Posts Tagged ‘writing tools’

This week I had yet another bug (and we haven’t even got into the winter cold season yet!) which wiped me out for a few evenings. Hopefully I’ve seen the back of that now but it was a reminder that it only takes a few days to lose the writing habit.

In order to cheer myself up a little I invested in some new writing tools – a book of short exercises which I will be able to do in my lunchtimes (unlike the plot and structure ones which require longer sessions) and a big pack of pens in lots of different colours which I can use to mark up my output. I like to use colour as a tool in presenting ideas, as it can be useful at identifying themes and patterns.

Never let it be said you can have too many of either!!

It’s not all doom any gloom on the writing front though – I have done some writing exercises this week, trying to work out both Fred’s next move and whether there is any life left in the crime story I was working on before I got ill in the summer.

I have not really wanted to pick that one up again because I feel so removed from it, but the characters were interesting. I am considering keeping them and the setting, but building a new story around them.

I would like to do that. As there was a degree of confusion in my key character already – she wasn’t sure whether she trusted her perception of events – I think there is scope to change the storyline and bring a different outcome to bear without losing her voice or her sense of disequilibrium.

However, I know from my mistakes before I have to work hard at the planning stage – so daytime exercises will be generating ideas and imagery, evenings will be spent shuffling things around and seeing what has possibilities by leaning more heavily on my plot and structure tools.

Only when I have a full, strong, narrative will I actually start the writing phase. It’s like decorating a house – you have to do the prep work first!

So this week has been a little slow, but useful; next week I need to step it up a gear.

Happy writing,

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Firstly, I must apologise for the lack of a Thursday post. I got caught up in a lot of things this week and never got around to sharing anything. I thought about doing something on Friday but the moment passed and now it’s Sunday so there’s no point trying to catch it up!

Now that’s out of the way…

I was reading last week’s post about Fred needing an outing and this week he has had a little adventure. For reasons best left in the Jurassic period where Fred currently resides, he is running away from a huge fire and has just shared his plan for survival with a very patronising adult who keeps patting him on the head.

Despite the temerity of this adult Fred is nevertheless willing to help out and get everyone to safety, even if no-one realises he is playing any part in the rescue efforts…

I scrapped his trip to Stonehenge though.  He wasn’t enjoying the journey and is going to a zoo instead…

What I had also intended to do this week was to set myself some writing exercises to build on the work I have done regarding plot and structure. That hasn’t worked out as I planned and I need to set it up better. The suggestion is to set aside an hour each week for an individual task on generating plotting ideas. In a few weeks I’d look at what I’d got and dispose of the rubbish and keep anything with possibilities. I want to do it but I have not had a quiet, uninterrupted time to do it this week.

I will make one next week, even if I have to unplug the phone!

In other news – I am seriously considering another writing course, possibly focussed on editing through to (self?) publication. I have thought a lot about why my completed novel hasn’t been picked up by an agent and a big part of me thinks I need to put that idea aside and move on. However, the part of me that thinks a dream should be pursued thinks I should do what I need to do to get there.

Anyway, to cut a long story short I found a course with seemingly very good reviews which is designed to help students pull a manuscript into the best possible order – so whether the book is traditionally or self published it is as professionally edited and presented as possible.

It’s not the cheapest course but I was prepared to spend money on learning for fun so it seems silly to begrudge spending to achieve a dream.

I will do some more research and see if this is the best option for me and let you know!

Until next time,
Happy writing,

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It’s the last day of my break now and I’m a little sad that I am back to work tomorrow. It’s been very restful even with going away for a few days but tomorrow it’ll all go back to normal.

I have to admit Fred hasn’t travelled much with me, and is languishing somewhere near Stonehenge but I have been reading about plot and structure as well as tackling some novels. I wasn’t going to read them but sitting down with a coffee on a squishy chair isn’t as relaxing when you’re reading a text book…

I am about to start re-reading the plot and structure book because it is filled with exercises I want to try out, but that is for next week’s post!

It’s been a useful exercise to revisit some basics though. When I write I tend to fall into certain patterns and behaviours, and the book should help with stripping out the bad behaviours and focussing on a cleaner, more precise, narrative flow.

As importantly, it gives me tools to check the narrative itself – specifically whether it is strong enough to be the foundation of a novel. That is a discipline I need to work on, now more than ever due to my restricted writing time.

The other thing I have been doing is getting back to photography. I went to a couple of Medieval religious buildings and duly paid for photography permits so I could at least attempt to record some of what I saw.

At it was Remembrance Day on the 11 November the buildings were dressed with poppies, which is always a poignant reminder of how history shapes our experience of life, especially when is buildings that have stood for so long.

