Diary of a scaredy cat bows out, 26 August 2015

creative wrtiingWriting companion of the week
This is one of the books that started it all for me, back in the 1980s when I didn’t have the first idea how to go about writing or submitting or learning or anything. I borrowed it from the library first, and then in 1988, when a new edition was published, I splashed out and bought my own copy.

There are some exercises for exercise sake in here, but there are also some useful exercises that both got me going and were reproduced in my own writing classes (yes, I used to be a teacher too, an adult education tutor teaching creative writing and various computer literacy classes).

And the book is still on my shelf. This is a scan of that copy, which you can see is quite creased due to use.

TEACH YOURSELF CREATIVE WRITING by Dianne Doubtfire was reproduced in 2003, when the author died, by one of her ex students (and a Brummie), Ian Burton. I don’t know what that one is like and would personally try to get hold of an original if possible. But if you’re happy with the new version, there’s a link here – but, sadly, no Kindle versions.

Editing work
I’ve had a very successful week. Lovely-already-boss sent me 3 new books to edit, and there’s the promise of another he’s currently chasing. Lovely-recently-new boss came back from his holidays and confirmed he wanted me to crack on with the remaining 2 books I have in for him. And a lovely-brand-new boss who tried me out with a proofreading job 2 weeks ago has come back with another this week, but this one is for “light editing”. I could have taken a longer job from him, but with us breaking up on Thursday for 4 days and him wanting them back next week, we agreed on a mid-length job this time.

This means I now have 3 regular clients, all publishers, all editing or proofreading. And this, in turn, means no more job-board surfing for me – or not for editing or proofreading work at any rate.

In the past week I’ve submitted 2 jobs: 1 book and 1 collection of short stories. And in the coming week I have at least 2 books to turn around and get invoiced.

I am happy with my editing lot. :-)

I had a bit of a block on CATCH THE RAINBOW when the whole premise behind my government conspiracy theory completely fell apart. However, following a stern talking to by the poet, and some good advice from writerly friends, I think we’ve overcome the problem. As a result, I started writing again on Monday, only a few hundred words, but it’s a start, with another few more hundred words yesterday. Hopefully today I’ll get another good session in.

Fiction writing course
Today, I really, really want to spend an hour on my fiction writing course. I do have a lot of other work to do today and I won’t be able to fit in any extra time after 5pm (usually while the poet cooks tea) because we’re orf out almost immediately. But if I stick to my time slots, I should manage around an hour today.

Work in progress
I had a 4-day week last week, I have a 4-day week this week, and another 4-day week next week, due to jolly days and holidays. It will be a shock to go back to a 5-day week the week after. But this, of course, means I have to fit a lot more into the time available.

As I say, I have 2 books that need to be gone over the next 7 days, I want to do more work on CATCH THE RAINBOW, and I want to fit in some study time. And then next week, I start a whole new regime.

I started the diary of a scaredy cat just under a year ago, on 16 September. My working year always starts in September. I think it’s a throwback to either my school and college days, or to my own teaching. But every September, the new jobs used to come in, the new classes, the new academic diary, of course, and so on.

Last September, after quite a long break, I was desperate to get back into the swing of writing for myself again. I’d been so preoccupied with earning money in order to live, that it was easy to get out of the habit of writing for myself.

However, with the help and support and management expertise of the poet, with a lot of hard work on my part, and with the diary as a sort of progress journal, I seem to have finally got into a workable routine of doing my own work in the mornings and doing everyone else’s work, if I have it, in the afternoons.

So, with my new working year starting on Tuesday (it’s 1 September), it’s time to get more structured, more organised, more prolific, more disciplined.

I like doing the diary, though, so I think I’ll carry on but in a new guise – concentrating more on the writing side and less on the editing side. Writing companion of the week will go – I think I may have exhausted my supply for now – but I might still have a writing companion of the month.

With that in mind, watch out for DIARY OF A FREELANCE WRITER next week, and thank you for coming along on the ride with me thus far. I hope you found it as useful as I have.


Downhill from here …


At Fleet’s Dam (picture: Diane Wordsworth)

I’m always very, very busy and productive on a Monday morning. I get loads and loads done … and then it’s all downhill from there. I’ll bet this week is no different, although it is a short week due to the bank holiday weekend coming up.

