Sunday, 24 September 2017

When is a word, not a word?

I envy writers who know how many words they have written over their career. I don't mean just the published ones, but the unpublished pieces too.

I often wonder how many I have written. Have I hit 1 million yet? Am I anywhere near that number?

There is no way of knowing, as I haven't ever kept a good enough log of my work.

But this is something I want to change. I am creating a spreadsheet, which I have copied from Simon Whaley and his book 'The Positively Productive Writer'. I will start being studious and filling it in every single day. My first goal? 1000 words. I will let you know when I hit that number!

On another note, The Positively Productive Writer is a must read. I highly recommend it, especially if you feel like you are not focusing. Mine is dog-eared now because I keep returning to it, and have been known to carry it in my handbag to keep me motivated!


But then the next question to ask is, when should a word be counted? For instance, typing this sentence, I deleted another one which was irrelevant. So that is minus. Now these sentences are plus. Once a word is written though, it is written, whether it gets deleted or not. In the end, it is all writing. And part of writing is editing. And editing is cutting, replacing, refining. So I may end up with less words than what I wrote originally, but they still count.

How many words have you written? Do you keep track?

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Successfully Failing

Writing is a tough business. Many overnight successes have been working hard at it for years, sometimes even decades.

Rejection is hard to take. However, I haven't been rejected recently. This isn't a good thing.

You see, to be rejected, you need to be sending work out into the world. I have had one success, which in all honesty wasn't down to hard work. It was down to a character pestering me to write about her. So I did. That piece of flash fiction is being published in an Anthology. (Get your copy here)


But I haven't been rejected in a long, long time. Because quite simply, I haven't been producing the work enough.

Now the kids are back at school, it can be a fresh start for me. My youngest is in school full time now, leaving me with 6 hours a day to write. I will build up slowly. I won't expect much from myself. But I will set goals. And maybe, just maybe, I will be rejected by Christmas.

Of course, I don't want my work to be rejected. I want everything I write to be accepted, published and paid for, but despite what you may have heard, I am totally insane! I know I will be rejected, and I hope I have the intelligence to learn from my mistakes.


But the only way to make it in this crazy writing world is to write. Because that is, after all, what writers do.


Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Notebook

Notebooks. Something that fills cupboards in my house, but rarely get used to their full potential.



As writers, we are told to carry a notebook on us at all times, so that we can capture ideas as and when they come to us. Now, there have been times where I have been caught out and needed to write something down, but generally, my notebook stays in my handbag, untouched. And when I do want to retrieve it, it is often covered in something sticky and funny coloured, and I end up throwing it away. Oh the joys of young children!

Perhaps this post should have been about how to transport your notebook. Any ideas for good ways, that keep them clean and free from sticky stuff?




Anyway, there are many different types of notebooks. I prefer hard backed, lined ones. Apparently Moleskine are supposed to be the best for us creative types, but I have never got on with them. I find the ink doesn't settle on the page well enough. Recently a Paperchase opened near me. I haven't had chance to visit yet, but I will! I want to have a look at their notebooks!

But for now, my notebook is a 69p one from Home Bargains. I will upgrade one day. I just need to get in the habit of recording ideas when they come to me. This is a practice I really want to learn.

Do you have any favourite notebooks? Are you good at writing in them? Or do they collect dust in a cupboard?


Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Surprise!

Today I am taking part in a Blog Hop, as part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. If you would like to take part you can click on the image in the side bar, or click here.

The question is:

Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable in??

Yes. Very recently. As mentioned in my last blog post, I am being published in the Third Word Anthology, which is still available to buy here.

The piece that will be published is an 80 word piece of flash fiction. I wrote it as part of their free to enter competition. I didn't win the competition and thought nothing of it. I had never written flash fiction before that point.

However, on returning home from holiday, I went through all the e-mails that had accumulated. You know how it is.

I very nearly deleted the email from Third Word, but opened it. The subject was 'Congratulations'. That e-mail told me that the piece I had submitted had been chosen to be included in their next Anthology, and to send my bank details across for payment!

I re-read that e-mail about ten times. What? I am being published? And PAID for it?? Seriously, no!



I showed my fiancé, who said yes, most definitely I am being published AND paid for it!!

Cue a very ecstatic me.

Now, whenever I doubt the path I am taking as a writer, I have that acceptance e-mail to remind me that I am a writer, one that has something to say. And who knows? I might just have another go at writing Flash Fiction.

How about you? Have you surprised yourself? 

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Transformative Writing Challenge #1

Well it has been a few weeks since I last posted, and I am very sorry about that.

Anyway, I am here now.

Firstly, some good news! I will have a piece of flash fiction published in an anthology. You can order yours here, but hurry, they are only available to buy until August 21st 2017.

Now, I am going to explore something different. I found a blog recently and signed up to transform my writing. It is an 8 step process, which I joined after it finished, but it is on the blog so anyone can revisit. The first prompt is:

"In addition to writing, what else is important in your life?"


Well, as it turns out, quite a bit actually! As I write this, we are halfway through the Summer holidays. We have had a week away, and getting back into the swing of things. But this means that my children are not at school. They will not be back at school for another 4 weeks!! But they are important to me. I am their mum and I try to be the best I can be. A lot of the time, I fall short of that, but I'll always try.
Then there is my fiancé. We are getting married in about 11 weeks. Life is busy with wedding plans and trying to stay excited about it. Why is it that you lose the excitement? When did it become so stressful?
I enjoy a few crafty hobbies - knitting, crochet and cross stitch - but I haven't been doing much of any of those lately.
Lastly, I like running. I find it meditative. I have been unable to run for some time due to an excessively fast heart rate. Tomorrow I am going to see if it has calmed down. I am hoping so as I am missing the freedom running gives me. It is half an hour of pure me time. I don't think of anything else but the way my feet hit the ground and keeping my breathing steady.

