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Posted on 05 November 2018 14:47

One of the most important pieces of advice for writers submitting their work for publication is - read the guidelines really carefully and follow them to the letter. It may seem petty and unfair to be penalised for using the wrong font or being a few words outside the word limit. But the quickest way to get rejected is to fail to follow the guidelines, as this gives the editor a very easy way to whittle down what might be an impractically large submission pile.


Up until this past weekend, I thought I had always been ultra careful in paying attention to the guidelines and making sure my submissions fit the bill. It’s very tedious reformatting pieces and preparing the relevant accompaniments, and it takes an inordinate amount of time, but I’ve always figured it’s the price I have to pay for my reasonably high acceptance rate.


Six months ago, I sent in one of my best pieces for an anthology that seemed like a really good fit. The response time quoted on the website went past and I’d heard nothing. I waited a few more weeks in case they were behind in letting authors know about selections, but still nothing. Eventually, I marked it off on my submission spreadsheet as a rejection and sent the piece somewhere else.


Yesterday, I woke up to the following email regarding the original submission:


“This is a beautiful piece.  I dearly loved it. I was re-reading it and preparing to send you a rejection.  However, I just can’t. So if you are up for it, I think this is a strong story.
That said, due to length, I’ll offer you the option of 2 cents a word and a share in the anthology  or an outright $25. Your call. Beautiful work.”


I experienced several emotions upon reading this. Joy and excitement at the prospect of seeing my story in print. Annoyance and guilt that I would have to contact the other publisher to remove the piece from consideration. Confusion and bewilderment at the reference to potential rejection, the length of the story and what was presumably a reduction in the offered pay.


I checked my submission spreadsheet and saw that the requested word count for this submission was “300-5,000 words”. At 650 words, my story is certainly short, but I was confused as to why it wouldn’t get the same pay as any other submission, because it was still within the word count window.


I was telling a friend about this over breakfast and he suggested that perhaps I had made a typo when adding the submission opportunity to my spreadsheet, and that it was likely the required word count was actually “3,000-5,000 words”. And then it all made sense!


The agonising of the editor over a piece he professedly loved. The mention of the length. The offer of a lot less remuneration than had been advertised. It’s no wonder the poor guy was torn, since I had sent in a story that was a good 1500 words too short, based on those all-important guidelines! What an idiot!


But, in this instance, I’ve really lucked out because of my mistake. Because I dearly love this story too, and it suits the anthology it’s going to be printed in so well.

So, the moral of this story is - don’t follow the submission guidelines and it may work out in your favour? I’m not sure I can endorse that message, as editors all over the world would hate me for it, and I’m pretty sure that 999 times out of 1000, it’ll land you straight in the rejection pile regardless of how good your writing is.


But, maybe an honest mistake occasionally deserves to have good consequences. I can certainly live with that.


And besides, as Captain Barbossa says, the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules. Right?


Posted on 04 November 2018 22:02


The fiction crew are still on shore leave, it seems, but the non-fiction crew are picking up the slack.



I met Ann at Good and Proper for our second writing date without Baby R since he was born.

I started with of a review of the film I’d seen the day before, then went on to do some moving around of information, reading of writing resources and typing up of notes.

I tried to get into the right frame of mind for continuing with either Colours or the short story I want to finally write (hereafter referred to as Ritual) but I just couldn’t do it. I reread the notes for both again, to keep them ticking over in my head.

Then I went back to reading Word Painting.



I wrote a review of the play we went to see the night before.



I wrote a review of a book that arrived in the post the day before.



I tracked my current submissions, figured out new places to send pieces that were unassigned, and went through Writing Magazine to identify upcoming submission opportunities. I also discovered that I had been chosen as the Star Letter in Writing Magazine this month, which was a nice surprise on my birthday!



I came up with a new idea for an Etre article, based on feedback from my editor on the other pieces I submitted. So I wrote some notes.

I also got an anthology acceptance for a short piece I love but which has been rejected multiple times, so that was very gratifying, especially as it turned out I had accidentally not followed the submission guidelines!


