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Posted on 08 January 2018 12:12

Summary:

 

Lots of focus on writing this week, but I perhaps overestimated how much my brain would be prepared to put up with. It’s good to have lots of things to work on, but I need to be realistic about what I can achieve, and also make sure I schedule in time to relax!

 

Tuesday:

 

I created a new tracking spreadsheet for both words and number of days worked on writing projects in 2018. My GYWO pledge for this year is 120 days, but I’m hoping to exceed that by quite a bit, and I’m still going to track my words as well.

 

I posted my final reviews of 2017 and also totalled my reviewing stats for the year.

 

I helped Bear post his photos from New Year.

 

I made a comprehensive list in my Self Journal for tomorrow’s planned full writing day.

 

I found and joined a fanfiction prompt comm on Dreamwidth because I’d like to write more fanfiction this year as a regular thing, and the previous weekly prompt competition I took part in seems to have ceased. I don’t know where I’m going to find the time for this, but I decided to subscribe for a bit anyway to see what happens.

 

I submitted a short piece to a literary magazine.

 

Wednesday:

 

I set off for Good and Proper early, so as to get a full day’s project work done before dinner in town.

 

I had an ambitious list on the first page of my Self Journal, and launched in with the next two scenes of Colours. I really have no idea what I’ve got with that, but it’s trucking along nicely, with me planning two or three scenes ahead each time. At some point, I’ll have to give it a read-through to see it if works, and then properly plan out the second half, but I’m happy just adding new words at the moment.

 

One of the things I want to add to my usual scheduled writing time this year is reading reference books about writing, so I finished a chapter of Wonderbook and wrote notes on it.

 

I’d decided I wanted to keep up with some short, speedy composition while working on the two novels, so I brainstormed some ideas for this week’s Hour of Writes prompt (A to Z). I then tried freewriting a possible entry and came up with something completely different to any of my notes. It wasn’t great, but there were some bits I liked and it at least allowed me to feel like I had created something new, which was complete. I’m not expecting to get a very high score for it, but never mind.

 

Then I went through my revision notes for Artisan and made a structured plan with the series of steps I need to take to create a new outline for the next draft. It felt good to put this into a proper list, so it felt more like an achievable project, rather than just a huge and insurmountable void.

 

I moved tracks again and wrote a brief piece of fanfiction, based on one of the day’s prompts in Fic Promptly. New year, new fandom - My Little Pony, of course!

 

I went back to my Self Journal and completed a to-do list for my next scheduled writing day on Saturday, as well as reflecting on today’s accomplishments.

 

I finished up an awesomely productive day by typing up some notes from an old notebook, and thus achieved progress on all the different types of writing projects I had planned to do over the course of the day.

 

Friday:

 

Charlie from Urban Writers Retreat always starts the year by running what she calls Writer's Block Detox, which consists of daily writing prompts emailed to those taking part for a month. The idea is to set a timer for five minutes and just free write whatever comes to mind. I certainly don’t have a problem with writer’s block at the moment, but I decided to take part anyway, because it’s useful to loosen up the writing muscles in this way, and fun to produce very short, random bits of fiction that are unconnected to my mammoth novel projects. So, today, I took a few minutes out of my working day to complete today’s prompt.

 

Saturday:

 

I went through the annotated version of Artisan with my husband’s comments on it, changed various things in the current text, and added new sections to the master revision plan. It seemed like an awful lot of work still to do, but I’m quite excited to get back into it.

 

I completed one review of an audiobook I finished this week.

 

I did the Detox prompt of the day, which had a very different feel to yesterday and didn’t produce as many words, but was still interesting.

 

I did my marking for Hour of Writes - I’d forgotten about this aspect of the competition when I decided to start doing it again, but it’s not too much of a chore, really.

 

Charlie and Amie, who ran the Six Month Novel Programme last year, sent me a book about editing for Christmas, so I read the first chapter and made notes.

 

I didn’t get nearly as much done as I would have done out of the flat for the day, but it was progress at least.

 

Sunday:

 

In the morning, I reviewed my plan for Artisan and saw that it was good.

 

I also read the next chapter of the self-editing book, and added the various opportunities from this month’s Writing Magazine to my rolling submissions spreadsheet.

 

Despite the desire to stay in my warm flat and just watch TV for the rest of the day, I went out early to a Let’s Write Together session. I started with today’s Writers Detox prompt, and then went on to write some more Colours.

 

The other people attending the writing session either didn’t turn up, or didn’t spot me in the crowded pub, and the environment wasn’t proving conducive to productivity, so I left after about an hour. I thought about trying to do more when I got home but decided I was trying to do too much with my weekend and gave myself the rest of the day off to relax instead.

 

Posted on 02 January 2018 13:21

Summary:

Not too much done this week, but more than I expected, so  good end to the year!

 

Wednesday:

I had some random inspiration about a major plot point in Colours so wrote some hasty notes to ensure I didn’t lose the new ideas.

 

Friday:

I hadn’t intended to write anything on the fiction front today, but Colours started writing itself in my head, so I gave in and switched a few things around in earlier scenes before starting the next one.

I caught up on my reviews and wrote a blog post, reflecting on my writing year and looking forwards to specific plans for 2018.

 

Posted on 29 December 2017 14:38

 

The end of December is always a time for reflection and for looking forward, so I will stick with tradition and do both, in terms of my writing.

This year, I've learned that scheduling writing time and sticking to it is always the right choice. Even when I'm feeling low and exhausted, I can still get useful stuff done - and spending the whole day at a cafe, making progress on writing projects has become my favourite thing to do.

But I've also learned that I shouldn't restrict myself to working on writing only during scheduled time. I can and should do it in odd moments at home and at work, as well. I’m really glad that GYWO has introduced Habit Pledges for next year, whereby you track the number of days you spend working on writing projects, rather than the number of new words you write, as I’m hoping this will help me to maximise my writing time.

However, most of all, I've learned that writing is something that will always be a part of my life, in one way or another. At a particularly low point this year, I actually decided to pack it all in and stop writing, because life would be so much easier and less stressful that way. That plan lasted about half an hour. This is not something I can give up, no matter how tough it gets. But it’s important that I’m clear about why I’m doing it and what I’m getting out of it.

