New Year Resolutions: Top 10 Advice for Writers

Happy New Year All!

I’m not normally one for resolutions. “The way to Hell is paved with good intentions,” my mother used to say. So I figured there wasn’t much point, since I am pretty rubbish at the whole self-discipline thing.

However, I do feel somewhat obliged to make some changes, regardless. Naturally, the gym will have to feature, following the eating, drinking and generally being far too merry over the festive period.

The main feature of my resolutions will be writing-related though. I am on the brink of self-publishing some adult material for the kindle which is very exciting. I’d also like to make some significant progress with my novel over the course of this year.

It strikes me that many of you will be in the same position and therefore, some advice wouldn’t go amiss at this point, but rather than expect you to listen to me, I have sought snippets of wisdom from some of the greatest writers to help us. Read on…

 

1. Stephen King (Grammar and Composition)

Stephen has written a whole book about writing here but there are a few more tips specifically on a more technical note on this wonderful website: http://grammar.about.com/od/advicefromthepros/a/StephenKingWriting.htm. I particularly like the paragraph about avoiding adverbs. If you need to describe a verb, you’re not using the correct one.

2. Elizabeth Gilbert

Having had the privilege of meeting this lovely lady and one of my favourite authors right now, I am thrilled that Liz offers her own advice to aspiring authors here. She has been dedicated to her craft from a very young age, much younger than me. She also tells us that self-forgiveness is more important for a writer than discipline: “Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it.” I am constantly setting myself ridiculously low targets that I still seem to fail to achieve. Liz’s advice is that this really doesn’t matter. You’ll get there in the end. I like that.

3. Ernest Hemingway

In this article about Hemingway, he talks more about the actual practice of writing. As I start writing my novel this year, I plan to use his tactic of only stopping when I know what will happen next. I have found while writing my short stories that it seems to work best to write it all in one go, but this won’t be possible with a novel for obvious reasons.

4. Mark Twain

Quotations by Mark Twain seem to litter the internet like cigarette stubs in an overflowing ashtray (although altogether more appealing). This article picks out the ones related to writing so you don’t have to wade through the mire. Point number 8 about avoiding verbosity is one which I will remember. It is tempting to use grandiose language in the false belief that it will enhance your work. In fact, it makes the prose sound less authentic so should be avoided. I guess the exception would be if this was a particular trait in one of your characters. The wonderful example of Mrs Malaprop in Sheridan’s The Rivals springs to mind!

