Tag Archives: creative process

reading and waiting – #WhatImWriting

Last week was one of those weeks. It wasn’t all bad, but the bits that were sapped most of my energy. Safe to say, not much was achieved on the writing front.

books and pen

I did read though. I seem to be able to distract myself (from stressful situations) with reading more easily than I can with writing – do you find that? When there’s a lot going on in my head, dealing with my own characters can feel too much; I can’t find my way through the maze to make sense of their story. Reading is different – a story in someone else’s words just rushes over me and is easy to get lost in. Since my last #WhatImWriting post I’ve devoured two books by Jodi Picoult (The Pact and My Sister’s Keeper) both of which kept me suitably gripped. Reading is an excellent way to learn about the craft of writing anyway… so it kind of counts as writing research doesn’t it? I think so. :)

But as for my actual writing, well, I was waiting for feedback on my picture books which was due in the middle of last week. I had geared myself up to receiving it and then to putting my energies towards making changes to those manuscripts. But the feedback didn’t arrive (turns out the place I submitted them to hasn’t had the chance to read them yet – argh!) so I now have to wait another few weeks. Sigh. I am not the world’s most patient person and I’m dying to know what they think! But I guess I’ve waited this long (seven weeks) so what’s another couple?

So what do I fill the next few weeks with instead? Well, the state of my diary suggests I won’t have much time for writing anyway (everything seems to be happening all at once!). I’ll try to squeeze a limerick or two in somewhere though, just to keep my brain ticking over.

Aside from that, I’m just hoping for an emotionally-calmer week!

Writing Bubble

finding time to write in the school holidays – #WhatImWriting

This Tuesday has snuck up on me and I’ve suddenly realised it’s time for #WhatImWriting! School broke up for Easter here last Friday and, since then, life has been a bit of a whirl of swimming lessons, day trips and play dates. I’m actually a firm believer in plenty of unscheduled time for kids to just romp around in (for want of a better phrase) but somehow this holiday seems to be full to the brim with activities. Not sure quite how it happened but it’s certainly making it hard to find any time to write.

circles

Wondering when to write? Just look for the gaps.

However, if you’re determined, I’ve found there are ways to squeeze in bits of writing time here there and everywhere… I’ve even found time to write a list:

Seven of the best times to write/blog in the school holidays:

1) When the kids are asleep.

Some people favour the early mornings but, since I have to be forcibly dragged from my slumbers most days and can’t form a sensible sentence before my first cup of tea, getting up before the kids is not an option for me. So I write in the evenings. Mind you, after a day of entertaining small people I often feel too shattered to get much done so have to rely on the following points as well…

2) During toilet trips.

Not very dignified but it’s amazing how much you can type on a smart phone while on an ‘essential’ loo break. Invent an exhausting bout of explosive diarrhoea if you like – anything to keep the small people away for those crucial few extra minutes.

3) While the kids are otherwise engaged with an activity that doesn’t require your input. 

I armed my three with wellies and spades and pointed them in the direction of a rather unloved corner of the garden with the instruction, “See what you can make there kids!” . They spent an hour and half building a ‘water feature’ (AKA a muddy hole). When they came back inside they were up to their eyeballs in mud but at least I’d had a bit of time to myself (I wish I’d spent more of it writing rather than cleaning the kitchen and putting the washing on but hey.)

4) In your head while vacuuming.

The noise of the hoover drowns out any nearby yelling, leaving you free to concentrate.

5) With your children’s help.

My ‘limerick challenge’ does the trick for us: my boys choose a subject, I write a limerick about it and they provide the illustrations (I’ll be posting another one soon).

6) While cooking tea.

When trying to parent and find time to write, guilt often steps in. Surely you should be spending every minute with your little ones? Well, cooking time is guilt-free time because everyone has to eat. Type between stages in the recipe or *whispers* put fishfingers and chips in the oven and have an uninterupted 15 minutes! But what are the kids doing while you’re cooking? Well…

7) While the kids are watching telly.

Thank heavens for Peppa Pig, Lego Star Wars and Curious George. Their input is worthy of an acknowledgement in my book I think!

***

Using these little bits of time has enabled me to write this month’s BritMums poetry and Prose Roundup this week and this post too of course. That might not seem much but it’s better than nothing!

When do you find time to write in the school holidays? I’d love to hear your tips!