Yes, my ultimate ambition is to get a novel published, and I’ll be working hard towards that goal next year. But if my planned schedule turns out to be unrealistic, or I find trying to whip my first novel into shape is more of a chore than a pleasure, then I may have to rethink. I’ve had a lot of enjoyment in writing and submitting short pieces over the last couple of years, and I don’t want to lose sight of that.

So, next year is going to be about making detailed plans, maximising the amount of time (and number of days) I spend working on my writing, but also trying to keep a balance between different types of projects, as well as making sure I have time to rest and do other things. Easy, right?

I have a new planning method (Self Journal) to try, I have a tentative plan to get Artisan ready to submit to Winchester Writers Festival, I’ll attempt to get a first draft of Colours done by then too. But my daily writing task lists will also include journalling, GYWO discussion posts, reviews, Hour of Writes and/or Fandom Weekly, revision/creation of short fiction, fanfiction exchange events, and reading reference books about writing. That’s a lot to keep going all at once, and may well prove impossible. But I’m going to give it a try and see how it goes.

And, if it turns out I’m being way too ambitious, I’ll have to re-evaluate, decide on my priorities, and either cut some things out of rotation or extend all the deadlines so I can keep working on everything all at once.

Regardless of how things work out, here’s to many more writing days at Good and Proper, and a productive and joyful writing year in 2018!

 

XXXXX

 

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Posted on 24 December 2017 20:47

Summary:

 

I managed to work on writing projects every day of my week off before Christmas, which was satisfying, and made me feel better about taking some time off over the festive period. Big plans for the New Year, though!

 

Monday:

 

An interminable trip to Lowestoft gave me the opportunity to write the next two scenes of Colours, and the only slightly less interminable trip back saw me doing some brainstorming on one of the main characters’ motivations.

 

Tuesday:

 

I met Geena in Richmond for a writing session at Petersham Nurseries, but didn’t feel very focused. I wanted to get stuck into using my new Self Journal to plan the first few weeks of 2018, but I accidentally left the instruction manual at home. Instead, I wrote a list of all the various things I want to work on, with proposed deadlines for the main sections, creating a rough (and very challenging plan) for January to mid-June. I may have bitten off more than I can chew, but we’ll see!

 

I took a look at a flash fiction piece from earlier in the year to see if I could expand it for submission to an upcoming anthology, but decided I’d rather leave it as it is, since I think it works well at its current length. I haven’t been submitting short pieces as much in recent months, and I think it might be difficult to fit new short work into the schedule for next year, if I’m going to work on both novels. It may be necessary for me to prioritise and let go of some stuff if I’m going to stay sane.

 

I did some freewriting for a different magazine submission, with a limit of 300 words, and it was good to just let myself write whatever came to mind without a larger plan. I managed a first pass that took me by surprise in the direction it took.

 

In the evening, I had a video call with Charlie and Amie, who gave me some excellent advice on copy-editing and revising my current Artisan draft.

 

Wednesday:

 

I remembered to pack the instruction booklet for my Self Journal today, so I started my writing date with Ann by reading through it and making some notes on scheduling. I completed the overall goals section and put a reminder in my calendar to start using the journal in the New Year. It seems like something that will be helpful in maximising my productivity, but we’ll see.

 

I typed up and edited yesterday’s 300-word piece and added it to my list of things ready to submit.

 

I went through my notes from Amie’s editorial feedback on Artisan and organised them into categories, then typed them up to provide an action plan for attacking the revision in the New Year.

 

I wrote a scene of Colours and planned the next three.

 

I typed up a whole load of notes from both an old and my current notebooks.

 

I finished off my session by reading some writing resources I had accumulated and saved for later over the last few months.

 

Thursday:

 

I had an unexpected moment of inspiration about a problem I’ve been having with part of the main plot arc of Colours, so I wrote some hurried notes on the train in an effort not to forget it.

 

Friday:

 

I submitted a short piece to a magazine and scheduled some more submissions where the window doesn’t open until early January.

 

Saturday:

 

I wrote the next scene of Colours and made some notes about things to think about for later in the story.

 

Sunday:

 

I added some bits to a couple of earlier scenes in Colours, to bring in one of the major plot threads I had so far missed out.

 

Posted on 17 December 2017 15:45

Summary:

Lots of plans to think about for next year - and hopefully some more stuff to achieve this year.

 

Monday:

Very slow start to my writing date with Ann today. I still felt scattered and it was hard to get on with stuff.

I eventually started with this month’s discussion post for GYWO, which was about organising a first draft. I felt it was quite an apropos topic for me, after last week’s feedback on Artisan and my current difficulties with plotting Colours.

Then I helped Bear with a post about last weekend’s writing retreat in Devon.

After that, I couldn’t ignore it anymore, and had to start thinking about the teething problems I’m having with Colours. After an awesome start to the first draft, I ran out of steam a bit, and have realised there’s a lot more thinking and planning I need to do before I can really carry on. So, I broke out my A4 hardback notebook, gave myself a double page spread of space and did some brainstorming.

Then I decided I would feel better about my productivity for the day if I added some actual words to Colours, so I wrote the next scene.

Amie sent through in-depth answers to my questions about Artisan, and it was all very encouraging. I started looking forward to getting back into working on that novel, which was a surprise.

I spent the last section of the writing date typing up notes from an old notebook, which felt useful but was also really easy, as my brain was giving up by that point.

My writing day was rounded up by getting confirmation that the publisher who first offered to pay for one of my stories (back in July last year) has gone out of business - before my story ever saw print. Hey ho - I’m frankly surprised it’s not happened more often, but it’s an unfortunate end to my first supposed publication success.

 

Wednesday:

I made notes from a new Scribophile critique I received on my flash fiction piece, and also added to my Artisan revision notes from Amie’s further feedback.

I got the final proof of an anthology story that’s coming out soon and checked for mistakes before confirming back to the editor that I was happy with it.

 

Sunday:

I caught up on my reviews and submitted some stories to publishers and competitions.

 

Posted on 11 December 2017 13:01

Summary:

 

Lots of stuff whirring around in my head at the moment, which makes me feel a bit scatty, but it’s exciting (if a bit daunting) to have two big projects I love on the go.

