You Cannot/Shouldn’t Write During Holidays

First Wednesday of the month and Insecure Writers Support Group day. (Seems a long time coming around this month. We seem to have been in December a long time.) However, if you find time in all your busyness to read this post, happy Christmas everybody.

This month our optional question is: It’s holiday time! Are the holidays a time to catch up or fall behind on writer goals?

My answer is emphatically NOOOO! I cannot find the time or clear mind to write, and so do not write, during holiday periods. Last summer I spent two weeks in Tenerife with my family, including my two grandchildren. I thought I might just manage a bit of writing, one short story perhaps – but did I whacks? Now in the run-up to Christmas, I am doing bits and pieces, subbing stories (mainly flash) which has been hanging around on my computer too long, clearing up as it were. During the week before Christmas I will be babysitting said grandchildren again and during the week between Christmas and New Year I shall just enjoy it. In the latter part of January, hubby and I are taking a holiday in South Africa and I won’t write then either.

Talking point: shouldn’t writers take some time off from writing occasionally?

As we seem to have got out of the habit of writing about writers being insecure on this blog hop, I am going to… now. I have been submitting short stories and flash for a very long time. In the beginning, of course, my writing wasn’t very good and I didn’t really understand what I was doing. I got on to Duotrope, searched through the categories and always ended up thinking, “None of these markets is suitable for this particular story of mine”. Then I would pick one which looked slightly better than the others, read some stories already on the site, sub then wait for the inevitable rejection. I knew what would happen before I even started the process.

After a while (not too long, although it felt long) one short piece of mine was accepted on a now defunct site called ‘Fictionatwork’ and, with the support of other writers who I got to know online, my acceptance-rate gradually improved. I got to know where I was likely to have a hit and targeted these markets. My confidence grew and now I have a better idea of who will take what and general stuff which applies to all markets. But, don’t I get miffed if something of mine gets rejected! Really spoils my day. Even though I know that writers who are far more successful than I also get rejections. (I know because they tell me.)

Submitting The Novel was agonising in the same way. I had no expectations or confidence in any publisher accepting it – then one did. New Year is going to be very exciting, working with the publisher and the illustrator, then, in February, Wodka or Tea with Milk will become a real book (and e-book).

(Sorry this post is late. Yesterday ran away with itself so I tried to write my post in the staffroom before I started work. Because I was rushing, I composed the draft on Dear Reader and only realised just as I was about to start working.)


Sorry, Nano, the Answer Really Is No

First Wednesday of the month and Insecure Writing Support Group day. This month, the optional question is: November is National Novel Writing Month. Have you ever participated? If not, why not? Avid readers of Write On posts will be aware that the last two were about Nano and why I am not doing it. To save you scanning down the screen… health is the issue, my head and shoulders, in particular.

Me? What shall I do? I’ve been writing a lot of flash recently and I shall probably write some more, together with continuing to plan The Next Novel (the one I would have been writing for Nano). I’m also writing some book reviews on my other blog, Dear Reader.

Yesterday, my post on Halloween for the (British) Association of Christian Writers blog, More Than Writers, sort of went… not viral, but boom… with a lot of people agreeing heartily and disagreeing with equal vigour. Very interesting what everyone said!

So I’m plodding on, doing lots of physiotherapy exercises and not staying on the computer for too long at a time. So, to those of you doing Nano this year, the very best of luck.

Short Story Writing Tips & a Launch!

Very apt advice from Sally Jenkins, who has written far more stories and been far more successful than I have. This post first appeared on

Sally Jenkins

I’ve been busy with the feather duster in my Dropbox repository and have rediscovered several of my favourite short stories that missed their target. These are the stories which didn’t land on the right editor’s desk at the right time or failed to catch the imagination of a competition judge.

Short Story Writing TipsThis exercise made me think about two things: What are the best tips or rules for short story writing? And how can I best utilize these short story ‘misses’ in this age of recycling and ‘waste not want not’?

Here are the five top short story writing tips I came up with:
1. Have only a few characters. Any more than three or four makes it difficult for the reader to get to know them in a short space of time. Make sure all their names begin with a different letter – this makes it easier for the reader to…

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NanoWriMo – Decision Made For Me

In my last post, I was weighing up whether to do Nano or not. A few readers offered words of advice some for, some against, but I’m afraid the decision has been made for me.

Up until this afternoon, I was up for it, but my neck and shoulders had other ideas. Today – pretty much all day – I’ve felt wrecked, aching all over. I didn’t spend too long on the computer. Honestly! I couldn’t. My shoulders were killing me. At five this afternoon, I just had to walk away from my machine and do something else. I’m now at my iPad, with my feet up, trying to pretend this is better.

