The PC or The Pen: Which is Best?

Do you prefer the pen? (or quill?!)

I do most of my writing straight onto the PC. (With the exception of my ‘Morning Pages’ which I do by hand but which, I must admit, have gone by the by just lately..! Note to self: start them again!)

But many writers prefer to write their first drafts using a good old-fashioned paper and pen.

Writing by hand slows down the process and allows for thinking.

Writing guru Julia Cameron compares hand-writing verus typing straight onto the PC, as the difference between driving at 60mph and 80mph. At the slower speed, you notice yourself and your surroundings more. She believes that ‘we get a truer connection – to ourselves and our deepest thoughts – when we actually put pen to page.’

But for others, writing by hand is too messy and laborious. A handwritten page will never look quite as professional – or as ‘finished’ – as a neat page of Times New Roman 12 point.

But which is best?

It may of course, depend on what you’re writing and whether you can touch type.

Linda Lewis makes the distinction between fiction and non-fiction. If she’s working on a short story, then she writes by hand first and then types it up (as a first edit) but for non fiction, she goes straight to her PC.

“I find that writing fiction requires more fluidity. Non fiction is more structured. I know what I want to say and just say it. Stories are different. Organic, if you like. I often start with one thing and end up somewhere else entirely.”

Or do you prefer a screen, to a page?

Novelist Samantha Tonge, on the other hand, swears by the PC and her touch typing skills. She used to hand write but when she changed she felt ‘it was a relief to be able to edit, without crossing through, and not have to type up at the end of the day.’

Samantha also admits that, like many of us, since she learned to touch type her writing has degenerated anyway and it’s just so much quicker to type.

Of course, many argue that it’s easy to lose work on a computer. There’s always the risk of power cuts, corrupted files, forgetting to back up files or even – as happened to novelist Louis de Bernieres – having your laptop stolen. (His contained four chapters of a new novel and he didn’t have copies. He said, at the time, “I never make disk copies of my work because I am not a computer boffin. I prefer just to do print-outs on paper after I have finished each chapter. But I had not been doing that because I had been writing in the summerhouse and the printer was indoors.” The thieves stole his laptop from the summer house…).

But equally, notebooks can be lost or stolen too and you’re even less likely to have a copy of those.

Certainly, though, one advantage of hand-writing, is that it’s ‘portable’. Most of us can manage to tuck a notebook and pen into a bag or pocket, ready to be whipped out whenever we have a spare moment or a flash of inspiration.

It’s not quite so easy to do that with a laptop and indeed, if you’ve ‘trained’ yourself only to write when you’re sitting in front of your PC, you could be missing out on lots of writing opportunities.

Director Quentin Tarantino never uses a keyboard: he writes all his own screenplays by hand. “It’s a ceremony. I go to a stationery store and buy a notebook — and I don’t buy 10. I just buy one and then fill it up.”

Of course, for many writers, the actual process of writing is a deeply pleasurable one, linked to choosing just the right pen or pencil and the perfect notebook (lined, or plain? A4 or A5?).

Writing by hand is certainly a great excuse to indulge a love for stationery.

But there are other options. Barbara Cartland famously dictated her hundreds of romance novels to a secretary, as she inclined on the sofa!

Not many of us could afford such luxury – or, if we’re honest, have the ability to verbalise our thoughts instantaneously – but if you like the idea of ‘speaking’ your writing, you can buy speech recognition programmes for your PC that will type up your words as you dictate them (has anyone ever tried one of those?).

If you’re still typing with two fingers, why not set yourself the challenge of learning to touch type and speed up your accuracy and typing skills? It’s not difficult (I managed it!) – it just takes a little practice – and there are plenty of free on-line courses on the internet eg: Typing Club here.

But beware of the overriding danger of typing up the first draft of anything: it looks finished. You’re likely to be more reluctant to start tweaking a piece of work when it looks so polished, whereas, a rough draft on paper, complete with crossings-out, scribbles and notes in the margin, looks like a first draft and you won’t be so resistant to changing it.

