I Have A Dream…

Francesca and Elaine make plans for the coming year.

Francesca: So, it’s 2016 and time to fill diaries and make lists of goals. I never make ‘resolutions’ as such. I have an idea at the beginning of January of what I’d like to achieve, then revise it constantly throughout the year, depending on what opportunities come along, or alternatively, which have been lost.

Things don't always work out the way we've planned.

Things don’t always work out the way we’ve planned.

First of all there are goals which, by working hard, I can achieve by myself. These include finishing the current novel in progress, writing/reviving/revising more short stories, and maybe even some articles. 

Then there are the other goals, achievable but a little less tangible, ones that also need the input of others. I’m talking about actually being published. Naturally I’ve got to put in a good percentage of the effort by finding the right markets and getting whatever is required sent off (and making sure I’ve read the guidelines thoroughly). But the outcome is also in the lap of the publishing gods, so to speak. Experience has taught me that you win some and you lose some. Sometimes you nearly win but fall at the final hurdle. Either way there’s always the next submission or project to get on with along with valuable lessons learnt.

A busy year of writing and workshops requires lots of notebooks.

A busy year of writing and workshops requires lots of notebooks.

Luckily the job isn’t all about being hidden away in a writer’s garret: there are many events to pencil into the calendar that aid and stimulate the writing process. There’s a writing retreat in May, the Hay Festival, the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference, the Writers’ Holiday in Fishguard and possibly another retreat towards the end of the year. In between I’ll be attending various RNA events, including the local chapter meetings, and continue with classes at The Write Place. All these occasions serve different yet equally valid services, whether it’s to learn skills, meet publishing professionals for advice and/or networking, have a sustained quiet period to write or simply schmooze with fellow writers.

However, I am going to miss many of these events if I don’t acquire a diary. Six days into January and I am still without. Tomorrow I’m meeting up with blog partner Elaine, but first I will need to take a trip to the diary shop…

@FCapaldiBurgess

Elaine: It’s difficult to believe 2015 is over. In my case it didn’t end with a bang; it didn’t even end with a slight fizz. Due to illness, the whole New Years Eve celebrations passed me by and the beginning of 2016 has not been any better, culminating in me missing my aunt’s 100th birthday. However, I’m going to be an eternal optimist and say things can only get better, because 2016 is going to be a special time for me.

Francesca and Elaine take a photo call.

Francesca and Elaine take a photo call at an RNA event.

I have been writing for several years now but I’ve always had to fit it around a full time job, but on March 24th I am taking early retirement. There are mixed emotions, excitement and fear. The little voice in my head tells me there are no excuses now, no hiding place. For the first time, I will be able to write when I am not tired or feeling guilty because I should be spending time doing housework or being with my family. I have been liberated to enjoy writing again.

report_writingMy goals are to structure my day so I can be guilt free and to ensure I attend the fabulous Romantic Novelists Association (RNA) Conference and all other RNA events. I would like to attend the Chapter meetings more often. It has always been difficult because of my limited writing time. My main goal is to finish the saga I started last year, have it critiqued by the RNA New Writers Scheme (NWS), and make any necessary amendments, before sending it out into the world.

It’s definitely going to be a special year.

@RobertsElaine11

What are your writing goals and plans for 2016?

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NO MORE EXCUSES

Viv Hampshire wonders where all that spare time went!

Back in those long ago snowy days of January, with a whole year stretched enticingly out in front of me (the first year ever of not having to go out to work to earn a crust), I thought I had all the time in the world. Fitting the writing of a novel into my new life was going to be so easy, what with all that extra spare time I was going to have on my hands. I even, perhaps a bit foolishly, made myself a promise – and published it very publicly here on the blog – I will, without any more procrastination, get on and finish my novel in progress and get it ‘out there’ to be critiqued and maybe even accepted for publication – in 2014. Without fail. Without doubt. No more excuses. 

Six months later, and I’m starting to panic! It’s getting there, but it’s nowhere near finished, and the Romantic Novelists Association’s New Writers Scheme (NWS) August submission deadline is looming ever nearer. Where did all those extra hours disappear to? Well, the trouble is… I don’t have to be anywhere important any more, so I get up later. I go for a wander around the shops or to watch the other half play bowls, because the sun’s shining, and because I want to spend time with him, and because I can. I fiddle about on facebook and read every page of the newspaper online, making sure I complete the crossword, obviously! I pop round to my daughter’s during the afternoon (earlier than I might have done before, so I can miss the school traffic) and help her with her uni essays, and then I make a start on dinner. Add into the mix a bit of a health scare (thankfully now resolved) and the fact that I have, rather unexpectedly, recently got engaged and now have all the finer details of an imminent wedding to plan, and it’s hardly surprising that the novel has started to slip onto the back burner. Oh dear! Oh no!!

