Archive for the ‘Studies’ Category

This week, as is usual now, my writing time focussed on poems for the wedding.

I am happy with some much improved ones and am excited that the writing mojo seems to have come back, although still worried about the timescale.  I think about it a little like an assignment in that I can only do the best I can do, in the time available.  I cannot seek – nor will I ever find – perfection, and I have to remind myself sometimes!

But despite the practical elements, it has been really great to dig out poetry books and read (of course I do read poems on occasion, sometimes even my own but you know what I mean!).  This has been a prolonged study, sitting and identifying what works, what doesn’t work, what words cause a reaction.  What, in effect, sums up the feelings I wish to convey, in the most successful way possible.

Writing is perpetual growth, and even though my mind is scattered and my time is frenetic, I can feel my writing developing as I work.

I am more aware now of the language I choose to use for this project, of the joys and shared happiness I want to convey.  I am exploring a writing side of me that has never really been aired (I don’t write romance in any form, really) and I am getting a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction from it.

That I am doing it for my partner, and our family and friends, makes it even more special.

And finally – this week it’s book 56 on the list – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  It’s been many years since I read this but I do know I really enjoyed it – not perhaps quite as much as 1984 but a lot more than many other things I have read!  This is definitely on my list of books to re-read, if for no other reason than I feel it deserves to be considered from a different time and place in my life, and not as a direct follow-on from other dystopian stories.

Weirdly I feel a little nervous that, as with 1984, there will be a little too much that’s recognisable for me when I look again.

A short post today, I know – but it’s found me full of joy in writing, and that’s always a good place to be 🙂

Happy writing,








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This weekend I have been at my university reunion, so I have really done very little in the way of writing, but an awful lot in the way of reminiscing.  I have also been confronted with the way time has passed, and how many years have disappeared behind me since my student days!

Time flies


This picture was taken during a particular trip down memory lane.  It’s about as I remember things 🙂

Thinking back about all the funny, stupid, childish and fabulous days has really reminded me about the joy of shared experiences and the way that life informs comedy. I said a long time ago that I’d like to write something funny, and this weekend has given me a push to write down a few ideas in a dedicated notebook so I can come back to it when life is less frenetic and overwhelming.

The other thing that I was forcefully reminded of was how long it’s been since I did any proper studying – it was a gap in my life when I was working and sadly I’ve put it to one side again as a result of everything I’ve got on, but I know that the studies inform and affect my writing so I want to get back to them as soon as I can too.

At this rate, December will be frenetic trying to make up for every missed opportunity to write or study sine July!!

In other news – this week’s book is 51: The  Great Gatsby, by F Scott Fitzgerald.  I already shared my views on this one and I haven’t changed my mind over time.  The story hasn’t really stayed with me except in the sense of frustration, so I will simply say it’s not to my taste and leave it there.  It’s quite fun to know I read a book from the list as part of my challenge, before the book appeared though; it makes me feel that my choices were less random than I thought!

And finally – I saw this article about using a reverse book club to help write a book.  To my mind, that makes the others contributors but that’s my sense of justice for you!  I like the idea of chatting about things and talking through the trickier areas but I don’t see writing as a risk-minimising venture – it’s the risk you have to take with it that tests your willingness to keep on at it, I think.  I would be interested to know if others feel the same…

I am off to recover from my weekend now, so until next time,

Happy writing,



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As  a break today, I decided to flick through a book of quotes by writers, called ‘The Wit and Wisdom of Great Writers’.  I don’t know about you, but I often find these quotes, when taken out of context, less inspiring than perhaps they first appeared.  Context is often key.

Having said that, I found one today that I wanted to share.  The quote was in a speech made by Rudyard Kipling, in 1923:

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind

I’ve been coming back to this quote since I read it, and I still don’t know how I feel about it.  Are words really like drugs?  Or is it more accurate to say writers long to fill their worlds with them, collect them like a philatelist collects stamps, or a numismatist collects currency?  Is there even a word for collectors of words, of language?  Dictionarist, Lexiconist?