These are the things that spring to mind in response to that prompt. How about you? What else is important to you besides writing?

Monday, 10 July 2017

This is MINE!

So I am still on the quest to find the perfect blogging style. Okay, maybe I am setting the bar too high, but seriously, I need to get this figured out!

So I have done some reading up on it. No, I am not SEO Optimising or anything like that. No adverts - at least not until my book is out!

But one thing I realised is that my reader engagement is low.

So, we either got off on the wrong foot, or I talk about me too much. Sadly, this post is going to be about me, but as a conversation starter, because I have no idea who 'you' are until you comment.

I read that blogging is like meeting a stranger in the street (or wherever you choose!). A stranger whom you have to talk to. The stranger has somehow come across your path, and you are trying to engage with them. Now, the thing about strangers is you don't know anything about them. Do they like sweet romance? Or bloody murder? Do they turn the air blue or say darn it?



In my experience, unless you are at a party or somewhere similar where you can't easily escape, a simple 'Hi' doesn't suffice. Now, this is the Internet. I could go all weird and say 'you have brown hair, a red top and a black Labrador panting in the sun on your patio in the background' - and undoubtedly one person will say 'Holy crap! How does she know that!' - but I can't see you, just like you can't see me. In the real world, when I come across a stranger (or they me) that I am willing to engage in conversation with, I pick something we can talk about. Their dog for instance, or how I have the exact same issue burying bodies in that spot but I can take you to a more suitable place, or where they get their hair done. You know, every day topics.

If you are here, you are either into writing, reading or both.

Over the coming months, I will be developing my true sense of voice. I hope it is quirky, mysterious and fun. But I don't know yet. But I haven't been 'myself'. That is both because of the medication and the rules.

So now, I am claiming this blog as my own. And I really would like you to say hi! And please, tell me why you came here, what interests you, and what you would like to read more of. I do aim to please, just don't ask me to kill your husband - that is always too obvious.


Thursday, 6 July 2017

Branches and Roots

This is a very, very late post. Maybe the content will enlighten you.

I am a Christian who goes to church on an almost weekly basis. A couple of Sunday's ago, we had a visiting preacher from a nearby church. Having not heard her before, except once and I couldn't quite remember, I was dubious about the sermon.

She couldn't have had more of my attention! I could have sat and listened for hours as it seemed she spoke to me, and only me. With her talking, I was the only one in the room!

This is what she had to say, and it is relevant to Christians and non-Christians alike.

There is a group who write and perform songs based on our religion. The singer is called Mark Hall and he has written a book called 'Thrive'. I have yet to read this book, but what that preacher told us has made me want to buy it.


In the book he talks about a tree. There is a tree he takes his youth group to, and discusses how the tree has branches and leaves, and how the roots below the ground, those that we cannot see, are as deep and wide as the tree. The reason for this is that if they weren't, the tree would topple over in the breeze. Makes sense, right?

He then goes on to talk about OUR roots and branches. He describes our branches as us reaching out to others, doing things for others, and basically being selfless. The roots are us looking after ourselves, reading His Word, and just renewing ourselves. As for the tree, if we don't take care of our roots, the smallest thing could knock us over flat on our face. But if we don't reach out, what would be the point in those roots?

Like the tree, where the beautiful green pleases us and helps us live, we have to show the world we are here, and support each other. Like the tree frequently drinks the water, so we must frequently renew our spirit.

I guess it is a poetic way of talking about a life balance. But it really spoke to me. And made me realise my roots are in desperate need of watering!

How about you? Are you roots and branches doing just great? Or does some of your tree need attention?

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Weddings, Birthdays and Exhaustion

This past week has been consumed by busyness, meaning I have not had time to prep or write this post until today.


My daughter had her birthday and party last weekend. My son had his birthday in the week but his party isn't until next Saturday. Then of course there have been wedding preparations in earnest, with less than 4 months to go until the big day!

Also, with it being the end of the school year, there has been a lot of activity at my daughter's school, mainly about moving up. Monday it is her sports day, and I have a meeting beforehand with the Special Needs Co-Ordinator at my son's school.

So I am sorry that this post is a bit awry, and not at all what you were expecting. Normal service will resume shortly :)


Monday, 12 June 2017

A load of Hot Air

Last Saturday, I went to the final talk at my local Literary Festival.

It wasn't what I had expected or hoped. In all honesty, I am not sure what it was that I expected, or hoped!

There was free tea and coffee, and after the talk there were free pasties and cider, which I couldn't take advantage of as I had promised Him Indoors that I would go and enjoy some wine and pizza with him.

I went to listen to screen writer Debbie Horsley, who has adapted the Poldark novels for the BBC. There weren't any novelists or short story writers at the event this year, and Debbie was the closest I was getting to fiction. She has written other TV dramas which weren't adaptations. So she was the most obvious choice for me to go and listen.

It was interesting, but I couldn't say I came away feeling inspired. I have figured that a Literary Festival - or ours at least - is more for readers to attend.

I pointed out to the director of the festival that I would like to see more novellists and short story writers, and was told I wasn't the first to have said so. One person had said 'It's not very literary is it?'.

I am not writing it off for next year. But I am aiming my sights a bit higher now. I will have a look in the writing magazines, and see what is available locally, and each year I will cast my net wider, and wider, and wider. I would love to go to the Crime Writer's festival, and will probably look into that. But this year is expensive enough, and busy enough to add another commitment.

Have you ever visited a festival? If so, which one(s)? And would you say it was worth it?

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Police, Camera, Action!

June kicked off with a trip to the Staffordshire Police Headquarters for their annual open day.

We have been going for a couple of years now, and this year it was probably the best it has been, despite there being no helicopter. We did have a fly by from the Midlands Air Ambulance on their way back to base following a call out though!