The last couple of weeks have definitely been more about theory than practice, but I don’t think that is a bad thing for me. I just have to remember that Fred needs a bit of an outing too!

Happy Writing,

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I said on Sunday that my reading this week would be textbooks and guides to help me get back on the writing track. It’s a little like studying, only without a set book list…

I am currently reading a book called ‘Plot and Structure‘ by James Scott Bell. I have read it before but as planning is where I need to focus my writing development it seemed a good place to start. I clearly need to take more from it this time!

There is of course no way to review it in the usual sense, and I haven’t finished revisiting it, but so far it seems very practical, which I need.

This type of reading will replace novels for a little while – but I am happy to share my views of the writing guides instead, if you are interested – just let me know in the comments.

Happy reading,

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This week has been a little less about writing, and a little more about realistic goals – but over the course of the evening a writing plan has started to emerge, and it’s given my literary spirits a boost.

I happened to pop onto my twitter account for the first time in about a week, to see a message there from a writing group friend of mine.

I won’t give you all the details but the upshot was that we are both languishing in writing limbo, and need a nudge in the right direction.

So the starting point of the plan is for us to agree some writing dates when we meet up at group this week coming. On those afternoons/evenings we meet up, we will write. Maybe talk about what we’re writing too, of course, but primarily sit and write.

It’ll be like having a gym friend who makes you exercise when you want to stay in and eat chocolate! Plus when I’m writing I can eat chocolate 😉

My phase two is to acknowledge that I have the tools I need to write, and to use them. That means my reading materials this week are going to be textbooks, guides, exercises etc – all to get me thinking about how to reboot my work.

Phase three is to set myself a target of 10,000 words to get me to the end of Fred’s story so I can finish it and put it aside for later editing.

Phase four is to review all the crime novel work I have done, archive the unsuccessful bits and pull together the best so I can build a new story with more confidence in it – a story I hope will be planned (not written; I need to get back to basics I think) by Christmas.

However, the most important element of my new plan is to relax about my output.  I need to stop putting pressure on myself and focus on why writing is a joy and I love doing it; to let myself have a bit of fun with it.

Expectations can have benefits, or they can undermine your confidence when you don’t meet them.  When everything in life is a little crowded it is too easy to feel I haven’t done what I should.  I make it worse by telling you what I’ll do, too!

But there is no agent phoning me, no editor demanding my time.  I am my own timekeeper so I can set my own rules.  And for now, my rules are to be a little more kind to myself and to enjoy the process of putting pen to paper.

Happy writing,

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I said at the weekend I hadn’t done any reading so you will no doubt be utterly amazed to find out there is no book review this week.

I can give you all sorts of detail on public surveys, newspaper editing, food fads and project planning but it’s not quite what this blog is supposed to be about…

I really am off target with my reading and writing life right now. I need to sit down and have a good strong word with myself because I haven’t come this far to let it slide into the background.

So this week I need your advice. How do you keep your creative life on track when the realities of work and community or social life leave your time slipping away from you?

How can I get back to where I should be?

Any help gratefully received!

Happy reading,

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I said on Sunday that I would swap my posts around so here is my writing update…

It’s not much of one, to be honest. Fred now has a list of times and places to travel to but I am still working on exactly what he will discover at each of his stops. I already have a few plans but they need fleshing out which I aim to do soon.

I also have to write a marketing blurb for a friend’s memoirs – they are extremely interesting and I want to do them justice.

Finally I have an article to write about our writing group which is changing format soon…

My problem at the moment is actually sitting down to write. It’s a big couple of weeks at work – the project I have been working on for a year is coming to fruition, and it’s pretty hectic.

But hopefully in a couple of weeks it will calm down, and if all I do until then is plan, it’s not a disaster.

Quite honestly, it feels like this year has been against me from start to finish so anything I produce, I’ll be satisfied!

And that is all I have time for today.  I said it wasn’t much of an update, didn’t I?!

Happy writing,

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This post would probably make a better Thursday post so for this week I’ll swap them about and give you a writing update then.  I just felt the need to write about this straight away!

Today I read one of those articles that makes me think about the nature of writing.

It was an interview with Rachel Cusk, whose writing notoriety comes of a very personal telling of the story of her divorce.

There were three specific points that struck me: that the line between fact and fiction is a murky one; that writers should not accept not being liked; that life as a writer is lonely and unsettled.

Obviously the third is a personal experience and not one all writers would subscribe to, but the idea of planning for a couple of years then going into isolation to write for a month does have its attractions 🙂  I think my biggest writing failure is lack of planning, so if I were to learn anything from Cusk it would be to do more of this, and the reality of my experience is that when I don’t plan sufficiently, I have a great start to a story but fizzle out in the middle.

