

May - I met up with the ladies from the Leicester chapter of the RNA for lunch, and as usual it was a fun event.

Leicester City won the football league! Wow! What a party that was...

I went to Brighton to see a short film premiere written by a writer I'd met earlier in the year at the Conquer Stroke event. The weather was atrocious, but I had a great time and lots of cake!

June - I love a good writing workshop and I wasn't disappointed by Developing Your Novel by Alison May, it was a good informative day spent in the company of lots of other writers.

At the end of June I went away to Wales for a few weeks, and relaxed.

Catching up with family and friends and a heavy workload slowed me to a halt with the blog. I decided to take time out to recharge and recover.

July - The weather hasn't been brilliant this year, but I tried hard to enjoy the good sunny weekends we did have by relaxing with a good book in the garden.

August - This month flew by at such speed I almost missed it. Mid month, I had a lovely day out with friends at the spa, it was lovely and peaceful.

I started blogging again.

September - I felt really well in September, I rediscovered the music of my youth, like Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, and spent time out with the people that make me happy.

I also decided to start reading real books again. I'm still in love with Audible, and Kindle, but re-discovering the joy of a paperback has energised me.

October - I finally met Carol Bevitt and Patsy Collins, my #writingchat buddies. We had a walk, and spent hours chatting in a cafe.

I also received a lovely long letter from a writing buddy I met a few years ago at a Twitter Tweet up!

And I was lucky enough to be part of an organised walking tour in the deer enclosure at Calke Park.

November - This month I celebrated Autumn, getting out as often as possible to walk amongst the fabulous changing landscape. Walking featured heavily, and I loved it. I had two days away with good friends, which was definitely food for the soul. my camera went everywhere with me.

I returned to writing flash fiction.

Went to a great Article Writing workshop run by Graeme Marsh in Nottingham Waterstones - That place is amazing.

December  - Small pleasures are often the best, and it was lovely to see my fellow writing buddies getting together for a shared table at our final Phoenix Writers meeting of 2016. How lucky am I to be in such a good critique group.

Feeling happy for several writing friends who published books this month.

My final weigh in for 2016 was a positive one, I lost half a pound.

So folks, that was my positive year. I'm so glad I kept a record.

I'll be back with my plans for 2017 tomorrow.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Writing Feeds My Soul



Did you know that according to Twitter, it's World Kindness Day? I didn't, but then I haven't been on Twitter very much lately. Not because it's a time suck, more because there hasn't been any time to spare.

I haven't been doing quite as many writerly things lately. Instead, I've been out and about enjoying Autumn. It's been great to be outdoors, breathing in the fresh air. I love this season best. The trees turning from one colour to another, rich reds, bright yellows and dark golds, the earthy smells as the worms pull the fallen leaves deep under ground, and the last rays of sunshine on my face. Even the shorter days have their benefits, heralding the beginning of log fires and hot chocolate days ahead.

Walking is one of my passions, and I was determined to get out and see October unfold into November this year. It's been good, and has given me some space in my head again.

However, now it's time to change things around a bit. It's true that writing really does feed my soul and I'm most happy when I'm regularly putting words down. It feels good to write something every day, even just a few words. They don't all have to be on the novel in progress either.

In the last week, I've written a new monologue, edited some words, written a long letter to a friend, and joined in a writerly conversation on Twitter. I've responded to emails, and articles I've read on other writers blogs. I've taken part in a non-fiction writing workshop which entailed a lot of written exercises, and I've reviewed a book I've recently listened to and enjoyed. Each and everyone of the above fed my writer's soul, and made me happy and glad to be a writer.

Now's the time to batten down the hatches, make your writing space cosy, and surround yourself with all that you need to write. My goal for the week ahead is simply to write 'something' every day, and to buy some drinking chocolate, and to dig out my fleece throw.

Let me know what you're up to - do you change your writing habits with the seasons?

 And if you missed World Kindness Day, you can still celebrate and promote it today. Go on, make someone's day with a smile, a compliment, or a small deed.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Well That Was Enlightening!


Last week, I decided to keep a log of what I did with my time. It's been an eye opening experience, and a complete fail in terms of getting things done. I'm hoping that last week was just one of those awful out of control weeks when nothing went my way, because I got hardly anything done on my 'to do list' and on top of that, I ended up doing loads of extra stuff too.

However, I've remained fairly calm about the whole thing, probably because I've been dealing with the fall out of the week, but mainly because I know, that this was an experiment, and whatever it showed I was going to have to deal with no matter what...

What I've learnt is;

# A big chunk my life is spent at work, or travelling for work.

# I go to bed far too late.

# The best laid plans go awry.

# I'm maybe too ambitious

This is what I didn't and did achieve;

# No early morning writing sessions, not a one due to being far too tired to get up at the crack of dawn, or because I was traveling (driving) to work early.

# No #writingchat session due to travelling back from work.

# No Phoenix Writing Challenge (I didn't go - see why further down)

# No letter writing.

# Restarting Phoenix Subs Club didn't happen.

# No Pilates, no sessions in the pool, and no visits to the gym.

What did I do? I missed going to my writing group, and spent the time working on my novel instead. Then in the afternoon I went out walking. Throughout the week I listened to about an hour and a half of my audio book whilst driving or cooking.

What went wrong? 

Too many things to individually list here, albeit to say, it was one of those weeks! And I'll leave it at that. I have realised a few things though - I need to get more sleep, I need to take a long hard look at where my life is going, and perhaps not make such ambitious plans.

I suffered from what I call the 'knock on effect' a lot last week. For example, I went to bed late because I stayed up to watch something on catch up TV, I woke up tired the next day, and couldn't face my early writing session.

The work day was manic, I skipped lunch, or had a late lunch on other days, the roads were horrendous, too many vehicles, too many roadworks. I was late home, far too late to cook meals I had planned, and often had to go with plan B, different food, that I could prepare quickly.

By the time it was served, I had missed my Pilates, or gym sessions too. I was much later starting necessary chores, like laundry, cleaning and shopping etc and the day and evening just disappeared.

I'm going to continue with the time log again this week, as I want to get a true reflection of what is happening to my time. As for making a 'to do list' I think I need to keep it very simple.

Goals for the week ahead

# Work on the novel

# Restart the Phoenix Subs Club

# Take part in #Writingchat on Wednesday over on Twitter at 8pm - 9pm  - Do join in.

# Do some exercise, any exercise!

# Derby Writers Day

What I was grateful for last week

# Fresh fruit - Lots of it, pears, apples, grapes, banana, pineapple and raspberries which kept me going.

#  The friend who sorted out some administrative stuff, and saved me time.

#  The walk through the deer enclosure at Calke Park

That's it! Hope your week went better than mine and you've made plans for the week ahead. Do share them with us here at the First Draft Cafe.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

How Am I Going To Finish This Damned Novel?



So here we are in October. Just three months of 2016 remain, and I'm thinking, what can I do to make the most of what’s left of this year? Maybe, before I do that I ought to quickly review what I’ve already achieved, and practice the glass half full mindset, rather then getting downhearted about what I haven’t done. 

So, I’m still doing edits on my novel, and those edits have led to huge chunks of the story being rejigged, which in turn has led to changes. And of course changes mean rewriting. What I’m trying to say is, goal posts have moved and I’ve had to move with them.

