Friday, 24 February 2012

No New Posts

I'm sorry that there are no new posts at the moment. Hopefully "normal service" will be resumed as soon as possible!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

A Good Time To Write

Sorry that there was no new post last week. I had every intention of keeping up my new found enthusiasm for writing and blogging but it took a bit of a hit on Friday when I felt ill again. (Or thought I did.) I ground to a halt, with the intention of not returning to writing until I felt completely well again as this "stop-start" situation was driving me nuts.

It took a visit from my writing friend Jane on Monday to get me going again, interestingly because I felt she actually gave me "permission" to give up writing altogether or at least take a decent break from it and concentrate on the other areas of my "portfolio". However, after she'd gone and I faced up to that possibility, I realised I didn't want to give up writing after all!

I did decide though that I needed to make some changes to the way I work. (If you are struggling with your writing, I can definitely recommend an in-depth discussion with a fellow writer on the practicalities of the job. It really helps.) One of the things I felt I needed to do was to change the time of day, or night in my case, that I write.

As you will know if you are a regular reader of my musings, I prefer to have a "day" first and then write at night. This is OK up to a point but recently, partly because of my health problems and other factors, I've been finding it increasingly difficult to get down to writing after doing "home" stuff and have ended up starting to write about ten minutes before I should be getting ready for bed!

Also, night-working is very isolating and I think that this, coupled with a current lack of "progress" with my writing, despite having been quite successful with it in the past, has made it really difficult for me to sustain the enthusiasm and energy that you need in order to be a professional writer.

So...as from yesterday, I am now getting up between 4 and 5am (gulp!) and trying to write first thing in the morning instead of last thing at night. I have tried this before and it didn't really work once it started to get light in the mornings (I think I was a vampire in a previous life!) so it will be interesting to see if it does this time round. I certainly feel pretty "jet-lagged" at the moment and think I will be going back to bed for an hour or two in a while but it is obviously early days yet. (Literally.)

I'd be interested to know what time of day other people like to write. Are you a "morning" writer or a night-owl like me? Do you feel the need, as I do, to have a period of quiet time in which to work or can you write with kids, pets, spouses, trades people all vying for your attention? I look forward to hearing your views, if I can manage to stay awake, that is.      

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Shortlisted in the Writer's Toolkit Flash Fiction Competition

A good writing week this week, despite the distractions of the cricket and the tennis, possibly because my portfolio career has been suspended, pending further enquiries (don't tell my patrons!) and I've been at my desk every night. Long may it continue!

I said in my last post that I was recently shortlisted (top ten) in the Writer's Toolkit flash fiction competition. The competition brief was to write a short story of 150 words or less on the theme of 'Secrets'. My story actually came out at exactly 150 words because at the last minute, after I'd sealed the envelope, I suddenly panicked and decided that the wording of the rules could mean that the story had to be exactly 150 words. Mine was 149 if I remember correctly and it was surprisingly difficult to add that extra word!

Apparently the competition attracted 182 entries (which I must admit was quite a surprise) and entries came from several European countries as well as the UK. I was particularly pleased to be shortlisted (although obviously I'd have been even more pleased if I'd won!) partly because it gave my writing a much needed boost and also because I was pleased with the piece I wrote.

You may (or may not) know that I blogged a while back about how to write successful micro-fiction, or flash fiction as it is more commonly known and I pretty much followed my own advice with this entry, something I must admit I don't always do. For example, I wrote a new story from scratch and didn't try to cut a longer piece, I (think) I started with a strong opening and I had some conflict which made it into a proper story.

Obviously I didn't get it absolutely spot-on or I would have won but I was happy with what I produced, especially as after the first draft, I decided to stretch myself and go a little bit "darker" with the subject matter.

I've included the finished piece below, not in an attempt to show off (honestly!) but because I thought it might be useful to show the sort of story that can work for flash fiction. If you want to see the winning entries, they are at www.writers-toolkit.co.uk/blog and are well-worth a read. Many congratulations to the winners.

If this has whetted your appetite for entering a flash fiction competition yourself, Sue Johnson has organised another one, this time on the theme of 'Shoes'. Closing date is 31st May 2012 and details are also at http://www.writers-toolkit.co.uk/blog Good luck if you decide to enter.

Here is my shortlisted entry.

Tiger Tim and Me

I had another letter from Daddy today. I read it twice, then zipped it up in Tiger Tim's tummy. Tiger Tim's tummy is getting really fat. I hope Mummy doesn't notice or Daddy will be in big trouble again.

I wanted Daddy to tell me some more about Bob, his new puppy. Last time he said that Bob had chewed Auntie Angela's slippers and hidden them under their bed.

I wish I could meet Bob but I'm not allowed to go to Daddy's house any more, even though he isn't there at the moment. I'm sure Auntie Angela wouldn't mind. She was dead nice to me last time, the night that Daddy was taken away by the police.

Apart from Daddy, only Tiger Tim and me know about the letters. Mummy says it's wrong to keep secrets but I think Tiger Tim and me are going to keep this one.

