Category Archives: Top Tips

Why You Should NEVER Go OFFLINE for the Christmas Holidays

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Mr G has started to work away from home, so when he came back for his fortnight booked holiday to spend Christmas at home, I decided to stay offline, vowing to give him my full attention.

Christmas is a time to spend with family and friends (if you can). After spending a year touring around poeting, many events and opportunities were tied up in December and I have logged back online to find a backlog of emails and some performance events I could have attended in the last few weeks of the month.

I only spent an hour online to catch up but found it particularly stressful. In hindsight I should have popped online daily for a limited time to check emails.

If you work online and decide to spend some time offline be sure that you plug some time to play catch up.

laptopHaving said that I hope you all had a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

xmas1 merry christmas

Plot Block – 6 TIPS to Reboot Your Writing

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photo_9658_landscape_large Planning events in your plot and knowing your characters inside out is not always enough to keep writing block at bay. You know how it is, you have been working hard, the novel has behaved, the draft is going well and then… you get stuck, your characters need to help you out.

These suggestions may get your pen moving/ fingers tapping again. I would use them as a free writing exercise, rather than committing to it being a scene in your story – but if it fits and helps you drive your plot forward these are broad enough ideas to work or at least spark a similar idea which suits your novel better.

RULE 1: DO NOT BE AFRAID

Remember fear doesn’t exist and the worst that can happen is you throw another few hundred words in the bin.

RULE 2: JUMP

Choose one  – write.

Someone knocks on the door

A text message beep

There’s a power cut

A sensor / alarm goes off

 

RULE 3 YOU CAN MAKE ANYTHING HAPPEN

But be clear on what your character wants, what’s their drive? Aim?

RULE 4 PLOT GROWS FROM CHARACTER

Think about your main character, what do they want more than anything in the world?

RULE 5 EXAMINE GOALS AND HURDLES

Why can’t the character achieve this ambition? What stands in the way?

Can the other characters help? What are their goals?

These ideas should help you develop your story.

RULE 6: KEEP WRITING, IT WILL ALWAYS GET BETTER

pencil paper freestock

 

INKSPILL: Guest Writer Charlie Jordan – Thoughts on Writing & Editing Part1

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ticket 2014Charlie Jordan –

Guest Writer charlie jordan

Thoughts on Writing & Editing (Part1)

Rambling thoughts of a 6 ft poet……

 

Eat cake, drink tea and then look back on something you’ve written – it definitely helps the editing process! And if you can, leave it untouched for as long as possible – an hour, a day, a week…..the longer the better, as distance will give you a clearer perspective. Sometimes you stumble on something scribbled long ago and forgotten, and can spot the potential lines crying out for a new poem, or the fact that the whole piece of paper belongs in the recycling bin.

Be prepared to write badly. We all do, sometimes. It’s ok, and with hindsight you’ll love some of your work more than others. Some will seem as awkward as teenage diaries, or embarrassing old school photos. 😉 Just keep going, start something new and keep the faith….. my boyfriend is a scientist and uses statistics to say that the chances are the next piece will be better….or something like that, but with several graphs and copious numbers and scientific theories…..

Morning pages are a good idea if you’re stuck in a writing rut – see Julia Cameron and just sit down with bed-head hair, pen & paper and a cup of tea and scribble whatever is in your head to clear it out onto the page.  Then you can mine it for the odd random good thought to work with, or start something afresh later that day with a clear head and a few pages of notes already scribbled – proof you are a writer! Although these pages are never to be read by another, no matter how much they love you. If i’m doing them, I make my handwriting so illegible that even I struggle to re-read them. Or maybe that’s just because it’s too early and my hand was still asleep at the pen…..

pen sarah wilko anderson

Don’t write the same poem. Again. Don’t write the same poem! Of course we’ll all have certain subjects we return to, or familiar themes, but try new things too….which is where a writing exercise or a workshop can highlight a new area for you and will be refreshing. Write about cheese, or your grandmother’s hands, about the first day at school, the urges you have when you order coffee from the cute barista, write in the voice of an excited 5 yr old at school playtime etc. You will still come through quite clearly in any of these subjects by the way, even if you can’t spot it! I did a residency at WBA (West Bromwich Albion) football club and wrote a piece as a small boy and performed it, to be told – ‘Oh that was just like you!’  so we’ll still leave a trace of our own DNA behind. Sometimes writing surprises you. I was introduced at a gig, by the uber talented and lovely Polarbear poet, as being a romantic poet who wrote about love. I was horrified. I thought, hang on – just because I’m the only woman on the bill, doesn’t mean I’m a soppy loved up girl. Then I realised I was, despite my tom boy image. Damn – poetry can do this – it outs you!