So many questions, so little chance to know.  All I can do is share my thoughts as they are, right now.

Words are like gemstones.  We start with rough chunks, and we polish them to make them shine.  Each word in our language – whatever language we speak – has been hewn from our past and presented to us like a gift.  Sometimes new gems are found, and we polish them for future generations.

We string words together into shining, shimmering ropes of language.  They are our currency and our trade, as writers; they are what we bequeath to others.

If all that sounds a little melodramatic for you, I hope you can at least agree with one point: words need to be displayed to their advantage, so people can see the best of them.


In the book challenge, I’ve read three this week, so am building up a little cushion in case I come across another Moby Dick that takes ages and never gets finished!

Book 7 – The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins.  This seemed really long – it took about 12 hours to finish which is quite long for me – although I’m not sure how long it is in its physical form.  Another one from the 100 Best Books list, it was quite fun, a little overlong, but neat and tidy at the end.  The multiple viewpoint characters meant that some parts were more enjoyable for me than others, but it was worth reading even if I never do so again!

Book 8 – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving.  Ok, this was a bit of a cheat as it’s a short story, but after The Moonstone I wanted something short!  This was fun, and entertaining,  and not much of a ghost story, at least to me – it seemed more satire than anything else.  Enjoyable, and my interpretation was that it was very tongue in cheek.

Book 9 – The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde.  Another play, and in typical Oscar Wilde fashion the conversations were sparky and vaguely ridiculous, the characters drawn cleverly in just a few lines.  I can imagine the giggles in a theatre, watching this performed; it made me smile.  Short, and sweet.

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After Thursday’s decision, I’ve started my research and planning for my alternative book 2. This involves me reading a number of books about writing.

Although I enjoy writing and find it extremely fulfilling and engaging, it is also a serious academic subject in many ways.

The more advice and techniques I can read about, hear about, absorb and utilise, the stronger my writing will become.  That’s the theory anyway.  So I invest in guides and theories and exercise-filled textbooks, like any good student.

But – and this is the big question – how do you know if the book you read about books is actually any good?  Just as we’ve all read novels we think are badly written and poorly constructed, who can say whether a non-fiction will be badly put-together or, basically, a load of rubbish?

You can’t trust the reviews: people can pay others to give their books reviews, you know, and my internal cynic can’t put this information to one side.  You can’t really glean anything from the write-up in terms of quality or tone of advice.  All you can do is bite the bullet and buy.  Or download.  Or borrow.

But no writer I know wants to borrow all their advisory tomes.  They want them to read and re-read, to flip through when they (or their characters) have an existential crisis.  They want to hold them like life rafts when their plot is going southwards.

So what do you do?  Well, what I do is this: I buy advice on specialisms.  I mucked up my plotting – so I have a book to read about plotting and structure.  I am attempting a specific genre – so I buy a book about writing in that genre.  I want to think outside the box – I buy a book with lots of different inspiration-expanding exercises in it.

Are all the books giving good advice?  Not necessarily, but they all teach me something I didn’t know so they all have value in that sense.

One thing that has really helped me is thinking about how I would study a piece of writing – remembering the elements we were taught to identify, such as themes, motifs, imagery and so on.  The things that give books depth and identity are the same things we need to consider in our own work.  That is not to say we should write artificially, adding unnecessary elements – more that we should consider why these things worked for a particular story, and if they would work in our own.

So, as writers, we need to be both readers, and students; both producers and researchers.  Without that we can miss a fracture-point in our work which will be its undoing.  Sadly I missed that in my woods novel; I hope to fix it in the future but for now will have to learn my lesson and move on.

