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Posted on 03 February 2019 16:51

I thrive on variety. I do my best work when I have multiple projects on the go and can switch between them at will. If I get bored with or stuck on one thing, my brain will likely come up with ideas on how to progress with something else. This helps me to keep working on projects regularly and stops me getting blocked from writing for long periods.


But there is perhaps a limit to how much I can work on at the same time. A range of stuff is good. So, it generally works if I have a novel, a short story, a fanfic and an article on my to-do list at any given time. That way, I can gain satisfaction from a quick win or delve into a much larger project. It also generally means the various projects are at different stages, so I’ll have plenty of choice depending on whether I want to brainstorm, bang words out onto the page or revise.


At the moment, my list is pretty stuffed.


My first-choice publisher has asked for some revisions to my first novel before they make a final decision about whether they want to accept it. Which is awesome, but which is also going to take a fair bit of work. There’s no deadline, but I want to get it back to them by the end of June, or before, if I can.


I’m reviewing at The Vaults 2019 for Fringe Guru, which involves one or two shows per week until mid-March, with short deadlines for the reviews. I’m loving doing this, but it’s taking a significant chunk of my writing time each week, and also taking up an evening a week for actually going to the shows.


I’m writing discussion posts for GYWO again this year, which is a monthly commitment and also something I really enjoy.


I have my usual rolling spreadsheet of submission opportunities, which has me working on two short stories for deadlines at the end of February. And I’ve just started a ten-week online writing course, which is going to involve developing several ideas for short pieces.


I’ve got back into short fanfiction challenges this year, which are great fun but require several new ideas per week, and also often involve reading and commenting on other people’s entries.


I’m still quite keen to work on my idea for a non-fiction book, though starting the research on that has been delayed as I’ve been too busy with other stuff.


And, this morning, I applied to take part in this year’s Six Month Novel Programme, with a view to getting a first draft of my second novel done by the end of the year. This may have been a mistake. I mean, getting a draft done is one of my main goals for 2019 and I could really use the structure and external encouragement/deadlines of the programme. But it’s also a big commitment and really intensive.


I have a plan as to how to fit both novels into my schedule, and I’m currently writing every day, which is unusual for me and going really well so far. I also have a lot of writing sessions booked into my calendar and I’m doing a lot better at writing at home as well.


But I suspect several things are going to have to fall by the wayside as the year goes on. I’m pretty sure I can’t keep up my current output on everything, especially if I get onto the Six Month Novel Programme. I think it will be good for me, though, and certainly help me towards what is probably my hardest goal for the year. If the amazing happens and I get a book deal in a few months, I really want to have something else ready to send to the publisher while the first novel is in production. And, if the first one doesn’t work out, it’ll be even more important to have something else in the works.


So, I’m going for it, and I’ll just have to be aware of the possibility of burn-out. It’ll be sad to give up on the fun/silly/small stuff and I’ll do my best to at least keep my hand in, so I don’t get overwhelmed by the bigger projects. But I’ve got to keep my eye on where I really want to go with my writing and make sure I dedicate enough time and energy to the important stuff. I’ll just have to see how it goes and adjust accordingly.


Posted on 27 January 2019 09:41



Another seven-day writing week, with lots of work on little habit-forming activities, but also some progress on bigger projects, and the start of an exciting new reviewing opportunity.




Good intentions for a proper writing day at Good & Proper with Ann.


I faffed around on the internet for half an hour, then settled down to today’s Writers’ Block Detox prompt. I did a GYWO challenge.


One of my projects for the next few weeks is reviewing at The Vaults festival for Fringe Guru, so I went through their archives to get an idea of their reviewing style.


Then I wrote a review of a film I watched last night.


After that, I finally got to work on a short story I’ve been thinking about all year. And, as ever, once I actually put fingers to keys, it just flowed out of me and onto the screen. I don’t know if I need the thinking time for the story to solidify in my brain before I start writing it properly, but it’s just so hard to sit down and get on with writing. And then I do, and it just happens.


