Spring Cleaning – thanks Adrian Magson and The New Writer!

It all started with Simon Whaley talking about my piles.
Ok, that’s not strictly true. I commented on Twitter that my dismantled study was in piles in my bedroom (building work loometh), and that amongst said piles I had to find a stack of not-so-sticky-any-more sticky notes: a scene-by-scene novel plan. I won’t tell you what Simon said about my piles, gentle reader, because your delicate ears don’t need to hear it. But by the time I’d retrieved those sticky notes I had decided enough was enough. I couldn’t cope a moment longer without a desk – I can write anywhere, but need one organised location for all my writerly bits. And I couldn’t cope a moment longer with my bedroom resembling the aftermath of a riot in WHSmith. either.

Currently the only place for my large desk is in the corner of the riot-stricken bedroom. Cue large scale furniture moving and reorganisation. But it so happened that in this very week I had been rereading Adrian Magson’s Write On!, and had got to the section about Spring Cleaning, AND had found the The New Writer’s spring issue that I had somehow failed to read, featuring Nicola Daly’s article about…Spring Cleaning.

The Culprits

Both writers were urging me to go through my old work and spring clean my attitude to my writing too, as well as giving me a timely reminder that sometimes, as much as we love books, it’s time to let some go *sniff*.  I took their advice and a week later I am just about sorted. There is still paperwork to go through, but the desk is reassembled and reorganised and around 100 books have been decluttered, with those that remain (don’t be fooled, there are still hundreds!) reorganised on bookshelves that now have new homes. Despite my doubts, it seems my bedroom can be both haven and workplace.

But what was most useful was the looking back through old notebooks.
Adrian Magson says doing this can ‘make you realise that what you wrote in the past actually wasn’t all that bad’. But if like me, you have the memory of an inebriated goldfish, you can leave out the ‘wasn’t all that bad’; it can make you ‘realise what you wrote, full stop.

How can I have forgotten the beginnings and rough synopsis for a story I originally intended for the National Trust/Mills & Boon competition? (Looks like a good candidate for a My Weekly Easy Read submission). Or that when I started writing a pocket novel at Sally Quilford‘s Pocket Novel workshop last year, I based it around Cornwall and smuggling because I’d been researching those topics for the YA novel I had fully planned out? I had started far more, and got further along with far more, than I remembered. Great news.

Hopefully my new ‘writing home’ will produce good results. In the meantime, no hate mail please just because I forgot to take the ‘review copy’ sticker off Adrian’s book. I buy lots of books but occasionally am spared the expense of doing so by the perks of my husband’s job, and luckily he manages to bring home some Accent Press review copies (unfortunately someone beat him to Sue Moorcroft’s Love Writingso that is on the Christmas list…and if I found out who it was… my vengeance shall be mighty!


SUNDAY SITE SWEEP: Six Super Sites on Writing Dialogue

Writing dialogue is a tricky business. We want it to ‘sound genuine’ and not stilted, but we need realism without the everyday ums, ahs and errs. We want it to convey emotion, relay information, show character, move the story on…

Poor old dialogue! We ask a lot of it. And that’s without the scary task of indicating dialects or speech impediments, and ensuring that our characters sound different….aargh! Luckily some writers share their words of wisdom on how we can tackle these problems, so out with the notebook and see whose offerings ‘speak’ to you (all puns intended).

Speaking of Dialogue

A light hearted look at how to make dialogue sound real from Hugo and Nebula award winner Robert J. Sawyer.

A Few Thoughts About Dialogue

Novelist Janet Fitch’s views include the idea that you only need dialogue in your story if it’s showing conflict between characters. It’s a fair bet not everybody will agree with that one, but the post is well worth a read.

Writing Really Good Dialogue

A PDF guide to writing dialogue from NaNoWriMo, complete with exercises to try.

A-Z of Writing – D is for Dialogue

Light-hearted advice from the delightful Sally Quilford, writer of novels, columns and short stories.

Dialogue Techniques and Dialogue Tags

Essential info from the Crabbit Old Bat (her words, not mine!) Nicola Morgan

Dialogue Workshop

This is from author Holly Lisle. Well worth trying this on days when your brain is blank and you want someone to give you a random starting point, too (what do you mean, you don’t get those?).



SUNDAY SITE SWEEP: Five Fab Sites for Historical Fiction Writers

Welcome to the first Sunday Site Sweep. Every Sunday I’l pick a (hopefully!) useful topic and take you on a quick tour of a few sites that are worth checking out. Today, I’ve  picked some sites that might prove useful if you’re a writer of historical fiction. (Before the heckling starts, this doesn’t claim to be a Top Five, just an Interesting Five!)