Posted on 28 October 2018 12:31


After nothing at all last week, I worked on writing projects to at least some degree every day this week. Not much progress on the fiction front, but lots of nonfiction stuff, some cogitation on fiction stuff, and plenty of sending my darlings out into the world to be judged.



Last day of holiday before going back to work, so I had a relaxing morning, then headed to Picturehouse Central for the afternoon.

I typed up all my notes from Writing the Other, and did at tarot reading for a short story whose deadline was fast approaching. I then went through my current notebook and typed up all the remaining notes.



I wrote a review.



I met up with Hannah after work and went through my notes on Colours, trying to get it back in my head and make a start on a potential plan for moving forwards with it.



With the whole day ahead of me, I took myself off to Good and Proper for the first time in months to try and focus on getting some writing done.

I started simple with this month’s GYWO discussion post (about plot vs character driven stories) and a blog post about writing characters who are different from you.

There wasn’t anything imminent on the rolling submissions spreadsheet, so I decided to go back to the notes for a short story I first came up with some years ago but had never actually got round to writing. I read through everything, reminded myself of the idea and thought about how approach writing it.

I also read some of Word Painting and made notes.

In the evening, I went to Write and a Pint, a two-hour workshop which involved a series of writing exercises designed to create the idea for a new story, draft about 1000 words and plan out the rest. It was really good fun. I’m not sure I’m going to pursue the story I came up with, but it was good to get some words on the page.



I wrote a review about yesterday's movie going experience.



I wrote a review of the previous night’s gig.



I reviewed my most recent audiobook.

I helped Bear post the second in his Moroccan series.

I did a whole load of submissions for competitions and publication opportunities.


Posted on 25 October 2018 10:34

I recently read Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward, which is designed to help writers approach and navigate the potential pitfalls of writing characters who are very different from themselves. I would highly recommend reading this book to all writers, but below is a distillation of the most important lessons I learned from it.


People are scared of writing characters who are different to themselves, in case they ‘get it wrong’ and are criticised. But every character you write will be different to you in some ways, so you shouldn’t be scared of writing characters who are very different.


It’s okay to make mistakes:

  • everybody does it

  • you can learn and do better next time

  • even if you get everything right, some people will still find fault with your writing

  • that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try

Difference is not monolithic. Not all people in a particular category will have the same experience or the same attitudes. You should always make your characters individuals, not representatives of their group as a whole.


Various group memberships can influence behaviour. But none of these categories’ traits need have a constant, overriding influence on your character:

  • my age influences my actions and attitudes on occasion, but I don’t spend all my time thinking about my age

  • characteristics will influence a character, but don’t have to be at the forefront all the time


  • when writing characters who are significantly different from you and possibly also your readers, give them some characteristics (habits, feelings, experiences) that are easy to relate to for lots of people

  • build potential connections between your characters and your readers

  • highlight possible similarities as well as probable differences

  • also draw out connections / similarities between characters who also have obvious differences - show their common humanity

Secondary characters usually only have one main character trait:

  • but they shouldn’t be that one trait exclusively

  • don’t have all their illustrated traits be indicative of that one characteristic or group, especially if they are stereotypes

  • making secondary characters unusual but believable makes them much more interesting

Unintended associations and resonances:

  • readers will bring their own interpretations to your writing and this can be good when they imbue it with clever meaning you didn’t know was there - but it can be bad when they make associations you didn’t intend in problematic ways

  • you can’t control what associations readers will bring to your writing, but you can educate yourself to be aware of possible and unintended interpretations, so you can avoid them or prepare for them or disarm them

  • getting a variety of people to read your work before publication is a good way to discover what unintended meaning your writing might evoke - especially sensitivity readers

  • but you have to be prepared to make mistakes, have them pointed out to you, learn from them and do better next time

  • reflect appropriate levels of diversity to fit your setting - no point peopling a story with wildly diverse characters in a real-world setting where that level of diversity doesn’t exist

Common mistakes to avoid:

  • good (white, straight, Christian analogues) vs evil (different to that) - fantasy tropes of all of a different race being evil or stupid or greedy, etc

