Subscribe by RSS:

Posted on 20 January 2020 14:09

I worked incredibly hard on my writing last year. Novels, blog, reviews, articles, short stories, competitions, developing and producing a podcast - I did it all.

And I’m incredibly proud of what I achieved. I saw my work in print and online. I got great feedback from editors and readers. I got paid. And I got offered a contract for my first novel.

But, by the time Christmas rolled around, I was absolutely knackered.

At heart, I’m actually quite a lazy person. It takes a great deal of energy and effort for me to motivate myself to get things done. And I don’t always enjoy the process, even if I feel better afterwards than if I hadn’t bothered.

I’ve always struggled with short term temptations and had difficulty with the concept of delayed gratification. And, at the moment, my productivity engine is very low on fuel.

I have no intention of giving up on my writing. And I do still have important and exciting goals for 2020. But I’m definitely taking a step back from my usual crazy schedule. I may not make my habit pledge for Get Your Words Out this year. And that’s fine.

Top priority are the novels. I’m currently proofreading Artisan before sending it back to the publisher at the end of February, after which they will send through my contract and we’ll see what happens from there. I’m surprised and gratified that I’m really enjoying reading it again, so there will be no problem with me hitting that deadline.

I also want to get Colours to the point where I can send it to the publisher for consideration, in the hopes that they will want to publish that too. There’s still quite a lot of work to do on it, but I have a clear plan and I’m chipping away at it bit by bit, making sure it doesn’t drop off my radar.

There’s also revision to do on my novella, Beneath the Tree, and I’m looking forward to getting back into that once I get some more reader feedback.

But that’s about it. I’m submitting entries to a weekly competition when the prompt fits something I already have written. And I’m considering other submission opportunities as and when they come up. I only had one I really wanted to do at the start of the year, and I did come up with the bare bones of an idea for it, but it just feels like too much to try and get a whole story done and the approaching deadline was starting to stress me out. So, I deleted it off my list and I’m not going to worry about it.

And that’s okay, too.

I don’t feel disappointed in my lack of progress or effort. I know what I’m doing with the projects that are important to me. And I’m letting the rest of it go. For now.

And that’s okay.

 

Posted on 19 January 2020 11:03

Summary:

I’m not sure I’ve found my groove for 2020 yet, unless my groove is slacking off, which would be okay, at least for the moment!

 

Monday:

I wrote reviews for the four books I read on reading retreat over the weekend.

 

Thursday:

I met Ann in Wapping, feeling not particularly motivated. My writing goals so far this year seem very light, but I’m enjoying not putting too much pressure on myself at the moment.

I started with my first discussion post of the year for GYWO.

Then I proofread the next four chapters of Artisan, which I’m still really enjoying!

 

Saturday:

I helped Bear with his latest reading retreat blog post.

I also wrote a review of my most recent audiobook.

 

Posted on 13 January 2020 17:43

Summary:

And so work begins in earnest on getting Artisan ready for publication and Colours ready for submission. In good news, I’m really enjoying rereading both of them!

 

Monday:

I went through the whole Artisan manuscript, doing ‘find and replace’ on various things the publisher wants me to change. Perhaps dangerous, but I am going to do a close read over the next few weeks to double-check everything is as it should.

 

Tuesday:

I met Hannah after work, making good on our vow to start 2020 with a better work ethic. I proofread the first two chapters of Artisan, then knocked a couple more Colours edits off my master list. I restructured and consolidated my Colours editing plan, to hopefully make it less scary.

 

Wednesday:

I did my first batch of submissions for the year. Still tedious, but has to be done!

I posted Beneath the Tree on the TL;DR Slack, to ask the members for feedback.

Then I settled down to the next two chapters of Artisan, another Colours edit column and some notes for a potential new short story.

 

Posted on 30 December 2019 09:21

Summary:

Not a complete break from writing over Christmas, but certainly much reduced.

 

Monday:

I wrote a review of Saturday’s Olympia Horse Show and also the book I finished later in the afternoon.

 

Saturday:

I edited a friend’s short story and provided lots of comments.

