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Posted on 21 May 2018 10:06

Summary:

 

Progress made on both projects that have looming deadlines, which is good. But not a lot of time spent on writing this week, and I’m missing having long sessions with multiple projects on the go.

 

Monday:

 

 

Today, I took myself to Notting Hill and enjoyed a comfy chair and giant teapots in the Candella Tea Room.

 

I caught up on my reviews, then ploughed on with the WIP Big Bang story.

 

Tuesday:

 

I sent in my snippets for the WIP Big Bang art claims, and added some extra words to the end of the scene I wrote yesterday.

 

Friday:

 

I spent most of the train journey up to Chester locating and correcting the errors my wonderful parents had found in Artisan. It was mostly typos and missing words, but my dad caught one major inconsistency where two characters had the same conversation twice, twenty-five pages apart!

 

Sunday:

 

I copy-edited Chapter Four of Artisan on the train home from Chester, using my tried and true method of reading it backwards, sentence by sentence.

 

Posted on 14 May 2018 08:48

Summary:

Good use of available time slots for getting on with stuff. I like having the option to just find a cafe and get to work, now that I’ve trained myself to be able to focus in that kind of environment.

 

Monday:

A new week, and some new resolve, as deadlines are looming. I went into town early, to give me an hour or so before meeting Geena, to ensure I got some writing stuff done.

I started with a review of the film we went to see on Saturday, then wrote the fifth and final short piece to complete my Bingo/Yahtzee challenge.

I also wrote a blog post about Winchester anxiety, and the benefits of being realistic about my writing future.

 

Tuesday:

I posted my combined challenge stories, which involved entries on Fic Promptly, Ficlet Zone, Sentinel Bingo, and GYWO Yahtzee. So very complicated - but lots of fun!

In the evening, I went to a London Writers’ Cafe event, which provided really useful feedback on my Artisan cover letter from two agents.

 

Wednesday:

Work trip to Leeds, so I spent an hour on the train honing my cover letters for my Winchester submissions, based on last night’s feedback, then went back to wrestling with the end of the novel.

 

Thursday:

I put together all the documents for my Winchester submissions and printed them out, ready to post at the weekend. I also sent a pdf of the whole Artusan manuscript to my parents, who are very kindly doing a quick read-through to check it all still makes sense after my recent revisions.

 

Saturday:

Today’s writing venue was Picturehouse Central, making use of a gap in my day between a meditation class and a trip to the theatre.

I took a break from Artisan and did a stint on the WIP Big Bang instead, since snippets for that are due next week.

 

Posted on 07 May 2018 10:37

There’s a very definite line in my mental calendar at the moment, that runs through 15-16 June. That is when I’m going to Winchester Writers’ Festival and getting feedback on my first novel from agents.

 

In terms of activities that need to be completed before that date, I’m very much on track. The first three chapters are polished and ready for submission, as is the synopsis. I have a draft of a covering letter, which I’ll be getting feedback on at a London Writers’ Cafe event tomorrow night. So, by the weekend, my submissions will be printed and ready to go to the post office, in plenty of time for the receipt deadline of 24 May.

 

I’m also on track to complete the major revisions to the end of the novel by Sunday. Then the whole thing is going to my wonderful parents for a continuity pass and feedback on glaring problems, while I start copy-editing from chapter four. I should then have plenty of time on retreat during the last weekend in May to fix any major issues and finish off the editing before arriving in Winchester on 14 June.

 

But then I have absolutely no idea what will happen.

 

Though, I suppose it will likely be one of three things.

 

I’m getting feedback from four different agents at the festival, based on my cover letter, synopsis, and varying amounts of the actual manuscript.

 

Option One - they all say it’s no good and I shouldn’t pursue it. And, in that case, I will consign it to a drawer as having achieved its purpose of showing me I can write a novel, I will take what I’ve learned and move on.

 

Option Two - at least one of them suggests it’s worth pursuing and gives me pointers on how to improve it. In that case, I will gladly take the feedback and use it to direct further revision, after which I will research other agents to submit to, and keep trying.

 

Option Three - one of them loves it, reads the rest and offers to represent me. And, in that case, I will panic, lose my mind, and probably never write another word in my life.

 

Because, in a lot of ways, I’m actually hoping for Option One. That’s the easiest way out of the situation I find myself in. I really like my novel, and I’m really proud of myself for the work I’ve put into it and what I’ve produced. But it’s been hard, and not always fun, and I’m not sure I’m prepared to put in the effort it will need to get it to a point where it will sell. And that’s not even taking into account all the complexities of contracts, marketing, self-promotion, sales figures, and of course expectations for another book.

 

Clearly, part of me wants that - otherwise, I wouldn’t be submitting to agents at Winchester. But the realities of being an author are also very scary, and part of me also wonders if it’s really all it’s cracked up to be.

 

I love writing, and I know I’ll keep doing it, regardless of what happens at Winchester. But, if I’m honest, writing short stories for competitions, anthologies and magazines is probably where I’m most comfortable. I am working on a second novel, which I love and think is probably better than my first, and I will continue with that regardless of my Winchester fate. But, at least I know, going in, that the ‘worst case scenario’ actually leaves me in a place where I’m very happy.

 

So, I guess I will just have to see what happens, and be grateful that I’m at stage where, whatever the outcome, I can view it as positive.

 

XXXXX

 

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Posted on 06 May 2018 14:50

Summary:

Perhaps as expected, my writing output during the rest of the holiday gradually reduced, but I did still manage to get some things done here and there.

