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Posted on 18 June 2018 13:14

Winchester Writers’ Festival is an amazing opportunity.

Hundreds of writers of all types to meet and talk to. Workshops, talks, panels and presentations on all aspects of the craft and the industry. And, most importantly, submitting your work to agents and getting face-to-face feedback.

I did not get an agent at Winchester, but then I wasn’t expecting to. One agent told me he gets 2000 submissions a year and signs maybe four new authors.

What Winchester did for me was to teach me important things about myself and what I want from my writing, which made it an extremely valuable experience.

I saw four agents over two days, and they all gave me detailed and constructive feedback, for which I’m very grateful. But it was also wildly contradictory, which made the whole thing quite baffling.

Still, the opening to my first workshop of the weekend was:

There are no absolutes in publishing.

And most of publishing is wholly subjective.

I learned from sending my first draft out to about fifteen readers that people respond very differently to fiction. If they all highlight the same issue, then you’ve got a problem you need to fix. But if they violently disagree on whether or not particular things work, you’ve got something that at least some people are going to love.

The same thing, of course, applies to agent feedback. Contradictory advice on what ‘needs’ changing or improving suggests that there are some agents out there that will love my novel just as it is, and it’s simply a case of finding the right one.

My last workshop of the weekend reinforced that principle, by repeating the age-old advice - the only way to get published is to persevere. Keep sending your work out until you find that one person who’s going to believe in your novel as much as you do.

But it’s not that simple. Sure, there was one writer at that workshop who said she’d sent her novel out to 300+ agents over the course of five years, and eventually landed a two-book deal from a publisher a couple of weeks ago. I’m amazingly impressed with her staying power, and I’m delighted for her that it eventually paid off. But there was a another writer I met, who got an agent at Winchester last year, but whose book still hadn’t sold to a publisher a year on, so she was back with a different book to try and find a different agent.

Finding an agent is only the first (very difficult) step in a long and complicated process that involves a huge amount of work, revision, patience, self-marketing and conviction. And, even with a publishing deal, there are certainly no guarantees of success.

For those who are prepared to go through that, and put the work in - I salute you and wish you all the luck in the world.

But I have decided that the traditional publishing route is not for me. At least not right now.

I don’t know yet what I’m going to do with my novel. In a few months’ time, I may come back to it, do another pass, maybe send it out to some small independent presses, or bite the bullet and self-publish, just to get it out there in the world. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I’m going to focus on my short fiction, which I love writing, and which I know I can sell. The defining moment of my weekend at Winchester came during Friday’s dinner, when I got an email from a print magazine, saying they want to publish my favourite short story I’ve written in the last couple of years - for more than twice what I’ve been paid for my short fiction before. It made me so happy, and it showed me where my passion and my writing future lies - at least for now. I’m not out to be famous or make lots of money from my writing. I just want to enjoy the process and see my work in print every now and then. And that’s okay.

So, thank you to the Winchester Writers’ Festival for helping me figure out what I want.


Posted on 17 June 2018 15:32


Anxious build-up to Winchester, followed by a fairly draining experience of the festival itself, and a re-evaluation of my writing priorities.



I submitted seven short stories, pieces of flash fiction and poems for potential publication or to competitions. Very much not my favourite activity, but it’s the only way to get anywhere!

I also went through the new issue of Mslexia magazine and added more submission opportunities to my rolling spreadsheet, ready for when the ones mentioned above get rejected!



I caught up on all my reviews from the last week.



Off to Winchester! Though all I did today was arrive, find my room, relax for a few hours and go to bed.



First full day at Winchester. Interesting and useful workshop on the fantasy/sci-fi market, and two agent meetings, which provided mixed and contradictory feedback. I met some lovely people over dinner, though and also got an email to say that a print magazine wants to publish one of my short stories.



Great workshop on cultural appropriation, not so great workshop on creating evil characters, useful tips on avoiding the slush pile, and an interesting talk about book blogging. Plus two more agent meetings, with more mixed and contradictory feedback.

I was due to stay over and do another full-day workshop on Sunday, but I decided to head home, as the whole thing was exhausting.



I did some submission tracking, and started to process my Winchester experience. There'll be a proper blog post about this soon...


Posted on 11 June 2018 14:34



It feels as though things are moving forwards. Only a few days until Winchester Writers' Festival, and Artisan is ready to go!