Wednesday and Thursday last week were fairly normal. I finished another editing job and got that sent back to the client and I got some gig list admin done too.

*** potential Downton Abbey SPOILER ALERT ***
Friday was a day off. Carol came to see our house for the first time – I think she liked it ;-) – and then we went to Cannon Hall in Barnsley, which is literally minutes from here, to see the Downton Abbey exhibition. Carol’s a big fan, having watched the entire series, whereas I lost interest when they killed Matthew Crawley … sorry if that’s a spoiler for anyone. I did recognise some of the costumes, though, from the first few series.

We had lunch in the café there and were, quite frankly, disappointed. The place was very, very busy yet staff could clearly be seen both having their break (which is their right, but maybe not in public when the place is so busy) and taking up valuable dining space. It also took 3 of them at once to watch the card reader when it didn’t work … The food was lovely, but we’ve already decided to go to the garden centre café in future.

On Saturday we went shopping for camping supplies for this weekend – blankets, egg boxes, extra single-burner stove, picnic table, frying pan, cutlery, salt n pepper pot, windbreak – and Saturday evening the poet had a gig over in Doncaster, again. He drove up early to help setup, but I caught the train at 8pm as 6:15pm was far too early to be leaving the dog.

I was at the station in the rain with 17 stags (who were all very well-behaved) only to find that our train was delayed. By 12 minutes. By the time we got to my change station, we were 20 minutes late and I missed my connection. I now wasn’t due in until 9:18pm and the gig was supposed to start at 9:15pm and I don’t know how to get there. So he sent their lovely roadie/lights man to fetch me and we got back halfway through their first song.

Following a late finish, we were up Sunday morning and off to Birmingham to see my parents and to fetch them some shopping on the way. We left glorious sunshine in Yorkshire and arrived to torrential rain in the West Midlands. Our plan was to visit Calke Abbey on the way back, but because it was so wet (and we didn’t put walking boots in), we made do with eating our picnic in the car park looking at the view and vowing to go back another day as it’s less than 90 minutes away.

We didn’t get any new pictures, so I’ve shared one of the poet fishing at Fleet’s Dam a couple of weeks ago.

And so to today, and already I’ve had a very busy morning. I’ve got the poet up and off to work, fed the birds and the pets, filled and started the dishwasher, put a washload through and hung it out, I was at my desk for 9:30am, I’ve done more gig list admin and been a secretary for the band, and I’ve re-started the daily competitions. The daily competitions had made way for walking the dog, but the poet felt quite left out not coming for a daily walk with us, so we started to take him (me and Rufus took the poet) of an evening with us.

As I say, it’s probably all downhill from here …

For the rest of today I’ll probably have to fetch the washing back in, as the sky looks fairly ominous (although it has to come in before the end of the day anyway). I have 2 hours of writing time booked in, then I start a new edit for a regular client. I also need to raise 2 invoices for the same client (hurrah!).

Tomorrow I add an hour of job board admin and an hour of study work, but still have the 2 hours of writing time and 2 hours of client time. And it’s more of the same for the remaining 2 working days this week.


Diary of a scaredy cat, 19 August 2015

marshall plan 1 marshall plan 2 marshall plan 3


Writing companion of the week
Wow, a bumper crop for readers this week, and some of my own personal favourites. I have each and every one of these books on my bookshelf, and I used to have the software too – but I can’t find it on any of my backups over several machine changes. :-(  Anyway, I LOVE these books by Evan Marshall. I bought the first one back in 2001. And I still use many of the worksheets today.

For left-brained linear types like me, and those who love spending time on the planning, Evan’s plan is perfect.

Book 1, the blue one, starts with chapters explaining each part of the successful writing process, as recommended by this literary agent/writer. Then he goes on to demonstrate how to build the process via a series of worksheets, some of which have samples reproduced in the book, both blank and completed. It suggests lengths, depending on what genre you’re writing in, and the number of main characters, depending on the length. Plus lots more.

THE MARSHALL PLAN FOR NOVEL WRITING by Evan Marshall is still available in the UK, new and used, and also in the US.