 

Monday:

I wrote another short piece for my Yahtzee/Bingo challenge.

 

Wednesday:

I wrote a review of Avengers: Infinity War.

 

Saturday:

My plans to write most days of the holiday fell rather by the wayside, but I took advantage of a planned lunch and afternoon activity in the city to prompt me to get up early and head in for a writing session beforehand.

I started with a couple of reviews.

Then I went back to Artisan and worked on the closing chapters for a while.

 

Sunday:

I added the latest round of submission opportunities from Writing Magazine to my spreadsheet.

I prepped all the documents for my submissions to agents at the Winchester Festival, ready to print and send next week.

 

Posted on 29 April 2018 09:46

Summary:

 

It’s never the case that I have to be in the right frame of mind to get some writing done. It’s all about making use of the available opportunities.

 

Saturday:

 

First full day of the group holiday, and I was up early. So, I took advantage of having the downstairs to myself, and did my first writing of the week.

 

I did a review of the last book I read.

 

Then I attempted to launch back into the revisions for Artisan - with some trepidation because the ending needs to be completely rewritten and it’s a daunting task with a rapidly looming deadline. I managed to re-write a couple of scenes, leaving just the last four chapters to deal with.

 

Sunday:

 

Another morning writing session gave me the opportunity to write the third short pieces for my Yahtzee/Bingo challenge, which was fun.

 

Posted on 22 April 2018 16:39

Summary:

 

Original fiction, non-fiction, fanfiction; novels and shorts; revision and new words - lots of variety in my writing this week.

 

Monday:

 

Today was likely my last writing date with Ann for a while, and we met at Good and Proper.

 

I started out with a couple of quick wins, writing my GYWO discussion post for the month, and also a review of the last book I read.

 

Then I went back to the latter stages of Artisan to do more revisions.

 

I did two short fanfics for my current Bingo/Yahtzee challenge, then typed up some notes from various books I’ve been reading lately.

 

Tuesday:

 

I went to a London Writers’ Cafe Meetup about plot development, with Emma Darwin, who had some interesting and useful things to say. A lot of it was information I already knew, but there were some kernels of stuff that were presented in ways that were new to me, and also some points I hadn’t previously considered, so it was definitely worth going.

 

Wednesday:

 

There was a sharing challenge on GYWO which involved posting a snippet of a work-in-progress and getting a prompt to rewrite it in one of a number of ways. I posted a few sentences of my WIP Big Bang fic, and ended up swapping the genders of all the characters, which was very cool.

 

I wrote a review of the book I’d finished the day before, then went back to work on the WIP Big Bang story.

 

Friday:

 

I did the GYWO challenge again, with a paragraph from Colours, and was prompted to change it to a different point of view. I went from third person to first person, and a major lightbulb went off in my head. I’m just introducing a third POV strand into the novel, and it’ll be really distinctive and way more mysterious if I make it first person (keeping the others as third person). Yay for interesting challenges!

 

Saturday:

 

I read the first three chapters of Artisan aloud and made some more editing notes. Then I made all the actual changes from my copy-editing activities to date. First three chapters - ready for submission!

 

I wrote a review for my latest audiobook, and finally got around to reading through Dave’s comments on the first 25,000 words of Colours, doing some editing as I went and also making notes for future revisions.

 

Sunday:

 

I wrote a 100-word story for a competition I came across in The Simple Things magazine, and submitted it.

 

Posted on 15 April 2018 20:32

Summary:

Bits and pieces, small but regular progress. Not a lot of time and energy spent on writing projects this week, but still some.

Monday:

I did today’s one-minute challenge at oneword.com.

Later, I took advantage of an unexpected free half hour to copy-edit the second chapter of Artisan.

Wednesday:

I had a writing date scheduled after work with Hannah, so started out with a couple of reviews.

Then I copy-edited the third chapter of Artisan.

Friday:

One of my writer friends got me an editing gig on an anthology he’s contributing to, so I worked through the first half of my assigned story on the train up to York.

Sunday:

I edited the second half of the anthology story on the train back from York.

 

Posted on 09 April 2018 11:39

Summary:

 

Lots of time spent on writing projects this week, and I’m pleased with my progress overall, but it mostly felt like wading through mud at the time.

 

Monday:

 

I started the week with renewed focus, and a writing date with Ann at The Counter at The Delaunay.

 

First task was to catch up on my reviews, which had been stacking up, and also provide my next book reviews for The Wordy Birds.

 

Then I put together a plan for my next insane fanfic combo challenge - new GYWO Yahtzee card, Sentinel Bingo card, and unfilled Fic Promptly prompts - should be fun, though it’s been a while since I’ve attempted Sentinel stories.

 

I stayed with the fanfic vibe by typing up all my WIP Big Bang notes, putting together a rough outline on paper, and writing the first scene (since technically you have to have at least 500 words written to sign up, and I didn’t at the time). There’s a lot of excitement in my brain around this project at the moment, so I’ll need to be careful that it doesn’t derail me too much from Artisan.

 

I finished off by writing a blog post about the importance of giving yourself space to think.

 

 

Wednesday:

 

I met up with Hannah after work and really struggled to find any focus, so we chatted for a bit about point of view, and then buckled down to some work.

 

I managed quite a few more words on my WIP Big Bang story, though it felt pretty turgid.

 

I did some research and made notes for this month’s GYWO discussion post.

