Friday, 22 September 2017

Kickstarting my writing

I am well on the way to finishing the Kickstart Your Creative Heart month. This is what I have found so far:

* It has prompted me to write almost every day but I haven't always gone with their prompts. I don't think this matters because the aim is to get writing again. That seems to have been achieved!

* Some prompts fired off ideas straightaway and I started writing the moment I'd finished reading the email.

* I've written a lot by hand and my second notebook of the year is finished.

* I have written three short stories, though one is long (over 6,500 words)

* I have returned to poetry (yes, didn't I say never again?) and written three or four over the last week.

* I feel that buzz I used to get from writing and that excited feeling when I've written something I am proud of.

* My output has greatly increased as has the hours I am spending writing.

* Some days I actually get back to my first-thing-in-the-morning writing routine. My ideas seem better then.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Spider diagrams and mind maps - writing tools

Spider diagrams, mind maps, call them what you will, I've never been one for them so when I came across this idea again in a creative writing workbook I was tempted to ignore it. The idea is to start off with a circle in the middle of the page and a main subject written inside. From there you draw lines out from the main circle and add other bubbles with ideas for that subject to take then extending those to see what works. Today I took the plunge and tried it and it did sort of work, though my map looks nothing like those I see in books as my lines go all over the place and aren't easy to follow. It did help me decide on a short story idea - which one had the best chance of coming to something so that's the one I will go with. Will I use a mind map again? Maybe, if I'm stuck. What are your views on mind maps?

Right now I'm working on another short story. It's hand written, scruffy and unedited. I'm now typing it up amending as I go. I always find my writing skips between tenses. I started out this time in past tense and then slipped into present and back again! I had to make a decision and have gone with present. I think it works better for the story. I have loved writing this story. There was no real planning (life would be so much easier in I planned!). I had no idea how I was going to end it and then it came to me as the story unfolded. It's been good to get that creative spark going and nice to know I have another story in the pipeline.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Launch Night of What Was Left Anthology

On Thursday evening I attended the launch of the Anthology What Was Left in Waterstones in Reading. It features the winners and shortlisted stories and flash fiction pieces from Retreat West's 2016 competition and I am proud to be featured it (shortlisted).

Hubby and decided to make a bit of a holiday in Reading and arrived on Monday. We set out the first day to find Waterstones. What a lovely venue - my photo doesn't do it justice. The shop is a former chapel and there is a display about its history downstairs. During the days leading up to launch night we went walking along the Kennet and Avon Canal (there is also a river Kennet) and from Reading to Pangbourne on the Thames Path (about seven miles).

On launch night I put on my best bib and tucker and headed off with hubby to Waterstones. We were greeted by Amanda Saint (Retreat West) and her team and plied with drinks and nibbles. There was a chance to chat with other writers and those who came to support. We then took our places before we were invited to go up to collect our winning copies after which the winners of the flash fiction and short story prize stood up to read their winning pieces. Then it was more chatting and book signing. Oh yes! We signed each other's copy and some locals who came along for a night out also asked for for their books to be signed. One lady had three books she'd bought and asked me to sign each. My first book signing. I loved it. I could certainly get used to this!

And where can I buy this book I hear you say. On Amazon and in Waterstones, Reading.

Many thanks to Amanda Saint of Retreat West, the judges and Waterstones. This was a very proud moment for me and such a lovely night.

No time for a real pose on collecting my book

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Motivation...come to me!

To try and get myself writing properly again I have signed up for Kickstart Your Creative Heart with For Books Sake. It runs through the whole of September and we have our own Facebook group. In the last couple of days there have been the introductions and the first prompts. They have certainly got the group communicating. The first day I ended up with a flash fiction piece. I struggled with it and wasn't satisfied. Too depressing - maybe a reflection of how I've been feeling about my writing for rather loo long. Then that night after I was woken by my son finding a large spider near the loo as he was about to sit down (that's another story) I went back to bed and an idea popped into my head. I should have got up and written it then, but no, I wrote it in my head - the whole thing! It kept me awake for a very long time.

In the morning I was at the laptop almost as soon as I got downstairs and typed it out, and yes, I'd remembered nearly all of it. It ran to around 2,400 words! Based on the same prompt this was fun to do and I really like it. I shared one paragraph with the group (today it was about sharing something we had written in the last two days) and it has been well received. I am now editing it and hope to get it into shape for a submission somewhere sometime.