 

Monday:

 

Last morning at the Devon writing retreat and I completed one more scene of the new novel to get me up over 10,000 words written over the course of the four-day weekend. Woohoo!

 

Wednesday:

 

Another day where I nearly cancelled my writing date with Hannah but was glad I didn’t because I got quite a bit more of the new novel done, as well as a blog post about motivation and productivity.

 

I also started a short story for the romance anthology I came up with the idea for last week.

 

On the train on the way home, I received the developmental edit on the first novel (Artisan) from my editor, Amie, and was instantly horrified by the amount of work it implied I still had to do. But I took her advice and tried not to over-react. Instead, I read it through once, took a deep breath, and decided to come back to look at it in a calmer fashion later in the week.

 

Saturday:

 

A whole day all to myself in Good and Proper. I made a list of things to work on, but felt quite relaxed about it because I knew I had several more writing sessions scheduled in the near future.

 

I started, as usual, by catching up on my reviews.

 

I made some amendments to the new novel (Colours), adding in some location detail to anchor the main plotline in the UK.

 

Then I reread the developmental edit of Artisan and made detailed notes - stuff I agreed should change, questions I had about some of the feedback, and queries regarding other feedback I’ve received that wasn’t raised here. Then I sent Amie a lengthy email with all my questions. It still seems like there’s a lot of work to do (and most of it I have no idea how to approach), but it felt like something I’d like to work on, rather than a horrible misery burden.

 

Artisan revisions are my main project for the start of 2018, though. So, I finished off my session by writing the next scene of Colours. I’m going to have to do a lot of careful planning if I want to keep both novels on the go in the first part of next year. I hope it will be possible, but we shall see.

 

Sunday:

 

Geena and I brainstormed Colours for a bit, always a good idea because she comes up with really interesting directions for the story to go and just gifts them to me. It’s a great partnership because she’s really good at inspiration but very happy for me to do all the work, and I need the ideas infusion but want to maintain ultimate control of the writing.

 

Posted on 06 December 2017 18:41

The plan was all there. I spent a month brainstorming, outlining and cogitating. I felt excited about the story, and confident that I could make it good. I booked a writing retreat in the middle of nowhere for the first weekend in December, ready to crack on with the first draft of the new novel.

 

And then it hit. That awful, sinking, nauseous feeling that flows over me whenever I contemplate actually starting. I imagined being holed up in the cottage, with all the time in the world over three days, to write and write and write. And I couldn’t see myself doing it.

 

So, I got my trusty tablet out of my bag and made myself start writing on the train. I managed a scene, knew where I was going next with it, and felt more confident about making progress over the course of the weekend. But it was hard and it was painful.

 

The weekend unfolded in much the same vein. I made myself write two scenes at a time, then gave myself a bit of time off to read or watch TV and knit. But even though the scenes followed one after the other, and the writing flowed pretty well - I had to make myself do it. At any given moment during the weekend, I would rather have not had to do it.

 

And, when it comes right down to it, I didn’t have to do it. The only one creating this schedule and forcing myself to get words down on the page is me. So why do I do it to myself?

 

Of course, it’s not always as hard as it was this weekend - though I do generally find it tough to do more than a thousand words of new material in a day, even if I have the whole day free to do it. And I was incredibly pleased with my amassed count of 10,164 words overall for the weekend. And I love the story I’m writing. So maybe that’s why I do it. The product is worth the pain of producing it.

 

I did have about half an hour, a couple of months ago, when I contemplated giving the whole thing up. Just not writing any more. Kaput. Nothing. Ever again.

 

It had a certain appeal. I could do whatever I wanted with my free time, without that voice always nagging at me that I ought to be writing. Maybe I wouldn’t resent my day job so much. I’d probably be more relaxed. I might get more sleep.

 

But it didn’t happen. I don’t think I even took a whole week off. Because the ideas were still there, and they weren’t going to go away. And the excitement was still there, bubbling up through the fatigue and the uncertainty to take hold of my brain.

 

For example, today I had a mental health blip. I went back to my desk after lunch, and it felt like I was hauling myself uphill through hip-deep sludge. I really struggled to achieve anything all afternoon, and had to force myself to do the smallest tasks, in a much more aggressive way than I had with the writing at the weekend. All I wanted to do was crawl home, curl up in front of the TV and eat chocolate.

 

Then, just before I left work, my subconscious crew came through like heroes, right on schedule, with the next two scenes of the new novel. I had been thinking most of the day that I had no idea where I was going next with it, and suddenly the path was clear. I can’t say I exactly skipped out of the office to meet my friend for our writing date in the cafe round the corner. But I went. And I sat down and I wrote my two scenes. And I already know what the next two are.

 

So, it doesn’t look like I’ll be quitting any time soon. But, wow, have I picked a tough hobby!

 

XXXXX

 

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Posted on 04 December 2017 10:02

Summary:

 

Another week where sticking to scheduled writing time has produced excellent results. As ever, it’s not about being in the right frame of mind, it’s about sitting down and just getting the words out onto the page. But why is that so hard, when it’s what I really want to do?

 

Monday:

 

I almost didn’t make it to my writing date with Ann today, but I persevered and managed to get a few hours in.

 

I started, as usual, with reviews, always a good way to settle and focus before moving on to something more in-depth.

 

Then I worked on collating my notes for the new novel, expanding the rough outline I already had with more detail, in preparation for cracking on with the first draft at the weekend. I was still really excited about this story, though I had no concept of how what I had in the outline was going to be transformed into an actual thing. But hey, I figured I would get there one way or another!

 

Wednesday:

 

I spent the whole day snarling at people at work, and nearly texted Hannah to say I couldn’t face our writing date, but I followed the plan not the mood and she actually turned up 90 minutes earlier than usual so we got straight into it.

 

I went through my rough outline for the new novel, assigned all the various sections to one of my POV characters, then interwove the main plot points with the flashbacks/subplots - and it all worked! There were even numbers of Anushka vs Charlotte viewpoint sections, and even numbers of present vs past sections, with an extra section at the end to round everything off. So, it looked like the basic structure was now in place, ready for me to launch into the first draft properly on Friday.

