Psychologies Magazine: Novel-Writing Competition

The latest issue of Psychologies magazine has a novel writing competition for UK residents, aged over 18, with a £5000 e-book publishing deal – and possibly representation too, by literary agents David Higham Associates– up for grabs, IF (and it’s a big IF) you have a previously-unpublished psychological thriller or crime novel* finished by the closing date of 6th October 2017.

You ‘only’ have to submit the first 5000 words of the novel, plus a 1000-word synopsis by that date but it’s a condition of entry that the novel (75,000 – 130,000 words) is complete when you enter. The longlisted and shortlisted entrants will be required to send in their complete novels.

Have a look at the full details and rules here, if you think you might like to enter.

NB: you need an entry form from the magazine, so you’ll either need to hot-foot it out to the shops and splash out £4.20 on issue 144 (which has Ewan McGregor on the front), OR, if you’re the first person to ask, very nicely (in the comments below), I’ll send you the entry form from the magazine that I bought, in a mad moment and before I realised that the novel had to be a thriller or crime (which is not my thing, sadly. I am trying to write a ‘longer work’ – I refuse to use that scary N word – but it’s not in either of those genres).

For those of you thinking ‘pah, that’s not my thing, either’, do not despair. You might still be interested in the series of 12 articles by novelist Lucy Atkins that Psychologies are publishing this year – the first 6 are on their website (number 7,on ‘keeping up the tension’ is in the latest issue) – about writing a novel (any kind of novel!).

#1 – starting that novel and telling no-one!
#2 – Let your imagination run wild
#3 – Make time to write
#4 – Probe your characters (ooh err)
#5 – How to cut your work
#6 – Some style basics

• from the rules, “This can include police procedural, psychological thriller, historical crime, domestic suspense and supernatural suspense.”

Good luck in the competition if you decide to have a go!

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Posted in Books, Competitions, Magazines, Novels | Tagged | 15 Comments

How to Tweet

So, here I am, back from (the last) Writers’ Holiday in Fishguard, our visitors of the past 3 days have gone home (one left his underpants under a pillow but that’s another story..), so there’s no excuse not to get down to some writing and I’m breaking myself in gently with a blog post…

I’ve written about Twitter before – here – but please forgive me for another foray into the world of 140 characters…

I’ve recently offered to run the Twitter feed for Evesham Festival of Words (it’s @infoFOW if you’re interested), as I noticed it had died a death.

I’m making a start by giving it a tidy up and by ‘culling’ some of the inappropriate people and organisations that we’re following. (Twitter tip#1: You don’t have to follow everyone who follows you…!).

This is a time-consuming task (I reckon I’ve got about another 1000 to go…) but it also has its lighter moments. People’s profiles can be excruciating. All those self-depreciating comments, mentions of coffee and/or chocolate addictions and references to procrastinating…! They are, I have decided, Twitter-cliches. Take them off, I beg you, if your profile mentions any of them.

I suppose, because they’re writers or ‘aspiring/future/potential writers’ (I’ve seen all of these descriptions), people want to appear literary (or at least, literate) but lines such as: “There is a moment – a point on the page – when you gasp, laugh, cry, cheer, revolt or sigh. That is where you will find me, hiding in the forestry of words…” (and yes, that’s a real one) or “I’m all about lean, tough prose, & the slaying of adverbs” (it’s really there!), are best avoided unless you are trying to be funny.

Author Joanna Cannon, whom I seem to be mentioning a lot lately but that’s because she speaks/writes a lot of sense, has 10 top tips for Twitter (or ‘how to be a human being’). She’s a firm believer that Twitter should not be used as a tool to sell your books, or promote yourself (unless it’s publication day!) but simply a place to interact with other people. As she puts it: “You’re there as a human being to chat to other human beings about anything other than selling your book.”

When I read that – and in fact, when I read the whole post – I felt vastly relieved because I’ve always had a niggling doubt that I’m doing Twitter wrong, that I should be making a bit more of a song and a dance about the (very modest) e-book offerings that I have published (Oops, that’s just reminded me that as we draw nearer to September and evening classes, someone, somewhere, might be interested in my book on starting a creative writing class. Pause while I send a quick promotional Tweet out.. thus breaking all of Joanna’s ‘rules’!)

