From Writing With Love – Dealing with Rejection

From writing with love final cover smallLast  week I was responsible for putting up the RoomtoWrite short story long list on the website. To my great delight and surprise, when we finished judging the competition and then matched stories to writers, I discovered that several of the longlisted writers subscribe to my newsletter!

So big congratulations to those on the long list and those who go on to win but I can’t help thinking about the writers who submitted but weren’t chosen. I’ve been there. I’ve entered competitions and come nowhere. I’ve had a number of novels rejected and I know how it feels. Rejection is hard to take and anyone who says otherwise is not being truthful. So for all writers everywhere, here’s my take on rejection. It’s from my book From Writing With Love which is on special offer on Kindle all week – at  just 99p -do read the reader reviews. You can find it HERE

Cream Cakes and Wine

Rejection slips, or letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them ~ Isaac Asimov

Dealing with rejection is tough but it’s part and parcel of being a writer. Rotten Rejections: The Letters that Publishers Wish They’d Never Sent is a collection of rejection letters sent by publishers to writers – many of the authors are now famous and the books are classics:

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D H Lawrence – for your own sake do not publish this book.
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame – an irresponsible holiday story
Lord of the Flies, William Golding – an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.

When you get that rejection letter, or these days more likely that email, don’t despair, you’re in good company. Try not to take it personally after all we are not our novel, no matter how close we feel to it and this is just one person’s opinion. Here are my rules (in this case I think rules are needed!) for dealing with rejection:
Be disappointed – swear, shout, stamp your feet, proclaim the unfairness to anyone who will listen, vow never to submit anything ever again… then get over it.
Keep believing in your work. Know there are people out there who would love it – call it their book of the year. It’s true, it happened to me with The Sweet Track which finally made it after a fair few rejections.
Send it out again – do not give up and/or find a way to share it with the world, e publishing, self-publishing, blogs etc.
Learn what you can from it then write the next thing, keep writing, keep writing, keep writing, keep…….this is crucial. Involving yourself in the next project keeps you from dwelling on the disappointment.
Try not to blame others and don’t fall into the envy trap it just makes you bitter and twisted
Love your life and love writing – write down 3 good things a day, everyday
Buy cream cakes, talk it over with a writing friend and a bottle of wine.

Follow my rules and believe me in a couple of days it won’t feel half as bad and soon it will be forgotten.


Posted in Competitions, Getting Published, Inspiration, KIndle, Newsletter, Rejection, Roomtowrite | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Novella and The Risk of Reading


Katie – at what some described as a rather pagan wedding (I liked that, so did she) – she smiled all day!

As my daughter’s wedding and it’s afterglow receed so the writing emerges and the reading too.

On October 25th I’ll be running a RoomtoWrite day workshop with my colleague Wendy Robertson on The Novella – all the details are HERE if you’d like to join us for the day. As well as beginning a new novella – a form I’m really excited about – I’m reading novellas too. So far the prize goes to  Edith Wharton’s – Ethan Frome. New to me but how did I miss this? It’s captivating and unputdownable, in my opinion everything a novella should be.

Great fiction, like Edith Wharton’s, touches us and teaches us about  ourselves and the world. This is the premise of the Changing Lives Through Literature programme I had the good fortune to visit in Boston USA. It’s inspirational founder Prof. Bob Waxler has a new book out – The Risk of Reading.

It is an important and fascinating book especially for those of us who care about reading. You can find it HERE.

I pre-ordered my copy so I for one will be reading it.

In my newsletter this week – some American literary magazines to submit to and ‘Writing can be Scary.’ If you’d like to receive the newsletter – which is not really news but very much about writing -  free every Monday just e mail  at - and I will put you on my list.

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Getting Back to Writing After a Break



Flowers as arranged by Gillian

Flowers as arranged by Gillian

As you may know I’ve done very little fresh writing of late, this being due to my daughter’s impending wedding and all the work that a wedding entails. Well the great day is now past! Thank you so much for all your good wishes – we had a lovely, memorable day with family and friends – no disasters and lots of fun, so now it’s time to get back to the writing.
I’ve been looking forward very much to getting back to what I do but I have to admit that I wonder quite where and how it will happen…

Getting back to writing after a break of some kind, even after a summer holiday can sometimes be difficult. After all writing is hard, we may love it but it’s still hard work, possibly the hardest thing we do and it demands that we give a great deal of ourselves as well as of our time.

When we’re in the habit of not writing it can be easy to find distractions: emails that must be sent, business to attend to, people to meet, books to read, blogs to write, etc. etc. We can persuade ourselves that this is writing and in doing so we can avoid the real work.

If there’s a novel waiting then at least we know what we have to get back to and in this case I think it’s mostly a question of setting a date, then: Day 1 opening the file and reading, Day2 Editing what’s there so far (you may want to do this DAY1 as you read, Day 3 Writing on.