In fact, by the time the quiz shows and the soaps are over (I can’t possibly miss out on them. I love them too much, soap plot lines are great for inspiration and ideas, and a girl’s got to have some fun!) it’s 9 o’clock and I’m finally just about ready to write. But, hang on… that’s exactly when I have always written. Somehow my clockbody clock just can’t adjust itself to any kind of new routine. It’s got far too set in its ways. My head, my heart, my feet, all lead me up those stairs to my desk at 9 o’clock and there I sit, quite happily, in my new study (featured, by the way, in the July issue of Writers’ Forum magazine), far away from the football that is dominating the TV at the moment, and write until bedtime – just like I always have.

And, even then, I still have to find time to write my articles – commissioned ones that bring in an income – and I still love to write short stories whenever an idea strikes… but a promise is a promise. As I write this, almost at the end of June, my novel’s word count stands at around 75,000. It’s going to take another 25,000 words or so to get to the end. And so I keep working out how many weeks I have left and how many words I will have to write in each of those weeks, and the more I put it off the bigger that weekly target has to grow! At this rate I will be scribbling out the last 10,000 in the last week (or even on the last day!), and I won’t get to sleep at all!

But I did say no more excuses, so I won’t make any. As this post goes live I will just be back from a little holiday at the Chocolate Hotel in Bournemouth. Well, I couldn’t miss out on that one, could I? And then I will get down to the novel again. I really will. Honest!

 

When Things Come To Try You, Try Try Again

Francesca considers how life gets in the way of goals, and notebook mania.

They say things come to try us and that certainly seems to be the case for me currently. When I set out my goals in the December blog, I was confident I’d complete them, but it hasn’t quite gone to plan.

I didn’t finish the current novel by February but hope to finish it soon. As for getting the short story ‘out theres’ up to my usual level… Um… I’ve managed to get a few out, mostly to competitions or anthology callouts. The up side is I have two new 7,000 word stories which, if not accepted, I have ideas for to extend to novellas, plus I’ve written a novel opening for a comp which at a later date could be continued.

What doesn’t help in getting goals achieved is having a ‘really good idea’ for the novel already apparently written and edited, which means you have to go back through it and filter in all the elements of the new sub plot. The novel I’m referring to, Ten Years Later, is doing the rounds, but it doesn’t stop me editing it anew each time it goes out. I’ve had a major idea for the very first novel I wrote, Sea Angel, but I must resist putting it into action until sometime in the future.

Notebooks medEven when life makes it hard to get to the computer, I always carry a notebook. I have a variety of them in different sizes and can’t resist buying pretty ones, even when I really don’t need any more. Recently I’ve been away a lot visiting relatives. I’ve found family are quite understanding when I pull the book out of my bag to record an idea, even if they’ve been the cause of it! If I find myself in the rare situation of not having a notebook on me when an idea strikes, I have been known to send myself a text message.

Then there are my ‘plot bunnies’ books. This was something I started seventeen years ago, long before I sent anything out. I’d recently taken on the role of parish magazine editor and had acquired a tatty duplicate notebook for the job. Instead I recorded story ideas in it. I’ve since filled it and am well into a second book, much prettier than the first. In Plot bunny books medtotal there are 318 plot bunnies, for short stories and novels. All the ideas from the other notebooks go into these, so they’re all in one place. A bit of advice: if you start an ideas book like this, put an index at the end with titles or clues to each idea and number the pages, otherwise you’ll never find them when you want them.

July is fast on the way, with the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference and the Writers’ Holiday in Fishguard, (we work darn hard on those ‘holidays’!), so you’ll excuse me if I crack on…

 

HOW WAS YOUR MONTH?

As February draws to a close, we find out if our team reached their goals.

Elaine Roberts: February has been a strange month. It doesn’t feel as though I’ve achieved very much. One of my goals was to finish editing my novel, Taking It Back, but I’ve come to the conclusion you never finish editing. In theory I’ve achieved this goal, and the first three chapters have been submitted to an agency, along with my introductory letter and synopsis. I say in theory because I’m now trying to read it as a reader, without any analysis, and I’m still finding things I want to change. However, I have achieved my goals of completing it and writing a short story.

