Thursday, 22 January 2015

How this writer’s mind works (6)

Looking back over my writing records for 2014, I realised that – apart from blog posts – I’d only written fiction during the whole year. Nothing wrong with that, and I don’t think I could stop writing fiction even if I wanted to, but as one of my 2015 ‘hopes’ is to earn more money from writing, producing the occasional non-fiction article seems a sensible thing to do. In the past, I wrote non-fiction on all sorts of subjects and usually found it easier to sell than my stories.

I started by checking the latest editions of the women’s and lifestyle magazines in the newsagents. I couldn’t afford to buy every one that caught my eye, but I bought a couple of my favourites to do some in-depth research at home and quickly leafed through the others.

In almost every magazine the main features were about dieting and/or fitness. (Am I the only woman in the country who hasn’t made a New Year resolution to lose weight or run a marathon?) The second most popular subject seemed to be about saving money. There were headlines such as:
  • Save £££s on Household Bills
  • Best Budget Beauty Buys
  • Feed The Family For Less
  • Low Cost Travel
  • Thrifty Home D├ęcor Ideas 
Inspiration! I was certain I could write a similar article. After all, I’ve spent all my life finding ways of living within very moderate means. I’m an expert in saving pennies here, pinching pounds there. All I had to do was choose a subject that a magazine hadn’t already explored. The answer was right in front of me.
How To Cut Your Magazine Bill.

Once I started brainstorming, the ideas came thick and fast. I could include tips for starting a magazine-swapping club. I would advise readers to seek out magazines online and in libraries. I could list sources of free and discounted magazines …

And then I noticed the one, tiny flaw in my brilliant article. Which magazine will want to publish it? 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Not a Happy Bunny

… but it’s awfully difficult when you’re coughing and sneezing and your brain has mysteriously turned into a lump of soggy cotton wool.
Almost everyone I know has been battling a bug that’s not as bad as flu but seems to last a lot longer than an ordinary cold.

If you’re suffering – Get Well Soon!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Word of the week (22)

It was the writer’s favourite day. She had a new diary, new notebook, new list of new goals, new stories to write, new markets to crack, new competitions to enter, new books to read, a whole 365 new days of possibilities …

Happy New Year!

What new things are you looking forward to in 2015? 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

      Still hoping ...

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays,
 And may your New Year be filled with wishes come true.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

How this writer's mind works (5)

I was sorting out some old family photos when I came across this:

I can’t remember anything about the occasion, which is probably just as well because I was told it was one of the most traumatic experiences of my young life.

But it did inspire Ho, Ho, Ho?  a little Christmas story that is published on Creative Frontiers today.

Saturday, 6 December 2014


So, here it is, my first publication in a book!

I’m sharing it with 40 other authors who were winners or long listed in the 2014 Worcester LitFest flash fiction competition, and finding myself in the company of such a diverse and talented group of writers only adds to my sense of achievement.

I also performed my first public reading at the launch of the anthology. To say I was nervous would be an understatement, but it wasn’t quite as scary as I’d expected because the audience was very friendly and encouraging.

Another surprise ‘first’ was meeting several people whose names I recognised from the Internet, including fellow Alfie Dog Fiction author and blogger Jan Baynham. As we live on opposite sides of the country, I thought we’d only ever meet online so I was delighted to meet her in person in Worcester. 

I could get used to this literary life!

Fifty Flashes of Fiction is now available as a paperback from the publishers, and an ebook version will soon be sold through Amazon.   

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Breaking the rules

I discovered NaNoWriMo a few days before November 2005. Until then, I hadn’t considered writing a full-length novel because it seemed such a huge undertaking. I estimated it would take several years and, even if I did manage to complete a novel, there was no guarantee that anyone would want to look at it, let alone publish it.

Writing 50,000 words in one month seemed impossible, but a little voice was saying, Why not give it a try? The worst you’ll do is waste 30 days.

Because I’d never done it before, I looked to Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, for guidance. His one rule is that there are no rules. So, on the first of November, I sat down with a blank mind and stared at a blank computer screen.

Panic! I had to write something. But what?

I needed a character and grabbed a name – Judith – that floated up from who-knows-where. Who was she? I had a look round her house. I asked her about her past. I met her husband, children and best friend. I gave her a job and followed her to see what she did there. And all the time, because it was NaNoWriMo and not ‘proper’ writing, I found I was bashing out the words faster than I’d ever done before.

It wasn’t until I reached about 30,000 words, that I noticed what was wrong. My ‘novel’ had no plot. I knew the characters inside out but they had no story. What were they going to do? I gave Judith a problem to solve and stopped. It was the end of the month and I’d run out of ideas.

I’d failed to reach 50,000 words. I hadn’t produced anything resembling a novel. But I had enjoyed the experience, and it certainly helped me to write faster.

I saved what I’d written, but didn’t look at it again until a year or so later. I could see then that most of it was rubbish, but Judith leapt off the page at me. It was like meeting an old friend again. I remembered everything about her. I revisited her a few more times over the years and gradually re-wrote the first three chapters. I gave her some more problems to cope with and discovered what she was going to do at the end of the story, but there were still big gaps in the plot that I didn’t know how to fill.

In the meantime, I tackled NaNoWriMo several more times, using it to explore other story ideas and new characters. That’s what I would have done this year, if Judith hadn’t kept popping up to tell me it was time to tell her story. But to do that, I needed some rules.

Before NaNoWriMo 2014 started, I wrote a one-page summary of the novel I wanted to write, just mentioning the main plot points to keep me on track. Then, I spent the first two days of NaNoWriMo working out a more detailed plan for each chapter. This went better than I’d dared to hope because writing in NaNoWriMo mode meant I didn’t have time to explore all the possibilities. I wrote the first thing that came into my head and most of those first thoughts made perfect sense – to me at least!

So far, so good, except that now I’m working on the novel itself my writing rate has slowed right down and I’m well behind my word count target. My inner editor is having hissy fits. I have to keep reminding her it’s NaNoWriMo, so it doesn’t matter if I haven’t chosen exactly the right word or have spelt (spelled?) something wrong.

But I am getting better. Yesterday, I noticed a typo, went back to correct it and – left it! Naughty, but so exciting!

Do you have any writing rules you love to break?