This process of re-acquainting ourselves with our work is key to starting afresh after a break. But what if there is no novel waiting? Here are 7 ways to help you get writing after a break: but firstly take your diary and pencil in a writing day, evening, or a few hours, whatever time you have when you know you will not be interrupted

1. Read something you’ve written, maybe the best thing – remind yourself you are a writer.
2. Find a past notebook, open it and read – discover something fresh, something you’d forgotten, the beginning of a poem, a note, an idea and develop it into a poem/ short piece/ story etc
3. On a fresh page in your notebook finish this sentence: If I could write anything it would be…………..(eg. If I could write anything it would be a novella about imprisonment, a story set in on a Greek island, an historical novel set in the American civil war…) There may be more than one thing you want to write – write them all down and mull them over. In downtime listen to the radio, go for a walk, daydream, while thinking about these.

4. Read something inspiring by someone else – your favourite novel/short story, the one you wish you’d written. Be inspired. Write a paragraph or two in the same style about one of your ideas from number 3.
5. Find a competition you think worth entering or a magazine to submit to and as well as deciding to edit something you already have, write something new.
6. Don’t get hung up on perfection, start small, use the freedom of the notebook in which you can just scribble away – sometimes getting away from the machine is key.
7. Go find a café or a favourite spot and write there, this way writing is a treat not a task. Enjoy.

Now it just remains for me to take my own advice……………..

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No Time For Writing


Drying homemade confetti – some I made earlier!

My house is rapidly filling with bunting and bridesmaids dresses, sparkly shoes, orders of service, confetti, and a hundred to do lists, also a somewhat nervous bride and mother of the bride!

There is really no time for writing but I have an idea brewing, a story or perhaps a novel or maybe a novella and for once I’m taking Rose Tremain’s advice and allowing myself to ‘dream’ it  ‘into being.’  Holding off can be a good thing.

Here are Rose Tremains 10 rules for writers as published in The Guardian – in my book it’s up there with the very best of advice for writers

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Stealing the Day – Finding Time to Write


Window in my writing room

On Friday I stole the day. Life is very busy. It’s less than three weeks to my daughter’s wedding and there’s lots to do and lots happening and it’s all lovely but towards the end of  the week I just didn’t feel right. I was in a restless, grumpy mood, the kind of mood that comes on me when I don’t find the time to write, especially when there’s an unfinished story that’s not quite working nagging away in my head.

I told myself relax, I’d given myself a holiday from writing and anyway how could I write with a room like a tip and other things to do? It didn’t work. The only answer was to somehow find the time to write. This is how I did it.

1. Got up early

2. Took out my diary, made a schedule for everything that needed doing – leaving the whole of the day blank – apart from two phone calls which had to be made.

3. Made the phone calls.

4. Took the polish and duster to my desk and tidied up ( NOT major cleaning just 5-10 mins)

5. Picked some sweet peas from the garden and put them in my room, made myself a cup of tea and toast, sat for 5 mins enjoying the flowers and my breakfast.

6. Opened my notebook and the machine avoiding e mail and Twitter

7. Told myself to let the story write  itself  and BEGAN – by 4 pm I felt much better and my story was finished.

It worked, I found the time to write. I stole the day.Sometimes we can’t come to writing cold. We need to give ourselves permission and we need a ritual or two to start preparing ourselves. I know what rituals work for me. How about you?

Posted in Life, My Writing, Uncategorized, Writing Tips | Tagged | 2 Comments

Gardening and Writing About Sex

This week – starting Monday 14th July – my novel The Orchid House is on a Kindle Countdown deal – which means it’s available at a discounted price. If you haven’t read it – now might be the time, but be warned it is sexually explicit.

For my thoughts on writing about sex you might like to read this previous post  which attracted a good deal of interest first time around. Perhaps that’s not surprising, after all, writing about sex is one of the hardest things a writer does.


Sweet peas in my garden

If you love romantic fiction with a darker undertow, gardening and garden history then the Orchid House will please you. There’s a lot of (very good) sex in the book too – and it takes real talent to write about sex well. Gardening, when you think about it, is all about sex – breeding plants, fertilising seeds, earth, nurturing fruit and flower. I have to say that this is one of the most erotic novels I’ve read for a while. From the steamy tropical ambience of Sri Lanka to the hot-houses of Trescombe in England, the reader is treated to sensual prose unfolding a plot that is both tragic and compelling.- Writer, Poet and Biographer Kathleen Jones

Posted in Cornwall, Gardens, KIndle, My Writing, Writing Tips | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

The High Concept Novel

I’m clearly behind the times because the term ‘high concept’ has only just crept into my vocabulary although I’ve been very aware of the kind of novels that currently make it into the world of publishing and those that don’t.

