Saturday, 29 September 2012


A very welcome distraction this morning – back to the Realitas Art Group after the summer break. I had a lovely time catching up with everyone’s news, meeting a new member, enjoying the coffee and cake, having a look at some of the many new arts and crafts on show …

 … and I also managed to produce this very scrappy, unfinished watercolour of some conkers and oak leaves. Must try harder next time. 

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Who said what?

When it comes to quotation marks, I automatically use double marks (“ ”) to indicate direct speech because that’s what I was taught to do many years ago, but I know some writers and publishers prefer single marks. It’s one of the style points I check before submitting work to a particular magazine.

But it has never occurred to me to leave out quotation marks altogether.

So when I started reading The First Person and Other Stories by Ali Smith, and saw that she doesn’t use any type of quotation marks, I thought it was going to be hard going. But I quickly got used to her style – she uses the other conventional punctuation marks – and I only had to re-read a couple of sentences in the whole book because I briefly lost track of who was saying what.

I enjoyed Ali Smith’s stories, but this lack of quotation marks has left me with a dilemma. When I send off my next story should I delete the quotation marks?

If I do, will the editor say, Great! Here’s an exciting, modern writer, or, “This person obviously doesn’t know the basics of writing. I’m not going to waste my time reading beyond the first paragraph.”

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Naming names

I recently entered a writing competition in which stories had to be submitted under pseudonyms. Although I think anonymous judging is a good idea, choosing a pen name was surprisingly difficult. I tried anagrams of my real name, a nickname added to names of places where I’ve lived and occupations I’ve had, mixes of pets and children’s names – but I didn’t like any of them.

Brainwave! I could simply use some initials: A.B.C. That would be a truly anonymous name with no clues about my sex, age, nationality or anything else that might colour the judge’s view of my story.

Except …

If I was that judge I’d be wondering if A.B.C. stood for:

Amber Bella Chrystal
Arthur Basil Carruthers
Annie Beryl Chuddington
Antonio Baldassare Conti
Abigail Barton-Chorley
Archie Bob Cornstalk
Amy Bo Chan

Aaargh! Botheration! Claptrap!
I know exactly who all those A.B.C’s are. I can see and hear them quite clearly. I know their likes, dislikes and secrets. And now they’ll be pestering me to write their stories!

Note to writing competition judges
No, I didn’t use A.B.C. for my entry so if you come across those initials, it’s not me!
After much thought I chose what I hoped would be a very plain, ordinary, and forgettable name.

Do you use a pen name? How did you choose it?

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Working holiday

I’ve just enjoyed a wonderful week in Yorkshire. I promised myself a complete break from writing, so I left the laptop at home, but I did take my camera, sketchbook and a small notebook (for small, essential notes only).

I came back with:

  • 260 photos, some of which I’m hoping will be good enough to use for illustrating travel articles.
  •  a collection of guide books/ information leaflets to help me check the facts for those articles.
  •  a sketch map of the fictional village that is the setting for the adult novel I’m currently working on – it’s important I know exactly where the main characters live in relation to each other, what they can see from their windows, which routes they’ll take to the pub/ newsagents/ bus stop etc.
  •  floor plans of the main characters’ houses – is Graham’s study at the front or back?
  •  3 sketchbook pages filled with an outline, notes and the beginning of the first chapter of the third book in a series for children. (Okay, I know I haven’t finished the first book yet but this idea was too good to risk forgetting!)
  •  small notebook filled with: 
              dates, place names and brief descriptions of those places to help me label photos
              random thoughts and observations.
              article ideas prompted by quirky, puzzling, funny, inspiring things encountered.
              snatches of overheard conversations/ glimpses of other people’s lives that I might
              be able to weave into a story one day …
              a rhyming couplet that popped into my head one morning. (I don’t do poetry so
              have no idea where this came from or what I’m going to do with it!?)    

For most people a holiday means an escape from work, but for me it’s been a great source of fresh inspiration. If you are a writer, do you ever manage to ‘switch off’? 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The best laid schemes

Why is it that just when you get your timetable organised and everything’s running smoothly to plan – the washing machine blows up?

Oh well, back to the scrubbing board!