Liz Lefroy

  • Say yes to things. Obviously not if it’s unsafe – so don’t agree with you wildest friend to step into a lion’s cage while wearing platform wedges and drinking tequila…..but in the writing sense, say yes. Offer to help at an event, or read at one, or mentor someone, or go on a writing course, or co-write something with someone. Be honest if you’ve not much experience, but go for it and you’ll learn all sorts of things in the process and meet new people and something positive will usually come from it.
  • This is how I began writing, applying for a short writing course – even though the last thing I’d written down was 20 yrs earlier. I discovered I was the only newcomer on a course squished full of extraordinarily talented & experienced people, mostly published and who all seemed to know each other already and were all very knowledgeable about things I’d never heard of. Yikes. But it was fine, they were a lovely bunch, some of whom are now friends. And I was a novelty, so perhaps that was refreshing for them too. Never feel you have to pretend to be anything you’re not – just be yourself – in life and in writing.

 

  • P.S sometimes you’ll say yes to so many things that there are barely enough hours in the day…… I’ve had one of those months lately and my computer breaking and deciding not to work again, just out of guarantee…..grrrrrrrr….hasn’t helped, so this is being scribbled extraordinarily hastily while doing a radio show….and preparing for the Poets Laureate Takeover day in the LOB (Library of Birmingham)  tomorrow – Sat 25th October.*

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Thanks for your input Charlie, especially in light of your busy schedule and technical failing of all technology! Great advice!

 

* I advertised this on social media and didn’t get a chance with Inkspill and 94th Birthday celebrations to get to the library or advertise it on the blog! Missed a treat I’m sure. It was part of the Voices season.

Birmingham Poets Laureate Take Over

A morning of pop up poetry readings, performances and workshops led by former Poets Laureate

Saturday 25 October 2014, 10.30am – 1pm throughout the Library of Birmingham

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Drop into the Library of Birmingham for poetry performances, poetry surgeries, workshops and plenty of interactions from some of the city’s former Poets Laureate and Young Laureates. Join the band of wandering poets to celebrate and showcase the best of Birmingham over the years.

A morning of pop up poetry readings, performances and workshops led by former Poets Laureate including Jan Watts, Charlie Jordan, Roy McFarlane, Giovanni Esposito (aka Spoz), Adrian Johnson, Simon Pitt, Chris Morgan, and Julie Boden.

Former Young Poets Laureate Matt Windle, Damani Dennisur and Lauren Williams will also be on hand to inspire youngsters to take up poetry.

Pictured Charlie Jordan and Jan Watts poets

More from Charlie Jordan soon – look out for Part 2

 

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

Blank screen William G

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One Day Away! INKSPILL 2014

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I am sooooooooo excited now! Like a child on Christmas Eve! This year’s writing retreat is going to be even better than the first event I ran last year.

The initial idea came when I found out about Iyanla_Vanzant’s Wonder Woman Weekend.

Ianyla PilotimagesCABXRBCK

 

I couldn’t afford to go, although it would have been a great event to attend, I decided I could facilitate my own special weekend in place of this and Inkspill was born.

This year, you not only have me but also three very special Guest Writers who have prepared all sorts for you to enjoy and DO! Yes INKSPILL is your chance to write and we hope that you will accept the challenge and join us over the weekend.

Thanks again to William Gallagher, Charlie Jordan and Heather Wastie, who all accepted my invitation in February to be part of this year’s INKSPILL Writing Retreat.