  • presenting a minority issue (eg slavery) only in terms of how it affects characters from the majority - you can show that as long as you also show how it affects those most impacted

  • straight white male protagonist with a very different sidekick who only exists to make him look good - or including only a few different characters in bit roles, or in more significant roles but who are all killed off

  • having all layered and complex characters but all the ‘different’ ones are victimised in some way or are criminals

  • white saviour

  • fetishising otherness - beautiful Asian love object, noble savage, no gradation of character

  • disrespectful dialect - use of dialect is generally a bad idea, unless you can do it very accurately but without making it hard work for the reader

  • portraying a victim as incredibly saintly in order to make the crime or oppression even more reprehensible - creating a one-dimensional good character is just as much a problem as a bad one - it actually makes for a more nuanced story is a victim has flaws or isn’t entirely in the right (bad acts should still be bad, regardless of who they are committed against)

Being aware of the pitfalls is a very big step towards being able to avoid them, and fearing them shouldn’t stop you from going down the road towards diversity.


The old adage is that you should write what you know. But that doesn’t mean you should restrict yourself only to your own experience. What it means is that you should become knowledgeable about other experiences, and then write them.





Posted on 07 October 2018 19:29


Some good progress and a couple of decent sessions, with lots of planning. So, everything still ticking over.



I formatted and sent over four different pieces for the first Etre prompt. They’re looking for short stories, non-fiction essays, poetry and short lyrical pieces, so I sent one of each to see what kind of feedback I get. Teacher’s pet, me? Have we met?



I managed to meet Hannah after work for a now quite rare writing session. I started off by looking through my submissions spreadsheet and working out what I particularly wanted to work on over the next few months. I sometimes feel as if I don’t allow myself enough time to write submission pieces, so I’m trying to look further ahead and start work on ones that have a later deadline, rather than trying to cram in as many as possible.

I made a random start to a random story, with absolutely no idea where it was headed, which was what I always used to do with my writing. But I’ve got better at planning in recent years, so this approach is now quite unusual.

I then brainstormed some ideas for a few things, with a plan to develop them further tomorrow.



After agreeing with Geena that we wouldn’t meet up today, we ran into each other at Picturehouse Central, which shouldn’t have been a surprise.

I wrote and submitted an entry for this week’s Hour of Writes prompt, and then did a 250 word flash fiction for a competition.

Then I gave up on active creativity and started reading Word Painting, a book that’s been on my shelf for ages, but I thought might be a good thing to look at for upcoming Etre prompts.


Posted on 30 September 2018 18:12


All I needed were a couple of decent stretches of scheduled writing time and look at all the things I achieved!



I went to a Write For Your Life session after work, which was fun. I think I prefer the more creative side of No Grammar Required, but I’ll happily go to this version instead if it’s what’s available.



I made a few notes for a story.



I headed to Picturehouse Central mid-morning and settled in the cafe for a bit to work on reviews and start on my new story. I typed up my first two pieces for the first Etre prompt, ready to send to my editor.

I read some more of Writing the Other over lunch, then went back to my new story. I finished a first draft, which was hugely pleasing since the deadline for submission is Sunday. It was also very satisfying to complete something new, as I haven’t manage to do that for a few weeks, other than very short pieces.

I finished up by doing some research and a tarot reading for more possible pieces for the first Etre prompt.



I finished reading Writing the Other, which is an excellent book and highly recommended to all writers.



I helped Bear post the second half of his account of our Scottish Highlands trip, and did some sorting out of my writing projects.



Back to Picturehouse Central with Geena for a free screening, followed by a writing session in the members’ bar - I love everything about this place!

First of all I edited the new story (based on comments from Dave and my dad).

I caught up on some reviews, then made a first stab at a non-fiction essay in response to the first Etre prompt.

I submitted a few stories whose deadlines were today.


Posted on 23 September 2018 15:53


Trips away usually result in a lack of writing productivity, unless they are writing retreats, so very little work done this week. Big plans for the next couple of weeks, though!



I brainstormed a story for an upcoming submission opportunity and came up with the first inkling of a workable plot.



I wrote some notes on my story idea and developed it into a proper plan.