In other news – book 16 of the 100 best novels is ‘The Scarlet Letter’; I read it as a teenager and in all honesty I don’t think I enjoyed it that much.  It seemed rather staid to someone living in the modern age, and perhaps it’s worth revisiting as an adult with a greater sense of history.  It is interesting to me that my perception of certain books has turned 180 degrees since my teens – whereas others I love consistently!

Also – I was reading an article about copyright regarding Sherlock Holmes and associated characters.  I won’t go into my views on copyright which are convoluted and changeable, but it is a reminder that our work outlives us, as writers – so protect it!

And finally – I’ve just booked to go away on a retreat again, which I am very much looking forward to doing.  I am hoping to start writing the new novel then; so I’d best get on with my research!

Happy writing,



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I’m going to be very British and talk about the weather briefly.  With ice storms in  Canada, extreme snowfall in the US, floods and gales in the UK and a heatwave in Australia, plus who knows what other environmental issues to face, I hope everyone is keeping safe and as warm/cool as they need.  Take care of yourselves and those around you.

Other than worrying about flooding and a few blown down trees, this week has been about getting back into the habit of writing.

I’ve been working on book two, but also had a foray into another idea I wrote down last year, based on a dream I had (it’s not exactly Frankenstein, but it has potential!).  It’s not ideal to work on two at once so I’m going to carry on with book 2 but prepare to explore the other idea more extensively once this draft of book 2 is done.

In fact, I’ve even ordered a new reference book for it!  I already know I want to approach it differently from the first two – it is a complicated idea and I haven’t fleshed out some of the transitions so I’ll need to do that, but I want a full, in-depth plan before I start.  So many of the issues I have had with book 2 are due to my decisions about planning and writing in a particular way, I want to see how things work when I try an alternative path.

Besides, if I’m got to work then my writing time needs to be far more structured than it is at the moment – I can’t write at three in the morning, or space my writing time out throughout the day, so I need to make the time I do have more practical.

I know many of you work full-time and write – how do you organise your time?

In other news – the 100 best novels is up to number 15 – David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens.  I grew up in an area almost overwhelmed by Charles Dickens references, but I have never enjoyed his writing and have barely made it through any of his work.  When I was little I found Oliver Twist – well, more specifically the musical Oliver! with Oliver Reed’s Bill Sykes and (spoiler) the scene of Nancy’s death – incredibly scary, and this put me off reading that book.  Since then I have read Martin Chuzzlewit (which  I can’t remember at all) and tried to read Great Expectations, giving up on many occasions.  I enjoy watching good adaptations, such as the recent Little Dorrit, but will happily admit to not wanting to read Dickens again at the moment.

I’m hoping for a more favourable next book!

Also – my next round of courses is due to start shortly – although they may be a step too far time-wise, I am looking forward to getting back into learning!

And finally – as the Christmas decorations come down, and the tinsel is packed away for another 11.5 months, I have decided it is time to start developing a plan of action for the next few months – I love a plan, and with work beckoning I need to make sure writing is both regular and focussed.  So look out for a few deadlines being set in the next few weeks.

I’ll leave it there for now – it is raining hard and very windy so I’ll post this whilst my electricity and broadband are still fully functional.

Until next time – happy writing,



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Ah, King Lear. I studied this play at school and really disliked it, and yet some of the lines come to mind very readily…

The reason this particular quote has surfaced is that I’m sitting waiting for high winds that have been forecast over parts of the UK.  I can already hear the howling noises so am hoping I get this posted early in case we lose power tonight!

This week has been another one of those up and down ones, and a lot of my writing time has been very administrative – editing, filing, formatting, reorganising, submitting and so on.  I am struggling to get to grips with editing book two, and am ignoring the two courses I should be doing – ignoring them studiously, actually!  Everything has seemed so fragmented that just spending a few hours archiving old poetry drafts seemed a good way to get some work done without having to focus too much on anything in particular.  My friend and I have also discussed a music and poetry performance for Christmas, so I’ve considered which pieces of poetry might work for that.