Post Comment Love

what I’m writing – week twenty seven

typewriter butterflies badgeWelcome to week twenty-seven of ‘What I’m Writing’! A big thank you to everyone who joined in over at Muddled Manuscript last week – I loved reading your posts as always. It’s great catching up with regular linkers and meeting new ones too!

Speaking of which, if you’re new here you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short version is my co-host Chrissie and I are both writers who love blogging about our writing processes and reading about those of others. Our linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through.

We take turns to write a monthly round-up of posts. My February Round-up should give you a flavour of what we’ve all been up to recently.

We’ve also recently set up a private group on Facebook that all linkers are welcome to join. It’s somewhere we can share work and have a chat about all things writerly (and whatever else we fancy really). As it’s a ‘secret group’ it’s hidden until I send an invititation but I have sent them to all linkers – or at least I’ve meant to! We’ve had a few issues with people’s invitations going AWOL though (think they’re being eaten by the big mail cruncher in the sky) so if you’d like to join and haven’t received one just leave me a comment – thanks!

We welcome linkers old and new and if you’d like to join in there are just a few suggestions for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use our badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to whichever one of our blogs is hosting that week. We will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet us a link to your post @writingbubble or @rantybeast then we will RT.

Over to you – please link up below!

Writing Bubble

 

 Loading InLinkz ...

ten things to do while you wait…

You’ve just worked your socks off getting your work fit for submission. You’ve written, re-written, edited, tweaked, crossed it all out and started again, decided you hated it, fallen in love with it, polished it until it gleamed and finally plucked up the courage to send it somewhere to be judged.

Now all you have to do is wait.

clock

But what do you do while you wait? You could fling yourself into a new project… although now is probably not the best time since your head is still full of the old one. You definitely don’t want to return to the manuscript you’ve just submitted and decide where you’ve CLEARLY GONE WRONG WHAT WERE YOU DOING?! In fact, it’s best if you don’t even think about it. Right now, what you need is distraction. And what should you do to distract yourself? I’m glad you asked:

My Top Ten Distraction Tips:

1. Catch up with all the TV programmes that you’ve had to ignore recently while powering to the ‘writing finish line’. Season finales are particularly good at this point as the ante is upped in a very compulsive, gripping and distracting way.

2. After point 1. take to the internet to see if everyone else agreed with your thoughts on how the stories panned out and what the writers and actors feelings and intentions were. You’re not just looking up the bio of the hot main character, you’re researching narrative form. I’ve just finished watching Breaking Bad and True Blood and have since found out a lot about Aaron Paul and Alexander Skarsgard how to weave story arcs towards satisfying conclusions.

3. Tackle The Laundry Mountain Of Doom – you never know what you might find at the bottom of it! Remember that fab ‘handwash only’ top that you bought for that wedding three years ago? There it is! Wash it and wear it again! It’s like a shopping trip without the expense or the hassle.

4. Tinker with an old writing project. This doesn’t involve a huge jump into the unknown like a new project does but still keeps your creative muscles flexed. Hopefully you won’t encounter the issue I did when I realised I’d left my last manuscript in the middle of a word – and I quote: “After half an hour’s exploring all she had learned was that thi”. What had she learned? Anyone?

5. Socialise! The last few weeks of a writing project can be pretty intense. You find yourself retreating from the real world a bit, only doing the essentials (talking to the kids, grunting at your other half) and saving all your remaining time and energy for writing. NOW is the time to change your focus – phone your mum/dad/gran, go for coffee with friends and converse with people face to face instead of just (between sentences) on twitter. Let real people – not just your characters – have your attention.

6. Spend some time on the SEO of your blog. This is something that appeals to me only slightly more than dealing with toddler-related poosplosion but apparently it’s a useful thing to pay attention to as a blogger. I figured that trying to get my head round meta-tags and photo optimisation might be a good distraction from my recent submission and I was right. Ok, I admit after an hour of reading and researching I’d done nothing more ‘useful’ than uploading a widget that is so far yielding no results… but I’m sure, for anyone less rubbish at SEO stuff, this would be a valuable activity.

7. Read. Actually, this is my tip for any situation as what could be better than to lose yourself in a fictional world? (Just remember not to be intimidated by the author’s talent, chose to be inspired by it – that could be you!)

8. Go for a walk – while you were focussed on that last chapter it turned into spring out there! Even better, go on a grownup treasure hunt. Set yourself a list (either mental or actual) of things to look out for as you stroll along and that way you’ll focus on the world around you rather than what’s inside your head.

