Thursday, 23 February 2017

The scary idea of pitching and a shortlisted story

It's taken me a couple of months but I decided to order a print copy of Gold Dust magazine in which a story of mine was published in December. I wanted time to read the rest of the magazine, and though it is freely available to read online I was struggling with the small print despite zooming in. Yesterday my copy arrived. I'm glad I spent money to get hold of it. It is concrete proof I was published there! I was that excited opening it.

I can also tell you that I was shortlisted for the Retreat West Prize (short story). I heard a while ago that I was longlisted and thought that would be the end of it. I was thrilled even so. I then got through to the next level - shortlisted. Unfortunately I heard the other day that I didn't get into the top three. I am disappointed but then again I got further than I ever thought possible and it has given me encouragement. My story will be published in the anthology due out in the summer and I believe there is a cash prize and an invite to the launch. So, when I have recovered from the disappointment I will see what a great run I've had with this story. I am proud of this achievement.

February has been a busy month for me. I've been going crazy with submissions - competitions and a few magazines. I seem to have reached a stop now. Maybe I'm out of steam. In April I am attending Write By the Beach run by The Beach House Academy. I went along last year for their first writers' conference on a Saturday (held in Brighton). This year is over a weekend and every delegate gets the chance to pitch to an agent/publisher (two if you are there for the weekend). So, I've been tearing my hair out over a sixty word document for a novel to pitch. It was hard to condense an 84,000 word novel down to 60 words and hope it sounds irresistible. I know pitching is a great opportunity and everyone suffers with nerves but I felt ill just preparing this. Sometimes I think I should opt out and just enjoy the weekend because I know I'll worry the whole time. But then again that would be stupid. It's at these moments I think my writing is rubbish and no will be interested, yet I've had great feedback from ladies from my book group on stories I've shared with them  - they are so supportive - my first fans! God bless them!

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Three successes and a wallchart

Just to say that the prize draw book (Mslexia Indie Presses Guide)  went to fellow blogger Sue Flint. Do pop over there for a read. of her blog. Congratulations, Sue! It's on it's way.

I've been plugging away at submissions and on Sunday I was published by Paragraph Planet, a short 75 word piece, and today I have another flash story on Visual Verse. I love their picture prompts. They offer great challenges. This month's one certainly was! I head over there at the beginning of each month to see what they've come up with and try to submit every time. I find this great practice and all the prompts I've responded to have brought very different pieces, things I might not normally write. Why not head over there and see if for yourself what they are doing.

Finally after those frantic last submissions of December to the Kingston Library Poetry Competition I heard that I had won second prize. My poem is due to be uploaded on their website this week (hopefully) and I have a £20 book token coming. Unfortunately there is no prize giving night but they've just splashed out on a total re-fit of the library (due to open later this month) and probably can't afford the refreshments!

With Writing magazine came a great Writing Year Planner. I have no space of my own in which to write so hubby suggested I stick it on the lounge door. So that's where it is. I've written in my successes this year so far (pink highlighter) and how many submissions I make a month (6 in January) and all the good stuff like the Brighton Write By the Sea Conference I'm attending in April and my walking holiday. No failures are allowed on this chart. This is purely for encouragement and everything good.

Monday, 30 January 2017


Everything to hand - The Royal Foundation
of St Katharine, Limehouse
My recent retreat in London had me penning a short story, a poem and other notes. I used my time well - a walk in the morning and either lunch out or back in my room. The afternoon was usually spent either reading or writing and often both. The evenings I spent online catching up with emails and watching BBC iplayer or ITV Hub. I should point out that there was no TV in the bedroom, in fact I never saw one in the whole building! This was, after all a Christian retreat/conference centre, though no one bothered you. I chose it because I hoped it would be quiet (it was) and it offered nice B&B services, and for a single bedroom it was much bigger than I've had in hotels and came with a desk and chair.

