Tag Archives: Persistence

Another Day, Another 30 Dollars

28 Feb

The Writing Quarter has once again chosen a story of mine as their monthly winner. The exchange rate between here and Australia means that I get £1 less than last time, but enough to cover the competitions I am busy entering today.

The story Pot Luck is one I wrote a few years ago, though the theme has become even more pertinent (and personal) over time, to the point that I almost consigned it to the bin, but didn’t, as it is always useful (if painful) to raise awareness.

I sometimes think that I spend an inordinate amount of time entering writing competitions and submitting to magazines – tweaking the text so that it is within word limits; making sure the headers and footers abide by the rules; removing or adding my name – but the reason I carry on is because I want people to read my work, and if I don’t send it out, then it won’t be read.

I checked the proofs yesterday of one of my stories that will appear in the next edition of Pushing out the Boat, and Postbox Magazine, with another wee tale, is coming soon. So, it’s the last day of February and that’s three ‘yeses’ since the new year. I’m happy with that but I need to carry on with the submissions if I want to carry on in the same vein.


A Good Way to Start the Day

8 Jul

With a yipee and a cheque for winning the Writing Magazine’s 750 word competition. You’ll be able to read my entry shortly online, but for the moment I’m just going to sit here with a smile on my face. 100_0791 - Copy

Oh, and in case you’ve forgotten, since I’ve only mentioned in 3 times – All the Places I’ve Ever Been is still on a Kindle Countdown deal, although it ends in exactly 1 day 13 hours, from time of writing – basically you need to get it by tomorrow!!!

Who Would Be a Full-Time Writer?

19 May

A couple of times in my life I’ve walked away from paid employment with the purpose of giving writing a more prominent place in my life, and twice I’ve found myself very quickly swallowed back into the work. I did manage to produce a bit of writing during these times, but not enough that earned money.

Now, I’d be happy with being a part-time writer. My current job in a supermarket was specifically intended to keep my mind free of distractions for writing, give me a short commute, and have time over for the family. While things do sometimes go to plan, there are other weeks and months when it is difficult to get any time at all to work. I’m actually finding it hard even to concentrate on reading fiction at the moment (and have gone from being one of the class pets at my book group to being a very naughty girl, just turning up for the chat).

But life is all about choices, and how I choose to spend my time. At the moment I’ve decided not to torment myself with hitting weekly targets, but to be content with anything I manage to do. I’ve got some research reading to do, and one TV programme which I think might help inform a sub-plot. I’ve also got an interview to do with the main inspiration for my novel – my mum – so that keeps the novel moving, even if I’m not writing ten of thousands of words a month.

The days that I don’t work and should have for writing, just aren’t happening at the moment, but I choose to do other things with them (helping out with care commitments). I’ll still dream about living the life of a writer, although I just read an interview with Jacqueline Wilson who said it is a rare day when all she has to do it write. So, I need to make the most of the snatched minutes and hours and hopefully the words will build up into something wonderful.

A Treat at the Retreat

11 Mar

This time last week I was at Moniack Mhor – on Day 2 of my annual retreat. I had intended to blog when I was there, but it didn’t happen, so here instead is a reflection – which will hopefully be more interesting than – got up, had breakfast, wrote, had lunch, read, wrote, walked, had dinner, drank.

Click for Options

So, this year was my third time at Moniack Mhor – the first time in Spring, although that didn’t stop us having snow every day (I was in the Highlands after all), but it did change my schedule a bit as I was able to go out for a couple of head clearing walks.

Click for Options

The first time I went on retreat, I must admit I was a bit overwhelmed – wow, I’ve got all this time, and I’ve got no family to look after, and I don’t have a washing machine to feed, and I’ve got all this time to write, and I really should make the most of it, and I can’t believe I’ve got all this time to write. Aaaah. Second time, I relaxed a lot more into it. Decided that I had to write a complete novel in the first day, realised that I do need down time between burst, and that flicking through a trashy mag can be as vital a part of the creative process as reading Ulysses (which I brought back unread from my first retreat).

Fast forward to last week. Six of us met at Queen St Station in Glasgow (another 2 folk would join us later) for the 3 and a half hour train journey to Inverness, where we were met by the lovely Gordon and his minibus and taken to Moniack Mhor. The train journey itself was lovely – a great chat, and fantastic scenery, then into the cottage and we were off. I set myself absolutely no targets, and as they say, I managed to exceed them. I had been critiqued the previous night at our usual G2 workshops, so I started with going over my draft and making changes based on the comments. Then I pulled out another short story which had also been through the workshop but never been revised. And finally I started my novel, and over the next few days wrote almost 5,000 words. Not bad going.