I met 'Mozza' from the current episode of Cops UK: Bodycam Squad. I tried to get a selfie but it didn't turn out right! I am new to this selfie game. I also had a go on Virtual Reality. I couldn't get up and walk around, but  had an Xbox controller to make 'myself' walk forward etc. but to look over things I had to lean forward. At one point I ran, but it made me feel very woozy, almost travel sick like! The man who was showcasing it said that there will be VR available with headphones and sticks for your hand so it will be a more wholesome experience. However, this is not yet widely available. I am not a tech geek, but I really want some VR. I can't wait until it becomes more commercial.

My son experiencing Virtual Reality for the first time © Ingrid Senger-Perkins 2017




We also had a drive in a police car with the sirens going. It wasn't as fast as I expected but the track was small with lots of twists and turns. The sirens were surprisingly quiet, and barely audible inside of the car, though they were obviously much louder if you were outside.

The Police cars that we got to ride in. © Ingrid Senger-Perkins 2017


Finally, we watched a demonstration about public order. It was really interesting. One of the shields was broken by the trainer. They showed all the tactics they have to make arrests, and it ended with petrol bombs. The riot police can walk through the fire and not be set alight. They also have steel in the soles of the shoes so any glass is prevented from going into their foot. Only an idiot would take on these fully armoured, fire proofed, chemical proofed and glass proofed police. Their visors have a special rubber seal to prevent any liquid going onto the face - such as acid. They are indestructible. I wouldn't like to hedge my bets against them!

They are ready to calm some public disorder © Ingrid Senger-Perkins 2017



It was a long day but very interesting. I highly recommend going along to these sorts of events. Not only was it interesting for the general public, I have a better knowledge on some aspects of policing. It is a brilliant way to meet people you would otherwise not meet.

My son on one of the bikes from Shropshire Staffordshire Cheshire Blood Bikes, of which I am a volunteer.
©Ingrid Senger-Perkins 2017


Next week will be a recap of the Stoke Literary Festival. I am only going to one talk, due to other commitments, but I hope to be able to get a lot out of it.

Until next week, keep writing!

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Time to Take Stock

Focus. That is what I am always being told to do. I think lack of focus is the catalyst of procrastination.




I've been trying to refocus on my goals, and realised there are just too many. So I decided to focus on one or two. I chose two because I made a commitment to myself and a fellow blogger to post here once a week. The second is that the novel needs to be my primary focus. I might enter a short story comp once a month or so, but the novel is the priority.



And since I made this decision, writing has been more satisfying. the story that has been trying to escape for ages is finally beginning to take shape. It is in the outlining stage at the moment, but I am getting a clearer idea of where it is going to go. This will be much better than my previous stop-starts where I get a few chapters in and find out that I am going in the wrong direction.

I will be blogging more about the outlining process as I go through it with this book. I must say, the excitement I felt at finally writing down a one sentence premise is something I have never experienced before. I know I am on the right track. And thankfully, no one other than my Fiance know what that sentence is. Keeping it quiet is very tough, but I don't want to share it with the world. Maybe when I am near the end, I will.

Today I will be going to the local Police HQ for their annual open day. We go every year. It is interesting though only useful to crime writer's if you can get them to give you some time. It is a very busy event. I will post more on that next week.

If you are struggling to focus, perhaps you have too many things going on at once?

As they say, too many cooks spoil the broth. In this case, too many projects spoil the focus.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Plotting V Pantsing

In my last post, I talked about task management. I think it is very important to know what it is that you want to achieve in the time you set aside for writing. A lot of writers have a habit of procrastinating. I think a lot of this is not knowing what to do next, or what needs to be done to achieve a goal.

I thought I was a pantser - someone who heads into a project with minimal planning, and so I rarely knew what I needed to get done. I have since discovered that whilst I like the creativity that comes from writing a story without knowing the full details, that is where I fall down. I stop, not knowing where I am going. So I have decided to become a plotter.




It makes sense, to have a road map of where the story is going to end up. And it solves the issue of poor endings, something which I have personally struggled with. Plotting and planning is where creativity is set free, and mistakes are less costly in terms of time.

Previously I would have thought that planning was a waste of my writing time. In my opinion, I could only say I am writing if I am increasing a word count. But I have read that many successful authors spend weeks, if not months planning a story. I am reading 'The Crime Writer's Guide to Police Practice and Procedure'. When I bought it, I thought I would dip in and out as and when I needed. But I soon learned that I needed a more in depth knowledge on the subject, so committed to reading it fully before I do the plotting of the novel. Reading the book is research. And as a result, I have plenty of ideas, not just for the current project, but for others. My story will be much better in terms of substance and plot because I have decided to work out the details before hand. And now, I still see myself as writing, even if the word count is not increasing. If I am working towards the goal of getting the story written, it is worth it.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? And does it work for you?

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Chaos: Controlled

I have been so chaotic recently. To try and control the chaos I have had help from cleaners, mentors and the internet.


"I need to manage my time!" was what was going through my head pretty much constantly. I felt like I had too much to do, and not enough time in which to do it.
But I have realised that time management isn't the issue. Yes, I may still need a bit of help to get everything done, but as I sit in the time allocated for my writing, I often twiddle my thumbs.
Now, I know my other half (who thinks he is the boss) will not be impressed with this obvious lack of productivity. I can hear him in my head as I type saying 'Just Bloody Write!". And whilst that is probably the best advice anyone can give a writer, it isn't helpful if you are missing one thing.
It is management of a different thing all together. Task management.
I can do the writing. But when I come to the end, I lose all focus. I can lose focus in the middle, even in a short story. My task isn't being managed. I am not doing the things that need to be done to get the story to the best it can be. This might be planning scenes, or producing character arcs.
Another thing my husband-to-be will agree with is that I am too focussed on what others expect me to be doing. Whether that is 'getting a job' or hitting a word quota. Whilst I am not averse to these (okay, maybe the getting a job), to hit my word targets I need a visual map of where I am going.
I have to remember I am relatively new to all of this. One day, this may not be such an issue. But it is right now.
So from now, I am going to micro manage. I have all the time in the world today. My first task will be to write a task list!
How do you do it?