9. Learn how to draw Harry Potter well enough to please a seven-year-old boy, lego ninjas that pass muster with a five-year-old and perfect circles for a toddler. Simultaneously. It’s child-pleasing and skill-set-enhancing in one easy, distracting parcel. Result.

10. Blog about it. Or blog about something else. Ah blogging, the salve for all life’s issues…

There you go – and after a few weeks of such distracting activities you’ll probably be ready for the challenge of a new project. Then when feedback comes it will take you totally by surprise and you can be all: “Oh that manuscript! I’d almost forgotten about it! I’ve been doing something so much more fabulous than that old thing!” thus lessening the blow if you don’t get the feedback you’re after. Maybe.

On that note, I’ve got some writing to attend to.

Writing Bubble

after the storm – #WhatImWriting

This time last week I was all ‘KAPOW! ACTION!’ – I’d just emerged from a huge editing process, had submitted three manuscripts for appraisal and was feeling pretty pleased with myself.beach

In contrast, this week, I’m not sure I’ve written anything at all! No that’s not true, I’ve written some blog posts, including February’s ‘What I’m Writing’ round-up, but I’ve definitely had a bit of a writing slump. It’s probably not a bad thing though – I’m not sure it’s even possible to finish (for the time being) a big project and leap immediately into the next one. There has to be some time to breathe, right?

But it’s been a week. I’ve had my peaceful, post-submission phase and should probably get going with something else now. But what? A big chunk of my brain is just waiting to hear back about my manuscripts. Until I get feedback I don’t know how much more work I’m going to need to do to them and how close I am to being able to submit them to agents/publishers. It feels like the wrong time to fling myself into a new project when in a few weeks I’ll need to throw myself back into the old one.

Do I return to my novel? It’s been so many months, I think I’ll need to read through it in its entirety before I can get going again though. And it’s an emotional, psychological mystery/thriller and, as such, a big leap away from the world of picture books that my brain has been inhabiting. If I’m honest, the novel isn’t calling to me now.

What is calling me is my other novel – the one I’ve barely begun (I’ve only written 7000 words) but which has been flapping around my brain like a trapped insect for years. It’s a kids book. Very different from a picture book but at least it has the elements of magic and adventure that I’ve been working with recently. It makes a bit more sense for me to go back to that doesn’t it?

But then again, if I’m going to end up refocussing on picture books in a few weeks perhaps I should avoid big projects altogether and just focus on my blog while I’ve got the chance. I could do a bit of SEO (which I’m currently rubbish at), that sort of thing?

I don’t know. I’m undecided. Maybe I’ll just pitch camp here on the beach for a bit and wait for the next wave of inspiration to take me.

what I’m writing – week twenty-five

typewriter butterflies badgeWelcome to week twenty-five of ‘What I’m Writing’! A big thank you to everyone who joined in over at Muddled Manuscript last week – I loved reading your posts (as always) and I thought we did well with Chrissie’s ‘What I’m NOT writing’ theme. I wrote about procrastination and I procrastinated so hard I wrote two posts for the linkie instead of one! There’s no theme this week but it was quite fun having one wasn’t it? We might do a few more themed weeks in the future!

If you’re new here you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short version is my co-host Chrissie and I are both writers who love blogging about our writing processes and reading about those of others. Our linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through.

We take turns to write a monthly round-up of posts. My December Round-up should give you a flavour of what we’ve all been up to recently. I’ll be publishing the February round-up soon, honest!

We’ve also just set up a private group on Facebook that all linkers are welcome to join. It’s somewhere we can share work and have a chat about all things writerly (and whatever else we fancy really). As it’s a ‘secret group’ it’s hidden until I send an invititation but I have sent them to all linkers – or at least I’ve meant to! We’ve had a few issues with people’s invitations going AWOL though (think they’re being eaten by the big mail cruncher in the sky) so if you’d like to join and haven’t received one just leave me a comment – thanks!

We welcome linkers old and new and if you’d like to join in there are just a few suggestions (‘rules’ feels too strong a word) for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use our badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to whichever one of our blogs is hosting that week. We will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet us a link to your post @writingbubble or @rantybeast then we will RT.

Over to you – please link up below! I look forward to reading your posts (I’ll be linking up too of course)!

