Tag Archives: Planning

A Writing Life – Researching, Planning & Editing


When you are a writer research, planning and editing are the cornerstones of the process and all go hand in hand. When you are a poet they may not even be connected to the same project! I find myself spinning 13 current projects, all made from something sturdier than porcelain, thank goodness.

Since the beginning of February I have been collating 2 issues of Contour Poetry Magazine, researching several subjects for my own poetry and for workshop preparation. I have been planning a school workshop for the past month (booked in November for March) and recently (a few days ago) decided to organise and promote a workshop to mark the centenary of the Suffragettes based on an exhibition Suffragettes, Voters and Worcester Woman currently on at The Hive.

I also started preparing and promoting my next WMRN Reader in Residence Workshop, which takes place today in Rugby Library.



It is a good job I have given myself the week off from events and performing! I am currently working the final edits for Contour Poetry Magazine Issue 2 – Love. Love Promo 2



The ATOTC (A Tale of Two Cities) Special Edition of Contour is due out in April. The 47 poets involved in this project are now at the final editing stages and submitting their response poems. The Call poems are all set ready for proof stages and I have until the end of the month to organise the other half of this publication.

There are more plans in action for the next stage of this project, more on this soon.


I have taken more bookings, one for a festival in October and another for an event in April, more on these soon too.

I am reading a manuscript that I have been asked to endorse, very happily. It is my 2nd reading of it and I have already committed to some words, but need to finish the edit this week and get the wheels rolling on that one.


I have started to organise World Poetry Day (21st March), part of my official Poet Laureate remit for Worcester LitFest.

I am currently on the look out for Little Poems (10 lines or less), they can be previously published as long as you retain the copyright and cite where they were first published.

I started work organising the Droitwich Arts Festival (poetry element) again this year. More on this soon, the festival takes place in June/July this year.


When you dream of being a writer, you dream of writing. This is part of the dream – a very necessary part… but when you obtain that dream, even before then, you quickly realise the reality is layered with the addition of hard work. Being inundated with a plethora of tasks every day just to set the writing right. It is a good job that my career before this was perfect training, an In Tray that always got filled with more IN and was never empty, multi-tasking every minute of the day and having to trudge through a lot of tasks that made you dream of having a PA! Just like in my previous career, they still all need to be done.

Some days the writing is just the time you reward yourself at the end of the day after all your hard work!

If it wasn’t hard work it wouldn’t be worth it though, isn’t that what they say?


Day 6 NaNoWriMo – An Interesting Mix (Including Tips on Planning)


So far tonight I have been on the computer for an hour. I have completed lots of background reading and research and have just popped into Blogland.

I will come back and edit this post later to include today’s word count – I am hoping for 1667 but I am EXTREMELY tired – and have spent 20 minutes constantly yawning. I could easily go to bed now but I would wake up at 4 and be too tired for work… so I am hoping to make it past cooking/eating dinner and a few hours of writing.


Day 6 NaNo – Starters

After a LONG, HARD day and a very late night I knew it was going to be a long night for this evening’s write. This became a dead cert when I logged on at 6:40pm and found it had taken me 10minutes to get the laptop to fire up correctly! Some glitch or other.

I then spent an hour researching through some note booked ideas – I struggled yesterday with the direction of my story (due to not planning thoroughly – which is a must for all writer’s) – especially those who participate in NaNoWriMo – I am an unwitting pantster because the end of October was so busy I pushed NaNo to the back of my mind and spent a day making the decision whether to do it or not!

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So tonight I address the issue of planning.

For those of you also flying by  the seat of your pants or struggling to know how to frame your writing before attempting a draft there may be some useful golden nuggets in this post. READ ON!

I completed some background reading and got a mini plan of the next part of the novella drafted. Ready to start tonight’s writing. I have also compiled a list of things I need to do;

  • writing down my characters goals, keep these in mind as I write the remaining 39000+ words.
  • List characters key strengths and
  • List characters vulnerabilities
  • Know how my character(s) evolve?

(There is so much writing that will never appear in the final manuscript, but needs to be in place so you get a true sense of the story and the world it comes from. Like all the unseen rehearsals before a play.)

The positive outcome of tonight’s research was I have found I am not too far from producing something of along the right lines (no pun!) which is good because some doubt set in this evening and that’s never good for productivity!

My hour of research has been a worthwhile activity and I am glad I have spent the time doing it – now I have to write my NaNo for the day = 1667 words here I come!

It’s now 8:00 pm the tea is on – the washing up is soaking and I am ready to see how far I can get into the word count (hoping for 800 words in this first session!)


Part 2 – Word Count


I only managed 500 words before dinner – and since that have spent the evening writing. At one point I did think to myself – It was spending all night working that made me change my career choice this year, then I thought about loving what you do and how that can be more special than just work and how this is what I wanted. A regular guaranteed income and time to write…

I managed 789 at next count (seemed like a lot more) then I broke 12oo and forced myself to carry on – I will be working tomorrow and Friday and do not want to lose the edge I have on myself being ahead (knowing my monthly schedule).

I managed 1544 at next count and thought COME ON!

(Inner cheerleader- ‘stop counting, keep writing!’)

So I did and when I totalled tonight’s write I managed 1963 …

of course my inner cheerleader started harping on about how close that was to 2000 – to which my mind replied;

‘yes, and look at the clock 22:20, that’s so close to my bed time!’


That’s it for tonight folks. I need to write my PAD poems and add a few bits in and then I am off to bed. (For an early night!)

Word Count = 1963

Total Words = 12,946

Words remaining  = 37,054



Just write – forget about the word count.

Stop whenever you need to for a break or until tomorrow.

Do your best.