If you’re on Twitter – or thinking of joining the 328 million monthly active users – read Joanna’s post and tell me if you agree with her!

Flash Fiction Competition
On a very different note, Birmingham Literature Festival and Virgin Trains are celebrating their joint 20th birthdays with a free-to-enter Flash Fiction competition (max 500 words). Your entry must be on the theme of Birmingham, train travel or ‘the last 20 years’. Closing date is 10th September and it’s open to all UK-based writers. Good luck!

Posted in Competitions, Tweeting, West Midlands | Tagged | 3 Comments

End of an Era

Greetings from Wales!

There are some years – perhaps you’ve noticed this too – when lots of things in your life change.

This summer my parents moved house, after over 40 years in the same place, I’ve left my day-job and this week, while I’ve been at Writers Holiday in beautiful Pembrokeshire, they’ve announced that it’s going to be The Last One.

Although Anne and Gerry will still be running their winter weekends, there won’t be any more of the summer conferences which have been taking place (first in Caerleon and then, in recent years, at Fishguard), for over 30 years.

It’s quite a shock. Chris and I have been to 9 summer conferences in total and loved every one. What are we going to do now?! (All suggestions – polite ones, please – welcome!).

The Cwmbach male voice choir are coming to perform tonight, as they always do and they don’t yet know the bad news (unless any of them read this blog… which, to be honest, I think is unlikely). There are going to be tears…

Too late now as well, to learn the Welsh national anthem, so we could sing along properly tonight instead of standing there like berks (or like former Welsh secretary John Redwood – remember that?)

Write Space

On a more cheery note, enterprising writers Vanda Inman and Linda Lewis (who was a guest on this blog last year), are working together on Vanda’s relaunched website for writers ‘Write Space’ so why not pop over and have a look at what’s on offer? There’s lots of advice and tips on writing, as well as details of the critique service they offer and there’s going to be a free competition soon.

7th Birthday

Talking of which, my blog will be 7 years old in October and I’m rapidly heading for a total of 700 followers so to celebrate I will also be running a free writing competition. Watch this space and if you want the competition to come even sooner, help me get up to 700 by subscribing to the blog. You won’t get any spam, I promise, it just means you’ll be emailed every time I post something new.

Right, and now I have to go and eat MORE food! Lunch is being served…!

Posted in Blogging, Competitions | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

And breathe….

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for 16 days!

Where have I been?

Well, in a nutshell, I have been helping my parents downsize and move house (quite possibly the most stressful thing I’ve ever done, partly because, even up to the moment when we were sitting in the solicitor’s office to sign on the dotted line, my dad was still in two minds about the whole thing…) AND (because I like to pile it on), I’ve been frantically tieing up loose ends and doing a handover for my job, which I finally left today.

Oh and yesterday (because a bit of variety is good), I spent 6 hours at Burton hospital while my dad had various tests. The good part of that, though, was that I managed to read a whole book while I sat there, waiting, namely, Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl, based on The Taming of the Shrew and which I loved.

On Sunday, my friend Chris and I are heading West to Writers’ Holiday in Fishguard for our annual feast of: food (honestly, you eat so much that someone I know actually DIETS before she goes), writing workshops, lectures and the male voice choir on the last night.

Lots of laughter and fun guaranteed. We are running the quiz on the first night and I’m doing 4 workshops (ahem, still to be prepared…), so it will be busy but I’m REALLY looking forward to it and feel in need of a holiday. I don’t even care if it rains every day.

If anyone’s reading this who’s also going, don’t panic, yes, it actually starts on Monday but, for once, we are being organised, and going a day early…!

When I come back, it will be (almost) August and my new life as a full-time-no-excuses writer begins – at least for the rest of the summer and until I find something else to possibly pay the bills. I will keep you posted (because I might actually be able to blog a bit more regularly!)