The wi-fi was really good except on my last night when I was trying to get on to the Mslexia website for Mslexia Max, a three hour live session with Q&A from writers, agents, prize draws and on the spot writing competitions. (You had to have an account with them to participate which I had). When I tried to get on it wouldn't accept my password so in the end I re-set it, bit the slowness of the internet was driving me crazy. I watched the little blue thingy going round agonising slowly. By the time I got on (I was already 20 minutes late) it was half an hour or so into the first hour. Then it took me a while to find my way round the different bits. I commented on the general forum and then found the flash fiction competition. A 300 word piece prompted by a photo. The competition was up for one hour but as I was so late getting there I was only at around 80 words when I had to accept I wouldn't make it. (I've saved what I've written and may go back to it).

I joined in with the Q&A with Val McDermid but my question got there too late for her to reply. Are you getting a pattern here? I entered one prize draw for Val's latest book but didn't win. BUT I did enter the poetry competition. Again I entered that area late because there was so much going on in different sections. The criteria for this was a four line verse (which didn't have to rhyme - mine did) on the theme of either balloon or night. I chose night. I couldn't believe it when just after the live session finished I found I'd won the night category. My prize is a years free subscription to the magazine, a free year for the online members section, and a copy of the Mslexia Indie Presses Guide 2016/2017.

Now, as I already have a copy of the Indie Presses Guide (and very useful it has been to me so far too) I am giving away my newly acquired copy in a prize draw!!

To win this most excellent book all you have to do is comment on my blog (maybe why you'd like a copy of the book) and leave your name. The winner will be picked at random (a computer generated random picker so it's all fair) next Monday 6th February. The winner will be announced that day and I will give an email address for that person to use so I know where to send the prize. You have a week!

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Mini retreat

A nice conservatory to write and read in
If you have been reading my other blog (and why wouldn't you?) you will know that I am at present on a sort of retreat - a retreat to walk, read and write. This is my second full day (only one left to go 😩 ) Apart from all the walking and photo taking I have been writing. Oh yes, I have my laptop, my notebook, a case load of pens and pencils, a copy of Writing Magazine and the book Writer to Writer where my prompts are coming from.

The author of Writer to Writer, Gail Carson seems to be a writer of children's mythical/fantasy books so a lot of the prompts are rather child orientated, such as 'write about two school friends/dragons' etc. Not me. However, some of the prompts work. I substitute the kids for adults and put them in similar situations and one story I've written does have creatures from another place. So, I am expanding my genres. When a prompt doesn't work (there are usually 3-5 in each chapter to choose from) I use something similar. Yesterday's chapter offered nothing I could work with in story form so I turned it around and wrote a poem instead. You make things work for you. I've ended up with all sorts of flash and short stories using this book, despite it not being quite what I thought it was to work with.

I am writing something daily. Being on ones own really helps! And just to prove that work is happening here are a few photos.

A comfy lounge

My desk

The treat drawer!

Work in progress

[I am staying in Limehouse in London (The Royal Foundation of St Katharine)]

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The art of organising and note taking....if only!

I think one of my writing goals for 2017 should read be more organised. I work in an organised chaos and am bad at making notes when I write. I'll remember that, I think. Oh yes! (Case in point - couldn't remember the name of a very minor character who appears once and is mentioned once when he had a name! Made no notes 😐. Ended up leaving a ? It will come out in the editing, but annoying.)

So I am going to try and get my act together a bit this year. Over breakfast I went through Writing Magazine to see who was looking for what and cut out the ones I thought I might enter. Instead of leaving the little snippets stuffed in a plastic pocket (where upon I take a few out and then lose them!) I have stuck them on a sheet of A4 paper and highlighted the deadlines and anything else I think is important (word count, for instance). One of the competitions had a deadline of tomorrow so I had to make a quick decision and I did. I fired off a piece of flash fiction I had which fitted the word count and had been waiting in my 'Flash' folder on my laptop.

Over the last few days I succeeded in my first goal for 2017 and finished the humorous novel which was put aside in October so close to its ending. The bones of the last few chapters are there. I know I will need to do some serious editing but at least it is done and I can move on. (We won't mention the chapter I thought I'd lost - see note about notes!). I have no idea when I shall start editing it. I now have rather a lot of editing hanging around my neck.

