Tag Archives: creative writing

Want to know what I write in my Morning Pages? Here you go… #amwriting

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Welcome to my weekly ‘Diary of a hopeful author.’ Here’s a sneak peak into what I write in my Morning Pages…

I’m off for a while. A break. A small one, but it gets to a point sometimes – and I don’t know whether you find this – that you need a wee bit of time away from technology and the day job and just, well, chill.

So for the next few weeks, that’s me – trying to clear my mind. But, as a writer, I’ll have with me my pen and notebook, scribbling my morning pages in the shadow of big, snowy mountains. Morning pages to me are a bit of a saviour. I know I’ve written about them before – and you may have tried them yourself – but it really helps to write in the morning anything that enters into you head. It’s therapeutic I find, a way of keeping the drama on the page – a way of listening to what you have to say. And that’s what writing is about, essentially – listening.

So, I thought I’d let you have a sneak peek into what walks out of my head on to the page some mornings. Unsurprisingly, I end up writing a lot about the day time, the rise of it, the sun and all that entails. Here, below,  for you, is an unedited copy of what I wrote a few days ago when I woke up at 6am, downing strong coffee. It’s basically painting a picture with words of what I could literally see from the window that day, the weather, the feelings it created, ears and eyes open, listening to the words that wanted to speak.

Here’s to us and our glorious morning pages. Have a great few weeks. I’ll catch up with you soon  🙂

My Morning Pages, March 26th, 2016

“A halo of blue light rests on the horizon beyond, a thin silk band of shimmering brightness, fragile under the burgeoning weight of the heavy, grey clouds above.

Morning has begun. But the sun is quiet. Hidden behind an artist’s wash of black and navy and marbled pewter, the sun struggles to punch out, settling, instead, to whisper through the sky, to skim paint brushes of buttercup yellow in small, secret lines across the horizon.

The trees that stand tall at the bottom of the garden are still. A gentle wind breathing in and out, they appear relatively untouched by the looming rain that threatens to charge from above, the birches and the ancient oaks saluting the morning as solid and stoic as perhaps an old grandfather would, medals on his chest in the face of an unwelcome intruder.

The rain comes now, tapping at the window panes. Only a few seconds pass until, clouds parting in biblical waves, it lashes down in great big streaks across the glass and the concrete and the petals of leaves that scatter along unpruned borders, squirrels huddling in bowing groups under the wide umbrellas of the trees.

The sky, right now, has morphed to a dirty dish cloth wash,  a soup of wet and damp and upturned, pungent soil. And yet, even through all this, the birds sing. They announce their presence through short, intermittent voices, small radio transmissions of song and sound, their dedication to the day. Light, carefree, their dance to the sun that lies kidnapped behind mottled, clotted clouds.

And as they sing, one slip of blue sky sneaks past. One glorious, warm ray.  It blinkers bright,  a single slither of pure determination, of defiance and rebellion as if shouting, ‘Come what may, the day will win!’ For, of course, it always does.”

Thanks for reading 🙂 Share your own thoughts from your own Morning Pages below…

How to keep going in the face of rejection… #amwriting

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Welcome to my weekly ‘Diary of a hopeful author.’ This week it’s all about rejection and how to keep going when you really don’t want to. 

There are days in writing when things suck. You get up after having, some weeks before, sent out your writing for people to read, ever in the hope that you’ll get somewhere. But then despite your best efforts, they get back to you and you read their letter and it’s a no. You have received that dreaded rejection note (again) and you are, basically, gutted.

This has happened to me. It’s happened to loads of authors out there, it’s happened to J.K. Rowling. We hear, as writers, a lot about rejection, don’t we? Almost as much as we hear about writers’ block. But while for writers’ block there are many pieces of advice out there to help us overcome it, writers’ rejection is an area of where advice is sparse.

That’s why when I saw this tweet by amazing children’s author Abi Elphinstone on her own rejection experience and how she handled it, I had to share it. Because rejection is hard, but read this and you’ll see that it is also good. Because it creates a steel and a grit that will set you up for a long time to come. And help you keep going when times get tough.