I don't think I'll get a story every time, though it would be great if I could. Let's see what happens over the month. I'll let you know how it's going.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Swanwick - a week of writing related indulges (Part 2)

I apologise that I don't have many pictures of my walk.
I've been unable to transfer them from my Tablet so far
and have only a couple taken on my old phone.
On the Tuesday of my week at Swanwick I had some time out. There were courses running including a procrastination free day, but I fancied a walk. The weather was superb and I set off after breakfast towards Butterley Railway (East Midlands), run mainly by volunteers. I went there last year but didn't look at the engine sheds. This time I did. It made a lovely morning out and the walk was wonderful. So much beautiful countryside around there and next time I hope to do more walking. There is a pathway you can follow along the track side which I'm keen to investigate.

On my return to Swanwick I had lunch and then headed up to where the labyrinth is and sat in the garden for a couple of hours undisturbed. No one seems to go up there much. Maybe it's the trudge up the hill people don't like. It's a great place to sit and read or write. In the evening there was an event, 'In conversation with....' Hosted by Simon Hall it was a chance to find out a little more about Sue Moorcroft (fiction writer) Jon Mayhew (writer of children's fiction) and  Steve Hartley (writer of children's fiction). Questions included 'where were you when you heard your first book had sold?' and 'whether being published had changed you.' One thing became evident writers never quite believe they have made it even when they have. Sue Moorcroft admitted she rang her agent the following day just to check she'd heard right. Lack of confidence seems to plague writers. As one person said 'you think someone will find you out.' A very enjoyable evening with lots of laughter.

I certainly seemed to be taking it easier this year as on Wednesday the only course I did (apart from the third session of Writing Popular Fiction) was in the afternoon with Hazel Prior, who not only writes but is a harpist (see website). With only an hour we skipped through some of the essentials looking at the order of editing - structure, beginnings and voice. All useful stuff.

Then came the last full day and my last Writing Popular Fiction session followed by a brilliant short course in Murder Investigation. I don't write crime/murder but I am fascinated by it and try to get to as many of these courses as possible. Our tutor Stuart Gibbon is an ex police officer and he ran through how an investigation runs from who attends, initial steps, the Golden Hour Principle,  Post Mortem and things like the Murder Investigation Team (Ranks), what the police need to know and how they go about it, various authorities they have to acquire, forensic evidence, the detention clock and custody procedures. Wow! a lot of information and I was scribbling away like mad. A wonderful informative course.

The last evening was a chance get-together in the hall, time for thanks and some fun - a few songs (popular songs with the lyrics changed to something suitably writerly) including S Club 7's Reach for the Stars. In the morning those not departing to the station by coach came and waved us off. All over for another year.

I didn't think I was that tired this time but yesterday I spent the day dozing and it took me a while to get going this morning. I even forgot to check on Paragraph Planet yesterday to see my latest flash fiction published there! It may take me a little longer to return to normal (or normal for me). If you have never been to Swanwick, I'd highly recommend it. You'll be with others who are passionate about writing. That alone is wonderful because writing is a lonely task and for a week it stops me boring my non-writing friends about what I'm doing!

A couple of photos taken on the walk

The view from my window at 6.30am on the morning I left to go home

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Swanwick - a week of writing related indulges (Part 1)

This past week I have taken time out to indulge in the world of writing. I have just returned from Swanwick - The Writers' Summer School. This was my second year and it was good to see some familiar faces as a group of around 70 of us waited for the coach at Derby station on the 12th August.

On arrival I was able to lead a few newbies in the direction of Lakeside accommodation where we picked up our welcome pack. As I arrived at my door I realised this was the room I had last year. To say I was excited is an understatement. I all but leaped across the room! It was like coming home. Soon the kettle was on and I was unpacking. So began my week - a chance to say hello to old friends and to meet lots of new people. After dinner on the first night we had Stephen Booth (crime writer) come and speak to us. He was a delight to listen to as he told us about his way into writing and about the books he writes, the characters and how readers get so caught up in his plots and characters that they make suggestions or go to visit the places where scenes took place. His anecdotes were funny and his passion for what he does shone through. There was time for questions before he sped off to sign copies of his latest book.

Courses began the following morning (Sunday). With so much to choose from it was often a difficult choice, though I had highlighted my preferred options as soon I received my brochure through the post! For my specialist course I chose Writing Popular Fiction with Sue Moorcroft which ran over four mornings, an hour each session. Over the course of the week we looked at various aspect of writing starting in session one with the difference between popular fiction and niche markets; we were given advice on knowing where to look for up to date advice into trends, what is selling etc.  In the second session we looked at the shape of a novel - how to improve the saggy middle, about prologues, endings and what to include in the first couple of chapters. Sue gave us a great insight into her plotting for her latest book - a string of A4 sheets stapled together in concertina fashion. We all had a laugh at that. She also explained mind maps and timelines. Session three was the dreaded submission process - covering letters, synopsis and the first three chapters of the novel. This was really useful as Sue explained what to include in the letter and what not to and how to set out (format) a synopsis and chapters. Session four dealt with themes and messages of novels, characters (central, secondary and walk-ons), viewpoints and how to go about self-editing. Sue was generous with her time and answered multitudes of questions. I found the course insightful. I only have to use all this information to write my bestseller!