So, I finished a 1500 word first draft of the Stanley story in the space of an hour, and posted it on Scribophile for feedback. It’s not due until the end of February, so I’ll have plenty of time for revision. Then I did some Scribophile critiques to get more points and get my story into the spotlight more quickly.


Then I went back to fanfiction and completed another two Fic Promptly shorts, so I was up to date with completing one for every post so far in January.




Second writing date in as many days, this time with Hannah at Le Pain Quotidien.


I started out with the WBD prompt, then moved on to a review and first thoughts about this week’s Hour of Writes entry. Then I read through the Scribophile critiques on the Stanley story from yesterday.


The publisher potentially interested in Artisan recommended a book called How to Be A Fantastic Writer as a good place to start preparations for the requested rewrite. I ordered a copy and picked it up from work today, so I first reread the publisher’s feedback and then launched into reading the book and making notes.




I did today’s WBD prompt and submitted an application for a free spot on this year’s Six Month Novel Writing Programme, as well as signing up for a ten-week online writing prompt programme with The Common.


I also attended my first show as an official Fringe Guru reviewer, with a press ticket and everything!




I took the opportunity of a three-hour gap between appointments to find a cafe and get some writing done. I started out with the review of last night’s Vaults show, Katie & Pip, then moved on to today’s WBD prompt.


After that, I went back to the Fantastic Writer book and made more notes.




Today I just did the WBD prompt and wrote a review of my most recent audiobook.




I did both today’s WBD prompt and the Day One writing exercise from Write With One Story 2019.




A repeat of yesterday, comprising today’s WBD prompt and Day Two of Write With One Story 2019.


Posted on 20 January 2019 16:20



Glad to be maintaining a daily habit, but I do feel as if I’m doing a lot of planning and a lot of noodling around, but not really actually getting on with anything substantial. Hopefully that will change next week with some proper scheduled writing sessions with other people.




Made good use of a train journey to complete today’s Writers’ Block Detox prompt. Then finally got around to watching a Writing the Other seminar about creating asexual characters, which was extremely pertinent to a short story I’ve been trying to get done for over two years and which I’ve allocated to a submission opportunity with a deadline of the end of February.


I talked through a short story idea with a friend and came up with some interesting thoughts.




I did the Writers’ Block Detox prompt for today.


I also heard back from Etre that they had decided not to accept any of the pieces I submitted for the first prompt. I decided not to continue as a staff writer, as I don’t feel I can provide what they’re looking for and I also think our processes are incompatible. It’s a shame, but it wasn’t a good fit and I have plenty of other projects to work on.




I did the now habitual WBD prompt and then some planning for big writing sessions I have scheduled for the rest of the week.




I started with today’s WBD prompt. Then I caught up on some reviews and did some more planning. It turned out to be quite complicated, now I’ve got multiple projects with varying deadlines to work out.


I also wrote and submitted an entry for this week’s Hour of Writes competition, which I haven’t done for a while.




I helped Bear post about last weekend’s reading retreat, then did another review.


I did today’s WBD prompt.


Then I did some submissions.




I meant to get up early, head into town and do a proper focused session.


I did get up early, but I stayed at home and didn’t settle down to write until noon, at which point I amusingly spent fifteen minutes reading an article about procrastination…


Then I did today’s WBD prompt and wrote this month’s GYWO discussion post, which went really well and may turn into another article to try and sell.




I started, as usual, with today’s WBD prompt, then did some planning for next week.


Then I completed some fanfic shorts for the various challenge groups I take part in.


Posted on 15 January 2019 06:37


My 2019 goals are underway and looking closer to completion than ever. There’s a lot of work to do, but I’m excited to get started and see where it takes me.



A good and proper writing session at Good & Proper with Ann.

I initially got distracted for a while by the internet, but eventually settled down with the first Writers’ Block Detox prompt and a raft of reviews.

I filled a couple of prompts on Fic Promptly and then turned my attention to the non-fiction article I was working on, completing a first draft.



I completed today’s Writers’ Bock Detox prompt. Yesterday’s came out funny, but this one went very dark. I really enjoy exercises like this, as the results are always unexpected, and it’s nice sometimes just to write without a plan or a purpose.

