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what I’m writing – week seventeen

typewriter butterflies badgeWelcome to week seventeen of ‘What I’m Writing’. We had a great start to the new year over at Chrissie’s blog last week with more linkers than ever before! It was great to catch up with our regular linkers on what their plans for the new year were and we were also pleased to see new faces too. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this year takes you all – the only way is up, yes?

So, 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 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. September’s and October’s round-up posts (we take turns to write them every month) give you a flavour of the sorts of things we chat about. I posted December’s Round-up last week.

We’d love you to join in and 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)!

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forgotten

walkDo you ever go through your files or notebooks (or wherever you keep your random bits of poetry/stories) and find something that you’ve completely forgotten writing? And then look at it and think, ‘what is this about? What was going on?’

I dug something up recently, and given the content, I was clearly quite stressed about a situation. But what was it? I don’t know – I don’t even know the context! And what did I do about it? Well, I don’t know that either. I assume it’s long since resolved but that’s pretty much all I know.

Anyway, I thought I would share it for #FridayFiction:

Dilemma

Crushing clarity,
A sudden certainty
And realisation
That words must be spoken
For ultimate good
Yet which, at first, could
Harm.
Separate.
Mutilate.

And I must find
The gentlest way
To wield the axe.

So there you have it. I assume I wrote it as some kind of catharsis or process of figuring things out. In which case it was quite successful… I guess. I wish I could remember, as finding a ‘gentle way to wield an axe’ sounds like a useful life skill. Ah well.

Tell me I’m not alone, tell me you write and forget too?

Nikki Young Writes

feedback – #WhatImWriting

Writing Bubble

 
As I set about writing this post for Week Four of ‘What I’m writing’ I can’t help smiling. The last three weeks of the linky have gone so well and we’ve had more people joining in every week! Your posts have been so interesting and inspiring and the comments have been amazing. Our little community is already a lovely place to be. Thank you so much to everyone who’s joined in (and to any new linkers, welcome!) Chrissie is hosting today so if you’re here to link up, please head over to Muddled Manuscript.

So, this week I’ve been mulling over more questions (I’m always pondering something or other). I keep finding myself thinking ‘oh I must ask the #WhatImWriting people about that’ as though I get to sit down for a chat over coffee and cake with you every week. I wish I did! There’s so much I want to ask, but to avoid this post going on till Christmas I’ll just stick to one subject this week: Feedback.

honest criticism

I rarely request or receive any feedback on my work. I’ve never shown the first draft of my novel to anyone (though I will when it’s finished, of course) and only show my husband work if I’m going to submit it… and I’ve made very few submissions. Obviously, I publish work on my blog and get feedback that way but I’ve never requested ‘constructive criticism’ which has meant that the lovely people who comment all say nice things.

When I first started blogging a year ago I was pleased when anyone commented at all, and for ages I was so nervous about publishing my work that there’s no way I would have courted anything but the most kindly of comments. Now though, I’m wondering if it’s time to break out. If I’m ready to risk hearing more. Dare I publish my flash fiction and ask ‘what do you really think?’

As nervous as the idea of hearing what people really think of my writing makes me, I’m aware that feedback is what helps us improve. How can we ever learn from our mistakes if no one tells us what they are? I could be missing out on a huge development opportunity. But is my blog the best place to ask for constructive criticism?

What do you do? Do you get feedback regularly from friends or family? Have you submitted work and got feedback that way (I know some places will offer it)? Do you ask for (and receive) constructive criticism on your blog? What feedback methods are your favourite? Am I weird for even worrying about this?

I’d love to hear what you think.

Oh and just to update you on the challenge I set myself two weeks ago – I managed the limerick I aimed to do and wrote not merely one, but two pieces of flash fiction but this month’s word count for my novel is a teeny three thousand words. I didn’t even manage the five thousand I set myself which was a much smaller number than I’ve done in any other month. Sigh. But you never know, maybe I’ll have a creative burst tonight! I can but hope.

stretched thin – what i’m writing

moody sky IMGDo you ever feel pulled between different types of writing? Like you’re in a tug of war between poetry and flash fiction, novels and short stories, or blogging and, well, everything else you want to write?

At the moment I’m feeling a bit caught. I love writing all of the above, but any time I spend on one means I have less time for another. And my writing time at the moment is fairly limited – I have baby naps (when I also need to fit in housework and other admin) and evenings (in which I also spend time with my husband, attempt to have a social life and attend to my telly addiction).

Into these wedges of time I fit blogging, working on my novel, and writing flash fiction and poetry. I haven’t written a short story for a while which I kind of miss as I love writing those too!

I feel stretched a bit thin. “Like butter scraped over too much bread” you might say if you were wanting to quote a certain hobbit.* And I’ve been wondering if I should do something differently. Maybe if I just focussed on my novel I could break through the ‘oh man it’s a pile of steaming horse crap’ thing I’ve currently got going with it?