 

I got a rejection from an online sci-fi magazine, but it had an exhortation to try again in capitals in the middle, so I’m assuming they didn’t outright hate my piece. I therefore kept them on my submission spreadsheet, as they have a rolling monthly themed submission window.

 

I went through the Scribophile critiques on my flash fiction piece and made a few amendments here and there. I identified somewhere I could submit it, but also left it in my editing folder because it could easily be expanded in both directions to produce a much longer story, and I really like the scenario.

 

I finished off by brainstorming some ideas for a fantasy romance anthology that really appeals to me, though I don’t think I’ll have enough time to dedicate to it before the deadline.

 

Friday:

 

I set off for a writing retreat weekend with my completed novel outline but no clear idea about how to launch into the actual first draft. I forced myself to write some stuff on the train, so I would already be in flow by the time I arrived, and it worked. I wrote three whole scenes throughout the rest of the day and it felt really good.

 

Saturday:

 

My sense of flow pretty much continued through Saturday. I had to be strict with myself about getting on with the writing, but once I was started it came quite easily. I operated on a schedule of writing two scenes, then taking a break, and completed eight scenes (nearly 4,500 words) during the course of the day. I could definitely have worked harder, but I know doing that just makes me hate it, so I was kind to myself and managed a lot of good progress as well as enjoying the process and the periodic relaxation.

 

I became less certain about this new novel than I was a couple of days before, though. I still loved the story, and I thought the writing was going well. But I was a lot further through the plot than I was expecting at only 7,500 words, so I wasn’t sure if it was going to make the distance to a full novel. I also wasn’t sure if my current structure of 500-word scenes, intercut with flashbacks, was going to work. I thought it might be too bitty, not allowing the reader to get into the story properly. However, I decided these were questions for a much later date. The priority right now is to get it down in first draft - I can see what it is that I’ve got once that’s done.

 

Sunday:

 

Writing was harder today, for some reason. I still knew what came next at the end of every scene (until mid-afternoon, at least) but it was a struggle making myself sit down and get on with it. I pushed myself, though, and did get quite a lot done, which I was pleased with. A break at 3pm for a brief walk and some knitting gave my brain the space to figure out where the story should go next and I ended the day very satisfied with my progress.

 

Posted on 27 November 2017 14:19

Summary:

 

Lots of time spent on writing projects this week, but not much in the way of actual writing. Planning, brainstorming, editing, and typing up notes are all really important things that need to be done, but it never feels like I’m making much progress when I spend time doing them.

 

Monday:

 

Today, I felt as if I hadn’t really achieved much at all in recent times, so I was glad to have a writing date scheduled with Ann. I put together a long list of possible tasks, with three levels of prioritisation, which made me feel as if I was exerting some control in an uncertain world.

 

First up were my editing responsibilities for the second Life Plus 2M anthology. I received two sets of comments from fellow authors, and made amendments to my own story accordingly. I then edited the two subsequent stories in the volume and sent my comments back to the authors and the editor.

 

I completed and posted this month’s GYWO discussion post, which was on techniques for breaking away from the one big writing project that demands all your attention. I have no idea why I said I would write a post on this topic, as this is not something I’ve ever experienced as a problem. I’m very good at ignoring my big writing projects, and actually need techniques for focusing on them, rather than all the short, shiny stuff that distracts me all the time.

 

I caught up on reviews from the weekend - one of my reading retreat prescription books, several games from the convention we went to at the weekend, a gig by my favourite band, and a weird but fun indie film I came across.

 

And finally, I did some more novel planning. It felt like a long time since I’d done any, and I think I need to make sure I work on the new novel more frequently throughout the week, to keep it fresh in my mind. The plot is definitely taking shape but it all feels very ‘broad strokes’ at the moment. I know the overall arc and a lot of what needs to happen, but the details are eluding.

 

 

Wednesday:

 

My writing date with Hannah was nearly derailed because our usual tea shop was closed, but I was lucky to get a table at a different cafe when a couple got up to leave just as I arrived.

 

I made amendments to the airship pirates story I posted on Scribophile last week, based on the very comprehensive comments I received. Then I went through my submissions spreadsheet and found somewhere to send the new version.

 

I did a couple of critiques to get my points up, and posted a piece of flash fiction to Scribophile.

 

I’ve really got back into using Scribophile in recent weeks. It feels good to give people advice on their writing, and it’s really useful to get comments back on my own.

 

 

Saturday:

 

I arranged a writing date with Geena, me arriving as Good and Proper opened at 10am, Geena sensibly taking it more slowly, as we had both been out late the night before.

 

I eased myself in gently by catching up on my reviews. I’d not had much luck with the books I’d chosen this week, with two favourite authors failing to engage me, so I wasn’t feeling very positive on that front, but it was good to have a straightforward writing task to start off the day.

 

I spent quite a while going through an old writing notebook and transcribing the various notes I’d taken at workshops and events, as well as recording bits of ideas that hadn’t been developed yet. I’m never sure about the value of doing this, as I rarely go back and read notes from events, but I’d rather collect and keep them electronically than lose them - plus rereading and recording them might make them stick in my head, and the bits of ideas may come in useful one day.

 

One thing I came across during the above exercise was a whole load of notes for a story I’ve been noodling around with all year. I first had the idea during a Writer’s Block Detox course I did back in January and I’ve been periodically making notes for it ever since, but never actually got round to writing it. So, I collated all the notes for that to see if I could kick-start my brain into thinking about it properly.

 

I helped Geena with a blog post for her Master’s programme in media communications, which was really interesting and made me feel useful.

 

Then my brain died and I had to call a halt to productive output. But I managed about four decent hours of work.

 

Posted on 20 November 2017 14:39

Summary:

 

Not much in the way of writing progress this week - too many fun, social things got in the way!

 

Monday:

 

I helped Bear post his account of our marvellous weekend away at a reading retreat, and then posted my own account as well.

 

Wednesday:

 

I met Hannah for a writing date, and caught up on many reviews.

 

I also made amendments to the story I posted on Scribophile last week, based on the critiques I received.

 

I then posted another story on Scribophile and did a few critiques of my own to move it up the queue to the main spotlight.

