Wedding planning and writing

Organising our wedding is taking up a lot of my time, but I am managing to snatch some writing time here and there, so I have to be grateful for that.

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I came home from work on Monday with the intention of spending the evening writing. The weather was absolutely appalling so I was looking forward to making a cup of tea, turning on the laptop and making progress with a couple of projects. But before I could begin, I had one or two things to sort for the wedding. It wouldn’t take long.

There was just the order of service to finish, a few suppliers to email, a couple of invoices to pay, a guest book and card box to order, then email the hotel with final guest numbers and sort the guest accommodation. Half an hour, I thought.

I clearly didn’t think it through, because three hours later I was texting people to see if they were coming, trying to transfer money on an internet connection that didn’t want to work, and trying to squeeze everyone into guest accommodation when there’s more guests than beds. I didn’t write a word. Not one.

Tuesday and Wednesday passed in a similar way, but by Thursday Continue reading

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My Open University journey

On Thursday I handed in my final project for my degree in English literature. It marks the end of six years of part-time study with the Open University. It began back in 2010, with a module called Approaching Literature. I was starting my English teacher training the year after and I wanted to have a refresher after finishing  my first degree in journalism in 2001.

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That first module was wonderful. We studied Shakespeare, Romantic writing, the Realist novel, and literature and gender. I loved it all, so much so that I knew I wanted to continue with another module. The only problem was that I had a busy year of teacher training ahead of me. I put my Open University studies on hold for a year. Between 2011 and 2012, I completed my teacher training at the University of Sheffield, and the minute I’d finished, I signed up to my next module.

This was in creative writing. After so many years of wanting to be a writer, I finally felt that I was doing something about achieving my dream. My tutor Anne Caldwell was amazing and really encouraged me to keep writing, saying that I had a talent, particularly for life writing. I’d never done any life writing before but I really enjoyed it. I gained a first class result for the module, which gave my confidence a real boost. After so many years of not daring to tell anyone of my dream to be a writer, I finally had the confidence to voice my ambitions.

Onto the next module, advanced writing. This included Continue reading

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Writing update

It’s been a long time since my last update, so there’s a lot to catch up on.

The most exciting thing is that I’m now being mentored by two novelists. Susan Elliot Wright and Russ Thomas are supporting me as I write my running book. I’m very excited about this opportunity. I’m even more excited that EnRich, a charity supporting artists in my local area has made the mentoring possible.

So far, I’ve written Continue reading

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My blogging journey

Blogging is a big part of my writing life. As well as writing and blogging for clients, I also write my own blogs. I love everything about blogging –  writing posts, reading other people’s blogs, and generally being part of the blogging community.

The first blog I launched was Cosy Corner Books, back in 2013 more as a record of my own reading. I didn’t know anything about blogging, but thought it sounded like fun. After a year I’d learned so much. I changed platform, re-launched the blog on WordPress, where I now blog about all things reading, writing and books.

my bookcase

Champion Running is my most successful blog, with readers locally, nationally and a few internationally. Created in July 2014, Champion Running is a blog about the wonderful sport of running, focusing on fun, friendship and achievement. I really believe that running is a sport that has the potential to change lives. As well as the physical benefits, it’s also great for the mind. And, the good thing about running is that anyone can do it, whatever your age or ability. Through this blog, my aim is to inspire people not only to run, but to feel better about themselves and their life.

British Athletics sign indoor champs 2016

I launched my latest blog, Bridesmaid to Bride, on Valentine’s Day this year. Having never given the whole wedding thing much thought, suddenly we were faced with organising one of our own. Bridesmaid to Bride follows our wedding planning journey as we get to grips with the good, the bad and the just plain expensive world of weddings.

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Too many writing workshops, and not enough writing

Too many writing workshops, and not enough writing. Does that sound familiar to anyone?

It’s exactly what happened to me last week. Workshop after workshop after workshop, but it wasn’t a waste of writing time at all. The workshops were all interesting, inspiring and useful.