 

I finished off by reading some more of Bird by Bird.

 

 

Thursday:

 

I did a random writing prompt.

 

Then the WIP Big Bang story started writing itself in my head, so I did another section of that, to make sure I didn’t lose the thread.

 

 

Friday:

 

I spent most of the day thinking about Ready Player One, composing notes on my reaction to it, and collecting and reading other people’s views on it.

 

 

Saturday:

 

Today was a day of annoying admin. I made a few submissions and added a couple of short pieces to my website.

 

 

Sunday:

 

I got up early and took myself to Mughead in New Cross, which turned out to be a perfectly good place for a solo writing date.

 

I started out by writing my Ready Player One review, which was pretty hard and took a long time.

 

Then I finally started the actual copy-editing on Artisan, focusing on the first three chapters. I found my list of editing points and colour-coded them, then went through the first chapter backwards, marking up the hard copy with proposed edits in the relevant colour pen. I ticked off the colours on the front page as I went, to keep track of what I had and hadn’t checked.

 

I went back to the WIP Big Bang story for a bit, then called it a day.

 

Posted on 02 April 2018 14:59

As someone who has to fit writing around working four days a week, a busy social life, and lots of trips away, I tend to feel as if I’m shirking if I don’t make use of every minute that’s available to me.

 

Last month, I went on a glorious, six-day writing retreat, where I had no excuses and all the opportunity in the world to get things done. When I went to the same retreat in February 2017 (admittedly only for three days), I squandered the time and I was determined not to make the same mistake again.

 

But six days is a long time to maintain focus and keep to a gruelling schedule of working on projects. So, I did find myself taking lots of breaks, going for walks, knitting, listening to podcasts, reading, chatting to the other writers, etc, etc. To begin with, I felt like I was failing again, and I was really annoyed with myself for wasting such precious time.

 

I found my stride on day three, set myself a challenging task list, and managed to complete everything on it. I felt great, as if I’d really accomplished something, and expressed how pleased I was with myself at dinner that night. I wrote another, similarly intensive list for the next day, and did pretty well, though I did allow myself to knock off quite early and go back to reading.

 

But, on the last two days of the retreat, I woke up early, with my head full of ideas and enthusiasm. Answers to problems presented themselves, and I found myself eager to get to work. And it was then that I realised I had been making use of all the downtime, after all.

 

If I had set to work on day one with a plan to work office hours on my writing every day of the retreat week, I probably would have burnt out by day three and spent the rest of the week being really miserable. What actually happened was that I gave myself the time and space to find a rhythm, and allowed my brain the chance to work on things subconsciously, without me constantly looking over its shoulder (as it were).

 

I got more done overall in that week than I planned, or even thought was possible. And I also had a great time interacting with other writers, and giving myself permission to relax and enjoy other pastimes as well. And the result was far more productivity, progress and inspiration than would have occurred if I’d driven myself into the ground, trying to do too much.

 

Creativity needs space. The imagination works best if you give it room to breathe. Yes, a schedule is important, and deadlines are helpful, but finding a balance between productivity and self-compassion is vital to success, in my view. It’s not an easy line to tread, particularly in this world of constant distractions and obligations. But your brain will thank you for allowing it some rest, and will most likely pay you back in better and more frequent ideas.

 

XXXXX

 

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Posted on 01 April 2018 21:38

Summary:

The admin has to be done, or there will be no publications, no matter how much I write. But it’s really, really annoying.

Wednesday:

I got very little sleep on Monday night, so wasn’t feeling particularly enthused by this afternoon, but a booked writing date with Hannah kept me out after work and focused on at least attempting some writing.

I went through the four critiques on Scribophile for my 750-word story, which all had something useful to say, so I made some revisions. I think I managed to improve it.

Then I went through my current Colours outline spreadsheet and worked out where the scenes for the new plot thread will need to go in the structure of the opening sections.

 

Thursday:

I did the one-minute challenge at oneword.com.

 

Friday:

I spent an inordinate amount of time posting my GYWO Yahtzee/Fic Promptly/Ficlet Zone combo stories. Wow, is it complicated and annoying to put together posts of multiple fics with links and info and everything.

I took a break, then submitted several original works for publication or competitions. Submission admin is so tedious.

I did some of the research I needed for my planned WIP Big Bang story - which involved watching a couple of very good movies and making copious notes (much less tedious than submissions!).

 

Sunday:

I did the day’s one-minute writing challenge at oneword.com.

I registered with the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society, and logged all my printed publications to date.

I watched another movie to complete my WIP Big Bang research and wrote a ton of notes. I have the whole outline in my head now - I’m just not sure I can do it justice.

 

Posted on 25 March 2018 17:22

Summary:

It’s amazing how much you can get done, and still have time to relax, when you’re on a six-day retreat in a Devon manor, surrounded by snow.

 

Monday:

My plan to work harder today got off to a good start - I was ready to go at 8:15am!

I started off by reading a recent Well-Storied article about brainstorming, and trying one of the suggested writing prompts from Reedsy.

Then I went back to the Artisan Revision Plan and did amendments to the scenes on another five notecards.

I moved onto my Space Swap story next and wrote the first draft, based on the notes I took last week. It was too short, but I decided to leave it for now and come back to it later in the week to expand it.

I wrote and submitted my second GYWO post for the month, a motivational discussion of how it’s never too late to get started on your writing.