 

Posted on 13 November 2017 14:44

At this year’s NAWG-Fest in September, I met Cressida Downing, who was one of the tutors. She also runs reading retreats with her friend, Sara Noel, and I went on one this weekend just gone.

I’ve been to lots of retreats over the last few years - generally for writing - but this was the most luxurious, indulgent, well-catered weekend I’ve ever spent. They really had thought of everything - goody bags full of wonderful gifts, spare essentials in case you forgot to pack anything, reading lights for borrowing, and an amazing range of food, to suit any dietary requirements. As someone with diabetes, I’m used to organisers just assuming I won’t have dessert, and that I’ll forego snacking, which is always rather depressing. Here, though, there were cheese plates to round off each delicious meal, low sugar muesli for breakfast, and both low sugar and savoury snacks, so I felt very well looked-after.

The main purpose of the weekend, of course, was reading. I carve out time in my busy weekly schedule for my writing, but I don’t do the same for reading, so it was glorious to set aside many hours over the course of a weekend to do just that. Cressi called me a few weeks beforehand to talk about my reading, and provided me with a list of recommended books, one of which she lent me over the weekend. I’m not usually very good at concentrating on one thing for long periods of time, so I had packed my usual array of other activities (knitting, writing, TV episodes) but I found them entirely unnecessary. There was something about the atmosphere at the retreat that made me really want to dedicate all my attention to my reading, and I never felt the need to take a break and do something else.

Obviously, there were welcome interruptions in the form of meals, and Cressi offered optional walks on both days (which I did take and very much enjoyed). Cressi and Sara were always available in the kitchen for conversation and very attentive provision of refreshments. But I was at my happiest, curled up in an armchair in the lounge, with up to three of the other attendees, just reading, reading, reading and reading some more. There’s something very companionable about sharing a space with other people who are all reading, and I loved every minute of it.

I got through 850 pages across 15 hours of reading at the cottage (in stints of 2-4 hours at a time), and then read another 200 pages on the 2.5 hour journey home. I completed three books, and thoroughly enjoyed all of them.

Reading is so important for writers, but it’s also wonderful just to relax and give yourself over to a book. I’ve already booked my place on the next retreat in February, and would highly recommend any other book-lover to do the same.

XXXXX

 

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Posted on 13 November 2017 13:44

Summary:

Reading has been the order of the day this week, though I’ve also done quite a bit of planning for the new novel, which I’ve found really useful.

 

Tuesday:

I missed my usual writing date because I had to work on Monday, so I pledged to work on the new novel every evening this week to make up for it.

Today, I added a section to the third scene, to give the protagonist some dialogue. I then carried on with the Six Month Novel Programme workbooks, which gave me some new plot ideas and deepened my understanding of the main characters.

 

Wednesday:

I added some character detail to the second scene of the new novel, and carried on working through the Six Month Novel materials. I’ve never done this amount of planning for a project at the start before, and it’s definitely helping cement the world in my mind and develop the characters in interesting ways.

 

Friday:

More planning for the new novel, exploring different plot points and subplots.

 

Saturday:

I read some more of Wonderbook and made notes.

I had an epiphany about the main arc of the new novel - at core, it's not an action adventure but a love story and that's the arc it should follow.

 

Posted on 05 November 2017 20:49

Summary:

So, it turns out that if I have more time, I do get more stuff done on writing projects, as evidenced by the fact that I had this week off work, and have done project stuff on six out of seven days.

 

Monday:

Today required some personal dedication on my part. I had a three hour gap between two appointments in town, so I found a cafe, bought some coffee and got on with some projects.

I made final edits to the cafe story, based on comments from my Write Club buddies, which were much more incisive than those I received from Scribophile. It’s useful to get a range of opinions, though, and I think the story has been much improved by the additional editing. I gave it a final read-through to make sure it still made sense, and then it was finally ready to submit.

Then I discovered (as I had for one of the competitions I entered the day before) that it needed to be sent in hard copy, which led to a printing/posting scramble. It seems very odd, in this day and age, that hard copy entries are required, since it must make administrating the competitions much more difficult. Hey ho.

I spent two hours submitting pieces to seven more places - phew! This really does take up a lot of time, but hopefully will garner some publications.

 

Tuesday:

I moved my usual writing date with Ann to today. We met at our new regular, Good and Proper, at 11am, and I embarked on my list for the day. First up was a reviews catch-up, always a good way to ease me into working gently.

Then I launched into the expansion of a short story I wrote a very long time ago, and which I received some useful feedback on last month. I added a new section, then posted the whole thing on Scribophile to get more comments on it.

I did a couple of Scribophile critiques to get my karma points up and speed my story into the spotlight.

I went through this month’s Writing Magazine and circled all the interesting-sounding submission opportunities, of which there were quite a few.

I then decided I wouldn’t feel satisfied with myself unless I made some progress on the new novel, so I dragged the third scene out of my brain, kicking and screaming. It wasn’t my best work, but it introduced some of the central plot points in what I hope is an intriguing way, and at least it was words on the page.

I started a spreadsheet to keep track of characters and plot points as I go, since I’m working from a very rough outline that doesn’t have a lot of detail yet.

That brought me to a solid five hours of work for the day, which felt really good.

Bear accompanied me on my writing date today so, when we got home, I helped him post the photos he took, even though he has grossly misrepresented my productivity on writing dates!

I also got news that a Canadian publisher wants to record the short story that eventually became the first novel on their podcast, which is exciting!

 

Wednesday:

I edited the podcast story as per instructions from the publisher, and sent it back to them along with a bio, an author photo, and a list of my publications. 

I added this month’s list of submission opportunities from Writing Magazine to my rolling spreadsheet.

I gave the first 1,500 words of the new novel to Geena to read and she came up with some great ideas for story and character development.

 

Thursday:

I read out the first 1,500 words of the new novel to my parents over lunch, which highlighted some repeat phrasing I hadn’t noticed until I heard it aloud. Very good lesson there!

 

Friday:

I collected all the workbooks from the Six Month Novel Programme and started completing them for the new novel. I also set myself a deadline for completing the first draft, which is provisionally the end of May 2018, as I’d like to be able to say I’ve got something mostly done when I meet agents at Winchester Writers’ Festival in June 2018.

