September 2017


has been up and running for a year now and I’d like to thank all of you who have been in touch with comments, feedback, questions and suggestions.  I haven’t been able to develop the website as much as I’d originally planned, due to family circumstances. So now, after a year, it’s time for a revamp.

For the foreseeable future, everything new will be here on the front page – blog, writing tips, prompts and  recommendations. That way you can keep in touch once a month and see at a glance what’s there.

I’d very much like to add your comments to the site so I hereby make it a resolution to get in touch with my web design company to find out how to do just that!

I’ll keep the past year’s articles, prompts etc for a while and then they’ll disappear. I might put them and others into a handy-sized booklet – I’ll let you know if that materialises in the next year.

So, how’s your writing going?

Are you a 500-words-a-day person or does it happen in fits and starts? I’ve been a bit of both over the past few months but one thing I’ve discovered is if I don’t write something every day, I don’t feel right. Something is missing and I haven’t had a good day. When I get back to it on a regular basis, I sleep so much better!

Wrtiting group picI’ve had to take a break from my classes in the past few months and talking to a couple of my writers recently, they say they’ve missed them – thank you – because they’ve got out of the writing habit and they need some ideas! I also think it’s because the groups themselves provide not only enjoyable social get-togethers but a collective motivation to write. All my groups are extremely supportive of each other’s writing, rather than competitive, and I feel this too is of immense benefit for everyone, me included.

Writing is so often a solo activity (I don’t like to say lonely because you should have all your characters keeping you company) that having one or more writing buddies you see regularly can provide a most welcome balance.

An up-date on what I’m writing:

I’m still sending my novel out to agents, publishers and competitions but I’ve stopped writing the sequel. I came to a full-stop and decided to have a change. I feel sure I will return to it sometime, because I frequently think of my main character and what she could get up to next! In the meantime, I went back to an historical novel set in Ireland and finished it. Really happy with having done that but I’ve put it away and will leave it for a couple of months before looking at it with fresh eyes for the first edit. I’ve also written a radio play but the BBC WritersRoom isn’t accepting drama submissions until the end of the year so I’ve time for editing. And I’m currently in the early stages of planning a new novel. This one, unusually for me, will be contemporary so I won’t have to bury myself in books about life in the Middle East 2000 years ago!

Are you a planner or a seat-of-the-pants writer?

I know writers of each camp who swear their method is the only way they can write. Non-planners just hate the thought of looking further ahead than the next page; planners can’t bear not knowing where they are going.Screen Shot 2017-09-01 at 10.56.10

I’m definitely a planner and I have to know the major plot points of my story before I can start writing. I then use tables and charts for a variety of purposes:

  1. They help me plot the actions of my main character, to make sure he/she is being active throughout the novel.
  2. They help me keep track of my other major and minor characters so I don’t forget about one for too many chapters.
  3. Once I know my theme/s, I plan where I can add a scene or a conversation that supports them.
  4. I keep a track of what types of scenes/chapters I am using eg dramatic, reflective, flashback, suspense etc so I don’t have too many of the same type close together.
  5. I keep a note of what important concrete nouns I use. These can be leitmotifs which will appear throughout the book eg a heroine’s bunch of keys. This might be particularly significant to the plot or it might be a symbol for that particular character eg they are afraid of being locked out (or in).
  6. Perhaps most importantly, I keep track of where each scene is set. This way I make sure of varying my settings, using them as part of the characters’ stories, rather than just a place to have my characters talking.

But I know some of my writing friends find using charts like this far too clinical. “It’s like writing to a formula,” they say. They actually LIKE not knowing what it going to happen until the very moment they start typing.

Certainly there are pros and cons for each way of working but we are individuals and what works for me, may not for someone else. Do let me know how you work – it might inspire another writer to try a different technique once in a while.

Here are links to a couple of writers’ blogs on the subject of planning:
Dinah Jefferies, author of The Tea Planter’s Wife, click  here
and a creative writing website, click  here

Finding images to use for free.

If you run your own websites or create newsletters, you probably have a job finding copyright free images to use. Here’s a list of websites that offer such a service. But, please, check each one carefully before you use their pix.

For instance, if you go to the Bing website, you will need to go to the Filter button and then choose the category you want to find which images are totally free.

Don’t take any chances: I know of someone who used a photo from a website, thinking that no-one would notice. She was quickly contacted by the company owning the photo, telling her to take it down or risk legal action. You have been warned!

Book recommendation:

Screen Shot 2017-09-01 at 10.49.20Regular readers will know I am a HUGE fan of historical novelist Philippa Gregory so it’ll be no surprise to hear that I am deeply ensconced in her latest book The Last Tudor. Right from the first page I was hooked and although I’m familiar with the famous historical characters, it’s the way in which Gregory makes them so real, their emotions ones that I recognise and can empathise with. She packs in a lot of historical facts too but always THROUGH the characters, showing not telling. A writing lesson on every page!



Writing prompts:

  1. Friday September 22nd is the official start of Autumn here in the UK. What are its smells, sounds, sights and tastes? Write for five minutes non-stop about what this season means for you.
  2. Time for you to take a fresh look at your writing resolutions for the year. Are you on track or is it time for some catch-up sessions?Jodie Whittaker
  3. A new Dr Who! The wonderful actress Jodie Whittaker. What could a female Doctor bring to the world that all the previous male ones did not? Try not to think in stereotypes.
  4. Does your latest story have a theme? Some writers start with one in mind, others discover one as they are writing. Which are you? Take a look at your story and see if you can incorporate a theme that will, undoubtedly, add another dimension to both plot and character.
  5. Look through a daily newspaper and make a note of the themes of the different news stories eg online gambling, the state of our care homes, road rage, grief 20 years on. Keep a file with these in as they could come in very handy when next you want an idea for a story.

Happy Writing


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