Category Archives: Articles

INKSPILL Making Time to Write – Guest Writer William Gallagher

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Making Time to Write

I could talk all day about this. And I do. I run full-day workshops on how to make more time for your writing and it comes down to many, many things you can do to shove other work out of your way. I wrote the book on it too. (I have always wanted to say that, thank you for the chance.) The book is The Blank Screen: productivity for creative writers.

Id like to show you one thing that I think will help you the most, the quickest. Its just how to handle your email.

Now, that sounds a bit flat: handling email doesnt seem like a big deal. But you already know that it is and you know it is for two reasons. One is the overwhelming pressure of that gigantic inbox of yours and one is how email interruptions smash your concentration.

Fix the second one first. Switch the bloody bleep off. Turn off the notifications. Yes, there are going to be people whose emails you must see immediately and want to respond to right away. Many email systems let you nominate people as being VIPs and bleeps and notifications from them get through. Fine. But even if you can do that, resist.

Switch email off and make a vow. Some people vow to only check emails in the morning or only in the afternoon, but I suggest you just check it hourly. Theres no need to go cold turkey. But do it religiously hourly. If an email comes in at 9:01am, and I notice it, I still will not actually read it until 10:00am.

Because it makes exactly zero difference to the sender whether you reply in 59 minutes or 59 seconds yet it makes a massive difference to you. Read and reply only at the top of the hour and youve just got yourself a clear hours writing.

The overwhelming pressure problem is related. But cope by when you do read your emails, dealing with them. There and then. Dont leave them sitting in your inbox throbbing at you until they scroll off the bottom of the screen.

Actually, do specifically this. Create a new archive mailbox. (How you do this varies a lot but Google the name of your email software and the words create mailbox and youll see instructions.) Now select every email in your inbox and drag the lot into that archive. Promise yourself you will read them all some day and accept that no, you wont.

And accept that if its that important, youll remember to go looking or theyll email you again anyway. Notice that I say archive, not delete. Dont delete this stuff, Ill go pale if you do that and I get you into trouble.

But.

Having now got a nice, gorgeous, empty inbox, wait one second and youll have new email in there.

Do this. Read that email. At the top of the hour. If its something you can reply to immediately, reply to it immediately.

If its something that will take you a bit longer say because you need to ask someone about it then create another mailbox called Follow Up or Action or Get On With This, something like that. Drag that email to that Follow Up and swear for real this time that you will look at it and act on it.

If its anything else, think about deleting it. I do keep emails when theyre just nice or part of a conversation or really anything other than obviously deletable stuff. You are probably keeping emails around that you think you might like to read some day, like my own email newsletter. Even with mine, delete it if youre not going to read it now. Okay? Though, you know, have a glance at it first. (You can subscribe sign up here for my free weekly The Blank Screen newsletter full of productivity news and advice.)

Think of it this way. When an email comes in, ignore it to the top of the hour. And then when you do read it, decide right away: reply, postpone or trash it.

Do, defer or delete.

Just dont leave it in your mailbox throbbing. Never read an email twice. I promise both that it will make you feel massively productive but it will also lift that burden of the giant inbox from your shoulders.

William

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INKSPILL – How to Get Rejected – Guest Writer William Gallagher

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How to Get Rejected

Write badly. Thatll do it. But of all the reasons you will get rejected and you will, you know you will writing badly is the best of them. Its the most embarrassing, perhaps, and it may well shut more doors than anything else ever will, but its also the best for one key reason.

You can do something about it.

You can write better.

Now, it would be good if that were as easy as it sounds but your writing is under your control, or at least it is more than anything else. Focus on your writing and dont be thrown by things you cannot know. That sounds a bit Hallmark Card-like and we are all cut and bloodied by rejection but do this: control what you can control and bollocks to everything you cant.