Mentally, I don’t feel I’m any further ahead, but I must be? The question I’m asking myself now, is how, and more importantly, when will I finish this damned novel? It’s down to time management, and motivating myself to reach my goal. Which is a finished novel, ready to send out for a professional edit. 

I’m very lucky, not only do I have some amazingly supportive writing buddies to champion me along the way, I also belong to critique group where I get constructive feedback. I’m also in a good routine having changed from night owl to lark this year, I write at least four mornings out of seven, as well as one evening. The issue is the small amount of time I am spending on it, and although it's good to be chipping away, I'm not making big strides. 

So what can I do to aid me getting finished? It boils down to carving out even more time to write, and becoming more focused than I am at the moment. Honestly, I’m sitting here thinking, how on earth can I find any more time in my already busy week, unless I cut the other stuff I do now? Can I cut any more stuff? Do I want to cut anything else out? How many writers reading this are in the same position? You want to write, you really want to finish a project, but you are struggling to ‘make’ the time. And like me you have other necessary stuff that you really, really have to keep, be that caring for children, looking after an elderly relative, or even yourself. And then of course you might work too. Or have other pressing commitments.

I’ve been reading Give Up Ironing -  A Writers Guide To time Management by Kathleen Mc Gurl which goes a long way with trying to deal with writers who procrastinate. Yes, I’m reluctant to use that word but it’s the only one I can think of, or maybe I should use ‘time poor’ instead. Which ever it is, it’s making me frustrated and unhappy. Which is no good because it’s taking away the enjoyment of writing, and makes me think, do I want to be a novelist? 

From today, I’m following Kath's advice to keep a diary of what I’m doing with my time. For the next seven days I’m going to look for the gaps, where frankly I could be writing, because even though I think I’m filling my hours wisely,  I can’t be using my time as well as I think, otherwise I’d of been finished by now. 

It’s vital I also invest time in my health and well being, so I must continue with exercise to keep my back healthy, and to be honest, my head too, as we all know that exercise makes us feel happy. Once you’ve made the effort to start that is…and that’s the same with the writing too!

PLAN FOR THE WEEK

Writing  - Editing my novel 5 days out of six, Phoenix Writers challenge, writing a letter, and taking part in #writingchat on Twitter on Wednesday evening. Oh and re-starting the Phoenix Subs Club. Otherwise known as getting my work out there! 

Exercise - Two pool sessions, one pilates class, and one gym visit. Any walking will be a bonus. 

Reading - Continue listening to my latest audio book. 

I'll also have to do all the stuff real life chucks at me, like working, and family commitments, but I shall give it my best shot, and I’ll keep a log, to see where my time is seeping through the cracks, and could perhaps be used more wisely. However, I will definitely have to factor in some relaxation too. 

THINGS I’M GRATEFUL FOR 

# Catching up with friends and family. Although they were only small snatches of time, I’ve managed to catch up with family and friends this week.

# Meeting fellow writers and #writingchat folk, Carol Bevitt and Patsy Collins is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while and it finally happened yesterday. It was lovely to meet them in person and catch up with writerly topics. We even went for a short walk before the heavens opened and forced us into the cafe for refreshments. 



# Losing a pound and a half at Slimming World - In the words of Tesco, every little helps. As we move into Autumn, I’m looking forward to soups and stews.

# Receiving a letter. Yes, a real letter. Full of news from a writing buddy I met on Twitter a few years ago, and then in person, and now we are pen pals. 

It looks like I'm going to be very busy, and I may not succeed to get everything done, but I'm going to give it my very best shot. I’ll let you know how I get on next week.

Do let me know if you’ve made plans for the last quarter of the year, and if so what they are? I love hearing from you.

Have a good week! 

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Six Questions, Six Answers

Just for fun, six questions, and six answers.

1. What can you see out of the window? My pear tree, we inherited the tree when we moved into the house thirteen years ago, and so far it has given us fruit every year in September. The bounty varies from year to year, but there is always enough to share with the neighbours.

2. Choose five words to describe yesterday.  Writing, rain, friends, pilates, relax.

3. What was the last conversation you had? I spoke to my daughter, she's been home from University for the summer, and working every spare minute she can, so we haven't had much time to catch up, and it's almost time she went back again.

4.  What are you wearing? Yoga pants and a long sleeved Nike top.

5.   Has anyone inspired you in the last week? Anne Rainbow has, by publishing her book! The RedPen Way is on Amazon and today it's FREE to download  so go quickly, because it's a great book for writers. Showing you a simple and systematic way to edit your words.

6.  What have I been grateful for in the last week? 

Sunshine
Time spent at the swimming pool.
Music - Rediscovering Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
Feeling better physically than I have for months.
Breathing fresh unpolluted air.
Spending time with people that make me happy.
The rain! For making it easy to pull out the weeds.
Comfy pyjamas.

It's good to be grateful, and keeps you interested in life.

Plans for the week ahead

Due to a heavy workload from my day job, early starts and changed arrangements. I'll be happy if I get to write for two hours this week. I already know it will be time snatched early in the mornings, or very late at night. Something is better than nothing though...

I'm ploughing on with the exercise, pool work, pilates and generally trying to keep fit. I've made an appointment to discuss a gym programme later in the month. Don't panic, I said I've made an appointment, not joined the triathlon team. I have somehow got to shoe horn my busy life into something more efficient and manageable.                                                                                                                                                          

Anyway, have a good week all, catch up wth you soon

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Write Away

Write Away

How many of you write away from home? Perhaps you always write away from home due to distractions, or lack of space. Do you go somewhere before or after work? Are your weekends an escape route to writing?

If you haven't tried writing away from home before, maybe it's time to try it. Personally, I find it energising to have a change now and again.

Here are a few ideas.

Libraries - Most libraries have had to face severe cuts over the last few years, however there are some that have a late evening or two, and most have an area where you can set up with a note book and pen, or even your tablet or laptop in some cases.

Coffee Bars  - These can be hectic, but maybe you're one of those people who can filter out background noise, or perhaps you welcome it. Most cafes have no objection to you setting up and working as long as you buy a drink every now and again.

Public Transport - Trains and buses are good for this, especially the train if you can get a table seat. Go with your notebook on the bus, or try writing on your mobile phone. It's amazing what can be achieved in even the shortest journey.

Waiting Rooms - Be it the doctor, dentist or solicitors. It's possible to get a few snatched words down before your name gets called, and you don't even notice the wait.

Cars - Writing in your car, whether that be on the carpark at work during your lunch break, or a place you've driven to especially.

Motorway Service Stations - Don't rule these places out. It's possible to find a good spot to sit and watch the world go by, and also pen a few chapters of your novel. Or glean ideas for that short story.

Motorhomes & Caravans - Very doable, and with a view that keeps changing.

Outdoor Spaces - Okay, so this one is obviously weather dependent, but worth trying. Perhaps a bench in the park. Or your own personal retreat at the bottom of your garden. I've heard all about sheds that have been converted into writing dens. Or maybe you have an allotment shed? Or a beach hut?

Hotels - It's usual to see people working in hotel foyers, or lounges these days, and again as long as you order a drink or two, you'll find no one really bothers you. Your entire novel could be penned at the Hilton, or at a Premier Inn.