So, over to Abi Elphinstone and her take on rejection… And good luck with your own writing 🙂

2 years ago my only contact with literary agents had been rejection letters. 96 of them in fact. And I REALLY want unpublished writers to remember that amidst the inevitable frenzy of my Book2 tweets’ next week I am an author who has been turned down by nearly every agent in the UK. It’s clearly not something to boast about, but that 7-year struggle, though painful, lonely & frequently embarrassing, taught me far more about joy & determination (not just in writing, but in life) than any of my good fortune ever has.
Because inside every person who faces rejection, there grows a quiet grit. It doesn’t mean I boogie when I get a 1* review on GoodReads or miss an award longlist – but the quiet grit I learnt back then means I feel an unconquerable joy at every little thing that goes right. Disappointing days stay firmly in perspective & I’d take that hard-won grit & joy over an easy book deal any day. So keep going, keep writing, & know that if I pulled through you can too.

Abi Elphinstone’s latest book, The Shadow Keeper is out now.

Thanks for reading 🙂 Join in the writing conversation  below…

What being a published author is REALLY like… #amwriting

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Welcome to my weekly ‘Diary of a hopeful author.’ Hello! How the devil are you? I’m (finally) back after a winter of editing with a post that tells you, with utter honesty, about, for me, what it’s really like being a published author…

I was going to write about the merits of editing. Pen in hand, I was poised after a long winter of absence from my blog due to a looming deadline, about how nothing needs to be, in your writing, perfect when you first get it to the page.

But that’s not going to happen. I am, instead, going to speak to you about, well, what I’ve found being an author is like.

Don’t get me wrong – being an author is, in the most part, I have discovered, great. But, as in life and other walks of work, there are times when the wall you build to stay strong buckles and the stormy sea beyond threatens to flood what’s on the other side completely.

When I began as an author, got my publishing deal, I naively thought, “Awesome! Job done!’ except it wasn’t, not by a long shot. See, despite so much planning from all involved in putting a book on the market, things don’t always work out quite as you wanted. Sometimes they take longer, sometimes they may not happen at all, but still, you have to deal with comments  such as, ‘Oh, you’re going to go global,’ (Hold your horses); ‘You’ll be the next JK Rowling,’ (only one JK); ‘Why aren’t you on the bestsellers list yet?’ (yup, had that Q a few times) or (and I get this one a LOT, face to face) ‘How are book sales?’(Eeek!)  And without doubt, people are well meaning, but I never wanted to raise anyone’s hopes too much in the first place because being an author is damn competitive, man, I mean, tough, tough stuff.  Consider this: in the UK alone, over the course of 2014, publishers released 20 new books per hour, meaning that the UK published more books per inhabitant than anywhere else in the world.

And so there’s never any guarantee, no matter how cracking a novel you’ve written, that it’s all going to take off. And when it doesn’t, I cannot tell you how gutting that feeling is – you feel personally responsible, somehow, despite the large team around you, you even start, as I have done on occasions, to doubt your ability to even write (daft now when I say it, but it can be a strong feeling for writers at times) But then you remind yourself why you love writing, pick yourself up, look at what’s going well (my novel’s going down a storm in France and is to be published in over ten languages) and try and carry right on.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I love my job, but yeah, like anything – and despite how awesome it may appear from the outside – there are no guarantees and sometimes it kicks you down. Careless comments, working straight through the night for a deadline (twice last week for me. Twice), not knowing quite how to push yourself out there any more than you already are, taking on too much ‘cos you think it might help, writing for free, watching others doing so well and being so, so genuinely chuffed for them, yet at the same time being just a wee bit sad for yourself.

Yep, it’s a rollercoaster, I’ve discovered, but, even though I never envisaged it would be quite this challenging, it’s one that I’m willing to ride.

And boy have I met some amazing people on the way, other authors especially, a whole bunch of us now who have each others’ backs and who I know I could turn to let off steam with at any time and, well, have a bloody good laugh (and a beer) with.

See, writing, authoring (if that’s a word – is now…) or any career really – it can be bloody amazing one minute and a proper downer the next, but, as the great Dolly Parton once said, if you want to see the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain. Well said, Dolly well said. I’m off to fetch my umbrella… 🙂

Thanks for reading 🙂 Join in the writing conversation  below…

How to find your writing voice… #amwriting

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Welcome to my weekly ‘Diary of a hopeful author.’ This week it’s all about finding your own writing ‘voice’.

