Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone. Thank you for following and commenting on my blog over the past twelve months. I hope that some of my ramblings have been of use to you.

Of course, whilst the New Year is a great opportunity to set up your goals for the coming year, don’t forget to look back and list everything that you achieved in 2012. This time last year my book, The Positively Productive Writer, had just been published and has, over the course of 2012, sold over 550 physical copies, and many more electronic copies. I hope it has helped those who have read it to start achieving their writing goals. (And if you haven’t got a copy yet, then perhaps you might want to consider buying a copy, too!)

The Positively Productive Writer essentially draws upon my own writing experience and techniques. It’s what has worked for me. You may recall a couple of postings ago, I mentioned about a project I was working on that I was having trouble with. I needed 20,000 words writing by the end of this year, and the words just weren’t flowing. So, I sat back and drew upon my own words of wisdom and created a set of goals to get that first draft written before Christmas.

And it worked. Not only that, but when I read through those 22,500 words (yes, I wrote more than was necessary - editing feels better when you throw words away, I find) they weren’t as dire as I first thought they were! So, by practising my own advice, I managed to get that project finished. By the time you read these words, that project will be sitting in the editor’s inbox: deadline achieved. There was no way I thought that was going to happen at the beginning of December!

Which brings me to a final point. Yes, set yourself some goals to achieve with your writing in 2013, but consider January too. Give yourself a mini-project to have completed by the end of January. It needn’t be big. Write an article. Or a short story. Just give yourself something to achieve in the next 31 days. You might surprise yourself.

I wish you all a prosperous and productive 2013.

Good luck!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Very Inspired Blogger Award

Thanks to Tracey Fells (The Literary Pig: for passing on the Very Inspiring Blogger Award to me. I found her 7 random facts that inspired her to write, quite intriguing! Actually, it’s quite a good time of year to reflect back on what our motives were that first encouraged us to write. Here are 7 random facts that inspire me to pick up a pen.

1. At the age of 14, I wrote to three famous writers asking for their advice. Playwright Alan Bleasdale told me to become a brain surgeon instead. It would be far quicker. He was right: it took me another 18 years before my first book was published, whereas, I believe, learning to undertake brain surgery takes about seven years … plus a little practise. (I’ve always assumed that to do brain surgery, one must have a brain int he first place.)

2. I was an avid reader of books from an early age, spending most of Saturday morning in the library choosing eight books, and then the rest of the weekend reading them. It’s always good to vary your reading matter. I’m currently reading The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer. Not my usual reading matter, but I am enjoying it. It was reading other writers’ work that inspired me to want to write my own books.

3. After A levels, I opted to go to work, rather than University. (Creative Writing degrees weren’t as numerous back then, and if I had gone I would probably have studied my strongest subject at O and A level - economics. Eeeuurrgghh! Economics! How boring!) So, I joined Barclays Bank. (How boring, too!) I soon realised that banking wasn’t enjoyable either, which encouraged me to write in my spare time. Looking back, it also demonstrated that nothing in a writer’s life is wasted. Where do you think I drew inspiration for The Bluffer’s Guide to Banking, that was published twenty years after I’d left the bank? (Yes, I really am that old.)

4. I won a writing competition in 1998. Despite being drawn towards writing non-fiction, I had a go at writing a short story, and in April 1998, came first in the David Thomas Charitable Trust Writing Awards run by Writers’ News magazine, in their foggy morning competition. There’s nothing like winning a competition to spur you on! You can read it here: 

5. You never know where this writing world will take you. After my first book was published Hodder & Stoughton invited me to London for the classic ‘author lunch’, which was truly amazing. (It was where they commissioned the second book, too.) Regular readers will remember that earlier this year I was a magazine model for Country Walking magazine. It was only by sitting down and writing something in the first place that these experiences were possible. This encourages me to write more.

6. The writer David Croft (Dad’s Army, Allo Allo, Hi De Hi) once said in a letter to me that an episode of Allo Allo took a couple of days to write and then months to get write. It’s a vital lesson we all have to learn an accept: just write any old rubbish - you can turn rubbish into a thing of beauty later. That’s why writing is a craft. So if you have an idea, write it down. Only then can you create something beautiful from it. 

7. The most unusual place I’ve been commissioned to do some work is in the street. (I really shouldn’t offer my services on street corners!) I was walking along the High Street and a passerby stopped me and said, “You’re that writer, aren’t you?” which is awkward because you never know which writer they’re referring to. But, she commissioned me to write a short story for some one’s birthday. And that’s what I love about this writing lark. You never know where the next job is coming from! 