Other People's Homes  - This can work very well, especially if they are writers too. The added bonus here, is you usually stop and have  a writerly natter too. If they aren't writers, then perhaps if you're babysitting, or looking after their home for a week whilst they are away on holiday you can type away for an hour or so.  Be sure to get their permission on that last idea.

Trying out a variety of venues can be fun. Some will work well, and others won't work so well, but all will be a change. Don't assume where you write now is the best environment. Take you writing out on tour, and experience a different setting, different noises, smells and scenery. A writer on the move needs very little these days. Have a bag ready. Laptop, notebook, pens etc Go on, try it this week!

Let me know where you write? And any unusual places you've tried.


Saturday, 20 August 2016

Bringing Order to Chaos

Summer

Hello, it's me again. I know, its been a while, and I'm sorry about that. So what happened? Truthfully, I went on holiday back at the end of June, had a lovely relaxing break, and just couldn't get going again. I've struggled with a lot of other things too, apart from the blog.

Writing still figured high up on my priority list, and over the last few months, I've been doing different stuff. Shorter fiction, which has suited not only my mood, but also the bursts of time I've had available. I wasn't writing daily, and sometimes I missed two or three days. Consequently, not very much got done beyond my shorter pieces of flash fiction and a few short stories.  I did think about things though, because I needed to make sense of what was stopping me.

Trying to fit in a career, family, staying healthy and writing is tough on a good day, and I'm sure some reading this post will know what I mean. Even a couple of things going awry in a busy person's day can be nightmarish. When the to-do list has no end, and we allow busyness to rule us, life feels chaotic! I don't feel guilty for pressing the pause button.

I'm not a full-time writer, and I need to keep in mind that it isn't the thing I do to earn my living. Most writers do not make a living out of writing.  To be a writer you have to write. To be a good writer, you have to write a lot. Okay, I know I'm a writer, I DO write, just not as much and as often as those who choose to make a full-time career out of it. I'm working at getting better, and I know it could be many years before I see any success the way I'm approaching it, but that's okay. I'm going to accept that for now, I'll do what I can, whilst remaining mindful that I'm not in some race, and my livelihood doesn't depend on my writing.

Recently, I've got back on track, on average I'm writing six out of seven days. My target is to do fifteen minutes before the day gets going properly, but it's usually thirty minutes before I stop. At weekends, I do more. My new regime is working for now, I'm moving forward, and have some work, life balance now. Where as before, I felt out of control, and angry that I couldn't devote more time to writing.

Very few of us take enough time out to relax. Yet it's so important to take a break now and again. Try it, if you don't already do it. It's rejuvenating, and need not be months, or even weeks. Just twenty minutes spent sitting quietly will bring a little order to chaos.

I'm back now, and intend to update the blog regularly. Let me know what you've been up to?


Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Try Something New

Maria A Smith

I got to thinking today, it's high time I tried something new, or did something I haven't done for a while. Like what?

Like going to a movie - Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie opens on July 1st and I really fancy going to see it. Some of you may recall it was an outrageously funny BBC sitcom, about Edina and Patsy, (Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley) two hard living, should-know-better fashionistas.

Like listening to David Bowie, Micheal Bubble, Annie Lennox and anyone else who inspires and entertains me. And makes me feel happy. Time to tune into You Tube, or search through my old MP3 collection.

Like hanging out wth people who make me laugh!  What was it Lord Byron said? Always laugh when you can - it is cheap medicine! Seriously, hanging out with people who make you happy is food for the soul.

Like challenging myself to take more pictures. It's time to capture some of my life in 2016, the things I see and do. I'll regret it if I don't do this one.

Like learning something new. Not sure what, but a change will do me good.

Other stuff I must address.

Definitely time to give FaceBook a wide birth for a while. I feel very very sad, and sickened at some of the things I've read in the last week. People who were friends two weeks ago, are now pitched against each other because they have a different point of view. Honest decent people being called racists, or thick, and the vile comments about people over the age of 60. I want to scream, BE NICE! For goodness sake, be nice to each other.

Overeating and lack of exercise - Yes, been feeling stressed for a few weeks, and suspect this is why I'm overeating lots of unhealthy stuff. As for the exercise, I need to get with the programme again. What programme? Oh yes, I need to make one.

Writing - I need to allocate more time to write.

So there it is. My thoughts thrown down before you.

Is it time you looked at your life plan for the rest of 2016?

Sunday, 12 June 2016

What was I up to?

Russian Dolls - Maria A Smith


What was I up to this time last year? Or the year before, or the year before that? My memory is so bad these days I can't remember what I was doing last week! Let alone what I was up to last year.

I got to thinking it might be interesting to look at my previous blog posts, and see what life was like a few years ago. Have you ever looked back at your previous blog posts?

One year ago at around this time, the rain lashed down just the same as it has been doing here today. I had a goal list in operation, and by all accounts I was trying to stick to the plan. You can read about it here if you want to...The point is, I had a plan.

Two years ago, in 2014 I wasn't feeling much like blogging because I didn't post at all in June. Life is sometimes so busy, and I've come to realise, I can't do everything I want to do. I did blog in May though, and you can see here, by the tone of my words, it looks like I was very tired.

Three years ago in 2013, I wrote a post all about looking after myself. It makes interesting reading again now. See what I wrote here  - are you taking care of yourself?

Four years ago in 2012 I blogged about this and that, and I had clear goals, and a 'to do' list, and I was getting on with stuff and progressing. All was well.

In 2011 at around this time, I was involved with running a workshop at my writers group, and having fun too.

However,  the year before in 2010, blog posts were very scarce at the First Draft Cafe, in fact there were none between March and September. What was I doing? It's a shame, that I didn't record anything for prosperity.

This blog began in November 2009, hard to believe it's been going for almost seven years, and I love that I can look back and see what I was doing with my time over the years. Or what I wasn't doing.

Back to the present - So what have I been up to in the last seven days?

Writing, yes. Two hours which isn't a huge amount of time, but it's better than not doing anything. Truth is I've been terribly time poor and usually write early in the mornings, but I've had lots of very early starts recently which has prevented me from getting on with my rewrites. I've been getting home late too, feeling too tired to start any major edits.

I had a fun evening yesterday though when I went to see Joe Hill, the American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction. He was on the last night of his UK tour, signing his latest book The Fireman as well as doing a Q & A session too, at the Derby Book Festival. It was lively, interactive and fun! He had us singing, and laughing, and he answered a variety of different questions about his life as a writer.

The week ahead will be about continuing on with the rewrite. I'm planning to get on with it in the early morning, and keep to my plan, but suspect life will get in the way, and I may have to rearrange stuff. That's okay as long as I keep moving towards the target.

Have a good week folks.

P.S. In case you're wondering why I've used an image of Russian Dolls with this post, it's because I captured this image a few years ago, and it was high time I used it. No other reason, and good enough for me.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Where Did May Go?

Reading 
Seriously, where did May go?

Looking back, life just got crazy for me. Leicester City won the Premier League on 2nd May 2016, 
and the city went bananas!

Seriously, it affected everyone and everything around here. Regardless of whether you're a fan or not, you couldn't help getting caught up in the spirit of it. 
After three weeks of celebrations, I realised I couldn't catch up. It's been fantastic though, very up lifting. 

I've also been doing a fair amount of travelling with the day job, and as anyone who works away from home will know, it's draining, both mentally and physically, and nothing gets done at home while you're away either.