But I have to get a grip on book 2.  I have a target of the end of November, and about 130 pages to read.  I am rearranging so much that there will be significant amounts of new writing, and I have barely scratched the surface, with 5 weeks to go.  I can’t focus on the courses now – I un-enrolled from one and will make a decision about the other in the next few days.  If I can watch a few videos and feel they are useful, I’ll stay on the course but if not, I’ll un-enroll from that too. It’s frustrating and disappointing, but it’s been a really challenging few weeks and quite honestly, I think trying to do two new courses on top of everything else means nothing will get the attention it needs.

So I am setting myself a new plan of action.  I will go through – correcting and revising – 30 pages of book two each week until I am done.  I have 5 weeks so there’s 20 extra pages of contingency; if I fall one or two behind I’ve got a bit of leeway.  This will be my personal NaNo, and rather than aiming for a word count I’ll work on edited pages.

I want to get this done before I lose faith in my ability to salvage the strong core of the work – wish me luck!

In other news – well, I lured you here with Shakespeare so I thought I’d better go back to him!  I read this article about Shakespeare being performed in schools.  I love the idea of plays being treated as plays – they are, after all, written to be seen and heard.  If you’ve read Shakespeare and never enjoyed it, watch a performance and see if it changes your perception.  The worst thing that’ll happen is you get an afternoon/evening of theatre or film!

And finally – we’re onto book 5 in the 100 best novels and it’s another one I’ve never read.  I am not doing very well with this list at all.  Roll on next week, let’s see if I can tick one off!

That’s it for today – I’m off to find some candles and torches just in case…

Until next time,

Happy writing,



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I knew it would happen one day – I forgot completely that it was Sunday and just as Midnight came and Monday rolled in, I realised I should have written a blog post for you.

So I did what any self-respecting writer would do, and I scrabbled around trying to make 400 words out of thin air.  And I give you – the week that was…

  • I did some editing of the novel (hurrah!) and some more poetry (yee ha!)
  • I went to open mike night (cool!) and got an agency rejection (boo!)
  • I missed the start of my new course (hmm!) and got some boring paperwork done (phew!)

There was lots more to it, of course – but these were the writing-related things that I can remember.

Editing was fine, although I haven’t looked at the manuscript for longer than I thought so it was a bit hard to get back into the flow.  The poetry was and will be fine – I am comfortable with the idea that it’ll change over time and that’s quite exciting to me actually, to see changes in my life blend with my older poetry to give it a different tone.

I won’t say much about the open mike as I spoke about it on Thursday – except to say it was a good night out regardless of my own readings!

The agency rejection wasn’t upsetting – I have zoned out in a way, as there’s nothing I can do to change minds.  I do need to send the book out to another couple of agents this week though.  Meanwhile, the poetry gives me my own little lifestyle and I quite enjoy that.  As it’s not something I expect to publish, I am considering self-publishing a small pamphlet to sell at any performances; I’ve seen it done before and I think it’ll be a sensible thing to do for a small expenditure.  I’ll be setting up a separate blog for that too, eventually.

The course will be a loss if I don’t do it, as it’s about writing historical fiction; it’s a way back into my first NaNo piece or my book 4 (was 3) which is set in 1950s, I think…

And the paperwork was paperwork.  There’s not a lot more to say about it than that!

So there you go – a mixed bag of a week but the next one starts here!

In other news – My travels through the 100 best novels has reached number 4 – ‘Clarissa’.  So far I have read none of the books, but I do remember seeing this on TV in my youth: it must have affected me more than I realised as so much of the story came to mind when I saw this book on the list.  To be honest, I am extremely unlikely to read this one.  Better luck next time, I hope…

As it’s so very, very late I’ll leave it there for tonight – let me know if you’ve read the book though, I’ll be interested to know if my memory of the story is as accurate as I think.  Or, indeed, if it was a good adaptation.

Happy writing,



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