So, PC or pen? Which is best? At some point, your work will almost certainly need to be typed up, so the temptation to go straight to the screen is always there.

But don’t neglect writing by hand. You may find it liberating. And it’s a reminder to all of us, that writing is, after all, a craft.

Based on an article first published in Writing magazine, 2013.

Posted in Magazines | Tagged | 12 Comments

‘Defining Moments’ & a Writing Competition

The American writer, Paul Auster, has got a new book coming out, 4321 (it’s 900 pages long!).

I must admit, although I’ve heard of him, I’ve not (yet!) read anything by Mr Auster but I was fascinated by an interview with him on the BBC, in which he talked about the inspiration for the book (his first for 7 years).

When he was 14, he experienced the ‘single most important moment of his life’ (no, it’s not that). Something very tragic, actually, something that he thinks about every day of his life; something that made him realise, that ‘anything can happen to anybody, at any time’.

When he was 14 and at summer camp, a boy just inches away from him was struck by lightning and killed.

It made me think about something that happened when I was a first year student and that I often reflect on. It wasn’t as immediate, or as personal as Paul Auster’s experience but a fellow first year, in the same hall of residence as me (but in the next door ‘house’, home to around 100 students), was killed when a tree fell onto the car in which he was a passenger, just as they were parking, to go into lectures.

I didn’t know him. Apart from seeing him once in the Students’ Union, when he greeted my friend, I hadn’t even crossed paths with him but, thirty years on, I can still see his face, still remember that shy way he said ‘Hello’ and whenever I hear ‘Loughborough’ mentioned, I think of him because that’s where he came from.

Paul Auster has used that ‘defining moment’ in his life as the basis for a 900 page novel. Is there anything like that in your life – something perhaps you think about every day – that you could write about?

Stylist Writing Competition

Hmm, on a more cheery note (because it is the weekend, after all!), Stylist magazine is running a free-to-enter writing competition and you’ve got until 2nd April to get your entry in! (They want the first 3000 words, a 300 synopsis AND it must feature a strong, female protagonist). Easy peasy!

There are prizes for the top 10 – the overall winner gets a ‘three month agency mentoring programme’ (this doesn’t mean they’ll publish your novel but they’ll help you get it into a publishable state – or at least, that’s how I read it), plus an Arvon course (worth over £600) and publication of your extract on the Stylist website.

The 9 runners-up ‘will be provided with short, personal feedback from Janklow & Nesbit UK (the literary agency that’s partnering Stylist in the competition), to help them develop their book idea’.

More details here.

Posted in Books, Competitions | Tagged | 3 Comments

Are You a Lark, Hummingbird or Owl?

I was reading the other day that MP and novelist Nadine Dorries wakes up at 6am (eek), goes downstairs, lets her dogs out, makes a cup of tea, takes it back to bed, the dogs jump on the bed and then she gets her laptop out and writes.

She usually manages 1000 words before the alarm goes off at 8am. And that’s how she writes 2 books a year! Easy, eh?

I’m a kind of ‘lark’ (stop laughing, those who’ve seen me first thing in the morning!) – in that, I hasten to add, I write best first thing in the morning, before the distractions of the day begin. But I’m the first to admit that I’m not one of those people who naturally wake up bright and cheery and ready to start work, so I’d struggle to do what Nadine Dorries does (also, our dog’s not allowed on the bed!).

This brings me neatly to another one of the articles that I wrote once for Writing magazine: ‘Lark, Owl or Hummingbird: What Kind of Writer Are You?’

Are you a lark, most creative in the early morning, before the rest of the world’s awake? Or an owl, happiest burning the midnight oil and writing into the small hours? Perhaps you’re a ‘hummingbird’, flitting about somewhere in between and at your best in the middle of the day?

It’s worth considering the time of day (or night) when you feel most energised. If you’re not sure, try keeping a daily note for a week, of the times when you feel most alert. It’s likely to be your most productive time for writing.

Of course, your lark or owl tendencies can be skewed by certain factors: if you suffer from insomnia, have a newborn baby or work nights, for example.