No harm in being ambitious, right?

 

Sunday:

I added some new submission opportunities to my rolling spreadsheet.

I posted reviews of the film, two plays, and two new games I experienced throughout the week.

I did a detailed critique on Scribophile to build up my points and get my current story closer to the spotlight.

I submitted two stories to paying publications for consideration.

I also read through the first 1,500 words of the new novel and fixed the couple of repeated bits I found on Thursday.

 

Posted on 30 October 2017 11:25

Summary:

 

Bits and pieces, here and there throughout the week. It didn’t feel like I was doing a lot, but what I did was useful and progressed several projects. And at least I kept my brain ticking over and working on stuff.

 

Monday:

 

I took myself off to Good & Proper quite early today, and managed to stay for five hours, with Ann joining me for the last three.

 

I wasn’t quite as focused as the day before, despite my schedule, but I wrote the second scene of the new novel and discovered quite a liking for the initial antagonist, who is going to end up being much more of a main character that I had planned.

 

I did several critiques on Scribophile to build up enough points to post another story whenever I want, and also received some useful comments on the cafe story.

 

I also typed up more snippets and notes from one of my completed notebooks, discovering the start of a story I began at Moniack Mhor last December, which I had completely forgotten about.

 

Wednesday:

 

I had a great discussion with Hannah about our current writing projects, and also did another Scribophile critique, to try and get my cafe story closer to the spotlight. I’m remembering how much time and effort has to go into getting the most out of Scribophile, but I think it will still be useful to post stories there from time to time. It’s also a good thing to keep on my task list, so I can do critiques here and there to keep my points level up for when I need it.

 

 

Sunday:

 

I went along to Let’s Write Together, which I haven’t done in many weeks. It turned out to be very useful, as I didn’t feel very motivated to do anything earlier in the day, and the two hours spent with Nil prompted me to edit the cafe story, based on the comments in the five critiques it had garnered on Scribophile.

 

I also submitted entries to three different competitions - one for the novel, one for flash fiction, and one for travel writing. So I’m keeping my diversification up!

 

Posted on 22 October 2017 17:55

Summary:

Two official writing days instead of one resulted in masses of stuff accomplished.  Go figure.

 

Monday:

I met Ann for our usual writing date.

I started with this month’s discussion post for GYWO, which had the title:

"Feast or Famine: the pressure of fan expectations when your work seems to be doing too well VS when you feel like your work is largely ignored and you need to keep motivated."

I wrote what I thought was a helpful post, talking about inner motivation and not basing your satisfaction in your writing entirely on how other people react to it.  But several writers responded that they prefer not to be told why they should or shouldn’t be writing, which is absolutely fair enough!

I then completed a few reviews, including those for the October Wordy Birds Reading Challenge category, which was a book by an author I’d met.

I was feeling a bit de-motivated by this point, but I decided to press on, and ended up completing a total re-write of the cafe story that had been accused of being more of an anecdote.  I shifted it from first to third person, added in more dialogue, upped the emotion in places and generally tried to make it more like a short story in terms of drama and arc.  I was pretty pleased with the result, but I’ve still got time to do another pass at the weekend before I have to submit it.

 

Wednesday:

I did a Bear post about our adventures at the weekend on the Rustington Out of Bounds Adventure Golf Course.

 

Saturday:

I went to a London Writers’ Cafe event, where everyone had submitted the first 300 words for a professional editor to give feedback on.  Each author read out their piece and then the editor gave brief comments on both good things and areas that could be developed.  It was really interesting to hear other people present their work and there was a huge range of style and genre in the thirty submissions.  The editor found something positive to say about everyone’s work, and gave some useful feedback on things to think about, but didn’t seem have much to say about mine, so I didn’t find the session particularly valuable overall.  Always good to meet other writers, though!

 

Sunday:

Today was an Urban Writers Retreat day, which is always a good way to get things done, since it runs from 10am to 5:30pm and nobody is allowed to talk, except for a brief period at lunchtime.

I read through the cafe story and made a few edits, but still wasn’t sure it entirely worked, so I sent it to my Write Club buddies for evisceration, as there were still nearly ten days to go until the competition deadline.

I edited a short reflection on the importance of Stanley Park in Vancouver for my mental health, which is for a competition about how particular places in the world have affected you.

I did another pass on the short story I’m trying to lengthen to fit a Writing Magazine competition and managed to hit the right word count, hopefully without diluting the tension too much.

That took care of the three main things on my list, and it was only 11:30am, so I logged onto Scribophile for the first time in months and did a critique (prompted by Ann asking me about the site last week, which reminded me I hadn’t used it in ages).  Then I sat and stared at my list for a while, feeling like the admin tasks would be a waste of valuable time, and the big projects were too daunting a prospect to launch into - so I wrote a blog post about my dilemma!

Then, I used the goal-setting worksheet Charlie always provides for Urban Writers Retreat days (which I had not filled in for today) and made a proper plan for the afternoon, and also for tomorrow.  After that, I felt much better and ready for lunch.

After lunch, I did more Scribophile reviews until I had enough points to post the cafe story for some additional, more varied feedback.

Then I finally broke new ground on what used to be the comic book idea, and which now has a working title of Changing Colours.  I wrote the opening scene, and it felt quite exciting to be starting a new long-form project.  Lots and lots and lots of work ahead on that one, though!

Next on the list was finally getting round to collecting stuff I wanted to keep from my completed project notebooks.  I picked the oldest and set to finding and typing up the relevant information.  The notebook dated back to January 2016 and contained my notes for about a year.  it was really interesting to look back on what I was doing during that time, and I picked up notes for a possible fanfiction, as well as my observations from rereading Perdido Street Station from the point of view of learning how to be a better writer.

The last thing on my list was to brainstorm some ideas for a new short story, based on a prompt for an upcoming competition.  I did a tarot reading for some initial thoughts and then did some free writing around the idea in my new notebook, ending up with a skeleton outline to work on more tomorrow..

Overall, the morning felt very scattered and as if the time was stretching out before me with no end in sight.  The afternoon was incredibly focused, and disappeared in a flash, leaving me wishing I had more time to work on stuff.  The only difference?  A plan for what I was going to do throughout the day!

