Tag: writing advice

You Do Write Every Day

You Do Write Every Day

The second bit, anyway.

Write Every Day.

You Should Be Writing.

Why Aren’t You writing?

It’s one of those things that gets shouted at us from all corners of the web, from writing books and podcasts and blogs and collective wisdom.

Write every day, because you’re not really a writer if you don’t.

Jack London wrote 1000 words a day.

Stephen King writes on his birthday, and on Christmas.

Anthony Trollope required 250 words of himself every half hour.

Leo Tolstoy, John Updike, Alice Munro, John Steinbeck, Maya Angelou… the list goes on.

And, fair enough. It’s good advice. Writing every day is something to aspire to.

If your schedule allows it.

Well, it’s a nice thing to work towards.

If your home situation allows it.

If your work allows it.

If you’re in the right place to do it, physically, mentally, emotionally.

And – most importantly in my mind, although I’m neither published author nor writing guru – if it works for you.

It’s one of those odd pieces of advice that makes sense but doesn’t at the same time. Because, yes, if you want to be good at something you need to practise. You need to work at it. You need to put the hard slog in at the beginning (and, to be honest, all the way through) so that you can get where you’re going. No argument here. We’re not going to get anywhere through crossing our fingers and wishing on fairy dust.

But it also ignores the fact that we’re all different. That for some of us, life is in too much upheaval to be able to set aside writing time every single day. We might be lucky to get a good weekend in. Maybe it’s so hard to get into that writing mindset, that even if we do get up two hours early, we’re only going to be feeling ready to write when we need to shut the computer down and go walk the dog. Maybe we have so much going on that, this month, there’s no writing going to be done at all, because we don’t have the headspace for it. We can’t. And feeling guilty over that only exacerbates the situation.

This makes me almost irrationally angry. I should be PANICKING? What on earth for?

With one thing and another, I haven’t written for a couple of weeks. Then on the weekend I sat down and wrote a short story. It had been percolating for a while, so it came out pretty much how I wanted it, and quicker than it might have done otherwise (sometimes I start stories too soon, because I know I Should Be Writing, but they’re not ready and run all over the place before they get to the point). It was nice. It was fun. I enjoyed it, and when I was finished I wanted to do more.

But there were no other ideas ready to go yet, so I left it and went on with other things, both disappointed and hearing that admonitory voice reminding me that I should be Writing Every Day echoing in my head.

But then I realised something that, while it hasn’t shut Admonitory Voice up completely, has certainly made him a little less strident (yes, it’s a he – a shouty, mechanical voice like something off a high school PA system. Or occasionally more like the screaming alarms that go through spaceships under attack in low budget movies).

I do write every day.

You do, too.

I write blogs.

I write shopping lists.

I write emails.

I write Twitter posts.

I write texts.

I write to-do lists (so, so many to-do lists).

I write newsletters.

I write Facebook posts.

I write schedules and reminders.

I write Instagram stuff (#prettypicturesareworthmorewithhashtags).

And, every now and then, I write and rewrite and edit short stories and bigger stuff.

But, wow, do I write a lot every day.

Well, it does SOUND like a very pleasant career.

And that’s not even mentioning the very long and complicated stories going on in my head, some of which make it onto paper and others of which I have no intention of allowing out.

So maybe it’s not a case of totally disagreeing with this advice, prescriptive and shouty though it is. Maybe it’s a good thing to actually look and see how much writing we’re really doing when we think we’re getting nothing done. We write all of these things to get a message across (okay, the shopping and to-do lists might be stretching the point a little), to share our point of view with others, sometimes to persuade or inform. We use the same skills (minus emoticons) when we’re writing our masterpiece. Don’t look down on your little bits of writing. They all add up to big bits. It’s like doing short runs in between marathons, or making easy meals as you build towards a twelve-course sit-down dinner. It’s training.

Take writing advice with a hefty dose of salt – after all, we’re the only ones that can work out what works for us.

But if writing daily is how you want to measure being a writer, go for. We’re already there, each and every one of us.

And please, please stop guilting yourself with these silly things. Or just ignore the text bits and look at the (mostly) pretty pictures.
Zen & the Art of Making Mistakes

Zen & the Art of Making Mistakes

In which I show you the books that inspire me to keep writing, in the hopes that all their good thoughts will rub off on all of us. Plus a reminder that mistakes are good, failures are just works in progress, and to always hug your writing buddies, virtually or in real life.

I hope 2018 is a fabulously creative year for you, and that, most importantly, you have fun in what you’re doing, whether that’s writing, rewriting, editing, or something else entirely. Because if we’re not having fun, then we might as well be cleaning the loo, right? And no one wants that.