Click for Options

Sunday was Mothers’ Day, and it was 5pm before I saw my three kids – and no, the non-mothers in the group didn’t decide to give us breakfast in bed – and my own mum. So, back home, what happens next. Well, there was the inevitable back to work blues – why can’t I still be at my desk writing? Which was followed by a major TV binge. But from Wednesday I’ve been able to find the inner retreat – to get into the writing groove – to go out walking, to read, to write, to be a proper writer.

And that really is the treat from the retreat. Being with a group of writers (and I’m lucky that I have a great group of writers who I know well, even if they are camera shy) means that you don’t have to apologise that you are heading off to write. You don’t have to feel embarrassed or guilty or self-conscious. You are there to write, and that’s what you do.

On a final note – since as a group we are normally picking over each others’ writing with a fine tooth comb, it was great to kick back and relax. And what can I say – Obama Llama brought on an asthma attack I was laughing so much.


New Year’s Resolution Part ?

14 Jan

Just decided on this resolution which came like a bolt from the blue and appears to be the answer to all my troubles (don’t you just love cliches?) I’ve alluded in the past to some fairly major family issues affecting us at the moment, which I won’t go into as this isn’t really what this blog is meant to be about. But the issues are still very present, and aren’t going away anytime soon, so here’s the nub of it, it’s affecting my writing. I’ve been trying to get back into a novel I started writing many, many years ago, which is all ready and waiting in my head, but it’s fairly autobiographical, so sitting down to write it takes quite a lot of emotional fortitude. Emotional fortitude is something I have barrel loads of (who knew), but it is all being expended in other ways, leaving none when I’ve got my writer’s head on.

So what’s a girl to do? For the past year I’ve been footering about with short stories, and have spent a lot of time getting All the Places I’ve Ever Been out to market, but the new novel hasn’t been worked on properly. It is a novel I really want, and indeed, need to write. But I’ve finally realised that now is just not the time for it. But it’s not the time for giving up on writing either. I’ve found it really wonderful having a book published, and everyone is giving me such positive feedback that I’d be a fool not to carry on.

So, here’s what I’ve decided – Triangle of Sky is going on the back burner (a place it has languished for so long it should be used to it), and I’m going to pull out a radio play and re-work it as a novel. In theory this should be easier, and as outlets are limited to one for radio plays (and the Beeb said no),  I’m not losing anything by resurrecting it.

I woke up this morning, and even before I saw what a beautiful day it was (a real Elbow one), I felt more ready to write than I have in weeks, and I think it’s because I’ve made this decision.  Anyway, I better go now and get started. I’ll let you know how it goes.

All the Places I’ve Ever Been – the Paperback

8 Dec

Now available as a paperback.  I’d love to know what you think.

All the Places I’ve Ever Been

Pitch Live Event

4 Oct

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks now since the Pitch Live event run by NAWE and I think I’ve finally digested all that was said (unlike my sick son who can’t digest anything at the moment).  I had a one-to-one meeting with Clare Hey which despite her total loveliness was absolutely terrifying. Her initial comments about music themed books (which mine is) being difficult to sell knocked me for six, but then I thought about Roddy Doyle and Nick Hornby and Rose Tremain (not rock, but none the less), and decided not to be too discouraged. She gave me really useful feedback on my submission and today I’ve been re-writing my synopsis (even though all the agents and publishers at the event claimed they hardly ever read them) and agent’s letter template (which they do) .

The one thing which struck me very forcefully was how much all the agents, and publishers for that matter are looking for a very personalised submission letter. I’ve read this in loads of other places, but have to admit that I thought it was a bit sycophantic to tell the agents how much you love all the other things they’ve ever published, even when you do ( I think there is something deep in the Scottish psyche which acts as a break on ever praising anything too much).

Managed to sneak in a quick visit to the ManRay exhibition when I was in Edinburgh, which was fantastic if very busy – first trip ever to Scottish Portrait Gallery, but won’t be my last.

All of the above, but mainly caring for sick child, means there’s not be much new writing going on at this end, but I have been managing to do quite a bit of research and general reading to help me find my perfect agent. Also my writers’ group has been re-invigorated by three new members who I’m sure will be worthy replacements for those who have left over the past year. One is focusing on plays, which is a bit of departure for the group, but some of the others have been playing with drama recently too, so I might be tempted to try again,..


