To celebrate why not enjoy a little bit of ‘me’ time? Put your feet up and
click here to download a free story from the wonderful
And instead of rushing around looking for last minute Christmas presents, did you know you can now send Alfie Dog Gift Vouchers to your friends and family from the comfort of your own pc, laptop or smartphone?
I’m pleased I didn’t attempt NaNoWriMo this year because I
completely failed my ‘easier’ challenge to write 1,000 words a day throughout
November. My grand total for the month was a measly 5,182 words – not helped by
the fact that I wrote nothing at all on five of the allotted days!
In my defence, I should add that these were carefully chosen
and edited words – not the crazy jumble that spills out during NaNo – so for
every one I counted there were probably a dozen or more discarded.
As well as recording the number of words written, I made a
note of where I’d used them, and this turned out to be a much more useful
About half of the words produced:
4 new pages for my adult novel
half a chapter of my children’s book
a flash fiction story
4 short blog posts
And where did the other half go? Into comments on other people’s
blogs and forums.
Conclusion I’d do twice as much writing if I didn’t spend so
much time reading!
P.S. If you like reading and doing puzzles (and live in the
UK or Republic of Ireland) National Book Tokens is currently running this competition to win a year’s supply of books.
‘Yes, of course I can change the title, make the hero a
heroine, delete this chapter, set that section in a different country, add an
alien encounter, weave in a romantic sub plot, turn the cat into a
wise-cracking parrot, reveal the end at the beginning, make the sad man happy,
write a completely new story …. whatever you want,’ said the flexible writer.
I didn’t take to my bed, but for more than a week I had a
cold, niggling aches and pains, couldn’t think straight and generally felt
under the weather. Keeping warm indoors seemed sensible but only added boredom
to my other symptoms. Eventually, I needed to get some shopping and thought a
short walk in the fresh air might make me feel better. It didn’t.
I picked up a
few essentials in our village shop and looked around the shelves
in the forlorn hope of finding some miracle remedy. Cough mixture? I had plenty
at home. Chocolate? I managed to resist the temptation. Then I came to the
magazine rack …
Many years ago, The People’s Friend was one of my main
target markets. I bought it most weeks and read it carefully from cover to
cover to get the feel of what they published. All that research paid off when I
had two short stories and two articles accepted by the editor. But then I
wanted to try other magazines and different types of writing, so I stopped
buying it so often and gradually lost touch.
As I looked through the latest issue I was pleased, although
not surprised, to discover it’s hardly changed at all (except it now has a
Facebook page). Yes, I’m sure some people would describe it as an old-fashioned
magazine – especially if they remember their mother or grandmother reading it –
but the reason it’s survived since 1869 must surely be because it found a
winning formula and has stuck with it. I wonder how many of today’s celebrity
magazines will last that long?
I spent the afternoon sitting with my feet up, drinking tea
and enjoying a good read.
And, not only did I start to feel physically better than I
had for days, but the fog in my brain finally cleared and a new story idea
began to grow. It’s a feel-good story that I think might be suitable for the
I’ve never celebrated Halloween and, to be honest, I don’t really understand what other people see in this mishmash of ancient superstitions and modern commercialism. But I did enjoy painting pumpkins and other autumnal vegetables at last week’s art group meeting. They’re a lot trickier than they look, but I thought this one came out a treat!
Of course the main significance of October 31 for thousands of people all over the world is that NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow. I’ve decided not to do it this year, but I’m also having pangs of regret as I feel the excitement mounting all around me.
So I’m going to compromise and set myself a mini-NaNo challenge:
1,000 words a day throughout November.
I won’t be creating a new novel, but I’ll try to use the NaNoWriMo energy to increase my writing speed as I work on several projects that have been clogging up my brain and computer for far too long.
If you’re using Halloween as an excuse for a party – have fun!
And if you’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo – good luck!
No time to write anything here today, as Henry Mitchell has invited me to put a guest post on his blog Tales and Wanders. I met Henry through Alfie Dog Fiction and was immediately impressed by his elegant writing style. I was surprised to find that he didn’t decide to start writing fiction until he was in his 70’s, but I’m not at all surprised to learn that his first novel is soon to be published.
If you haven’t come across Henry before, do click here to take a look at his blog, it's well worth a visit.
I took a day off from writing to catch up on some jobs I’ve been neglecting in my other world. One of the items that’s been on my to-do list for a long time was to make some cushions. I saw this teddy bear fabric in the market and couldn’t resist it.
As I sewed, I started thinking about all the bears I’ve known over the years: my own long-lost childhood companions, my children’s teddies, those perennial favourites, Rupert, Pooh, Paddington ….