Book 2, the green one, contains much of the same advice, plus some extras, but it has photocopiable sheets to fill in and complete. I usually do mine in pencil, as I do most things that could and probably do change. But both of these books show you how to leave cliffhangers, which sheet to go to next (they’re all numbered), where and how to insert surprises, plus all of the usual character profile sheets.

THE MARSHALL PLAN WORKBOOK by Evan Marshall is also still available in the UK and in the US.

Book 3, the pink one, takes the next step when your novel is finished. It still includes a section on writing, but then goes on to cover submission, pitching, and post-publication.

THE MARSHALL PLAN FOR GETTING YOUR NOVEL PUBLISHED by Evan Marshall is again still available in the UK, and again in the US.

You can also visit Evan’s website, and you can still buy the software, which is the electronic version of all the sheets packaged together in a novel writing software kit.

Last week was taken up with proofreading a massive tome. It was 130,000 words and it took me all week. I had to concentrate on finishing it as it was due back on Monday and I had to get it in the post by Friday to ensure Monday delivery. This meant a lot of my other work was neglected. I simply didn’t have time to do anything else.

Once it had gone, however, I was able to do some author corrections on one book, and get that submitted for print by the end of Monday, and on Tuesday I was able to crack on with some revisions for another client, who hasn’t been able to see in tracked changes. I did another story’s-worth yesterday and sent it off to her to see if she could see them now. I don’t see the point in doing the work again from scratch if she still can’t see it.

I’ve not been trawling for work just lately as it seems to be coming in by itself now. I still have 2 jobs to get on with for one regular client – one of which was printed off yesterday so I can start it as soon as I’m ready – and 2 new jobs came in yesterday from another existing client, plus he’s chasing an author for a third.

Writing work
I had hoped to get some short writing work done while we were fishing at the weekend, but we had one aborted trip on Saturday and on Sunday the dog was being so fussy I didn’t really get chance to do any then either. I’m very disappointed about this because it will have a knock-on effect on my word count challenge for the month and my output and my progress.

I’ve not had chance to do any longer writing work either, for the same reasons as above. This very much needs addressing again.

Work in progress
This coming week, then, I have those short stories to re-edit on screen so the client can see my changes, I have the next book to start for the lovely Spanish clients, and I absolutely MUST get some writing work done, however short. But I have Friday off as I’m meeting up with at least the lovely Carol, and hopefully 2 other writing friends if all goes well for one of them today.

What’s in your WiP this week?


Catching up


His Lordship (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

Last week I disappeared beneath a mountain of proofreading. It was a big book for a new client and the deadline was today. So it needed to be ready by the end of Friday in order to catch Special Delivery Saturday morning and guaranteed delivery today. It meant I didn’t even turn on the computer Thursday or Friday, and the poet had to do all of the gig list admin at the tail end of last week. But I did it, and I got it to the post office on time. Now I just hope they’re happy with the work.

At the weekend we decided to go fishing, and I packed a nice writing bag. I’d done hardly any of my own writing during the week and wanted to remedy that.

But when we got to our chosen fishery (Worsbrough – pronounced wuzz-brough), it was all matched out and the only pegs left were on the very, very windy dam head. So we decided to go and look somewhere else … but the car was making the strangest of noises and everyone was turning to stare at us …

The poet had a look but couldn’t see anything, but he decided he wanted to get the car home. There was a garden party happening at the manor that we’d been invited to, and the lane was busy with cars and visitors. But we’d declined due to the fishing … and when he got on his hands and knees, he found the problem. A plastic drinking cup had wedged itself under the chassis and it took him a few efforts to get it out.

By now the weather had changed and we decided against trying again. So he didn’t get any fishing, the dog didn’t get a proper walk, and I didn’t do any writing.

The next day we were off again. He phoned 2 other fisheries, one in Retford and one in Doncaster, but they were both matched up too and if we didn’t get there in the next half-an-hour, we probably wouldn’t get a peg. That’s a shame because both fisheries are very dog friendly – so many of them aren’t. So off we pootled to Worsbrough again … only to find it fully matched again, and this time the whole reservoir was closed to pleasure anglers.