However, for me as an individual, cutting myself off and being distant rather than friendly seems unnatural – I am definitely a people person!  So maybe the take-away is to accept that time alone is beneficial and learn to build it in as long as it suits me.

The second is as much about having a thick skin as anything else but is also about how much of a shared experience it is reasonable to use in your work without the agreement of the other parties.  It’s tied closely into the first, which is what really interested me: where does the line between fact and fiction start?

To me it’s simple – a real event or experience, a real story of a real person, is fact.  You can muddle the edges a little, change the weather or the setting, but it’s still that person’s story.

However, in reality it’s not quite as easy to define because our fictions are built from a million personal experiences.  We are inspired by overheard conversations, or newspaper articles: I am a great fan of writing in my notebook when something piques my interest, and all these things can be seen as a muddying of the waters.

My underlying belief is that if someone I know/know of can identify themself and their story in my work, I have not written a ‘proper’ fiction.

Of course, I am specifically trying to keep the fact and the fiction apart.  One quote of Cusk’s that really made me think was this:

“The idea of fiction or non-fiction to me has become so meaningless,” she says. “Saying, is this ‘true’? I’m surprised people care. I definitely don’t.”

(quote from telegraph.co.uk; 1 October 2016)

This line of thought sits much more appropriately in my poetry, where truth is as I see and feel it.  Poetry is my place to tell my story.  Not all the poems are inhabited by real people or experiences but they have flickered as ideas in my mind as a a result of things I have heard or seen.  They have met a need to process my emotions or experiences.

Fiction is not a place where I tell my own story.  It’s a place where I tell the story I want to read, the one I want to share – and that is a profound difference in my eyes.

As a writer it’s important to consider why I have such strong feelings about that line, and why I worry about crossing it.  At the core of it, I think it’s because I consider things from the human point of view first – I consider the individual and the impact my work will have on them – and the narrative second.

Does that make me silence my writing voice sometimes?  Probably; but it’s the choice I made and the only one I feel comfortable with.  Poetry exists as a half-way house of my vision of an indistinct world but even there the other players are shadowy and indistinct enough to be unrecognisable to the outside world.

For me it comes down to a different truth than Cusk’s; in my truth there has to be a line between fiction and non-fiction, if only so a writer can decide whether they are willing to cross it.

Fundamentally, it’s about the morality of writing – and the only guidance we have on that is the legal framework, and ourselves.

Let me know what you think…

Happy writing,



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At any given time, if someone were able to see my thoughts in my head, they would see a lot of jumbled up, interconnected, falling over each other thoughts. I feel like I have a lot in my head and that’s why it is so joyful when I can siphon it off onto paper.

I suspect we are all like this to one degree or another, and could all do with a mental mute button every so often.

As a writer, I like to record some of these ad hoc rambling thoughts: not only because they might spark an idea in the future but because they link seemingly arbitrary concepts in a way that only happens subconsciously.

It is funny how our neurons fire up; sometimes I almost think I can feel it, like a million tiny sparks of light linking one moment to another.

I have talked before about the value of the notebook in these times and it’s definitely a useful writing tool.

Of course, some thoughts bubble up that are much more challenging for one reason or another. These situations feed my poetry but it takes a while sometimes to look back at it, and it generally produces work that I feel unwilling to share in open mike events or at readings.

For me, the most difficult to share are about loss. But even with these thoughts my neurons can prod me into an unexpected direction; I guess because the sadness is a direct result of happier times before.

The point really is to say that thoughts can get in the way of what we think we need to do.  But perhaps, if we can treat them differently, they can be a conduit to getting to an altogether unexpected destination.

And maybe that’s where our brains wanted us to go in the first place!

Happy Writing,

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This week has been a bit of a blogging fail – I was a day late for Tuesday, missed Thursdays altogether and I have about five minutes to pull something into a vaguely post-like form now before heading on to the next thing on my to do list.

So I’m taking the easy option and sharing a song with you.

I try not to think too much about the fact that in another part of the world it’s about to be spring, because here and now it’s started to become very autumnal and it makes my head hurt!

The last of the British summer is slowly fading in the falling of leaves and the harvesting of the crops, and we are settling into a new pattern of longer nights, earlier twilights and later sunrises.

But those warm days are not entirely over yet!  This song has the perfect end-of-summer feel for me – it fits my mood very nicely and I can see it becoming a bit of a favourite to get me towards Halloween 🙂

Hopefully I’ll be a bit better with my time management next week and get some actual writing-related blogs out but until then, enjoy the changing of the seasons whichever you are heading into – it’s a wonderful time to think about where you want the next few months to take you.

Happy writing,



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