I come from a background of regulation, working wise, that is. Embroiled in a world of statistics and focus groups and set patterned deadlines, my mind asserts that things should be done certain way at times, to a particular timescale. And while this approach, this attitude, if you will, was very handy in the domain of marketing, turns out it’s not quite so hot on a permanent basis for creative writing.

And so to my week and my utterly paralysed writing. I am, see, in the middle of an edit. Book two of my trilogy and way before this stage I assumed I had it all figured out – plot, characters development. The lot. And yes, while these things are definitely moulded, what a great (my) editor does, I am discovering, is take what you’ve got and help fine tune it in ways you never thought possible.

With my head in a muddle, it was only when I went away for the weekend, away from not only my laptop, but from my routine, from statistical head, really, that I realised I had been applying my old marketing work ethos to my writing. I was, in effect, attempting to ‘statistically analyse’ the merits of my edit changes. It came down to this: I had lost my voice. I was forcing words and ideas into my mouth without them actually being mine. It was not genuine. It was not,  I realised as I journeyed up the M4 home, me.

So, Monday morning and I asked myself this: was I writing from my gut? The answer, when I made myself admit it, was no. It was a light-being-switched-on moment. It was not me, that voice I was trying to shoehorn into the edit, but something else, my statistical head, maybe, who knew. But no amount of economics degrees or results analysis were going to help me, because I had been censoring myself, restricting, without realising, my own voice. It was not coming from inside.

We all find this, us writers. Do you find this? We think we should, see, write perfectly straight off the bat, forcing our words into a mould because we think that’s what should be written, that’s what people expect. And the result? The work we produce when we write like this is not true, not us, instead it is someone else’s and, the irony is, that when that happens, the result ain’t good.

So what to do? Well, you can, as I did this week, get into your true writing mojo mode by asking yourself a series of simple, honest questions. Honesty is the key here…

To find your voice, ask and answer these questions:

  • What I would really like to say is…
  • What am I frightened of is…
  • It would be great fun to say…
  • If no one was reading my work, I would really write about…

We all get a confidence knock from time to time – hell knows I do – but these questions to ourselves help. You may have one answer to them, you may have several, but the single thing you’ll most certainly end up with is the true key to who you are and what you write. In short,  you’ll end up with your voice 🙂

Thanks for reading 🙂 Join in the writing conversation  below…

So, this is the first ever short story I’ve ever read aloud… #FridayReads

fiction-fridayWelcome to Fiction Friday. This week it’s a short story that came Runner Up in the Wotton Arts Festival short story comp…

A couple of years back before I not only got published, but even bagged an agent, I entered the Wotton Arts Short Story competition – and came runner-up. It was an exciting moment and, in fact, later that month I decided to throw myself into writing an idea for a thriller – that idea was for  Subject 375 and the Project trilogy.

Anyhoo, I read the story out at a short story event in Stroud last Sunday and, not only was it the first time I’d read any of my short stories aloud, it was quite a poignant, emotional thing to do given the year I won, I decided to try to get published. It brought that whole year back.

So, here you go, this Friday, my short…

“The woman who walked to school”

When Margaret turned up at the school gates, she couldn’t remember how she’d got there. She knew she had walked, always had; but no, that wasn’t it. She simply couldn’t recall the journey.

The village where she lived was a holding area for commuters, families and people with lives. On a Monday, Margaret would watch them from her lounge window and wonder what they were doing, where they were going. She always imagined they had busy, important things to do; doctors, lawyers, teachers. She would get up, flip on the kettle and check the time. She used to have a life. And now? Now it was as if the world was carrying on without her.