Over time, your body clock may also change (many people turn into larks as they get older, for example). Scientists are divided on whether it’s possible to change yourself from a true lark to an owl and vice versa because your ‘am’ or ‘pm’ preference is likely to be genetic. But if you’re a ‘hummingbird’ – somewhere in the middle of the two – you might be able to train yourself to get up earlier or retire later, in order to write.

Try setting your alarm earlier (for would-be larks) – or go to bed later (for owls) – in gradual, 15 minute increments. And remember, it takes about a month to form a habit.

Larks
If you’re quick to rise and generally cheerful in the mornings and if, (time permitting), you like lingering over breakfast, you’re likely to be a lark. Larks often wake naturally, without needing an alarm and are most productive in the mornings and most alert around midday.
Nobel-prize winning lark, Ernest Hemingway, chose to write, ‘every morning, as soon after first light as possible’ because, then, ‘There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.’

Owls
Owls, on the other hand, often struggle to wake and get up and can be tetchy in the mornings. They often skip breakfast because mornings can be a real rush for owls. If you regularly watch TV or surf the internet after midnight, then you’re probably an owl. Owls are most alert around 6pm and most productive from late evening onwards.

Famous owls include Marcel Proust, who lined his bedroom walls with cork so he could sleep through the Paris day and write at night and Barack Obama, who, when asked how he found time to write his books, admitted, “I’m a night owl, so I usually wrote after my Senate day was over and after my family was asleep, from 9:30 p.m. or so until 1 a.m.”

Which raises another point. Regardless of their body clock, many writers have no choice but to write when their work or family commitments are over for the day, or haven’t yet started.

Novelist Toni Morrison started her career by writing before dawn, because she had young children but then later, realised that she was actually “clearer-headed, more confident and generally more intelligent, in the morning.” Writing at the start of the day, which started out as necessity, became her choice.

I asked 25 fellow writers if they were ‘larks, owls or hummingbirds’ and they turned out to be a fairly even mix. It was clear though, regardless of their preference, most writers don’t have the luxury of choosing when to write.

Jackie Sayle said, “I’m an owl. I have to be because I don’t get a moment’s peace in the day to write.”

And Simon Whaley quipped, “It depends on the deadline!” As a full-time freelancer, he can’t afford to be choosy about when he writes.

It was clear too, from the responses, that if necessary, writers can be adaptable.

Elizabeth Ducie, a lark, had convinced herself that she couldn’t write in the afternoon. “However, I have recently done some challenges with writing buddies and found that I can actually write whenever I want to: I just have to apply my posterior to the chair and my fingers to the keyboard.”

Alison Wassell agreed. Her favourite time for writing – mornings – is now spent working, but she’s discovered that she can, indeed, write in the afternoons and evenings. She recommends trying to write at different times. “You might be pleasantly surprised at what you can achieve.”

Ian Smith admitted that he doesn’t have the luxury of being a lark or an owl. “When I’ve got ideas and it’s falling into place, nothing else is more important than capturing that opportunity. Maybe I’m more a bird of prey, seizing the chance to get on with it?”

And perhaps that’s the answer. Lark, owl or hummingbird, it really doesn’t matter, as long as we get our talons into whatever time and opportunities we have, to get writing.

Posted in Finding Time To Write, Magazines | 12 Comments

On WBD – What I Read in February!

wbdAs it’s World Book Day today (it’s everywhere on social-meed-ya. You must have noticed!) I thought I’d do my bit by telling you what I read in February.

But first, a bit of news about a story of mine which is in the very latest (popped through my letter box this morning) issue of Take a Break Fiction Feast .

Three years ago this month (I can’t believe it was that long ago!), I went to Rome for the weekend, with some friends – you may remember, there was a bit of hysteria over me getting the date wrong – anyway, while we were there, the Rome Marathon took place, on the (rainy!) Sunday.