I also filled another Fic Promptly request.



I did my daily Writers’ Block Detox prompt and Fic Promptly fill.

Then I added the latest submission opportunities from Writing Magazine to my rolling spreadsheet.

Next I checked the length and style of articles in Writing Magazine and redrafted my article to better fit the requirements.



I did the Writers’ Block Detox prompt for the day.

I also got further feedback from the publisher who was considering Artisan. They gave me very specific advice as to what to look at and said they ‘would expect to accept it for publication’ after a further rewrite. I jumped up and down a lot.



I did the Writers’ Block Detox prompt and both a Fic Promptly fill and an entry for this week’s Fandom Weekly contest. I also did some reviews.



I settled for just the Writers’ Block Detox prompt today as writing was not my focus.



I thought is was just going to be the WBD prompt again today. But I'd already written 4500 words this week, which is a lot for me, so I was very happy with progress so far.

But then I got all worked up about one of the books I was reading on retreat and decided I needed to write the review immediately before starting a new book.

I also got an editorial evaluation on Colours which was very positive and had lots of useful suggestions so I'm excited to get back to that.


Posted on 06 January 2019 20:38


Very happy with the start to my 2019 writing. So far, I’ve worked on it every day (though I don’t intend to keep that up past January) and I’m excited about what I’m going to achieve this year.



I edited a piece of flash fiction down from 650 words to just under 300 for a competition entry.

I also identified a few other unallocated pieces that fit upcoming submission opportunities.



I did a whole load of planning - year, quarter, month, week, day.



I reviewed a new TV show we just finished watching.

Then I wrote a blog post about my writing goals for 2019.



I started work on my first non-fiction creative process article of the year.

I also signed up for an online writing class to kickstart some new story ideas, and decided to take part in the Writers’ Block Detox again, as a way to keep a daily writing habit alive, at least for January.

Then I read some notes from a writing seminar a friend went to recently.



I went into town early and settled in at Le Pain Quotidien for my first proper writing session of the year. After some faffing around with planning and list-making, I embarked on what I hope will be the final revision of Bystander for submission to Etre. The editors eventually gave me some concrete feedback, so I did my best to rewrite the piece to their specifications. Only time will tell as to whether or not I succeeded.

Next, I revisited a story I wrote some time ago and cut it down to the right length for an upcoming competition.

I rejoiced earlier in the week that, after a whole year’s break, Fandom Weekly is starting up again. So, I finished my session today by writing and submitting an entry for the first post of 2019.



Admin day!

I went through Writing Magazine and added all the new submission opportunities to my rolling spreadsheet.

Then I completed five new submissions.


Posted on 03 January 2019 19:19

It’s a brand new year! And, no matter how arbitrary that may be, that means goal-setting. And I have big plans for 2019. So much so, that I’m going to write them down here for all to see (though I reserve the right to discover they are wildly unrealistic later…).


First of all, by the end of the year, I want to have a concrete publication plan for Artisan. Hopefully, the publisher who asked to see the whole manuscript last summer will contact me in February to say they want to offer me a book deal. The next best option would be for them to offer feedback on revisions and ask me to resubmit once I’ve done them - this would at least give me a direction for rewrites and a reasonable chance of a favourable response later in the year. If that doesn’t pan out, I’ve already made submissions to a few other places, so maybe one of them will pick it up. And I still have others I can try, including Unbound, which seems like an interesting option. If I haven’t had any luck by September, I’m going to look into self-publishing options. So, come 2020, I hope Artisan will be on its way into the world, one way or another.


My second goal is to complete a first draft of Colours. I started really strong with this one back in December 2017, and made good progress through to the end of March 2018, getting to 25,000 words. After that, I pretty much didn’t work on it for the rest of the year, apart from a brief spurt in August to add in an extra POV stream. It’s currently with an editor for developmental feedback and I’m expecting to hear back from her soon. I’m hoping this will kickstart me into getting on with it, and also help me with the best way to move on from where I’ve got to. So, come 2020, I should have something reasonable to show whoever is going to publish Artisan, as a follow-up.