Writing Bubble

 

 Loading InLinkz ...

editing – #WhatImWriting

I’ve read a lot of blog posts about editing in the last six months or so; some of them via our lovely ‘What I’m Writing’ linky and some from the blogosphere in general. They’ve all been interesting and I’ve often thought ‘hmm this could be useful information/advice/knowledge when I come to edit my novel in the future’. I’ve been making a mental note of a lot of what I’ve discovered – even a physical note from time to time – but by and large, I haven’t considered it relevant to me now. Not really.

editing

Then this week I realised – ‘for heavens sake, never mind the half-finished novel you flippin’ idiot, ‘Editing’ is exactly what you are doing to your picture books at the moment! All these editing posts are relevant now! Now, Now, NOW!’

You see, I think I thought that editing – proper editing – was something you could only do to a novel. Obviously, as I write that, it sounds idiotic especially as I’m aware I’ve been editing my books for ages (not to mention my short stories, flash fiction, poetry and blog posts – duh). But I’d somehow, in my head, been categorising doing that as ‘tweaking’ my work or ‘looking at rhymes’ or ‘making a few changes’. Actually, what I’ve been doing these past two weeks in particular (as I’ve been preparing to send my three manuscripts to be professionally appraised) has been really intense editing.

I’ve put masses of time and effort into issues of rhyme and meter (as you’d expect, with rhyming picture books), but I’ve also written out characters that were slowing the story down, I’ve cut massive chunks of text, given characters new names, written them occupations to add depth to their role, thought (more) about story arcs, reader expectation and experience and considered the balance of emotions in both the characters and readers. Then I’ve gone back to the beginning and looked at the bits I’ve always loved and, with a critical eye, slashed some of those too. So many words have been assigned to the trash heap! And then, of course, I’ve thought about layout – I have little mock-ups that I’ve made to help me visualise how my manuscripts might look as books. So it’s been a proper editing process!

And now? Well, today I sent off all three manuscripts. They’re out of my hands… now I just have to wait for feedback.

Eeep.

Writing Bubble

procrastination – #WhatImNOTwriting

Right. This is it.

The toddler is asleep.

I’m ready.

I’m going to write my book. Like, right now.

Oh yes I am.

But first, biscuits. Biscuits will help. Definitely. Chocolate ones?

Good, chocolate digestives, found some, can’t stand hobnobs; too sweet. Does anyone like hobnobs really?

*googles ‘hobnob popularity vs digestives’*… oooh, it turns out the chocolate is on the bottom NOT the top of the biscuit, huh, who knew?

Which biscuit is more popular though? No, don’t look, don’t look! MUST CRACK ON!

Cracking on now, no wait! CUP OF TEA! How could I even think of beginning without a cup of tea?

Ah, tea. Tea and biscuits…

Nice mug that, I like Bridgewater.

Which reminds me, there was that lamp I liked…

*googles ‘blue ceramic lamp’*

Ooh that’s lovely, that would look great in the living room… it would match those cushions!

Those cushions that I don’t actually own but I’m sure I saw them in a catalogue the other day. Which catalogue though?

*goes on a hunt through the ‘box of random crap in the kitchen that I don’t want to throw out but don’t quite know what to do with’*

Nope, not there. Could have been online?

*googles ‘ cushions match ceramic lamp blue squiggles’*

What’s with these search results? What have spiders webs got to do with lamps, eh google?!

Although really, spiders are impressive creatures, I mean look at that web!

Oh FFS GET ON WITH THE WRITING!

Ok, Ok, I’m on it! Look at me, I’ve got my laptop open and everything!

I’ve typed the title! I’m cooking with gas! See me go, I’ll have written masses by the time the toddler wakes up from h…

“WAAAAHH!”

Bugger.

***

(P.S This is my second post for #WhatImWriting this week. Chrissie decided on the (optional) theme: ‘What I’m NOT writing’ but I’ve had such a productive week I wanted to write about that. But then I’m a pro at procrastination so I couldn’t resist writing this post too!)

 

Updated 10th April – ‘The Prompt’ over at Mum turned Mom this week is ‘Procrastination’ so I couldn’t resist linking up this post!
mumturnedmom

getting somewhere – #whatImwriting

It’s Tuesday! It’s time for ‘What I’m Writing’! Chrissie is hosting this week so pop over to Muddled Manuscript if you’re wanting to link up – we’d love to hear all about what you’re writing at the moment. Having said that, Chrissie’s suggested a ‘what I’m NOT writing’ theme this week for all those of us who are struggling to find the time/energy or motivation. It’s optional though, luckily for me…

flying saucer

A clue about one of my picture books… also evidence of why I’m not illustrating them myself!