And as my mind filled with cuddly images I began making up a story. Something about teddy bears? No, that would be too easy. This one’s going to be a really complicated murder mystery …
I’ve finally discovered the secret of how to write faster, ignore distractions, and generally be much more productive. All I have to do is take a holiday!
At the beginning of each month I optimistically make a new writing ‘to do’ list, but I rarely manage to tick off all the items before the end of that month. I could pretend I’m being too ambitious and giving myself too much work, but I know the real problem is that because I have 30 or 31 days to reach my targets it’s all too easy to get complacent about them – until I suddenly notice those 30 days have dwindled to 2!
After I’d written out my list for July, I realised I would only have 25 writing days because I was going on holiday at the end of the month. I could have made the list shorter of course, but I decided to leave it as it was and carry over any outstanding jobs to the following month.
I set to work straight away and completed everything on the list – with a couple of days to spare! Surprised? I was completely astonished, amazed and flabbergasted!
So my new plan is to include a holiday on my monthly ‘to do’ lists. Now then, where shall I go at the end of August? And September? And October ...?
I didn’t think I was a fan of vampire fiction but I did enjoy reading The Radleys by Matt Haig. It’s about Peter and Helen, abstaining vampires who are so desperate to be accepted as a respectable, middle-class couple that they have kept their true nature secret even from their teenage children.
When I started reading the book I was a bit puzzled by the author's writing style. The whole story is told in the present tense and the chapters are very short, most only two or three pages long. At first, I thought this might be a ploy to entice younger readers – the book was originally written for adults but there is also a Young Adult edition - but then I discovered that The Radleys is being made into a film and suddenly the style made perfect sense. I don’t know if Matt Haig was looking ahead and thinking about film rights as he wrote the novel, but any filmmaker reading this book would be struck by how easily it could be rewritten as a screenplay. The chapters are really scenes and the present tense (he says, she walks, they sit down …) enables the reader to instantly ‘see’ the action as you do when watching a film.
I suppose the next step I should be aiming for – after the little matters of actually finishing my novel and getting it published – would be to have it turned into a film. But I’ve just realised that:
my chapters all contain several scenes
a lot of the ‘action’ takes place in character’s heads
there are flashbacks with different characters having different memories of the same past events
some of the ‘dialogue’ is in the form of thoughts
none of my characters look remotely like any famous actors or actresses
I could start rewriting the whole thing again …
But do I really want to commit to all that extra time?
No, I think I’ll just stick with what I’ve started – that’s difficult enough!
One of the drawbacks of writing stories for magazines is that once they've been published (as wonderful as that is) the possibility of them being seen anywhere else is very small. Commercial magazines are only interested in previously unpublished stories. Some small press magazines accept reprints but they offer little or no payment. I was lucky enough to sell a few of my early stories to foreign magazines after they'd appeared in the UK, but these days most magazines want more than just First British Rights - even if they don't intend to use those other rights - so that option is becoming rarer.
Having a story appear only once is, of course, better than not being published at all, but it's particularly frustrating when you find that your story has been edited in such a way that, at first, you don't even recognise it!
In 2000, I was thrilled when my short story Dreamers was a runner-up in a Woman's Realm writing competition. Part of the prize was publication in the magazine and I couldn't wait to open my contributor's copy! The competition results were announced over three pages and, understandably, the first prize winning story took up most of that space. I could see Dreamers had been drastically cut to fit its 1,000 words into half a page. Never mind, it was still my story. Or was it? I think I probably groaned out loud when I started to read it. Some of what I had thought were the important details of the story were missing, and one paragraph simply didn't make any sense at all! I imagined other readers groaning too. How had this story been chosen as a competition runner-up? It was rubbish!
Fast forward 13 years ...
I discovered Alfie Dog Fiction, an independent publisher specialising in short stories, and - oh joy! - they're willing to consider stories that have been published before. I submitted the full version of Dreamers and I'm very pleased to report that they have now made the whole story available to read on a kindle, computer, iphone etc. for just 39 pence!
Congratulations to Roxanna Toyne and Olivia Hunt who were
the gold prize winners in BBC Radio 2’s 500 words children’s story competition.
You can read or listen to all the winning and shortlisted stories here. The thing that surprised me most about this competition was
that they received over 90,000 entries!
When I was a child I was always making up stories for my own
amusement but I can’t remember ever being encouraged to write fiction by my
teachers or parents. The only creative writing I did at primary school was
essays – we called them compositions – with uninspiring titles such as What I
Did in the Holidays. I confess I sometimes made them a bit more interesting by
adding some fiction!
I loved reading, but I think I assumed that the people who
wrote all those stories lived on some remote planet. They certainly weren’t
ordinary people like me – or anyone I knew. When I was asked what I wanted to
be when I grew up (why do adults always ask children that impossible question?)
it never occurred to me that being a writer was even an option.
