Reach your Writing Goals with a Schedule

Juggling a blog, social media, your WiP, competition entries – not to mention your day job – can make it feel like you need twelve pairs of hands. If you’re struggling to keep your writing on track, a simple schedule may be the answer. Here’s how to make it work:

Make a List

First, write a list of everything you want to work on, something like:

  • 2nd edit of Work in Progress
  • Blog posts
  • Interacting with online community
  • Reading books about writing
  • 1st draft of competition entry

Notice I’ve included reading in there. Your schedule doesn’t just need to be all about writing.

Allocate your Tasks

Now you know what you want to work on, allocate one task to each day. Your schedule could be longer than seven days if you have a lot of things to get through. And remember – give yourself some time off. Like any muscle, your brain needs ‘recovery’ time to get stronger.

Measure your Aims

For each task, decide what your aim will be – such as write 200 words, edit three pages, or just work for one hour. Add a specific time (after the kids are in bed for example) if you need to.

Write it Down

Whether it’s a sticky note on laptop or pinned to the wall in big bold letters, make sure it’s visible. Its there to remind you – and any other potential time stealers – that you have work to do!

Change it if you Need to

Your schedule is going to change as you complete tasks anyway, but if any part if it isn’t working, then change it. And if you’re inspired to work on something ‘off schedule’, then do it!

Do you have a schedule? How do you juggle all your writing demands?

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Around Wells Cathedral and The Chained Library

Wells is the smallest city in the UK. Its status as a city dates from medieval times, and depends on its stunning cathedral complex.

It’s been a filming location for a number of productions including ‘Poldark’, ‘Dunkirk’ and ‘Hot Fuzz’ – the high street and market place are immediately recognisable from the climactic shoot-out scene.

 

Ceiling of Wells Cathedral

 

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Wells Cathedral

When we visited, the cathedral was home to another film crew, working on something secretive that needed a big black balloon hanging aboce the Nave. I subsequently found out they were working on the new Hellboy film!

 

But back to the cathedral. It’s interior i simple but beautiful, full of curves and light. It’s home to what’s believed to be the second oldest clock mechanism in the UK, and a procession of knights do jousting rounds every quarter hour.

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Medieval Clock, Wells Cathedral

 

It’s also possible to tour The Chained Library, which houses books published before 1800. I settled for photographing the books through the gate. Although I know they’re chained up to prevent theft, I prefer the idea that they’re alive (and rather grumpy).

 

Chained Library, Wells Cathedral

 

Wells is a lovely place to visit and quick to get round being so small. I advise getting off the high street to find good food places and to explore as much as possible.

 

Vicar’s Close, Wells, Somerset

 

Have you ever visited Wells?

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Want Something Scary to Read this Halloween? ‘Tales from the Creeping Edges’ will be available to download 31st October

Image of a dark path

Halloween is a time to curl up inside, away from the dark and damned. It’s a time to dim the lights, light the fire and read my collection of supernatural stories, ‘Tales from the Creeping Edges’. That’s right folks, my next e-book will be ready to buy on the 31st October.

The world looks ordinary, but the unearthly lies just around the edges, creeping ever closer. These twelve tales show you where it can be found – and what to be wary of. 

In ‘Feed the Little Children’, Ivy explores an abandoned building and meets its ghoulish resident. Lee and his friends travel down a street that doesn’t exist in ‘Creek End’. And David comes face to face with temptation in a parallel universe in ‘Mr Spectors’ Circumstances have Changed’.

These stories and more all feature in this chilling, darkly humorous and sometimes plain weird collection.

‘Tales from the Creeping Edges’ – available 31st October only on Amazon Kindle.

And if you want a taste of my writing, download my first book ‘Under This Skin’ from Amazon for only 99p or free with Kindle Unlimited.

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Notebook Collection #8 – Winchester Cathedral

Winchester was the capital of ancient Sussex. Alfred the Great established Winchester as his base when he started to unite together the disparate parts of what would be England. He’s still there today, commanding the High Street opposite the Town Hall.

It always seemed a magical place to me, a world away from the sixties concrete of my home town. It has History with a capital H and if there’s one thing I love, it’s history.