I added some notes to my Colours editing plan.

Then I worked on an old flash fiction piece, expanding it to fit an upcoming competition entry, and submitted it.

I also wrote a few reviews.

 

Sunday:

I wrote a blog post, celebrating my writing achievements of 2019.

 

Posted on 29 December 2019 10:04

I’m not normally someone who brags about their accomplishments, but I’m going to make an exception here, because it’s been a phenomenal writing year for me and I want to celebrate that! I’ve worked really hard, persevered in the face of rejection and lack of motivation, and I have a lot to show for it at the end of 2019. And, while a lot of things in the world are not how I would like them to be, I can say with confidence that my writing is on track and I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved.

 

Part of my success story is all about persistence and taking opportunities where they arise. I have a spreadsheet of rolling submission possibilities and I use that in two ways. First of all, to prompt me to write new stories, based on themes, word counts and deadlines provided by competitions and anthology calls. But I also keep a list of publications that accept submissions of the type I write, so I have somewhere to send those stories when they get rejected.

 

In 2017, I made 105 submissions and got 8 acceptances. In 2018, I made 101 submissions and only got 5 acceptances. I was very happy with all of those - getting publication acceptances is not something that has diminished in its excitement value over time.

 

I really upped my game in 2019 and made 160 submissions. And my total acceptances to date number 22, which is very satisfying. Now, I should say that seven of those are for the same publisher, who produces drabble anthologies and basically accepts work from everyone, so I’m not sure they really count. However, you have to be accepted into one of their drabble anthologies to be able to submit to their paid short story anthologies, and I’ve also now got acceptances for two of those, so I think the drabbles were very useful groundwork (as well as a lot of fun).

 

One of my other tremendous satisfactions for 2019 is that I’ve sold five stories that are all several years old and have been rejected 12 or 15 times each from different places. But I don’t give up on stories often, so I just kept on sending them out there and I will finally be seeing them all in print in 2020, as long as all goes well.

 

I have also written about 20 entirely new short stories and flash pieces (not including all the drabbles), three of which are included in the publication acceptances. One of these is a story I’ve been wanting to write for years and never been able to get to work. And now it’s a real thing that exists in the world, albeit still requiring a lot of work to get it up to submission standard.

 

I had multiple writing goals at the start of 2019, one of which was to start work on a non-fiction project. This fell by the wayside fairly early on in the year, when I realised it was going to take a lot more time and effort than I had available at the time. And I don’t feel bad about that. It was too ambitious a project for 2019 but it’s still on my list, and I may come back round to it in the future. What happened instead, on the non-fiction front, was that I got caught up in the idea of making a podcast with my husband, and that has become a tremendously fun reality. We went from concept to release in three months, and now have 11 episodes recorded and six released. We’ve settled down to about 20 listeners per episode, which is way more than we expected - we have no idea who most of these people are, but we’re delighted they seem to be enjoying our show! So, that’s a whole thing I had no idea would come into being this year and it’s something I really love.

 

But, of course, my biggest and most exciting achievement of 2019 is the offer of a contract to publish my first novel! The novel began as a short story I wrote all the way back in October 2010. I submitted the synopsis and first three chapters to my chosen small independent press in summer of 2018 and they requested the full manuscript in August of that year. In January 2019, they came back to say they really liked it and wanted it for their list, but that they wanted me to give it another once-over to look at the pacing. I did another edit and sent it back to them at the end of June. Then, on 2 December 2019, they offered me a contract to publish!

 

There’s a lot that could still go awry before I actually have a copy of my book in my hands. And I’m very interested to find out what kind of contract terms they are going to offer me, as this will be entirely uncharted territory for me! But I like what I know about them, I’ve been impressed with our interactions so far, and I’m feeling very good about the whole thing at the moment. I have some very minor tweaking still to do on the manuscript, and they don’t have space in their production schedule until March, but watch this space. I’m hoping for big things on the novel front in 2020.

 

So, there you go! Hard work, perseverance, patience and luck has got me where I am today, and the view is awesome. Here’s to a successful 2020!