I submitted a couple of stories for publication.


Posted on 16 September 2018 20:36


One decent writing session planned and executed, but I still don’t feel like I’ve got back into the swing of things properly yet.



I wrote a review.



I took the opportunity of a gap between work and going to the theatre to sit in a cafe, drink tea and write a blog post about my most recent publication success.



I used my second Thursday off work to meet Geena for a writing date before a theatre trip in the evening.

I started off by researching and drafting my September GYWO discussion post, ready for its upcoming deadline. Then I wrote an entry for this week’s Hour of Writes prompt. I also read some more of Writing the Other, and then brainstormed a new story idea for an upcoming anthology submission.



I caught up on some reviews.



I identified new submission opportunities for a couple of rejected pieces of flash fiction, and I attended the first workshop with the Etre creative team to work on the first issue of the print magazine.


Posted on 12 September 2018 16:30

This month, I’ve had a very good reminder of the value of submitting work for publication.


There was an anthology I was very interested in subitting for, and I came up with what I thought was a good idea for a short story, which might fit what they were looking for. I brainstormed the story early in July, then wrote the whole thing while on retreat at the start of August.


Then I posted it for critiques and received my requisite three responses. As usual when I request critiques, the reaction to my story was varied.


One reviewer loved it but had a few suggestions for tightening up the language and making the plot a bit clearer. I took these suggestions with gratitude and make the required changes to the story.


One reviewer didn’t understand the story at all. They asked a lot of questions about what was going on, and suggested it needed a lot more clarity in terms of what all the characters looked like, where exactly they were and how the various aspects of the story connected together. In this particular story, I was being deliberately vague in certain respects, wanting the reader to put their own interpretation on events. When I do that, I often get critiques where that approach doesn’t work for a review, and that’s fine. Not everyone is going to appreciate my style.


The third reviewer caused me to think I might have to do a complete rewrite. They liked the idea and praised the writing in general, but said they thought it needed a lot of work, because there were no real obstacles for the protagonist and it all worked out way too easily.


Now, I have to admit I had thought that might be a problem myself when I wrote the first draft. The arc of the story was very clear in my head, but the details were not and when I wrote it, I did feel it was perhaps a bit too light on conflict. But I persuaded myself that the lack of obstacles actually served the message. I decided the story was about a situation where the only barriers to finding out the truth were in the protagonist’s mind. So, once he started asking questions about his situation, all doors were open to him.


I don’t know if my subconscious planned that to be the case, or if my brain just took the easy way out when I was writing. But that was the story I had, and there wasn’t time before the anthology deadline for me to rewrite it completely.


I decided to submit anyway - because, why not?


I didn’t have anything else to submit for the anthology, and I could always add the story to my revision folder and rewrite it for a different submission at a later date, if it was unsuccessful.


Then, last week, I got an email from the anthology editor, saying:


“We are delighted to inform you that your piece has been chosen for inclusion in the book….

We are so excited about the material we've collected for this book, not the least being your piece, and we can't wait for you to read it and share it!”




Regardless of whether or not my intentions for the message of the story were conscious or not, the editor of this anthology clearly thinks it works and is worth publishing. And I can’t wait for that story to see the light of day, because I really like it and I’m pleased it has found a home with people who appreciate it.


So, today’s lesson is: if you have a deadline looming and you would be happy for your submission piece to be published in the state it’s in, even if it might be improved by more work at a later date - submit it! There’s no harm in sending it in, and it might even be accepted.

Posted on 09 September 2018 08:46


Little bits here and there build up to multiple days of writing activity across the week, though no major writing sessions undertaken. It’s good to keep my hand in, but I’d like to get back to a more rigorous schedule.



I combined a GYWO challenge involving telling a story from a list of random words, with an unexpected Hour of Writes prompt, to produce a strange little piece that could be entered for both.



I did my Hour of Writes marking.



I helped Bear post his account of our trip to the Uffington White Horse.

I also entered this week’s Hour of Writes competition and added new submission opportunities from Writing Magazine to my rolling spreadsheet.