Then I went back to the Artisan Revision Plan and completed the last five notecard scene amendments in the first round of major revisions. That took me to nearly four hours of work done since getting up, so I decided to take a well-earned break until after lunch, and also decided to leave Artisan alone for the rest of the day.

After lunch, I brainstormed an interesting speculative submission opportunity and came up with a couple of ideas. I set my subconscious crew to work on them, asking for some insight on where to go next tomorrow.

I read some stuff about CBT on SuperBetter, which gave me an idea for a poem that fit this week’s Hour of Writes prompt (Power of Myth), so I submitted something to that for the first time since January.

Then I had lots of fun figuring out a way to combine my GYWO Yahtzee prompt card, with several abandoned prompt fills on Fic Promptly, and the first month’s challenge from Ficlet Zone

I collated some notes on Colours (which has been sorely neglected in recent weeks) and had an epiphany about one of the characters, which will improve the plot arc a great deal.

Then I finished off my afternoon stint by reading some more of Bird by Bird, to bring me over the three hour mark since lunch. A very productive day indeed!

 

Tuesday:

I put together a full day’s schedule, like yesterday, and was at my chosen spot in the manor by 8:15am again. The subconscious crew had been firing snippets of fanfiction at me since I got up, so I launched straight in with the first story for my Yahtzee prompt challenge. (I struck the speculative submission idea off the list altogether, since the crew had roundly rejected it.)

I got two short fics done quite quickly, then moved on to checking the proofs for the story of mine that will shortly be appearing in a Schreyer Ink anthology. I discovered that my story is first, which was a lovely surprise. I also found three typos, which was annoying because I was supposed to have proofread the story before sending the final version, and obviously missed these errors.

I did some research into how to write good query letters and synopses, and honed my drafts of both for Artisan.

After lunch, I wrote two more short fanfics for the Yahtzee challenge, then perused my notes for the next section of Colours, trying to get it back in my head after its recent abandonment. I read some more of Bird by Bird, then called it a day on the writing front, because my brain was starting to struggle.

I did then have a very productive half hour just before dinner, working out a calendar for the rest of the Artisan revision. I’d completed revisions to the first two thirds in approximately seven days of actually working on it, and figured out I had another twenty-one days to work on it before Winchester. That seemed like a lot, but the last third of the novel has to be pretty much rewritten, so it’ll be a lot of work. I added deadlines for various bits, and then brainstormed the main plot points, which all felt really useful.

 

Wednesday:

I woke up mega early with my head full of Artisan thoughts. So, the first thing I did when I settled down to work was to write more notes to get the ideas out of my head and recorded somewhere so I wouldn’t forget them.

I went through my Space Swap story, expanding it where I could, because it was 300 words short of the minimum. Then I went through my notes for a possible John Wick fanfic, to decide whether or not I should sign up for WIP Big Bang this year. To complete my fanfic trifecta, I wrote the last little fic for my Yahtzee challenge.

Then I went out for a long walk to clear the cobwebs from my brain and get my glucose levels down a bit before lunch.

After lunch, I did a Tarot card draw to generate ideas for the John Wick fanfic, and it worked so well that I ended up with a rough outline for the whole thing. So I guess I’m doing WIP Big Bang this year! The deadlines are similar to Winchester, so I’ll have to juggle it with Artisan, but I think it’ll be good to have a completely different project to work on at the same time.

 

Thursday:

Last day at Stickwick and only the morning available, so I thought I’d better not waste it.

I woke up with my brain full of Artisan thoughts again, so I went through my notecards for the last third, working out the best way to structure the rewrite. It turned out to involve adding in a couple of extra scenes and just re-jigging bits of the rest. I came to the conclusion that it didn’t have to be as complicated as I thought, so the June deadline for the whole manuscript is looking more possible than it did, and I’ll hopefully have more time for copy-editing than I previously thought, which can only be a good thing.

I did a couple of reviews, bringing myself up-to-date on that, I brainstormed some ideas for an upcoming Writing Magazine competition, and I finally started reading through the Masterclass Workshop materials I got from The Master’s Review last summer.

I also made a comprehensive list for my planned full day of writing, back in London, tomorrow, to try and keep my retreat momentum going.

 

Friday:

Momentum was stalled somewhat by a very late night and a very early morning, but I made it to Good & Proper by 10:30am, with a clear stretch until a dinner engagement at 6:30pm, so no excuse to give up early and go home.

I compiled my Colours notes and made a few more. I also typed up notes for a random short story idea from much earlier on in my current notebook.

I worked from my Artisan notecards to add in a new scene and do a few more revisions.

I went back to my notes for the Writing Magazine competition and attempted a first pass. It went unexpectedly well, and also came out at 746 words (for a word limit of 750 words), which was pretty awesome.

I read some more of Bird By Bird to finish things off, and felt very happy with what I’d achieved today, as well as what I’d achieved over the course of the week.

 

Sunday:

I mostly gave myself the weekend off, but did manage a few writerly bits and pieces.

I posted Friday’s short story on Scribophile for comments.

I did my Hour of Writes marking.

And I helped Bear post his account of our glorious week at Stickwick Manor.

 

Posted on 19 March 2018 08:48

Summary:

Snowed in at a writing retreat - every writer’s dream? I’ve certainly enjoyed it!

 

Wednesday:

 

I went to Vauxhall after work to meet Hannah and got on with some more Artisan revisions (this will be a common theme in Weeknotes for the next few months…), working on finishing off the requirements of putting the minor character’s point of view back in from the previous draft.

