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Tips for Getting that Tricky Bit Written

Sometimes writing seems to call me insistently, so that I can hardly wait to finish my chores and get stuck in.  At other times I find myself doing all sorts of other jobs when I should be writing; things that could easily wait until another time.  For me, this has a great deal to doing with self-esteem or fear of some sort.  If I’ve reached a point in my work in progress that I don’t feel ready to tackle, or that I don’t think I can do justice to, I’ll find reasons not to work on it.  Unfortunately, this can become a vicious cycle, as I can then cite how long it took me to write this type of scene as evidence that I’m no good at it, and this then fuels my low self-esteem the next time I need to write something in the same vein.

Today I want to share with you some of the strategies I have developed to work past this fear of writing something, in case I can’t write it well enough. Read more

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Cafés for Writers

On the whole, I have found that cafés are surprisingly welcoming to writers.  I had not expected us to be greatly appreciated: we take up space for an hour or several, and often only buy one or two drinks.  Indeed, there have been establishments where I have felt hassled, where staff have come over every ten minutes to ask if they can get me anything else, or have sighed and frowned each time that they pass my table.  But there are far more places where I am left alone to get on with my work, whether I end up ordering more or not. Read more

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A Loner in the Crowd

Upon the First Day of the Seventh Year of the Reign of King Karpitz Karpikotz

Paknor Stapikos keeps his features impassive as he forces his attention back to the presentation.  The speaker is rambling interminably about the need to balance the needs of Artellosa, a forest goddess who resents her trees being cut down, and those of Walkatokis, a warrior goddess who requires ever more arms, the forging of which require a seemingly limitless supply of charcoal.  Nevertheless, Paknor is angry with himself; tomorrow he will be expected to comment on whatever recommendation this fool makes, and he should be listening attentively. Read more

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Bookshops for Readers

What would your perfect bookshop be like?  Here’s my list:-

  • Lots of books (of course), but not just the latest bestsellers or the firm favourites. I want to stumble across exciting finds!
  • An ambience that encourages browsing, ideally with quiet nooks that give me the illusion of being on my own with the books. Somewhere to sit is also helpful.
  • Knowledgeable staff who are miraculously right there if you need them, and yet are never pushy when you want to be left alone to mull over the books. Read more
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Deciphering the Marks

“That’s all, children!  Go home, now; it’s bedtime.”  Ghaldak levered himself to his feet, as if to emphasise that he would tell no more tales.  In spite of their disappointment, most of the youngsters did as they were told, moving apart as they left the circle they had formed close to the fire.  Mothers scooped up the toddlers, and the older ones who lived in the favoured houses around the village green made their own way home, often holding a younger sibling or two by the hand.

As if this movement had been a signal, men started to appear on the green, and to make their way towards the fire.  Tandis, the only child who had not so far moved, got to his feet; he sensed that he would lose his moment unless he spoke now.

But Ghaldak was looking out towards the men, and did not notice the youngster approach.  Greatly daring, Tandis reached up and tugged on his sleeve.  “Excuse me,” he said tentatively.  When there was no response, he pulled harder, and spoke a little louder.  “Excuse me.  Sorry:  I didn’t understand.  How did you know?” Read more

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A Place to Write

It is only in the last year or so that I have had the luxury of a room dedicated entirely to my life as a writer.  Three of my five novels to date, plus a couple of others that have been shelved, were written on the kitchen table, my lap, or in the car while waiting for one or other of my children.  The last two novels in the Skywatchers series were written in my office, that at the time also functioned as a preparation and marking space for my work as a school teacher, and as a place for one-to-one tuition.  Read more

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Three Reasons to Carry a Notebook

One of the standard pieces of advice to writers is to carry a notebook and pencil everywhere, so that ideas that you have on the move don’t get lost forever.  For some people, this may make complete sense, but it seemed incomprehensible to me.  I would have loved it if the sort of idea that needed saving for posterity arrived fully fledged in my mind while I was rushing around, delivering children to school or activities, doing the shopping and the chores, or while I was fully focussed on my work.  But for me, the initial idea for a story is something that slips fleetingly and repeatedly in and out of my mind, like waves on a beach, leaving barely the shadow of an imprint; certainly nothing tangible enough to be articulated in words.  To turn that formless inkling into something that can be expressed takes serious, single-minded concentration, shut away in my study.  If I’m fortunate, I will then end up with some sort of diagram that may, after further work, form the basis of a storyline that can be captured in words. Read more

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Choosing the Sun

Jessi pulled the flimsy material of her scarf further forward, to try to block out some of the glare reflected from the white buildings as she passed through the town.  It was fortunate that her sister’s house was not far; the houses at the end of the street were shimmering in the heat, and a longer walk might have brought on the dizziness that she resented as a sign of physical weakness.

The bell by the sun-disc at the end of the street rang out just as she opened the gate.  Although it was bad manners to disturb a household during withdrawal, she knocked on the little side door, hoping that someone would answer, for the thought of making the return journey without first resting in a stone-cool interior made her feel faint.  Read more

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Writer’s Guilt

Should a writer write every day?  Did we ought to follow a prescribed plan?  Can we only consider ourselves writers if we write full-time?

It seems counter-intuitive to associate words like “must”, “got to”, and “ought to” with writing.  These words, in my mind, are usually paired with all sorts of things that are good for you, but not enjoyable, like brushing your teeth, cleaning the loo, and paying the bills.  Read more

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Sociable Writing

I don’t suppose that any writing advice is universally applicable, but finding some way of connecting with others seems pretty important to me.  Writing is, on the whole, a very solitary activity, so belonging to some sort of group adds a dimension to your ways of working.   If you are not sure which would be worse: to expose yourself to the comments others might make about your work, or to exercise your creative skills in finding something vaguely pleasant and approximately truthful about that of other people, then fear not – there are many different ways of being part of a writing community, and there may well be one that suits your preferences better. Read more