The Real Reason Writers Keep Notebooks – Pre NaNoWriMo #1


I decided to take part in this year’s NaNoWriMo back in February – when I first discovered it… I practised with the 2 NaNoWriMo Camps they have in Spring and Summer – so you would think that by now I had an idea?!

Well… ahem…. er….

Now NaNo is brilliant for any writer who has the ideas and needs the time to get the book down – it will generate at least half a manuscript or nearly a full one if you are going for a Novella….

For a writer with no ideas, it could be over before it has begun!

And so I turn to the copious notes I have taken all year in my handbag sized writers notebook. 1 med

And hurrah! Inspiration struck almost immediately and I turned to that section (September) and have now made several pages of notes on initial ideas in my A4 Notebook (which I started in 2013) 2013 and has a ton of inspirational and essential workshop notes and tips.


This year Mr G and I made no plans for Halloween, other than carving our homegrown allotment pumpkins later and making pumpkin curry from the insides!

And yet here I find myself – feeling like a witch over her precious concoction in the cauldron, adding just the right amount. Tonight I am cooking up a brew – a witches brew – a story plan for NaNoWriMo and it’s going to be magic!

The Blank Screen – Productivity for Creative Writers Workshop


1 birm 8 blank-screen

The Blank Screen – Productivity for Creative Writers – A workshop at ‘Book to the Future Festival’ with William Gallagher.

Rushing into the city last night I barely arrived on campus in time for William’s workshop, add 20 minutes wandering around in the dark and generally in the opposite direction to the Arts Building (and that was with a map I had the foresight to print!) I was rather late for this session and they were already on Point 5 …. fortunately I can email William today and not only get the notes but apologise for the late arrival and sharp exit … I was performing in Jan’s Phenomenal Women (see previous post)!


I have found that in the last 2 workshops I haven’t learnt anything new (due to my own hard work researching and finding the information) – but they have confirmed that I am doing the right thing, that my own research and learning has taken me in the right direction. I am just as eager as I was at the beginning of the year to attend as many workshops as I can and hear from writers who are doing it for real.

My notebook gets filled with a few extra scribbled names or books to seek out if nothing else.

1birm8 William Gallagher is a great speaker and if you get a chance to attend any of his events or better still buy his book then I would recommend it. He has a humorous, relaxed approach and I wish I had managed the entire hour of his talk.

I have to retract the previous statement of not learning anything new – in the short amount of time I was in the workshop I have picked up on new knowledge. New actions that I am attempting to put into place this morning. Especially email… yes, William, I am one of those with 1600+ in an inbox and having opened several new accounts to offload the problem have only compacted it – with new addresses storing up to a 100 emails!

So thank you for your wisdom and insight. A great workshop!

Writing Short Stories – Tips on Planning and Structure


craftofwritingdetail Writing Short Stories


1. Collect IDEAS for your story

This is why every writer should carry a notebook at all times, you never know when inspiration may hit and it saves the use of till receipts, credit stubs, drinks mats and serviettes!

You may have to BRAINSTORM to come up with suitable ideas, particularly useful if you are under deadline pressure, or look to family, friends, magazines for inspiration. I sometimes take a walk as a writer and try to spot as much as I can in the hope that something will spark an idea. If nothing else it focuses your mind and gets to ready for the big indoor write.


2. Map out your STORY PLAN 

Remember what needs to be produced in a short story (there are of course variations of this sequence);

Introduction – the beginning of the story has to introduce the reader to the characters and setting.

Initiating action – the point of the story – the rise towards the conflict.

Rising action – the events leading to the climax or turning point.

Climax – the most intense part of the story

Falling action – working towards the resolution for the conflict/problem and heading to the conclusion

Resolution – a SATISFYING ending where the main conflict is resolved, the main character overcomes (or doesn’t) the obstacles.

REMEMBER you don’t have to write your short story in order, you can write the ending first. Then ask yourself ‘what happened before this?’ If you have strong ideas for certain parts of the story write these first.


3. Building CHARACTERS

To make your characters realistic you can borrow attributes from people you already know or strangers you have seen. People watching with the notebook is a great way to spend some time writing what you see, you never know when it might be useful.


4. Get to KNOW your characters.

Many people write whole pages of character notes, what would happen if… they put there characters into different situations, write lists of likes and dislikes, hobbies. It is important to create a whole person. It has been likened to method acting, which makes perfect sense to me with my training and background.

For your story to be believable, your characters need to be realistic. Try this;

  • Write a list, titled with the character’s name, and write all the attributes you can think of, from their favourite sports to their favourite colour. Know as much as possible about your characters, from what their central motivations are to what their favourite foods are. Do they talk with an accent? Do they have any quirky mannerisms?

Lots of this information will not appear in your story but it will have helped you to write a realistic character.

  • Make sure your characters’ personalities are not perfect. Every character needs to have some flaws, some problems, some imperfections, some insecurities. You might assume that people wouldn’t like to read about a character with a lot of flaws, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Batman wouldn’t be The Dark Knight if he weren’t a borderline sociopath!
  • People can relate to characters with problems, as that’s realistic. When trying to come up with flaws, you don’t need to give your character some huge, bizarre issue. For most characters, try to stick with things you know about. For example, the character could have anger issues, be afraid of water, be lonely, dislike being around other people, smoke too much, etc. All of these could be taken further in development.


5. Size Matters – Limit the breadth of your story.

The main events of a short story should occur in a relatively short period of time (days or even minutes), and you typically won’t be able to develop effectively more than one plot, two or three main characters, (the professional opinion is a maximum of four) and one setting. If your story has much more breadth, it probably needs to be a novella or novel.

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Now you are all set to start writing – I will blog another tip sheet to guide you through the next part of the process.

HAPPY PLANNING – prep well.


narrative structure and the writing process