Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Writer in the East Midlands?

Check out for information about support, events, course and opportunities for writers.  At the moment there is a survey you can fill in to have the chance to win £50 book voucher.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Kids on the Net

Met Helen Whitehead on Saturday who is responsible for creating and supervising a writing site for children. is a safe site used by teachers in schools to encourage writing skills, but children can post their work individually.

During the talk we had a lot of fun looking round the site that includes castles, dungeons and dragons and different types of writing that children can try.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Are you a creative in Nottingham?

Enjoyed my visit to MediaCamp2 on Saturday.  As always I leave these events inspired and needing to try more things and learn more.

If you are involved in any way in the creative industries in Nottingham then consider taking a look at the following website.  Susi O'Neill and Camilla Zajac are prime movers in establishing a website to bring different strands of creative events and life together to promote Nottingham as a great place to be.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Saturday, 27 March 2010

MediaCamp 2, Nottingham

Off the MediaCamp 2 this morning to find out more about how social networking can help writers create, promote and sell their work.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Friday quote

"No man is exempt from saying silly things; the mischief is to say them deliberately."

Michel de Montaigne

Thursday, 25 March 2010

How's your writing boredom threshold?

Imagine if you will that you're out for a walk.  It's a beautiful day and you're full of energy and enthusiasm.  You're wearing new walking gear and you feel it's wonderful to be alive.

When you start, your path is easy, flat with a smooth surface.  Then to your surprise it starts to move uphill.  You pant and puff and your progress slows.  Thank goodness, it's beginning to level out but what's this?  Mud that clings to your boots with no solid ground.  Heavens it's not quicksand is it?

To avoid that danger you try to walk faster but only succeed in sinking deeper.  Oh no will you ever extricate yourself from this mud?

If you've been writing for any time then you may recognise the scenario.  We come up with a fantastic idea for a story, a novel a book about your life, your business or dreams.

We pour words on to the page.  Then one day it feels as if we've run out of steam.  Where last week we wrote 5,000 words without stopping, now we can't manage 500.  What's happening to us?

It doesn't matter how experienced a writer you are it happens.  Sometimes I've worked on text till I'm sick of it.  If I have to change another word I'll scream.

This is a normal part of a writing life.  The difference is that the more experienced you are, the more techniques, ruses and strategies you develop to deal with it.  They'll vary from person to person but however you manage it, at the heart of the problem is a need for a fresh eye.

How do I manage writing boredom and block?
  • Be sure to have more than one project on the go at once.
That's easy for me because I'm usually working on at least 2 client projects at once.  That means I can move backwards and forwards to keep my brain sharpened.  If you don't have that situation, then try different writing genres.  A short story with a screenplay, a novel and a poem.

Challenge and stimulate your creativity by setting a challenge.  A Haiku, a story about a proverb, a set number of words.  Anything goes and works in this situation.
  • Nibble away at the edges of the difficulty.
If you have a major problem with plot, character or layout of a book, then try to divide the problem into smaller chunks.  If your character isn't working, check out what they might be wearing, what they eat, their speech rhythm.  Some detail will give you the insight to move you on.
  • Find a writing buddy
We all need help.  Acknowledge it and where necessary talk your problem through with someone.  They may not come up with a solution, but often you will just by voicing the issue to someone else.

Mud will always exist in writing.  But let's not be stuck in it for longer than we need.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Weathervane Press writers tour

If you're running a writers' group, reading group or literary group of any kind consider inviting the Weathervane Press authors to visit.

More details on

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Berlie Doherty - Carnegie Prize Winner

As always it was fascinating to listen to how another writer works.  And since Berlie has a considerable track record in writing for children, she merits serious attention.

I've never thought of writing for children, but Berlie views it as simply one thread in her writing career.  Her advice is to try as many different styles and genres of writing as possible.  Short stories, to make you value the power of concentrating your ideas; plays to strengthen your dialogue; radio to make you paint pictures.

Nothing is wasted and she showed us how when she described a lost purse incident which she aimed first at being a short story then turned it into a book as the story grew. 

Success aside, Berlie was full of commonsense and her own misgivings.  Tackling an adult novel took her out of her comfort zone afte years of writing for children and produced the same anxiety about 'is it good enough' that we all feel about our writing.

Her path started in a local way, via newspaper submissions as a child, through local radio stations.

A delightful conversation of a session.

Monday, 22 March 2010

States of Independence

What an enjoyable and useful day on Saturday.  I was encouraged by the number and variety of small presses represented at the event.  Met Jenny from Candlestick Press again.  Came across horror, crime and comic devotees.