It wasn’t until I was well and truly grown-up that I started
to wonder if anyone else might be interested in my stories, and it still took
several years of writing in secret before I plucked up the courage to show some
of my work to a publisher.
I think it’s wonderful that not only are so many of today’s
children producing imaginative and well-written stories, but they also have the
confidence to share them. The only problem is that my ‘must read’ list is going to
keep getting longer and longer!
How old were you when you decided you wanted to be a writer?
A movement caught my eye. Something fairly large and light
brown had fluttered over the field opposite my house and disappeared into the
ditch on the far side.
A hare! I thought, followed (almost) immediately by, Don’t
be daft, hares can’t fly!
Common sense told me the half-glimpsed creature had probably
been a pheasant or duck, but the picture it planted in my mind insisted on
growing bigger, brighter and more detailed. Of course there’s no such thing as
a flying hare - I know that - but that’s not going to stop me writing a story about one!
Another senior moment, or a flash of creative genius?
I'd been planning my spring cleaning campaign for weeks, drawing up a mental list of all the jobs that needed doing in the house and garden, but I kept putting off the actual work because the weather was too cold and wet. Then, last Sunday, I heard the magic words: dry and sunny for the next three days!
I spent Monday and Tuesday enthusiastically washing, dusting, polishing, sorting out and re-arranging. I was so pleased at how well I was doing that I even decided to paint the garden fence. With hindsight, I realise this wasn't such a good idea ...
As the weather forecaster predicted, May Day was beautifully warm and sunny - but I was in no state to enjoy it. Every joint and muscle hurt, including all those I'd forgotten I had. Walking was agony, sitting was uncomfortable, and simple tasks like making a cup of tea had me groaning with pain.
I thought I'd try to do some writing to take my mind of all the aches and twinges. I usually begin a new month by ticking off the goals I achieved during the previous month (if any!) and making a new list for the coming month. Problem is, I can only think of one thing I really need to do - get fit!
At least the garden's looking good and most of the house is clean and tidy. I still have to tackle the back bedroom but you can see on my other blog why I'm leaving that till last.
I've been a fan of Adele's music ever since I first heard her, but my admiration went up several notches recently when I read she's turned down a large sum of money to write her autobiography. What a sensible young woman!
Celebrity biographies may be a good source of income for publishers, ghostwriters, celebrities and their agents, but I do agree with Adele that, at the age of 24, she really is too young to start penning her life story.
Have you written your autobiography? Do you plan to? What do you think is a good age to tackle such a project?
I did it! I managed to get three paintings finished, framed
and delivered to the Realitas Community Arts Centre in time for their weekend
Art Education Fair. (If you click on the Realitas link to find out more you
don’t have to sign in to Facebook – just close the sign-in box)
I know my paintings are far from perfect, but believe
me they’re a big improvement on my first efforts just over a year ago! I’m so
pleased I managed to find the courage to join the art group and ‘have a go’.
I succeeded with the February Write1Sub1 challenge by writing a new children’s short story (but haven’t decided where to send it yet), and submitting the adult short story I wrote in January to the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook competition. I also started another short story and managed quite a lot of work on my novel.
My writing to-do list for March is equally ambitious but I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to tick everything off. A major distraction is looming …
The amateur art group that I belong to has been offered some exhibition space in the wonderful Realitas Arts Centre. We’ve got just three weeks to produce three paintings each – properly mounted and framed – to be put on public display. I don’t think any of my past efforts are good enough so I’m going to have to spend a lot less time at the computer and a lot more at the easel!
There wasn’t any mingling – my Word of the Week post below
was just wishful thinking – but I did get a little glimpse of the celebrity
lifestyle when I was presented with my prize for coming joint third in the 2012 A.Vogel Dormeasan ShortStory Competition.
I was invited to go to Bourne (Lincolnshire) where I met David
Shepherd from the company that sponsored the competition. I had my photo taken as I received a cheque and goody bag
and, as it would have been a bit of an anticlimax to go straight back home
afterwards, I gave myself the rest of the day off. I enjoyed a leisurely look round
the town, did a bit of shopping, and treated my chauffeur/personal assistant
(otherwise known as husband) to lunch.
It begins when I least expect it. I’m hanging out the
washing, leafing through a magazine, standing in the queue at the Post Office
or making a cup of tea when suddenly, there you are. And you’re amazing. You’re
beautiful, perfect, the one I’ve been searching for all these years.
I want to shout out Yes! Yes! Yes! and tell the whole world
about you. I want to introduce you to my friends, invite you to dinner with my
family, parade you through town, but I’m afraid that if I show too much eagerness,
too soon, I might scare you away. My heart is pounding and I’m floating several
inches above the ground but I keep the delicious secret to myself. You are the
first thing I think about when I wake in the morning, I can’t concentrate on
anything else all day and, if I’m lucky, you’ll be haunting my dreams.