I got an email telling me that the Celestial Intern story has been accepted for publication in the anthology it was written for, which was a lovely end to the evening.



I wrote many reviews and also made several submissions to magazines and anthologies.



I did my Hour of Writes marking, wrote a review of a game, and read some of Write the Other.


Posted on 03 September 2018 08:27


NAWG-Fest was over in a flash but well worth attending. Great workshops, opportunities to catch up with good friends, and generally a good time all round.



I wrote a brief review of a film.



Despite an annoying cold, I went to meet Hannah after work and finished the Great Artisan Comma Deletion!



I prepared the new comma-light Artisan manuscript and sent it off to the publisher - eek!



Off to NAWG-Fest for the weekend!

On the train, I wrote a new piece for the first Etre prompt, then visited the site to read some recent entries in an attempt to familiarise myself with what they actually like.



Workshops with Ken Macleod.

I submitted a 100-word story to the mini-tale competition.

I also caught up with awesome writer friends and performed in a special edition of Eastpointers



More workshops with Ken Macleod, in which I developed an idea for a story, which he thinks might make a good novel. I’m going to try it as a short story first, as that will be much less complicated.


Posted on 27 August 2018 08:10


Good use of planned time with other people to find extra time to work on writing projects.



A truncated writing session with Ann today, but I still managed to get my scheduled three Artisan chapters done, plus an extra one.



The rest of the week got away from me, so I headed into town early for my writing day with Geena and got back to work on Artisan. I did five chapters in a row, then read some of Bird by Bird for a break.

We met some other writers in Natural Cafe in Kentish Town and had a bit of a chat with them.

Then I worked on the first prompt for the literary journal I’m working for, then caught up on some reviews. I finished reading Bird by Bird on the way home.



I submitted Celestial Intern.

Then I went into town mid-afternoon and carried on with Artisan for a bit - the end was definitely in sight!

I typed up a piece of flash fiction, ready for submission, wrote a review of Bird by Bird, then started reading Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward.


Posted on 19 August 2018 14:36



So many commas deleted, plus more improvements made to the novel. Lots of good sessions this week. It feels like I’m making progress.




First full writing day for a while. It took me some time to get settled and focused, then I tackled another Artisan chapter before Ann joined me.


I wrote up reviews of the new games I played at Handycon over the weekend, then went back to do another chapter of Artisan.


To get my more actively creative juices flowing, I worked on a prose poem for an upcoming submission deadline and edited another one down to the required length.


Then it was back to Artisan for another chapter.


I read a bit of Bird by Bird, then took a stab at a blog post, using the notes I made on the article Dave sent me.


To finish up my uber writing day, I went to No Grammar Required and had lots of fun freewriting with Claire and Rachel.




I trekked to Vauxhall to meet Hannah after work and managed another two Artisan chapters before she arrived. I spotted some continuity errors as well as identifying extraneous commas, which was very useful.


Then I went through Dave’s comments on the proposed blog post and made some edits.




After a long week at work, I took myself off to a cafe to work more on Artisan, completing my scheduled two chapters before finally heading home.




I posted my response to the article.


I also helped Bear with his account of Handycon last weekend.


Then I submitted some stories to various places for possible publication.




First Urban Writing Retreat day for a while, and lots to do.


I didn’t do any Artisan editing yesterday so I started there and decided to do blocks of two chapters.


After the first block, I caught up on my reviews.


I did two more Artisan chapters, then noodled around the internet for a bit to find a new place to submit flash fiction.


Then I went back to Celestial Intern and finally got around to looking at the Scribophile feedback. I made the relevant changes to get it ready for submission.


Back to Artisan for another two chapters, then I took a break and read Bird by Bird for a bit.


Then I did one last Artisan chapter, to bring me up to date with my planned schedule to get it all finished by the end of August.

Posted on 18 August 2018 14:47

Diversity and representation in fiction and the media is something I think about a lot. I want to include diverse characters in my writing, and I want to see more diversity and better representation in the things I consume. I also want to see creators from minority groups get more opportunities to get their creations out into the world and for those creations to be seen by as many people as possible.