©2014 Lee Allen Photography charlie jordanHeather Wastie headshot

© Lee Allen Photography

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For those of you who simply can’t wait until tomorrow here are some links to INKSPILL 2013: Go play!

How to Write Short Stories

Getting Organised How to be a Productive Writer

Writing Comedy

Ideas for Writing Everyday

And much more – use the menu TABS at the bottom of the Blog – Find INKSPILL and then click 25th October 2013 on the sidebar calendar to begin!

The Emotional Spectrum of Writing

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The Emotional Spectrum of Writing: Highs and Lows

People often comment about my energy, how I am able to attend and perform at so many events a month, how I write often, they see the shine, the sparkle, the bits you take out to share.

This blog is a writing blog, it is truth, it is highs and lows, rejection and success. Recently I have hit the kind of low with mental mirages, the times when the gremlins get in and you start to believe you are no good. Confidence sky dives and you begin to question whether anything you are doing has any value or worth.

I am not posting this to gain sympathy or to accept kindly a barrage of it will get better messages, feel free to respond, my intention is just this –

to SHARE THE TRUTH.

Part of the writing journey is to accept these lows and ride the waves through them, back into days when you are your own best friend and not your own worst enemy, when you believe in your full potential and recognise your talent and gifts. You will find higher ground again – so don’t give up.

Take a break but don’t give up.

journey This is a photo of traffic from our bank holiday weekend in Somerset. We did get there, it took 5 hours, much longer than it should have, we got there – because we just kept going.

Just keep going.

grayson_perry_vanity_spread1 This is a photograph of the Grayson Perry book I bought earlier this year, his tapestries took a long time to complete – they are incredible works of art for the content but also the act of creating the content.

If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

I had this quote on a tin as a child and I never really understood what it meant. I do now. It took many authors we know 15 or more attempts before successful publishing deals. The best tool is persistence, repeat, repeat, repeat.

Allow yourself time to feel down, then get back up and carry on. Keep doing what you do best and learn from it. Acknowledge the possibility that improvement can be made, if not send it elsewhere, you need to find a fitting home for your work. If it is rejected more than three times then it may be an idea to submit some different work.

Plan it – Map it – See it – Be it 

Make a new plan.

What will you do next?

Work out your writing schedule.

Do it!

Enjoy the results and if they weren’t the right results and you can’t enjoy it – repeat the above list, until you can!

© Sarah Wilkinson 2014

© Sarah Wilkinson 2014

PUBLISHED!

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© 2014 Hark

hark HARK is a UK-based online magazine of poetry and short fiction.

I recently sent some poems to Hark Magazine, last night I discovered the email (on my phone – where there is offline access to my busy inbox) from Hark, I thought it was a speedy response and so had prepared myself for another rejection. Not only have they accepted my poem CLENCH for the July issue, they said there was fierce competition.

I am delighted and still dancing for joy!

This is the 6th poem to be published* this year, I hope to generate similar success over the next few months so that by the time I have my pamphlet ready (2015 I hope!) there will be a list of credits to stun /convince/ bribe (okay, maybe not bribe!) the editors with.

YES! YES! YES!

© 2014 Richard Skinner

© 2014 Richard Skinner

 

* 24 poems have been on display/used in Installation: DAN Arts Network Droitwich Library, MAC What’s the Agenda? Hayley Frances’s piece Hikkomori, Birmingham, Wenlock Poetry Trail/ Festival, Croft, Shropshire  and on the Poetry Fence, Jean Atkin at Acton Scott Farm, Shropshire.

TOP TIPS:

  • Persistence pays, just keep going.
  • Be aware that some magazines have different editors each issue, even if they don’t – DO NOT be afraid to submit again.
  • Be sure to read the magazine first and ask yourself how suitable your writing/style/subjects are for this press.
  • Support the magazine by subscribing to it.
  • If you are rejected be sure to read the next issue, look at what was chosen with a critical eye and compare it to the m/s you sent.
  • Never forget how good it feels to get accepted and printed!

MONDAY! Monday! On Writing and Time Management.