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

I am still here.

A very quick post.

Last weekend was my Hen Party. Sadly I didn't get my blog post ready to post in time. Friday and Saturday were spent preparing for Saturday night. Sunday and Monday were spent recovering :D

I had fun, and now I am back in the saddle. The post that was supposed to go up last week will go up next Sunday, and I think it is very apt!


Monday, 8 May 2017

To Write, or Not To Write.

Apologies in advance for being so late with this weeks blog post.

Life got in the way. I have the cleaning fairies in today but last week I had to concentrate on decluttering, and that is a mammoth task when you haven't done it since you moved in nearly 4 years ago! But today is the start of a new chapter.



I was considering whether I really should be a professional writer or a hobbyist. This came about after I was asked a question about why I write. My answer was true: Because I have to.

Writing for me is like breathing. I need to do it. If not, I start to suffocate and gasp for breath. But that doesn't mean it is something I (or anyone else in this sort of situation) should do professionally.

But the answer came when I said that I don't see the point in writing stories if not many people will read them. By that I meant that if I was a hobbyist, the most likely audience would be family and friends, if that. But professionally, the aim is a couple thousand (or millions!) would read my words.

So I came to realise that I am a professional. Or at least I aim to be.

And now we have the cleaners in. My other half said to me 'You've got cleaners, now write your book'. I guess I have no excuse now!

Sunday, 30 April 2017

A Very Quick Hello

Another rushed blog. I do have one in first draft, but it needs more editing. This post will come to you in first draft format!

It is Bank Holiday Weekend here in the UK. I don't have much planned though, but the weather looks like it might be nice for a change.

I had a meeting with my mentor Friday night. We discussed planning and I am working towards having regular meetings with myself to plan the way forward.

She described it as being on the business, and being in the business. When I am writing, I am in the business and I have to forget the planning and whys and wherefores and just write. But I need to make time to plan where I want to go, and whether what I am doing is going to help or hinder those goals.

So, my first meeting has been held tonight. I have a vague idea of how to proceed. I have to focus on decluttering primarily, as I am having some help to clean the house in the next couple of weeks. And you can't clean clutter. But if my recent productivity is to go by, my writing won't be affected too much.

I have also changed my days of leaving the house to work to a Monday and a Wednesday, because the library is open longer on these days.

I've probably rambled a bit. But like I said, this is a first draft and a quick one at that.

Hopefully I can organise myself well enough over the coming weeks so I can write better topics in a more coherent way. And if there are any things that you would like me to discuss in future, please drop me a comment, or get in touch on my contacts page. I hope to hear from you soon!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Slow Moving

It is very nearly the end of April - month 4 of a 12 month calendar. More than a quarter of the way through 2017. Why am I telling you this? So you can be annoyed too, at the fact that I have achieved nothing.

Okay, I have kept to my resolution of one blog post a week. It is hard to come up with ideas each week, but I manage it, somehow.

I have booked myself in to hear Debbie Horsefield at the Stoke-on-Trent Hot Air Literary Festival.

I have written one and a half short stories. One is complete and first draft, the other is an idea.

Not a total failure, but nowhere near where I wanted to be at this point in the year. Which is why I got myself a mentor. And it is the best thing I have done.



I am not unfocussed any more. If I don't do what we agree on, I need a good reason to give to her. And I need to really get organised.

The kids return to school next week, and they have been part of the issue with me not getting much work done. But I can look forward to some time next week. I just need to make it work! I need to say NO to commitments in my writing time.

So my focus now is to finish my Writer's Bureau course by July 2019 and to be a Crime Writer's Association member by April 2020.

Talking of which, I am struggling to find blogs by writers of crime fiction. So if you know of any, please point me in their direction.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Happy Easter

I am keeping this post short and sweet.

I have several ideas for the future of this blog, which is great as I am planning harder, and working smarter. Why and how? I have a new mentor. I am following her advice on planning the quarters, so I have goals. I am really going to work hard at writing. I don't think I have enough to do, but as I am a mother as well, I think I should try not to over burden at the start. I can slowly build up my work load.

So after Easter, my blog is going to take a slightly different direction. It will be more writing centric. I was thinking how I struggle week on week to decide what to write about. So I thought I will focus more on the actual writing life. It will cover things that I find as I develop, and what advice I find works and so on. I will post more about problems and how I plan to overcome them (demanding toddler anyone?) and whether I succeed. I will impart my wisdom. I say that with my tongue in cheek, as I am far from wise. I am just picking it up as I go along.

But one thing I have found on my journey is that writers all face similar struggles. The advice out there is often regurgitated. There is often too much advice and one rarely knows which path to follow. So with the help of my mentor I hope to dig my own path, and put what I choose on top of it. And I hope you will follow me, and maybe pick up some tips along the way.

My blog is organic. It is infantile. I hope I can keep the readers I have as I explore new avenues.



In the meantime, don't make yourself sick on chocolate! I can't as I am on a diet. Because I am mad like that.

Happy Easter

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Take Note Part 2

The last time I talked about using a notebook, I set myself a challenge of noticing -and writing down- 3 things a day. I failed. Which is a shame, as I need that sort of richness in my stories. Perhaps I will try again.

But another reason for having a notebook, and you will have heard this before, is to capture ideas.




I struggle with this. I think it is the identification of ideas. I can be walking along, and my mind would be something like this:

Oh look. That would make a great story. Maybe she gets robbed? Then after she meets her future husband. A paramedic? Would she be that hurt and injured? Is it robbery? Must check the facts. How old is she? She must be young. So why was she robbed? At a cash point? How about if she is the police, and is on the case. What if she learns that the robber is someone she knows. Or how about no one gets robbed at all. Let's make it nicer. Must re-read the problem page. That third problem had something in it that would make an excellent short story. Let's just feel the sun. Try and describe it. How could I describe it differently?........

