Monday, 30 November 2015

Full Speed to Christmas...

Only 25 days to go...

Despite saying last year I'd start my Christmas shopping and card writing early, I haven't.

Honestly, the last months creeps up on you, and you wake up one Monday morning (today) and realise the countdown to Christmas has begun!!!

Though every time I cross something off my to do list, another task gets added.

My shredder has stopped working- so I've got to chase up the manufacturer- as it's not a year old yet. But of course, it happens when there's old, old paperwork to be cleared out.

I have a final few things to do for Awards Night on Wednesday. There's competition entries to be returned to members, along with the comments from the judges. So I have to sort them out.

It's always pleasing to look around the meeting room and notice a writer motionless, their head bent over their manuscript reading the comments, while around them there's noise and movement that they're oblivious to. Then when they look up there's a smile of pleasant surprise, that even though they didn't win they can work on improving the piece.

Until the New Year I'll be posting weekly- as I need to fit in all those regular Christmas tasks over the next 3 weeks.

If you've been doing NaNoWriMo, congratulations. Even if you didn't reach the target amount by today, 30th November, you'll still have learnt a lot from it, and have a story with potential waiting to be discovered.

Right, I'm off to get on with that list... :D

Monday, 23 November 2015

My Review of 2015...

Where has this year gone?

In just over a month it will be Christmas again. I'm now a year older, but let's forget about that...:D

Looking back at my 2014 review, I've checked what I intended for 2015.

I did complete the first draft of my contemporary romance, but it hasn't yet been revised and submitted.

I have now got back to my 'historical' first draft so I've started the second draft a month ahead of last year's plan.

So what have I done in 2015?

January: The presentation of the NWC, Mary Street Romance Shield- from my win that was announced at the 2014 Awards Night (December 2014). Plus booking a few future events.

February: Attended the online virtual romance festival #Romance2015- in early February across Facebook, and Twitter, though I didn't get to the Google Hangouts option.

March: I finally got busy, getting Pinterest organised. I bought my domain name and applied it to the blog, and also bought the domain name for Serena (though I wasn't using it straight away). Then the last weekend was the Writing East Midlands Conference; that was a busy and very interesting Saturday.

April: After a temporary health setback I made progress with my contemporary story (the one I'd won with in December 2014).

May: Mid-May I guest posted on the Womag writers blog discussing joining the ALCS. The payment is a great boost to writers even if they only have a few qualifying items. I also became one of the co-hosts for #writingchat on a Wednesday evening on Twitter (8-9 pm each week).

June: That means The Lowdham Book Festival, and fortunately I had volunteers to help me with the writers' club stall. I was also able to meet writer friend Ana Salote in person too.

July: This was Serena month. I took the big step of setting up a website/blog for my pseudonym, and as I already had a domain name waiting for me- bought back in March- it didn't take too long to get up and running. (It's still an ongoing project.)

August: This was my wonderful trip over to visit the Pickford's House Museum of Georgian Life and Historic Costume, in Derby. I had a few moments where I saw-in reality- images that my mind had conjured up some months before for my Nottinghamshire story.

September: I finally got to visit The Bromley House Subscription Library, during the annual Heritage Open Day weekend. Like my August visit, it provided useful answers to my research questions.

October: Submitted my entry into the Love Stories New Talent competition. I didn't give myself enough time for this, as I was working on getting my contemporary romance first draft finished, and as a consequence I didn't get anywhere with the New Talent competition. A lot of the remainder of the month was taken up by the Sci-fi night at the writers' club. But I did write 'the end' on my contemporary romance first draft on the 29th October. :-)

November: Birthdays- and yes I do mean plural. :D I've also been getting the final results in ready for this year's awards night at the writers' club; plus doing some of the organising for the Christmas party afterwards. Most importantly I've started the second draft of the Nottinghamshire story.

December: It will be busy and fun I'm sure.

There's quite a few other bits and pieces across the year, and I always learn from them.

As 2016 is the next Mary Street competition, my brain has an idea bubbling, but I'm not going to allow it to take over like the contemporary romance did.

I need to give some time to Serena's website and blog.

As in previous years, I'm going to be open to writing opportunities that may appear, and any research possibilities. I think my trip to Dorchester will be put off until 2017.

Meanwhile I'll keep writing and reading...

image courtesy of Ventrilock and

Thursday, 19 November 2015

This Year's Bad Sex in Fiction Shortlist- 2015...

Yes it's that time of year when the shortlist of the Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction shortlist is revealed.

Now I have to admit that I thought Morrissey's 'List of the Lost' was guaranteed to win, as it was so excruciating- and he did make the final cut, so he's in the running.

But now, having read the other shortlisted entries, I don't think he has much to be concerned about...

I do wonder (just for a few mad moments) if editors of literary fiction ever have a conversation with their writers about making a mediocre sex scene awful instead, just in the hope of getting a bad sex nomination.

Many will have heard the saying: There is no such thing as bad publicity.

We all know how difficult it can be to get a book noticed among the myriad of other books. So how better to boost sales than by getting onto this shortlist- and even winning.