There was a blogging workshop, which was absolutely amazing. Then a talk by a big literary agency, my usual monthly short story workshop, a master class with the writer Monique Roffey and  finally, a talk about getting into academic publishing. Actually, I didn’t make the academic publishing one. My car’s sprung an oil leak. There is oil everywhere. It’s on my drive. It’s on my friend’s drive. Wherever I went there was a trail of oil and destruction. It got to the point where I couldn’t drive anywhere, other than the garage. I could only do that on Friday, which is when the academic publishing workshop was taking place.

I digress.

Attending workshops is a good thing to do as a writer. You meet like-minded people. I’ve made a lot of friends through the workshops I’ve attended. Friends who share the same passion for writing and books. I’ve also met some great writers, learned about the publishing industry, and eaten quite a few biscuits and cake (always nice).

Most of the workshops I’ve been to have been useful, only on the odd occasion has the standard been poor. It’s on these workshops where I sit there wishing I was writing. There was a really bad one last year when I almost stood up and demanded my money back, but then realised it was free. The only cost had been the couple of quid for the car park, and the cost of losing precious writing time.

There’s a balance between gaining inspiration and listening to others, and actually getting your bum on a seat and writing. After so many workshops last week, I really need to get writing!

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Writing Life – Spring inspiration comes early

I can’t believe it’s March already. We’re already two months into 2016. Time seems to be speeding up. Not that I’m complaining, because I love this time of year. I love that the mornings and evenings are getting lighter. After months of darkness, suddenly spring doesn’t seem too far away. Although, that said, this morning has turned quite wintry.

But even though it’s still cold, it’s the daylight that makes a difference. I always find that this time of year is good for my writing and creativity. I’m not sure why. I always feel more energised, more focused on my writing projects, more hopeful of success. Spring always feels a hopeful and promising time. This year, my spring inspiration has come early.

In February, I finished a short story I’ve been working on. It’s the one based on the death of my grandmother, so it’s been an emotional story to write. I finished it and even sent it to a competition. It was all a bit last minute, as I didn’t actually know about the competition until my tutor mentioned it. I only had a few days to cut the story to the required word count, but I did it and pressed send. I’m new to competitions, but there is something very exciting about it all. Maybe it’s my competitive spirit!

On Valentine’s Day I launched my wedding blog Bridesmaid to Bride. I want to enjoy the wedding-planning process, which for me involves writing about it.

The most exciting thing about February was getting the results for my life writing module at university.  I am really proud of the work I submitted. I don’t say that lightly. As a writer, my inner critic often takes over, which means I’m my harshest critic. With this piece, I was pleased with what I’d produced, but I wasn’t prepared for the feedback I received. It actually made me cry (happy tears). The comments from the examiner and moderator were so positive. It gave me a huge boost.

On my blogs I asked how much time you should give a book and why the right mindset is important in sport.

In other news, I submitted a story for consideration in an anthology, passed my Coaching in Running Fitness qualification, and completed an essay on Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd. I also spent a day on a workshop thinking about the characters in my novel.

I’m hoping I can keep up the momentum in March!

 

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Reading as a writer can improve your writing

Last week I made two people cry. Well not me personally, but my writing.

We had to submit a short story to the Comma Press writing group in Sheffield. As with all writing groups, the members scrutinise each other’s work, commenting on its strengths, weaknesses and areas to improve. Sharing your work with a new group is always daunting. I used to be a nervous wreck, but I’m getting better at it.

Anyway, last week I wrote my story and sent it to the group. When I arrived one of the ladies said it had made her cry. ‘Sorry,’ I said, thinking she was probably an emotional type (like me)  and cried at anything.

But then when it came to feeding back in the group, another lady said it had made her cry. ‘To get that kind of emotion is a sign of a good story,’ she said. I kid you not, those were her words.

‘Thank you,’ I said, almost bursting into tears myself.

The story was based on the death of my nan, who died in October last year. I cried when I wrote the story, and that emotion must, somehow, have come through onto the page.