Slowly, I approach you. I need to find out everything about
you. I try to make it sound like a casual conversation but I can’t help asking:
What if? How do you feel? What happened in your past? Every answer delights me
and draws me closer. Then comes that magical moment when we hold hands and gaze
into each other’s eyes. I allow my own feelings and experiences to mingle with
yours, and I know that together we can create something remarkable.
We settle into the comfortable routine of dating. We meet
whenever we can, enjoy each other’s company and make plans for the future. I’m
still besotted with you, but now my feet are firmly on the ground. I know
exactly where I want to take you. It doesn’t occur to me that you might have
I can’t pinpoint the moment it starts to go wrong. One day,
I look at you and see that you’re not quite as wonderful as I once thought. I
still like you, still care about you, but now I have to admit that you’re not
really so special. You’re not much different from all the others. In fact,
you’re quite ordinary.
I don’t give up easily. I smile and carry on for a while,
hoping to find some way of re-igniting the spark. Perhaps if I can persuade you
to change …. Anything’s worth trying, isn’t it?
We come to the end of our journey together. I can’t pretend
any longer. ‘I’m sorry,’ I say. ‘It’s not you, it’s me.’ I give you one last
hug, promise to remain friends, and set you free with my best wishes. I really
do hope someone else will find you; someone who’ll recognise that unique
quality that I saw in you, someone who will be able to overlook your flaws and
love you just as you are.
So here I am, on my own again and deciding it’s time to
change. This is the end, I tell myself. I’m going to stop wasting all my time
and energy on pursuing an impossible quest. From now on, I’ll live a sensible,
And, a few days later, I’m hanging out the washing or
leafing through a magazine when, suddenly, I feel a presence … Oh, yes! This is
most definitely going to be THE ONE!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Are you in love with writing? Are you still enjoying the honeymoon
period? Or contemplating divorce?
I’m trying to write a story to enter in the Choc Lit Short Story Competition. I began by jotting down a few vague ideas but I wasn’t very
impressed with any of them. I decided I needed to tackle the problem
systematically and that meant doing some in-depth research. I went to my
favourite coffee shop and instead of my usual coffee I ordered a large hot
chocolate with cream and chocolate sprinkles. (If a thing’s worth doing it’s
worth doing properly.)
‘I’m writing a variation on the classic love triangle plot,’
said the romantic novelist. ‘It’s about a girl who can’t decide which of three
young men she loves the most. I’m calling it a rhomboid. Get it? Rom
boyed?Like a rom com only with more
(Yes, I'm cringing too. Sorry, I’m hoping normal service will be resumed
when the snow’s gone! See my previous WOW)
I’ve just finished reading a novel that was on the
bestseller lists not long ago. Sadly, I found the most positive thing about it was that it turned out to be a good choice for bedtime reading: two or three pages each
night and I was fast asleep. The plot was predictable, the characters
unremarkable, but I kept turning the pages hoping it might improve. I
After plodding on to the boring end I re-read the blurb on
the cover that had attracted my attention to this book in the first place. It
included quotes from well-known writers and critics featuring words
like superb, remarkable and brilliant.
Of course all readers and reviewers have different tastes,
and one person’s literary masterpiece is another’s mediocre potboiler, but I
couldn’t help wondering if some of these adjectives had either been taken
completely out of context or had been accidentally attributed to the wrong
So what words would I like to see on the jacket of my
novel if it's ever published? How about superb, remarkable and
brilliant? Now all I have to do is make sure the story inside the covers lives
up to the hype!
The problem with New Year Resolutions is that it only takes
one slip to break them.
You resolve to adopt a healthy diet, and then find a box of
chocolates left over from Christmas …
You resolve to write 1,000 words a day, but on the first day
the sun’s shining so you go for a walk first, and have a potter round the
garden, and then it’s time for lunch …
I much prefer to start a new year by writing down a list of
goals I hope to achieve over the next 12 months. Some are specific (I will finish
that novel!); others are vaguer (I’ll try to read more modern poetry).
If a writing goal doesn’t already have a deadline attached
to it, I’ll add one. I also put a start date on some projects because I tend to
waste a lot of time thinking about what I want to write instead of actually
sitting down and putting words on paper or computer. The important thing is
that most of these dates are flexible, so if I’m a day or two late I don’t feel
that I’ve failed.
But I’m always looking for ways to be more productive so
this year I’ve accepted the Write 1 Sub 1 monthly challenge. The idea is to
write and submit one new story each month. There is also a weekly challenge for
more ambitious writers.
Do you make resolutions or aim for goals? Do you have any
tips or tricks for keeping on track?