Thursday, 18 January 2018

The Worst Best Practices

Wow, I feel super busy! Well here is the next instalment of the DIY MFA book club discussion.

Today I am looking at "best practices" as shared by other writers.

Us writers are pretty fickle. When things start to slow down, we start looking outside of ourselves for the answer and try everything that other successful writers have done or are doing.

And when you read up on others' processes, you soon realise that it is not possible to do the same as them.

Now, if you work in a pub, there is only really one way to pour a pint. Yes, you might stand with your feet together, your knees bent, your back bent, standing to the side of the pump...but essentially, the technique is the same. And so it is with writing. The actual technique of telling a story is the same for everyone - the inciting incident goes near the beginning, the words need to be typed onto an appropriate word processor, you have to make sure the words are spelt correctly - but the process of producing that book is different for all of us. Some of us may prefer our knees locked and feet shoulder width apart. Just like pulling that pint, we have all been taught by someone how to do it. And when we started off, we did exactly as they told us. Then we started to lax a bit and find our own comfortable position.

Stephen King finds 2000 words per day comfortable. For others it will be more or less.

Julia Cameron suggests 3 pages of 'morning writing'. I wish I could do this, but I can't. Does this make me an incapable writer? No!

I've tried writing every day - then the house got unmanageable. I've tried writing when I felt like it. When you have finished sniggering, you can tell me how you think that worked out.

I tried writing at different times of day, in different places.

What I have learnt is the same thing that Gabriela learnt - there is no "best way". Yes, we all have to follow the rules, but how we get the end product out there is really down to us.

For me, I like outlining - but will happily stray from it during the first draft.

The biggest killer for me was (and this is the first time I have made it public) that the first draft of my novel is only 30,000 words long. I am not even sure I can call it a draft. To some, this will be a shock. I will get told it isn't worthy to be called a novel. But my process is basic story down first. I am in the process of redrafting. I will add the sparkle, colour and improve the sub plots. And hopefully it will grow.

The way I get things done, is by setting goals. This way, if one day I can't or won't write for whatever reason, I am still moving forward. But I work in the way that is best for me.

I haven't found my true process yet, I am still on the journey of discovery. But it is working for me so far.

How about you? What best practices bring out the worst in you?

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Keeping On

This is my first ROW80 check in. I only posted my goals yesterday.

So what have I learnt or done? A lot and not much at all.

Yesterday's post served a dual purpose. It was part DIY MFA and part ROW80. I got some comments to the post which I found really useful, and will be using during the redrafting stage of the novel. I think the biggest thing I learnt is that stories aren't created from nothing, and that it is okay to use prompts to add depth and direction to a story.

As for my ROW80 goals? I have edited 10 pages, rewritten and reprinted ready for the next round of editing. I haven't done anything on the Structure Novel book, nor the short story course.

But I am moving forward.

How about you?

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Ideas, Creativity and 80 Days

Today's prompt from the book club is about creativity, and how it is kick started.

Gabriela (the author of DIY MFA) showed us her ORACLE. It is a box of things that she has accumulated, and that she uses to inspire her. In her box are things like dice, fortune cookie slips, and prompt cards.

So I thought what it is that I do when I need a new idea. And realised this didn't happen very often.

Not because I have so many and I am good and write them down in my notebooks. I wish that was the reason! No, I rarely need to spark an idea because I never. Finish. Anything.

Except this sentence. And this one. I can finish sentences. But stories? Finish them to a point that I need a new idea to work on?

I do have books of prompts, and I like the Idea Square in Writers' Forum magazine (a UK based magazine). And occasionally I have felt like entering a competition, and have used these for that purpose. But I rarely do need to.

So, I will finish something. Anything. And start something new. Brand new. From the beginning. And then I will see how I inspire myself.

But when it comes to getting out of a rut in my writing, I find a good walk helps solve the problems I am faced with.

On another note, I have joined A Round of Words in 80 Days. I have only just joined, so don't know the whole ins and outs. But I gather it is like an accountability blog hop. And considering I never finish anything, it's got to be good, right?

So by March 21st, when the first round ends (there are 4 per year) I want to have achieved the following:

2 drafts of Don't Forgive Twice completed. - I will edit ten pages a day (including the rewrite) and do 1 chapter of Structure Your Novel workbook per day.

I will also finish the Writer's Village University course on writing Mystery Short Stories (approx. 1 assignment a week)

And finally, I will continue to work my way through DIY MFA at one chapter per week.

How is your week going?

Friday, 12 January 2018

Learn Your Storytelling Superpower to Write Characters That Are Right For You

In case you hadn't figured it out by now, most (if not all) of my blog posts are prompted by the DIY MFA Book Club. This one is not going to be any different.

Previous posts have been about something I might already know, even if only subconsciously. This time I had to take a quiz, and find my storytelling super power.

I am not surprised by the result, but I think it explains a lot about my writing and the character that I enjoy writing and reading about.

I am a wannabe crime novelist. I like delving into the depths of the human mind, especially when it is the mind of a delinquent. But I couldn't really find my groove. I am more interested in the criminal, the acts they commit, and their future, than the act of capturing them. But I wasn't sure how I could translate that into something readable.

Now that I have taken the quiz, I know how to step forward on my journey to write the story I want to write.

The result from my quiz was: The Underdog

You are the quintessential underdog storyteller and your superpower is creating relate-able characters who have a deep desire to change something in themselves or in the world around them. From rags-to-riches narratives to epic David-and-Goliath-style battles you craft stories with high stakes and compelling characters your readers can’t help but love.