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. If you’re looking for a book to get your writing off to a good start in 2013, then may I be so bold as to suggest my very own The Positively Productive Writer. ( If you want to know even more, then check out Radio Warrington on Thursday 27th December between 6pm and 8pm, when the book will be reviewed. (For those not in the area, listen live via the Internet at

I’m passing this onto the following bloggers: Alex Gazzola (, Lynne Hackles ( and Julie Phillips (

Good luck. 

Monday, 17 December 2012

Happy Anniversary!

If you haven’t considered them already, 2013 marks some big anniversaries, which might make useful article or short story idea generators:

Pride and Prejudice: It's the 200th anniversary of this novel’s publication. 

The Queen: It’s 60 years since her coronation (she became Queen in 1952, but the coronation was in 1953).

Stock Exchange: It’s 40 years since women were allowed into the London Stock Exchange.

Football: The world’s oldest professional association football league is founded, 125 years ago.

James Bond: 60 years ago in April 1953, Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, is published.

Bouncing Bombs: It’s the 70th anniversary of the Dam Buster raids over Germany with the bouncing bomb.

Flowers: It’s 100 years since the first Chelsea Flower Show.

Sex: A very British Scandal - it’s 50 years since the John Profumo Affair.

Victoria: 175 years ago  - the coronation of Queen Victoria.

Trains: It’s the 50th anniversary of the Great Train Robbery.

Concorde: Concorde made her last commercial flight ten years ago.

Dr?: The BBC broadcast the first episode of Dr Who, fifty years ago.

Ripper: 125 years ago, Jack The Ripper was on his killing spree.

Big Ben: It’s 90 years since the chimes of Big Ben were first broadcast on radio by the BBC.

That should keep you busy during 2013 researching those!

Good luck!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Rubbish is Okay

There's an excellent article in the January 2013 issue of Writing magazine, where Michael Madden admits to writing rubbish.  He demonstrates that it is okay to write rubbish.

I'm writing rubbish at the moment. (Hopefully not this blog posting!) I've been commissioned to write a project and my deadline is looming. At this moment in time, I still have 3,000 words to go, and they're doing my head in. They just don't seem to be coming out in the right style, or voice.

Despite this, I am still writing something. In amongst the other writing projects on this week, I know I will get those last 3,000 words written. In my opinion, along with the other 17,000 words, they'll be 3,000 words of rubbish. But, at least I'll have written some words. Then the real work will begin: turning the rubbish into gold.

There are many phrases and quotes in the writing world that echo this:

"Get it writ, then get it right."

"Books aren't written, they're re-written."

"Writing is 20% writing and 80% re-writing."

As the novelist Jodi Picoult once said, "You can't edit a blank page." But once you've got something down on paper (or on the screen), then you can begin to craft and hone it. A craftsman takes a raw material and chips away, making little tweaks and changes, eventually revealing the masterpiece that they've created.

So next time you find yourself stuck, and the words won't flow, or they don't seem to want to come out in the way you'd like them to, don't panic. Give yourself permission to write rubbish. Writing rubbish is okay, because you're still writing something. Something is better than nothing. It's possible to perfect something. With nothing, you have ... nothing.

So, go on. Write some rubbish this week. Who knows what you might be able to do with it.

Good luck.

Monday, 3 December 2012

A Little Speculation ...

On the afternoon of 9th February 2012, I sat down at my desk and spent a couple of hours doing a bit of speculative work. As the saying goes, it’s necessary to speculate in order to accumulate. Speculation can help you broaden your markets.

When we sow these seeds, we don’t always know where they may land, or even if they will germinate. But if you don’t sow a seed in the first place there is nothing to grow.

My speculation on this occasion was not for a writing market, but a photography one. A company was interested in seeing photographs that might be suitable for calendars. I spent the afternoon going through my photographic library identifying some images I thought might be suitable.

In October, I had a letter from the calendar company. They wanted to use one of my photos in their Devon calendar for 2014. Then a week later they sent me another. They wanted to use another one in their 2014 Heart of England calendar. Last week, I had another letter: they’re interested in three more photos for the 2014 Shropshire calendar. 

I’m now beginning to harvest the benefits from that initial sowing. I’m approaching other calendar companies and putting together an article for photographers about what I’ve learned so far, such as what makes a potential calendar photo. So, even though I’ve targeted a new market, I’m using the experience to give me ideas for my traditional writing markets.

As 2012 enters its final few weeks, think about new markets you might want to consider approaching next year. You never know how these may help you with your existing markets.

Good luck.