 

Posted on 23 December 2019 10:33

Summary:

I’m really pleased with what I accomplished this week, and also over the course of the whole year. So now I can take a break over Christmas and feel good about my writing.

 

Monday:

New week, new attitude. I was determined to make some real progress today, so I set off for a full day at Good and Proper. I got there at 11am, with six hours ahead of me before I needed to leave and lots of good intentions.

I launched straight in with the next few scenes of Beneath the Tree, as I’d completely neglected that over the weekend, in favour of easier and more prosaic tasks.

I managed two scenes before lunch, though it was a bit of a slog.

After lunch, I finished the next interim podcast script and wrote another scene of Beneath the Tree.

I stopped after the third completed scene for Beneath the Tree because I didn’t want to push it too hard.

I also got three acceptances for really old stories that I’ve submitted well into double digits each, so that was very satisfying. It’ll be great to see them all finally in print.

In the evening, I went to one of Claire’s free-writing workshops for the first time in ages. It was great to see everyone and a lot of fun, as always.

 

Tuesday:

I edited some more of Sarah’s novel.

 

Wednesday:

I finished editing Sarah’s novel, and wrote a couple of reviews. Then I did the next two scenes of Beneath the Tree.

I was due to meet Hannah after work and did another scene of Beneath the Tree before she arrived.

 

Thursday:

Last hurrah at Good and Proper with Ann today, as it was due to close the next day, which was very sad.

But I had a tremendous couple of hours of writing flow and completed the last five scenes of Beneath the Tree, to finish the first draft. It came out at just over 17,000 words, which was a little short, but I think there’s plenty of room for expansion once I start reviewing it. But I decided to leave that task until the new year.

I recorded some stats for a blog post review of the year.

 

Friday:

I broke open my awesome URW 2020 Writer’s Diary and completed the section at the start about goals for the new year.

 

Posted on 16 December 2019 08:46

Summary:

A bit of a struggle on the productivity front, but I did manage to get some good stuff done, even if I didn’t make progress on the bigger fiction projects.

 

Tuesday:

I finished a book and wrote the review.

 

Thursday:

I wasn’t really feeling it on arrival at my writing date in Wapping with Ann. I think I put in a bit too much effort last week, and my brain was rebelling. So, I started slow with a couple of reviews, then went back to a competition entry that was due the next day and made the required amendments. Then I submitted the entry.

Then I decided I wouldn’t allow myself to go home until I’d written the next three scenes of Beneath the Tree as I didn’t want to lose impetus after doing so much on it last week. I managed two and then stalled, but decided to let myself off and not push too hard.

 

Friday:

I edited some more of Sarah’s novel and wrote a list of all the tasks I wanted to complete over the weekend.

 

Saturday:

I started early with more of Sarah’s novel, along with some thoughts and ideas about how to approach several upcoming submissions. By the end of the day, I’d edited ten chapters of Sarah’s novel and written nothing of my own… I decided I needed a different plan for tomorrow.

 

Sunday:

I edited another chapter of Sarah’s novel before heading out for a solo writing session in Enfield, hoping that would help me focus more on my projects by being out of the flat..

Once ensconced in a cafe, I completed and submitted an entry for this week’s Reedsy Prompt competition, and looked over another story with a view to amending it to fit an upcoming submission. But I was finding it really difficult to focus on fiction, so I switched to easier tasks.

I wrote my December discussion post for GYWO and also some podcast scripts.

 

Posted on 08 December 2019 22:35

Summary:

What a week! Great news about Artisan and a tremendous amount of progress on all sorts of writing projects, plus cementing new writerly friendships online. Exhausting, but very satisfying!

 

Monday:

Off to Stickwick Manor for a four-day retreat with Urban Writers Retreats!

But, before that, I got an email from the publisher I re-submitted Artisan to earlier in the year - and they want to publish it!!

The words that will forever be burned into my brain: “we like what you have done with the manuscript and want to offer you a contract to publish”.