Grassmore Village was postcard-perfect, with the Church at its heart. Her name down on the helper rota, Margaret walked to Church with Thomas about twice a week to give the place a quick vacuum, but, with Thomas now a toddler and into everything, she found it hard to keep up, his endless investigations into hymn books, trees and dog poo, exhausting. When she saw the other mothers outside school, she imagined

Rural field with views to St. Michaels Church in the Cotswolds village of Broadway, Worcestershire, England, United Kingdom, Europe

they never had to deal with a child brandishing a stick of dog muck at them. These mothers arrived glistening, polished and utterly protected from mud and nature, their high heels un-scuffed, their fingernails shining and their hair styled. They somehow reminded Margaret of fresh candy floss – sweet, pink and popular. These women were so composed, so well managed, so…together. They were also together as a group. Every summer’s day they would converse with each other at the gates in fresh, delicate words, words so beautifully blended that if she could pop one in her mouth she imagined it would taste of the lightest lemon mouse. The group was something that Margaret felt, with her frayed skirt, greying hair and baggy t-shirt, she could never be a part of. Ironic, she thought, that this is what it had come to. It almost made her laugh. In her teens, Margaret used to be something of a popular girl at school, not too showy or tarty, but simply pretty, bright and fun. And, now here she was, at school once more, watching the other pretty, bright, fun ones and wishing she were one of them.

The morning when the Vicar first asked her to prepare the soup for the Friends of the Church lunch, Margaret thought he was joking. Do the soup with a toddler in tow? She’d end up wearing the soup, not eating it. Yet the idea, as she soon discovered, was not for her to actually eat any of the soup herself, but to prepare it at home, transport it to the Church and serve it. She wanted to say no. She wanted to tell the Vicar where he could shove his soup. Yet, saying no was hard for Margaret, and so, when she agreed to help, her shoulders dropped and her heart sank. This was her life.

And so it was that on a summer’s morning Margaret found herself entombed inside the Church, shivering and heaving a bucket-sized pot of vegetable soup into the serving area. With Thomas already playing cars on the floor, she side stepped a Matchbox Ford and promptly dropped her bag, the contents spilling to the floor. For a moment she just stood, clutching the soup. She looked at her things: a hair band, a bus ticket, broken breadsticks, nappies, biscuit crumbs, fluff from the carpet at home, tractor books. This was her, these were the items that represented her, who she was, what she was about. When she saw the other mums’ handbags, all soft leather, buckles and brand names, she knew those bags would hold items that kept each owner individual: a bit of Chanel here, a new scarf there, a mobile phone holding a lively social calendar. To Margaret, those women, they were still themselves. But, who was she?

            At the end of the soup lunch, Margaret was exhausted. She’d served and cleaned, and all with one eye on Thomas, who, in his two-year-old wisdom, had decided that the Church was his new racetrack. To her surprise, no one helped. At not one time did any of the Friends, including the Vicar, offer to assist Margaret with the serving or keep an eye on Thomas for her. By the end, her forehead was damp, her hair wild and her stomach rumbling. ‘Oh,’ the women said, smiling as they rose to leave, opening the Church doors, the July sunshine flooding in, ‘that turned out so well, so easy. We must do it again. We raised £75.’ ‘Yes,’ they all agreed, pleased. ‘What a success, let’s do this again.’ Margaret could by now only manage a weak smile and a nod, but, as she popped Thomas on the potty before she began the washing up, she watched the women bustle out and realised she had a choice. She realised that she didn’t have to do this anymore.

From that day, Margaret tried to make herself feel a little better. Like an amnesia sufferer experiencing flashbacks, from time to time she would recall snippets of her former self. She would remember how she used pay regular visits to the hairdresser, how she’d have long, candlelit baths, how her diary would be well thumbed and overused, how she’d meet her husband for drinks in a bar after work just because it was fun.

Wiping Weetabix from her sleeve, the following Monday Margaret began her usual journey to school. This week it was ‘Walk to School Week’, and she was always mildly intrigued to see the usual 4x4s and sharp tailoring replaced with weather-ready wellies and battered brollies. Margaret watched as these glamazons marched their offspring to school with their heads held high and their make up in place. If the day was sunny, out would come their floaty maxi dresses, Birkenstocks and cashmere cardigans, all the time with Margaret watching them, pulling at her t-shirt wishing she has hidden at home.

            So, it was during this week, when Margaret was scuttling to and from school, that Thomas happened to step on the hem of the dress of one of the glamorous mothers.