As you can see, my mind runs away. It takes twists and turns. And although I use the word 'story' which is a big giveaway, I don't identify it as an idea. Or maybe, it is because I know it will take many different turns before I settle on a good idea.

Then I heard of the '10 ideas a day' challenge. The premise is to capture 10 ideas a day. Depsite how good they are, they need to be written down. This isn't restricted to story ideas, though I hope that with practice, I can get 10 story ideas a day.

I need to practice using my notebook. I wanted to fill the new one I had for Christmas by the end of January, but I didn't succeed. I don't use it when I should, and I do when I shouldn't (is there actually a time when you shouldn't use a notebook though?).

To find out more about the 10 ideas a day, head on over here, to someone who puts it more eloquently.

And remember, use your notebook. That is what it is for.

Do you use your notebook? How and when? Feel free to share tips and encouragement in the comments.



Sunday, 2 April 2017

Take Note

Note taking. Something I am pretty useless at. Something that, even when I do actually do it, when I re-read at a later time, I forget what it was I was doing or thinking.



Writers are always encouraged to keep a notebook, and not only that, but use it.

I am going to go to grass roots. I want to take note. I want to note 3 things a day for a week.

I did an exercise in a Teach Yourself book recently. The exercise asked me to describe a classroom from my childhood, the best that I could. I dutifully did so, describing the classroom that I was in when my mother pulled me out after my dad went missing. My description was based on things I saw. There were no sounds, no smells, no touch. I didn't describe the teacher, or the carpet. I described where the table was in relation to the blackboard, the teachers desk and the reading corner. I described how the desk that I occupied was right next to the door and there was a window behind me. I described the colour of the bookcase, and if I really thought, I could count the number of desks in the room. Now, I wouldn't be able to tell you how big the room was, because as we all know, everything is so much bigger when you are young. But it wasn't a cramped room.

What this taught me is that I am visual. This doesn't surprise me, and it highlighted where things are going wrong in my writing. The book explained that each of us prefer to perceive the world in one way above all others. For you, you might describe the sounds of the classroom, or how you felt. Feel free, describe a classroom from your childhood, see what it says about you!

Anyway, this means I need to work on the other senses. I need to hear more, smell more, taste more. What does the sun on my face really feel like? How do I really feel when I smell soup (Sick! Long story for another time)? And what do I really hear when standing in the middle of the tracks?

My goal is to write down 3 things I notice each and every day. And to push myself further, I want to add to the experience in the notebook. I want to capture it in such a way that when I read through my notes, I am transported back to the moment that I noticed it.

It might be a tall order for me. But I want to enrich my writing, and my life. To take note of things around me, I have to slow down. I have to literally stop, and maybe smell the roses. I have to take a moment to feel how I am moved inside, what emotion is bubbling away. And when I can create that, I can catalogue enough to draw upon when my stories are feeling flat.

Do you take note? Have I highlighted an issue you want to rectify? Or are you great at note-taking, and have some wisdom to pass on? I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Happy Mother's Day

Here in the UK, today is Mother's Day.



I have noted over the years I have been a mother, that Mother's Day always falls on the Sunday of the weekend that the clocks go back an hour. Why is that? Are we not exhausted enough?

Anyway, I don't personally expect anything special. Maybe a chance to relax, watch films with the kids (would be ace), and just enjoy their company. I am very lucky to be a mother, and every day I am treated wonderfully by the two children who are at home with me.

The other morning, my youngest told me, unprompted, that I was the best mum in the world. She is always saying nice things to people. The first time she meets someone, she will always find something nice to say about them. When returning from school with her big brother and a friend of his, when his friend also said bye to her, she said that the friend was very kind.

My boy is just as wonderful. If I am stressed out, he will get the candles on. He may not say he loves me often, or that I am a great mum, but he shows me in the little things he does.

My children are very lovely. I will have a wonderful Mother's Day, simply because I am their mum.

I am also a mum of angels. I know there are many mums out there who do not get to hold their child. Or maybe they are one child missing. That is a pain that is indescribable. The what ifs, and if onlys. But those women still see themselves as mothers. It is possible to love a child no longer living. I remember my first born, who died at 20 weeks, most days. I look at my children who are here with me, and I am as grateful for them as I am for her.

So, no matter what kind of mother you are, Happy Mother's Day. Go put your feet up. You deserve it.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

How To Be A Better Reader

Do you want to read more? Be a better writer? Or just have a plan?

Then plan your reading!

Develop a reading strategy that will make the most of your time and help you develop as a writer.





Choose 24 Books

I had a 12 writing book goal at the beginning of the year. That is to read 12 books on the subject of writing. I am going to put another 12 on top of that, but fiction. You could choose 24 non-fiction or fiction, or just mash them up at whatever takes your fancy. That works out at roughly 2 per month - if we had started in January. But I am sure it is still doable.

Read

Read some books in your genre, some outside your genre, read old books, read brank new books, read obscure books, read Pulitzer Prize books.

Don't Read

Don't read more than 2 books at a time. Any more than that, and whilst you might retain some info, if you want to check a fact or something, you might forget which book it was in.

Write

Write a list of all the books you want to read. Pick 24 for 2017. Whenever a new book comes that you must read, add it to your long 'master' list, and you can read it in 2018 (or 2019 if your list is as long as mine no doubt will be!)

Imagine - do this every year and in 3 years time you will have read 72 books!! That is a lot of books.

Write down what you liked about a book. What you hated. Could you have written it better? How did it help you?

Then write your own story.



Now, don't think that 24 is the only number you can use. I know some who get through a book in a week. So add to it if you think you can. But remember that reading should be as much a joy as it is about learning.