The cathedral itself was founded in 642 and was rebuilt and re-worked for many hundreds of years afterwards. Its age means whenever you visit, it’s fairly like there will be scaffolding around it somewhere. Like painting a bridge, once they’ve cleaned and  restored the facade, it’s back the the beginning to start again.

Large ancient monuments, be they castles, stone circles or cathedrals have this power over us. Even in modern times when towering skyscrapers loom over us, we remain in awe. Perhaps it’s because we know these were made before cranes, and trucks and all our modern building technology. They took hundreds of years to complete, and often cost many lives. Literal blood, sweat and tears went into them. It would be rude not to be impressed.

When they were built, they must have amazed the local populace – which of course was the point. To instil fear and promote the idea of God’s home on Earth, a towering testament to his strength.

This notebook comes from the rather good shop (especially glorious during Christmas period). It’s a good, chunky one with plenty of pages if a little plain under the cover.

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Some people may feel uncomfortable about religious sites selling souvenirs, but when these were places of pilgrimage, they’d be full of people talking, singing, trading and more.

As with all of my notebooks, it’s the memory that’s of real value. It’s there to remind me of all the places I’ve been and what they mean to me.

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What Name do you Write Under?

In ‘On Writers and Writing‘, Margaret Atwood discusses (among other things) the notion that a writer is in fact two people. The ‘writer’ is an ever present twin aside the ‘person’. One observes, the other writes. This duality is explored mirrored by writers themselves in many stories from ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ to ‘A Picture of Dorian Grey’. But it’s also neatly encapsulated by the writers own use of a ‘nom de plume’ or ‘pen name’. In doing this, Atwood argues, the writer is actively naming the other self and acknowledging the two halves they possess. And you thought you were just picking a name to go after ‘by’.

A writer chooses a ‘pen name’ for any number of reasons; to hide their sex, escape persecution or retain anonymity are a few common ones. It’s perhaps not that regular these days for a writer to use a full ‘nom de plume’. It’s harder to keep your true identity hidden after all (as JK Rowling found out when she tried to hide behind ‘Robert Galbraith’). But plenty of writers use some variation on their given name such as initials, a different surname or a short version of their first name.

When I started entering writing competitions, I chose to use my initials and this was partly to avoid gender bias (conscious or not). Unsurprisingly there’s a long history of woman using ‘nom de plume’s’. The Brontes did it, George Elliott did it; Jane Austen was first published as ‘A Lady’. To be accepted, to even be published, you had to hide the fact you were female.  JK Rowling (her again), decided that the boys who were the target audience for Harry Potter might not want to read a book by a woman, and so published under her initials instead (having no middle name, the K is actually for ‘Kathleen’, her grandmother).

So the name you chose to write under has more weight to it than you might think. I particularly like the idea of my other writing self, a person to inhabit when I fire up the fingers to get down to work.

Do you have a ‘nom de plume’? What made you chose it? Or did the thought of writing under a different name never cross your mind?

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Self doubt is a bastard

You know him. 

He’s that guy who wants you to feel his successes are your failures as he feels your successes are his. 

He may not achieve much

but it’s all him if he does. 

He’ll find the negative in every positive. He sees each fall as reason to stop climbing. 

The future, he swears,

is visible to all and there’s yours, a world of regret, of life not achieved. 

All the missed times. All down to you.

In his eyes all others are better, all others are happy. He measures success by the barometer of Western society – money, career, family, fame. 

All or you’re nothing. 

He is present for all but for some he speaks louder. For some he’s embedded deeper. And no matter what you do he’ll always be there.

You can’t evict him, though you’ve served enough notice. A tenant for life. Steals your milk and leaves his dirty dishes in the sink.

Self doubt

Don’t you just 

Hate him

The Art of Being Alone

If you’re a writer, you’re going to spend a good bit of time on your own. And whilst it’s a cliche to say writers are introverts, you’ve got to be comfortable enough in your own company to be able to spend extended period on your lonesome, writing your masterpieces.