It was a good place to gain support for your writing efforts, no matter if you were a beginner or published author. I attended several talks, all of them interesting and I'll blog more about them this week.  Each one merits a separate entry for the points raised, the topic of interest or people speaking.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Stanley Middleton memorial service

Taking place at University of Nottingham, 8 May 2010.  For more information call 0115 846 6940 during working hours.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Independent Press Day Leicester, 20 March 2010

Off to States of Independence at De Montfort University today.  Hoping to find out more about how independent publishers are thriving. 

Friday, 19 March 2010

Want to be a playwright

I was surfing the writing web and had a look at the site below.  It's full of helpful information, tips and guidance.  And of course the fact he's one of the most successful playwrights of our time helps.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Evolving as writers

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change" Charles Darwin

I've written about changing circumstances for writers in my impressions on the WIC.  Recently I've been thinking about how I've evolved as a writer since I started the business seven years ago. 

To begin with I didn't have any idea of writing fiction, not as a business.  But I tried some pieces and found that they helped to loosen up my business writing.  Which then fed back into more stories I tried.

What I learned most of all is that while I can't assume the first pass is the best, I've trained myself to spot those pet phrases and terms we all include.  As a result not only do I write better on the first draft, I can write faster.

Having to be responsive to client needs is valuable because beginning fiction writers often can be self indulgent.  But if it doesn't work, it doesn't work.  Training to be your own editor is tougher than training to write.  It's hard to be objective about what you've poured out of your heart.

Loving to write is only the beginning.  Being a writer is more like being a marathon runner than a sprinter and needs appropriate training.  If you read series by many crime writers and look at the writing as an exercise, you can see them improve and become more fluent.

It has to happen because they're writing more, knowing more about their characters and feeling stronger in their writing.

Once they were in the same place as you might be now.  Take heart.  If they can do it so can you.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010


I remember a quote I think from Michaelangelo that when sculpting he took a block of marble and waited for the figure to emerge.

This morning I've been editing a long piece of text which I've written over the last few weeks.  Some writers hate editing their work but I love it.  The first draft to me is to set down all the thoughts in your head.

Editing is when you give it a shape and refine it.  Often we write as we speak with all kinds of hesitations, slang and ill formed sentences.  We've poured it all down on paper in a flood.  Now we channel it till it's controlled and effective.

It's interesting that as I progress through the text, there are fewer mistakes.  I've written myself in to the style and subject of the text. 

I'm looking forward to finishing this stage of editing, then I can move on the tightening the text even more till a word taken out destroys the meaning. 

That's the goal anyway!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Monday quote

'Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say'. ~Sharon O'Brien

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Henry Watson Fowler and his effect on writers

Fowler wrote the Dictionary of Modern English Usage, published in 1926.  My English teacher swore by it, rather than at it and all our grammar mistakes were referred back to Fowler as the gold standard.

Despite it being from a different time and style of writing, some of his teaching is as valid today as ever.  For example:

'Prefer the familiar word to the far-fetched. Prefer the concrete word to the abstract. Prefer the single word to the circumlocution. Prefer the short word to the long. Prefer the Saxon word to the Romance.'

Amen to all of that.

Friday, 12 March 2010

What's the state of publishing

I came into writing from a commercial perspective,i.e. direct sales copywriting. It’s interesting that I’ve seen ideas converging over the last few years from my previous experience of copywriters (including myself) happily self publish in on and offline formats ahead of many ‘traditional’ writers.

From what I’ve heard and read, it seems that newspapers are struggling to find a workable strategy to make money online and publishing is fragmenting with smaller outfits able to be more responsive to new trends.(think of turning a ship round)

It is a time of flux and that may frighten you especially if you still have that traditional large advance as your Eldorado.  the new is that advances are shrinking even for the top authors.

Still I urge you to dive in. Publishing in its traditional format is dead. But this opens up opportunities for us as writers to strengthen our individual experiences in this wonderful world of writing.  The successful authors of the future will embrace all the technologies and use them to make the connections to readers that are vital at some stage whether direct or via agents and publishers.

Attending the conference gave me great hope for the future and I came home more enthusiastic and excited about the possibilities.

Check out for more information on the sessions.  They are intending to upload recordings of the sessions.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Writing and promoting yourself as a writer in the digital age

Session with Graham Joyce, Richard Birkin, Steve Ince and Alex Pryce about using digital media to create interesting projects in writing and create an online brand and following.

The overwhelming conclusion is that any writer needs a website and to take part in social media sites. One member of the audience, currently on a creative writing course talked about how to use such branding vehicles given the advice he’d received was not to be too personal on the social media.