They can’t send anything through until March, because their publication schedule is too full, but that’s fine with me! I was expecting to be doing more edits over Christmas, but they’ve only asked for one more, very minor change, which will give me the opportunity to do one more read-through before sending them a revised manuscript at the end of February.

I’m aware that the wheels of publishing move very slowly, and sometimes get stuck altogether, but this is still a major moment for me!

So, it then felt a bit mundane to be writing reviews on the train to Devon - though I suppose my writing life must go on!

I planned out my desired writing tasks for the rest of the week, then wrote my script for the next main podcast episode and brainstormed some ideas for an upcoming competition.

 

Tuesday:

Slightly later start than I had intended, but I was set up in the gorgeous dining room at Stickwick Manor with a pot of tea, and ready to get started by 9:15am. I launched straight into the next three scenes of Beneath the Tree, completing 2,500 words in less than three hours.

I did some brainstorming on upcoming submission opportunities, either coming up with ideas for new stuff or identifying old, unpublished stuff that would be appropriate.

After lunch, I got out my notes for developing the second draft of Colours and had several moments of complete paralysis as the enormity of the task started to sink in. I briefly read through the things that need to change and decided the best approach would be to go through the scene list and add notations to each to determine what needs to be added/changed where. This required careful consideration of each point to figure out how much alteration was required. Scary stuff, but at least I came up with what I hope is a workable plan.

I finished up the day by reading some more of my current writing craft book, which was really interesting.

 

Wednesday:

Second full day at the Stickwick retreat!

I started out like yesterday with the next three scenes of Beneath the Tree, which went better than I expected.

Then I brainstormed some more ideas for new stories.

After a short break, I went back to Broken Succession and did the edits from my Scribophile critiques to finish off the story.

I finished off my morning session by reading another chapter of my current craft book, which is proving to have a lot of excellent, concrete examples of how to apply its proposed techniques.

After lunch, I identified the easiest edits for Colours and knocked those on the head, just to feel like I had started the great editorial endeavour.

Later, I rewrote a really old story, in order to fit it to an upcoming submission opportunity. I thought it was going to be a lot of work, but it actually turned out to be pretty easy and I think the story was much improved by the alterations. I posted it on the TL;DR betaswap channel and got some great suggestions from the writers there, so I wrote some editing notes.

Then I read another section of the emotional craft book.

 

Thursday:

Two decent writing sessions left of the Stickwick retreat - morning at the manor and the train journey back to London.

I started out with the next two scenes of Beneath the Tree, to get to the halfway point. The first one flowed really well but the second one was a struggle. My brain was definitely reaching saturation point with writing by that stage of the week.

I took a break and did some planning, some scheduling and some task list amalgamation. Nothing like making lists and plans with different coloured pens in a notebook to rejuvenate the brain!

Then I completed my retreat experience by writing an Hour of Writes entry on the train home, a competition I used to enter a lot but which hadn't released a new prompt in nearly a year until this week.

What a fantastic few days! I was worried I would be unfocused and lazy, and not make the most of the opportunity, but I exceeded my wildest expectations with what I achieved at Stickwick Manor this time around!

Roll on the next visit in January!

 

Friday:

I took a break from actual writing today and did eleven submissions instead.

Then I started work editing a friend’s novel and later, I wrote a review.

 

Saturday:

I was due to meet some of my family for lunch so I dragged myself into central London early and set myself up to do some writing in the Starbucks over the road from the restaurant.

I started with the next two scenes of Beneath the Tree, as per my recently constructed schedule.

Then I worked on expanding an old piece of flash fiction to fit this week’s Reedsy Prompt competition and also entered this month’s Furious Fiction competition.

 

Sunday:

I edited some more of my friend’s novel.

 

Posted on 02 December 2019 10:39

Summary:

Much improved in terms of actual writing done and feeling productive this week, largely due to the support and encouragement of TL;DR Writers!

 

Monday:

After errands in Enfield in the morning, I took myself off to Good and Proper to try and get in a decent stretch of writing before meeting Dave for dinner and the theatre.

I recently joined the TL;DR Writers who have an active and supportive Slack community, so I checked in yesterday with my intentions for the week, and then again this morning to connect with other writers who were also trying to get stuff done today.