In general, solitude is often viewed as a ‘bad thing’ – so much so it’s used as a punishment. It’s not ‘natural’. Loners go on killing sprees, they think radical thoughts and with all the technology we have, we still can’t peek inside anyone’s mind. We believe that if a person is interacting with us, we have some window into what they’re thinking. Someone who’s alone could be thinking anything – which is kind of why we writers like it. Whilst we may be naturally social animals, we all need time alone.

Why? Well, when you’re connected twenty-four seven and have a million voices speaking at you at once, how can you possibly know what are your thoughts and what are someone else’s? Without time alone, we can’t process all the information we’re getting and end up just regurgitating other peoples words as our own.

Listening to the voice in your head is scary. Writers do it all the time – and it isn’t always fun. What if you hear the wrong thing, something dark and gruesome that comes from inside you? What if you don’t hear anything at all, just watch a barrage of tumbleweeds rolling through your noggin? Well, that’s just the risk you’re going to have to take.

Being alone isn’t the same as being lonely. You can be lonely in a room full of people. The thoughts in your head may make you feel something, but being alone is not a negative or positive emotional state, just a neutral one.

So go be alone. Write alone, think alone and don’t apologise for it. Solitude is necessary. Defend it.

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Portmeirion – You’re not a Number, but you are a Tourist

Bathed in sunshine, this could be the coast of Italy – but its actually North West Wales.

Portmeirion is a tourist resort best known is certain circles for the cult TV show ‘The Prisoner’. Its otherworldly vibe was perfect for the mind bending show where a man was trapped, numbered and pursued by a giant balloon.

Built by Sir Clough William-Ellis between 1925 and 1975, Portmeirion is still a popular place for people to visit and stay. And while I can see the attraction, after a while it starts to feel like you’re on the Truman Show. But it’s certainly one of kind and worth a visit.

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5 Tips on Editing from an Editor

Writing is re-writing – however much of a cliche that must be. Whether you’re writing fiction, non fiction or even a blog post, your ability to edit effectively can make the difference between a decent piece of work and a unreadable hotch-potch.

I’ve written and edited online content for eight years. I love editing which is good since it makes up a lot of what I do. It’s the same for my personal writing – give me re-writes over first drafts any day. So here’s some advice from an editor on editing:

1. Read out loud

Do I do this at work? Yes I do. I mumble along to myself all the time. My desk mates don’t mention it, I think they’re used to it by now. But you may prefer to have a quiet space and time to do this. Not only will it highlight typos you may have subconsciously overlooked, it will also show how you writing flows. By reading out loud you’ll hear how natural the dialogue sounds, the impact of your pacing and depth of your description. And yes you should definitely do the voices!

2. Get a second pair of eyes

Not literally! That kind of thing will get you locked up. Everything we edit at work is reviewed, not once, but twice before it goes live. You don’t. necessarily need to go that far but getting one other person to read your work and offer feedback is a good idea.

Some people use Beta readers, people recruited specifically to read your work and give you feedback. Time is usually given for free, but in a reciprocal fashion, so be prepared to become someone else’s Beta reader in exchange.

Alternatively, if you have a friend or family member who you trust to give you an honest opinion, and are prepared to help, this could be an option too. But make sure you’re clear about timings and exactly what you need from them.

3. Use the tools

At work we have to get clear articles out on a tight timescales. So we use whatever tools we have available to help us out. The obvious ones are things like spell check, (but an amazing number of people do seem to overlook even this). There are a bunch of other tools out there, often free. I could create a whole other blog post about them. We use the Hemr App and Readable amoung others. There are ones to help you keep track of complicated plotlines, ones to help you plan your time, ones to make notes to come back to later. Find your tools and tinker.

4. Take a break

Once the messy first draft is done, take a break. With the tight deadlines we have at work, this can often just be long enough get a coffee, but it’s stil enough. Even a quick break resets your mind ready to edit. How long you take is up to you, but for a long work, take a week at least. Do something else, write something else, then come back to it. And once you’ve done your first edit, take another break before the second. Which brings us to number five…

5. Lather, rinse, repeat

How many times do you edit? Personally I do three. The first, the hardest, to really whip things into shape, the second to flesh out character and description and the third, to fix the typos, the formatting, all the boring stuff. The only advice I can give is to edit at least once.

Editing – do you love or hate it? What are your tips and tricks?

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