Enjoy 🙂


Among other things, this page is the hub for articles on ‘what was life like in…’ that are a useful starting point for research. The topics have a downloadable PDF and a general wander round the site is well worth it too!


To paraphrase what they say about themselves: The History Girls are best-selling, award-winning writers of historical fiction, writing for younger readers through to adults, spanning periods from the Stone Age to World War II and locations from Trondheim to Troy. “We’ll share our thoughts on writing, research, reviews, and all aspects of our work. We love what we do and we want to talk about it. We hope you’ll want to join in!”


I follow Sue on Twitter @SueWilkesauthor and she always has an ear to the ground for interesting historical snippets. She is an author and creative writing tutor who specialises in family history, social history and literary biography. On her blog she gives a taste of what she is working on or on other history topics that have caught her attention. Well worth a visit for ideas and info.


This site has info on the middle ages in general, and links on the page above take you to accounts of daily life for people at a range of different social levels.


Ignore the poor images for the links, and the fact the site is for children; there is some good information here on the day to lay life of early colonialists in America.


When Is A Writer Not A Writer?

image photo : Female writer

When Is A Writer Not A Writer?

I’m sure there’s a fair few people replying ‘when they’re not writing, that’s when’. If we’re sticking with that definition then I must hold my hands up and confess: I haven’t been one since last December. Of course I feel madly guilty about this and shall commence thrashing myself with a cat o’ nine tails and dressing only in  sack cloth and ashes. Oh, hold on…I don’t. And I shan’t.

The problem, you see, is that due to the unsurprisingly garrulous nature of writers, writing is one of the most discussed and written about professions. You can always find a writer somewhere chatting about their writing day. their techniques, their inspirations – and sometimes, about the sacrifices they’ve made and believe others should make (otherwise these other writers are apparently ‘not real writers’, ‘don’t take it seriously  and ‘will never make it’).

For years writing magazines and how-to books have been been interviewing authors who can apparently rewrite the Encyclopedia  Britannica whilst running for parliament and doing the Three Peaks challenge of a weekend. You know the ones; often they’re middle-aged men who claim they have a full time job but only stop in the evenings to eat dinner before spending the entire evening writing. “And I still churn out two thrillers a year,” they chortle proudly, among casual mentions of  three children, two dogs, 5 guinea pigs, a wife and a 3 acre garden; “it’s just a case of discipline.” I’m sure they believe that lesser beings gasp in admiration and/or take an acid-coated flail to their bare backs to alleviate their shame.

Well I’m afraid this lesser being does not reach for her flail. Does this literary Colossus, I ask myself, even remember the names of his children? Or guinea pigs? Or the plants in his 3 acre garden? Does he wonder how shirts and suits miraculously appear in his wardrobe, how the house gets cleaned; who sorts out PE kits, makes doctor’s appointments, books the holiday cottage, buys birthday presents for his entire side of the family, attends parents’ evenings, and helps his children revise for their GCSEs? And in 5 years will he wonder why his wife has filed for divorce??!

For us ordinary mortals life happens, and unless we have a fairy godmother hovering handily in the wings to sort it out, it’s all down to us. So enough about the intellectual snobbery of writers who declare ‘EVERYBODY has time to write if they can be bothered’. Why hasn’t this writer written for months and not ‘had time’ (don’t gasp, please…it upsets the guinea pigs I don’t have).

First I suffered NaNoWriMo Burnout. I was managing my novel, despite trying to blog more, do a finals year degree course, and hold down a job. But after our boiler and two of our loos had a succession of malfunctions, meaning the plumber practically moved in,  plus long days spent at the hospital with my daughter (recurring heart/chest problem), I just couldn’t keep up. By Christmas my work hours had increased, my degree course had got harder and life kept on throwing curveballs. So I stopped sending myself on guilt trips (the scenery was awful, for a start) and accepted that, for a while, life just had to be lived; not lived and  written about. I couldn’t ignore and neglect my family, certainly not for the sake of something that, when all’s said and done, was not currently putting bread (or even Tesco Everyday Chicken Noodles), on the table.

So 8 months later, here I am back at the coalface. My son has survived his first year of sceondary school; my daughter has survived her GCSE year despite her health problems; my husband has survived a demanding first year in a new management role; and I’ve managed a first class pass in my Children’s Literature module which means, barring the next course going incredibly badly, this time next year I will be celebrating a First in BA Hons Literature and wearing a funny hat on my head.

I’m back from a wonderful holiday of walking, sightseeing and eavesdropping in the beautiful West Yorkshire Dales, with a fresh dose of inspiration. I have several ideas bubbling and have started a serial for Juke Pop Serials, purely because it sounds like an interesting idea and it’s a format I’ve not tried before.

And there’s not an acid-coated flail, or a cat o’ nine tails  anywhere. Funny, that. 🙂