At  the weekend I had a fascinating conversation with a writer friend who is developing a film script from a novella – after all ‘high concept’ has its origins in the movie world – and who explained to me some of the buzzwords which accompany ‘high concept,’ like hook and logline. Then yesterday I read  a great piece  by Lesley McDowell literary critic for The Herald, The Scotsman and The Independent on Sunday, and author of  Between the Sheets: Nine 20th Century Women Writers and their Famous Literary Partnerships, which set me off on the trail of ‘high concept’ again. I share her reservations and find myself disliking this approach to the novel which puts market before writing and assumes we all want to read the same kind of things. But if you’re itching to published, and who isn’t? Then I guess it’s worth considering…

If like me you  are new to ‘high concept’ and wondering what it’s all about then this article The Seven Qualities of a High Concept Novel signposted by Lesley in her piece will explain all.

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Pablo’s Garden


Pablo’s Garden

Today rain threatened and it finally came to my garden at least in the form of hailstones battering the roses and philadelphous. But that was past six in the evening. Thankfully the day had remained fine until then, even sunny in parts, for the Yellow Book opening of Pablo’s Garden.  I know that Gillian who keeps the garden is an expert and devoted gardener but I still find myself in awe of what she has achieved: the garden in all it’s parts, its sunny and shady borders filled with flowers, the stumpery, the rose bed, the path lined with giant ferns, quiet places to sit and contemplate, a summerhouse with books and cats, a greenhouse bursting with tomatoes, flowers inhabiting every nook and cranny – such loving detail can only be achieved by a true, patient and inspirational gardener. There was tea of course and wonderful cakes and second hand books. I am now the delighted new owner of The Penguin Book of Garden Writing. Gardens are inspiring places. I came away wanting to write and reminded of  my grandmother’s garden. If you’d like to read my piece about that garden you can find it here

In my newsletter this week – how to give your imagination free rein – just email me if you’d like to receive it.

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icumen Chapbook- LiteralFish


My mother often said it: Summer is icumen in. It was for hope, for cheerfulness, for washing on the line – Gillian Allnutt

Yesterday evening I went with friends to the Lit&Phil Library in Newcastle (a very special place) for the launch of poet  Gillian Allnutt’s chapbook icumen. The chapbook is published by the intriguing LiteralFish  and to my mind it’s a thing of great beauty. I love chapbooks when they’re designed as this one is: elegant, monochrome, a plethora of white space and sparse text, and the poems themselves – described by David Almond as ‘a kind of intense birdsong…’ -words from a true and uncompromising poet of national standing.

Birdsong also featured  in the haunting and beautiful soundscape inspired by icumen and written and performed by artist Helen Collard.

I’m looking forward very much to seeing what LiteralFish do next and looking forward perhaps to a new poetry workshop run by Gillian…hint hint


The cover design is by Melanie Ashby

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Five Lit Magazines that Welcome Story Submissions

There’s nothing like seeing your stories in print so what’s stopping you? Here are 5 Lit magazines you can submit to and there are many more out there…

Brittle Star welcomes submissions of unpublished, original work in the following categories: Poetry: 1 – 4 poems. Literary short fiction: 1 – 2 stories up to 2000 words (double-line spaced) Submissions are by post only.

‘For almost fifteen years, Brittle Star has been publishing scintillating poems and short stories from new and early-career writers, many of whom have seen their work in print for the first time. We have a growing reputation for being one of the first ports of call for new writers on the path to publishing their debut collections.’


East of the Web takes submissions of  stories in a variety of genres including: fiction, horror, crime. childrens, humour and non-fiction

‘East of the Web ‘is keen to provide exposure for writers by offering them a place where their work will be seen and read in a high quality, respected setting. The site receives about half a million unique visitors per month, so successful submissions are likely to be viewed by more readers than in almost any other short story publication.’


Structo   – ‘short stories of up to approximately 3,000 words will be considered, both as original stories and as new translations of foreign language texts. We will consider up to two stories per author per issue. We enjoy slipstream in particular when it comes to fiction, but submission of original and unpublished work in any genre is very welcome. The only essential is that your story makes us want to read on.


Stinging Fly   ‘We publish new, previously unpublished work by Irish and international writers. We have a particular interest in promoting the short story. Each issue also includes a mix of poetry, book reviews and essays, alongside occasional author interviews and novel extracts. We also welcome submissions of poetry and prose in translation.


Far Off Places  ‘Submissions are currently open – we’re looking for poetry, prose and drama based around the theme The Second Breakfast.

‘Far Off Places is a young magazine featuring creative writing and illustration which launched in spring 2013. Despite being based in Edinburgh, we spread our loving tentacles over Europe and across the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Our mission in life is to make you laugh, ponder, and wince. We seek stories and poems to twine into a rope thrown from a lifeboat or to build into a yellow brick road.’

Coming soon submitting to popular magazines

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