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Monday rolls around all too quickly, HALLOWEEN 2011 081 you know I made the assumption that connecting back into a much missed creative life would take away the Sunday Slump of the rat race and the Manic out of Monday… how wrong I was. A lot of the internal struggle is created by the fact that the writing isn’t paying (yet) and so to keep my house, car, life (like many writers) I still have an evolving career/ day job.

If the tax man is reading this – YOU OWE ME MONEY – lots £100’s on a tax rebate….. would be helpful to receive that soon – believe me I doubt they read the blog (big brother paranoia) but when I tried to contact them through the website and calling I just got an automated message telling me if I was owed money they would know and would be dealing with it — then it automatically HUNG UP! Now this may be true but I tend to be a little unlucky with bureaucratic red tape and things that may take a few months usually roll on for years if my names and codes are attached to it! imagesCAEEZNXM

Anyway back to the post. I have had a productive morning, waking early on my writing day, doing some laundry (despite the rain which is supposedly clearing by dinner time!), starting my diet and exercise regime ready to not be uncomfortable in my skin at my brother’s wedding this Autumn and in the hope I fit back into some of my dresses this summer. By the time I logged on it was 10:30, I felt guilty and then I THREW AWAY that negative feeling, I could have slept in until 10! alarm-clock

So I made a start (as I always do) at the beginning of a writing day, by making a list. A set of goals, jobs to do, things to research, write, read.

paper-notesI am well disciplined and stay off social media until there is a break point or after the list has been completed is better. Breaks tend to elongate without you realising once you are trapped in the social media bubble. The way I see it is I wouldn’t have access if I was at work. I am at work (writing) – I have no access. My brain is so easy to kid!

Sometimes (depending what is on the list) time gets rolling fast and it will be time to pack up before I have ticked off the 1st two items. I do NOT worry. The post-it list is stuck in my writing diary, ready with the starting point if my next writing session.

Today’s list consists of research and writing. Plus I had a few business emails to read/ respond to. That’s the biggest surprise I think in writing, the fact that ADMIN takes up so much time. It took ages to flag up the emails, despite using designated email addresses for different areas.

to do I have currently applied for a pop-up performance arranged by Naked Lungs for this year’s Birmingham Literature Festival, have 2 – 4 short stories to complete (2 this week if I can) and several poems to write, some to follow up the workshop at Acton Scott Farm with Jean Atkin, some for a performance tomorrow night (1st one in 13 days, took a bit of a break!), some for this weekend and others to catch up on other projects I have only had time to dip in and out of. I also have my first official book review to write (for which I was paid, a complimentary copy of the poetry pamphlet)!

I have 14 websites to looks at/research, a character to create from a world I know very little about (eek!), I have a scratch night I probably won’t make pencilled in* and a book launch. This weekend is the Writing West Midlands Creative Writing Group and a deadline for some written submissions.

* Conserving energy (and petrol) WLF – Worcester LitFest in a fortnight and lots going on before then too. Plus I now have to fit EXERCISE into the schedule – and don’t suggest parking and striding to the gigs – I get red faced after about 3 minutes and would need a shower when I arrived and most venues have no dressing rooms or facilities!

So I had best get on with my list! imagesCAISM7Z5

 

Time Management:

  • Split chunks of time, I find not being to prescriptive works well (in my day job, things have to fit in allocated slots of time) and it feels good to break free! I started at 10:30 and said I could have a break in an hour, that kind of thing.

 

  • Know what you need to do, get your head down and try to do it.

 

  • I say try because creativity cannot be forced or pushed, some days it comes easier than others. So the true TIME management falls in making sure there is time to complete your projects when you have those duff days. This is usually a 4 day buffer at least, depending on length of editing/ proofing time.

 

  • I always try to get things written in time to give it some rest and a look over/ edit before submission – this is usually a period of a week if you have enough time to do this it can be beneficial.

 

  • Keep your unfinished list to know where your starting point is next time.

 

  • If you can that starting point should be part way through something -or the start of a task based on researching or something you can get into straight away. The problem with starting with your next writing job is the possibility you will be staring at a blank screen for some of the time.

 

  • Try not to lose focus. I often set alarms on my phone, that way I don’t even have to glance at the onscreen clock anyway.