Let me give you a fast example. I spent a couple of years as features editor on a computer magazine and I needed writers. I really needed them, I had money to pay them, I would search for them. And at the same time, I mustve got around 200 completely unsolicited submissions. Writers writing to me out of the blue pitching me articles. They should have been a godsend to me but they werent.

Of the 200, I commissioned 1. He was fine, Id have used him again if Id ever needed to go back to the same topic. Thats not the key fact here. The key is that of the 200, I read 7.

And not only would I do the same today, so would you.

Of the other 193, a surprising number were about fashion. I was on a computer magazine. Many were handwritten and, again, hello, computer magazine. Plus you can tell me youve got years of experience but if youre not typing your articles, no, you havent.

Equally, you can tell me that you studied my magazine but if you spell the title wrong or if you send me a 300-word article when we only ever ran 5,000-word pieces, I dont need to read your piece to know you cant do the job.

Writing is not a competition. Also, writing is not for you: it is for the reader. My job was not to read every piece and pat heads, it was to fill blank pages each month. Realise that, keep that in mind, and youll avoid rejections.

And when you are rejected, take it. You can grind your teeth all you like at home, just dont ever show it. Let it go because its already gone. Nobody ever convinced an editor that they have made a wrong choice by arguing about it. If that sounds unfair, compare it to this: nobody ever successfully used wailing to convince a lover not to dump them.

This ridiculous writing life we have chosen might be art, I hope it is, but it is also a job and it is also real. Youre not playing. And the sometimes great, sometimes deeply depressing fact is that most people are. So small things like being a pro when youre rejected really help you stand out.

William

©2014 Lee Allen Photography

©2014 Lee Allen Photography

 

William Gallagher’s Books on Amazon

See William Gallaghers scribbles books, Doctor Who radio dramas and the rest on Amazon

 

INKSPILL – Free Writing – Activity

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One thing I love about workshops & writing retreats is you end up with writing that otherwise may not have existed. Be as open as you can be approaching this activity and if you find more than one piece of writing coming through, then let it. Scribble pages of notes, work on it throughout the weekend. Let’s CREATE!

I am sure you know the term and have used automatic writing before, but just in case here is a simple definition:

Free writing
 

  • Free writing is a prewriting technique in which a person writes continuously for a set period of time without regard to spelling, grammar, or topic. It produces raw, often unusable material, but helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and self-criticism. It is used mainly by prose writers and writing teachers.
    I often meet ‘why’ learners/ writers – people who need to know the reason behind what we are doing/achieving. Questions may arise about the calibre of writing we are about to produce… so here’s WHY.
    WHY?
  • It makes you more comfortable with the act of writing.
  • It helps you bypass the “inner critic” who tells you you can’t write.
  • It can be a valve to release inner tensions.
  • It can help you discover things to write about.
  • It can indirectly improve your formal writing.
  • It can be fun.

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RULES FOR FREE WRITING:

  • Write nonstop for a set period of time (10–20 minutes).
  • Do not make corrections as you write.
  • Keep writing, even if you have to write something like, “I don’t know what to write.”
  • Write whatever comes into your mind.
  • Do not judge or censor what you are writing.
  • If you can, let GO of punctuation – this will help your writing flow.
  • DEFINITELY DO NOT WORRY about your spellings or handwriting!

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A twinkling eye can mean many things – start with someone who has a twinkle in their eye and see where it takes you…..

 

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Here are some more fun ideas if you want to keep writing or have some spare time this weekend …. don’t forget to go and grab some lunch though! thai street food

Other than using this picture of street food as a prompt;

  • List 10 book titles you might like to write.
  • Write an imaginary letter to an Agent, tell them how wonderful you are!
  • Pick a book off your shelf (or kindle) at random, open it at any chapter. Write down the first line. Find another chapter, this time write down the last line of the chapter. Now use the opening line to start your story (you’ve guessed it) the endline should be the 2nd sentence you wrote down. Limit yourself to 1000 words.

