Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Struggling with short stories

I've been struggling with short stories recently. Not reading them, that's no problem, but writing them. I've put ICHWT (I Could Have Written That) beside several of the ones I've read in an effort to spur myself on but to no avail. Actually getting down to writing a full-length short story, as opposed to my preferred medium of flash fiction, was beginning to feel like attempting to climb Everest in a pair of kitten heels.

However, as I mentioned in a recent post, I like to set quotas for my work and that includes sending out at least one short story per month. Even though I really wanted to get a story to Woman's Weekly, mainly because I haven't sent them one for a while and they are one of my target markets, I wasted the first week of the month looking (to no avail) for a flash fiction competition to enter. I then spent the second week trawling through my (ever growing!) folder of unpublished stories in the hope that I could find something I hadn't already sent them, also to no avail.

Finally, with the days ticking by, I was forced to accept that I would have to write a new story. The third week of the month was therefore spent compiling a ridiculously long list of ideas and going through the usual agonies of which one to choose.

But just as I was about to finally put fingers to keyboard, a very unexpected thing happened. A friend emailed me some photos of my late parents' canal cruiser "Krackas II" (don't ask!) which they had spotted on the Macclesfield Canal. I had no idea what had happened to the boat which was a very important part of my life many years ago but was sold just before my father passed away in 2007.

On the off-chance (anything to avoid doing any writing!) I put the name of the boat into a search engine and much to my amazement, found it on a social networking site for Ormelite Cruisers (

I immediately joined the site so that I could leave a comment about it. (The boat is quite unusual as my father more or less built it himself in the next door neighbour's front garden.) Anyway, the current owner joined in the discussion, seemed delighted to hear about the boat's history and invited me to go and see it when he returns from holiday.

Suddenly I had a short story, complete with plot, imaginary characters, setting, theme and even a title, with no effort on my part whatsoever! Of course, I've still got to actually write it but I feel more excited and passionate about this story than I have done with any story for a while, especially the one I was planning to write.

In fact I feel so sure of this one that I'm going to stop writing this post and get started on my story right away before any more of this month evaporates. I wish you bon voyage with your own short stories.  



Friday, 26 August 2011

Favourite Writing Tips

What's your favourite writing tip? I have a large collection of them in a notebook and when I feel in need of inspiration and encouragement (which is quite a lot of the time to be honest) I flick through and pick out the ones that seem to apply to my particular writing problem or dilemma.

Most of the tips come from well-established and successful writers and I was pleased to find a few new ones the other day in the Successful Writer e-letter which comes from the informative website I look at this site on a regular basis and it is one of the links on my website ( because it contains up to the minute listings of jobs and other opportunities, including competitions, for freelance writers and journalists.

I have been puzzling over one of the two writing tips they included from Ray Bradbury which is "You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance". If anyone can explain it to me, I'll be happy to include it in my little red book! (The other Bradbury tip was "You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you" if anyone is interested.)

The one I found the most helpful from Succesful Writer's list was from Anton Chekhov (we're in good company today!) which is "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass". I'm going to try and remember that one next time I'm struggling with "show don't tell".

I've picked a couple of tips from my notebook which might be useful if, like me, you have trouble actually getting down to writing. Esther Freud says "Find your best time of the day for writing and write. Don't let anything else interfere. Afterwards it won't matter to you that the kitchen is a mess." And one of my all time favourites from Gerald Dickler is "A writer is one who stays in and writes".

Do let me know what your favourite writing tips or sayings are. I'd love to hear them.



Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Setting Quotas

Does anyone else set quotas for how much work they send out every week, month etc or is that just me? I decided a while back that I was probably never going to send anything out if I didn't set a quota and for various reasons I decided that six items a month was right for me.

Like lots of ideas, it is probably good in theory and so far I have managed to keep to my quota. Unfortunately, the theory seems to fall down when I find myself (usually on the last day of the month!) desperately scratching around trying to find somewhere to send something in an effort to meet my quota.

A few weeks ago, while in this predicament, I came across Healthy magazine in a well-known health food store. I noticed that they offered fifty pounds worth of vouchers to spend in store for the writer of the star letter. Desperate to fulfill my quota and hopeful of winning the top prize, I duly sent off a letter. The email was returned by the "postmaster" for some reason, so more effort was required to locate a stamp and send a copy of the email by post with a covering note.

Relieved to have reached my quota for the month, I promptly forgot all about my letter until last week when my neighbour staggered round with a huge parcel which the postman had tried to deliver. It contained a vast array of health and beauty products, none of which I can use, due to the various allergies that I suffer from.

The moral of the story is that yes, I fulfilled my quota and had a "filler" accepted in a magazine (big deal?) but now I have to find a good home for all the products I won. I am seriously beginning to think that sending out work just for the sake of it is not necessarily the way forward and I would be interested to know what other people think about this.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011


If you've been both shocked and alarmed by the disturbing scenes on the streets of several UK towns and cities in the last few days (and what sane person hasn't?) a positive reponse might be to vent your feelings in a poem.

Poetry24 ( "Where News is the Muse" could be just the outlet for your work. Launched in February 2011 by Martin Hodges and Clare Kirwan, you can find the following request on its Submission Guidelines Page.

"Do you have something to say about current events in the world? Can you say it evocatively, with passion, rage, compassion and/or humour? Can you make us see things from a wider perspective or take us right into the heart of the matter?"

If the answer is "Yes" to all these questions, then why not send them a poem? The detailed submission guidelines on the site stipulate a maximum of two poems to be sent to both editors separately, in the body of an email. Poems must not have been previously published, even on a blog and should be no longer than 40 lines. You are asked to provide a hyperlink to a recent online news story giving the background to what you are writing about, as well as your blog or website details and a 30 word biography.

Good luck if you do decide to submit something and let's pray for peace on our streets before any further lasting damage is done.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


Ah. The ups and downs of the writing life. Don't you just love them? Yesterday, I got really excited after reading in my local paper that a publishing company called Unbound (not to be confused with the Glasgow-based independent publishers Unbound Press) had come up with the idea of giving authors an opportunity to pitch their ideas for books online and have them voted for by readers. If the book receives enough votes, the readers pledge to support the author financially in return for various "rewards" such as having their name in the book, being invited to the launch party etc.

Sounds great, I thought and as the particular piece in question was aimed at children and teenagers, I immediately started thinking about how I could promote some of my (as yet unpublished) children's novels on the site.

My excitement lasted approximately 24 hours when my bubble was burst by an article on the same company in the August edition of Writers' News. Although the original article didn't mention this, Unbound is currently only interested in submissions from already published authors or those who have literary agents.

So it's back to the writing board for me but if you fall into either of the above categories and feel that this might be something you could be interested in, then why not take a look at Unbound's website Good luck!