On a positive, I've read a lot, and as all writing folk know, reading is vital. It stokes the fire, lots of reading means good writing. I've had a trip out to Brighton, to see the premier of a short film written by a writer I met earlier this year, and I've attended a few Phoenix Writers sessions too. So not a total wipeout in May. 

Does anyone else feel like time is getting away from them at an alarming rate? I've had a lot of time-suckers this month, and going forward I've got to address things before I go insane. I'm always doing something, but I'm getting nothing done! What's that all about? 


I need a fresh start. But. I can't count today, it's been beautiful, the sun shone brightly, and I've done nothing other than get my hair cut. Afterwards, instead of knuckling down to the housework, and generally catching up with household chores, I spent time outside basking in the beauty of the day. I read my book, sat around, drank tea and ate cake! And, you know what? I feel a lot better for it. 

However, I'm back on it now. There will be writing.

What are you up to this week? 


Sunday, 1 May 2016

Hello May!

And so begins the fifth month of the year.

Did you know that in 1707 on this day the Acts of Union came into force? England and Scotland united to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Wales had already been part of England since the 1500's.

Calamity Jane, famous frontier woman was born on this day in 1852, an acquaintance of Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity could shoot like a man and drink like a fish! I imagine she was quite a character in her day. 

In 1953 a film musical was made loosely based on her life. I recall watching it several times during my childhood, and merrily singing along with Doris Day who played the lead role, with Howard Keel cast as Wild Bill Hickok. There were some great songs, including The Deadwood Stage, Secret Love and I Can Do Without You. 



On May 1st 1931, the Empire State Building was officially opened. It stood as the tallest building for almost 40 years. 

Of course May 1st is also May Day, a public holiday in the UK, we celebrate it on the first Monday in May. 

Now onto plans for the week ahead. Although, first I should say that making a plan last week really helped with my productivity, I got loads of stuff done! Every evening, I referred to my 'to do' list and  got on with the business of writing the next morning, steadily working through my list.

This week, I want to continue with my novel in the mornings, work on a new supernatural story, and write a 100 word flash fiction piece. 

Now I'm off to enjoy the first day of the month.

What will you be doing? 

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Make A Plan

Hmm, how many of you have made a plan this week?

I used to do it all the time, and it worked very well. Then for no reason I stopped. Skipped a few weeks, then a few more, and before I knew it, I'd dropped the habit. I'm annoyed with myself, as I've proved I'm not as productive. I'm getting back to it this week.

Yesterday, I took myself off to a comfy spot, kicked off my shoes, ordered a pot of tea and a slice of Lemon Drizzle, and jotted down my plans for the next seven days. I wrote everything, that I hope to accomplish this week, in a nice new notebook. It's all down in black and white.

Not just my writing goals though, I've also included my relaxation and exercise too. Even deadlines are written down, such as what day of the week I need to have done stuff by. And thats it.

What I'm going to try and keep in mind is that it's important to stay focused on what's in front of you at any one time.

We'll see how I get on.


Sunday, 17 April 2016

Catching Up!

Love Spring  
I haven't updated my blog for almost a month! Ever since Spring arrived, and the clocks went forward, it's all gone to pot! Why?

Partly because I've been  trying to stick to my new self imposed rules - I must do thirty minutes on my novel before I do any other writing. It's been working, the novel is on the move again, and I'm writing other bits and bobs time permitting. I did have to make some small adjustment though, as it's impossible to commit to writing every single day.

So, what else have I been doing?

What am I reading? Well, a few things, my reading style is the same as my writing style, I'm a butterfly that likes to flit around. So, I've listened to Peter May's Coffin Road  whilst I've been driving, cooking or ironing. It's about a murder in the Outer Hebrides, and it's got a fabulous opening hook in the first sentence.

I'm currently reading Baggy Pants & Bootees by Marilyn Chapman in paperback form which I'm thoroughly enjoying, firstly because it's a time slip story, set in two eras I really love - the 1960's and the 1940's, and secondly because I love the characters. I recently met the author and told her I was a slow reader. Well I am. Slow. Probably because I'm not reading one book at a time.

I'm also enjoying, on my Kindle  The Eternal by Mark Chadbourn more horror than fantasy, it's dark, with non stop action. I'm so loving this story.

And then I'm also Beta reading a novel written by one of my writing buddies. And I can't say very much about that at the moment, other than it's full of werewolves and vampires. So right up my street! You can't beat a good dose of Urban Fantasy.

On my bedside table, I have a couple of non-fiction books I'm dipping in and out of too. Scrivener for Dummies and Legendary Quotations which is a tiny little book, i picked up in a charity shop, which does not name the author, it just says; from Lloyds Bank, but has some fabulous quotes.

Here are two towards the beginning of the book that make me smile.

You know life...it's rather like opening a can of sardines. We are all looking for the key

- Alan Bennett


What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out. 

- Alfred Hitchcock 

So this post is more about reading, than writing, still words, but sometimes, a change is as good as a rest. What are you all reading?

And what are your favourite quotes?  Do share with me, I'm on the lookout for my next audiobook, and paperback reads.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

First Day of Spring

Pixabay Image 
Hurrah! Today is the first day of Spring, and what a beautiful day it's been here in Leicestershire. The sun shone brightly for most of today, and it's whet my appetite for lighter evenings and milder weather. I can't wait until we alter the clocks at the weekend.

Last week, I wrote a 500 word story, and did my writing club challenge. Apart from that, I thought out how to continue with the novel, and I've made a start on that this afternoon. I'm feeling highly motivated.

I need your help novelists.  When you go back checking scenes or chapters, do you have a check list? It's what I'm doing this coming week, and I'm at the stage where I'm asking,

1. Does this scene move the story forward? Something has to change, and when it does it's time to move on.

2. Does it offer some new information? Give the reader more detail about the character, or the situation, some back story, or new knowledge?

3. Are there any disconnects? Have I lost the plot? Do I leave things hanging?  And never go back to resolve at least some of them?

4. Is there anything I need to cut?  Everything has to earn it's place in this story, otherwise it distracts or bores the reader.

5. Does it hang together, is anything missing?

6. Are the scenes in the correct order?

What other 'big stuff' do I need to sort now?

Other news...

The diet ISN'T going well, I was seduced by the cake on more than one occasion last week. My body is craving sweet things and carbohydrates. I'm telling myself it knows what it's doing, it's repairing my sprained ankle and I'll be back on the healthy eating soon.

After Easter.

What have you been up to?

Part of my five a day - Maria A Smith 

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Our Feathered Friends


March Snowdrops - Maria A Smith

In the last week I've noticed the birds are singing again, a sure sign that Spring is almost sprung! 
I went out for a short walk this afternoon - it was lovely. The air was fresh and clean, and I took my time looking up into the bare branches to see if I could spot any of our feathered friends. 

I wasn't disappointed.  I saw a couple of Moor hens exploring around the sides of a pond, a robin sitting high above me, basking in the afternoon sunshine, and a pair of blue tits too, as well as a very fine blackbird. 

It gladdened my heart to see the birds, and made me feel very lucky to be able to get out and about without too much difficulty. 