 

  • Try to ease the pressure off. You are your Boss, it is always beneficial to get on with the Boss right?

 

  • And just like real work (unless you work in Health or Education/ Public Sector) take some breaks and give yourself treats and incentives for reaching target! Not food though – you don’t want a writer’s (saggy) bottom!

 

Good Luck! Green-Clovers-Vector-Illustration

PS I used part of my break to write this – I am now walking away from the screen!

Diaries, Deadlines, Determination: A Very Rare Writing Day!

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plannerThis morning I had the exciting task of waiting in (whilst the sun shone) for a delivery! Mr G and I have finally bought the sun loungers we spent last summer dreaming about. With the garden practically finished and summer on the way (I hope!) it seemed like it was about time we treated ourselves! They are still packaged up but the cushions look comfy, we have resisted buying sun loungers from all the shops we have seen them in. Frustrating though that was, I am glad we waited now.

All we need is the sunshine, which according to the forecasts has now disappeared again until the tail end of next week.

I have taken today as a writing day (and with the exception of a few household chores, neglected over the weekend), I plan to do just that.Jean Atkin’s Writing Workshop yesterday, at Acton Scott Historic Working Farm* has reawoken the poet/writer inside me with some vigour. * I have reblogged Jean’s own post and will write about this workshop soon. Poetry Workshop best mr

So far today;

  • I have updated my writing diary and list of websites to research/surf.
  • Realised I don’t have a free weekend until August now!
  • Resisted logging into social media.
  • Checked emails in one of the inboxes.
  • Searched out opportunities and ideas for the future.
  • Made a chronological list of all the writing I need to be getting on with.

This week I have a wonderful week of being entertained. The poetry events I am attending are not ones where I have to perform. Tomorrow night (Tuesday) I am going to check out The Tea Project at the MAC, tickets have already SOLD OUT! It sounds exciting and Lorna Meehan is performing some pop up poetry. I fear I may be the oldest attendee having read their manifesto and target audience and realised the artists themselves are fresh out of university…. I know I will still enjoy it.

Then on Thursday we have the last of three events organised with Ledbury Poetry Festival and Worcester LitFest, a group of us are heading out for a poetry night out to listen to Carol Ann Duffy. poetry and place

 

I did have a stanza meeting *the last one clashed with a performance and spoken word night organised by Nadia Kingsley and David Calcutt. This month clashes with something that Mr G has organised (Jimi Hendrix/ Cream Cover band) should be a smashing night out. But means my latest poetic work will remain unedited, may have to call on my Buddy Group.

Then on Sunday Hayley Frances finishes the project in Stratford, Page Talk and has invited us to the RSC Theatre to watch the showcase event. Exciting, I have given up voluntary stewarding and a special Tshirt to attend the event *if i have enough energy left by the tail end of the weekend.

As we have just had half term (and it was rather action packed) and I am tired and in need of breaking back in gently (and have 1 less mortgage to pay from now on) – I am only working my 3 contracted days this week. I look forward to another day in my writing skin on Friday.

write tips

Today’s Tips:

Be organised (believe me I am the least organised person in the world),

make a plan and stick to it,

map things out and approach deadlines chronologically if you can, giving time to the most pressing elements of your list,

go easy on yourself.

Reward yourself if you achieve your daily goal(s).

Keep all audio/visual equipment OFF (unless it helps you write)!

Keep it small. Keep it simple and enjoy. ENJOY!

 

 

I have managed to squeeze about 5 hours out of my writing day (dang chores!) in this time I have made a list of possible outlets for submission, looked at subscriber competitions for June/ July, added 3 blogs to WordPress (other people’s not creating anymore of my own… I have plans for a website I need to develop in the Summer), read 4 online e-magazines, (well the poetry sections), have scribbled frantically over this week’s pages in the writing diary, made a timetable blocking out time I can work on what this week – something I will need to do for the rest of the month. I have already decided I may be unable to attend Hayley’s event this Sunday, I think I am going to need the writing time!

Now I plan on catching up with blog posts before the next 3 days of work and poet-ing takes me away from the laptop!