This opens up ways I didn't realise. I need to take the person with nothing, and make them into something. This could be a criminal, a victim, a disgraced copper... 

One thing is for sure, I need to check my characters again. Rather than toeing the line, perhaps I need to dig deeper and find out whose story really needs telling. Is it really how the police catch the criminal? Or, for the novel I am writing now, could I change it to the story of the security guard, who when faced with the consequences of his actions, decides to turn the tables and repent?

One thing is for sure, it is food for thought.

If you feel that you haven't quite grasped the story or character you are trying to write, (or if you think all is fine!), check out the quiz here.

And don't forget to leave me a comment down there ↓ 

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Time to get Real

Today, I didn't plan on writing a blog post. Well, no, I lie. I did plan it, but was going to leave it until tomorrow.

So what a fabulous prompt from Gabriella, author of the DIY MFA book, and founder of the book club of the same name!

In today's email, she asks us to consider our reality, and to think of a time when we had to honour our reality over writing.

This is a tough one. I am not so sure I ever do honour reality! I love writing so much, I need it for sanity. Just today I was thinking how I have a lot of thoughts that I need to 'write out'. But there are times when life is just too much and I physically cannot do the act of writing.

Today was a busy day, but I have still found the time to write this blog post. I wasn't going to, but I daren't let the book club down!

But as you will see from this post, December 2017 really demanded my time. As did October 2017.

October 2017 was my wedding month, so that was a flurry of activity, finalising things, doing things I perhaps should have done months ago, and it was enough to just keep the family alive amidst all of this. I don't recall writing anything during October. I certainly didn't blog.

Then December, well. What can I say? Not only the month that Christmas lands, but my Father-in-Law taking critically ill, then passing away, then having his funeral the Friday before Christmas! To say I was exhausted in every which way would be an understatement.

But I did get writing done. I had to. You see, I write for the church magazine, and the editorial team decided I could manage three pieces now the wedding was out of the way. Under normal circumstances, perhaps it would have been a breeze. But the day before they were due, I sat in the Critical Care waiting room, laptop balancing on my knees, notepad at the side, and quickly typed out those three pieces. I then got asked to edit one piece which was too long. I couldn't. At this point, my FIL had passed, and I couldn't face reading it, let alone editing. I haven't read those pieces since.

I had to write those pieces. I wasn't getting paid for it, but I needed to write them so I didn't let anyone down at such a late stage. I kept my toes in the writing pool by keeping up with the news, reading writing blogs, but couldn't face being with my characters.

I am back on the writing waggon now, and I hope that next time my reality knocks loudly, I will find a way to keep swimming in the writing pool.

Have you had any experiences? What advice would you give to fellow writers, who feel their writing life is sliding away?

Monday, 8 January 2018

My Origin

Today's blog post is from a prompt from the DIY MFA Book Club - which I highly recommend you join.

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. Whenever I am asked about what made me want to become a writer, I actually struggle to answer. I remember watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a young girl, and I loved April, who was a journalist/reporter at the time. I was young and naïve.

But I was fascinated by her. Although she didn't write, she led me to the world of news reporting. I didn't want to be in front of the camera, I wanted to be the one getting the news.

I then discovered writing magazines early on and started writing short stories and novels. I explored the possibility of being a newspaper reporter, but nothing came of that.

And here I am now, writing away. Nowadays, my inspiration is Richard Castle! I like his quirky ways. But as long as I don't procrastinate as often as he does, I will be okay.

And I would love to revisit my lovely April. I wonder what job she has now?

How about you? When did you realise that you were a writer?

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Apologies and Promises

2018 is here, and I am so ready for it. As you will have seen in my previous post, December was not a good month. As such, not much got done. But that is okay, as I had plenty of time to reflect.

Sometimes, we need a tragedy to learn what is important. I decided it was time to get to the roots again. I had been balancing too long on the pole at the height at which I wanted to be, but hadn't put enough of the ground work to stop the pole wobbling. So I fell. And I fell hard.

This new year is bringing focus. I will make myself accountable by adding my 2018 goals here. As you will see, they are much less ambitious than last year. That is because I want to focus on getting things done, rather than having lots of unfinished business. This blog will also see change. I hope to update more regularly, but it will be more of an account of how the writing life is, lessons I've learned among other things, than a 'how to'. I think this will make the blog grow more organically, and make it better in the long run. It will also help add to my accountability! So here are my goals:


'Don't Think Twice' to be completed by June 30th and ready to submit. This is a slightly extended deadline.

I have another novel I want to write, about an adopted child who learns the terrible truth about what happened to her mother. I want this ready for submission by December 31st.


I am entering the Plymouth Writer's Group competition, so I need an entry ready for that. 

I also want to enter the CWA's Margery Allingham Short Story competition

I will update this blog two to three times a week.


I will take part in StoryADay in May.

I am working my way through the DIY MFA book, and have joined the book club.

I will have days off, and days where I don't access the internet.

I will take up cross stitch again.

As you can see, my goals are pretty modest. As I write this, it is 11:34 AM and I have already achieved today's goals. This means I can get my cleaning done before the school run, so I can be available for my children when they come home. It is these simple things that I need to recharge myself. That is not to say that I won't do any more towards my goals today, just that I don't have to feel guilty if I don't! 

What are your goals? Are you reaching for the stars? Or watering your roots?