I do have a piece on Friday Flash Fiction this week by the way, At the Same Time. 100 words only are allowed. It concentrates the mind. You think that writing very short stories is something easier? Not at all. But it’s a great challenge saying what you want to say in just a few words.

I did attempt to plan my next novel. Story arcs. Character arcs. Timelines. Excruciatingly difficult. I always find distilling a novel into any sort of plan virtually impossible and last time I did Nano, when I wrote my previous Nano novel (Wodka or Tea with Milk, to be published in the New Year) I didn’t plan at all, except in my head. I’m sure I paid for that later, spending a long time sorting out plot holes and scenes that didn’t work, or feel right. I’m glad I’ve managed to do some planning. I’d been putting it off for months and just thinking about Nano had the effect of putting the proverbial boot up my backside.

So, very good luck to all of you writers who are attempting Nano this year. I may sort of shadow you, away from the Nano website, but at the moment I cannot commit myself to anything.

NanoWriMo – To Do or Not To Do?

In 2015 I committed to National Novel Writing Month (NanoWriMo to its friends) and wrote 50,000 words of The Novel, which eventually took the title Wodka or Tea with Milk, by the third week of November. (In the fourth week, I collapsed.)

I wrote the rest of The Novel largely during December 2015 and January 2016. In between then and now, I have redrafted and edited it and two friends beta-read it. I sent it to a professional editor and incorporated the vast majority of her suggestions, which meant editing all over again. I submitted it and submitted it and, just a few weeks ago, blessedly, found a publisher.

So, with October slipping away fast, am I ready to put myself through Nano all over again? I did make an attempt in 2018 but failed miserably, abandoning my draft after about a week.

So do I take the plunge in 2022?

The Pros

  • Nano would give me a much-needed kick up the bottom to get on with the next novel.
  • In 2015 I loved the camaraderie of Nano.

The Cons

  • I haven’t done any serious planning of the next novel… but I still have two weeks and, in 2015, I didn’t get around to any planning a all.
  • In 2015 I had just retired from full-time teaching so had no other commitments. And I put a big wriggle on to complete the first draft by the end of January when I started another – albeit part-time – teaching post. Now I’m no longer teaching but now I still do have a job invigilating (although I’m not called in to work as often as I like) and I hold several time-consuming volunteer roles, including hosting a Ukrainian guest. I seriously don’t have as much time.
  • Bearing the above in mind, I almost certainly won’t finish. (A counter Pro: but I would have written something, even if not the full 50,000 words.)
  • The philosophy of Nano is that you just get the words down regardless of style, grammar, plot relevance and sense. As I found out after 2015, the amount of editing necessary was mind-boggling. (Another counter Pro: at least I would have something to edit.)

So what do I do, Dear Reader? (A speaker I heard on Saturday said that most pieces can be improved by deleting the last sentence. Maybe I should have deleted this one.)

Best Characteristics of Historical Fiction… and Other Things

Greetings from Seville, where husband and I are spending a few days with our son and daughter-in-law. First Wednesday of the month and Insecure Writers’ Support Group day. I am writing this post sitting on my iPad balanced on a cushion, at 7.25am, taking advantage of a little peace and quiet to write this post before everyone gets up. (I know that, for those of you living the other side of the pond, 7.25am is the middle of the morning, but bear with us in gentler Spain.)

Before I turn to the optional question, I have some news. The Novel, Wodka or Tea with Milk?, has found a publisher and will be in print and in ebook form in February. Sooo… am I excited? No, I’m anxious and terrified. This all happened about two weeks ago and, as I’ve rapidly come to realise, I know nothing about negotiating with a publisher, what’s reasonable or what I should be aiming for. We have come to an agreement now, after a lot of WhatsApp messages.

The optional question this month is What do you consider the best characteristics of your favorite genre? My favourite genre is historical fiction; it’s taken me a long time to come around to this choice, with crime fiction coming a close second, but I can’t write crime fiction, as I don’t have that sort of experience, seeing as I’ve never been a crim or a crime-catcher. When I read a book, I want to live in the world of that book, even though each setting brings its own challenges. For this, fiction set in the past is perfect.

When writing historical, or even ‘period’ fiction (set in more recent time), the immersive element is an acute and emotional experience for the writer. I spent years researching the Polish Solidarity trade union, living in this ‘other’ world, finding out new and interesting facts every day. You want to tell those around you what you have just discovered, but you don’t because you know they won’t be the slightest bit interested. Visiting Poland, especially Gdańsk, where much of the historical action for The Novel took place, was gobsmacking. I stood in Solidarnosc Square, on a dull August day in the drizzling rain, thinking ‘I’m here, I’m actually here…’ and having no other words for it.