5. Anais Nin

The final piece I have chosen is a little more abstract. As a deeply emotional person myself, this article struck a chord. I firmly believe that writing should move people, regardless of the genre. Horror stories seek to frighten, to shock and horrify, for example. I always try and show emotion in my writing because for me, when I read a book, I want to be swept up and carried along on a tidal wave. If I have to reach for  a tissue when I’m reading a book, I consider the author to have been successful. I only hope I can do the same.

 ~~~

Whether you are a writer or not, I wish you all the best of luck for your endeavours in 2014. Onwards and upwards!

 

Merry Christmas Everyone!

So, here we are. I’ve arrived in West Cumbria, chez Mama and Papa, amid severe gales and showers of both sleet and hail. To make matters worse,  the distraught feline on the back seat made her displeasure all too obvious by howling for most of the journey.

So tempers were frayed to start with, before I learned that my father’s broadband connection has been reset and so the network and password data on the back of his router is useless. Cue a phone call to TALKTALK to get it all sorted.

Now, I am not the most patient person in the world as it is. So, I consider today to have been a triumph, since I have not lost my temper with anyone yet. However, it’s only just gone dark. There’s plenty of time before bed!

So, as I settle into a Christmas with my family, as I’m sure many of you will be doing, it’s time to reflect on a year of success for my fledgling writing career. And also to look forward to how it will likely leap forward in 2014.

By far, one of the most wonderful experiences was my first week at Swanwick which I shall treasure forever. Meeting so many talented writers and being immersed in a literary world was such an inspiration. Certainly, it gave me confidence and courage to write more than before and with a more determined purpose.

Visiting authors at book tours has also become an inspirational pastime which I look forward to doing much more of in 2014. Both Elizabeth Gilbert and Mark Forsyth have given me food for thought about my next steps into the world of authoring.

I have been writing my short stories which, as many of you know, will be published under my pseudonym sometime in January. One of my tasks over the holidays is to browse through thousands of book covers to choose just the right ones for my stories.

All very exciting stuff for someone who, less than twelve months ago, didn’t know whether this was just a passing phase that I would get bored of eventually. Although I do still get moments of self-doubt, as I believe most writers do from time to time, I believe I’ve made great progress this year.

So, if you’re a dedicated follower of this blog, first of all I’d like to say a huge “Thank you!” and also give you a taster of what’s to come in the next few months.

Short stories published for the kindle and available through Amazon only to start with. Watch this space or check my Facebook page () for details.

I’m off to Brittany in France for a writing retreat at Easter, another in Rome in June and then Swanwick again in August to top up on inspiration and meet up with my writing friends.

I also plan to be developing a website for my alter ego to help promote my kindle stories so look out for more on that. So, with that and continuing this blog, I shall be a very busy lady.

Finally, I have this novel which has been swimming around in my head for a while and really needs to get onto the page. So, there’ll be more work on that from to time.

So, all that remains is for me to wish you and all your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year 2014!

Exeter Writing Retreat

One of the most wonderful things I have gained by joining the Urban Writers’ website (http://www.urbanwritersretreat.co.uk/) is a community of fellow writers, all experiencing the same problems and insecurities as me.

This is very important, since writers by their very nature, tend to be rather solitary. When I sit down to write, I must have no distractions. No TV or music and, especially, no chatter. Almost any noise (including hungry cat meows) is enough to put me off my pen strokes.

However, it’s surprising how easy it is to become distracted by all sorts of things. One can quickly gain experience in the Black Art of Procrastination, suddenly getting an urge to grab the hoover and do a bit of tidying round the house. And I am not a tidy person, trust me. All this home-making lark does not come naturally to me.

So, imagine my excitement when I spotted a retreat in Exeter where I could escape the house for a day. I packed my laptop, my fountain pen, spare cartidges, my notebooks and off I went. (Click here for more info.)

The weather was gorgeous when I got there. It was easily the sunniest day of the year so far. I found my way around the city, parked up and went to the venue to meet my fellow writers.

There were five of us altogether, including the lady who runs these things. We kicked off at around 10.30 and I left around 5pm. We had a half hour or so for a lunch break where we discussed our projects. One lady turned up all excited as she had just had her story accepted for publication. We were all thrilled for her.

In that time, I managed to create 3 characters for my novel and write an entire 3000-word short story, albeit a first draft. In short, I managed to accomplish more in that day, than I had done previously in perhaps two weeks.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to be able to drive down to Exeter every month. It’s a fair old distance from my place and therefore quite a long drive.

However, they do offer online retreats too, which I may well partake of in the near future. I look forward to catching up with my new-found writing friends.

Writing Bootcamp Progress

For those of you following my writing progress carefully, you will remember that after the completion of my college course, I subscribed to an online ‘Bootcamp’ called Get Writing!

Since we’re now fully entrenched in week two of the course, I thought I’d update you with some progress.

Each day, there are writing prompts. They started off at just 5 minutes; this week, we’ve progressed to 10 minute slots of time. On the whole, I’ve found them a great deal of fun, and I usually manage 300+ words of free writing, which is great.

There are also weekly exercises which consist of entering ideas into our Inspiration Notebooks and using the motivational tools that the tutor has introduced throughout the week.

Apparently, by the end of the 4-week course, we will have completed a short story, which I’m really excited about.

Aside from following the writing prompts on the course, I’m shaping ideas for some short stories in my head. I’m also thinking it’s about time I started getting some of these onto paper and getting them finished and ready for submission to magazines.

My subscription to Writing Magazine is helping hugely in this regard. My first edition arrived in the post towards the end of last week and I’ve been dipping into it now and then. Imagine my delight when I saw classified adverts asking for short story submissions into magazines and publishing houses.

Watch this space for news of my first acceptance.

Online Creative Writing Courses

There’s rather a lot going on in my life at the moment.

My partner and I have just moved house, so a lot of my possessions (including most of my books) are still in boxes and strewn in various locations about the new home.

There’s also been a change to my full-time job. I have moved departments so I’m working with a different bunch of people on a different project.

Far more relevant to my blog, however, is the small fact that my college course in Creative Writing will shortly be coming to an end, and I do feel a little sad about it if I’m honest.

There will be a gap in my life on Wednesday evenings when I would usually be driving to college to sit and discuss the finer points of writing. I shall miss our lively little bunch with all the variety of personalities and their contributions to the topics we have covered.

I have learnt a great deal during the short 10-week course, and I feel it would be a travesty to allow all that learning to go to waste.

So, the other day I decided to have a look at some of the courses on offer online to see if there was anything suitable. There is quite a bewildering selection available.

There are a number of freebies, even from reputable establishments such as the Open University. The OU has a free study arena named OpenLearn which offers modules to be studied in isolation rather than as part of a larger course. Unfortunately, nothing there really took my fancy but have a browse and see what you think: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/culture/literature-and-creative-writing/creative-writing.

I have done a course from Writing Bliss before (see my previous post here) but I really want to go for something different, and preferably with some feedback, or at least some kind of interaction, rather than going it alone.

It seems this kind of service will have to paid for. (Who was I kidding that I’d get that kind of thing for free?!)

After a few days of perusing, I was down to a choice of two: The Writing Forge (http://writingforge.co.uk/moduleoutlines.asp) and the UK Writers’ College (http://www.ukwriterscollege.co.uk/shop.html). Then, out of the blue, my partner pointed me in the direction of the “Get Writing! Online Bootcamp” (http://www.urbanwritersretreat.co.uk/get-writing-online-bootcamp/) so I’ve decided to give that one a go.

According to the site it consist of small daily writing tasks, access to a private forum of fellow writers, access to online retreats (not sure yet how they’re going to work) and larger weekly exercises. By the end of the course, apparently, I should have completed a whole short story, which sounds great.

So, I’ve paid my dues and I’m really looking forward to it. In the meantime, I’ve decided to spend my Easter break reviewing some of my old material which I haven’t looked at in months. Standby for some posts about the joys of editing your own work…!

Writing Competition Entry

I have great ideas and I can imagine them in my head. I am even good at putting pen to paper and making a captivating start to a story.

My problem lies in continuing the plot and seeing it through until the end. Often I get an idea and I struggle to get even a plan onto paper before it vanishes out of my head.

Is it possible the problem is my memory? It is true that now I am 40, some less tactful friends have made comments about early onset dementia.

Perhaps my mind is in chaos? My demanding job can be stressful at times and this does not help.

What I crave is time to unwind and relax prior to a writing session. A quiet place in my head is all I need. A room of one’s own, so to speak.

 

(This is my entry to win an online writing bootcamp from Urban Writers’ Retreat – http://tinyurl.com/bootcomp.)