It came as something of a surprise to us. Half the roads were closed – or at least, could only be crossed when the race marshal let you through the tape – and at one point, when we tried to get to the Vatican, one of my friends managed to dash across, before the marathon runners appeared but two of us got left behind, stuck behind the tape for about ten minutes (but it seemed like forever!) until there was a space in the runners and we could make it over too. At the time I thought .. hmm, I could write a story about this.

And, eventually, I did and it’s in Take a Break as ‘Long Distance Love’ (although my title was ‘Marathon Man’).

The money I’ve earned from that story has almost paid for the weekend in Rome, so if anything happens to you, at home or abroad, good or bad, it’s always worth asking yourself, ‘Is there a story in this?’ (just don’t do what I did and wait 2.5 years to write it!)

Right, so what did I read in February?

• The Reading Group – March – Della Galton
• The Lie -Helen Dunmore
• Road Ends – Mary Lawson
• The Trouble with Goats and Sheep – Joanna Cannon

Ooh, I’ve just noticed – they were all books by women, as were the books I read in January! That’s not a conscious decision but perhaps I should try reading something by a MAN this month.

What can I tell you about the books I read?

Della’s ‘March’ Reading Group was a nice gentle read. Not my favourite of the four I’ve read so far (I think the Lady Chatterley one is my fave!) but I’ve read other reviews by people who claim it IS the best, so there you go! We all like different things!

I love Helen Dunmore’s writing but I have to admit ‘The Lie’ is very sad (it’s about a man who’s come back from the trenches of WW1 and is clearly suffering from PTSD). I wouldn’t recommend that if you’re feeling a bit low because, believe me, it will make you feel worse.

Mary Lawson is a fabulous writer – I’d put her on a par with Anne Tyler, although she hasn’t written as much. If you liked ‘Spool of Blue Thread’ by Anne Tyler, then I think you’d enjoy ‘Road Ends. Beautifully written and atmospheric. One of those novels, that puts you ‘there’ and makes you forget that you’re reading a book.

goats-and-sheepBut my favourite this month was definitely ‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’.

I’ve wanted to read this novel for ages because so many people rave about it but I think it’s a bit of a ‘Marmite’ book. I can understand those who don’t like it because it is a little ‘twee’ (and unbelievable) in places and the main character – Grace – is very ‘knowing’ for a ten year old.

But I loved the sparkling dialogue, it’s really funny and sweet in parts and it filled me with nostalgia for the ’70s! Whimsies, Jackie and Wagon Wheels all get a mention! There are some really poignant parts too and Joanna Cannon, apart from being a bit of a whizz (left school at 15 with one ‘O’ level and later became a doctor, for example…), really can write.

So, that’s me. What have you been reading?!

Posted in Books, Short Stories | Tagged | 5 Comments

Dream A Little Dream

sickAh, dear readers, I am poorly bad. Nothing terrible, just a humble cold but I feel yuck. So bad, in fact, that the thought of lying on the sofa letting the sound of the England-Italy rugby game float over me, is actually quite appealing…

So, I will have to keep this brief and, as it seemed to go down well last week, I will be publishing another of my articles (new to the blog but which once appeared in Writing magazine), this time on the subject of DREAMS. (Have you ever got an idea for writing from a dream? Or solved a writing problem, while you were asleep?)

But first, I have to tell you, I had a mad splurge on entering writing competitions last week. (None of which are actually on my ‘goals and targets for 2017’ but I think that was part of the appeal: I am rebelling!).

I sent 2 entries to the Readers Digest 100 word story competition, a short story to the Chipping Norton Literary Festival competition and another short story to the Stratford Literary Festival competition. All were sent on the last day possible (and, in the case of the Stratford one, five minutes before the competition closed at midnight! Ah, who says I don’t live dangerously).

dreamDreaming for Writers

Paul McCartney famously dreamed the tune for the Beatles classic, Yesterday; Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan originated in a dream and author Robert Louis Stevenson claimed to have dreamed the entire plot of his novel Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

How many potentially great ideas for fiction or poetry are you wasting because you don’t remember or record your dreams? Don’t just dismiss them as too weird or boring: last night’s dream might hold the key to some really original writing.