One thing I’ve learned over the past couple of weeks, when, at times, I felt like I couldn’t cope, is that we are stronger than we think. And by coincidence, I’ve just read a piece by the fabulous writer Joanna Cannon on the same theme, here. It’s one of the things she learned from being published.

I enjoyed this article. Maybe you will too.

Posted in Blogging, Books | 14 Comments

Wine Required!

I was up early this morning, despite being really tired because I can’t sleep when it’s so light! Is it just me? I know I shouldn’t be moaning (it’s SUMMER!) but even with the blinds down, the sun sneaks through the gap in the window and prods me to get up! Oh, I’m sounding very John Donne! (Ahem, ‘The Sun Rising’ being one of my favourite poems, don’t you know…).

Since my last post, the Evesham Festival of Words has (mostly) taken place.

My pal Chris and I ran the Book Quiz last Thursday night. Major panic when we realised the venue, which has only just reopened after a fire, didn’t have any WINE! And over forty people were due to arrive any minute.

“Oh, do you think they’ll want wine?” the lady behind the bar asked.
“Erm, yes,” was the answer. We even offered to go to Lidl and buy some ourselves!
But, thankfully, someone else whizzed off in a van and came back bearing bottles and judging from the glasses on people’s tables, most of it was sold!

Putting on brave faces but actually, VERY stressed at the thought of no vino!


On Friday night, Chris and I went to the Prue Leith interview (as well as being a novelist and restauranteur and chef, of course, she’s a new judge on the Great British Bake-Off. I’m sure lots of people – like me – were hoping for some juicy goss about GBBO but she wasn’t allowed to talk about it! ☹)

The junior and adult winners of the Festival Short Story competition were announced on the same evening and presented with their prizes by Prue Leith. When I booked the tickets, a few months ago, I imagined that Chris and I – or at least one of us – might have been on the shortlist, which would of course have made the evening really exciting… but sadly, it was not to be. There’s always next year! And we consoled ourselves with a glass of rose…

On Sunday afternoon, I ran the first of two workshops (because the first one sold out) on ‘Writing Short Stories for the Women’s Magazines’. Of course, as we all know, the markets for short stories are much more limited than they were even just a few months ago (when Take a Break closed its doors to all but a selected few) BUT, as I point out in my workshop, The People’s Friend magazine publishes over 600 stories a year, Woman’s Weekly needs 20 stories a month for its Fiction Special and 2 stories a week for the weekly issue and… well, to find out the rest, you have to come to the workshop, of course! (Still a few places for this Sunday’s…!)

Luckily I had set off early because although Evesham is only 20 minutes from me, I encountered: a road block and diversion (because the fair was in town) which took me miles out of my way, queues of traffic, a full car park and slight palpitations when I thought I might be late! (I wasn’t). Eeek. If it hadn’t been the early afternoon, wine might have been required then too.

Short Story Competition – Win A Writing Retreat (closes Sept 2017)

And on a different note, here’s a lovely FREE writing competition, courtesy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and Retreat West.. they’re looking for a 1000 word short story set on a beach. You can do that, can’t you? I happened to have one set on a beach and that’s never been published, so I’ve zapped it off already.

There are more fiction competitions on the Retreat West website. They’re not free to enter but might be worth checking out.

Posted in Books, Competitions, Events, Magazines, Short Stories, The People's Friend, West Midlands, Woman's Weekly | 4 Comments

Ten Tips for Editing Your Writing

As I may have mentioned before, I’m involved with an activity group for ‘seniors’ in Stratford these days, called Sunny Side Up – I take the Creative Writing Group – and a couple of weeks ago we looked at ‘editing your work.’

It’s something that new writers don’t realise (I’m sure I was the same!) but those first words you jot down on a piece of paper are only the start, the first draft of something hopefully much better. First drafts are supposed to be a bit rubbish, maybe even embarrassing and, as someone famous once said (Hemingway?): ‘all writing is rewriting’.

So here are the tips I passed on for editing. Please let me know what works for you!