 

Posted on 22 October 2017 11:34

I’m at an Urban Writers Retreat day today, which is usually an excellent way to get tons of stuff done.  And I have a long list of things I could be doing.  But I’ve already finished the three main ones I wanted to complete (all of which turned out to be quite simple and quick) and I’m not sure what I want to do next.

 

I’ve been bemoaning the fact that I don’t have time to read all the things I want to read about writing, or to collate and type up my notes on the things I’ve already read, or that are stored in one of my completed project notebooks.  But, now that I have the whole afternoon stretching ahead of me, those tasks feel like a waste of valuable time I’ve been presented with, to work on my writing.

 

On the other hand, though, there are two or three bigger writing projects on my list that I would be getting on with, but I don’t want to work on those, either.  They all feel too daunting to launch into, and too much like effort right now.

 

But days like today are designed precisely to provide the time and mental space to get on with the things I don’t normally have time for, or to dive into something new and huge and exciting.

 

So, as I frequently discover in such situations, it’s really not about how much time I have.  It’s about utilising that time effectively.  And, today, I feel tired, spaced out, and underprepared.

 

Charlie, who organises the Urban Writers Retreats, always sends out a goal-setting worksheet during the week beforehand, and I’ve always completed it for the retreat days I’ve attended up until now.  This time, though, I didn’t do it, and I think I’m suffering for it.  The worksheet asks questions about what you want to achieve over the course of the day, then breaks the day into manageable slots for you to plan what you’re going to work on.  I thought just having my list of available projects and tasks would give me access to my options without restricting me as to what I would do.  But it’s just left me floundering and failing to achieve anything (except this blog post, I guess!).

 

I have another full day of writing project time planned for tomorrow - so, I think my best move would be to complete a goal-setting worksheet for this afternoon (in the time I have left before lunch) and then do another one for tomorrow.  And hopefully that will set me off towards amazing productivity!

 

XXXXX

 

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Posted on 16 October 2017 08:50

Summary:

On every day but Monday, I intended to go through some of my filled-up writing project notebooks and type up anything I want to keep or work on further.  But I’ve been very low on sleep this week and found it impossible to motivate myself to do this, despite having plenty of time.  I have subsequently felt very unproductive as the week has gone on, even though Monday was very good.

My scheduled writing sessions in the week are great - but I think I need to consider dedicating more time at home to writing projects or writing admin as well.  After all, just because I’ve scheduled a writing session doesn’t mean I can’t work on stuff at other times as well!.

 

Monday:

Ann was initially unavailable for our usual writing date, so I got up early and headed into town to see if I could recreate a productive atmosphere on my own.  I went to Good & Proper in Clerkenwell, which proved very conducive to achieving this, with a great range of tea, friendly staff, comfortable seating, free wifi, and nommy food.

I started off by writing reviews of the three films I saw yesterday at the London Film Festival.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been completing image-based prompts from Seempli, which have been tremendous fun, and have certainly made me more observant of my surroundings, and more open to viewing things in a creative way.  Today’s prompt also involved a writing aspect, asking me to compose a passage of exactly fifty words, inspired by my photo.  Writing to a specific, very small word count is always an interesting exercise, and I really enjoyed completing it.  I also wrote a blog post about the site, highly recommending it.

Ann managed to join me after all, two hours into my planned mammoth writing session, which definitely kept me at it longer than I would have done otherwise.

I finished the first draft of the short story I started last Monday.  The competition deadline is 31 October, so I planned to run it past Write Club for feedback before submission.

I did a first pass on an old story that I want to expand to meet a competition word count.  I'll need to come back to it again to add in a bit more, but I don't want to ruin it by putting in unnecessary material, so I'm taking it slowly.

Lastly, I brainstormed the opening of what used to be the comic book series idea, gradually preparing to break new ground by actually starting the narrative.

So, overall, it was an extremely productive five hours!

 

Friday:

I spent a highly enjoyable hour on the phone with my Write Club buddies.  They confirmed what I had feared - that the competition entry I finished on Monday is more of an anecdote than a short story.  So, we brainstormed ways to make it more dramatic, and ways to bring the characters more to life, giving me plenty to think about.  It will need a complete re-write, but it will be improved out of all recognition once that’s done.

 

Posted on 09 October 2017 12:14

A few weeks ago, I discovered Seempli.com and have been enjoying engaging with it ever since.  It’s billed as a way to boost creativity, and it certainly seems to be working for me.

 

I’m not the most observant person in the world.  I originally failed my driving test on observation and awareness (kind of important when in charge of a car), and my husband is always pointing out things I haven’t spotted when we go out for walks.  I would like to claim that my mind is too focused on inner storytelling to be bothered with the details of my outer environment, but I think I’m just generally oblivious.

 

So, the idea of observational creativity at Seempli appealed to me a lot.  Basically, it’s a daily prompt, which you fulfil by taking a photograph of something inspired by it, when you’re out and about.  They have a ‘starter pack’ of what they call Seeds, with guidance on how to go about fulfilling them for the first three weeks.  After that, you can just use whichever Seed is posted on the site each day, or pay to upgrade your membership so you can access more comprehensive packages, along with the Prisms, which provide context and restrictions for whichever Seed you’re using.

 

It’s been tremendous fun trying to find monsters and happy shadows in my surroundings, taking photos of things that remind me of Shakespeare plays or other countries.  The last few prompts I’ve done have been combined with writing exercises, motivating me to find inspiration in my pictures to fuel creative writing as well as observation, which is fun and very useful.

 

I haven’t sampled the paid-for aspects of the site yet, so I don’t know whether or not to recommend them, but the introductory selection of prompts is proving by highly enjoyable and thought-provoking.  Also, after several weeks of feeling quite demotivated in my writing, I’ve had a resurgence of ideas and productivity.  I don’t know if this is solely as a result of Seempli, but I’m pretty sure it’s helping.

 

XXXXX

 

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Posted on 09 October 2017 09:06

Summary:

Tons of stuff going on, both within my brain and without, this week.  It feels like a renaissance of my creativity.  Now I just have to capitalise on it and get some work done!