And one tip I picked up, is to read 10 pages a day. I know, it sounds silly. But if I use the excuse 'I don't have time' (and we all know THAT excuse), I would never read again (well, I would but not as much as I'd like). So if you find yourself muttering those words when it comes to your reading, just read 10 pages. It doensn't take long, even for slow readers like me.

How do you go about reading? Anything to add? I would love to hear from you!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Being Inspired

This week as I turned up at the computer to write this blog post, I was uninspired. So I read chapter three in 'On Being A Writer', which is about surrounding yourself with things that enrich the writing life that each of us lead. I felt overwhelmed at the idea. I came to the conclusion that what I need is lists and organisation.

Pixabay

I am a list person. I love two books by Simon Whaley: The Positively Productive Writer and Wunderlist for Writers. As you can tell, these probably hold the answers that I need. But I find that if I spend all my time writing and reading, I don't want to know about it any more!

I like to switch off. I find that I don't switch off when I read. My mind is always working. I am often inspired. I then find myself inundated with things to do. But if I just stopped a minute, and wrote a list, and organised myself, perhaps I could then see the wood for the trees.

I know that I have sort of rambled and veered off from what I originally intended. Perhaps I can make it full circle by saying that perhaps I need to surround myself with organised people and read organisation books, and then maybe my writing will be more organised. Because right now, all I know is that I turn up every day, without much time to mull over ideas beforehand, and just do my best.

Do you have any tips? Do you surround yourself with things that inspire you?

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Reality Check


A couple of weeks ago, I discussed what my ideal writing day would look like. I promised to tell you what my real writing day looks like, and you will see that it is rather different!


My days start with me pressing snooze on my alarm more times than I can count in that sleep deprived state. My alarm is set for 6:45am but you will unlikely see me before 7:15am. Then I stumble into the kitchen and switch the kettle on, whilst preparing smallest’s breakfast. I pour a cup of boiling water – intentionally, I haven’t forgotten to add coffee – and sit and attempt to hear the news over smallest’s incessant chatting between mouthfuls. If boy isn’t up by the end of the regional news, I go wake him. He gets up and gets his own breakfast before getting ready for school. Then I can get rid of him. Once he is gone it is time for coffee and to get dressed.

Then I clean, and just be mum to smallest. Then it is time for smallest to eat lunch and to get ready for nursery. When I have dropped her off, I get home and have my lunch, meaning I don’t sit to write until about 1:30pm. Then at 2:30pm I have to wrap it up and prepare to collect smallest from nursery. We get back about 4pm, then it is time for tea, bath and bed by 7pm. If I haven’t done all I need, or it is a Wednesday (which is #writingchat 8-9pm GMT on Twitter if you are interested), then I will get it down. I try and be fully finished no later than 8:30pm.

So I manage one or two hours writing a day. But you will be surprised just what can be achieved in that time!

Soon, my days will change slightly, as him indoors has a new job with a different working pattern. But I don’t think it will change too much.

So there you have it! You can see how my perfect and real days are very, very different. I must say, writing this has been a joy. I may not have much time to write, but I love my family, and they are worth it.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Five Years Time

I got a book from the library, the updated 'Blogging for Dummies', and I have started reading it in search of inspiration. I thought that starting at the beginning would be boring, after all, this isn't the first time I have been a blogger. But this is probably the only time I have set out with the intention of doing it over a long period of time. It talks about thinking where you want your blog to be in 5 years time, and what the purpose of the blog will be. The book sets out some questions to help figure out the answer to that. I struggle imagining 1 year from now, so these really helped me get to grips with my blog's future. I have answered those questions below:

What level of commitment are you willing to make to blogging?

I intend to post once a week. This includes 3 drafts, so the final post is always edited several times.


Do you like writing? How's your typing?

I do like writing, yes. But I find writing non-fiction harder than fiction. And essentially, my blog is non-fiction. It may not always be factually correct (though I do try where necessary) I don't ever make things up. And if I do, you will always be warned.
My typing is okay. I make a few typos in the first draft, but hopefully none make it through to the final draft. Thanks Spell Checker!


What will the blog be about? Is your blog personal or professional?

The blog will be about writing, all aspects. From living as a writer, to the actual act of putting words on screen. There will be a bit of a personal element, as I am chronicling life as a writer. This includes rejections, successes, and the times it just doesn't happen because I decided to reproduce!


Do you think that your new blog might grow into a new career, lead to new clients and business, or help build connections with peers and colleagues?

This has a variety of answers. Primarily, it is to get me in the swing of writing regularly, and to a deadline. But I hope it will be a platform for the future, and to connect with other writers. I'm not expecting loads. This is more for my personal satisfaction than any thing else.


* * *

So there it is. My blog plan. I think these are really good questions to ask if you are thinking about setting up a blog, or if you have a blog and have lost your way. There are probably more, but these are the ones I got from Blogging for Dummies. They have made me refocus on what I originally planned.


What other questions should people ask? Are these helpful? I'd love to hear from you.


***Apologies! This post is late and picture-less. This is due to technical issues***



Sunday, 19 February 2017

Perfect Writing Day

Do you have 'day envy' when you read those columns titled 'My Writing Day'? I know I do! Very rarely do I see one that tallies with my day. But many of them are what I would like my day to be like. So for this post, I thought I would set a timer for ten minutes and free write on what my perfect day would look like. I have tried to be as true to myself as possible, but I do think I have been influenced by such columns.

My perfect writing day starts with me waking up. I would then go downstairs and make coffee and breakfast. The kids would probably be awake, and I would feed them. I would sit down with coffee and breakfast and check the news, my Facebook and e-mail. I would also write a list of things to do. I would then send the kids off to school, and do the dishes, put a load of laundry on, before settling down to write. I will be a full time novelist so most of my day will be taken up by a current novel in progress. I would write a few short stories in between. I would be in my own dedicated office with a large desk, a comfy chair and a very useful cupboard where all notebooks are stored. There will also be bookshelves, carpet, a rug and a sofa or other comfy chair. I would get some household chores done in the day, when I needed a screen break. Most importantly, my family would leave me alone when I am sat in this room!