I was starting to believe that no publisher was ever going to be interested in The Novel, that the setting was a turn off, a period of history which most of them were too young to remember and which was too recent to be studied at school. The writer just has to keep submitting, and submitting, and submitting. One of writer friends told me she had submitted her novels 35 times and another 55 times. I didn’t get as far as that but I felt I was there, at that stage, for a long time. Submitting repeatedly after rejection after rejection is a strain. The good thing is, though, that you only need one publisher.

The Worse Genre to Tackle

First Wednesday of the month and IWSG (Insecure Writers’ Support Group day). If you read my last post, you will know that I had ground to a halt over the summer, but weather is cooler now and I’m ratcheting up the gears. We’ve even had some rain! Big talking point! This time last year we were trying to grasp the last few sunny days but not in 2022.

This month our IWSG question is: What genre would be the worst one for you to tackle and why? This is easy to answer: science fiction. Whilst I was growing up, science fiction was all about space exploration (Star Trek etc) which left me cold and being made to read John Wyndham’s Day of the Trifids at school didn’t make me feel more warmly towards this genre. When I’m reading a story, I like to think that what is happening between the pages might just possibly happen in reality, but in science fiction that is obviously not possible. Also, I like to read about convincing characters, and although writers who write in this genre tell me that their characters have human emotions and do human things, like falling in love, in an unreal scenario, surely characters are going to respond differently.

They say you should always read the genres you’re writing in and, as I haven’t been reading sci-fi, I shouldn’t touch it with a barge pole – should I?

Somebody is going to remind me that sci-fi sells. They would be right. Fantasy also sells. Sci-fi and fantasy are often lumped together as ‘speculative fiction’. I don’t enjoy either. I understand from an article by Jim Denney on Anne Allen’s blog that C S Lewis (of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe fame, an author I do admire) enjoyed sci-fi and wrote two sci-fi short stories. I haven’t read them yet, seeing as I only became aware of them on Sunday. (Did I read the stories or write this blog post?)

I once placed a Steampunk story in an online ezine, very much after G D Falksen, set in England in the 1920s (where and when else?), about a servant girl who invented a dishwasher. Hers was gas-powered so wouldn’t have looked like the one in the image.

So, here is me, writing flash and just about historical fiction, subbing and entering comps and sending The Novel to publishers and still feeling stuck in the mire. Insecure, in other words. I have to encourage myself by remembering that I have placed several pieces of flash during this year and historical is supposed to be a genre that sells also.

I wonder how many other IWSGers are going to choose sci-fi as their worse genre.

Writing in Summer

Summer is not a good time for writing, is it? After placing three pieces, almost all at once, at the beginning of July, my productivity has been slow. Glancing through other writers’ blogs, I don’t think I’m the only one. My paid work has ground to a halt over the summer vacation so I should have lots of time, but ‘stuff happens’ as they say.

I went on holiday to Tenerife – my favourite destination – for two weeks. I had this vague idea of doing some writing, at quiet times during the afternoon when it’s too hot to go out, perhaps, but I was too busy. However, I did manage to listen to a Writing Online webinar on writing historical fiction, on the apartment patio at five o’clock one morning, when I couldn’t sleep.

We are hosting a Ukrainian lady. She needs help and support, as you would expect, but I can’t hold her responsible.

I have a daughter who is a journalist (actually gets paid a proper salary for writing – doh!) and I have grandchildren who need looking after. I’m driving back to their house for another couple of days tonight. (Better not protest too much. I love them to bits and I know of younger writers who have been struggling to fill their children’s time – keep them off their screens, in other words – for a whole six weeks.)

It’s hot. Nobody could disagree with this!

The garden is groaning with produce and I cook. Many of my writer friends don’t cook and they get more written than me. But what am I to do? I have a trug-load of elderberries, tomato plants yielding about a kilo a day, cucumbers and courgettes ditto, and two types of beans. And my dear neighbour gave me a load of damsons over the weekend (to add to the damsons we already have). I am not going to waste any of this, not good for the environment. So I’ve made elderberry jelly, damson jam, marrow and ginger jam, tomato soup and pickled cucumbers and blanched French beans for the freezer. (Fortunately, the Ukrainian lady likes courgettes.)

However, I’m now taking myself in hand. I’ve written a piece of flash and subbed it, and another short story – and also subbed The Novel again. It’s cooler now. I can do things. Why do you suppose NanoWriMo is in November?