We headed off to find another reservoir, Wintersett, which is supposed to have disabled access, and so plenty of pegs where you can park your car behind you … only we couldn’t find a way in. We contacted Leeds & District Angling Association to find out how to get in, but no one answered any of the numbers we tried. So we asked at the Angler’s Rest, a visitor centre on another of the lakes there, and they said there was a gate at the end of a lane that we needed a key for.

We went in search of said gate to find that yes, indeed, we did need a key. But even if we had a key, we could’t get in because some selfish cow had parked her horse-box in front of the gate and gone off riding. (We’d seen her earlier as we tried to find a way in, and she was spending more time getting ready than her horse.)

So we aborted another trip and headed back via town, when the poet remembered another lake he used to fish, Fleet’s Dam. When we arrived there was, once again, a match going on, but only down the one side. We were able to pitch camp on the opposite bank and spend several hours in this hidden gem in the centre of town (or tarn, as the locals call it). The poet was happy, he even caught some fish, and we’re certainly going again.

Rufus, however, got quite bored. I took him for a walk around the lake and took some photographs, but when we got back he wouldn’t settle unless he was on my lap, and we couldn’t have him barking when there was a match happening on the other side of the lake. So, as a result, I still didn’t get any writing done. But we did have a nice few hours in the fresh air.

It means I’m a bit behind on my word count challenge for August, but first job this morning was the diary (which I should have done last week but didn’t get chance), and I’ve scheduled in several writing sessions this week. I do have Friday off, it’s a jolly day for 4 of us, so a short week.

I also have amendments to an edit I did 2 weeks ago, so that can go to print, and more work to do for another new client. On Wednesday I start another new edit for a regular client.

What’re you up to this week?


Diary of a scaredy cat, 12 August 2015

how not to write a novelWriting companion of the week
Make sure you choose the right one, there are several. HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL: CONFESSIONS OF A MIDLIST AUTHOR is by Birmingham-born David Armstrong. And, actually, the title’s a bit of a misnomer. It isn’t really how not to write a novel, but why you shouldn’t write a novel.

The book looks at all the usual stages of writing a novel, finding an agent or a publisher, the acceptance process, the publication process, marketing, onsales, and so on. But the rose-coloured glasses are OFF, because there are some fascinating home truths included.

The book was originally published in the early 2000s and was re-issued in 2011. It’s not really been updated, so doesn’t include anything on epublishing. But it’s an interesting and informative read anyway, and the Kindle book is, once again, dearer than the paperback. You can follow the link in the title of the book above if you’d like to have a look.

Short stories
Last week I wheeled out the short-work-in-progress book, updated my record of short story submissions, had a look to see which anthologies are calling for submissions at the moment, and I planned a few new stories. I’ve written the 1st drafts of a couple of new stories too, but they still need a lot of work just now.

I need to come up with a new schedule for the short stories again (and the short articles and fillers). All being well, that usually looks something like this:

O: Shaking the Tree (SS) – sequel to The Spirit of the Wind
#1: Go Go Go Joseph, playlist (F)
#2: My School PE Memories (RTE)
#3: Becky Merril’s Escape Fund (SS)
E: The Nutcracker, playlist (F)
O: Memories of School Dinners (RTE)
#1: Shaking the Tree (SS)
#2: Go Go Go Joseph, playlist (F)
#3: My School PE Memories (RTE)
E: Becky Merril’s Escape Fund (SS)
O: The Two of Wands (SS) – the second short story featuring Stevie Tarot
#1: Memories of School Dinners (RTE)
#2: Shaking the Tree (SS)
#3: Go Go Go Joseph, playlist (F)
E: My School PE Memories (RTE)

And so on … (O = outline; #1, #2, #3 = draft 1, 2, 3; E = edit; SS = short story; F = filler; RTE = reader’s true experience.) I love lists, and colours, and ticks … This isn’t a live list at the moment, this is just an example, with working titles or made-up titles.

Last week I finished the electronic edits on one client book and sent it back to the author for checking. The author has now sent her initial amendments back, so I have to fit those in (not many) before sending it off to print.