Getting feedback on your writing is difficult, because it’s so personal. To improve, you have to detach yourself from the work, analyse every word, edit to perfection.

So, once the crying was out of the way, that’s what we did.

We looked at the pace and the structure and the themes and the imagery. We looked at the character development, felt something wasn’t quite right, and changed it for the better. That one little change made the story so much stronger.

I think it’s important when you’re giving feedback that you firstly read the story as a reader. Do you enjoy the story? Is it engaging? Did it make you cry? What did you like about it?

Then, I think you should read as a writer. How is it structured? What techniques have been used? How can it be made better?

There’s a distinction to be made. If we want to be better writers, we have to read as writers. We have to study the work of other writers, and try and understand what makes a piece of writing great. It’s about digging deeper to get to the root of the story.

When the group meets again next month, I’ve promised myself that I will respond as a reader and a writer. Honest, but constructive and helpful feedback will make us all better writers.

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Writing Life week five

This post should have been written last week, but  life got in the way.

It was a very busy week, with the usual drama of escaping ponies, rats at the stables and hyperactive dogs. But despite its many trials and tribulations, it was the kind of week where I got stuff done. Not my blog post obviously, but other writing stuff.

I’m organising a short story competition for Wakefield District Sight Aid, a local charity for people with sight loss, and was delighted to secure a judge, a very successful and popular Yorkshire writer, who I am very much looking forward to working with. Apologies for being slightly vague. Details haven’t yet been announced, so I have to keep quiet.

In my own writing, I spent most of the week working on an awards entry. It took days to complete the application process. I wrote around 1,600 words, which seemed to take longer to write than the 6,000 creative piece that went with it. Anyway, I entered and will keep my fingers crossed. That said, I’ve just heard they had 1,004 entries, so I’ll probably need more of a miracle really.

As soon as I’d pressed send, I had to turn my attention to a short story I’m writing for a Comma Press course. Our homework had been to write a short story of between 2,000 and 6,000 words. I managed about 2,500. I had a frantic few days trying to get it finished, before sending it to the other members of the group. We had a few stories to read and I also had to read and comment on the stories of my peers. I love reading short stories, so this wasn’t a problem at all.

Towards the final part of the week, I managed to look at my novel. I went over the plot, characters and research. I wrote a sentence describing what the book is actually about. The idea of having a one-sentence pitch is that if I am ever in a lift with a publishing bod, I can – in the time it takes to get from the ground to the first floor – tell them exactly what makes my novel so great. Before I step out of the lift, they will offer me a six-figure publishing deal and I will live happily ever after.

It took me a while to get the sentence just right. This was all before I attended a planning and plotting workshop with novelist, Susan Elliot Wright. The workshop was last Saturday. It was great to spend a full day thinking of my novel, and how I want to develop it. Plus, Chris fed, watered and mucked-out the horses, so I got a day off from that.

In other news, I ran the fastest 10km of my life, which I blogged about. And finally, after looking at lots of potential wedding venues, Chris and I found the one we wanted. My plan is to launch my wedding blog very soon.

So there you have it. My hectic week five. Things are certainly picking up pace. Creative writing work is being completed and awards are being entered. It’s just the blog I let slide!

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Writing Life week four – writing is a lonely business

Writing is a lonely business. You spend hours creating and crafting your words, shaping your story, getting things just right. Then it’s time for the editing and proofreading. It can be a very isolating process. To help, I think it’s important to keep in touch with other like-minded people. You could join a writing or book group, or attend workshops, events or conferences. Whatever you decide to do, I think having some support is an important part of a writer’s life.

It’s nice to have a support network. It’s a chance to talk to other people who understand what it’s like to be a writer. You’ll meet people who know about the highs and lows of writing. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll be able to help, give you a boost when you’re wading through that first draft of your novel. Perhaps they’ll give you feedback, help with the editing, or maybe they will just be there to support and motivate.