Everyone dreams but even if you can remember your dreams on waking, they’ll fade very quickly (they are slippery fish!). You need to transfer them from your short term to your long term memory by recording them in some way, as soon as you wake up. Why not start a dream diary (or if you already do, tell us about it!) and see what writing inspiration it produces?

Tips for Keeping a Dream Diary:

1. Before you go to sleep, tell yourself that you’ll remember your dreams. The more you do this, the more effective it is.

2. Remind yourself of your ‘task’ in the morning, by writing a note (“What did you dream?”) and put it on the first thing you’ll see when you wake up. (But perhaps not on your OH, who may not appreciate having a post-it stuck to his/her head).

3. On waking, try not to do anything before you jot down your dream. Have your notepad open and your pen ready at the side of the bed.

4. Date your dreams and give them a title. This will make them easier to refer back to and it also forces you to think of a theme for the dream.

5. Write in the present tense. This helps recall your dream by putting you back in the moment.

6. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or grammar. Just get it down, quickly. As long as you can still read it back, that’s fine.

7. Record any colours you saw in your dream or emotions that you felt, as well as the ‘action’ and the people in the dream.

8. If you prefer, you could use record your memory of the dream, into a Dictaphone or similar and write it up later.

9. This exercise is not about interpreting your dreams, which is something quite different, so don’t worry too much about analysing your dreams.

10. As you become more adept at remembering and recording your dreams, you could try ‘lucid dreaming’ – the art of learning to dream consciously, to the point of being able to direct your dreams.

Of course, most dreams are fairly dull and unusable (try telling anyone else your dream and watch their eyes glaze over) and dreams aren’t logical, as you’ll realise when you transcribe them, so be prepared to change them or just use parts of them.

If you’re very lucky, though, a single dream could lead to a whole series of best-selling novels, as it did for Twilight author Stephenie Meyer.

Before her dream about a vampire and a girl standing in a meadow, discussing their troubled romance, Meyer had written nothing for six years. But her dream was so vivid and inspiring, that she was compelled to start writing about the characters she’d ‘seen’ and within six months, “Twilight was dreamed, written, and accepted for publication.”

If keeping a record of your dreams doesn’t appeal, there’s another way of tapping into your subconscious while you’re asleep. Many writers swear that by thinking about a problem they’re struggling with, just before they go to sleep, their subconscious will come up with a solution the next day – and sometimes in the form of a dream.

There’s no promise of fame and fortune from dreams but they’re certainly another potential source of ideas, so don’t dismiss your nightly imaginings. They’re gifts from your subconscious, after all – and they could be pure gold!

(Longer version first published in Writing magazine, Sept 2012)

Posted in Competitions | Tagged | 17 Comments

“Hey! That Was My Idea!”

angryDid you hear the story of the newcomer to a writers’ group who refused to share his work in a meeting, in case someone ‘stole’ his ideas?

It’s only natural to be protective of our ideas – after all, they’re the lifeblood of writers – but was that an over-reaction or was he right to be worried? And if our ideas are used by someone else, is there anything we can do about it, or even learn from the experience?

Firstly, remember, there’s no copyright on ideas, so even if yours is ‘stolen’ and you may consider it a moral theft, there’s no legal redress. Copying an idea is not the same as plagiarism – which means to directly copy someone’s written work and pass it off as your own.

An idea, until it’s expressed in some tangible form, doesn’t actually exist. The only way to protect an idea is to produce something concrete. Every country has its own copyright laws but in the UK it’s generally accepted that any work is automatically copyrighted as soon as it leaves the writer’s mind (ie: ceases to be just an idea) and is placed on paper, computer, or other medium.

Of course, if you’re certain that someone has ‘stolen’ your idea, then you may not be able to do anything about it but you can at least make your feelings known (and hopefully shame them into never doing it again!)

However, although it’s happened to me – once – I’d say that consciously ‘stealing’ ideas from another writer is rare. Most writers have more than enough trouble keeping up with their own ideas.

In fact, ideas are rather like children. We all think our own are amazing – but actually, to other people – who are much more interested in their own – they’re usually not that fascinating.