‘Oh, my, I’m so, so sorry. Thomas! Here, let me,’ Margaret said to the woman, reaching to wipe the dress.

‘Please, no. Thank you,’ replied the mother. Margaret stepped back. ‘I’m Helen, by the way,’ the mother said, holding out her hand. Margaret squinted in the sun and propped her hand on her brow.

‘I’m sorry,’ Helen said, ‘I didn’t ask your name.’

‘Margaret,’ said Margaret, thinking how the woman’s voice was all chocolate soufflé. Hers, she thought, was more of an upside down cake.

The two shook hands. ‘Well, nice to meet you,’ said Helen who began to walk away, then, hesitating turned back. ‘Look, Margaret, we’re having a summer party at our place in a fortnight. 16th July. Just a few drinks, barbeque, that type of thing. It’s eight until late. You should come.’

Margaret smiled; she suddenly felt light-headed.

‘Um, I think I have something with my address’, said Helen, rummaging through her bag. ‘Ah.’ She pulled out a card and handed it to Margaret. ‘This is us. Address is on there. Please do come, your other half, too. Would be simply lovely to get to know you, have a chat.’

Margaret gazed at the card with its gold lettering. ‘Oh, um, yes,’ she said, looking up. ‘Yes, I’d…well, I’d love to, thank you.’ Thomas pulled at Helen’s dress. Margaret took his hand.

Helen smiled. ‘Isn’t he a poppet? Well, nice to meet you.’

Margaret grasped Thomas’ fist. ‘Yes,’ she smiled, ‘nice to meet you, too.’

            For the next week, Margaret felt as if she were floating like one of those maxi dresses in the breeze. While she couldn’t bring herself to stand and have a full conversation with the glamorous group, on Tuesday, she did manage to smile at them. On Wednesday, she looked in the mirror and reached for the hairbrush. On Thursday she popped on some blusher. And on Friday she slipped on a dress. Mercifully, Thomas had now begun nursery, so, after walk-to-school week was over, one morning a week, Margaret had a window of freedom for herself. But, first, she just had the Church vacuuming to do.

‘Ah, Maggie,’ said the Vicar when he saw her, ‘just the person.’

‘Hello.’

‘I wondered,’ he said, ‘if you could host and serve at the annual visit by the Bishop? We’re all very excited! It would only be for the evening,’ he smiled, ‘and you do do it so well.’

Margaret pulled her cardigan tight. ‘Um, which evening is it?’

‘Let me see now…Ah yes, Saturday. 16th July. That alright?’

Helen’s party. Margaret felt her heart race. ‘Um, I’ll have to check my diary. I think I may have…Well, I may something on.’

His face dropped. ‘Oh. Oh, of course. We may struggle without you though, Maggie. You’re a real shoulder to lean on.’ And with that, he left Margaret to her vacuuming.

            No energy left in her, Margaret switched off the machine and let out a breath. It sounded daft, she supposed, but was this the way it was always going to be? Was she forever to be viewed as a shoulder to lean on? A doormat? Yes, everyone could rely on her. Yes, she found it hard to say no, found it hard to walk away from people and situations when help was needed. But sometimes…sometimes she just wished it wasn’t always so. She had never asked for any help, even at the hardest of times. When her husband was ill in hospital, when her kids where sick and she was out of milk and bread, or when she was struggling to come to terms with the death of her father – she would simply cry herself to sleep. She wasn’t a shoulder to lean on; she was a mound of jelly to be squashed with one thud.

            Saturday 16th July came and went and Margaret stayed at home. She called Helen and sent her apologies, and she contacted the Vicar and said she was sick. In a way she was. While she didn’t like to lie, she knew she couldn’t face anyone. She was fed up; fed up of her life as it was. Something had to give. As the final week of the school summer term came to a close, Monday morning popped up again and Margaret closed the door to walk to school. Once at the gates and the eldest waved off, Margaret was picking up Thomas when she heard footsteps running up behind her.

‘Margaret!’ came a breathless voice.

Margaret turned. Helen stood, shoulders heaving, bag slid to her arm.