What works?

14 Feb

When I was at my writers’ retreat at Moniak Mhor I was taken by the fact that the journalists in the group just sit and write. It’s their job after all, so they seemed unaffected by the usual angst that surrounds the stereotypical writer. They had a story to tell and they had the discipline to sit down and tell it.

Today I was following a LinkedIn discussion about writer’s block. The question was Help, how do I get over it? so I thought I’d look at the problem here. While I’ve had spells of my life when I’ve not written much I don’t think I’ve ever had writer’s block. What I have had is a feeling that writing a novel is such a huge undertaking that it needs a very special day to be the right day to work on it. But what I’ve realised is that the only way to find that special day is to make it yourself. One of the journalists said (I think quoting someone else), ‘you’ve just got to keep typing until it turns into writing.’ So with that in mind I make my novel writing days special by typing. So what do I type – all those half ideas scribbled in notebooks and on pieces of paper, that once they become a Word document take on a better shape. That while they are being typed the ignite ideas in other parts of my brain, and take a more coherent form.

I type things that I’ve started for competitions and submissions, I type blogs and Good Reads reviews. I make writing my work, but also my play, and somehow, hopefully the big tasks get little nibbles taken out of them in amongst all this typing. And gradually the little nibbles turn into bigger chunks and the joy of writing comes back so that it’s not a task to be tackled, but a joy to be experienced.

I’m currently re-drafting pieces I’d scribbled on Reading and Writing for a potential publication for World Book Night which one of my fellow G2 writers is compiling, so I’d better get on.

If you’ve any tips to share on Writer’s Block that would be great.

Starting Again

14 Nov

Well the day has come when novel two begins. I’m still looking for an agent for All the Places I’ve Ever Been and marketing my e-book The Chocolate Refuge, but I’ve now got to a level of anxiety coupled with frustration which means that I need to start something big and new. I’ve been writing quite a few short pieces over the past few months which has been useful but ultimately I know that I’m procrastinating a bit. There is always another short story competition that you can enter, always another magazine looking for submissions. At work today I even thought that I might put a radio play before my novel. BUT NO.

My last post was about NanoWrimo (write a novel in a month), but when I hadn’t written a word by Nov 5th I decided that life was stressful enough without putting more deadlines in. I do know though that keeping track of how many words I’m writing does help to keep me on track, so I will be jotting down word counts and setting weekly targets. I’m going away next week for 4 days at a writers’ retreat and will put together a hefty target for that so I don’t just sit about chatting and drinking wine (pleasant though that sounds). I am determined that I don’t go there without the start of my novel written, so tonight, after homework and my daughter’s first filling will be the time when words are written.

So now for the big decisions. I wrote 20,000 words of this novel many years ago and have been re-reading it over the past few days. The story is still sound and one that I want to tell, but the writing is not very well crafted. Since I wrote the draft I’ve done the Faber Academy Novel Writing Course and had two years of extensive writing critiques from my writers’ group. I know that I’m a better writer than I was when I started this book, so I need to decide whether to try and salvage or start again.

I know, I’ve got to start again. New book, new voice. Page 1, line 1. It starts with a question ‘What would you do…’

Nearly There

28 Oct

I’ve been saying for the past month that my ebook will be finished within the next couple of days, and now it is. Hooray. Often when things take longer than I hope it’s because I’ve been procrastinating (a favourite pastime, although one I’m indulging in less), or life has jumped into the way. This time though, despite Hallowe’en parties and overtime, I have been working away at getting the ebook ready. Little did I know how much information I’d have to plough through on the Kindle site to get my book ready to publish. Normally I just ignore the ‘read more’ links, but I want to do this properly, so I’ve been reading all the small print and advice and trying to stick to it. It’s been quite a learning curve, but hopefully worthwhile. Still have to face completing an IRS exemption form (which I’ve just realised is lost in a bundle of proof-reading) so that the US government don’t start taxing me – it’s bad enough having to pay tax in the UK, without paying again in the US.

I’m really excited that The Chocolate Refuge will be available to buy via Amazon within the next couple of days, and intrigued to see how many books I actually manage to sell. No one I know has gone down this route, so I don’t know whether I’ll sell 10 or 10,ooo. Don’t think I should order the new kitchen just yet, but might manage a bar of chocolate to celebrate the release.

Available to buy at Amazon.co.uk