Going back to submissions I try to have a mix of competitions and magazines. Competitions require a monetary outlay which mount up if you do too many in month. However, looking at the websites of some magazines their submission guidelines can be quite daunting. Sometimes I don't even know what they asking for because their explanation is so weird. It puts me off and I just decide not to submit there. Surely a genre requirement, word count and a look at an issue of their magazine would suffice? Why the obscure and mysterious wording? Am I alone in this?

So, it's back to the submissions and editing. If you are doing the same, good luck.

Friday, 30 December 2016

The last minute submission and the yearly review

Don't write something at the last minute and submit it at almost the final hour. That's my advice. Do I take it?! This is just what I have done today. My success with poetry this year has been pitiful and I've more or less given it up. And then I saw my local library was advertising their yearly poetry competition. Now, I've been quite successful here in the past - one year I came second and another I had a poem commended. The competition is also free and has the added advantage of being local, so no global entries into their thousands.

I saw the competition late, picked up the leaflet and pondered it. Now and then I thought about it again and then yesterday (deadline is 31st December!) I decided I'd look and see if I had anything fitting this year's theme. I did! You can enter up to four poems. I had three and then dismissed one. And then.,,,,,,oh dear....I decided to write one specifically for it. The idea came quickly. It's amusing (amusing poems don't win prizes but it's a free entry so what the heck. I like them). I re-read my poems again and then sat on them overnight. I don't have longer to ponder them. I read them again this morning and still liked them, including my last minute write. So I've shot them off this morning. The good thing about this competition (and entering late) is that I shall know one way or another by the end of January if any have sunk or swum into the winning zone.

Now I wouldn't recommend writing this way - last minute - because one day you go back and look at it and think what the hell! But now and then I like to take risks. It's anonymous, who's going to know! So there we have it, my last submission of the year.

And now we come to my review of the year. It makes an interesting read but will probably bore the pants off you. Still here goes.

  • January - three poems submitted - no acceptances
  • February - three poems submitted and two flash fictions - one flash fiction accepted
  • March - one flash fiction submitted (accepted) and three short stories
  • April - four flash fictions submitted - one accepted
  • May - one flash fiction submitted and accepted
  • June - A poetry pamphlet competition entry with 20 poems, 5 other poems submitted, one flash fiction and one short story - short story accepted
  • July - nine poems submitted and three short stories - (one short story still waiting result) 
  • August - three flash fiction submissions and one short story - one flash accepted and one was shortlisted.
  • September - Two flash fictions (both accepted) and two short stories
  • October - nine poems submitted, (one accepted, four waiting result) four flash fictions (two accepted, one waiting result) and one short story
  • November - Two flash fictions submitted - both accepted
  • December - three poems submitted (waiting result), one flash fiction (accepted) and two short stories (waiting result)

What I see here is that flash fiction has been my forte and I intend to plug away with that. Flash fiction is anything up to 1,000 words in my book. The shortest published flash I've written was 50 words. I have to thank Paragraph Planet for liking my words enough for me to appear on their website on average once a month! (I love it that my name appears alongside my favourite author Elly Griffiths). Thanks PP. Their 75 word challenge is a great one. Another flash fiction I wrote was originally an exercise from the Open University FutureLearn online writing course. I always liked it and though it wasn't picked in a competition I entered Gold Dust magazine liked it and it can now be read in their latest edition online! (Issue 30) I was thrilled to be told this story entitled High Noon had made it. It has that certain humour I so much enjoy writing. I only found out on Christmas Eve that it was published, though I'd known for a couple of months it was to happen.

My very first short story to be published came out in an Anthology by Eyelands (a Greek based competition). This was an other long wait. My story Reading the Auras was a shortlisted entry appearing alongside the winning ones. The book due out at the end of November was delayed (and then there was postal strike in Crete!). It arrived on Christmas Eve. So, you can see I was in rather a good mood for Christmas!

Deciding to write more flash stories and short fiction is paying off. I adore writing them and people seem to like them. I thought it would be good practice for novel writing as before attempting my first novel I'd only really written really short flash fiction. I did send out one of my novels to two agents. Both returned it and I have since re-written the first chapter and am trying to get some professional feedback on it. While I can get feedback on shorter stories through my writing group a novel is different. I have no one to read those at all so I haven't a clue if they work.