Or maybe I should ignore my book and just focus on flash fiction which – as I said in my post yesterday – I find really satisfying to write. Perhaps I should blog less? I mean, I’m not a prolific blogger but I write at least three posts most weeks which is a fair old time commitment.

I’m not sure. Do I like trying my hand at lots of different forms of writing? Yes. But is my lack of focus holding me back from getting genuinely good at any of them? Well, possibly. And that’s what worries me – that I’m never going to succeed in any area because I’m too busy experimenting in all of them. I haven’t submitted any work anywhere for ages because I’m too busy writing everything I can, to ever look at submission possibilities. It seems a shame.

But maybe it’s fine, perhaps it’s what I should be doing? I haven’t been writing for long after all. Maybe this is just like getting fit before specialising in a particular sport? My future could lie in 200m or marathons but I’ll never know when I can’t even run down the road without getting out of breath. Or could I have a future writing poems, stories and books? Does anyone do that? Does anyone manage to have time?

  • Do you stick to one form of writing or several?
  • Do you think it’s good to try out lots of different styles, or is focus important?
  • How do you juggle blogging and writing (not to mention other aspects of life)?

I’d love to know your thoughts!

Writing Bubble

 

*That would be Bilbo in The Fellowship of the Ring to give J.R.R Tolkien his due.

virtual blog tour

maddy

me

I was recently invited to take part in a ‘virtual blog tour’ which is basically a journey through the blogosphere stopping off at various blogs along the way. Each blogger answers a few questions about themselves and then invites and introduces another couple of bloggers who answer the same questions on their blog a week later, and so it continues. It’s a great way of finding new blogs and gaining an insight into why bloggers write what we do!

I was invited by the lovely Morgan Prince of Shaking Away the Cobwebs. I’ve been reading Morgan’s blog since last year when we both started regularly linking up with Prose for Thought to share our creative writing. She is a stay-at-home-mum who is working on a novel (and various other projects) and I can identify with a lot of what she blogs about. I really enjoyed reading about her creative process in her blog tour post last week.

So, on to the questions:

1. What am I working on?

My biggest project at the moment is my novel. It’s a psychological mystery (with a thriller edge). After an accident, its central character finds she has different memories of the last seventeen years than her loved ones do (in fact some of her loved ones are different people altogether!) The book follows her trying to figure out what is going on and what the truth is, while a growing threat to her safety lurks in the background.

My blog is my other big project. I started it as a place to record my experiences as I explored my ambition to become a published author but as time has gone by I have found myself posting more and more of my poetry and flash fiction on it. To begin with I found doing this terrifying, as I couldn’t bear for anyone to read my work (what with the self-doubt demon biting at my toes) but overcoming that fear has been massively beneficial. It’s given me the confidence to submit my work to various competitions and publications and I’ve even had a tiny bit of success that way!

2.  How does my work differ from others of my genre?

Hmmm. Well, I think every writer has their own voice and style of writing but really I’m still exploring what mine is. I very much feel I am on a voyage of discovery in this area (even though that does sound a bit pretentious!).

In a way I like to think that my book is different from other psychological thrillers because although it has threatening elements and a mystery to unravel it is really a story of maternal and familial love. On the other hand, the genre is a popular one at the moment so I think there’s something to be said for not straying too far from what readers expect and want when they pick that sort of book.

My blog doesn’t really fit into a box – I suppose it’s a writer’s blog but I’m not a published author, and I also blog a bit about parenting but it’s not a mummy blog. It’s also unique in that it’s full of my own pieces of fiction. Every blog is different though- that’s part of the fun.

3.  Why do I write/create what I do?

I write because I love it. It makes me happy. I constantly have stories running through my head and long to get them down somewhere. I get itchy fingers if I take too much time off writing and  this feeling has only got stronger over the past two years (since I started really making time in my life for creative writing).Writing de-stresses me – it’s my ‘me-time’, a time when I can disappear into my own little world and create what I like. (It also stresses me too when I set myself goals and then struggle to reach them but I enjoy a challenge so in a way that’s good too!)

I also write as a record. My blog is obviously this, but I have written poetry about how I feel about my children and about certain events and experiences. I wrote a poem about pregnancy as I wanted to remember how it felt to be heavily pregnant, and I wrote about birth (as a record but it also turned out to be very cathartic). So for me writing is a very important tool – I use it to capture, remember, imagine, create and even recover. These days I would feel lost without it.

 4.  What is my writing process?

I like to set myself challenges. I don’t have much free time to write so I find that setting myself weekly or monthly word count goals (as well as other aims like ‘enter a flash fiction competition’ or ‘write a poem on such-and-such a subject’) help me to use my time more effectively. For my novel, I’ve been setting myself monthly targets since May and I’m currently nearly 50,000 words into the first draft. Doing CampNaNoWriMo last month helped too!