And there may be another, perfectly innocent reason for your idea apparently being ‘copied’ by another writer. It could, for instance, simply be coincidence. Most of us are exposed to the same outside influences and the same potential sources of inspiration. It’s hardly surprising then, if similar upbringings and the same news, weather and TV channels, sometimes produce identical ideas. And even though two writers can easily have the same initial idea, the resulting pieces of work will almost certainly be very different.

This even happens to well-established authors. In 2004, fictionalised biographies of Henry James by the writers David Lodge and Colm Toibin were published within months of each other. Unbeknown to them, Lodge and Toibin had been simultaneously writing about the same subject: they’d had the same idea. I’m sure neither of them thought the other had ‘stolen’ anything and their books were, in any case, very different.

But if you’ve got a fantastic, original idea for a novel and you’re afraid that, by the time you finish the book, someone else may have got there first, then writer Sophie King advocates breaking the normal rules. She suggests you send your synopsis and the first three chapters of the novel out to agents before you’ve completed the book (but she adds that some agents and publishers may not like this and you need to be prepared to hastily finish the book if they want to see more!)

Another plausible reason for apparent ‘copying’ could be that someone has simply absorbed your idea unconsciously. Let’s face it, we can’t always pinpoint exactly where our ideas come from. It’s worth adding a line or two in your writer’s notebook about the source of any idea you have, so that when you come to use it, you’ll be confident that you haven’t unconsciously ‘copied’ it from another writer.

A friend of mine used a very specific incident in an (unpublished) short story which she read out at a writers’ critique session. That exact incident later turned up in the award-winning novel of one of the other writers who’d been present that day. Was that a deliberate ‘steal’ or did the novelist simply absorb that idea and regurgitate it some months later, while he was writing his book?

We’ll never know for sure but don’t be too quick to judge. If, for example, your friend takes a funny story you’ve told her and gets it published on the letters page of a magazine, she may have completely forgotten that you told her the story and thought it was ‘hers’ to use.

And on the subject of ‘ownership’, writer Lynne Hackles has a useful technique. If a writing friend tells her an anecdote that she thinks she can use in a story, she tells them they have six months to use it and if they don’t – she will! This is not only fair warning but a nice bit of friendly encouragement to ‘get writing!’

As far as pitching articles is concerned, if an article appears in a magazine a few months after you – unsuccessfully – pitched the same idea, don’t automatically assume your idea was ‘stolen’. The pitch may have been unsuccessful because the editor had already commissioned a similar piece which was still in the pipeline.

Don’t take the hump – and certainly don’t contact the magazine and complain. Instead, look at your idea again. Is there any way you could adapt the article for a different market? If your idea was good enough to be published in one magazine, there’s a good chance that another publication will want it – if you can give it a different slant.

Looking on the positive side, if ‘your’ idea does appeared in published form somewhere – either ‘stolen’ or not, it’s a good sign.
When I expressed my displeasure to the tutor who took my idea (developed during her workshop) and turning it into a published story, she said she thought I’d be ‘pleased’ that it had appeared in print.

In retrospect, I see what she meant: I’d had a good – publishable – idea. And if I could have one, I could have another. I can also see now that I could still take that story plan, tweak it slightly and try it on a different magazine.
Because, let’s face it, how many really original ideas are out there?

There are, famously, only supposed to be seven basic plots. And even the best-selling Harry Potter books are not entirely original. There have been books set in boarding schools for decades and writing about witches and wizards goes back to ‘Lord of The Rings’ and ‘Macbeth’. The success of J K Rowling’s books is down to characterisation, style and plot as much as her initial idea for a school boy wizard. There’s more to writing than just having an idea: it’s what you do with it.

We all know people who boast about how many ideas they get. But do they ever do anything with them? Getting the idea is only half the battle: structuring that idea into something entertaining, readable and publishable, is the really hard part.

As writers, we need to be adaptable and determined. If our proposed article turns up, written by someone else or if someone uses a story idea of ours, before we’ve had chance to write it ourselves, we need to be able to shrug it off, shout ‘Next!’ and move on.