A new client won a few weeks ago is turning out to be a pain in the rear end. Her command of English is so bad she doesn’t even understand what I’m trying to tell her in an email. And she’s so … erm … thick(?) that she doesn’t understand why I’ve sent her an edited file with a slightly different file name and keeps insisting I just keep overtyping the original file she sent.

This client is turning out to be more trouble than she’s worth and I may just tell her we’re not a good match and she should find someone else. I refused to do a lot of work for her, preferring instead to do the first few thousand words and then see how we get along. I can’t see me finding the motivation to do any more until she either gets a grip or pays what she owes so far.

Another new client has turned out to be a dream and I hope my proofreading isn’t too heavy for them, although – hey – if it needs flagging, then surely it needs flagging. I don’t even have to do electronic edits for these people, I can just mark the hard copy and send it back … I just need to get it back in the post to them by the end of Friday as I don’t think we can send “signed-for” mail on a Saturday any more, and it’s due in on Monday.

Fiction writing course
The “slightly revised” course material has now arrived and it doesn’t look as though there’s anything “slightly” about it. Every single module has been changed, some have been re-numbered, and others are completely new. This means my assignments are now slightly out of synch, so I need to revisit the course material and study the necessary “revised” modules before attempting the next assignment. Fortunately, it’s still a short story and it still seems to be the same brief. I just want to make sure I don’t miss anything in the new material and get “marked down” for it.

This is a new collection of short stories featuring my new star, Stevie Tarot. The stories will be very loosely based on the Tarot and I’ve planned four collections of short stories (one for each suit) plus novellas or novels for each of the major arcanas. The first story in the first collection is Stevie’s introduction to the world and is already out doing the rounds. I like my stories to earn their keep while I’m working on others in the same series. If nothing else, the feedback if rejected can be very useful.

The short-work-in-progress book also includes articles and fillers, and this week I wrote the 1st drafts of 2 fillers, both aimed at the same market slot. I also have a couple of RTEs planned, which I’ll get around to either at some point or if I get that short material schedule up and running.

Scan_20150810_134807_001I had something very nice happen in the last week. I managed to pick up a copy of this month’s Best of British, in which I’ve achieved 2 firsts: 1. I know they’re not the greatest of payers, but it’s the first time I’ve had anything in Best of British, and 2. It’s the first thing I’ve had published with the new name.

Word count challenge
I’m running slightly behind on this so far this month, but hope to get cracking again very quickly.

Work in progress
I have the proofreading job to finish by the end of Friday, then the corrections to make on the one I finished last Friday, and then the next one to start for another client. Then my time is my own …

What’s in your WiP this week?


rievaulx primroses

Primroses at Rievaulx (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

It was another heavy weekend.

Much of Friday was spent completing the electronic edits on one client book, sending that back to the author for checking, and invoicing the client (hurrah!). In between, I also managed my first 1-mile dog-walk from the doorstep and back.

Friday teatime was a mad dash. We finished some savoury mince the poet had cooked a couple of days earlier, with a baked potato each, and then it was off to Doncaster for a private party his band were playing at.

On Saturday we did a bit of fishing shopping (he wanted some new line for his reel) and we replaced one of the hosepipes I managed to break while filling the bird bath. I’d pulled it, thinking the hosepipe was unreeled, but it wasn’t and the water supply feed thingy snapped and it was cheaper to replace the whole thing than it was to replace the little gadget-thing that snapped. After my complaint to B&Q a few weeks ago, we were sent a gift card, so we used that to help pay for the new kit.

When we got back, and he’d done what he does with his reel line, Rufus and I showed him the walk we’d been on the previous day. We went a bit further, disturbed a roosting little owl, spotted a kestrel on a fence post, and generally explored just one of our many footpaths cross-country, and we clocked up just under 2 miles. Then it was another dash to have tea and get ready for another gig over in Doncaster. We finally turned in at 3am Sunday morning …

… but had to be up again as we were visiting both lots of parents. First we were back in Doncaster, to see the poet’s parents, then we headed to Birmingham to see my parents, via Morrison’s in Sheldon where we bought them some cakes. We got home at 7:30pm, had a takeaway, watched some telly, and had an early night.

And then it was another new week again. We were both still very tired this morning.