So, that is it! Is your day perfect? Is it like my ideal? We can all strive to better use of our time and resources. One day, my day will look more like the one detailed above. But for now, I am happy with my lot, if I keep working towards improvement. I will be writing about my actual writing day soon. Or it should be about my days, and how I fit writing into them! I do believe that if you want something enough, you find the time to make it a priority.

I'd like to know your thoughts, and how you manage your daily writing. Are you a hobbyist? Or do you earn your money from it? And how has your day changed over the years?

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Writing With children


"There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall." -Cyril Connelly


Cyril Connelly probably gave the most controversial quote of all time. It is often discussed in one way or another, when writers (or artists!) cry over the difficulty of getting things done with little people in the house.

When my eldest (11) was a baby, he was not demanding. He would sit in the same spot for hours, even once he could move around. He is being investigated for various developmental and learning disabilities. He wouldn't sleep, still doesn't, but eventually we taught him to just stay in his room. I was a pretty happy, confident young mum, in part time employment. I wrote most days, and had plenty of time to mull ideas over.

Then came my youngest (3). The only peace I get is when she is at school or asleep! When she is awake and I am responsible for her, my time is in high demand. At this point in the writing of this post I have been interrupted no less than 4 times - for various reasons, none of which were life threatening.

I can see why the pram in the hall can be a problem. To be creative, you have to have time and space to just be, to smell the roses and make sense of the world around you. A current story I have in progress is set at a beautiful attraction owned by the National Trust and is local to me. I have visited a couple of times, but on those occasions it has been with my family. This means I have probably missed many details, as I have been too busy keeping children in line. So I will be visiting again soon. On my own!

That isn't to say that children are a hindrance. I have a couple of ideas for YA stories thanks to the insight of my 11 year old. I am also experiencing the same (or almost) as other families, so I can write stories readers relate to. I only have a couple of hours quiet during the school term, but I also have an amazing man who lets me escape into the wild to get the stories on to the screen. And if it wasn't for my children, I wouldn't make the most of the time I have available when I do get it. They do say there is nothing more motivating than not being able to get to the keyboard!

The pram in the hall is what you make of it. And if it is making art suffer, know that it isn't for long, and take joy in your offspring. And write any moment you can. Keep that notebook in the nappy bag.


Sunday, 5 February 2017

Writing Space

As writers, we can be very fussy about where we work, thinking that we need some magic ritual to be successful.  I know that if I want to do something, then I like a clean, tidy environment. For instance, I cannot sit down and crochet, or watch TV if there are jobs to be done. Now that isn't to say that my house is tidy. It is far from it. But that orderly environment is something I strive for on a daily basis, even though I fail at it often.

Currently, I don't have an office. This is something I really wish I could have, but space and money doesn't permit. At the moment our dining room acts as laundry room (we have a tumble dryer in here) office, and until recently a playroom.

Here is a picture of this space as I write:
If you look closely, in the background there is a computer desk, which is used for piling the stuff that has accumulated on the dining table when it is time to eat!

I know I said I needed clean and tidy, and this photo shows something other than that. What keeps me going in all this chaos are my accountability partners. I have a blog buddy, whom I have to check in with weekly. And then I have word wars going on where I have to write 500 words a day on my novel! So if this was even worse, I would have to go and find somewhere else to do it. And I would! Although I prefer order, I can work in an environment other than what I prefer. Which just shows that you don't need the perfect desk or office or anything else for that matter. I have learned that to be a writer all you need is a way to get your words on the screen.

Sometimes, I work in the library, or a café. But I work best sitting at the dining table, despite the fact that I bought the computer desk for writing. I need the space that a dining table provides. We do have plans to buy a proper desk and transform the room into an office. I wonder, if I remember, what difference my work space will look like this time next year?

Where do you write? What helps you get productive and in the zone?



Sunday, 29 January 2017

How Expectation Can Help You

We are near the end of the first month of 2017. How are you doing on your new year goals?


Previously, I mentioned that goals needed to be SMART, but knowing what keeps you motivated will help you in achieving them. When we set a goal, we are setting expectations. Gretchen Rubin, author of 'Better Than Before', describes two types of expectations: outer and inner.

Outer expectations are those placed on us by others (deadlines, law) and inner expectations are those we place on ourselves (cut back sugar, get out more).

Gretchen also explains, how we all possess one or more of four tendencies: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger or Rebel. - and these are closely linked with how we respond to expectations, and therefore whether we are likely to meet our goals.

Upholders generally respond to both inner and outer expectations.
Questioners question expectations. But if they agree with the expectation, they will follow it.
Obligers can meet outer expectations more easily than inner expectations.
Rebels resist all expectations.

I am an obliger and as such  I have a blog buddy, and I have joined in a word war with a writer friend. This keeps me accountable. And as long as I remember I am an obliger, I can always make my goals work for me.

So, to figure out what type of tendency you have and for advice on how to make it work for you to meet your goals visit the four tendencies quiz page and answer the questions! It takes around 10 minutes, and at the end, you have your answer. You also get the opportunity to download a free report on your tendency. I hope this helps you stick to your goals, and you can be proud of all you have achieved in 2017.

I would love to know if you do the test, and what the outcome is. Feel free to put it in the comments below.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

On Being A Writer - Part One

What makes a writer? I am afraid to say I cannot answer that question. I guess the answer is as individual as each of us.

However this is what has been posed to me as I read 'On being A Writer'. I'm currently working towards identifying as a writer.

Now I have already written one full length novel, tried to edit it (to no avail! It is beyond help), and moved on to write a few short stories. I have restarted the same writing course, again to no avail. But I am always writing.