Last week I said I was going to knuckle down and do some writing. Guess what? *trumpet fanfare* I managed it! Yes, for the first time in weeks (or is it months?) I’ve actually achieved something with my picture book manuscripts.

The key to making progress was not just having a bit more time this week but also some extra motivation. Having decided I need some professional feedback on my work, I made the decision to submit some work to a manuscript appraisal service. I figured if I’m going to submit my books to agents and/or publishers, it makes sense to get expert advice first.

When I mentioned my three manuscripts to one such service they said they could do a ‘3 for 2′ offer (“like with shampoo!” as a friend of mine said) as long as I submitted all three at the same time. So, all at once, I needed to get the three of them to a point where I was happy to send them off. The third one was in shoddy-first-draft-form so I’ve put a lot of time into that, and I’ve also done a fair bit editing work on my first story. Manuscript Two could do with more attention but one of the main problems I have with it is being unable to decide if the long version or the shorter version (yes, I somehow have two!) works best. So perhaps I should just send it as is, and get advice there…

Anyway, I’ve loved getting my teeth back into the books again and have become a bit obsessed, writing in any spare moment I have. I was up for two hours in the night with my toddler the other night (groan) and found myself leaning against his door frame in the dark, making shushing noises while the better part of my brain was thinking “does ‘exquisite’ rhyme well enough with ‘fillet’?”. By the time I staggered back to bed my brain was whirring with ridiculous rhymes!

So, all in all, a good week! And I even managed a couple of blog posts too – if you haven’t seen it, my interview with Renee Davis, mummy blogger extraordinaire and author of Become The Best You’ is well worth a read. Reneé is inspirational!

I hope you’ve had good weeks too – I’m looking forward to finding out!

reading – #WhatImWriting

I love reading – always have, although I did go through a period of, ooh, close to two decades where I didn’t read more than a couple of books a year. I intended to read, I even wanted to read but somehow just didn’t seem to get round to it.
bookcase

All that changed a couple of years ago though when I got a kindle (well, I nicked my husband’s if I’m honest) and found myself going from book to book. I read any time, anywhere… in the dark while breastfeeding, while drying my hair, even when brushing my teeth. I never thought I would give up paper for an electronic device but I have to admit it revolutionised my reading life. In the past two years I’ve read well over a hundred books which I don’t think is bad going!

Anyway, this is my #WhatImWriting post – what does any of this have to do with what I’ve been writing this week? Well everything and nothing. It’s occurred to me that my increased reading pace has co-incided exactly with the period of my life when I decided to pursue my dream to become a published writer. These past two-and-a-bit years have been a major voyage of discovery for me in the literary world both as a writer and a reader.

So maybe the gear change in my reading wasn’t all about getting my hands on a kindle, maybe some of it was to do with just launching myself into another part of life? Then just as the more I wrote the more I wrote (writing breeds writing, right?), the more I read the more I read… and then the more I wrote the more I read, and the more I read the more I wrote (phew!) and it all piled up into a huge bonfire of magical worlds and other lives with sparks of creativity flying around in every direction.

And now the bonfire is ablaze and I’m dancing round it clutching books and journals and pens (and electronic devices but that doesn’t really fit with the image I’m trying to conjure up, so forget that bit) and toasting my hands before a fiery fictional frenzy.

Or something.

Anyway, I can certainly say I’m learning a lot from my reading and that’s not just – or at all – because I’m reading great serious works of literature it’s because my brain is constantly assessing everything it’s engaging with. Some books I love, some books I… tolerate but along the way there’s loads I’m learning about style and narrative and what works and what doesn’t.

Actually a brilliant learning experience for me recently was reading a book so badly written it was like a massive, flashing, neon sign saying “DO NOT WRITE LIKE THIS. EVER.” And I’m convinced it’s not just a matter of taste (because some books don’t work for me but I still can see that they’re well-written and others might like them) I really think it was just weak. It read like a first draft that needed editing (and to be fair, perhaps with some decent editing and story re-shaping it could have been fine), so much so that I actually found myself editing it as I read it – good practice for when I finally get to the editing stage of my book!

The best thing about reading though is being transported to other worlds and different lives where there are adventures to be had, mysteries to be solved, great emotions to be tussled with, tears to be shed and laughs to be sprinkled all around.  As a reader, books transform my life, as a writer they are my biggest source of inspiration.

How about you – do you read much? What impact do you think it has on your writing?