But there are complex issues involved in terms of how people react to what they see or don’t see in the world. As a cisgender, white, bisexual women, I am mostly starting from a position of incredible privilege, but also think I can understand feelings of marginalisation to an extent. I’m very aware that it’s easy and perhaps likely for me to make mistakes in this arena, but I strongly believe the best way forwards is for people on all sides and within all groups to discuss these issues in a calm and tolerant manner. So I welcome a rational and curious exchange of opinions, with a view to enlightenment, education and improvement.


I recently read an article in Quillette by Heather MacDonald, called ‘The Death of the Author and the End of Empathy’, discussing the publication and subsequent retraction of a poem by a white, male poet, which sparked outrage at its use of black street dialect and the word ‘crippled’.


The writer of the article says that in their opinion the poet’s intent was clear, and that the poem was not intended to attack any minority group. In my view, the attack inherent in the poem is directed at those who marginalise those groups. The article goes on to suggest that ‘the victim universe’ has resulted in a situation where authors are unable to use nuance, ambiguity or irony in their work. Or to attempt to represent any other group than that to which they themselves belong, without fear of an irrational and vitriolic response.


The editors who published the poem, and the poet himself, put out abject apologies and said the whole incident is going to make them much more circumspect about what they publish/write in future, and the article suggests that this was unnecessary, as they should have stood by their interpretation/intent regarding the poem and challenged the response it received.


The article says:


“Yet these poetry editors, who of all people should understand irony, now reject the role of authorial intention in creating meaning in favor of a naive view of language, whereby a word itself, regardless of how it is being used, has the magical power to inflict harm.”


After some reflection, I find I disagree with both the point of view of the article writer and some of those who reacted against the poem, in terms of how the incident was handled.


Intent is a difficult area. In general, I believe if someone is offended by something, it’s important to acknowledge that is how they feel, even if the person responsible had no intention of causing offence.


In writing, an author will create a work with a specific intention in how it should be interpreted. However, once the work is out in the world, the author has no control over how people respond to it and readers will always bring their own views, background and associations to their interpretation of any piece of media. The meaning of a piece of writing is not immutable, not least because the author’s intent is rarely known to those who read it. So the intended meaning cannot be used unilaterally as a yardstick against which all interpretations should be measured.


Writers need to be aware that what they say may be interpreted differently by different people, and should be sensitive to the views of diverse readers who may see things differently to them. However, I don’t think this should stop them from tackling challenging topics, or attempting to be representative in what they write.


In the example mentioned above, I think the poetry editors could have explained their reasoning for publishing the poem, acknowledged that some readers were affected by it in ways they didn’t anticipate, and expressed regret that people were upset by it, but without going so far as they did in suggesting that the original intent of the poet was now invalid.


Where I think the readers who objected to the poem are at fault is in how they approached the way in which they expressed their opposition. The poet also apologised for causing offence, and made it clear he was open to learning from the experience in order to avoid further offence in the future. Yet, some then continued to attack him, suggesting that his apology was inadequate. And that’s where I lose sympathy, because the poet was actively asking to open a dialogue to understand the issues better, and just got slapped down.


To me, that isn’t the way towards finding a better path. A situation will never be improved by throwing more gasoline on an already raging inferno. If people who disagree with you are willing to talk about it, the answer should always be to welcome discussion, make people more aware of the reasoning behind the views on all sides, and come to a better understanding of those who are different from you.


I realise this is easier said than done, as I frequently find myself getting emotional and even aggressive when discussing issues I feel strongly about, even when I’m talking to people who largely agree with me. But we should all try to get better at being willing to listen to other people’s views, and try to understand where they’re coming from.


Rather than throwing up our hands and declaring that it’s pointless to even try, and that it’s ‘the end of empathy’, it’s vitally important that we keep trying to employ empathy and start discussions to bring us closer together.


If writers are going to be criticised for not including diverse characters in their stories, but also attacked when they attempt to do so, there is no way forwards. The best thing is for people of different backgrounds to work together to produce inclusive art that is representative in the best possible way. And also for publishers to create opportunities for as many different types of people to add their voices to what is published. But even if more diverse writers are published more often (which I wholeheartedly support), if each writer is restricted to only writing characters who are like them, every work of fiction will be incredibly narrow, no matter who it is written by.