I have started many blogs, but never followed them through. Yet here I am again. Right now, on my hard drive is over 2000 words across a variety of projects. The thing I need to do is write. When I think of my dream job, I am the novelist. My fantasy is to write stories, to tell stories. There is nothing in me more than this.

My fiance says I am a writer because I write. I challenged him to NaNoWriMo last year. He was full of ideas, yet not a word was written. He says that is because he isn't a writer. When I asked him what I put as occupation on our marriage certificate, he said writer. Even if I haven't sold a word. Because I am, apparently.



So for me to identify as a writer, I need to have been published, and to have sold my work.

One thing I have learnt as I explore what it means to be a writer, is that it takes all sorts to be a writer. I find this odd, as no one is reluctant to call themselves an engineer, or a sales assistant. I think writers hide from the world. No one really knows who is a writer, as we sit silently behind our computer screens typing out the next best seller (we hope). 

Being a writer is like being a mum. If you are a mum, you start meeting lots of other mums. But you soon learn that just because you share the same identity tag, that you aren't the same. Because we are all very different. I have met lots of wonderful mums - and writers, but the title is as loose as it can be.

Are you a writer? What comes to mind when you hear the word 'writer'? Please let me know.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Murder in Mind

In my last post I mentioned I wanted to read 12 books this year, to do with writing. I chose 'On Being A Writer', and I have started on that. However, in my desire to write a story, I have also started reading two others: 'From Story Idea to Reader' by Patsy Collins and Rosemary J Kind, and 'Writing Crime Fiction' by Rosemary Rowe.

I am not yet ready to talk about what I have learned from On Being A Writer, but I look forward to working my way through it. I haven't completed the other two, but I will say that 'From Story Idea to Reader' is a good all round guide, for anyone interested in writing fiction, in any genre. I have found it informative and useful. Through reading it, even though not even a quarter of the way through, I now have a possible setting for a story I am working on. I will be continuing reading it, and see how it helps. No doubt it will be one of those books I turn to again and again.

'Writing Crime Fiction' is especially useful for wannabe crime writers like myself. I always struggled as crime fiction doesn't follow the exact same rules as other genres. Not that it doesn't follow those rules at all, just that they are a little more blurred. And so i found it difficult to come up with a coherent plot. I also have three pages in my notebook filled with possible motives for murder. Should I disappear abruptly, assume the police have take me in for questioning! I am also learning what crime I should be writing (and reading!). Today, I bought my first Agatha Christie book - The Murder at the Vicarage - and cannot wait to read it! I have a list of authors the book recommends for my area of crime expertise. It will really widen my horizons!

So this week has been spent mostly thinking of murder. And it has been so much fun!

How has your week been spent? Anything exciting happen?

Sunday, 8 January 2017

SMART Goals are Clever

The kids are back at school this week following Christmas break. December 2016 saw me running around like a headless chicken, with school plays, craft mornings, additional church services and family commitments weighing in on any time I had. Not to mention shopping for presents and food! I do hope that this year, when Christmas comes back around that I am far more organised.

But now the kids are back at school, I have more time to pursue this main goal in my life. Last time I wrote, I gave vague ideas as to my writing goals. Now I have had the time and space to think, I have been able to nail the ideas down into something solid and S.M.A.R.T.

S.M.A,R.T goals are ones that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

So here are my long term goals:

To submit 12 short stories

I have earmarked a few competitions, but this goal will keep me writing!

To submit 12 Articles

These can either be ones written for the course, or independent ones. Submission to my tutor does not count!

To read 12 books on writing

I am sure I can smash this. Last year I read 20 something books - both fiction and non-fiction. But these have to be aimed specifically at writing.

To complete 12 assignments

I have to complete my course by October 2019. I am quite behind. I really need to focus on this.

To write 52 blog posts

That's 1 a week. I have already written 2 this year. So 50 more to go!

To complete 'Life, curated' and 'plotting workshop'.

These are e-mail courses for Ninja Writers. To find out how to become a Ninja Writer, head on over to here. But don't forget to pop back and leave a comment!

To write more snail mail letters

I stumbled across this blog post, and it made so much sense. I shall try for an average of 1 a month.

I want to have these as monthly goals, but I shan't bore you with that level of detail!

I hope that you have written your goals down - whatever they may be. How are you doing? Have you made a start, and made your goals S.M.A.R.T.?

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year

As I write this, 2017 is just days away. I have been very fortunate to find someone who has similar goals as I do, and we have buddied up. This is my first post, not only of 2017 but since I have found a 'Blog Buddy'.

The brief was to get a post up on January 1st. Through our conversations I have learnt that I have quite a bit to blog about. So before I get down to the meat of this post, I thought I ought to get one thing clear. I am going to be going against the rules. All the stuff I read about blogging says that I should focus on one thing, and one thing only. Well, I guess I am not really going against the rules, as that thing is me! I know, it sounds narcissistic, and it really won't be 'me, me, me' but more of a 'what is happening in my little part of the world'. There will be a bit about writing, as that is my main focus. There will probably be a lot about wedding planning as 2017 is the year I finally get married. And after careful consideration, I will probably write about the Special Needs jungle, as my son has as yet undiagnosed difficulties.

And to start the year off, I shall lay my goals out, and be accountable.

The blog will be updated weekly.

Instead of trying to accomplish many things, I will try to accomplish one or two at a time. One thing I learnt in 2016 is that I wasn't great at finishing. I was always ready for the next new thing. I have many books I want to work through, and was bought a 'Teach Yourself' one for Christmas which I am eager to start. However, I want to finish the others that I started first! No order has been decided yet. I will choose the first one by January 1st and update in the blog due on January 7th!

I will continue with the Writers Bureau course I am on.

I will enter more writing competitions and write more self-decided articles.

The biggest goal, which will help me achieve all others, is to get organised - both at home and with work.

Do you have any goals for 2017, or any tips?