Thirdly, I’m going to find another paying market for my non-fiction articles about the creative process. I really enjoy researching and writing these, they’ve had good feedback from the places I’ve submitted them up to now, and I think it would be another good revenue stream for me. I have an idea for a first attempt, in terms of both content and destination, so that’s high on my list for my first proper writing session of 2019.


In fourth place, not to be forgotten - I don’t want to let my short story writing drop by the wayside while I’m focusing on bigger projects. I’m going to keep adding to my rolling submission spreadsheet and try to keep my out-for-consideration pieces around 20. Ideally, I’d like to write an entirely new short story every month for a competition or anthology, but this may end up not being feasible.


Because, fifth and lastly, I have a new major project on the horizon. A couple of years ago, as a result of an amusing brainstorming session to come up with possible titles for Artisan, I had an idea for a non-fiction book. Over Christmas, this idea rose back to the top of my mind and I started getting really excited about looking into it. Now considering in 2018, I decided to learn how to write comics and quickly discovered it was way too hard, this project may well falter before it even gets off the ground. However, I’m currently very keen to research how to write a non-fiction book, and then research the particular subject of the one I want to write. It seems like something that should be possible to work on at the same time as my fiction projects, and also like something that should have a fairly predictable trajectory and process. I suspect it will prove much more complicated than I anticipate, but I’m enthused about giving it a go.


Ambitious? Well, absolutely! And it’s likely some of these goals will be abandoned somewhere along the way. However, I work best when I have multiple projects to work on at once, and I’ve definitely been coasting with my writing in recent months. So, I want to launch into 2019 with a whole load of exciting plans, along with my intention to maintain a better and more rigorous writing schedule. I have all my January sessions booked in my calendar, so here’s to motivation and productivity!


Posted on 31 December 2018 10:16



I’m pleased overall with my 2018 writing. I revised my first novel and got a good response from submitting it. I worked on my second novel and have a plan for taking it forwards. I wrote several really good short stories and got a fair few published. I found paid work in the non-fiction field, which I intend to cultivate next year. And I have really big plans for 2019! 




I checked the proofs for an upcoming publication, which is always exciting.




I reviewed my favourite game of the year.




I reviewed the two new games that were gifted within my family at Christmas.


I also did a lot of thinking and a small amount of research about a non-fiction project I came up with some time ago but am now considering looking into seriously.


Jen from Dream Foundry confirmed that my first article had been posted to the blog.




I helped Bear post about Christmas.




I read a graphic novel and then reviewed it.




I played two games that were previously unknown to me, so I reviewed them.


Posted on 23 December 2018 09:07


Well, I made plans for a better regime, but starting in 2019, so not really implemented this week...



I got off the train at Waterloo at 3pm, with about three hours before needing to meet people at Angel - and what was exactly halfway between the two on the map? Good and Proper! It was fate. So I wandered up there and ensconced myself with a pot of tea.

I started out with a review of the previous night's theatre trip, and then went back to the new short story, completing a first draft.



I caught up on my reviews.



I completed ten submissions and did some planning for my writing in 2019.



I did another couple of submissions, including the new short story.



I reviewed Saturday’s day out.


Posted on 16 December 2018 20:58


Being ill sucks. No writing (or much of anything) for me in the first half of the week, though I did manage some bits and pieces in the second half, in between all the coughing and nose-blowing.



I started out by reading a blog post about maintaining your writing habit, which I thought I was doing quite well. But the article pointed out that I’ve pretty much been doing just enough to be able to tick off days on my habit pledge, rather than actually getting on with serious projects. So that’s definitely something to be aware of and work on. Especially since I’m down nearly 100,000 words on what I wrote last year, and 50,000 words on the year before, so I may have written on more days but I’m writing less overall.

Then I defaulted to writing a review

But I did make a start on a new short story as well!



I wrote some more of the new story.



I submitted an application for a mentoring competition, which would be awesome for next year if I happen to win!

I also booked onto a writing retreat for late February.



I reviewed the latest film we went to see.