To conclude with a quote from Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird:


“What’s going on is that we’re all up to here in it, and probably the most important thing is that we not yell at each other.”


Posted on 12 August 2018 19:36


Lots of exciting stuff going on and deadlines to meet, but also plenty to time to work on projects.



I went to a fun No Grammar Required session and did lots of interesting freewriting.

I also got an email from an independent publisher with lots of very positive feedback on Artisan, asking to see the whole manuscript, which is very exciting.



I got a second reasonably positive rejection from a magazine, so I sent them a third story for their consideration.

I also went through the feedback on Artisan from the independent publisher, and made some notes on what I need to do in the next edit.

I finished off with a review.



I went to meet Hannah in a cafe after work and launched into the new Artisan edit. I completed the first chapter and t went better than I had expected. It was fun to revisit the story, and not too taxing deciding where to implement the publisher’s feedback.

Then I went through the shortest of the stories I wrote on retreat last week and tweaked it to as perfect as I could make it, ready for submission.

Next was the middle-length story from last week, which received ten critiques on Scribophile. So I went through them all one by one, considering the comments and making changes to the story accordingly.



I gave the middle-length story a final read-through and declared it ready for submission.



I started reading an article Dave sent me and made some notes for a possible blog post about it.



I finished reading the article and writing notes on it.


Posted on 05 August 2018 15:50


Now, that’s more like it for a writing week! I wrote every day, completing over 9000 words in total, and achieving tons on new original projects. Hurrah! The only problem is, I have very little available writing time for the rest of the year, so it’s going to be tricky to keep momentum.



I managed to write 500 words of Celestial Intern on the train down to Exeter, then nearly two thousand more on my first afternoon at Retreats For You in Sheepwash, Devon. I booked to come here some time ago, but the owner’s husband sadly died the week before so my retreat understandably got cancelled. The business is now under new ownership, so I was looking forward to giving it a try, as an alternative for when my other go-to writing retreat isn’t running.

So far, so good!



Reasonably slow start today, but I was at my desk and continuing with Celestial Intern by 10am, after a very interesting discussion about writing with some of the others over breakfast.

I took a break between writing stints to do some critiques on Scribophile, as I need to build up points before I can post anything new there for feedback.

I finished the first draft of Celestial Intern by lunchtime, which was awesome. I think it’s only the second original short story I’ve written this year, so I was very happy to get it out onto the page.

I also completed enough Scribophile critiques to build up the points required to post both parts of my story.



I posted Celestial Intern to Scribophile, and went through the new edition of Writing Magazine to add upcoming submission opportunities to my rolling spreadsheet.

Then I finally cracked on with the new POV strand of Colours, which has been swirling around my brain for months and refusing to come out. I managed four scenes before lunch, which is a third of the strand.

I did a few more Scribophile critiques in an effort to get my story into the spotlight more quickly and build up points for the next one.

I also typed up the remaining notes from the last notebook I finished.

I took a look at my potential upcoming submission deadlines, and inspiration struck for a competition, so I wrote a new short piece in response to that.

I spent some time scouting around for places to send my currently unassigned stories, and added these to the spreadsheet.



I carried on with Scribophile critiques - I’d forgotten how much work it is to get enough points to post and then get stories into the main spotlight for feedback.

I read all the information for a really interesting competition I discovered in Writing Magazine yesterday, then brainstormed some notes for my entry, based on an excellent idea my husband sent me last night.

Then I did a review of the book I finished yesterday.

After lunch, I carried on with the Colours POV strand, completing another four scenes.

Then I started, and actually finished, the first draft of the competition story. I had built up another five points on Scribophile throughout the day, so I posted it on there to get feedback after the Celestial Intern story had had its turn.

I finished off by going back to the never-ending Scribophile critiques.



Last morning in Sheepwash so I got up early to make the most of my remaining time.

I started off by writing the last four scenes for the new POV strand in Colours, thus completing the second of the main projects I wanted to work on while on retreat (after Celestial Intern).