 

I finished the Self-Editing book, and then put together a master list of all the different projects and activities I can choose from on the writing retreat next week.

 

Then I moved on to the next point on the Artisan Revision Plan, making the description and capabilities of the magic robots clearer! I went through my notecards and highlighted all the scenes where the robots appear so it would be easier next time to identify possible revision points.

 

Friday:

 

Off to Devon for a writing retreat today!

 

But I decided to be extra specially keen and stop off at Good & Proper with Ann for a few hours during the day, to make sure I really took advantage of my writing opportunities.

 

I spent a few minutes adding submission opportunities from Mslexia to my rolling spreadsheet, and then went back to the Artisan robots. I went through their first few scenes, adding extra physical description and going into more detail about how they think and feel, and how the human characters respond to them.

 

Over lunch, I started reading Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, which is something that’s been recommended to me many times as a good book for writers.

 

Then, I looked over the rest of the Artisan revision plan, and realised that the rest of the points I wanted to cover on the retreat could be grouped into two or three categories. So, I wrote some notes, trying to organise my thoughts, as they all required further development, rather than being things I could just get on with fixing.

 

Then it was off to Paddington to get the train! I spent some time on the journey, planning out what I wanted to achieve during the retreat at the glorious Stickwick Manor with the amazing Charlie from Urban Writers Retreat.

 

Saturday:

 

I started off my first full retreat day by compiling notes on the Artisan ‘bad guys’, which helped me crystallise where their involvement in the story needed expanding and changing. It’s a tricky area because there’s a ton of back story, complex character relationships and ideology clashes that need to be conveyed, but in a way that doesn’t clog up the plot, or give away too much, too soon.

 

I took a break by writing a review of the last and next family book club books, and sent it to The Wordy Birds for their next radio show.

 

I went through the current set of Artisan notecards and highlighted where the new ‘bad guy’ scenes needed to be and where the current scenes needed to be amended.

 

Then I did some very important research for my Space Swap story by watching some episodes of The Orville! I made notes as I went along.

 

I went through all the Artisan notecards again, highlighting more scenes for edits or additions, and jotting down reminders for aspects I want to include. This resulted in a comprehensive list of all the remaining changes for the first half of the novel. Then I plugged myself into Marilyn Manson’s The Pale Emperor and set to work!

 

Sunday:

 

Bit of a slow start today, though I think reading in the bath was beneficial to my general mental health.

 

Once I got downstairs, I got myself set up with tea, music (Evanescence today), tablet and notecards, and set myself a target to complete five more scenes before I could have a break. That took less than an hour, so I went upstairs and watched my final research episode of The Orville, taking more notes as I went along. I then compiled the notes I wanted to use in my story and added them to the current draft for ease of reference.

 

After lunch, I went out to play in the snow for a while, before settling back down with Artisan revision, making it to the halfway point for the next round of amendments. I ended up ahead of where I was expecting to be by this point in the retreat, which was gratifying.

 

I also caught up with my reviews, after finishing a book last night. I finished off by putting together a full day’s schedule for tomorrow, since I didn’t think I’d been working hard enough on retreat so far.



Posted on 11 March 2018 21:52

Summary:

Really got into the novel revision this week, and actually enjoyed it, which was a very pleasant surprise!

Monday:

I set out early for my writing date with Ann at Good & Proper. I hadn’t done much actual writing for the last two or three weeks, so was hoping a whole day in my favourite cafe would set me back on track.

I eased myself in gently with a writing prompt from Pobble 365, then wrote a letter to Writing Magazine in response to one in this month’s issue.

I then moved on to Artisan, organising my revision notes onto a schedule, based on my Winchester deadlines. It’s an ambitious plan, and I can’t afford to waste the opportunity presented by Winchester, but I feel a lot better now it’s all prioritised and I can see exactly how much I need to do and by when.

I took a break by drafting my first March GYWO discussion post and catching up on my reviews.

Then I took a deep breath, and launched into the new and improved Artisan Revision Plan! I did all seven of the quick wins, which made me feel as if I was really making progress at long last.

I read the next chapter of the Self-Editing book.

Overall, it was an extremely productive day and made me feel a lot better about the immediate future of my writing projects.

Wednesday:

I had a writing date scheduled with Hannah but she didn’t make it. It was a shame not to see her, but I still managed to get a lot done.

I went through the whole of the current draft of Artisan and added information about transport and how all the characters get from one place to another. I had thought this would be a mammoth task, but my notecards really helped, and it only actually took about 90 minutes.

Thursday:

I took advantage of a trip out of London for a work training session to do some more Artisan revision. My editor identified one of the minor characters as important, but not having enough to do to make her arc credible. So, I decided to put her back in as a point-of-view character (which she had been in an earlier draft) and bulk up her part in the story. I went through the previous draft, finding all her POV scenes and saving them in a new file, then inserted notecards into my current stack where these scenes should go. I then went through the rest of my current draft (which takes the story a lot further than the previous one) and highlighted scenes that should be switched to her POV, or where new scenes from her POV should be added.

I thought this would take much longer than it did, and I finished up with a very clear path to inserting this character’s POV back into the novel, which will also be much faster than I had anticipated. Hurrah for notecards! They really do make it so much easier to track aspects of the novel and figure out how to change things without screwing it all up.