Elaine E and Vivien at the RNA summer party, 2013.

Elaine E and Vivien at the RNA summer party, 2013.

Vivien Hampshire: A lot of external factors – from health problems, to packing up the contents of a house to be sold, to the inevitable disruption during the creation of my new writing room – have hampered progress this month. Excuses, I know, but real and unavoidable ones, I’m afraid. Still, I did get two short stories and two commissioned articles written and subbed, and I managed to move the novel on by around 6,000 words and finally decide on its title, so I have not been totally idle!

Elaine Everest: I’m pleased to say that I fulfilled my goals for February. Research into local history did tend to divert my attention. After attending the London Chapter of the RNA and being reminded to keep writing and only research when it halts the writing process I was able to keep to target.

The news that I’m excited to share is that I have a literary agent. Caroline Sheldon of the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency has taken me on and I am now part of her list of authors. I’m the only one I haven’t heard of!

2014 looks to be an exciting year.

Natalie Kleinman: This month I have submitted six short stories and written another 6,580 words of my novel. When I look back its pretty similar to what I did in January so maybe there’s a pattern I was unaware of. I also sold another short story with the suggestion that a further one would be taken in a few weeks time when the editor’s rush to put out a Special is out of the way. I’ll let you know. Apart from that much of my time has been spent working on blogging, either here or on the Romantic Novelists’ Association

Francesca Capaldi Burgess: The month hasn’t been as great a success as I’d hoped. Family visits and commitments, along with poor health, have meant that I’ve done a lot of planning but not a great deal of actual writing. I’ve had a new idea for the novel which means going over it from the beginning before I continue. I managed to rough out several short stories and was in charge of the blog this month. I’ve also been on two day-long workshops which have given me a lot of inspiration.

Natalie, Elaine E, Francesca and Elaine R, strutting their stuff at the RNA summer party, 2013.

Natalie, Elaine E, Francesca and Elaine R, strutting their stuff at the RNA summer party, 2013.

 

Onwards and upwards in March!

NEW MONTH, NEW GOALS & A PLACE TO WRITE

The WMWP writers consider their February goals and writing spaces.

1. What are your goals for February?

Elaine E: A busy month. I’m researching an area of England and what happened there during WW2. My research needs to be threaded through the notes of my basic plot. February sees this turned into a proper outline, timeline and chapter breakdown and hopefully a few chapters will be written as well.

Elaine R: Choosing a feel positive February, my goals are to finish editing my second novel, Taking It Back, and send it to publishers/agents. I’ll add 10,000 words to my third novel. This’ll mean three quarters completed in its first draft. I will continue to write and submit one short story a month.

Francesca: I want to have half of the rest of my current novel written by the end of the month.  This would constitute about 20,000 words, which in itself is more than doable, but I also want to get more short stories written and submitted. And there are some good competitions coming up.

Natalie: I am still waiting for the return of my manuscript from the publisher so I can begin editing. In the meantime I am continuing with my new novel and focussing on short stories. I’d like to get as many as I can out there before the book comes back and takes over.

Vivien: I have cleared the decks as far as non-fiction commissions are concerned, so February is going to be a fiction month for me. If a short story idea comes I will write it, but my novel will take priority, and I hope to really move it forwards this month.

2.Where do you write and does it vary with the time of year?

Elaine E: My workstation is in a corner of our large bedroom. I have my main computer, files, reference books and stationery to hand. However, I seem to be on my laptop at the kitchen table most days. Meanwhile, a spare bedroom is begging to be turned into my study once hubby has removed all the essential junk.

Elaine R: There aren’t many places in my home I haven’t worked, except maybe the little girl’s room. I’m lucky to have a spare bedroom with a view of my garden, which gives me inspiration. It’s where I go for solitude. I often work in front of the television, because I like company.

Francesca: I’m lucky to have a purpose-built study in the house which contains all my writing stuff. I’ve variously worked at the dining room table and in the playroom. In the summer I like to take my laptop outside on the decking under a very large parasol. I’m looking forward to that!

Natalie: Our third bedroom was turned into a study to give me space and silence to write – I can’t write with noise going on around me – but it feels somewhat claustrophobic so now I invariably write at the dining room table. What some people would give! Spare study anyone?

Vivien: I am lucky enough to have a ‘bedless’ spare bedroom to write in, and big plans to re-organise it and install new furniture. In the summer I do try writing in the garden but the sun on the laptop screen is a problem, so I usually just end up reading instead (great for market research!)

writing in garden