I started out with the most important and least appealing project, which was making drafting progress on Beneath the Tree. I have a full scene plan and the whole story in my head, so there was no excuse for not being able to write some of it. I gave myself the target of writing the next two scenes before I was allowed to have lunch. I actually broke for lunch partway through the second scene but did complete it afterwards.

Then I moved on to my Scribophile critiques on Broken Succession. I amended the bits that were easily changed as I went through, and also made notes on bigger edits to be tackled at a later date.

I looked at my editing notes for Colours but it all felt too overwhelming to launch into that, though I did clarify a few first steps to act on later in the week.

Then I started a book that Charlie and Amie from the Six Month Novel Programme sent me, about creating emotional resonance in fiction.

 

Tuesday:

Back to the staple weeknotes entry - I wrote a review!

 

Wednesday:

I completed a new scene for Beneath the Tree and did some Scribophile critiques.

 

Thursday:

I spent the afternoon at Picturehouse Central and completed two more scenes of Beneath the Tree. I also wrote a review.

 

Friday:

I wrote another review.

 

Posted on 24 November 2019 22:11

Summary:

I’ve recorded this week as seven straight writing days, but I’m not sure any of them really count as that, as I’ve only done blog posts, admin and reviews. But I’m recording it that way anyway and vowing to do better next week!

 

Monday:

I found out I’d won a writing competition I entered back in September, with a comedy science-fiction story, written to a specific prompt in a 48-hour window - so that was very satisfying!

I also helped Bear with his post about our latest reading retreat.

 

Tuesday:

I did some scheduling and planning.

 

Wednesday:

I caught up on some reviews.

 

Thursday:

I reviewed the books I read on reading retreat over the weekend.

 

Friday:

More reviews!

 

Saturday:

I did a ton of submissions and tracked and chased a few that have had no response.

I also created a plotting spreadsheet for Beneath the Tree to record the scene plan and track my progress.

Dave and I recorded the next main episode for the podcast and I edited it.

 

Sunday:

I wrote yet another review.

 

Posted on 18 November 2019 17:52

Summary:

Yikes! My writing week apparently dropped off a cliff after two days...

 

Monday:

I got an acceptance for a drabble I submitted recently for an anthology, so I submitted another one to hopefully increase my contribution to three.

I also updated my script for the next main podcast episode.

 

Tuesday:

I went in to Picturehouse Central early, before meeting a friend for lunch. I wrote a couple of reviews and then did some more Scribophile critiques.

 

Posted on 11 November 2019 14:48

Summary:

No writing at all until Thursday, but then I made up for it with four great writing days in a row. Dedicated writing time away from home is always good for me.

 

Thursday:

Big plans for my writing session with Ann.

I started out with a couple of reviews, then wrote my GYWO discussion post for the month. It was a good topic, so I then expanded the post into a possible article for Writing Magazine, before turning back to another planned article and working to bring that one up to the desired word count as well.

I also put together a clear and comprehensive list of all the things I want to work on during my self-directed writing retreat over the weekend and used some Urban Writers Retreat worksheets to schedule my available time.

Then I went through this month’s Writing Magazine and added relevant submission opportunities to my rolling spreadsheet.

There’s a fantasy story I wrote nearly three years ago and have sent out multiple times for publication. It got shortlisted for an anthology once, it got actually accepted for an online zine once (but I subsequently heard nothing further), and the full manuscript was requested by a magazine based on the first 500 words. So, I knew it was good, despite it never actually seeing the light of day. But, today, on its fifteenth submission, it’s been accepted for a themed anthology. Here’s hoping this is really its moment!

 

Friday:

I made my way to an Airbnb in Maidstone after work, in an effort to focus my mind on writing, rather than being distracted by domestic stuff at home.

By the time I’d had dinner and watched a bit of TV, I was actually raring to get started, so I worked on the scene list for Beneath the Tree for a bit, then broke out my coloured notecards and transferred all the planned scenes onto those. Then I played around with the order until I’d got something that worked.