Blackbird - Pixabay 

I couldn't get close enough with my camera to shoot the birds, but I'm allowed to use these great images from Pixabay on my blog to tell the story of my afternoon. If you aren't familiar with  Pixabay, all their images are free of copyright, as they are creative commons in the public domain. They are supplied free of charge because people like myself, who take pictures, but also use images have donated them.  

You can donate money each time you download an image, but it's not compulsory. I do every now and again. They suggest the price of a cup of coffee. 

It's very easy to upload your own images, should you wish to contribute and they are all vetted for quality and suitability before they are put onto the site for download. Not all of mine get through, as they aren't good enough, or perhaps it is because they are overrun with certain topics.

Interestingly, one of my tea and cake images has been downloaded over three hundred and fifty times!

Coloured Bark - Maria A Smith

The image above is mine, and I'll offer to share it with Pixabay if it's good enough, because who knows they might be short of images of coloured bark and if I can help someone who needs such a picture on their blog, or for an article, then that makes me happy, and I'm giving back.

My walk ended with a pot of tea and a slice of cake, and I was going to snap a picture, but I was so hungry I forgot, and had licked up every crumb before I remembered.


Blue Tit - Pixabay
Last week  - A bit of an odd week, the ankle slowed me down but I managed to do some flash fiction and I went to my writing group on Saturday, and offered feedback on the other writers manuscripts.

The Week Ahead - I need to step it up a gear as I've a few things I really need to get done.
Such as putting together a new revised plan for working on my novel. A flash fiction piece and a new 500 word short story, which MUST be ready to read on Saturday morning.
No pressure then.

Do stop by and leave me a comment - I love to hear what you've all been doing. Catch you soon...

Monday, 7 March 2016

Things I Learnt Last Week

Maria A Smith
Last week was busy, chocked full of good and bad things.

# I'm beginning to enjoy Pilates - It's taken me a while to feel confident in what I'm doing, and I've had several one to one sessions, on top of weekly pilates classes. I'm really impressed with how much more I'm getting out of this mind-body exercise. It's a safe sensible exercise, and I've become more body aware since starting it.  What I really like is that, no matter what your age, or condition, you can get something out of pilates.

# Bad stuff happens  - Unfortunately, I stumbled and sprained my ankle on Friday. It wasn't pretty, made worse by the fact that I was on my own in London at an event. It happened as I arrived. Fortunately I managed to conduct my business, but when I stood up to leave, four hours later and could barely walk! I realised I had to get across London in rush hour traffic late on a Friday afternoon to catch my train back to the Midlands, and then drive my car the short distance home.

The pain was excruciating! I had no chance of hailing a taxi, and I thought, 'please don't let this impact on my back' those who know me, through the pages of this blog, will remember I fell in 2014, sprained my left ankle badly, and although I didn't know it then, I'd put my back out. I was on crutches for two months, and had severe pain which eventually subsided. However, I was left with a niggling ache in my lower back which just got worse and worse as the year progressed. This led to me being incapacitated for the first four months of 2015. Hell! I was scared! And yes I'm using too many exclamation marks in this post.

I limped down Park Lane to Marble Arch tube station, took a deep breath and told myself I could do this. I had lots of time.

Oddly, on my journey to the venue, I'd thought how anonymous you are in London. How you could go about your business all day without speaking to another soul. No one smiles. Everyone scurries around under ground or through the packed streets. Eyes are averted everywhere. It's what it is.

I was glad to reach St Pancras International, although you are just as anonymous there too, but at least I felt that if I fell over, there would be some first aid available somewhere nearby. Everywhere was heaving with people all trying to get to their destinations. I managed to get a seat and spent an hour people watching whilst the throbbing continued in my right ankle.

I made it home, dosed up with pain killers and put my jumbo foot up to relieve the pressure.

#RNA Chapter Birmingham - My motto in life, is NEVER, NEVER, GIVE UP! I was up early on Saturday morning, it was the day of the RNA workshop. Should I go? Could I make it? I'd got home from London hadn't I?

Mind over matter. If you think you can, you will, same as if you think you can't you probably can't.
I decided I was going to Birmingham.

Back on the trains, I made it to the second biggest city in England, having spent the previous day in largest, I reckoned if I managed London, I should be able to get to my writing day, and as I'd be sitting down all day, I knew I could rest my foot up for hours before I needed to get back home again.

It helped that the venue, the Radison Blu hotel was just three minutes from the station. It took me ten minutes, but I got there in good time and was made welcome immediately by Marilyn Rodwell who runs the Birmingham chapter.

After tea, pastries and some introductions our day was split into five specific sessions.

The first, a workshop on how to plan your novel, led by Bella Osborne  an expert in project management, showed us how to arrange a plan using post-it notes, and I have to say, I was impressed. Now remember, I'm a complete panster! But, I could see sense in her charts, and methods.

The second workshop led by Indie author Lizzie Lamb  told us about her journey to publishing her first novel, and subsequent ones, and how she markets herself. Her brand, and her books. It was a talk packed with tips and tricks Lizzie has learnt on the journey. It was interesting to listen to what worked and what didn't, and how everything is a gamble.

Lunch was good. There was plenty of time to mingle and chat with other writers. There were people there from three chapters. Birmingham, The Marchers and Leicester. You can read more about the Romantic Novelists Association (RNA)  here.

The afternoon began with Editing Your Novel with Alison May which I'd been looking forward to as I've signed onto one of her novel workshops later in the year - I wasn't disappointed. Alison showed us how she tackles editing, and demonstrated some savvy ideas on how to drag your way out of the treacle when you're stuck fast.

Sally Jenkins followed Alison with an interesting session on Writing for the Weekly News, and discussed writing twist in the tale stories. We were put to work, and had to come up with our own twist in the tale scenario which was quite challenging.
I've known Sally for a while through her blog and on Twitter, so it was great to get to meet her on Saturday.

Our last session was with Helen Barrell who advised us on all the different social media options available to authors, and the differences between them. It was insightful, I never realised we had so many options.

The writers day ended with an opportunity to buy books written by those present. It had been an enjoyable day, and as I hobbled out of the venue and around the corner to the train station, I was glad I'd gone along.

The week ahead... 

Honestly, I'm unsure. I need to take it easy. I'll let you know how it pans out. Have a good productive week.


Sunday, 28 February 2016

Value the Friendships You Make


It's Sulphite Free! 

What I've Been Thinking

Three months ago a dear writing friend passed away, and it's been hard to come to terms with her death, and the knowledge that I won't see her again has made me terribly sad. Sometimes, when I go to the writers group, I look around for her in the coffee bar. I know, that's just plain crazy.

Apart from our mutual love of writing we had much more in common. Photography, walking, history and cake tasting featured a lot during our friendship. We'd spend time chatting about our novels, supping tea and eating cake. We'd discuss ways to deal with errant characters, wayward plots and other writerly topics. And I fondly recall those times now, never quite realising how precious my memories would become.

I attended her funeral, and spoke publicly about her writing life to those gathered, her family and friends, it was very hard. I can't describe how heartsore I felt, as I realised then that I'd never see her again. We weren't going to have another conversation, and I wouldn't hear her read her novel, and there'd be no more time in her company.

In the last year of our friendship, she became ill, and I had mobility problems, but even so we both made the effort to meet up and see each other, although it was much less than before. I'm so, so glad we made the effort.