‘So glad I caught you!’ said Helen, fanning her face. ‘God, I’m so unfit. I’m so sorry you couldn’t make it to the party. How you feeling now? Better? God, heels are hell.’

Margaret tucked a hair behind her ear. ‘I’m okay, thank you. I’m better.’ She popped Thomas on to her hip.

‘Oh good,’ said Helen. ‘Look, a few of us are going for a coffee. Fancy joining us?’

‘Um…’ Margaret squeezed Thomas close. Coffee? Her?

‘Oh,’ said Helen, taking this for rejection, ‘sorry, you must be so busy. We always marvel how you’re so energetic, all that walking and so patient with the kids and Church. We’re all in awe of you.’

Margaret frowned. ‘Really?’

Helen nodded. ‘Yes. That’s why we’ve never really plucked up the nerve to talk to you. Sounds daft, doesn’t it? God, I’m sorry. It’s just you seem so,’ she searched for the word, ‘together.’

Margaret let out a laugh.

Helen laughed, too. ‘So, fancy a quick coffee? Bring Thomas?’

Margaret smiled. ‘That would be lovely.’ And so, with the morning sun on her back, Margaret, for the first time, headed off from school for coffee and a chat with the group of mums.

 

How to increase your writing productivity… #amwriting

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Welcome to my weekly ‘Diary of a hopeful author.’ This week it’s all about how taking time out can make you more productive…

I’m in the middle of an edit and I have come to a halt. Fuggy, brain a ball of cotton wool, I have stopped and wondered what on earth is up with me. Why can’t I think straight, I ask myself? I have been sitting at this laptop working non-stop, the writing was good, but now? Now it’s dried up, a well that’s empty of water.

And then I realised: my well, yep, the fact that it was empty – that was my problem. See, as writers, when we get on a working roll, we don’t often want to halt. ‘I can’t stop now,’ we say, ‘I’m in the middle of writing.’ But, I’ve discovered along the way since I got published, that to really be productive, you have to step back when times are busy. We get, we do, see, one eye on the end product. ‘I want a book at the end of this, a succesful one!’ It’s what we think, often obsess on, and that can be our down fall. We wind up loving the end product rather than the process of writing itself.

Here’s the rub: to write, we have to love writing, and to write well, we need to step back from it. That means taking ‘writer’s time’, a day here and there when we go out, somewhere new, refill our well, as it were. Because we need to look up, that blink in the sunshine to remind us about life, because it is life that we draw from to write with, to imagine from.

So, if you’re stuck like I was this week, in a fug after working so great before, step away from the laptop and get out. Breathe in some air, run, go to an art gallery, a museum, the seaside (yes, please!) – anywhere you fancy. Sure, you’ll have a moment of panic where you think you should really be working to hit that deadline, but trust me, by taking some writer’s time, you’ll come back more refreshed, more (without a doubt) productive on the page. Your mojo will return.

What more could we want, hey? Going out for a day and calling it work? Not a bad gig, this writer’s life 😉

Happy writing 🙂

Thanks for reading 🙂 Join in the writing conversation  below…

How get your story back on track… #amwriting #NaNoWriMo

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Welcome to my weekly ‘Diary of a hopeful author.’ This week it’s all about reconnecting to the main message of your story via your plot and thesis…

Ok, so, today, for me, it’s all about two words: thesis and plot. I say these two things because, right now I am facing a very important edit of the second book in my thriller trilogy, working with my, frankly, awesome editor, and something has cropped up, something that is crucial not only to my writing, but all story writing. Yep, it’s the two words I mentioned above. And if you are either editing your work right now, are in the middle of a first draft or simply planning, listen up.

A thesis in a story is what the author is saying about the book summarised in one sentence. For example: crime doesn’t pay, love conquers all etc. My thesis for book two is: The truth will out.  Now, here’s the rub: the thesis is the most vital part of a book and is what holds the attention of an editor and reader throughout the book and beyond. Try this: think of your fave novel – what made it stick in your head for so long? What was it saying to you? That is the thesis talking.

Often, as writers, we focus on the plot and while that’s crucial, it is often done at the detriment of the thesis. I have found, as we all often do, that, in the sea of writing, I forget, sometimes, my thesis, forget to communicate what my book is trying to say. And when that happens, it all goes wobbly.