Outside of the structure of my self-imposed challenges, there is a lot of ‘winging it’ that goes into my writing. I’m not much of a planner – I like to write and see how things evolve. I love it when characters surprise me (which they frequently do) and am always open to sudden changes in direction (the ‘thriller element’ of my book just appeared!).  Really my writing process is just me on the sofa, with a laptop and a drink, seeing how it goes.

I also have an ongoing limerick challenge where I write a limerick on a subject of my sons’ choosing and post it on my blog, so in that way my kids are very much a part of my process!

Lastly, I read a lot of fiction. This feels intrinsic to my writing. I love getting stuck in a good book!

So that’s me. Now I’m going to pass on the blog tour baton to two fabulous bloggers:

Be who you are... Dr Seuss

Mummy Tries’ avatar

I’ve been following Mummy Tries‘ blog since the start of the year when I happened across it on a linkie. At the time she (who shall remain nameless as she blogs anonymously!) was heavily pregnant with her third child and attempting to write a book. My third baby was ten months old at the time so I could identify! Since then she has become a loyal and supportive blogging friend.

I can throughly recommend a visit to Mummy Tries where she blogs about life with her hubby and three cherubs. She shares parenting insights, thrifty tips, what she has learnt while on the GAPS diet and lots of ‘free from’ recipes. She also takes the odd trip down memory lane to a dysfunctional past that is well behind her. She is currently writing a self help book and hopes to inspire others to break the ‘Cycle of Dysfunction’ like she did. I’m continually impressed by how often she blogs and how much she manages to fit into her life, especially with so little sleep. I’m looking forward to reading her Blog Tour post next Monday and finding out more about her book!

Chrissie's avatar

Chrissie’s avatar

The other blogger I would like to introduce is Chrissie from Muddled Manuscript. Chrissie is another fellow writer and mum-of-three who I met (in a virtual sense) early this year. Her blog focusses on her writing and right from the start I was fascinated by her insights into the novel-writing process. She has a lot of experience as she started writing her first book fourteen years ago (and she’s still younger than me)! She is a talented writer who also posts a lot of her own creative work – both poems and short stories – on her blog so it’s well worth a read.

Chrissie has been an inspiration to me as she has taken part in – and won – no fewer than eight NaNoWriMo’s, three of the November ones (where participants aim to write a 50,000 word novel in a month) and five CampNaNoWriMo’s (where participants can choose their own word target… but she has also written a 50,000 word novel each time)! It was Chrissie who encouraged me to take part in (and win) last month’s CampNaNoWriMo. She has been an excellent support to me with my writing for months and become a good friend in the process.

Well, I really enjoyed writing this post so thank you Morgan for inviting me to the tour.

Remember to pop over to Mummy Tries and Muddled Manuscript next Monday to read their blog tour posts – I’m looking forward to it!

stories

155-5546_IMG

It’s cold outside so I thought I’d post a photo of a fire!

Right, the baby’s asleep so I’ve got time for a quick writing update!

It’s been a better week than last week. I’m staring to get my head round the changes that are happening/coming and am getting things organised. This, thankfully, seems to have helped my writer’s block. Not that I’ve written much, but on top of my weekly limerick challenge and a poem about sleep deprivation (which was a visual poem too – a bit of an experiment) I’ve also written a short story.

Writing the story got me wondering though – when you write, how do you know how long the piece should be? Do you know at the start? Or do you just start writing and it evolves? What happens if it’s not obvious… if you come to a fork in the story-writing-road?

The thing is, with other things I’ve written I’ve had a sense, from the beginning, of how long they’re likely to be. I’ve written some flash fiction pieces recently and I knew from the outset that they would be around the 200 – 300 word mark. But this story was different and I’ve found myself writing two versions one of which is twice as long as the other! I’m currently undecided as to whether the snappy flash fiction version is better than the longer one which gets in a bit more of backstory and character development. Hmmm.

I experienced similar thing with a poem this week which could have had a fair few extra lines in. In the end, I decided they were unnecessary. But the story feels like a harder thing to judge. I probably just need to leave it for a few days and re-read and go with my gut. But it feels a bit like either decision could be right.

Does this happen with writing books too? Are there novels that would work better as novellas (or vice-versa)? Could some short stories even be expanded successfully to become whole books? Or does every story really have an ideal length and the trick, as a writer, is to find it?

Perhaps there’s no right or wrong. Maybe every story is as long or as short as we want to make it. But I have a feeling that in a truly great piece of writing no word is either wasted or lost.