My work zone! Though here I am catching up with the World Athletics live stream!

I can only comment on the courses I took during my week at Swanwick. There was a choice of four other specialist courses (Fiction for Children & Young People, Scriptwriting, Non-Fiction and A Year in Poetry). Then there were the short courses - different choices each day each with two sessions. My short course on the Sunday was Short Stories with Della Galton. I would have loved to attend Forensics & CSI one but I need help with my short story writing! I did buy the CSI book though (by Kate Bendelow who tutored the course). I heard a rumour that 40 copies were being placed in the book room one evening and I got there early. There was already a queue to pay for copies which were going fast. Anyway, the short story course was interesting. Though geared mainly for women's magazines (not my area) I have come away re-thinking it. The parameters of what the few magazines accept has widened and it might be worthwhile reconsidering this market. Having said that the market is shrinking and the day after the course we heard that the fiction editors of Women's Weekly have all left so they are no accepting anymore submissions for now. It seems that to save money magazines are either letting their fiction editors go or only employing them for something like five hours a week. Very sad. At least I'm armed with tips - how to, how not not, good endings, bad endings and lots more.

Our evening speaker on Sunday was Sophie Hannah. Again she was excellent, funny and happy to tell us her route into writing and how she came to write a Poirot continuation novel.

The first Monday short course I chose was Writing Intimate Scenes with Liz Hurst. She writes under two names. and writes mainly erotica. This class was lively to say the least! At times it felt like being back at school with everyone trying to think of new words for certain body parts! We had a go at writing about a kiss and later to write an erotic scene of our own. Our starter was a female in a room where she knows a man is watching her in another room via a camera in the room. She gives him the turn on of his life without taking her clothes off! Some brave souls offered to read theirs out. I learned about alternative lifestyles (some I'd never heard of!). It was enlightening that's for sure.

I then attended a workshop in Writing for Competitions (which I do a lot). Our tutor was Ingrid Jendrzejewski who has won competitions and now judges them. We got through an enormous amount of information in one hour - the difference between the longlist and shortlist and how to get further. Ingrid gave examples from real competitions of why some entries didn't make it, how to do good beginnings and endings, common themes, how to do them better, editing, choosing the right contest and about submitting smart like reading previous winners, researching the judges, keeping records and taking time out to research new opportunities.

There is still so much to say but I shall leave it to the next post. I will say there were early morning half hour sessions to do before breakfast for writing and for mind (meditation by the lake was one) and evening entertainment and opportunities. I have to say this year I took more time out to re-charge and I slept better than last year. That helped a lot as between courses there is all that eating to do, refreshment breaks (with more cake if you can find a space for it!) and chatting. However, I did make the Facebook and Twitter meet up during one tea break.

See you soon.

A couple of other books I bought

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Learning how to do it - novel writing

If you follow my other blog you will see that I am currently reading Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham. Harry runs the Writers' Workshop and I have just finished his video tutorials in how to write a bestselling novel. I now have all the tools I need to make it. If only! However, I have learned so much from these videos, stuff I didn't know and stuff I probably did but had never really stuck. Maybe it's the type of learning (voice over a Power Point presentation) that works for me. I don't know. Harry comes across as natural in the videos. He is a pleasure to listen to. He has a good writing career and he uses snippets from his books to illustrate points as well as using a range of other popular books.

I feel I have a way into editing now. I need this as I have hit a wall. If after I go through what I've learned it doesn't add up I shall have a task on my hands, or I'll abandoned that idea. I'm still not ready to tackle the editing but I feel I'm getting closer to that point. That is a positive. I think completing a novel was such a buzz for me I thought editing wouldn't be so bad. Huh! Sometimes I think I might not ever be ready to submit a decent manuscript!

Anyway, I decided that I should read one of Harry Bingham's novels - see the master in action! So, right now I'm 55 pages into the first in his DC Fiona Griffiths series. The words flow. Oh for that! I don't really write crime, not the full blown crime thriller. I write what I call the edges of crime, the dodgy dealer, petty criminal type of character in some of my short stories or flash fiction. I've had one go at a crime novel and am way out of my depth! But crime fascinates me and even if I don't write about it I never tire from learning about forensics and crime scenes. And I am interested in how the mind works.

Still, back to my writing. I have much work to do and hope that by putting what I have learned into practice I might achieve something publishable in novel form one day.

Meanwhile, I continue writing and submitting short stories and flash fiction. I heard yesterday that I have been shortlisted for Retreat West quarterly flash fiction competition on the theme of green. Thrilled! Results come out at the end of the month. Fingers crossed.