 

Saturday:

I started early by going through Amie’s developmental edit of Colours and making copious notes about all the bits that need work. Then I addressed all the little specific one-liner amendments.

Next on the schedule was Broken Succession, a short story I started a while ago, which I decided to work on for an upcoming submission opportunity. The structure and arc came together in my head as I was writing the next scene, which was very pleasing.

After lunch, I put fingers to keyboard and actually started writing Beneath the Tree, based on my scene card structure from the night before. I really didn’t feel like it, but I had booked a weekend away specifically to make progress on this story, and I had a schedule to stick to, so I forced myself to get on with it. It was tough going, but I got over 600 words down in an hour and felt pretty good about them overall.

According to the schedule I was then due to come up with ideas for a new short piece for an upcoming submission opportunity, but I thought of an old story that might work, so dug it out and gave it a polish instead.

During the evening, I received publication acceptance for a short story I submitted a while ago, so I reviewed the proofs and sent back confirmation.

 

Sunday:

I ignored the planned schedule this morning and spent a couple of hours completing the first draft of Broken Succession, which gave me quite a sense of achievement. I posted it on Scribophile for feedback.

Later, instead of more writing, I did a couple of Scribophile critiques to get my points back up.

In the evening, I wrote a bit more of Beneath the Tree, then wrote a blog post about my retreat experience.

I also heard from a print magazine that they’re going to print one of my favourite flash fiction pieces in their next edition.

 

Posted on 10 November 2019 17:38

This weekend, I was supposed to be at a two-day writing workshop, which I had booked some time ago and was really looking forward to. I’ve been a bit scattered with my writing since completing the first draft of my second novel over the summer, and I thought I would benefit from some structure and some outside guidance.

 

Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, the workshop was cancelled, leaving me with a completely free weekend to myself, since my husband had already booked a trip to an annual board games convention. I could have enjoyed a lazy, indulgent couple of days at home. But instead, I decided to create my own structure to get some writing done. I know I benefit from scheduled writing sessions out of the flat and from organised writing retreats out of the county. So, I planned my own personal writing retreat.

 

I picked an Airbnb in Maidstone because it’s the other side of London to where I live but close enough that it wouldn’t take long to get there after work on Friday night. It was also very close to a station and within walking distance of the town centre, so it would be easy for me to get supplies. I was originally intending to travel back into work from the Airbnb on the Monday morning, but then everyone was rewarded with an extra day’s holiday where I work, so I booked the Monday off in order to enjoy a relaxed departure.

 

I haven’t been feeling very focused or productive this week, so I was worried that all I would do would be to eat too much and watch TV on my laptop. But, at my writing session on Thursday, I built myself an ambitious writing schedule for the weekend. And, by the time I had arrived at my Maidstone getaway on Friday and had some dinner, I found I was actually keen to get started on my writing.

 

My only complaint about the Airbnb was the lack of a teapot but that was easily rectified by a trip to House of Fraser on Saturday morning, and I actually kept entirely to my schedule for the whole of Saturday, working on four different projects and making significant progress on some stories that have been seriously lagging of late.

 

Sunday was a bit more freeform, since I woke up keen to continue with one particular project, rather than the ones listed on the schedule, so I gave myself permission to diverge from the plan, and actually completed both a longer morning writing session and a first draft. By dinnertime on Sunday, I had achieved more than I expected, if not exactly my stated goals.

 

So, a solo trip away and focused sticking to the plan (in terms of timings if not content) really worked wonders for my productivity! Might I have achieved the same if I had written the same schedule but just stayed at home? Perhaps. But I’m not sure I would have come up with the same plan if I hadn’t made the effort to set aside the weekend as a specific writing retreat and paid good money for accommodation just for that purpose. Maybe I could try a similar thing at home another time, knowing the power for a written schedule.

 

Anyway, I’m very glad I did this, and even more glad that I found the energy and the motivation to make the most of it. Sometimes, a change is better than a rest!

 

 

 

Posted on 03 November 2019 20:45

Summary:

Mostly a break from podcasting this week and progress on the novella. Still just in the planning stages, though, and some further concerted effort required to really get it off the ground. But all progress is good progress and the idea is definitely percolating.

