Rejections are part of all this…

repeat after me. Rejections are part of all this…

However they’re dressed, not placing,we are not moving forward with work, your work is not right for us at this time, having work rejected hurts. Really.

The objective side looks at the number of entries, the people who had work accepted and rationalises. The tenacious side finds other places that are seeking submissions and submits. The side that distilled, dispersed, revised, redrafted and finally pressed send…that side wants to have a little cry. And stop putting itself through this.

Still, that does no good – what I want to learn is how to know what editors want – how do I understand? I really thought I’d chosen a good place for my pamphlet sub – but it wasn’t the case. There’s no feedback of course, so I don’t really know whether the work is terrible, or just not right – and if not, why not? And whilst I understand that time and resources are stretched I’d just really like to know – the whole process feels like grasping for smoke.

A lower ebb than usual. A longing for both time and health. Either would be good. Gloomy, to be honest. Send kittens.


How to be a contented writer-seven top tips.

img_20180427_075404_217923183536.jpgWriting can be a lonely old business. Sometimes it feels like little more than shouting at the sky . A big part of writing is perseverance. A bigger part is confidence and having enough of it to see me through the moments when writing seems like a terrible way to spend my days.  Here are seven tips that keep me working even when I feel I’m wasting my time.

  • Read

I read as much as I possibly can. I read within my genre to see how it’s done, make notes of what moves me and how, make notes of what leaves me cold and why. I read outside your genre to spark my ideas and give me the ever elusive inspiration. If I’m struggling I find local newspapers have the quirkiest stories that demand that I ask ‘why?’

  • Write

Even when I don’t want to. Especially when I don’t want to. Write about why I don’t want to. I whinge, wail, write all the things I can’t say. If nothing else I feel less furious, plus despite myself, I’ve written something.

  • Grammar

Grammar helps my reader understand what I am trying to say. All those annoying rules are signposts that help them hear the tone I hope to create and read at the pace I intend. I’m surrounded by poorly written content on enthusiastic blogs and it’s easy to think grammar is outdated. It’s not. It’s what makes quality work stand out.

  • Use “How to” guides

There are dozens I’ve dipped in and out of but these are three I return to.

The Creative Writing Coursebook Julia Bell

Writing Down the Bones Natalie Goldberg

and latterly How to be a Poet Jo Bell and Jane Commane.

These three give me a good balance of step-by-step guide, a little bit of hand-holding and a decent amount of “just get on and write.”

  • Talk to other writers

I’ll admit I struggled with this. I’m a solitary soul and the thought of discussing my work with peers filled me with horror. I took part in an online workshop at the start of this year and can honestly say I gained as much from that hour as I did from six months of formal study. The wealth of knowledge and generosity in sharing that knowledge within the writing community is a wonderful thing. I’m gradually getting more involved with writing groups online and am even venturing out to a Poetry Breakfast at a local bookshop. A big step for me, but I know it’ll be beneficial. I might even enjoy myself!

  • Write anywhere and everywhere.

I love stationery and I have many beautiful notebooks. I never have one with me when I need it. Hospital waiting rooms are my current favourite writing space. Lots of time, lots of people and no internet. Perfect. I have numerous scribblings on the backs of receipts that are the basis of some of my favourite pieces.

  • Read

No, this isn’t a brain fog moment. It really is the most valuable thing I do to support my work.

There we have it. Seven writing tips that keep me moving forward. Now it’s time to get on with a bit more work. I should have news of competitions and submissions by next week, so watch this space!

Thank you for reading, as ever please like, share,shout from the rooftops it all helps.

If at first you don’t succeed……


Can I ?P1000465

I benefited from an education that equipped me with a profound sense of inadequacy, and absolutely no resilience. I think this is partly why I waited so long to start writing properly. What if this, the one thing I felt I was good at, failed too ? I have a long history of failed hobbies, instruments and ideas. The only things I’m really confident in are cooking, gardening and listening to people. And writing.

Ah, but this week. Two competition results. Not even shortlisted. As my dear voice of reason pointed out ‘it’s probably quite hard to win these, how many entries were there? ‘ I mumbled something about 1,300 other entries and tried not to look acknowledge this entirely reasonable fact. Reason has never been something I have allowed myself to be troubled by.

I want to win one, you see, to prove that the effort is worth it, to prove that people aren’t just being kind when they say they like what I write. I’ll ignore the fact that I only seriously began writing again eighteen months ago. I’ll ignore the fact that it takes years to get noticed, published, applauded. I’ll think about stopping.

And then, I wake up with another idea. With another story I want to tell. With the remnants of a ridiculous dream that might, just might be teased into a tale. And I grow brave, and strong and feel like the little train that could.