This week, I met up with my friend, Lucy, who is also a writer. We worked together as teachers for a few years, before both choosing to pursue writing careers. I love to meet up with Lucy. Not only is she a good friend, but she is also a writer. She understands what it’s like. We always have lunch and spend a few hours talking about life and writing. After every meeting, I always leave feeling much more positive than when I arrived.

Take yesterday, for example,  I’d been mid-way through writing a short story when there was a power cut. The house was plunged into darkness. which made it difficult to get things done. There is, after all, only so much battery in a laptop. Then when I was at the stables, I had a close encounter with a rat. It was a big rat, huge. And it was making itself quite at home in my horse’s stable. The day hadn’t got off to a good start.

By lunchtime, I was feeling a little annoyed, possibly a bit grumpy. I hoped meeting my friend for lunch would help. I spent a few hours with Lucy talking about writing and our ambitions. We were also celebrating as Lucy’s just come second in a short story competition! I left feeling very excited about both of our writing projects. We’ve got lots of new work coming up, so it’s great to talk things through and offer advice and support.

While we were enjoying our lunch, we decided it would be a great idea to meet up to write. What’s stopping us taking our laptops to a local café or hotel and setting up for the day? We booked time in the diary. We will be meeting on Fridays, so we’re calling it Friday Fiction. It won’t be every Friday, but I hope it becomes a regular thing. Having the support of a friend and fellow writer, really can make a big difference.

As well as meeting with Lucy, last week I also wrote quite a lot. I started working on a synopsis for my running memoir, and completed the first draft of a short story for my Comma Press short story course. On my running blog I wrote about taking part in my first track race in fifteen years, where, despite being an average runner, I managed to get a UK number one ranking!

Finally, I’ve also decided to change the name of this blog from Writing Resolutions to Writing Life. I’d like the blog to be more than just me banging on about what I have, or haven’t achieved in a particular week. Yes, I’m using it as a motivator, to make sure I keep the momentum going, but I also want it to be more than that. I want it to reflect the writing life. I want to share the highs and lows of being a writer, both a freelance writer and an aspiring author. I hope you enjoy reading it.

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Writing resolutions – week three

Week three in January is when many New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside. Thankfully, my writing resolution is still intact.

It’s been a really busy, but fantastic week at work. I’ve had a few events, which went really well. I also submitted (and passed) an assignment on Middlemarch as part of my Open University degree in English Literature, and I submitted the first of my workbooks towards qualifying as a running coach.

With so much going on, the danger for me is that work and study, as much as I enjoy it, takes over from my writing time. My resolution was to make sure that this doesn’t happen. The idea is that even when things are really hectic, I will still find time to write. Even if it’s just a few minutes. I WILL WRITE! My freelance writing and journalism does not count, as I do that every day anyway.

This week was a test. I obviously didn’t get as much writing time as I would have liked, but I did do something every day. On Monday I started an online course with the Open University. The focus is on creating characters. I worked my way through the online resources, and created a few new characters. One of the characters came quite by accident when I was making resources for my English class. I teach for Crisis UK, a charity for single homeless people. I was writing a model answer to discuss with the students. She went down really well. ‘I like her,’ one student said. ‘She sounds interesting,’ another said. It made me want to do more with her. I want to tell her story. Another character started from a name. Once I had the name, the ideas for the story soon followed.

I haven’t done much on my novel this week, and my main character, Cathy, is nagging to be written. She’s a great character and I’ve worked hard to develop her voice. She’s a child, so creating her voice has been difficult. I think it’s time to focus on Cathy. I’ve got the structure in place, I’ve started planning, I’ve written around 40,000 in total. I need to get my novel moving again.

I’ve been discussing my progress with my friend, Lucy. We decided that all the work I’ve done so far is part of what we’re calling the zero draft. It comes before the first draft, when you’re still figuring out the characters and events. Lucy is also working on her zero draft. It’s great that we can share our ideas and progress.

Finally, I’ve also been plodding on with my short story for Comma Press. I’ve decided to have the weekend focusing on this, so I’m really looking forward to that. Hopefully, this time next week, I will have a completed first (or is it zero) draft to be pleased with.

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