 

Monday:

I’ve been asking my subconscious crew for some insight into which big writing project I should launch into, now that the novel is on hiatus for three months, and I got my answer this morning.  The one I keep coming back to is the comic book series idea, but I have no idea how to progress it as a comic book, because it’s so far outside my skillset and I don’t feel I have the time or the energy to dedicate to learning how to do it.  But the story excites me, so I’ve decided that I’m going to work on it as a prose piece, since that’s what I know how to do, and see what happens.  It’s really good to have a clear sense of the way forwards, after several weeks of directionless lack of progress.

I attended my usual writing date with Ann, and wrote the first 1250 words of a short story for an upcoming competition.

 

Tuesday:

 

I went to an enjoyable and useful London Writers’ Cafe event about getting short stories published.  The speaker was Rupert Dastur, editor of TSS Publishing, and he was very personable and knowledgeable about his subject.  But he suggested so many things to read, research, follow and take part in, that I had to wonder - where does anyone find the time and the energy to dedicate to all this stuff?  Don’t get me wrong - I’d love to do more of it myself, but I find it difficult enough to carve out time to write during the week!  On the plus side, I wrote so many notes that I almost filled up my current writing notebook - and you know what that means…

 

A trip to Paperchase!

 

Wednesday:

I went to Paperchase at lunchtime, spent twenty minutes inspecting every notebook in the shop, and came away with a lovely little owl-themed spiral-bound pad, spending only £6.  That’s quite an achievement.

 

After work, I met up with some of the writers from the Six Month Novel Programme and we did what writers do when we’re together.  We commiserated about our struggles, provided moral and emotional support, bolstered each other’s confidence, discussed different methods of getting things done, and generally had a good old chinwag.  The others were all very enthusiastic about the comic book idea, so I packed some materials to help me work on it on my long tube journey to and from Hounslow tomorrow.

 

Thursday:

The good old subconscious crew came up with a ton of ideas for the initial antagonist in the comic book series, which is now not going to be a comic book series (or at least not at first).  So, I spent a large part of my journey home from Hounslow writing notes about her, as planned.

This story is definitely now in my head, and I’m really excited about working on it, so I’ve definitely made the right decision.

 

Friday:

 

The subconscious crew came up with another whole load of great stuff while I was in the shower, presenting me with all the details for the second half of the story that went through the Master’s Review Workshop.  I’d evidently been thinking about it on some level all week, and now I have a really good extension and ending for it.

 

Saturday:

I woke up to an email from the editor of Lyonesse fantasy and science-fiction magazine, saying they wanted to actually pay me for a short story I submitted to them in August.  This is my first acceptance since I started only submitting to paying markets.  Plus, it’s for a story I love, but which has been rejected by four other publications.  So, a really great start to the weekend!

 

I made two short story submissions, and also received news that one of my stories had been passed to the third reading stage of submission for a production company that produces fiction podcasts.

 

I helped Bear with his second post about our group gaming holiday.

 

I then revised the first chapter of the novel, based on the feedback I got from my editor last week, and also sent her the whole manuscript for a developmental edit she’s going to do by the end of the year.



Posted on 02 October 2017 10:47

Summary:

No actual writing this week, as I was mostly away on a group gaming holiday and decided to take a break.  I could have done some over the weekend, when I was free and at home, but I had a three-day headache and not enough sleep, so I gave myself a pass and mostly just watched TV.

 

However, this episode is not entirely empty, as other people were working on writing projects on my behalf, and I received several communications from them that were of interest.

 

 

Tuesday:

I received the editorial notes on the first chapter of my novel, which was the culmination of the Six Month Novel Programme.  They were largely positive, praising the pacing and characterisation and expressing enthusiasm for the story as a whole.  The main negative was that I over-explain and do too much world-building at the start, with the advice that I pull back and trust the reader more to figure things out for themselves.  This is a common criticism of my novel (weirdly, I encounter the opposite problem with my short fiction, where readers often want more information than I’m prepared to give), and may not be a particularly easy fix.  However, the editor is keen to work more with me on the full manuscript, and I’m certainly going to take her up on that.

 

 

Wednesday:

I received my Reading Retreat prescription from Cressi, which contained some interesting choices:

 

Non-fiction books about the craft of writing (which I specifically requested):

ON WRITING by Stephen King - already on my reading shelf
BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott - something that has been recommended to me before but that I’ve never got round to acquiring

Fiction (for good examples of world-building and ‘showing not telling’):
HOW TO STOP TIME by Matt Haig - already on my Amazon wish list
THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by M.R. Carey - something that intrigued me earlier in the year when the film came out
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES by Seth Grahame-Smith - apparently just because I was re-reading P&P at the time I spoke to Cressi and she though I might find it fun
THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS by John Boyne - I didn’t like the film, but it would be interesting to read the book as it is about a child, but not really a children’s book
THE EMPIRE OF THE SUN by J.G. Ballard - I loved the film, and would be really interested to read the book, especially considering it is largely autobiographical

 

I cannot express just how much I am looking forward to the reading retreat weekend - it will be book-ended by reasonably lengthy train journeys, which will be perfect for doing some writing, as I intend to keep to the spirit of the weekend and only read while I’m there.  I have a feeling it’s going to be glorious.

 

 

Friday:

Over the summer, I took the opportunity to take part in the Master’s Review workshop, whereby I submitted a short story for feedback from a professional editor, and the comments back today.  The editor said he would usually provide a manuscript, marked up with in-line changes, but felt this was unnecessary for my story as the prose was already very clean and well-written.  He praised both the idea and the execution, but said it could do with being developed more, and lengthened to perhaps twice its current word count.  He gave some ideas of things to think about in the expansion and suggested appropriate places to submit it once the revisions are done.  

 

As with the editorial comments on the novel, it was lovely to receive such positive feedback from a professional editor, and it has given me something to work with on a story I have faith in but wanted some guidance on improving.  But, given how little constructive criticism I actually received, I do wonder if it was worth what I paid for it...

 

 

Sunday:

I helped Bear put together his first post about the group gaming holiday, which was fun, as always.

 

 

Back to real life next week - the day job looms on Tuesday, but I will also be able to get back into my usual routine of writing time, so it will hopefully be a more productive week.