Do you have any favourite books you turn to when you need a little lift, in writing or life? Let me know in the comments!


You’re Doing Brilliantly

You’re Doing Brilliantly


Everyone’s struggling right now.

Funny how it comes in waves.

Or maybe it doesn’t, but that’s what it feels like – everyone’s struggling. Every writer I know seems to be second-guessing themselves, wondering if they’ve got what it takes. If it’s even worth it, if they do. As if in the shift from summer to autumn (in this part of the world, anyway), from September to October, everyone’s been plunged into self-doubt.

Because it’s not easy, is it?

There’s the writing bit, which is, well, variable.

Variable like, you know, English summer weather. Hail one minute, sunburned noses the next. Which is to say, some days there’s nothing I’d rather be doing, and other days the only thing stopping me throwing the laptop out the window is the fact that it has all Layla’s photos on it.

Horribly familiar.

But writing’s fun, overall. Yes, editing can be a pain, particularly when we discover that scene that we absolutely love, and which we’d be prepared to say is one of the best things written by anyone, ever, is entirely irrelevant to the story and needs to come out. That sucks. As does finding we changed a character’s name part way through chapter six, and now we don’t know which name we like better, or indeed which character we’re talking about at any given time.

But other than that, it’s all good. We build our castles in the sand, all spires and gargoyles and fanciful turrets, and we love them, because they’re ours. We get a little Gollum-ish, to be honest. Possessive and protective and terrified, all at once (and often with a similar complexion. Seriously, we don’t see a lot of daylight, and cookies can be argued to cover at least three food groups).

It’s still tough, don’t get me wrong. Uncooperative characters, panic over tropes (are we subverting them or perpetuating them? And who even knew a heavy metal badger was a trope?), vanishing sub-plots and plotlines with more snarls than the M25. It’s hard. But it’s also ours. Our precious. So, as tough as it is, we keep going. We edit, and re-edit, and re-write, and edit again, and re-edit again, and re-write, and take out the heavy metal badger, as much as it breaks our inky little hearts. We persist, because this is going to be good. GOOD, in capitals, and possibly with gold stars.

I don’t want to be a trope.

And finally, finally, we’re ready to share. Perhaps with our loved ones first, because if they want to stay loved they bloody well better tell us we’re somewhere between Hemingway and Rowling. Then, emboldened by the fact that all anyone has to critique are a few pesky typos, we decide to dip out toes into the world of beta readers. They’re going to love it. It’ll be the best book they’ve ever read, never mind the best beta read (okay, if anyone actually has this confidence, good on you and can I have some? I’m actually convinced that every beta read will come back with a “DNF – this is rubbish” tacked to the front. But, dramatic effect etc).

And instead you get, “The penguin did what? I’m confused. This is really unclear.” Or, “I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure triceratops were vegans,” thus destroying your whole storyline about a rampaging, ravenous triceratops. Or, “This dialogue is really formal. I’m pretty sure giant anteaters don’t talk like that.” Or the bits you thought were funny fall flat, and the tear-jerking bits are somehow hilarious, or it turns out that your grasp of certain aspects of the English language may be a little shakier than you thought.

He LOOKS like he’d call someone “old boy”, though.

Talk about a reality shock.

A really, really high-voltage one.

You’ve spent months on this, and someone’s torn it apart in the space of an email! Your precious lies in tatters! Your dreams are destroyed! How dare they? How dare they?

Except, then, you read it again and realise they’re right. Giant anteaters really wouldn’t refer to each other as ‘old boy’ and ‘chum’. And a quick google proves that, yes, triceratops was indeed vegetarian, at the very least.

So then you have two choices. Consign your masterpiece to become chicken bedding, or get out the editing pen. And most of us, persistent little weirdos that we are, choose the latter. We go in again. We edit and re-edit and re-write again, then (with slightly less Gollumness) ask for someone else to pick it apart. And I’m not sure I can really say it hurts a little less each time, but I can say that you begin to take it a little less personally. Call my cat fat and I’ll murder you in my next book. Tell me my story’s overweight, and I’ll probably say thank you.

This is how you do it, right?

So there’s one hurdle. The first thickening of the skin. But it’s like one of those hellish BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE infomercials. Because all through this, you’ve been doing the good author thing, and trying to be chirpy social media person, and keep your blog up to date, and instagram pretty pictures, and do all those things that eat up your days when you’d really rather be writing. You reply to comments, and you re-tweet others, and you try to be witty and clever and cute.

And then someone tells you that they hate what you write, who you are, your cat, and your second auntie twice removed. Or they proposition you then tell you that.