It's made me realise the obvious. Life is short. It's not like I didn't know this truth before, but like most of us, I lose sight of it from time to time. Then something happens, and it highlights the need to live life to the full. What I'm trying to say - is that sometimes, you never know the value of the moment, until it becomes a memory.

If you've been putting something off that you really want to do - like taking that holiday for writers, self-publishing your novel, or even finishing it! Starting a writers' group, or getting up on stage to perform your work - get on with it!

Follow your dream, and don't neglect your family or friends.
If there's someone you haven't heard from in a while, reach out, contact them and arrange a date to get together. You'll be glad you did.

My Week

I've had a head cold all week, so all exercise was off, as was writing. I've learnt it can't be done with a nose like a dripping tap, and a head that feels like it's about to explode.

By Wednesday it had eased enough for me to take part in #writingchat on Twitter, and things progressed in the right direction from then onwards.

I attended my first Playshuffle this week, which is an event where a bunch of writers, actors and 'voyeurs' turn up over at Derby Theatre, and basically the actors perform scripts they have just been handed by the writers. There is no read through, no rehearsal etc It is simply script in hand and off you go! It was very good, and showed the talents of both actors and writers. I was classed as a 'voyeur', as I went as a guest of another writer who had a script he wanted to hear performed.

As a writer, it's interesting to see, for example if anyone stumbled over their words, in which case you know you need to tweak things, or in the case of the comedy scripts, you could see where people laughed, and where they didn't, and how spaced the laughs were coming.

There were breaks, and you were encouraged to mingle and discuss the acting, writing and anything else you wanted to know. It was an enjoyable evening.

As soon as the bell went to signal the end of the working week on Friday, I zoomed off to the steam room, followed by the jacuzzi and swimming pool. It was very relaxing, and I really enjoyed the silence of being on my own. Afterwards I dined alone too, and it felt good to be in my own company.

#3 Reasons I was grateful last week
  1. Friendship - Doesn't matter if they are online via Twitter, or standing in front of you. Surround yourself with people that make you happy. 
  2.  Wine - My favourite eatery put a sulphite free wine on their list. Hurrah! They listened, and followed through, and now I can enjoy a glass of wine when I want one. And if you're not aware then yes, I'm sulphite sensitive, and you might be too. Read more about this sensitivity HERE .
  3. Warm Clothes - The big fluffy purple dressing gown my son gifted me for Christmas, my fleecy bed socks, and my big warm coat and gloves. Don't know if it's because I've had a cold, but it's been freezing around these parts in the last week. Roll on Springtime! 
The week ahead is going to be busy at work. I'm still getting over the dregs of the cold, so I'm going to take it easy where I can. I've got a pilates session booked, which I'm looking forward to, but anything else will simply be a bonus. 

There will be writing in some form, but I'll have to pace myself, as I want to be on top form for Saturday when I'll be attending a writers workshop in Birmingham organised by the RNA (Romantic Novelist's Association). I'll report back and let you know all about it in my next blog post.

How was your week? And what lies ahead? 

Sunday, 21 February 2016

5 Reasons You Should Be Writing




1. Writing is Relaxing - Chilling out is good for the soul, and the more relaxed you are the better the writing, so they say, so crack open the wine, put on some music, pick up the pen and start scribbling.

2. Remember the Good Old Days - Wouldn't it be great if you found a diary written by one of your grandparents. Tales of everyday life in their day. Stories about their relationships, their friends and family, and who they were as people. So start writing your own family history. Leave a record for future generations, or write your memoir!

3. Writing is Escapism  - And we all need to escape from time to time don't we? You can go anywhere you want to, and become anyone. What are you waiting for?

4. Write to Connect With Your Readers - Start a blog, or rekindle the one you've been neglecting. Maybe you've had an idea outside your usual writing remit. Go for it, start blogging your adult fairy stories, diaries of a bricklayer, or whatever else piques your interest.

5. Explain Something - Write a non-fiction article and educate us about bee keeping or knitting, or your travels around Ireland or wherever or whatever else takes your fancy.

There you are, 5 reasons you should be writing. I'm sure you can think of many more. 

Last Week

The novel is progressing, I adjusted the plan on Saturday afternoon. No more edits for now, it's time to read through the whole thing again and make sure each chapter is doing it's job, either moving the story forward or informing the reader. 

Good Things 
  • Caught up with  a friend for a G & T
  • Laughed out loud when I saw Ed Byrne at Curve Theatre as part of the Leicester Comedy Festival
  • Tea and cake and solitude
  • Stretch Class
  • Good advice from a writing buddy
The week ahead is a a new adventure and I'm looking forward to all that it holds. 
What are you up to? 

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Be Thankful


I've had one of those weeks where I've felt put upon, and a little anxious about different things. As the working week closed I felt jaded, a lot of it was beyond my control. It's been hard going, and it made me feel off course and grumpy too. My well laid plans were disrupted. Again.

What I did
  • Almost two hours of editing on the novel (over two VERY early mornings) 
  • Flash Fiction (written on a return train journey when I could of slept instead) 
  • Took part in #writingchat (discussed a subject, I know little about) 
  • Writers Group - Gave feedback to other writers on their manuscripts, and facilitated the Submissions Group
  • Pilates Personal Training session
  • Attended Slimming World session (even though I put weight on! I stayed for the whole session) 
  • Went out for a meal with a friend
  • Had a night out at Leicester Comedy Festival
  • Coffee with a writing buddy
  • Lunch with members of my writing group

For years my way of coping with my crazy mad schedule is to be grateful - grateful for all the good stuff that happens in among the difficult stuff. I simply turn my thinking around, and get rid of the negative stuff.

So when that little voice in my head shouts,  'You're rubbish at novel writing - give it up and admit it would be easier if you went back to short stories.' I take myself to one side and say, 'Okay so you're struggling - get some help. Talk to a writing buddy, enrol on a workshop to learn how to push through, or read one of your writing books and find something you can try.' I re-frame the problem. It's not me, it's the situation and that can be changed.

Tell someone you appreciate them

I've found that if you cultivate an atmosphere of thankfulness it spreads and grows. It really is amazing what a small thank you can do. If someone has given you their time, or helped you in some way when they didn't have to, then why not acknowledge what they've done for you. It'll make you feel good too.

Take it a step further and do something good for someone you don't know. Pay an act of kindness forward. If someone has mentored you with your writing, you probably can't repay them, but you can pay it forward. Help someone else. And when someone does do something nice for you, focus on how they brought goodness into your life.

Don't forget to say thank you

So if you're week goes off course too, start saying thank you. It really helps. Say 'thank you' to the person who served your coffee, the man who delivers your groceries, the person who gave you their parking space. You'll feel so much better for it, and it'll make you smile too.

Things I'm grateful for this week
  • All the people who opened doors for me, or carried my luggage when they saw I was struggling.
  • The baristas who served up the coffee that fuelled my days.
  • My birthday cards, best wishes and the lovely gifts I received on the day.
  • The man I shared a taxi with in London who wouldn't let me pay my half.
  • The lady I sat next to at Slimming World who told me not to give up, and the friend who texted to say she wouldn't let me quit! 
  • The friend who lent me an evening bag so that I didn't have to buy one especially. 
  • Breakfast, and lots of writerly chatter with a buddy I haven't seen in a while.
  • The log burner! 
  • The company of strangers
  • An out of the blue email thanking me for my friendliness. 
By writing this list it's made me realise how kind people have been to me in the last week. Stop and think about your own week, I bet you can find lots of reasons to be grateful too.