There seems to be a generational divide in this. Alex and Richard hodling the opinion that if people were offended by photos of them drinking, they weren't  the kind of people they would want to do business with.

Older members of the panel and the audience were more hesitant and the consensus seemed to be that you needed to use these things in the context of the writing you did and your audience type. For example if you write for young people then some degree of caution about what you put up might be needed.

Also met an author from Nottingham using Facebook very successfully.  She doesn't have an agent and manages all her own promotion.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Performance tips

Blog Three

Performance tips for writers

Attended a fun workshop run by performance poet Rob Gee who gave tips about memorising your material, dealing with rejection by an audience and how to compere.

He made the interesting comment that if a compere is good they’re almost invisible.

If you relate that to writing, particularly in the business sector, people don’t notice and couldn’t tell you if the writing is good. But they soon pick up on if it’s bad, over the top and insincere.

To lighten up your day visit for some cheesy love poems on the high street.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

How to deal with rejection as a writer

How to deal with rejection

From various talks, panel discussions and workshops

If you’ve received rejection slips which give you no indication of how close you are to writing that masterpiece, then take heart.  You're not alone.

According to authors I listened to at the conference, it never gets easier. Since we pour our hearts and souls into what we write, dealing with the knockbacks is always difficult.

What advice did I glean from what I heard?

Ask yourself if your book is of local interest or family only interest. If so you may be approaching the wrong agent/publisher. Do your homework on where you manuscript will be best placed.

Don’t assume it’s always your fault. A BBC producer who spoke on the panel about scriptwriting emphasised that sometimes scripts arrived at the wrong time because of duplicated themes or treatments.

If you’re interested in writing for radio then here are two sites of interest.

The Writers Room which is a central clearing house for plays for the BBC
BBC writersroom is always on the lookout for fresh, new, talented writers for a changing Britain .

Individual producers are no longer allowed to accept scripts unsolicited.
Developed by De Montfort University with the BBC as a partner.
Writers who seem very successful to us, have their own insecurities in relation to other writers.
The messaage is keep brave, make your writing the strongest you can and of course keep writing.

Monday, 8 March 2010

What's it like being a writer in the digital age

This week I'm passing on what I learned at the WIC 2010 I attended at Loughborough on Saturday.

Keynote speech by Graham Joyce

He gave an entertaining and practical view of the writer’s life and the state of the industry. He drew our attention to the fact that we were attending a Writing Industries Conference. And like any other industry, learning our trade and using all the tools at our disposal is vital.

Any would-be or practising writers need to understand the nature of publishing, writing and associated business that's being changed by the technology and possibilities of the digital age.

His advice to writers was to diversify their income streams because it was becoming difficult for writers to generate enough income from a single source now. Being able to connect with readers through the medium of social networking sites would play a part in that..

He praised the determination of writers to apply themselves to the work of writing but suggested that thinking they could only write one type of work, i.e. the traditional novel was limiting both their experience and their income.

This was the first writing conference I'd attended and coming as I do from a background of business writing, I found the level of practicality and commonsense about writing being an occupation very reassuring.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Writers Industry Conference 2010

Preparing myself to go to the conference at Loughborough tomorrow.  It's a packed schedule with sessions on different types of writing, the state of commercial publishing and a panel of agents and publishers answering questions.

I'm going with a very open mind to find out as much as I can and I'll pass on the nuggets to you next week.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Inspirational quotes for writers

"Ideas are like rabbits -- you get a couple and learn how to handle them and pretty soon you have a dozen."

- John Steinbeck

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

How to attract attention for your manuscript

I read in the letters section of the Guardian Review on Saturday a follow up to the lists of rules from writers.  A writer was commenting that if he followed all the rules, took out all the adverbs, culled his adjectives, took out the metaphors and similes, omitted his descriptions, all he had left was the title of the book and his name.  And the title was suspect.

It made me laugh and was written tongue in cheek (I think) but there was a serious intent behind it.  How do you measure your book, and against what?

Ahead of the Writing Industries Conference this weekend, I've been looking at information about the literary agents and authors they have attending.  Most of the agents are not accepting submissions at the moment.

Submission guidelines can seem intimidating;I've just been trawling through some from Carina Press, a digital arm of Harlequin Press.  They are expecting a high standard from submitters.  I guess from their point of view that's fair enough.  For their own and the sake of the would be novelist, they're trying to weed out those of lower capabilities from even submitting.

The truth nowadays is that writing is a business.  If it was ever anything but that,  which I doubt, authors now need to work, not only at their writing skills, but at their marketing skills. 

Learn to pitch as if your business depended on it.  Because it does.