And meanwhile your blog stats haven’t moved for months, your posts wallow in internet doldrums, and every article you see is still screaming BUILD YOUR AUTHOR PLATFORM IT’S SUPER DUPER EASY AND MASSIVELY IMPORTANT! And, really? Re-writing thirty pages of penguins on the rampage was more fun than this.

Im here for the love triangle.

But what do you do? You’ve come this far. You pull your ever-tougher author skin up around your ears and keep going.

Then comes the Big Stuff. Because either we’re going to self-publish, in which case we’re going to be running around designing covers or having them designed, and figuring out how we’re going to promote our book, and who we can beg a review from, and steeling ourselves for the inevitable one-star review by someone who thought it was a penguin-triceratops historical romance, and blatantly didn’t read the description of it as a sci-fi adventure giant anteater fantasy. Failing that, we’re going down the query path, having minor emotional and psychological breakdowns over cramming our magnus opus into a one-page synopsis and crying into our hot chocolate with whipped cream as we wait – and wait, and wait, and wait – for the inevitable form letter rejections.

And then, whichever path we’ve chosen, we’re going to have to pick ourselves up and start again. Because if we’re in the lucky elite who land an agent, they’ll probably want the penguin written into the giant anteater love triangle, and if we’re self-publishing someone’s going to send us a private message asking if we realised that penguins don’t actually live at the North Pole, and the next thing it’s back to edit, re-edit, re-write, repeat.

So, yeah. I get why so many people I know are having a hard time. I get why some days I think I’d rather go be a cashier at Poundland.

It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at, there are hurdles that can’t help but feel personal. There are criticisms we must take, if we want to get better, and sometimes they hurt. And there are things that are so far out of our hands that all we can do is shrug in despair and promise to sacrifice a Lesser Green-Splattered Butterfly to Lady Luck.

Some days we want to give up.

Maybe one day we will.

But this is my shout out to all the writers out there, whether I know you or not.

I know it’s hard.

I know it can suck.

I know sometimes it doesn’t even feel worth it.

I know sometimes it feels like it’ll send you mad, but that it’s too late, because you must’ve been mad to even start.

I know that sometimes you swear to yourself you’ll punch the next person who says “You write? How cute!” (And I’m absolutely behind you if you do. I’ll even be an eye witness to the fact that it was self defence).

But if there’s still enough joy in it for you to keep going (and answer this honestly, because if not, if it’s become something so horrible and draining that you find nothing but horror on the page, you stop. Maybe you’ll start again, maybe you won’t, but remember this – there must be joy. It’s too hard a thing to keep going if there isn’t, and bollocks to anyone who tells you otherwise), if there’s still enough pure pleasure in the knit and punch of words and scenes and characters, then I’m cheering you on. If you’re earlier on than me in your writer’s adventure, if you’re further on – I love your indomitable little heart, and I’m cheering. And waving pompoms and blowing curly whistles and throwing confetti.

And if not, I understand that, too.

But either way – you’re doing brilliantly.


I send you cupcakes, confetti, and cute little rodents.

How are you doing at this whole writer’s life thing?



Stuff for Sunday – Poetry, Stars, & Stress Relief

Stuff for Sunday – Poetry, Stars, & Stress Relief

Another Sunday, another collection of oddities for you. I have to admit that I love some of the amazing things that can be discovered when trawling through t’interwebs, and this week I’ve gone for a rather mis-matched assortment of wonderful oddities.

Read on!


Writing About Writing – 17 Rules

I’m not a fan of writing rules. I think they’re too often sold as some panacea, which, if we follow them to the letter, will render us all literary geniuses. Failure is certain if we don’t. I am, in fact, generally wary of writing advice, as you may remember. But these are rules I can get behind.

The rest of the site is also well worth a read – it’s well-written, entertaining, and full of useful info.



100,000 Stars

An interactive map of our stellar neighbourhood, although it does warn that accuracy isn’t guaranteed, and we shouldn’t use it for interstellar navigation.

It is, however, beautiful, and you can either hit play to be taken on a guided tour, or explore on your lonesome. Completely hypnotic, but be warned you may want to turn your speakers off if you’re going exploring among the stars at work.



The Poetry Foundation

I’ve read very little poetry since school, but last year I signed up for the daily poem from the Poetry Foundation. There’s something quite wonderful about a little packet of beautiful words turning up in your inbox every day, and there’s plenty to explore on the site.





Pixel Thought

I stumbled onto this from another site entirely, and at first thought it was just quite a silly thing. But I tried it (I was probably meant to be doing something else), and it’s a quite lovely little meditation and stress reliever. Just type what’s bothering you into the bubble, and let it go into the stars, following the prompts to breathe deeply as you do. It won’t solve anything, but when you think you might be about to throw your yoghurt at Gerry from accounts, it could be quite handy.



What interesting things have you come across this week, lovely people?