Original Slants or Giving Readers What They Want

First Wednesday of the month and Insecure Writers’ Support Group day again. I am currently on holiday in Tenerife, with my family, including grandchildren, so doing very little writing at the moment (ie none at all for a fortnight). Yes, we are having a wonderful time, thank you, even though we’ve all been here many times before (yes, all of us, beginning in 1979). I have written numerous blog posts about Arona (where we always stay) and even had published a short story set here, entitled ‘Paradise’, which I’m very fond of, even though I wrote it aeons ago.

Southern Tenerife from the sea.

July was not a bad month writing wise, with a flash story in Cafe Lit, an book review in Together and more flash in Friday Flash Fiction and Paragraph Planet (can’t find the link for my story). I had not subbed to Paragraph Planet before; they require 75 words exactly, no mean feat.

Our option IWSG question this month is:

When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?

Placing short stories and flash is where I have most success. When writing them, I am conscious that I may need to submit a particular story several times before it finds a home, so, as every short story/ flash market is different, it is not possible to give a particular group of readers on one particular ezine or one mag ‘what they want’. Of course, I do follow certain parameters and I may make edits between each submission. If I’m aiming at a Christian market, my protagonist might pray aloud or reflect on Bible passages, for instance. The danger is in attempting to design a story to fit all markets but which actually suits none.

I always try to include something original in every story, or adopt an original slant. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it, saying what you have to say and communicating with the great readership out there?

Interested to read other IWSG bloggers take on this one, as always.

Whatever You Think Of… A Higher Being

Alistair Campbell (ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spin doctor) once said, “We don’t do God.” At least he was direct and unambiguous. Other people merely hint at opinions of this sort, often starting with the phrase, “Whatever you think of…”

Over the past twelve months the (British) Association of Christian Writers has been celebrating its Golden Jubilee, 50 years of the Association and its forerunner, the Fellowship of Christian Writers. Last weekend (3-5 June) we held the big WOWIG (Worth Our Weight in Gold) event at The Hayes in Derbyshire. I realise that, unless you were there yourself, you might be tempted to gloss over this post, but… bear with me. I do have something to say.

My church!

ACW members are two things proactively : writers (of fiction, poetry, journalistic articles and everything else, as well as overtly religious pieces) and Christians (all sorts of Christians). What many of us would like to do is to write about characters who believe in God, because we believe in God and all authors feel most comfortable about writing about people with their own mindset. We should be able to do that in the open, huggy, non-judgemental world we live in… shouldn’t we?

At our event, we heard six speakers: Paul Kerensa (script-writer and comedian); Anne Booth (writer for children and adults); Tony Collins (editor, agent and publisher in Christian publishing); Adrian and Bridget Plass (authors); Jonathan Bryan (author).

  • Paul Kerensa told us how, when working on a comedy script for the BBC which included a church setting, he wrote in a warm, welcoming and up-to-date Baptist church. However, the editors/producers at the Beeb replaced this with a cold, old fashioned church building. Stereotypes, or what?
  • Anne Booth wrote a book about a Christian teenager. Her editor told her that the book would be better if it were reduced by 40%. Guess which 40% the editor deleted? The Christian bits.
  • Jonathan Bryan is a severely disabled sixteen year old boy, confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak. He campaigns for children in special schools to be educated – specifically, taught how to read and write – rather than being ‘entertained and occupied’. Jonathan himself ‘writes’ by directing his eyes on to an alphabet board. His poetry shows depth and maturity and an astounding lyrical style, which would be gobsmacking from anyone of any age. He is also a vicar’s son. When he submitted his book, Eye Can Write to his publisher, every mention of God, Jesus and his faith was crossed out with a yellow highlighter. He showed us the proofs on screen. At one point, ‘a higher being’ was substituted for God. But Jonathan is tough and Jonathan insisted. God and Jesus were brought back in.

So what is the Christian fiction writer to do? Either submit to one of the few Christian publishing houses which (between them) publish only a small amount of fiction or self-publish. A speaker at another ACW event last year, Karen Rosario Ingerslev, author of the Celery Brown and Livi Starling series, won a publishing deal but chose to self-publish instead. When I heard this, at the time I didn’t understand. Now I do.


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Thanks for dropping by. I'm a writer and teacher with interests in education, mental health and community. I like to wonder aloud about everyday life, hope and the silly, incongruous things that shape us and make us who we are. I also like hats, cake and those tiny little snores cats make when they sleep. On the Home page, you'll find around 100 wonderings, all different in length and content. On a pc, you'll see a 'Select month' menu at the side where you can choose a piece from the last 8 years. I'd love to hear your comments below each post. Have a good day. Deborah

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