I added some extra submission opportunities to my rolling spreadsheet.

I booked a creativity retreat for June.


Posted on 11 December 2018 11:30


Not a very productive week. Mostly just admin and reviews.



I met Ann at our old stomping grounds in Brick Lane, and started out with a blog post about the benefits of fanfiction, which got picked up and retweeted by the creators of Fanatical: The Sci-Fi Convention Musical.

Then I faffed around with my submissions spreadsheet, tracking entries, recording rejections and identifying new places to send unassigned stories.

I checked upcoming submission opportunities and brainstormed some ideas for a couple due by the end of December.

Then I read some more of Word Painting and made notes.



I wrote a somewhat scanty review of the second Fantastic Beasts movie.

I also went through this month’s Writing Magazine and added lots of submission opportunities to my spreadsheet.



I wrote a very silly review of my third trip to see Fanatical.



I posted my GYWO discussion for the month and wrote a review of the book I finished earlier in the week.


Posted on 03 December 2018 10:33

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about fandom. There’s a musical playing at The Playground Theatre at the moment, called Fanatical: The Sci-Fi Convention Musical, which I have already seen twice and will be seeing twice more before it closes on Saturday. It’s about a fan convention for a fictional sci-fi TV show, and it celebrates all aspects of being a fan, not least the creation of fan art and fanfiction.


The song I relate to most is “Hey, Look What I Made”, in which one of the fans says her dad calls her fanart “talent gone to waste”, which is a reaction I have also had towards my fanfiction. But I very firmly believe that fanfiction got me where I am today - nearly twenty original short stories published, and a novel out for consideration by several small presses.


I went to my first fan convention in January 2001, at a time in my life when I had lost all confidence in my writing and in myself.  I suffered from mild depression throughout my university years, during which time I was in a relationship with another writer. I felt as if his talent was so far above mine as to swallow mine whole, and I stopped writing altogether towards the end of our time together.  I should say that this was not in any way his fault, and he would be horrified to learn of it, but that’s what was going on in my head at the time.


Whilst queueing to get into the convention, I inserted myself into the conversation of the two people in front of me, and a wonderful new phase of my life began.  They were both fanfiction writers, and they introduced me to a whole online world I had previously been unaware of. Here, I discovered like-minded fans of all the films and shows and books I myself loved, who were creating new stories within those worlds for others to enjoy.


Fanfiction is often derided, and it’s true that there is a lot of awful stuff out there.  But isn’t that true of most things, including published original fiction? There’s also a tremendous amount of truly amazing fanfiction, if you know where to look for it, and even the dreadful stuff serves an important purpose.


Fanfiction gives the writer an established setting and familiar characters in which to explore their deepest and most outrageous desires, to experiment with their writing, and to gain much-coveted feedback from readers.  I am certain there are many more traditionally published authors who cut their teeth on fanfiction than would be prepared to admit it.


Love it or hate it, Fifty Shades of Grey may have produced a somewhat warped view of fanfiction in the mainstream consciousness - but a more recent TV show, Dickensian, shows fanfiction at its very best, in my opinion.  A mash-up of Dickens’ most colourful characters proved truly delightful, and I’ve used it many times since as an example of how fanfiction can be both wildly inventive and simultaneously respectful to its source material.


For me, fanfiction provided a safe space in which to find my creativity again, where I could post my stories and get instant feedback from a friendly and supportive group of readers. It gave me ten years of writing practice before I started trying to write my own stuff, and I know my writing benefited hugely from that. Even though I am primarily working on original projects now, there are two fanfiction events I still take part in, and thoroughly enjoy, every year, and I don’t intend to give them up any time soon.


I completely understand the attitude of writers who do not wish their creations to be warped out of all recognition in the hands of depraved fanfiction amateurs.  However, it seems clear there is little they can do to stop it, and I think they might be better served by embracing the phenomenon than by attempting to quash it.  I, for one, would count it one of my highest achievements as a writer for there to be fanfiction based on my original work posted on the internet. This is because fanfiction comes from a place of passion and enthusiasm, and is a mark of great love for the work it’s based upon.  I can only dream of having fans dedicated enough to spend their time dreaming up new scenarios for my characters, and new stories for my worlds.


