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Blog, Writing

Become A Better Writer By…


Becoming a better writer starts with confidence. The first step in reaching any goal is telling yourself you can do it. It doesn’t matter if your goal is writing a novel, creating a collection of poems, or keeping a journal.

…Believing In Yourself

Becoming a Better Writer: get a business card. Photo by Hans via Pixabay

If you want to be a writer, give yourself that job title from Day One. Then work at it with all your might. Whether or not you are published, as soon as you put words down on the page, you become an author. Celebrate that fact! Create your own business card and keep it in your phone case. Seeing it every time you use your phone will remind you of your ultimate goal. Your first business card can be as simple as a hand-written, cut-down postcard. Include your writing name, email address, and that vital word ‘author’. As soon as you can afford it, order a small supply of business cards from somewhere like Vistaprint or Canva. Then when the time comes you’ll have something to hand out to your readers, and book stores.


Writers are supposed to avoid using clichés, but practice really does make perfect. Here comes another favourite saying—I wish I had a pound for every time someone has said to me; ‘I’d love to be a writer, but I don’t have the time,’ or, ‘I’d love to be a writer, but I don’t have the inspiration.’ If you care about your ideas and you are willing to work at them, the words will come. The more time you invest in writing, the better you will become.

Become A Better Writer By—Writing!

Entering competitions teaches you to write to a deadline. Some offer a paid-for critique service, which is helpful. Attending conferences and workshops will give you ideas and advice, but in the end how much your writing improves is up to you. If you wait until you are in the mood to write, you might as well give up now. You have to put in the work, whether or not you, or the words are in the mood to play along. As long ago as 1911, Mary Heaton Vorse came out with the perfect advice to writers everywhere; ‘The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.’

yellow black pencil sharpened above the white paper in macro photography Becoming a better writer by writing
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com


Writing goals keep you on track and give you something to aim for. The SMART system is really useful for writers. The individual letters of the word stand for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time sensitive. Saying; ‘I want to write a book’ is woolly. There’s neither detail nor urgency about it.

I will have written a book at least 70,000 words long by 31st December this year is specific. It’s measurable, because at the end of the year you will either have reached your goal, or you won’t.

Writing a book of that length in a year is both achievable, and realistic. All you have to do is write 109 words every day for 365 days. Want an idea of what that daily total looks like? There are more words than that in the first nine sentences of this blog.

Set a Goal

Becoming a better writer takes self-belief, practice, and a definite goal. If you sit down, concentrate, and write a few lines every day, it will soon become a habit—like cleaning your teeth or brushing your hair.

Why don’t you share your writing goals for 2023?

You can find out more about me here, and see some of my books here.

Blog, gardening

Looking Down and Looking Up

Last time, I wrote about facing up and facing down. This week I’ve put a twist on that idea. I’m looking up and looking down.

brown and black hen with peep of chick outdoor looking down at food and looking up to mum
Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com

Poultry in the United Kingdom has been in lockdown for months, because of Avian Flu. Our little flock can’t run about the garden any more. They are in an enclosure, well away from wild birds.  I go out each evening to shut the hen coop door. They’re completely safe from foxes within their run, but it keeps the birds warmer. I collect the feeder and empty the drinkers, so the contents won’t freeze overnight.

Down On The Ground

As the torch beam swept across the garden one evening this week, I spotted something.  There, against the dark earth was one small shoot of garlic. I could hardly believe it. At a local food festival last October I’d bought a head of garlic for planting. The cloves had shot up so fast, I ordered another three heads direct from the suppliers.  These arrived in early November. The weather was still very mild, so I expected them to grow as fast as the original cloves.

Then the autumn rains started. Weeks went by without a single dry day. Christmas came and went, and there was still no sign of my second planting of garlic cloves. I thought they must have rotted off in the wet ground.

Now here was one brave survivor after more than two months hidden away in the sodden soil.  It was too cold to hang about that night, but I told myself that if one clove had managed to survive, there should be others.

Looking Up

Next morning I went out at 7am to open the hen coop. There had been a dusting of snow, but the sky had cleared. Looking up, I saw the full moon glowing gold. It was low over the Sitka plantation, but high in the sky a flock of redwings called as they flew over to the orchards of Herefordshire.

The moonlight was so bright it was almost light enough to see what I was doing without the torch. A covering of snow on the frozen, sloping path made the going tricky. I had to watch my step. As I filled the drinkers and put out the poultry feeder, I could hear a hen purring in her sleep. Then a fox barked from the other side of the hazel thicket, and she went quiet.

Looking down at garlic cloves beside spices and leaves
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

After I had finished with the hens, I went to check on the garlic. The one shoot I had seen the night before was no fluke. Just enough snow had fallen overnight to throw more shoots into relief against the soil surface. While my fingers and toes turned into icicles I counted twenty four little nibs.  Together with the dozen plants which had shot up back in the autumn, it’s tempting to think there will be plenty of fat garlic cloves for the kitchen this year.  I’m already planning to get more varieties from The Garlic Farm for planting in autumn this year.

Are you planning to do any gardening this year?

You can find out more about me here, and see some of my books here.

Blog

Facing Up and Facing Down

For thousands of years, January has meant resolutions and fresh starts. The month takes its name from the Roman god Janus. He had two faces, to look both backwards and forwards. There’s a lot to be said for facing up and facing down, too. Facing up to the future, and facing down everything that is holding you back.