Then I did a couple more Scribophile critiques, as my story were still quite a long way from the spotlight.

I was incredibly pleased with my productivity while on retreat - the two main projects completed, and two whole new stories written, neither of which were even on my radar when I arrived on Monday!



Back home, but still enthused.

I wrote a review of another book I finished earlier in the week.

I also helped Bear post his account of the writing retreat, and wrote my own blog post about it.



I took it easy today and just wrote two reviews - one of a film and one of a book.


Posted on 04 August 2018 12:39

I haven’t really written much of anything since the Winchester Festival in mid-June. I mean, I’ve been adding days to my habit pledge tracking spreadsheet, because I have been working on writing-related stuff, or making notes for projects, or mostly posting reviews.

But I haven’t felt as if I’ve really written anything new, other than one fanfic.

So, I was both excited and apprehensive about heading to Devon for a writing retreat this past week.

I made a long list of all the writing and non-writing activities I might get on with while I was there, packed way too much stuff, and made my way to Paddington on Monday morning.

It was a three-hour direct train to Exeter, which is exactly the sort of journey I like. And I decided not to let the opportunity pass me by. I had all my notes for a short story I wanted to break the back of during the week, so I set up my tablet and got to work, completing over 500 words over the course of the journey.

It was a 50 minute taxi drive from the station to Sheepwash, and I finally arrived at Retreats for You around 2pm. Debbie, who runs the retreats, gave me a very warm welcome and an extensive tour of the amazing 17th century house.

One of the great things about Retreats for You is that the retreat runs from lunchtime to lunchtime, rather than the usual schedule of arriving after 5pm on the first day and leaving around 9am on the last. So, I utilised the momentum I’d generated on the train and got straight back to work once I’d settled in my room.

The next three and a half days flew by in a blur of productivity, relaxation, and good company. There were three other writers there at the same time as me, and we had some very interesting and wide-ranging meal-time discussions. I also enjoyed watching village life out of my window, which looked out onto the square.

But, best of all, I wrote three whole short stories (two of which I didn’t even know I was going to write before I arrived in Sheepwash) and finally got on with my second novel, which has been languishing for months.

I have learned over the course of many years that I don’t have to be ‘in the right frame of mind’ to write. But, having a week away from home - in beautiful surroundings, with delicious food laid on, and other writers to talk to in the evenings - certainly doesn’t hurt!

I will certainly return to Sheepwash, hopefully many more times, as and when my schedule allows.


Posted on 29 July 2018 13:04


Still mostly reviews and very little fiction writing, but some good planning progress ready for going on retreat next week.



I reviewed a book I gave up reading yesterday.



I got the best kind of rejection from a publisher today:

“Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider this one. After reading and discussing it, we've decided we can't use it at this time. Good luck placing it elsewhere. You write well. Not this one, but maybe your next one. Send us another story, please.”

Which means more than one person actually read my story; they seriously considered it; they think it’s good enough to be published, just not by them right now; but they also want to publish something I’ve written - which is all awesome.

So I sent them another story!



I wrote some more notes for the Celestial Intern story, both before and after having a really useful and awesome idea-generating chat with Geen about it.



I wrote a review of a film we went to see last night.



I reviewed the audiobook I finished listening to yesterday.

I also wrote a short poem for a GYWO prompt.


Posted on 22 July 2018 19:42


Technically, lots of writing days, according to my tracker, but no actual creative writing in the true sense. However, I’ve got a retreat coming up, and a regular writing gig starting soon, so I’m feeling very good about my writing future.



I went to No Grammar Required after work and really enjoyed chatting to Claire and Lisa about writing and life in general, and also completing the freewriting exercises throughout the session.



I reviewed Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman.



I wrote a review of a short story anthology I finished earlier today.



I reviewed both the book and film versions of A Wrinkle in Time.



I wrote a review of a graphic novel I read last night.

I also had a very positive conversation with two of the editors at Etre, who have invited me to be one of the staff writers for their new quarterly print magazine. It’s an exciting project, and I’m looking forward to working with them on it.