I want to win. I also want to write.

Easing forwards……

I’ve been less ill this week. To give context, this means I’ve been able to get up, dress, perhaps make toast and generally function. I pushed myself on Wednesday to spend time with some dear friends (the type who wouldn’t mind if I was in my pyjamas when they visited), and whilst my body is complaining, my mind is delighted. Having a bit of the outside world brought in has been so good. 

There has been progress with writing too. This week has seen a submission to, and an entry to the Yeovil short story competition . I’m hoping to spend the rest of the week working on my Crow stories, a more involved piece for The Bridport Prize. 

The two things I find most difficult are focusing on one project at a time, and actually finishing a piece. I always feel my short stories tail off rather unsatisfactorily. This might come from my own dislike of neat endings in fiction, or it might be because I keep flitting around. Sometimes I just get bored, which must indicate that I need a new idea, or at least a new angle on an old idea. Experimenting with point of view helps me with this.  Poetry seems easier, perhaps because the shape and aim seem to make themselves clear as I write. A good short story seems frustratingly out of reach.  Any tips are welcome! 

New story for #creativewriting ink, more submissions and more competitions.

The last week has seen two more poetry submissions . The first is three poems on the theme of perception of women in the media sent to  Under the Radar, whch is the magazine of publishing house Nine Arches Press. The theme is one that features heavily in my poetry, so I chose the pieces I was most confident about and ones which suited the modern style of work seen in the magazine.I’ve also sent two pieces of ‘concrete poetry’ to Mslexia magazine. I love the marriage of shape and meaning in this kind of poem, and plan to write more like it.

I’m also starting to work on two pieces for the Bridport Prize. I’ve must admit I’ve got my head in a bit of a pickle. Reading past winners inevitably leads to comparison, which leads to mild despair. The voice which can feel so strong seems to fade a little. I find I’m trying so hard to be what I perceive I ought to be, that my brain seizes up completely.Whilst I’m confident with my voice for poetry, I find writing short stories a great deal more confusing. I always seem to revert to a conventional, pedestrian style. For some publications and competitions telling a story is not enough, I have to be innovative, and a little oblique. I also need to remind myself that I’ve only just started to learn how to develop my skills, so hopefully the polished style and authentic voice I crave will begin to emerge.

Developing a voice sounds like an affected concept, but it is this that makes writing really stand out, and makes people seek a particular author. For me there are many reasons, perhaps the writer is someone I identify with, someone I admire, or just someone who makes me laugh.  I’m reading a book by Jonas Jonasson at the moment, and one of the main things that strikes me is how much he seems to be enjoying his writing. There is a playful element which I love, and it is this that is going to make me want to read more by him.

I’m going to to carry on working on my entries, but am trying to realign my mind with the joy of writing, rather than try to write in a particular style. I have spent far too much time doing that for a certain optical company !

Having said all this, I am enjoying responding to the images from #creative writing ink, and find them a useful way of making sure I produce something new each week. My latest short story based on their prompt can be found by clicking this link . #creativewritingink


New competition entries

After seeking feedback from tutors, and patient friends, the time has come to ask the official guardians of good poetry to decide whether they like my stuff.

Deciding which poem to enter for which publication takes a while, especially because I only have a handful that I am truly happy to have written.  Each publication has it’s own theme and style, so researching, reading and ideally subscribing make a difference to potential success. Keeping track of what has gone where is taking some organisation too; I began the year with a nice chart. It is now a scribbled and slightly befuddled looking document. I might try to train the cat to be my P.A.

Details of newest submissions can be can be found on the Competition Entries page.

Refining and redrafting

I hated redrafting my work. When I first started studying with OCA, it took me so long to get a piece completed, that I couldn’t bear to begin pulling it apart.It felt so personal. Luckily I had a very patient tutor for my Writing Skills course, who gently helped me see past my ego, and focus on what I was trying to achieve.  The most valuable thing I learnt from my first course is that the first draft of anything is just a sketch, a whoosh of ideas tumbling on to the page. Picking through the ideas, taking away what’s unnecessary, or getting rid of whatever insidious obsession is creeping in to my work this week,  is the best part. It’s the crafting bit. It’s also bloomin’ hard work.

I sat with a piece yesterday, which had grown from one of my middle of the night jottings. I honestly thought it couldn’t be improved (ha!), but kind of knew it needed to be. Just changing one word made the whole thing grow legs, as it were, and suddenly this short poem came to life. It’s an odd thing, it almost feels as though I have to step aside from myself, and really look at what I’m trying to say. Redrafting captures that excitement, and makes it into something that is exciting to read.

Today needs to be a rest day. This is frustrating,but necessary. Brain fog produces crazy, rubbish work.