Friday:

The recording of my short story, Customer Service, went live on The Centropic Oracle today! It was great fun hearing my characters be brought to life, and I thought the narration was excellent. I cringed at a couple of lines that could have been better written, but overall I enjoyed listening to it.

Saturday:

I went into town early to take advantage of the time leading up to a lunch date with my family, and settled in at Eat on the South Bank. I was still feeling enthused about the Artisan revisions, so I launched into sorting out the new/old POV stream I’d worked out earlier in the week. It proved quite easy to put the old scenes into the current draft, though the necessary tweaking and formatting took longer than I expected. Still, I got a good way through before deciding to call it a day, and also discovered there was a scene randomly missing from the current draft, which I managed to slot back in from a previous one.

Sunday:

I sent my latest GYWO discussion post for publication, and also released a slightly edited version on my blog.

I sent out eleven submissions for various publication opportunities and competitions, which took nearly three hours and was very tedious. But, I guess you’ve got to speculate to accumulate!

 

Posted on 11 March 2018 10:09

The post I wrote for GYWO this month was all about how to approach the dreaded revision:

I hate revision.

With my short stories and fanfiction, I always have good intentions of scheduling additional time to let them sit for a while and then go back to them to revise. But most often, I dash off a first draft, scan over it, declare it done, and hit submit.

However, I know from experience that the stories I’ve spent more time on and revised in more detail are better and have been more successful. And, if I ever want to get my novel published, I know it’s going to require a lot of revision work.

So, I have developed certain strategies and found certain tools and resources to motivate me to revise and help me organise my revision once I get started.

For me, external feedback is absolutely key to revision. I find it almost impossible to reread my own work and identify where it needs work. So, I always try and get someone else to look at it and give me feedback. This also gives me a complete break from thinking about the story, so I can come back to it with fresh eyes later.

I’m lucky because I have helpful friends and family members who are willing to do this, and they have definitely helped with the novel. I try not to overburden them with too many requests, though, so I also use Scribophile for short fiction. This is a website where you can post your stories and get feedback from other members and I’ve found it extremely helpful over the last few years. There are lots of feedback sites out there, with varying levels of commitment (you have to give a lot of critiques to receive critiques on Scribophile), and I would recommend trying some.

Most recently on the novel, I paid for a developmental edit, which proved to be excellent, but obviously this requires some financial investment, and it’s important to check the editor’s credentials before you shell out.

Once I’ve got some feedback, the next stage, of course, is to actually do the work!

Luckily, while I hate revision, I love organising information. So, to ease myself in gently and hopefully get me excited about the project again, I go through all the feedback I’ve received and make a big list of all the changes I think I need to make. It’s important to note that I don’t automatically accept every suggestion that is made - I often don’t agree with feedback comments, though I think long and hard about them if multiple people have said the same thing.

Once I have a bullet point list, I get a whole load of coloured pens (yay!) and categorise each point. My categories are generally: background info, character development, plot points and narrative style. I also rate them as to whether they are quick wins, longer points that I can get to work on, or in need of further thought and development. Then I number all the points in the order I intend to work on them (always quick wins first, to motivate me to get started), and I’m ready to go.

It’s very easy for me to get lost in the list-making and joy of coloured pens, so it’s important to have a clear deadline for getting to work. As my husband says, at some point you have to “do the do” rather than just “talking the stuff”.

This all makes the revision process a lot easier and more fun for me - and helps to make sure it actually happens!

XXXXX

Subsequent to writing this, I've actually launched into my bullet list of revision points for the novel, and it turns out not to be as painful as I thought it would be - though I'm still on the easiest bits. I've also discovered a missing scene and a huge disservice to one of the minor characters, who lost her point of view in the last draft and currently disappears for half the book. I'm in the process of putting all her stuff back in, which I think will make the story stronger - but I may then have to do a whole new raft of revisions to tighten the whole thing up again. It's true what they say - a novel is never done! At some point, you just have to admit defeat. But I'm definitely not there yet...

XXXXX

 

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Posted on 04 March 2018 22:26

Summary:

Still getting back into the swing of things after the holiday, but deadlines are looming...

Tuesday:

I booked my tickets for Winchester Writers’ Festival, including all my workshops and my one-to-one appointments with four different literary agents. This gives me until 24 May to get the opening of Artisan ready for submission, and ideally until 15 June to get the rest of the manuscript into shape, for the unlikely event of anyone asking to read the rest. Nothing like a hard deadline to focus the mind!

Wednesday:

I had an idea for how to deepen one of the characters in Artisan, so I wrote some notes to add to my revision list.

I was supposed to have a writing date with Hannah, but we cancelled due to snow.

Thursday:

I got confirmation that my story, Safeguarding the Future, has been accepted for the Schreyer Ink Slave to the Axe Song anthology, which is very exciting.

Saturday:

I added all the latest submission opportunities and competitions from Writing Magazine to my rolling spreadsheet, and put together a plan for my writing date on Monday, where I’ll hopefully get back into the swing of things properly.

Sunday:

A conversation between two characters for my Space Swap fanfic came to me as I was waking up, so I quickly jotted them down. I’m not sure where it’s going, but at least it’s a start.

I helped Bear write his post about the JoCo Cruise.

 

Posted on 27 February 2018 15:41

Summary:

Turns out the JoCo Cruise isn’t really conducive to getting much writing done…

 

Thursday:

NK Jemisin was on the cruise and held a Write & Chat session, which was awesome. She answered lots of questions about writing, and encouraged the attendees to talk about their own projects as well.