 

REMEMBER If you do any of these exercises link back to your blog post or post them as comments here, we would love to see/read the results!

INKSPILL – Editing By Nina Lewis

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This year I asked what you would like INKSPILL to support, editing was the focus.

EDITING

Good editing takes your writing beyond mediocre. A challenging skill to learn and as with writing, some people are better at it than others. If you have decided to self publish, a good editor can make a real difference to your manuscript. Proofreaders are skilled but editors know when the shape or feel of something is wrong or right and that equals sales for the writer.

Not everyone is working on writing projects with editors though and it’s hard to learn how to edit your work. Many of us spend more time editing than writing, it is essential to leave time in your writing schedule for the edit. Your writing, as you probably know, needs a few days (or even weeks) to rest and marinate before the edit!

 

TOP 10 TIPS

1) Finish Writing First

Now you may think this is an insane piece of advice as it breaks a natural pattern for many. Many of us edit as we go, I am doing it now. What this tip really means is keep it simple, deleting a typo or changing a few words as you get to the end of the sentence. It is natural (and good practise) to re-read as you write and you may see something you want to delete completely. Finish writing first and then go back to it. I sometimes use bold, italic or font colours to remind me where to look.

It is worth noting, I am not suggesting you attempt to write an entire novel without editing – although events like NaNoWriMo (you are not too late to sign up for 2014) encourage just that. To produce half a novel with no editing at all. A write or die approach. It is actually quite liberating, although the quality of the 50,000 words can vary.

 

2) Let the work rest

You should schedule time for the writing to be left as it is, with shorter pieces this may only be a few hours and with poetry I tend to write and re-write several drafts before the resting process. Saving all of them to file. Then leave it a day or two before starting the editing the process. With short stories this could be a week and novels longer.

The idea is it will allow you to see work through fresh eyes and should make the first level of editing (the slash and cull – yes you are going to be BRUTAL) a lot easier. Plus you will have strength to wield that sword now, unless like most of us, whilst your manuscript rested you carried on writing something else.

 

3) Slash and Cull

Become the slayer…. Costume on? Ready? Of course, a different wardrobe isn’t necessary, (although you could dress up as an editor if it makes you feel better). This first edit should be the easiest, you are looking for the big monsters.

The character that doesn’t quite fit, the chapter that is 7 pages too long, the description which needs to be tighter, plot holes, loose characterisation. You will be eager and fresh and should be able to tackle the manuscript with new ideas.

You may even enjoy this edit. I would advise with larger projects you do this chapter by chapter and even though you may have written in a different order it is paramount to edit in a linear way, chapter by chapter for chronology and continuity and also the reader experience.

As great writers have advised me – save each edit as new copy so you have the other versions to refer back to. Sometimes (especially beginner writers) can over edit and having copy saved may just keep the hair on your head!

 

4) Paper Wins

It is often easier to edit with a printed copy, physically reading and scribbling than to edit on the screen, even with new fangled editing programmes on the market. I know some writers who never use paper copy in this way, preferring e-readers or other tech. I find that I can spot things quicker on paper, it is how my brain was trained to read.

It can be useful to read it in its published form, which is why blogging platforms and emails often have a preview function. It is a good way to spot glaring errors including how the text will look on screen.

 

5) Have a PLAN!

You need an editing plan, just as you had one for writing. Section the manuscript, decide what to look for first, start with structure and content. What is known as ‘big picture’ editing. Find the chapters and paragraphs that need to be cut out, slash immediately. Find what works, have you missed whole areas of importance out? Do you need to write a whole section, chapter? Are there scenes that just don’t work, feel wrong, need a re-write?

Major cuts, rewrites and additions need to happen BEFORE you start polishing and editing sentences and changing words.

 

6) The bottom line is 10%!

Most of us are guilty of over-writing (this article was originally 1430 words)! We use more words than we need and our writing becomes weaker.