That’s the lesson I learned when my short story idea was ‘appropriated’. It actually taught me a useful lesson: I realised that there’s more to being a writer than having just one good idea. Since then, I’m very pleased to say, I’ve had lots more.

happy

How To Protect Your Ideas:

1. If you’re really worried about someone using your idea, keep stumm until you’ve turned it into a story, novel or article.

2. Be wary of posting work-in-progress on ‘open forum’ websites. You don’t know who’s involved with those and unscrupulous types could be looking for ideas to ‘borrow’. A closed-forum is much better – where you know who’s taking part and can have a code of practice.

3. Be clear at workshops – or when talking to writing friends – if any idea you’ve expressed is one that you’re planning to use in your writing. There’s still nothing you can do if they decide to ‘use’ your idea but at least they can’t claim ignorance and most people would recognise that to do so would be morally wrong.

4. Don’t just sit on it or talk about it! The longer you wait before turning your idea into something tangible, the higher the chance of someone else having the same thought – or of someone hearing your idea and using it themselves. If you’ve got a great idea, the best form of defence is to get writing!

First published in Writing magazine, January 2012 as ‘Stolen Intellectual Property’

Posted in Ideas, Magazines | 14 Comments

Feeling Peaky – and a confession!

Sheepwash Bridge, The Peak District

Sheepwash Bridge, The Peak District

No, I’m not ill! I was in the Peak District last weekend (sun! No rain!) and just couldn’t resist the cheesy pun as my header.

And talking of food, I had to have one of these while I was there. Delish!

bakewell-tartWe stayed at Ashford-in-the-Water (with the lovely Sheepwash Bridge on the River Wye), near to Bakewell and did a couple of long walks over the weekend and it was great. Must admit, I’m glad I’m not there this weekend though – snow is forecast and it’s freezing!

Today I was in Evesham on ‘writerly business’. It’s only 20 minutes down the road from me but it’s like another world. There are SHOPS! (Very exciting) and loads of cafes and of course, there’s going to be another Evesham Festival of Words this summer, with even more lovely events – and booking’s now open! (As is the short story competition – closing date 24th March).

This morning I was at the library for ‘Second Friday Stories’ which is an hour-long event, on the second Friday of each month. It’s a chance to listen to local authors (yes, I was there today as one of those!), enjoy a cuppa, meet like-minded people and it’s free.

If you’re interested, on 10th March the writers will be the regency writer Elizabeth Beacon, Ann Evans and Karen King.

I was talking about writing short stories and giving a plug to the workshop and quiz that I’m running (the quiz with my friend Chris) at this summer’s Festival.

As a writer these days you’re expected to be something of a public speaker too. It’s not compulsory, obviously, but if you want to get your name known or your books sold, then it helps if you don’t mind putting yourself ‘out there’ a bit.

On the whole, I don’t mind it.

If you’d seen me sitting in my car 20 minutes before my talk, jotting down some notes on a few cards, you’d have thought I was an old hand at it all. And, indeed, if you’d asked me how it went five minutes after I’d done my spiel today, I’d have said ‘great!’ but – and here’s the confession – a strange thing happens to me after any class, workshop or talk that I deliver. I ruminate (yes, like a cow) on it, for hours, if not days afterwards and I think negative thoughts, like ‘Oh God, did I sound a bit too full of myself?’ and ‘Was I boasty-boasty when I said how many stories I’d sold?’

Today I went over my allotted time by about 10 minutes and everyone seemed very relaxed about it but then I realised that the two ladies coming after me, had 10 minutes less than they should have had! So, then I worried about that. ‘Did they hate me?’ ‘Were they sitting there, wondering when the heck I was ever going to shut up?’ ‘Was the organiser getting twitchy?’

There must be a name for it. Something like ‘post-event-traumatic-stress’ (PETS) because I get the jitters and doubts afterwards, not before.

Is that weird?

Posted in Competitions, Events, Short Stories, West Midlands | Tagged | 8 Comments