I will never forget the joy and confidence fanfiction has inspired in me, and I will never be ashamed to admit that I am a fanfiction writer.


Posted on 02 December 2018 10:34


I’m keeping up my writing days, so I’m on track to double my GYWO pledge level for the year, but none of my sessions this week were particularly long or massively productive. It’s all about finding a balance between quality and quantity, productivity and relaxation.



I met Hannah after work for a brief writing session in which I wrote a review, did a first draft for my second Dream Foundry article and reviewed some of my Scribophile critiques for the Submittable story.



I finished a book and wrote a review of it.



I watched a film and wrote a review of it.

I also submitted first drafts of my Dream Foundry articles, as well as the Submittable story for its competition, and a couple of other submissions. Then I helped Bear with his post about our recent trip to Iceland.



I took at look at my assigned article for this month’s GYWO discussion and pulled out five sets of notes on the relevant subject, ready to amalgamate them into one piece later on.



I put the various articles I had identified into one document and edited it accordingly to create a coherent discussion post for GYWO.


Posted on 25 November 2018 21:08



One really good, productive session, and lot of little bits throughout the week.




I met Ann at Good & Proper with a resolution that I would write at least one paragraph for each of the three main fiction projects on my list at the moment (with the hope that one paragraph would lead to more).


But I started off with an email to the content editor of a new genre writing website, which Ann had pointed me towards. They are looking for articles and reviews for their upcoming weekly blog and it seemed like a good opportunity to get in at the start as a potentially regular contributor.


Then I went back to the Submittable competition to try and get the first draft done if I could. Which it turns out I could. The story arc I had in mind fit pretty much exactly into the 50 paragraph requirement and I was very happy with how it went overall. I posted it on Scribophile for critiques, since there were still ten days to go before the deadline.


I did a couple of Scribophile critiques to build my points back up and also bring my story closer to the spotlight.


I also did manage to write at least a bit of both Colours and Ritual, in order to fulfil my resolution for the day.




Work trip to Chester provided a couple of decent train journeys.


The content editor at Dream Foundry came back to me with a couple of commissions of articles, so I had a look through my saved selection to see what I could rewrite to her specification and put together a first draft for one.


I also did a few more Scribophile critiques to get my story closer to the spotlight and also build my points back up again for the next time I want to post there.




I went through several critiques of my Submittable story, which all had useful suggestions for improvements but also all said they really enjoyed it, which was nice.




I wrote a review of a book I finished earlier in the day.




I once again finished a book and wrote a review of it.


Posted on 18 November 2018 22:03


A good amount of stuff achieved, and finally some fiction!



I helped Bear post about our most recent reading retreat.



I wrote reviews of all the books I read while on retreat.



I took the opportunity of a long gap between appointments in town to settle myself at the Elgin in Ladbroke Grove, to try and get some writing done.

I posted my recent blog post on Writing the Other to the GYWO discussion forum.

Then I went back to the requirements for the Submittable competition and started to write my entry. As usual, once I finally got going, the words flowed quickly and I got over 1200 down in one sitting.

I read a bit of Word Painting to finish off my session.



I wrote my monthly discussion post for GYWO.



I caught up on my reviews.

I also submitted a few pieces for potential publication.


Posted on 12 November 2018 23:33


Still no actual fiction writing again this week - the fiction crew are definitely on shore leave at the moment, leaving the nonfiction crew to stoke the boilers on their own.



I had a leisurely morning and then took myself off to Good and Proper with the intention of working hard until closing time.

I started by reviewing the new board games I played over the weekend, then wrote a blog post about an amusing publication acceptance I received over the weekend. Then I drafted a new article for the first Etre prompt from the notes I'd made the day before.

Submittable sent me an alert about a really interesting competition, so I added it to my submissions spreadsheet and made some notes for a possible entry.



I completed some submissions.



I wrote a review of the most recent book I read.



I thought some more about the Submittable story and added to my notes.



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.