Do a word count and try to cut back 10%

Sounds impossible?

Look for these mistakes;

Repetition- trust your reader to get it the first time.

Un-necessary phrases, usually sentence starters such as I believe that… these can be cut and the writing will be stronger.

Despite everything we were taught at school, bin the adjectives. You needn’t use a whole string of them and if you have told us a character is shouting do we need to know how loudly?

 

7) Never Trust The Tech

By tech I mean our dear friend, the spellchecker. It will correct your mistakes but it is not a reader and will have no idea that when you wrote ‘she picked up the blank pen….’ you actually meant black pen. A grammar check won’t see this one either, but you can, so remember to use your eyes.

Other common mistakes our spell-check may miss are;

homophones, missing words. Sometimes your tech will have its own strange ideas about words, so make sure you are using the correct language setting and don’t just click OK to every suggestion.

 

8) Read Slower or from a different place

By now you will have edited this draft several times, you will know it. You will read what you think you see. It is so familiar it’s hard to spot any mistakes. Reading your manuscript out of order (providing you have numbered the pages) is a good proof-reading trick.

If reading out of order isn’t possible then remember how slowly beginner readers read. Read slowly. A good trick is to enlarge the font – you won’t see as many words on the screen or be able to scan read on.

 

9) Know when to LET GO!

When do you stop editing?

The time to let go is when you find yourself changing the manuscript, then changing it back again.

Most of us have ghost gremlins, even after we have submitted a piece of writing we feel ourselves filled with nagging feelings. Not feeling entirely confident until the work has been accepted.

Get used to this feeling.

Our perception of perfection may be different to the editor, market, it is something fictional, unobtainable… subjective… so let – it – go!

 

10) Pay

someone else to do it!

 

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INKSPILL Writing Retreat – Your Ideas Please!

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inkspill who what Last year I discovered a phenomenal weekend retreat that took place in the USA at the end of October – it was pricey even without the added airfare – so I decided to create an annual event of our own… something to build on each year.

INKSPILL was born! Inkspill tiny

One day you may even have to pay but for now it is FREE and just for fun. That is not to say I haven’t improved the programme from last year…. because I have – firstly I have other artists/ writers involved.

Last year I opened requests up to followers of my blog – so now *IT IS OVER TO YOU!*

  • What do you want to learn about writing? 
  • Which elements are weaker, where could you use a little support?
  • What have you always wanted to know (but been too afraid to ask)?

THIS IS YOUR CHANCE FOR SOME TAILOR MADE SUPPORT

Some of last year’s retreat posts are the most popular posts hit on this site each month and some have even been linked on academic websites.

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We will run the retreat over 2 days – you can join in real time GMT – or dip in and out as you wish. The posts will be pinned for the weekend and then available through using INKSPILL in the tag search.

 

INKSPILL – NOT THIS WEEKEND, BUT THE WEEKEND AFTER! 25TH & 26TH OCTOBER – WITH

NINA LEWIS

WILLIAM GALLAGHER

CHARLIE JORDAN

HEATHER WASTIE

I will posts their BIOs later in the week.

AWF 2014 OCT CalAWF retreat2

FOR NOW LEAVE A MESSAGE ON THIS THREAD – WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT?

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Weather, birdsong, exposing yourself: Jo Bell on the 52 project’s runaway success | Write Out Loud

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Weather, birdsong, exposing yourself: Jo Bell on the 52 project’s runaway success | Write Out Loud.

I have to share this great article by Jo Bell on Write Out Loud because 52 has been a worthy project to be involved in this year and I have created poetry beyond boundaries. The best thing about the community is the level of critique and the fact that professionals and novices meet alongside each other and I think, half a year in, due to the constant reminders from Jo, people have FINALLY stopped apologising for their poetry!