Copyright Melissa Lawrence
January 2012        

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Rejections, Vouchers, Crises and Cute Kittens

Hmm. Well, that didn't last long, did it? So much for January being my favourite month, raring to get on with my writing etc etc. I was only back at my desk for one day before I began to feel ill and although I struggled on for the rest of the week, I felt too lousy to work at all last week which was why there was no new post, so apologies for that. (I did toy with the idea of posting "Melissa Lawrence is unwell" but decided it sounded a bit too pretentious.)

Anyway, here I am again and although by no means firing on all cylinders (am I ever?) I think I'm on the way up again which is good.

Probably because my brain is still in fuzzy felt land, I don't have a definite theme for this post so apologies (again) if it is a bit rambly, if there is such a word.

First of all, what is it about rejections that they always seem to come when you're already at a low ebb? I finally managed to get my teenage/young adult novel Cracking Up (an apt title if ever there was one) out to another publisher after a major rewrite and a lot of procrastination on my part. I was very pleased with myself and looking forward to a few months of not having to worry about it and getting on with another book. My covering letter was dated 4 January and the rejection letter dated 10 January. Something of a record for a novel, especially as the last publisher I submitted to took two years to turn me down. Fortunately, I'd put a second class stamp on the SAE, otherwise the rejection would have arrived on my birthday!

On the good news front, I was pleased to receive a £6 voucher from The New Writer (http://www.thenewwriter.com/) for my review of Sue Johnson's book Creative Alchemy which I blogged about recently, especially as the magazine told me that they don't normally pay for reviews. I don't think I'll be able to exchange it in Sainsburys though. And talking of Sue Johnson, I was recently shortlisted in her flash fiction 'Secrets' competition which was a great boost but more of that in a future post.

This week has also seen me having a fairly major crisis about my 'portfolio career' probably not helped by being ill and the "time of the month". It may well be that by this time next week, I no longer have a 'portfolio career' which should mean I get a lot more writing done but even less money, if that's possible.

Anyway, I'm going to stop writing now before I dig a big hole for myself and fall into it with a packet of jaffa cakes and a week's supply of craft magazines. I'll just finish by sharing a brilliant website I came across this week. It's http://www.writtenkitten.net/ and if you hate writing and love cats (not the other way round) you'll find it a godsend. Just specify how many words you want to write (200, 500, 1000 etc) and when you've typed in your quota, up comes a picture of a really cute kitten! Well, it worked for me even though I'm more of a dog person. You can save your work too. All I'd like to know though is, who comes up with these ideas and why can't I? Answers...well, I think you know the rest.
     

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I'm back again after a week or so away from my desk, refreshed and raring to go. Well, refreshed, anyway. Actually I'm still feeling quite good about writing and really looking forward to getting down to it again (a Christmas miracle if ever there was one) probably because I haven't done any for about ten days. To conclude my analogy from previous posts about writing and relationships, I'm a great believer in separate holidays for couples (and separate houses but that's another story!) and I think the same can work for writing. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" and all that.    

My enthusiasm may also be to do with the fact that, much to most people's surprise, January is my favourite month and I would even go so far as to say that January 1st is my favourite day of the year. (Apart from January 1st 2010 that is, when I went down with gastric 'flu but that's definitely another story.)

As well as Christmas being over (hoorah!) which means I can finally bring out my favourite phrase "Normal service resumes", I love that "blank canvas" feeling you get at the start of a new year. All those pristine empty spaces in your diary and that sense of anticipation and excitement as you wonder what lies ahead.

And then there are New Year resolutions. Ah yes, New Year resolutions. It may only be January 4th but I'm prepared to bet that there are quite a few of you who have already "fallen off the wagon" when it comes to NYR. I would almost certainly be guilty of that myself which is why I decided some years ago to stop making any. Instead I set (and write down) Year Goals for the different areas of my life namely health, career, finance, personal situation, personal development, self-image and relationships. This works better for me than making resolutions and last year I achieved eleven out of my twelve Year Goals.

January is also a good time for setting writing goals. I actually set mine in September (don't ask!) but just before Christmas, in an effort to try and get myself back on track, I followed the advice in Kelly L. Stone's book Living Write and set some long-term writing goals (she suggests setting twenty year goals but I've gone for twelve) or a "Vision of Success Plus" as Stone calls it.

So, here are the writing goals I hope to have achieved by January 2024. If you're still reading this blog by then, feel free to leave a comment asking me how I did!

1. To have had my life story The Emptiness at the Edge of the World published.
2. To have had at least one other non-fiction book published.
3. To have had over 200 articles published. (12 to go!)
4. To have had a full length feature published in a glossy women's magazine. (Sadly I'm too late for She.)    
5. To have completed 12 children's novels.
6. To have had over 20 short stories published. (Quite a few to go!)
7. To have won an award for one of my children's novels.
8. To have completed four collections of poetry.
9. To have had over 50 poems published in magazines and anthologies. (Not too many to go.)
10. To have won an award for one of my collections of poetry.

Wish me luck and do let me know what you are hoping to achieve by 2024 (or even 2013) as well!