In between the chat, I wrote notes for my two upcoming GYWO discussion posts, and brainstormed the fanfic I’ve been assigned for Space Swap this year.

Other than that, my brain took a complete holiday and I failed to achieve anything productive, despite lots of spare time on long journeys and between entertainments.

Hey ho! Nose to the grindstone now I’m back in real life again…

 

Posted on 18 February 2018 13:16

Summary:

 

Not a huge amount of work done this week, but some exciting submissions completed, and everything kept ticking over nicely.

 

Monday:

 

I helped Bear post his account of the Thorpeness reading retreat.

 

Then I formatted a story and submitted it to an upcoming anthology publication.

 

Tuesday:

 

I did some Scribophile critiques to get Shards into the spotlight for faster feedback.

 

I also revised my proposed Breathe Magazine article and sent it to Dave for comments.

 

Then I used the Scribophile comments I’d received so far to amend Shards a bit.

 

Wednesday:

 

I completed my article for Breathe Magazine and submitted it.

 

I amended Shards a bit more, based on other Scribophile critiques. Everyone liked it, but also said it could (and probably should) be expanded into a much longer story. I think they’re right, but I didn’t have time to do that before the anthology deadline, so I submitted it with only minor amendments. If it’s not successful, I’ll add it to my revisions list for more development at a later date.

 

Later, I typed up my reviews of two books and a film, all with a unifying theme.

 

Friday:

 

I went through Writing Magazine and added the relevant publication opportunities to my spreadsheet. One of them fit my only unassigned short story really well, so I submitted that.

 

Then I did some brainstorming for Colours, based on Geena’s ideas from last weekend.

 

Posted on 12 February 2018 11:46

Summary:

 

A bit scattershot this week, but good progress on some projects.

 

Monday:

 

I did today’s word at www.oneword.com

 

Tuesday:

 

I continued my plan of getting back into writing slowly by doing a slightly longer piece from the day’s image prompt at Pobble 365.

 

Wednesday:

 

I used Pobble 365 to provide a prompt for a brief piece of free writing.

 

My planned writing date with Hannah was initially a bit derailed because all four of my venue options in Vauxhall were failures. We finally ended up in Pret, which was fine.

 

I completed my reviews from last weekend’s glorious reading retreat, and managed to write the next scene of Shards. I have a clear vision from there to the end of the story, so felt pretty good about it.

 

Thursday:

 

I did a first draft of an article I intend to submit to Breathe Magazine about the benefits of reading retreats.

 

Friday:

 

My short story, Moving Forward, was published on Page and Spine.

 

I did some research and planning for this month’s GYWO discussion post, and figured out a way I could submit to an interesting anthology by the end of the month, utilising a story whose rights reverted to me at the end of last year.

 

Saturday:

 

I met Geena at The Counter at The Delaunay, a lovely cafe I discovered earlier in the week.

 

Geena read the draft of my proposed Breathe article and gave me some really useful feedback on improving it.

 

I finished the first draft of Shards and posted it on Scribophile for critiques.

 

I wrote up the GYWO discussion post about debunking writing myths, which was a lot of fun, and I hope will be helpful to some of the newer writers in the community.

 

Geena and I brainstormed Colours, which resulted in some interesting new ideas on how to expand the backstory and widen the scope going forwards.

 

Posted on 12 February 2018 11:28

This month's GYWO discussion post topic was debunking writing myths, and I thought I would post my article here as well.

Last year, I finally got around to reading On Writing by Stephen King, and he has a lot to answer for in terms of writing myths. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of good stuff in that book, and not all the myths listed below derive from it, but people have taken some of his advice and turned it into very rigid ‘rules’ for writing that can prove both restrictive and discouraging.

 

So, here’s my take on some of the most popular writing ‘rules’ out there, and why they don’t always apply.

 

1. Write Every Day

 

This one comes up *a lot*, with the suggestion being that the only way to get ahead with your writing is to write every single day. Now, I’m sure this works really well for some people, and it’s definitely a good idea to build a regular writing habit. However, writing every single day just isn’t practical for some people, and fitting your writing into whatever tiny gaps your schedule allows throughout the week doesn’t mean you’re not a ‘proper writer’. Also, I tried writing every day for about ten days last summer and absolutely hated it. It became a horrible chore, and my focus narrowed entirely to how many words I had produced, rather than enjoying the process. Three or four times a week, for a scheduled session of at least 90 minutes, is what works for me, and I’m sticking to it.

 

2. Show, Don’t Tell

 

This is the idea that ‘showing’ what’s going on in your story, through dialogue, character action and direct scenes is always better than ‘telling’ it through bald statements, summary and exposition. And for the most part, showing is better. Demonstrating that your character is unsettled by having a shiver go down their spine (cliche aside) is more effective than stating that they’re scared. However, this rule is often taken to extremes, with people suggesting that ‘telling’ should never be used. And that’s just plain not true. You do want to avoid pages and pages of explanations, and dialogue tags other than ‘said’ are generally a bad idea, but sometimes you just need to cut to the chase and spell something out, or summarise a lengthy period of time when little of significance happens. Be aware of this one, but don’t let yourself be a slave to it.

 

3. Never Use Adverbs

 

As with the example above, this is another ‘rule’ that shouldn’t be taken to extremes. Yes, there are often better ways to describe things than by using an adverb, and they are best avoided when explaining how dialogue is spoken (usually, you should dispense with this altogether - if your dialogue needs explaining, rewrite your dialogue). However, adverbs are not wholly the enemy, and a few sprinkled around where it really is the most expedient and expressive way of conveying something is fine.