 

Monday:

Amie from the Six Month Novel Programme sent me her editorial comments on Colours, which were both very encouraging and also gave me lots to think about. Luckily, Amie thinks it should be eminently possible for me to deepen and lengthen the story into a proper novel, which is great but also means a lot of work ahead. I read through the notes and set them to percolate in the back of my mind.

 

Tuesday:

I met Hannah after work and we knuckled down to some proper writing for a change! 

I completed the rest of the Six Month Novel boot camp workbooks for Beneath The Tree, which is starting to feel as if it might really become a thing now.

 

Wednesday:

I met Ann for a morning writing session and expanded my plan and outline for Beneath The Tree. I also worked on another article to submit to Writing Magazine and went over my script for the next interim podcast episode.

Later, when I got home, I recorded and edited the interim podcast episode.

 

Thursday:

I wrote a couple of reviews.

 

Saturday:

I finished another book and wrote the review.

 

Posted on 27 October 2019 17:10

Summary:

Some good progress on my novella project, but then the rest of the week was eaten by the podcast again. However, now that’s live and on a regular posting schedule, I should have more time (hopefully) to dedicate to other projects.

 

Monday:

I planned my day to maximise my writing output, heading out to a cafe first thing to put in 2.5 hours of concerted effort before an appointment at the doctor. This fulfilled almost all of my criteria for a successful writing session - out of the flat, with a decent walk either side and an appointment that would keep me from giving up early.

And it worked. I faffed around on the internet for a bit, then wrote a whole raft of reviews, before knuckling down to work on Beneath The Tree. Using the Six Month Novel Programme boot camp materials, I made lots of notes on the characters and had an epiphany about how the story should end, which in turn gave me a basic outline for the whole thing. Huzzah! Still have to actually write it, though - but my path is looking a lot clearer now.

Then I took a break and typed up all the outstanding notes from my current notebook.

 

Thursday:

I wrote my script for the next podcast episode.

 

Friday:

I wrote a couple of reviews.

 

Saturday:

I started off with one of my least favourite writing activities - formatting and submitting. I cleared my list, submitting seven pieces to various places.

I wrote my script for the next interim podcast episode.

 

Sunday:

I edited the podcast episode we recorded yesterday and helped Dave with all the remaining bits and pieces to make the podcast live.

 

Posted on 20 October 2019 20:25

Summary:

Still not a huge amount of progress on the writing front, despite some scheduled sessions with other people. I’m really struggling to focus for long periods at the moment.

 

Monday:

I watched a film and wrote notes both for a fanfiction challenge and the podcast.

I then wrote my fanfiction for the Space Swap Space Race and my script for the podcast episode.

I caught up on reviews from over the weekend.

 

Wednesday:

I met Hannah after work for a writing session and did some planning for upcoming submission opportunities.

I also wrote a review of the audiobook I finished earlier in the day.

Hannah and I talked about how unfocused we’ve been recently and how our sessions (when they actually happen) mostly just involve chatting about writing and not actually doing any. Previously, this hasn’t been so much of a problem for me because I usually have upwards of an hour to work on stuff before she arrives. But for a couple of the recent ones, I’ve actually cancelled on her and last night I just ate dinner and read my book before we got there. So, we planned ahead for all the sessions we can do between now and the end of November, and made a promise to each other that we’d try harder on supporting each other on the writing front.

 

Thursday:

Today was a writing session with Ann, which is generally much more productive, as they are longer and we are definitely more focused. It also helps that they always take place on my day off so I haven’t had a whole day in the office beforehand.

So, I started off with this month’s GYWO discussion, then went through three old stories to edit them to fit upcoming submission opportunities.

I made some notes for a flash fiction competition and also for some more drabbles.

 

Sunday:

I helped Bear with his latest post.

 

Posted on 13 October 2019 20:39

Summary:

Not a lot of writing this week, despite a resolution to do more focused sessions. Ah well, there’s always next week!

