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Making Writing Plans for the Year Ahead

So 2017 is here but what will it bring? It’s already brought me a nasty cold but I’m pleased to say I seem to be getting over it quite quickly, which makes a big change for me. What I hope it brings is a healthier me (and you) and a stronger back!(I will have to work on all of that)

I’m looking forward also to the start of the Comma Press Short Story course in Newcastle, a Linen Press event in London in March – more of that soon – and of course the final of the  People Book Prize in May. Most of all I’m looking forward to writing a new novel – and I’m now 2,000 words in! I am setting myself the very modest goal of a thousand words a week, fine if I exceed it, not fine if I don’t!

It’s inveitable that we make writing plans at this time of year – if you would like to read my guide and suggestions for making your writing plans then you can read them here at my guest spot on the Linen Press Blog

Happy Writing!

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On Wednesday I learned that Sometimes a River Song is through to the final of The People’s Book Prize. This is entirely down to your votes, so a huge thank you for voting for me. And many thanks to my publisher Linen Press for all their supprt.

I love that it’s the PEOPLES book prize. I cannot think of a better accolade than to be voted into a final by readers. But the greatest surprise and the biggest gift came when I read the comments left by voters. Honestly, it was very emotional for me to see how much people had loved the book.

You can read the comments HERE. (You have to scroll down, past the Reviews to Readers’ Comments) Voting takes place again in May 2017

2016-05-12-19-41-57Now, back to preparing for the Comma Short Story course I will be running in Newcastle in 2017  – starting January. I’m currently working on my plan for our six sessions and I’m getting excited by how much there is to talk about and to learn together. And how many new stories might be born. Looking forward to it very much.

Writing What Scares Us

Two weeks ago I started a new novel and boy was I excited! I’d completed a couple of short stories, the way was clear and I was raring to go. This was a new idea. It was not the novel I’d been thinking of writing. It was very different but I discussed it with my writing buddy and my editor and was convinced and committed that this was the novel I would now write.

I began to think about it and to dwell in its possibilities, which I always find such a delicious place to be. I am all for a smorgasbord of appetisers. So, maybe it was the main course that derailed me, the thought of all that meat had me scared, because suddenly, inexplicably it seemed, I got cold feet.

So I have been asking myself why. And more generally,  how we choose what it is we will write next. Choosing is important because I don’t like to abandon anything. It’s too easy and besides I’ve found that stories that feel like orphans often turn out to be our best. Choice  matter, especially when a novel is involved because we’re talking a year or more of investment, not weeks or months as we might for a short story. We want to get it right and false starts are inevitable

So how could I be so enthused and then get cold feet? Quite simply, I discovered, I was scared. And I found myself admitting this today after coffee with a writing friend, just as I was leaving, I confessed.

I realised  then, walking up the hill home that my old idea which had been calling me back, had the safety net of research – history, a short story already written, characters already fleshed out – wrapped around it. My new idea offered no such comforts.

The new idea is contemporary and  involves heart and soul in a way the other does not. And I’ve no idea where it will lead. So a fear of the unknown surfaces, of being vulnerable, of not being good enough to pull it off, of it never being published and all those other fears that get in the way and stop us writing.

But there is an argument, of which I’m persuaded, that says we should write what scares us. It will open us up to the page. After all, what challenge is there in always dwelling in our comfort zone? To make progress we need to push our boundaries.  And what point is there in writing the same book over?

So I know what I’m going to write and the story begins on the day Leonard Cohen dies, but I’m scared, so wish me luck…

‘Go for the jugular. If something scary comes up, go for it. That’s where the energy is . Otherwise you’ll spend all your time writing around whatever makes you nervous. It will probably be abstract, bland writing because you’re avoiding the truth. Hemingway said, ‘Write hard and clear about what hurts.’ Don’t avoid it. It has all the energy. Don’t worry, no one ever died of it. You might cry or laugh, but not die.

Natalie Goldberg

For Books’ Sake-Weekend Read

If you’re looking for a story to read on your Friday commute, or with your Saturday morning coffee, a story for the weekend, or just an anytime story, then look no further than For Books’ Sake. If you subscribe to their Weekend Reads then a new story written by a woman  – they champion writing by women ( yeah! )  will drop into your mailbox, free, every Friday.

I checked out their Hall of Fame and it’s impressive, and so are they. So I’m chuffed that my story How the River Breaks Your Heart will be this weekend’s read. It has the same southern, river, setting as my novel, Sometimes a River Song and last year it was shortlisted for the Raymond Carver Short Story Prize.

If you’d like to read it, you can subscribe here…

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Why Do We Write?

I first published this post in January 2014. People often seem to come back to it and that includes me, so no apologies for re-publishing it now…with a slight update

A Manifesto

Whenever I have serious doubts about my work or about the world around me, like Brexit and Trump, and everything  despicable they stand for, when I am bogged down with feelings of inadequacy, of not being a good enough writer, of not being successful enough, when I’m between projects and wondering what to write next or where my writing is going, when I’m reluctant to get out my notebook or sit at the machine, when I ask myself what the point of all of this is, then it is inevitable that I ask the question why write at all?

Below is my answer, it’s what grounds me, and time and time again it has brought me back to what’s important, to a place where I can start again…

  • I write because I discovered I could, because after years of looking for ways to express my creativity, without ever feeling whole, I finally found what it was I could best do. What it was I wanted to do.
  • I write to connect with the world, to reflect the lives of people who live on the margins, who others might think unimportant.
  • I write to make myself whole, to disappear in the act of writing, to lose myself completely, so that time passes unnoticed.
  • I write to spend time in other worlds that fascinate me.
  • I write because I get my own room with books and flowers.
  • I write because I love reading and words and I love polishing my words over and over.
  • I write because then I am never lonely.
  • I write to give purpose to my life.
  • I write because now I have to, I must, it has become an essential part of who I am.
  • I write because it brings me great joy and takes me to many places.

Why do you write? Write your own manifesto. Copy it up, print it out and put it somewhere it cannot be ignored .

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Next year I will be writing here on Hydra!

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