Back to School?

I love this time of year: still sunny(ish) and warm(ish) but the hot months (when I struggle to sleep and can never decide what to wear) are over, the dreaded ‘C-mas’ is not yet looming and there are lots of things to enjoy and look forward to:

1. Woodland walks, pumpkin lattes and cosy nights in (tbh, I’ve never had a pumpkin latte, but it sounds nice..)
2. Blackberry and apple crumble (I have made so many the kitchen’s been like a production line.).
3. Strictly & Great British Bake Off on TV. Actually, tele’ per se. I always feel guilty watching TV in the summer but when it’s cold and dark outside, it’s the perfect occupation!
4. Marian Keyes’ new novel The Break coming out later this month (and I have pre-ordered it!).
5. I can get my boots, cords and cosy jumpers out of the garage (and because it’s been months since I’ve seen them, it will feel like I’ve got a whole new wardrobe).

I also like early September because it’s the start of a new school year and I like fresh starts and new beginnings (yes, even Mondays). Now is a great time to review, invigorate or even ‘restart’ your WRITING – after all there’s still a THIRD of the year to go – and here are my top 10 tips for doing so:

1. Treat yourself to some new stationery! Ooh, what writer doesn’t love gel pens and project notebooks and organising type things (in-trays, notice boards, flipcharts.. OK, I’m getting carried away now). You don’t have to spend a fortune. Poundland and Asda (other shops are available) have great ranges at low cost, for example. As writers, we NEED this stuff, don’t we?

2. Set yourself some writing goals. Imagine yourself on New Year’s Eve, looking back on your writing in 2017. What would you like to have achieved? (Realistically!). A few competition entries, submissions to magazines? That first draft of a novel finished, a blog started? If you need a bit of help in setting goals and getting organised, I can recommend Simon Whaley’s book The Positively Productive Writer, by the way.

3. Find your tribe. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that cheesy line).

What I mean is, find a group of people who share your love of writing and/or can help you, with feedback or inspiration. Check out your local college or library to find out if there are any classes or groups running in your area (if not, you could always start your own!). Ahem, my little book on starting a creative writing class might come in handy with that.

If you’re beavering away and sending stuff out but you don’t seem to be getting very far, you might just need a few pointers. Perhaps you’re making just one basic error that you can’t see but that will be obvious to other people? Why not join an on-line critique group, get a writing buddy or some mentoring? (this is free – for women only, though – sorry, guys).

The Open University has free on-line courses (FutureLearn). Here’s one on starting to write fiction, another on screenwriting and there’s even ‘how to read a novel‘, which I’m sure would help with writing one.

4. Commit to doing Morning Pages every day – or write a poem a day – or go on an Artist’s Date each week and see what difference it makes to your creativity and output. I know I’ve talked about these before but I’m not the only one! Maria Smith has recently written about both MPs and ADs on her blog here.

You might call Morning Pages ‘journalling’ – it’s the same thing, really. And here is a great list of writing prompts to get you started if you’re not sure what to write about.

5. It’s NaNoWriMo in November. You knew that, of course. Start planning that novel now, so you can hit the ground running on 1st November and complete 50,000 words by the end of the month!

6. If you don’t currently have one, get yourself a place to write. Whether it’s a corner of the library, a café or the spare room that’s currently full of rubbish (declutter! You know it makes sense).

7. What are you going to give up? If you really want to write, something will have to go. It might be Coronation Street, it might be that extra hour in bed in the mornings. Kath McGurl’s book ‘Give Up Ironing’ is full of good ideas on time management.

8. Prioritise. There isn’t time to enter every competition (I am one of those people who wants to enter every competition she sees…), or to do poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Are you a butterfly writer, flitting from project to project, never finishing anything, never committing? Make a commitment from now until the end of the year. Focus on just one project, or one type of writing and see what you can achieve.

9. Plan a writing retreat. There are day-long retreats here, in various UK towns (cost £35 or £30 each if you book three). It may seem expensive but if you get several hours writing out of them, it’s probably worth it, to leave everything behind and just be a writer for a day. Or perhaps you could swap homes with a fellow writer one weekend? That way, the washing and ironing won’t be calling to you. Or someone who’s out at work might be happy for you to ‘dog sit’ in their home and write at the same time?

10. Look back through your notebooks, old files and memory sticks. There may be something there worth salvaging or rewriting. The other day I found a story I wrote about 20 years ago and it’s not too bad. I’m going to polish it up a bit and send it in for a competition.

Let me know if you try any of these or if you have any other ideas! Last week someone who’d been on my Evesham Festival of Words workshop contacted me to say she’d had her first story accepted by People’s Friend! That was very pleasing!

This entry was posted in Artist's Dates, Blogging, Books, E publishing, Finding Time To Write, Novels, Television and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Back to School?

  1. Linda Casper says:

    An informative and motivating post which I needed right now. Thanks.

  2. Ninette90 says:

    Wise words as ever…I am a butterfly writer but have committed to something (better not say what just in case the butterfly flits around again…) It’s to be completed by November so…fingers crossed. I will say that it’s NOT a novel!

  3. juliathorley says:

    Wow, you’re on fire with ideas at the moment. I definitely agree about the new term feel and the excuse to rush out and buy new stationery. I’m also a fan of FutureLearn (even though they’ve started charging for some of the extras) and am about to start their course on playing jazz piano. This will involve balancing my laptop on top of my piano, which mgiht be interesting!

    • Very interesting, Julia! It’s amazing what you can learn on FutureLearn (and yes, I did spot that they were charging for ‘upgrades’ and the like – but I suppose they have to make their money somehow). Keep us posted on the jazz piano!

  4. Rosemary Reader and Writer says:

    The ‘How to Read a Novel’ course sounds up my street, seeing as I’ve never studied literature. Will investigate further.

  5. Sharon boothroyd says:

    Ssome great ideas here Helen. Many thanks!

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