Having completed all my goals for 2016 by not aiming too high I am now thinking about 2017.
My goals look like this:

  1. Continue writing and submitting flash fiction and stories widely
  2. Get professional feedback on one novel
  3. Edit one novel and try and find an agent
  4. Continue writing longhand in my special notebook using the prompts from Writer to Writer (I'm so enjoying this right now) and type up some of the stories for submitting once edited
  5. Finish the humorous novel (it's very close to the end)
  6. Take time away from writing sometimes (I've found the pressure of not writing a novel at the moment so good!)
  7. Have a sort of writer's retreat just to relax and write without the burden of chores and family
  8. Probably book a place at Swanwick Writers' Summer School in August

I think number 3 will be the tricky one!

I have no desire (right now) to write another novel, though that doesn't mean I don't have ideas. I would like to write a sequel to one and one other humorous novel so I have a set of three! There are other ideas, notes and profiles but I'm not going there yet. I have to consolidate what I have with lots of editing and submitting. This will be the year of the flash and the short!

Looks like it could be a busy year and hopefully a fruitful one. Wishing everyone luck with their own writing in 2017. And if you feel brave tell me your goals.

STOP PRESS I've just found out that I have been longlisted for the Retreat West prize (short story category). That was my one waiting from July! This doesn't mean I'll get on the short list and I have to wait another month for this. Oh the waiting, the waiting! Wish me luck! HAPPY!

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Getting away from manic characters for Christmas!

I had already decided to take a break from writing to concentrate on Christmas. I did not want character turmoil interfering with my preparations. I was at that point where I could break off. Most of what is waiting for me is editing and submissions.

I had already thought about next year and where I go from here. I had tentative plans to spend some time reading up some books on writing and tackling some writing exercises from them. And then I thought, why wait until the new year? So I have already started using Writer to Writer by Gail Carson Levine. I bought a new notebook and have been writing by hand, something I haven't done in a long time. Each chapter of the book comes with some prompts to get you writing. There were three at the end of the first chapter (which is as far as I have got but I'm enjoying it). The first thing I noticed was how weird my stories were! The exercises take you out of your comfort zone and get you writing things you would never normally even consider. The aim isn't to produce fantastic prize winning writing (though you never know) but to get your imagination going and to write something. I don't think I'd ever have written what I have in any other life!

And now I have succumbed to the inevitable cold everyone has had or is suffering right now. It means that I have to take it easy for a bit and I do need that. Switching off is very hard for me. So right now I am catching up with reading, watching things I recorded from the TV and napping!

I did, this morning, tackle a massive ironing pile and clear the airing cupboard of the last lot as well as strip techie son's bed (been asking him for ages to do it) and put it all in the wash.

Luckily I have Christmas more or less wrapped up (pun not/intended - delete whichever you like!) as after a slow start I accomplished a lot in one week. I've got through all my commitments, seen the friends I needed to exchanged gifts with so I can now relax. Hopefully I will be okay by Christmas Day. We have sporty son's girlfriend staying two nights but otherwise nothing else on the agenda.

I always have a book list to give to the boys and this year I have opted for a couple of books from Indie authors. I still have a backlog of books to read but really, can you ever have enough books? I've just finished reading Calling Mrs Christmas! by Carole Matthews which was given as a present last year. I was knee deep in War & Peace at the time so I saved it for this year. Carole's books are always good fun but now I want something dark - a thriller/crime perhaps. In My cupboard upstairs I know where there is one!

This could well be my last post before Christmas. I'm still waiting on two things which were supposed to be happening for me this month but no news yet. I seem to spend a lot of time waiting!
Anyway, I'm off to the sofa via the kitchen. Why do colds make me so hungry? It's all I can do not to open the Christmas food!

Have a great Christmas and I hope the New Year brings everything you dream of. Happy writing and reading and thanks for dropping by here throughout the year. Hope you continue to visit next year.