My plans for the week ahead

To do the best that I can
To further my writing
Another Leicester Comedy Festival Outing
Lunch with a friend

I hope your week was good, and the week ahead is enjoyable. Remember - Be grateful - Start small and find things to be thankful for in all you do this week.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Taking Stock

Sleeping Dog

As the title implies, this post is dedicated to looking back over the last month to see if the masterplan is on track. Masterplan? You know what I mean - the plan I set for myself just over a month ago. Can you believe a month has vanished already? I'm really pleased I've kept a log of what I've been up to because it's so easy to lose track.

I'm at that age where I don't remember things as well, and if I don't write them down, I forget. So looking back, how am I doing? Overall I'm pleased, I'm writing regularly, working on my rewrite, keeping up with the writing group challenges and getting out and about to meet writing buddies too. On the surface all looks good. Except for last week, when I didn't even have time to blog!


A couple of areas need a tweak, one is timing, something I struggle with on and off. My good intentions to write early in the mornings before the day begins are a bit all over the place. Sometimes it really can't be helped as I'm travelling for work and sometimes I set out so early I can't get up any earlier. However, there are days when I could, but I don't. Why not? Some of it is procrastination if I'm honest, and some is tiredness. I've been feeling exhausted lately. Time to be rest I think.

Looking back over the blog I'm able to see my progress, and it's a good feeling, and where I need to make changes I can see that too.

The plan needs a tweak, which means a bigger effort to get more sleep. During the week, all I can do is go to bed at a reasonable time, but at the weekend, I can perhaps try and grab forty winks during the day. What do you think? The sleep foundation recommends planned napping as long as it's no longer than 20-30 minutes. The idea of it is to take a nap before you feel sleepy. Apparently, it improves alertness, and performance without leaving you feeling groggy, or unable to sleep at night. That should hopefully sort out my tiredness, and I'll feel able to write.

The procrastination is a strange one. I know that if I do my writing first thing, it's out of the way for the day and I can get on with work, family stuff etc in the knowledge that I've pushed on with my novel, and can use the rest of the day to think about things too. It's a good plan, but I keep slipping back into bad habits.

Hmm, all I can do is persevere, after all it's not that the writing hasn't been done, I've crammed it in at other times. Like in-between peeling vegetables and waiting for them to steam, or while travelling on the bus, or on a rare afternoon when I'd planned to read for an hour.  I'll sort it, and I'm not going to be hard on myself about it either.

What I've been watching - 

Stan Lee's Lucky Man - A new TV series starring James Nesbit as a Police detective who can control luck. I'll give it a few more episodes, it's definitely different. The jury is still out though.

What I've been listening to - 

Lots! Really enjoying music again.

Talking Heads, Ultravox, Katherine Jenkins, Queen and Rod Stewart.

What I've been reading - 

Slimming Magazine (For inspiration and great recipes!)

A Parcel for Anna Browne by Miranda Dickinson

What I've done - 

Bit the bullet and had my hair cut! I'll put a new profile picture up soon.

Pinned a smile on my face, even when I've not felt like it, and watched the reaction. Which was mostly very positive.

The Week Ahead

More of the same on the writing front - a new group challenge this week. February is our one word challenge which the incoming Chair sets the previous week. Our word last week was 'Bus' and we had 150 words to write a piece of flash fiction. There were many variations on the theme. Some very funny ones.

This week the word is 'lift' and I haven't a clue what I'll write, I'm relying on 'back brain' to work it out whilst I go about my week. I'm sort of resigned to the fact that I'll be writing it last minute. It seems to be my way.

There will be further rewriting, and I'm also going to send a chapter out to a new reader, who hasn't read anything by me before.

As for keeping healthy, and losing weight, I've been stuck at the same weight for the last three weigh in sessions. I had a short break where I ate differently, and included more treats, but I did get back on track quite quickly, so I'm unsure why this has happened as I haven't changed anything. On a positive, at least I haven't put weight on. I had a word with the leader and she has offered some helpful advice and new things to try, so fingers crossed.

 Exercise may have to take a back seat this week as I've quite a schedule.

How did your January go? Pleased with all you achieved? What plans are afoot this week?                                                                                                                                                                                    


Sunday, 24 January 2016

Change Is Hard

A little Bit of Snow

You definitely need willpower to make change, and you need to make a habit of making new habits work for you. Does that make sense?

It's too difficult to change everything at once, but if you make a habit of changing things slowly, you'll not only get to where you want to be, but you'll feel more fore-filled too.

Want to know how I do it? Keep three things in mind, a cue, routine, and a reward. Let me explain.

You want to clear out your writing space but the room is full of junk, needs decorating and you don't have a desk. It would mean shifting and organising over five hundred paperback books and a collection of notebooks and pens to rival any stationary store. It's a mammoth task when we look at it like that isn't it?  But not insurmountable.
So let's tackle it.

Cue - Set an alarm, I'm not joking. Set up your phone to send you an alert telling you  - you have fifteen minutes before you start work. Enough time to clear whatever you're doing. When the alarm sounds - start!

Routine - Make it a regular thing. Once a week on Thursday at 7pm. Every day when you come in through the door from work perhaps? Whatever you decide, stick to it, and do it regularly. Tick it off your mental tasks list too.

Reward - Identify what you'll give yourself before you start. A cup of tea and ten minutes reading time, or maybe ten minutes on social network, or an episode of your favourite show. It's really important to know what treat you'll receive at the end of your efforts.

In a matter of weeks, you'll see change, and as it does, you'll feel more motivated to finish. Until eventually, you're sitting in the space you've dreamt of for so long.

You can apply the above to whatever you want to do, regardless of whether it's writing a novel, pitching short stories to competitions, or  completing an online course. You'll get to wherever you want to get to, in the end, but do ensure you revisit your habits regularly.  At least every few months, and don't be afraid to change anything that isn't working. There is nothing wrong in rejigging things.

What I Did Last Week

Writing - No challenge at my writing group this week as we had a backlog of manuscripts to critique. The session was really good, very positive and there were some great pieces of writing read out and critiqued. Afterwards, I went for lunch with several of the group, it was lovely to catch up with everyone.

The novel has temporarily stalled, mainly because I've been doing some necessary stuff to do with the structure, and I've been away for a few days.

I took part in a very interesting webinar on POV (point of view) over at Red Pen on Wednesday evening, and if you go HERE you'll be able to find out more, and sign up to the FREE newsletter. The site is run by the lovely Anne Rainbow, and this week she is doing a series of FREE launch webinars too. Take a look, I'm glad I did.

Great to see so many writers taking part in #writingchat on twitter too - do join in if you're around on Wednesday 8pm - 9pm UK time. It's a different topic every week.

I haven't been completely slacking on the words either. I wrote the first half of this post whilst away on my short break, and I'm also tinkering with a short story I wrote at a workshop day in 2010, Written long hand in a notebook, I re-visited it, and began re-writing. Ever done that? Gone back to something you wrote years ago? I'm enjoying it, and hoping to enter it into a competition.


Health - So, onto my break, I spent two nights at a health spa, which was nice and relaxing, and gave me time to reflect. I did an aqua class, a stretching class, and a sort of bootcamp pilate session. They were really good classes.