I’m a long way from greatness though, so I’m still left wondering…

sprint finish

jasper-tree.jpg

It’s been a funny old week, full of ups and downs. I’m feeling physically and emotionally exhausted. My youngest son turned one at the weekend and we had a lovely family party but I’ve been feeling so emotional at the idea of my (last) baby growing up! And, as I mentioned in my post yesterday, his sleep has been terrible this week so I’ve been surviving largely on tea and adrenalin. If I remember to drink the tea.

So, from a creative-writing standpoint, the majority of this week (since my #writingwarriors post last Friday) has been a damp squib. I managed my weekly #limerick challenge over the weekend but nothing more. Then in the early hours of Wednesday morning I wrote a poem inspired by my desperation over the sleep situation and then on Wednesday night – joy of joys – the baby slept through the night!

So yesterday morning, in a sudden rush of energy I was able to turn my desperate night-time poem into something half-way-decent and finish off and submit some limericks to IRON press’ Limerick Nation anthology. So I went from feeling really exhausted and quite miserable to suddenly feeling like I’d achieved something right at the last minute. A ‘sprint finish’ to my writing week!

And that’s given me some new questions to consider this week (for those who haven’t read any of my #writingwarriors post before – hello, my name is Maddy and I’m a question-aholic!)

I got a real feeling of achievement from making the deadline for the IRON press anthology. Of course I have no idea if any of my limericks will be accepted but at least I tried! And it’s made me think about the idea of submissions in general.

Since deciding I’d explore this whole creative-writing malarky I’ve made the sum total of three submissions. One short story, one poem and then the limerick thing. I’ve had two rejections and one answer pending. I’ve hardly been going great guns.

That said, I’m also (incredibly slowly) trying to write a book which I can’t attempt to publish ’till it’s finished and I’ve never had the specific aim of sending lots of work off but, even so, I’ve been watching Stephanie’s ‘year of submissions’ progress with admiration and a certain amount of envy. I’m wondering if I should submit more of my work. So here are some questions and I’d love to hear your thoughts:

  • Do you make a lot of/many/any submissions?
  • Do you find it helpful to do so? (eg does having deadlines help you finish more work rather than leave it ‘unpolished’ on your hard-drive?)
  • Do you tailor your work around what different press’s/magazines etc are specifically asking for? Or just write what you want and then look for somewhere that might accept that sort of thing?
  • Where do you find out about things like competitions you could enter? Any recommendations?
  • Do you make submissions for love or money or recognition? or all/some/something else?
  • Is it worth it, given rejection can be hard to take?

I’m going to be thinking about these things this week. I think I’ll try to put some time into finding some competitions I can enter…

Post Comment Love

half term hiatus

adkfjh

Reflections

It’s half term this week so my creative writing has pretty much ground to a standstill. My sons (aged six and four) are off school so our days have been full of play dates (lovely), walks in the park (great) and visits to soft play (ugh). Even my evenings have some how all been swallowed up with baby shenanigans (he’s teething again) and socialising (whoo hoo!) I’m writing this on Thursday night which is the first proper period of time I’ve had to myself since last Friday. I’m crossing my fingers that the baby stays asleep long enough for me to finish the post!

I have managed to squeeze in a bit of blogging here and there this week though. And although I’ve previously been tempted to dismiss time spent blogging as ‘not counting as creative writing time’ I actually think I was wrong to do so. This week I wrote a limerick over the weekend  to post on Monday for my weekly #limerickchallenge and I also wrote a short piece of prose this morning in time to link up with #prose4T. Without my blog to motivate me, I doubt I would have written either of these, and the whole week would have passed by in a haze of jumbled mothering.

But given the blog has been the focus of my (very limited) writing time this week, I have been wondering about another aspect of it – namely the visitor stats – and I’d love to pick people’s brains about this.

Questions

I set this blog up as a place to explore my creative writing, record my experiences and to connect with other people doing the same thing. It’s in no way a money-making vehicle, nor is it designed to draw lots of attention to myself (I have nothing against blogs that do this, I just know I’d have to be doing things very differently if that was my intent).

It’s actually meeting my aims pretty well at the moment but, to be honest, a few more readers would be nice! I suppose what I’m wondering is:

  • Should the number of visitors matter to me? Do they matter to you as a writer/blogger?
  • Do you spend time looking at your site stats and trying to encourage more views?
  • Do you use Twitter and Facebook a lot to draw attention to your blog? (I’m a bit rubbish with Twitter – I pop on and off in a flash, don’t often stop for a chat, and only usually tweet my blog posts once! I don’t use FB at all as Writing Bubble – I only have a personal account.)
  • Have your visitor numbers grown slowly over time or was your blog an instant success?
  • Is success really related to blog hits anyway? Maybe they’re irrelevant!

I always seem to be full of questions! I love hearing your responses though!

I’m linking up with Writing Warriors over at Beautiful Misbehaviour. I really recommend the linky to anyone who’s trying to write creatively and could do with a bit of support.