 

4. Write What You Know

 

This is a ‘rule’ that’s often misunderstood. If all writers only composed material based on their direct experience, it would all be very self-indulgent and lacking in creativity. As writers, we have active imaginations and we should absolutely use them to make stuff up. You’re not likely to have actually met an alien, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put aliens in your stories. What this ‘rule’ is trying to say is that you should draw on your experience and emotions to inform your writing and make your characters’ reactions more credible. It doesn’t mean you can’t imagine them in a weird and wonderful situation you could never experience in real life.

 

5. You Can Only Write When the Muse is Willing

 

I fell foul of this ‘rule’ for a long time, always waiting for the ‘right frame of mind’ so that my writing would flow with ease and grace. Sometimes, that would happen and it was amazing. But the rest of the time, I just didn’t get anything done. I spent years, wishing I had more time and more energy to dedicate to my writing - but my most prolific writing periods were always when I was busiest with other things. That was when my juices were flowing and I had to cram my writing into tiny spaces. More recently, I’ve discovered that if I just sit down and get on with it (starting with a clear, itemised list, of course) I can always get *something* done, even if it isn’t my best work. But small progress is still progress and it’s important to get into the habit of just cracking on with it, even if you don’t feel that enthused. Otherwise, you’ll waste a lot of time waiting for divine inspiration that probably won’t arrive.

 

6. Writing is a Solitary Passtime

 

Look at where we are. This community itself tells us that this one isn’t true. And some of my best writing has come out of interacting with other people. I love bouncing ideas off friends, getting feedback on my writing, collaborating on projects, or just getting together with other writers to exchange experiences and moan about how difficult our chosen craft is. I always come away from contact with other writers more energised and more enthused. So, don’t lock yourself away in an attic, under the impression that you have to be alone to write your magnum opus. Get involved, make friends, share your writing life - it will only improve the experience.

 

7. Real Writers Find Writing Easy

 

This is just plain ridiculous. I can guarantee that even the most famous and successful writers have days when it’s almost impossible to get any words down and even contemplating writing feels like dragging themselves and all their worldly possessions through sucking mud. And generally, they’re not shy about letting the world know it. I think every interview I’ve ever read with a professional writer has referenced the difficulties they’ve faced with their writing. We’re all in this together, and it’s always going to be tough at least some of the time.

 

8. A Debut Novel is A Writer’s First Novel

 

The automatic thought when a book is advertised as a ‘debut’ is to assume it’s the first thing the author has written. But that’s very unlikely to be the case. It just means it’s the first novel they’ve managed to get published, and invariably there have been failed attempts and many rewrites before that publication happened.

 

9. Writers are Born, Not Made

 

Following on from the above, every single writer has to learn their craft and spend time improving it. If it happens at all, it must be incredibly rare that someone would dash off a first attempt at writing, and have it turn out perfectly first time. Every writer has a folder somewhere with their earliest painful and embarrassing efforts (assuming they haven’t burned them) - and if they claim that isn’t true, they’re just plain lying. Some writers are more talented than others, but techniques can be learned, and everyone has room for improvement (and the ability to work to achieve it).

 

10. Writing Method X is Better Than Writing Method Y

 

If you take away anything from this post, it should be this. Every writer has different techniques, rituals, work ethics, routines. No one method of writing is going to work for everyone. The most important thing to do is experiment, be creative, find out what works for you, and then rock it, no matter what anyone else says. There are no hard and fast rules that are set in stone and unable to be broken. If you find you compose best dictating into your smartphone while water-skiiing, then go for it. Nobody can tell you how you should approach your writing - it’s yours and nobody else’s and you should go about it in whatever way best suits you.

 

XXXXX

 

 

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Posted on 05 February 2018 13:49

Summary:

Two abortive writing sessions this week, and then a complete break from writing altogether. So, apparently, writing every day lasted about a month!

 

Monday:

I did today’s Detox prompt.

 

Tuesday:

I wrote a couple of reviews at lunchtime and did today’s Detox prompt.

My intended after-work cafe was full and, by the time I eventually installed myself at Patisserie Valerie at King’s Cross, my sugar was low, my concentration shot, and my brain refusing to focus.

Still, I brainstormed Shards, Artisan and Colours, and came up with some good ideas of how to progress with all of them. But I didn’t do any actual writing.

 

Wednesday:

I did the daily word at www.oneword.com

 

Thursday:

I did today’s Detox prompt, which was the final one, so I looked up some other writing prompt sources and added a reminder to my calendar to do one every day, as I’m hoping to keep up my new habit of at least writing something very small and minor every day.

I caught up on some reviews.

After work, I fetched up in The Espresso Room on Southampton Row for a brief session. I started out launching into Part Two of Colours, which took an interesting, and possibly problematic turn, but that was where the story wanted to go, so I let it.

Then I suffered a complete brain fail, partially brought on by uncertain arrangements for the rest of the evening, and decided to head home early. So, I certainly didn’t achieve everything I wanted to do, but I at least managed some stuff, and had a clear plan for the next day.

 

Friday:

I entered this month’s Visual Verse competition, and then I took the rest of the weekend off to properly enjoy the luxury of a reading retreat. I’m hoping a few days off will refresh my brain and enable me to pick up the writing reins productively again next week.