Regards my efforts to lose weight, I was very aware that I didn't want to go and spoil my recent victory, so I did eat healthily, but did include puddings, and very nice they were too. When weigh in day came around, I'll be honest, I was very apprehensive, and gingerly stepped on the scales at group. I'm pleased to report, I've neither lost nor gained. I've maintained. Phew! Really pleased with that result to be honest, as there was also the odd G and T too.

Friends - One of my 2016 goals is to spend more time with family and friends, and over the last week I've caught up with a few people, and it's been lovely. Just being able to spend time having a natter over a cup of tea, or break bread together has made me feel grateful that these people are in my life.

In other news.

  • We had a little bit of snow, it came quickly, and disappeared in half a day, and although I like to see it, I'm rather glad it didn't hang about.
  • Sadly, a close friend lost a loved one this week. I've kept her, and her family close in my thoughts this week. 
  • I've spent time reading a new book, as well as listening to podcasts. 
  • On my iPod this week, I've listened to The Beatles, Black Eyed Peas, Ed Sheeran and David Bowie. 

What's next?

I'll be taking stock of the first month of 2016, and checking to see if I'm on track. I'll be looking at my new habits, as some are working well, and others aren't, so I'll be re-jigging them.

How did your week go? Anything new happen?

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Start, Stop - Go!

Books - Maria A Smith
Last week was definitely like the title of this post. Start. Stop. And Go! It started well, on Sunday morning  when I received an unexpected delivery. Imagine my surprise, and delight when I opened up the parcel to discover books! And a card from one of my Twitter writing buddies, explaining she was sharing her book collection with friends. What a great idea, and it certainly made my day. Aren't people lovely? I shall look forward to reading them, and I shall of course pass them on to good homes afterwards.

The rest of the week went like this...

Daily words/rewrite/edits  - After getting into early morning words easily last week, I struggled this week, and just couldn't get up early to put the words down. I thought I'd feel resentful and angry with myself about it, but I didn't, for once I just thought 'you know what, don't worry, you'll make up for it somewhere' and I did! So only one early morning but words did get written on and off throughout the week.

Flash Fiction Challenge - You know how I said I was going to give myself more time to do it, and not leave it until half an hour before I went to my group? Well, that didn't pan out. Partly due to the task being set a little late. Our Chair was away overseas, but still I had almost two days notice, yet I still wrote it on the hoof! The brief was 150 words to include the text, 'I could tell by the look in his/her eyes.'

A dozen of us attempted it, and our efforts were all very different. I find that quite fascinating how a bunch of writers can all interpret things so differently. I really must try and do the task earlier. Although, deep down I wonder if part of me likes the last minute dash, and maybe my sub conscious sees it as an additional challenge, or maybe my 'back brain' has been working on it all the time in the background so that when it comes to getting the words down, they just magically appear on the page. What do you think?

After our normal group session on Saturday, I ran the Sub's Club, and we made plans on what competitions we each wanted to enter, and which publications  we wanted to pitch to - and send our work to -  It was good to see everyone.

And then there was lunch with a buddy who needed a bit of help sorting out his novel. We talked through each character, and different scenes over lunch and beyond, so Saturday was full on with stuff which was really motivating. It'll be my turn next month, and I'm looking forward to it.

In other news, I lost a pound at Slimming World, and got my "one stone award" which has taken a while, but I was thrilled to receive my certificate, and to top it all, I was Slimmer of the Week again, and was presented with a huge bag of fruit, vegetables and healthy goodies for my efforts.



I also managed three classes in the last week, two stretch, and a pilates, and was very pleased with my efforts.

What I didn't like about the last week...

Not much actually, apart from the inability to sleep at night.

Next week?

Lots of rest, I'm having a few days away. The Red Pen Editing Webinar, some more words, and spending time with friends.

How did your week go? What are you planning for the one ahead?

Sunday, 10 January 2016

A Gentle Start

Beacon Hill, Leicestershire - Maria A Smith

How was your week? Mine got off to a gentle start, I returned to work, and restarted my writing. 
It all felt shiny and new, I like that, a fresh start, and a new plan. It went like this...

WRITING 

Daily words/rewrite/edits - Yes, worked on my novel, the early mornings weren't as bad as I expected, and I got in the swing of it again quite quickly. Although, more words were hacked than written. 

Joined Up Writing Podcast - Lovely to catch up with Leah and Wayne, and you can listen to what we were talking about if you click here. Lots of tips to get your writing year off to a good start. And if you don't want to listen to me, go there anyway, click here for the archive where you can listen to lots of great interviews, tricks and tips, and all for FREE. Do leave them a comment, and share the links. These guys work hard for all of us.  


Flash Fiction Challenge - This ran away with me, I had to cull a lot of words. I wrote the piece early on in the week, and should have got on and not left it to edit twenty five minutes before the group meeting, but that is what I ended up doing! 
Amazing what you can get done under pressure, so four hundred words went down to two hundred over a cup of tea at a nearby cafe. It read well, which surprised me as I changed my ending quite dramatically from the original. Note to self. Don't leave the writers group weekly challenge till the last minute. 

Critique A Fellow Writers Manuscript - Yes, managed a couple of read throughs, and made comments before the writer read it out at group. It's something new we're trialling. Usually, we don't hear a manuscript until the day of the meeting. Now we're taking it in turns to send a manuscript around the group so that if folks have time, they can see the words on the page, and read in advance. We're hopeful it might give the writer some additional feedback. 

#writingchat - Another fun meet up on Twitter. 

Phoenix Writers Meeting - I went and enjoyed listening to writers reading their manuscripts. I took along a very short section of a chapter and had some good feedback. It means a few more words will have to go, but I can live with that if it makes the novel better. 

Organise Dropbox - I need to seek a bit of help with this one, as it seems my images have filled my Dropbox, and I'm a bit stuck with how to proceed. Do any of you use any of the cloud services to store your writing? 

Blog Post - Yes, I did the previous one to this post and you can find it here

HEALTH

Sleep (Off to bed before 10.30pm at least twice) - I hit my target, I did my two nights, and I should be really happy with that, but you know what, I completely spoilt it by staying up way to late a couple of evening too! I 'm my own worst enemy.

Pilates Personal Training (one to one) session - Really enjoyed my session with the trainer, it's so much better than doing a class as you get the individual attention, and get to know exactly how you should be doing it. I'm going to treat myself to another one next month.

Pilates - Yes, done, and the class was packed to the rafters!

Slimming World - I went and lost one and a half pounds. Hurrah! Also got Slimmer of the Week so went home with a huge bag of fruit and vegetables.

Walking - Failed. I couldn't fit it in. Note to do better.

JUST FOR FUN

Something Different - Nope, just didn't have time. I did manage to get out to dinner with a girlfriend and that was nice. 

THINGS I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT THE LAST WEEK

1. How I felt the next day after staying up far too late. 

2. The rude man who bumped into me with his supermarket trolley and then instead of apologising huffed, and walked off as though it was my fault! 

Overall, a good week, really pleased the writing is flowing again, and my efforts towards improving my health are starting to pay off. I feel much better in myself, and I'm grateful for everything. 

What about the week ahead then? It's more of the same this week to get me back into a good routine. How did your week turn out? Did you achieve all you set out to do?