Book Review: In Good Weather the Sign Outside Reads Danger Quicksand By Sarah Hymas

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sarah-hymas peony moonSarah Hymas’s latest pamphlet is called In Good Weather the Sign Outside Reads Danger Quicksand and I am lucky enough to be reviewing it. Sarah is no stranger to making interesting, playful pamphlets. Her pamphlet Lune was produced in 2012 and was Runner Up for Best Pamphlet in the Saboteur Awards 2013

Since 2003 Sarah has been published in various magazines, including: New Writing 15, Magma, The Rialto, Poetry Wales, Warwick Review, Washington Square Review, Stand, Tadeeb, Keystone, Iota, Staple, Tears in the Fence, Rain Dog, The Leeds Guide, Orbis, Agenda, The Slab, Smiths Knoll, Shadowtrain, Cadenza, Raconteur.

 

 © S. Hymas 2014

© S. Hymas 2014

Sarah is no stranger to approaching multiple time frames and once you understand this is what she is doing, the writing is easier to put together in your mind. The concept is supported by using different folded sections for marking the moving of time. The pamphlet is playful, you can even experiment with how you read it, as I did. Sarah means for it to be a puzzle, that’s part of the design.

The four parts are packed with satisfying, vivid description firm in time and place. The reader is transported into and through inter-linked moments, things change and return to how they were before, only better, I admired the juxtaposition between natural and man-made, assisted landscape, assisted life.
As the book unfolds (literally) you drift through past and present whilst at the same time a nagging idea arrives, perhaps it is all fantasy, all fiction, maybe it is imagined beyond that. At the end, you are brought right back into the present.
Clever writing, astute design. A gem on your bookshelf, get your copy now!
It is worth buying this pamphlet for looks alone (Yes! I know you should never judge a book by its cover). There are semi-opaque end pages featuring interesting photographs, look closely and all is revealed. The pamphlet is handmade and is a limited edition, mine is 5 of 48, so if you want one, I would suggest you use the links in this review and snap one up before they are all gone.
Sarah Hymas In Good Weather 1

© S. Hymas 2014

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© S. Hymas 2014

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

http://sarahhymas.blogspot.co.uk/p/shop.html

There is variance within the forty-eight. I’ve used two different colours for the internal pages: teal and cobalt. So please if you have a preference, do state it.

 

ALSO AVAILABLE:

Host(Waterloo, 2010) £10 inc p+p

“The voices, the stories, the detail and the imagery are powerful, superbly-crafted and original.” Bernardine Evaristo

“The poetry is earthy and takes a no-nonsense approach to setting out their journey from commuity-based god-fearing and pious, through to the complexity, toughness and verging on faithlessness, of modernity.” Anne Stewart in Artemis

“… excellent at capturing social and religious codes of behaviour, with the acuity of Austen or Alice Munro … Host is a tactile and muscular collection, rooted in the complexities and textures of the physical world. Hymas has created fresh and exuberant work that, at its best, captures the awe of being alive. Sarah Westcott

 

RELATED LINKS:

http://sarahhymas.blogspot.co.uk/p/about.html

http://sarahhymas.net/

 

 

inkspill disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this review are those of the writer and are not necessarily shared by the author.

Please feel free to SHARE this review via Social Media – spread the word. 

Writing Historical Fiction: Research

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Last October I hosted INKSPILL – a virtual writing retreat, as part of the programme we looked at Historical Fiction.

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INKSPILL HISTORICAL FICTION Part1

Part 2

Today I am attempting to write a short story which is Historical Fiction.

Here is some of the advice I researched;

1. Fiction. Regardless of your time period, regardless of all the in-depth research you’ve done, you must remember that you’re writing fiction first, and historical fiction second. In other words, don’t forget that it’s action and conflict that moves the book forward.

2. Avoid history lessons …You know your period of history so well, but you must assume that your reader does not. So, it’s temping to fall into the habit of giving history lectures for a few paragraphs. Educating your reader may be necessary, but it works best when the history comes across as part of the action.