(No, of course not,  I was just letting my imagination get the better of my common sense.) :D

So this year's contenders are:

  • Morrissey - List of the Lost

  • Aleksandar Hemon - The Making of Zombie Wars.

  • Richard Bausch - Before, During, After.

  • Joshua Cohen - Book of Numbers. 

  • Erica Jong - Fear of Dying. 

  • Lauren Groff - Fates and Furies.

  • George Pelecanos - The Martini Shot. 

  • Tomas Espedal - Against Nature.

If you have a strong enough constitution you can read the extracts in this Daily Telegraph (books section) article.

If I had to choose it would be either, Fates and Furies, or Book of Numbers.

The winner is announced early December.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Making Progress...

Though it may not seem like it, I have been making progress on the writing front, amongst all the deadlines- not all of them writing related.

I have found that a few of the organisational changes that I've made over the summer and autumn have been helpful.

There's still a lot to do. I know there's one or two small boxes of writing related materials sitting waiting (in a currently inaccessible position) and in one of those boxes is likely to be the items I'm looking for- early research material for my Nottinghamshire story.

(Think there may be some heavy furniture lifting going on at my place over the Christmas holidays!)

Even without the missing items, I'm finding the second draft much harder than the first draft. There's detail to add, characters to add in or change, and new scenes to be written.

Story #4 in the queue decided to emerge from the mists as I sat waiting to collect a prescription at the pharmacy. I'm not certain what the time period will be. I thought it might be somewhere in the first half of the 20th century, but now I'm not sure...

Fortunately I had a spare lidded A4 box waiting. So I just need half hour to type out my notes from the quick scrawl in my notebook, and it can go to the bottom of the boxes pile.

As long as I can jot down notes on the new ideas I can keep them from interfering with my current work in progress. I'm just grateful the other ones are still dormant.

I have to concentrate on one at a time and not let the others distract me.

Actually I need 36 hours in a day... :(

Sunday, 8 November 2015

A Little Help from Your Friends...

The great thing about writers is that they are not only fun friends to have, but they are willing to share their knowledge to new and developing writers.

I know I wouldn't have improved without the generosity of experience of many current writers, and those who are no longer with us.

One of my roles at the writers' club is Prose Secretary; I find judges for our assorted competitions held throughout the year. The valuable comments each entry receives back helps the writers continue to develop their skills, and highlight where they may be going wrong- as well as what they are doing right.

So when I was tasked with finding a judge for the 2016 Nottingham Writers' Club, National Short Story Competition, I had a few potential people in mind.

I'm very glad to say that my first choice, a successful short story writer and novelist agreed to the job.

Admittedly, Patsy Collins sprung to mind due to her short story pedigree, plus the 2016 theme which is 'Fire'. Patsy just so happens to have released a new book- a few days ago- called 'Firestarter'. I have it ready to read on my Kindle.

I'm assured there's a hunky fireman involved... :D

You can find out more about Patsy's latest novel over on her blog Words about writing...

The club's national competition usually opens on the first day of the New Year, but for 2016 we're holding the submission period during February. And as next year is a leap year, there will be 29 days to submit entries, either online or by post.

PLEASE NOTE that only entries from writers residing in the UK can be accepted.

There are a few rules of course, so do read and follow them. Often newer and less experienced writers are put off entering competitions by the thought of competing against 'professionals'.

So the main criteria for anyone considering entry: if you've earned £300 or more from short story writing during 2015 please don't enter.

For more details about the 2016 competition, pop along to the page on the Nottingham Writers' Club website.

Firestarter- the new novel
from Patsy Collins

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Once you Start Writing...

writing can be like a
dripping tap...
Once you start writing it's like a dripping tap, it never stops...

I really shouldn't have said I'm going to do chapter two this week, as the inevitable other problems and demands disrupted my days- not helped by over-sleeping.

Plus I had to write a 250 word story for Wednesday night's annual Manuscript of the Year competition at the writers' club (yesterday, 4th). Plus I was one of the two readers for the event.

I've had months to write it, but nothing I considered developed. Then Tuesday night reading a post on Facebook, I had one of those lightning moments of inspiration for this year's theme, 'slippery when wet'.

So Wednesday lunchtime I settled down and began to write. The words just poured out without thinking about it. I stopped at 400 plus words.

Of course it was much too long, so I started editing. I reduced the start, cut the middle and still had 342 words.

More cutting and changing left me with 262, so a bit more jiggling and I finally lost those 12 extra words.

I knew I'd lost too much of the story, and it was only humorous at the end, but it was an entry, and every entry helps make the competition.

My character, Valerie, finally decides to leave her demanding but dense partner Derek (apologies to any Derek's out there). He really should have got that tree in the front garden sorted out when she originally asked earlier in the year- one of his many faults. But of course, he hadn't and along comes autumn, lots of fallen leaves and rain.

I think you can guess what happens...

The club chairman said she thought Valerie had been out with a broom earlier piling up the leaves. :D

I really must give Valerie a new future somewhere now I know her- she deserves it.

Ten years ago managing to write a 1,000 word story was tough; but over the years the length of my stories rose naturally: 1200, 1600, 2,000.

Now I'm writing longer stories it's harder to write short ones!

image courtesy of Mister GC.&