So what to do? Well, that’s the easy part, because you see, the function of the plot is to communicate the thesis of your book. And that’s it. Do that, and your story will have coherence. Don’t do that, don’t communicate the thesis via the plot and your story will simply be a string of events with minimum significance outside the drama of the narrative you’ve created. This means that when you create a plot development, bear in mind your thesis and only include it if it is underpinning your thesis. If not, it is a piece of bark floating in a sea, unconnected to anything else – and it has to go.

So, today, that’s my advice to you – and to myself. Always check in with your thesis. Ask yourself, ‘What is my book trying to say? Is my plot communicating that thesis to the reader?’ Sometimes you may find you’re on the right track, others, like now with me, you may discover you need to steer the ship back on course. And it doesn’t half feel good when you get on the right route again.

So that’s me, today, steering my writing ship, trying to communicate, through my plot, what on earth my novel is trying to say underneath, between those black and white lines. Simple, right..?

Thanks for reading 🙂 Join in the writing conversation  below…

How to find more time to write… #amwriting #NaNoWriMo

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Welcome to my weekly ‘Diary of a hopeful author.’ This week it’s all about finding the time to write…

There was a time when I used to think writing was something you had to make an occasion of. I would sit, ready at the table in some formal ‘study’ and wait to write, wait for the inspiration to come. Sure, okay, sometimes the words would flow, other times?  Well, it’d be a brick wall in front of my mind, solid, impenetrable.

For a long time, when my kids were young, that’s how I would write. I was very serious back then. If I was going to do this writing lark, I thought to myself, I was going to do it (in a way that I assumed) was properly. We have this idea in our minds, don’t we, of writers, of what a ‘proper writer’ is, but despite that, despite my mind’s eye of what a real writer should do and look like and act, despite attempting (in vain) to emulate that dreamt up image, something was not working, kept getting in the way. That thing was life.

Life in all its multi-shaped guises has no room, see, for formality, not really when you think about it. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably have a day job, maybe even a family and definitely the washing to put on, the bins to put out, never mind the more modern day distractions of cell phones and apps and Facebook et al.

Yep, that’s life. And so, as writers we use that, that hectic, hurried time-sucking life – we use it to hide behind. It’s our wall. ‘Oh, life is so busy,’ we wail. ‘I don’t possibly have time to write.’ We think, you see, when we say this that, as I used to believe, writing should be, rather like a grand meal, a formal sit down occasion.

But here’s, after painful processing, what I have realized along my own journey: you can write anywhere, any time – even standing up while the spuds boil. See, life, while mad as cheese, is something else too: generous. We just have to take it up on its offer and snatch moments to write when we can. So, I started to be on the hunt for those snippets of time, eager to see what I could grab and use.

Pen and paper always near or sometimes the laptop close by, I began to slowly squeeze writing into the small gaps in my life: a few minutes while the kettle was brewing; 30, 40 minutes while the kids were still asleep in the morning; 10 minutes before I ran out the door; a good hour or so at the kitchen table before dinner and friends. More and more, I squashed in my writing into, around, on top of my life, any which way, in the end, would do. I found I took delight in it all, in the spontaneous action of it, in seeing where I could write, how, sitting or standing, it didn’t matter.

And do you know what? It worked. Not only did I start to get more done, but my writing was more honest, too, somehow more fluid. Perhaps it was because, in between emptying the bins out and fishing a toy train out of the loo, I didn’t have time to over think what I was writing. I just wrote.

And that’s what I still do today, even at this ‘been published’ stage. Sure, I have a study with more time now to dedicate to writing, but still ingrained in me when the days get busy and booked up, is the compulsion to shoehorn a bit of writing into the crevices of my life whenever I find a free space.

So, if you’re finding yourself saying you are too busy to write, if you think you have an image of a ‘proper writer’, put all that aside, take out your pen and, when you get a moment, simply write. It’s that simple. Because 10 minutes here, an hour there – it all adds up. And, before you know it, without even realizing, you’re something you’ve always wanted to be: you’re a writer.

Happy writing 🙂

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