3. Using your research. Make sure the historical fact is of interest to your reader.

Don’t paint historical pictures without making them a part of the drama of your book.

4. Building a Setting. I’ve always found that an effective way to build a setting is not simply to describe the landscape, but also to make the setting part of your character’s journey.

5. Using languages or accents. I was always careful not to use words that took too much space to translate. The basic rule of thumb, I think is, if you want to use a foreign word for effect, then look for those words that are close enough to the language of your book that the meaning is obvious.

© 2014 Writer’s Digest wd

Pick your time period – it should be an area of history you either know about or have an interest in learning.

Then choose your character(s), setting and work on the plot – remembering this is a story first, you can edit, amend and add historical detail and facts at a later stage.

Immerse yourself in that time period.

 

 

Abstract Elements Photographic Exhibition – Photogiraffe

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A great night at Najma Hush’s, a.k.a. Photogiraffe, exhibition. As with her other shows she invited performers and created a spectacle to match the amazing artistic talent hanging on the wall!

As with her other work the photographs exhibited were thought provoking. The Abstract Elements collection was compiled by just 5 pictures, Some Kind of Blue was exhibited too, which I was excited about as this was the 1st in the present exhibitions and it made a full circle back to the start. I hadn’t seen these in real life, I had only just started back on my creative poetry path back in the Autumn, when she launched this exhibition and knew nothing of Najma or her talent.

Najma invited other performers to write material based on the same theme as her exhibition. This was the first one I have taken part in where I didn’t use the actual photos to write from. I used the elements themselves.

There was so much talent and a mix of storytelling, poetry, music, performance art and humour, mostly performers stuck to the brief and wrote thematic material exploring the 5 elements.

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We were in the Warehouse Cafe in Digbeth, Birmingham, a friendly atmosphere & superb food! For a small charge we were all treated to a buffet of vegan / vegetarian cuisine, the food was good and the atmosphere relaxed.

 

Abstract Elements A beautiful video Najma has created showing her latest collection on the 5 elements. Read her own review of the exhibition here PhotogiraffeLive Opening

I had great fun performing my set with Tim Scarborough on percussion, people were positive with their feedback and many thought it was a well established collaboration. This was only the 2nd time we have performed together, although we have more in the pipeline. I am only performing twice next week (from choice, I need a bit of balance), both performances will be with Tim, one new set and one we have performed before (2nd time around).

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Kidderminster Creatives Poetry Slam – UPDATED

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Sunday night saw the May Bank Holiday Inaugural Poetry Slam hosted by Kidderminster Creatives at the Boars Head Gallery (BHG) – I was so pumped when I got home, this is why I want to be up to date with blog posts and write in real time! To be fair I was still excited when I woke up on Monday!

KC Poetry Slam 4th May

It was my 1st ever slam, Fergus asked me to take part. I am not real a slam poet, my material is not that click, beat variety…. After this experience I am tempted to follow the winners lead and write just 1 slam poem! The lovely thing about this slam was that everybody got a prize. 13 poets took part.

Those bowing out (like me) in the 1st round took a 2nd hand poetry book, the 2nd round, shiny new books & the winner a gold jelly man trophy, a book & £50! 3 poets in a round – apart from mine that had 4… There were 3 poet laureates and several slam champions for us Slam virgins to pitch against.

It was great fun & entertaining. I was happy with my 2nd hand copy of Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters and having the freedom to drink and be entertained as 5 (highest scoring runner up + winning poet from each group) became 2, Math Jones and Maggie Doyle went through… to entertain us with a brilliant final.

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It was a superb, hyper night!

 

Maggie Doyle WON!

KC SLAM 2 Congratulations Maggie, who can now be seeing taking Oscar to many events to be photographed! She was up against tough contestants and many who had won slams before. And has written a tongue in cheek beat poem since last weekend, influenced by some of the more ‘beat’ participants!

http://kidderminster-creatives.org.uk/