Snowdrop flowers facing up to winter ivy

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… ‘ wrote Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities. That describes January perfectly, doesn’t it? It is full of contrasts. The weather can be foul, the days are short, and Christmas seems a lifetime away. Then the sun comes out, a robin starts to sing, and snowdrops push up through last autumn’s fallen leaves.

The two headed god Janus would be carved on ancient thresholds with one face pointing outwards, the other inwards. At this time of the year we’re all looking into the empty, unfurnished room of 2023. Behind us are all the events which have made us what we are today. January is a time to face up to the future, and face down fears.

Life is a series of challenges. Some are enjoyable, while some aren’t. In my current work in progress, Hayley is making a fresh start in a new town. She has drawn a line under her past and wants to start again. She finds it’s not as easy as she thought it would be, but don’t worry—she creates her ‘happy ever after’.

Looking Back

While I never put myself into my books, I’ve based one of Hayley’s problems on something that happened to me. I left a great but poorly-paid job for a much better position in a different company. It was a huge mistake. The turnover of staff in the new firm was high, because bullying was a problem.

When I couldn’t stand working there any longer, I walked out and became a full time writer. Writing is great therapy. In a world where it is easy to feel powerless, inventing characters and storylines creates a safe space. Facing up to what wasn’t working in my life and facing down my doubts definitely changed my life for the better.

I enjoy doing research almost as much as I love writing fiction. Including real life details bring stories to life. There’s even more research involved in writing non-fiction. That’s why I jumped at the chance to write Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol.

Looking Straight Ahead

I couldn’t wait to get started on that commission, and booked myself into a Bristol hotel as soon as I could. That way I didn’t have to commute every day. I could be on the doorstep of the city archive when it opened each morning. However, moving from a sleepy little Gloucestershire village into the heart of the city was a real culture shock. My project nearly shuddered to a halt before it started.

Bristol Clifton Suspension Bridge Avon

I was born a few miles outside of Bristol, and had worked in the city centre for years. When I married, I moved away. I thought I knew the city like the back of my hand, but my memories were years out of date.

Life in the city was non-stop, and so different from the peaceful countryside. Skateboards and cyclists came at me from all directions. The press of people waiting at light-controlled crossings came as a shock. At home, I’m lucky to see half a dozen people in a whole day.

I stood at the bottom of Park Street, trying not to cover my ears against the racket. All I wanted to do was bolt back to my hotel…but I also wanted to research and write that book.

I knew I could make a great job of it. That, and the thought of disappointing my publisher were the only things that stopped me running away.

Looking Forward

Standing in the middle of Bristol was not going to get the job done. I had to at least try and get to the archive. Studying the directions, I saw they could be broken down into several short sections. It was only a couple of hundred metres to the cathedral. If I could get there it was only twice that distance to the marina. I started to walk. Within about thirty seconds I had left the racket of the city centre behind. There were hardly any other pedestrians about. My stress levels plummeted, and I started to enjoy myself.

It’s a lovely walk along the harbourside. The huge bond warehouse housing the Bristol archive soon came into view, so I had something to aim for.

This was high summer. The moored houseboats and waterside houses were bright with hanging baskets and pots of flowers. Several people were watering their plants in the early morning sunshine. It was such a lovely day I completely forgot two rules of city living: never make eye contact, and never speak.

I said how much I liked their gardens. Once they had got over the shock of a stranger speaking to them, they came out of their shells. So did I. They asked where I was going, and were intrigued when I told them about my work. That was when I realised I wouldn’t be writing this book just for my own pleasure. Other people were interested in the subject, too.

And Then…

Facing up to what I had to do meant that I had to face down my fears. Looking back, that seems a small challenge now, but it sowed seeds of success. Writing Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol inspired me to sign up as a mature student at the University of Gloucestershire. That was another enormous challenge for me, but I’ve lived to tell the tale.

Have you managed to challenge yourself yet this year?

You can find out more about me here, and see some of my books here.

woman in white long sleeved shirt holding a pen writing on a paper
Blog

More Reading, Writing, and Reviews

Hello, and welcome to my first post of 2023. I hope you had a happy, peaceful Christmas and New Year with plenty of time for reading and relaxation. This year I’m hoping to spend more time reading, writing and posting reviews.

More Reading, Writing, and Reviews heart, book, paper
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s always peaceful here in the depths of the countryside but this holiday season was even quieter than normal(apart from the sound of coughing). Hours after our darling daughter arrived to spend Christmas, she was contacted by her company with the news that three-quarters of the people who had been at their Christmas party had tested positive for Covid.

Despite testing negative, one after another my whole family came down with a horrible bug. Luckily the first casualty didn’t occur until Boxing Day. At least we were all able to enjoy our Christmas dinner before the lurgy struck!

This year I’m hoping to spend more time reading. I’ve started a new page on this site for reviews. You can read my first one of the New Year here. I usually read fiction when I’m writing non-fiction and vice versa, so I’ll be reviewing books of each type over the next twelve months.

My New Year resolution is to look into self-publishing in 2023. I’ve joined the Association of Independent Authors (Alli), and subscribed to The Creative Penn Podcast. It seems a shame to let my backlist gather dust when I’ve retained all the rights for a lot of my stories and novels. You can see some of my books here.

That’s my to-do list for this year: more reading, writing and reviews. What are your New Year’s Resolutions for 2023?