 

Monday:

I was due to meet Geena at Picturehouse Central at 1pm so I went in early with the intention of really getting on with tons of writing stuff that’s been languishing for a while.

I started out by writing my script and compiling my notes for the third main podcast episode, to be recorded in the evening.

Then I lost all focus and didn’t actually achieve anything else. Hey ho.

 

Tuesday:

I edited the third main podcast episode, which we recorded the night before.

 

Wednesday:

I got confirmation that my latest two drabbles have been accepted by Black Hare Press, so I wrote a couple more and submitted them.

I also signed up for the Space Swap Flash Exchange.

 

Sunday:

I did some competition and magazine submissions.

 

Posted on 06 October 2019 16:01

Summary:

Still largely podcast-focused, but I think that’s fine, since it’s a new and exciting project that I’m absolutely loving. Lots of reviews as well, since I read 4 books in less than 48 hours at a family reading retreat over the weekend.

 

Monday:

I edited the second main episode of the podcast. I’m still surprised at how much I enjoy doing this, which is a really good thing as it’s probably the most time intensive part of the process and Dave’s not keen at all.

 

Wednesday:

I finalised the second main podcast episode, then recorded and edited the next interim one.

 

Thursday:

Today I took myself to Picturehouse Central for my first proper writing session in a while. I started out by rereading and expanding a very old story, which I haven’t managed to find a home for, despite positive feedback from a few places. It seemed to fit an upcoming submission opportunity but was a bit too short, so I decided to see if I could add a few words here and there and also improve it a bit as I went along.

Then I wrote a blog post about word count and how story ideas generally have a size and shape they fit into.

 

Sunday:

I caught up on my reviews after an excellent family reading retreat weekend.

 

Posted on 03 October 2019 10:01

Most writing projects, regardless of genre and purpose, will have some kind of restrictions and/or guidance in terms of length. From novels to novellas to novelettes to short stories to flash fiction to drabbles, the categorisation of stories has a lot to do with word count. And, even within these categories, most publishers and competitions will give a range within which they are prepared to accept pieces.

 

Because most of my new work is prompted by upcoming submission opportunities, I usually start a story, knowing roughly how long it needs to be. And, over the years, I’ve developed the ability to plot and plan stories to fit a particular word count.

 

A piece of flash fiction will likely just be one scene, evoking a sense of the wider story but not laying it out in concrete terms. A 2,500 word story will likely follow one series of events from start to finish, tying off loose ends. As stories get longer, they require more characters, additional subplots, more layers of complexity and more comprehensive planning and tracking.

 

It doesn’t always work out so well, though. For example, what was meant to be my second novel has only just topped 50,000 words in its first draft, which is way too short for a novel and actually a bit long for most novellas. So, at the moment, its future is uncertain while I work out whether it can be expanded to novel length or cut down a bit for the novella market.

 

And sometimes, I’ll get an idea, independent of a prompt or often coming out of a workshop, that doesn’t fit neatly into a preconceived format. I’m working on a story at the moment, which has been rattling around in my brain for about three years and has not yet seen the light of day. I first developed it at a writers’ conference, over the course of a weekend of workshop sessions. I’ve always liked it and regularly returned to it over the years, as submission opportunities have come and gone that I thought it might fit. But, even though I have a ton of notes, a rough outline and a set of characters I love, I just can’t seem to write it.

 

Recently, though, a new opportunity presented itself, for a fantasy novella of 20,000 to 40,000 words, with a publisher I like. And something clicked. I think the reason I’ve been having so much trouble with this story is that I’ve been trying to fit it into a box it’s too big for. The scope of the story is larger than I first thought (though not enough to make a novel) and needs more space to develop properly. So, now I’m working on it with a target of a much higher word count and it already feels more possible.

 

Stories have a size and a shape and it’s important to be able to recognise early on the dimensions of those things. Certainly, stories can be expanded or contracted to an extent, but I think they know how big they want to be, and it’s the writer’s job to listen and recognise that. I’m now hopeful that my story will soon be completed, and I’m excited at having something to submit for what sounds like an excellent publication opportunity.