This morning’s pre-breakfast chores included filling and starting the dishwasher, and feeding the pets and the garden birds. I’ve done a little gig list admin (1st job ticked), this blog post will be my 2nd job ticked, then I’m definitely spending a couple of hours on writing work. I’m a bit behind on the wordcount this month so far, mostly due to editing deadlines, but I start another new client book this afternoon, when I’ve done today’s dog-walk.

It’s a full week at work this week, even my replacement hair appointment from 2 weeks ago is after hours. But we do have a totally empty weekend looming, apart from a birthday party we’ll probably show our faces at. I foresee someone keeping half an eye on the weather forecast …

I’ve run out of pictures again. I know there are some on the camera, but the weather was quite bad when those were taken and I’ve not had time to transfer them over to the pc and look at them full-sized. So I’ve nicked one from an earlier jaunt this year, and flipped and cropped it (so it fits nicely). We need a few more jaunts out.

Oh, oh, but one exciting thing is, at the weekend we booked a short camping holiday for later this month. It coincides with the Evesham fishing festival, so we can fit a bit of that in with a bit of sightseeing. That’s a nice little break to look forward to as Evesham is beautiful and we enjoyed the short time we spent at the festival last year.

Another exciting thing is that we spent much of the driving time on Sunday discussing what to do with the garden over the winter. We’re planning a proper little kitchen garden with raised beds and crop rotation and fruit and vegetables and rhubarb patches and everything. But we’re keeping everything quite low-growing so we don’t spoil our gorgeous view. I’d love fruit trees, and I had a right old brain murmur on Friday when I remembered an old eighties novelty, the stepover fruit tree. We can still get those, so they’re being incorporated too.

Because, of course, we’re not already busy enough … ;-)



Kaleidoscopic migraine


Slaithwaite moonraking festival (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I experienced what I believe to be (having Googled it …) a kaleidoscopic migraine.

I’ve had migraines before. They usually start with my peripheral vision starting to recede into tunnel vision. And if I don’t get to lie down in a darkened room before the tunnel vision becomes pin-pricks, I get a terrible headache accompanied by nausea.

I was in the middle of an electronic edit yesterday when my peripheral vision started to go, and I thought, ooh eck (cos that’s how they talk oop north). But I carried on because I wanted to finish the job … until the kaleidoscope of lights and shapes started to hinder my vision so much I had to go and lie down in that darkened room anyway.

When the poet nipped home for lunch, he took one look at me and knew there was something wrong. I avoided cheese and chocolate, and went back to bed when he went back to work. And within half an hour, it was all over.

As I say, I’ve Googled it already (with apologies to those of you who hate to see that as a verb!), and I’m pretty certain it was just a migraine. Has anyone else experienced something like that?

I did manage another couple of hours on the electronic edit before taking the dog for a walk around the lake, and something from that walk must have stuck at the back of my mind. Because this morning I woke with the idea for a story almost fully formed, centred around a lake that’s tucked away and almost forgotten. I don’t know if it will be a short, 1,000-word story, or if I might be able to make it something meatier. But it’s the bones of a story and before breakfast it was in my notebook. I’ll leave that one there for now, to percolate.

This morning, also before breakfast, I already emptied the dishwasher and filled it back up again, put one wash through and sorted the next washload ready (I’m about to go and put the first on a spin before hanging it out and putting the second load through), fed the pets and emptied the kitchen bin. It’s a glorious day, but with my workload I only have time to hang two lots of washing out today, and fetch them back in again, of course.

But I didn’t get to my desk until 10am, and I still have lots to do. I have that electronic edit to finish and a hard-copy proofread to start, I want to do some more short story brainstorming work, I have invoices to raise (hurrah!), and a dog to walk. On top of that, we have to be out by 6:30pm this evening for a gig on the other side of Doncaster, so it’ll be a rush for tea too.

Tomorrow there’s another gig, in the centre of Doncaster this time, so we can’t go far tomorrow. If it’s as nice as today (and I have my shorts on today, it’s so nice), I’d like to get another two washloads on the line and maybe a short outing. Then on Sunday we’re visiting both lots of parents.

What’re you up to this weekend?