1. Put your work away in a drawer for as long as possible!

2. Read the whole piece (ALOUD is best) and ask yourself:

(i) Have I started in the right place?
(ii) Is there a ‘hook’ for the reader?
(iii) Can I chop off the first sentence or two, for a snappier start? (Often we ‘write ourselves in’ to a piece or put in an introduction when it’s not necessary).

3. Is the middle ‘saggy’? Is the meaning clear to the reader? Have you repeated yourself (with actual words or ideas?).

4. Check point-of-view. Have you ‘head hopped’ unintentionally?

5. Check the tense you’ve used. Does it change, inexplicably half way through?

6. Is the ending satisfying or does the piece just peter out? Could you end the piece sooner? Is there too much anti-climax?

7. If you’re writing fiction, are all the characters necessary? Check that their names are not too similar (very confusing for the reader!).

8. Do you need to ‘kill’ any ‘darlings’?

9. Next, ‘copy editing’ Is the writing the best it can be? No overuse of adjectives or adverbs, is the dialogue sparkling, have you avoided clichés?

10. Finally, proof-reading. Check spelling, grammar and punctuation. (and if there’s time, put it in a drawer again for a few more days…)

When to stop? When you’re happy with the piece and feel that you’ve got it to where it needs to be. Remember, perfection isn’t achievable! Just try to write the best piece of writing you can, at this time.

NEWSFLASH: The first one has sold out but there’s still room on the workshop I’m running at Evesham Festival of Words on Sunday 9th July 2.30 – 4.30 (‘Writing Short Stories for Women’s Magazines). To register please email info@eveshamfestivalofwords.org

Posted in Events | 4 Comments

Do You Really Want to Be a Published Novelist?

Apparently, a major reason for not writing or finishing one’s novel, is FEAR.

Fear that you can’t do it, fear that it won’t be as good as you’ve imagined, fear that your mum will read the sex scenes, fear that people will think you’ve got ‘above yourself’, fear that’s it’s all been a complete waste of time (and you needn’t have given up Coronation Street), fear of success.. HOLD ON! ‘Fear of success’?

Funnily enough, last time I met up with my writing buddy, Sally, we talked about this (and got the giggles because it all sounded so silly). But what if you DO write an amazing first novel and you’re snapped up by an agent who sells it to a publisher for a rather respectable sum. What then?

I have to admit (even though I’m a long way from this ever happening..!) that it’s a rather scary thought. Because then, unless you’re going to be a ‘flash in the pan’ or a ‘one hit wonder’, you’d be expected to produce another amazing novel (chances are, if you get a book deal from a traditional publisher, it would be for more than one book). And what if you couldn’t do it? Pressure! And even if you did manage to write another one that wasn’t too awful, that’s it, you’re on the ‘novelist treadmill’, with your publisher wanting ‘more of the same’ and probably sooner than you’d really like.

I would really, really, love to hold in my hands (and stroke!) a physical book – a novel – that I’d written and was proud of.

But when I read the blogs of some published authors, it is a little bit off-putting…

Sam Tonge, for example, has just blogged about ‘The Five Unexpected Consequences of Getting Published’ and revealed not only that it’s ‘hard, hard, hard work’ but that she spends at least half of her working day on networking, social media and promotion. And no, she’s not self-published – that’s just what you’re expected to do these days!

Prolific writer Jane Holland (aka Victoria Lamb, Beth Good – and others!) blogged here about how sometimes ‘being a writer seems like the hardest thing in the world’.

While author Tim Lott says rather than a dream job, life as a writer is a ‘horror film’. Most novelists, he suggests, write because they’re driven to write but if he had the choice to be George Clooney instead – or a taxi driver – he would seriously contemplate it (although, to be fair, when he wrote that column, George Clooney hadn’t just had twin babies. He might not be so keen now!)

And then there’s the money. Forget the JK Rowlings of this world just for a minute. The average advance for a debut novelist is estimated to be less than £7,000. You’re going to have to write an awful lot of books or clinch a fabulous deal, to even think about giving up the day job.

What do you think? Too negative? Is writing full-time THE dream job or is it a case of:

Posted in Books, Novels | Tagged | 20 Comments