I finished a very interesting book and wrote a review of it.


I also went through Writing Magazine and added new submission opportunities to my rolling spreadsheet, and then identified new places to send some of my unassigned stories.




After reading an article in Writing Magazine about not giving up on rejected work, I unearthed another couple of old pieces and identified places to submit them.




More Artisan editing today - it seems like it will never end!




And the Artisan editing is done! Wow - now I just have to wait for the agent feedback at Winchester and then decisions will have to be made…




After wrestling with the pitch for Artisan all week, I came up with some half-decent wording in the shower this morning:


“In a world where people’s lives are dictated by magic, Abelard Abernathy accidentally gains magical powers and discovers a centuries-old conspiracy at the heart of society. But is he prepared to give up everything he’s always wanted, to change the world for the better?”




I met George Mann at a reading retreat and talked to him about his road to publication, strategies for keeping focused, and training the subconscious crew.


Posted on 03 June 2018 19:51


Edits, edits and more edits...



Ann was free, so we arranged to meet up for a writing session. I mostly focused on transferring my hard copy Artisan edits onto the electronic copy. In between times, I checked the relative chapter lengths and moved some things around to make it more even.

I also wrote a review and identified places to submit two of my stories that were rejected last week and need to be sent out again.

I checked my upcoming free days/evenings for writing to ensure I would have enough time to finish my two main projects by their deadlines and it all looked good.



I met Hannah after work and carried on with Artisan editing. I got halfway, which I figured wasn’t bad in two sessions, still with over two weeks to go until Winchester.

I also went through Dave’s comments on the WIP Big Bang story and worked on a new scene to solve the word count problem.

And that was it for this week. I’ve been really busy lately, and wanted some downtime. I also wanted to make the most of the weather and spend some quality time with Dave in the sunshine.


Posted on 28 May 2018 11:06



People and places were all helpful this week in getting me where I needed to go with my writing.




I met up with Ann and new Baby R at The Turk’s Head in Wapping, and settled down for a writing session.


I decided to alternate copy-editing chapters of Artisan with various other projects.


Those were catching up on reviews and writing the last scene of the WIP Big Bang story.




I met up with Hannah after work and managed to edit another three chapters of Artisan. Only twenty more to go!




Off to Wentworth for a NAWG writing weekend, and also off to a good start, with two more chapters of Artisan edited before dinner.




I spent most of the day in the gorgeous library at Wentworth, working on editing Artisan, and managed twelve chapters. I motivated myself by allowing myself a Galaxy Trucker mission every two chapters, which worked really well.




I made good use of my remaining time at Wentworth, editing the last six chapters of Artisan. Now, all I have to do is transfer the hard copy edits onto the electronic version…


Posted on 21 May 2018 10:06



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





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


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




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




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




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


Posted on 14 May 2018 08:48


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



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

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

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



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

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



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



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



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

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


Posted on 07 May 2018 10:37

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


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


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


But then I have absolutely no idea what will happen.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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Posted on 06 May 2018 14:50


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



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



I wrote a review of Avengers: Infinity War.



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

I started with a couple of reviews.

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



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

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


Posted on 29 April 2018 09:46



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




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


I did a review of the last book I read.


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




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


Posted on 22 April 2018 16:39



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




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


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


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


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




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




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


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




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




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


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




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


Posted on 15 April 2018 20:32


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


I did today’s one-minute challenge at

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


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

Then I copy-edited the third chapter of Artisan.


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


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


Posted on 09 April 2018 11:39



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




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


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


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


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


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





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


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


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


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





I did a random writing prompt.


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





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





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





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


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


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


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


Posted on 02 April 2018 14:59

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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Posted on 01 April 2018 21:38


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


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

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

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



I did the one-minute challenge at



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

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

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



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

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

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


Posted on 25 March 2018 17:22


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

I did my Hour of Writes marking.

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


Posted on 19 March 2018 08:48


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




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


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


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




Off to Devon for a writing retreat today!


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


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


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


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


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




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


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


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


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


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




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


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


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


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

Posted on 11 March 2018 21:52


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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


Posted on 11 March 2018 10:09

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

I hate revision.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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Posted on 04 March 2018 22:26


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


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


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

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


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


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


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

I helped Bear write his post about the JoCo Cruise.