Monthly Archives: January 2012

Can you top that?

I’ve been spending the last couple of days trawling the internet trying to find opportunities to improve my writing, as well as finding markets to submit my work. My main goal at the moment is to build a portfolio of ‘published’ work, whether that be via working on a charity project writing articles, blog posts or updating their website content; or actually finding a suitable magazine, ezine or other area that I can submit to gain these ever elusive ‘credentials’.

Penny (or many) for your thoughts

I remembered this morning that I hadn’t even checked the Writer’s and Artists Yearbook which have in print for 2012. I decided to pull up the website for a quick browse with the morning coffee and the first thing I saw was button that read:

Do you need a professional opinion on your book idea?

What on earth is this? I thought. Curiosity got the better of me and I clicked the Book Idea Service button. Well, blow me down with a feather.

£119.99 to have a group of ‘professionals’ review your idea and tell you if it’s a good one. What?? (Yes, I used two question marks – I am that shocked.)

Can they guarantee that you’ll become a successful author? I doubt it. Even with the best idea in the world, there are no guarantees that your books would sell, so there are no guarantees that this money will be recovered. You can’t claim it on expenses. It’s a frivolous expenditure that is completely unnecessary. I’m sure they are ‘professionals’ that can spot a strong idea but they’re clearly exploiting the fears of new writers that worry about wasting their time on work that may not become published.

Kudos to them for finding this little cash cow. I’m intrigued as to how many people must take them up on the offer with it being such a prominent advertisement from a reputable source.

At a glance

The premise of the service sounds quite appealing – to have some unnamed professionals browse through a structured submission (they will not accept it if it doesn’t meet certain criteria) and give you a report as to how strong your idea is.

But surely you could visit forums for free where people who live, work and breathe within the industry would happily offer you advice, opinions and guidance on how to develop your ideas so that they are strong – for no charge at all. They merely do it because they love to help.

Better still, you can target those that would read your genre of work. Aren’t they the best people, given they’d be the ones buying it in the future? Again, no charge.

Examples are community pages on facebook such as: How many pages did you write today? (search for what you want and see what comes up).

Online: NaNoWriMo, ROW80, Writer’s Digest, Holly Lisle and Gaiaonline.

There are so many sites dedicated to support and discussion that it’s not possible for me to list them all. I know that even local libraries, coffee shops and bars sometimes have writer and critique groups. Or you could set up your own…

Make your own path

So, deciding that you don’t want to shell out more money than a starving artist could afford, but you still want support. I’d recommend finding a good guide like Becky Levine’s Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide, she also has a fabulous WP page though the blog post: Thankful Thursday: Ideas is probably more relevant to this specific post when discussing ideas. More information on her book can also be found on Writer’s Digest with links to an excerpt and interviews.

The moral of this blog post? You don’t need to pay some big shot lots of money you need to make sure you’re developing a good idea!

Happy writing!



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Volunteer Vacations

I was actually in search of volunteer opportunities for writers and stumbled across this site:

I mentioned a few posts ago that, at some point, I would like to do some humanitarian work if something came up and I was in a position to do so. I hope there are lots of people ‘out there’ that are able to jump on such opportunities given how many fabulous charities and organisations there are out there.

A quick overview of this site alone shows varies groups set up to support medicine, homelessness, poverty, terminally ill, building shelters, repair projects, third world, environment, and many more.

Just scanning the list, the title ‘Right to Dream‘ catches my eye which is a scholarship program for the young people of Africa to pursue paths such as sport, physio, art and journalism. Volunteers are welcome to join their teaching programme, but it is preferred they spend the year there to ensure there are no disruptions in the school year.

There is another that intrigues me called ‘3 Generations‘ which supports individuals from around the world in sharing their stories of the horrific things that may have happened to them. When reading their vision, I couldn’t help but feel incredible respect for them and what they aim to do:

If we don’t have a vision of a better future can we really create one?

Become part of the movement:

Imagine the end of atrocity.

And another: ‘88 bikes‘ – aimed at providing bikes and bike kits for children in poverty stricken countries, children that have suffered from abuse, orphanages, and many other projects. There are volunteer posts set up for various areas around the world.

These are just a few examples from one site. I can’t believe how many innovative and rewarding opportunities there are out there in that big, scary world. It’s pretty darn beautiful to see so many groups working at making this world a better place.


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A smile a day keeps the bad feelings away.

I was reading Vikram’s post (“The world suffers a lot. Not because of the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of good people!”) about love and hatred in the world, and it got me thinking…

I’m not perfect and I do find myself ‘disliking’ (a much better word Vikram, thank you!) certain people. This is usually based on their attitudes or the way they treat people. I think it’s important, wherever possible, to lead by example though.

In the world we live in, if you target one person others tend to home in like sharks catching the scent of blood in the water. Next thing you know, you have one very wounded individual who may very well go on to spread this feeling of discontent and low self esteem (this is often how bullies are made).

I think that if you find someone you really can’t get on with, and you can’t work out a mutual understanding, you have two choices that I can think of:

1) Walk away. Avoid any interaction if you feel it will only lead to arguments or ill feelings.
2) Keep your communication down to only the essential – be polite and courteous, but not familial – think ‘professional’. This way you will no doubt confuse the object of your distaste but, at the same time, you are showing how individuals should treat each other, even if they don’t get on.

In the words of Aretha Franklin: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

We humans are a fickle bunch. We’re quick to anger and throw people, who were previously favoured individuals, out to the wolves.

When I think of humans and how they often negotiate with each other, I think of Gerard Butler booting the poor fool down the pit screaming: “This is Sparta!”

Do you disagree?

Take our ‘wonderful’ leaders that have always been so quick to stab each other in the back, break treaties; lying and cheating their way to the top. No, I know that we’re not all politicians and leaders. But just look to your workplace and tell me if you can name just one person who would offer you a smile as they give that knife a turn. Anyone come to mind?

We’re a bunch of freaking Neanderthals-in-denial. We think because we’ve invented fancy gadgets, upgrading our shit huts to buildings of stronger stuff that somehow we are not who we were.

The instincts to survive are still there. We will still fight to protect our family, we will gulp down air if we fear deprivation, we will hack, slash and claw our way to the top to prove ourselves worthy of survival. Darwinism, baby. We’re just more sly about it (sorry, ‘sophisticated’).

I see the light

Alas! For all the world is doom and gloom as people lie dying in ditches of their own doing. The world is coming undone.

As I sit here and procrastinate (I should be writing my novel), I am aware that there is much hardship in the world. There is death, disease, war, and hatred. I am not preaching that we should all grasp for each other’s hand and skip merrily into the sunset, but merely that we evaluate how we see the world and how we play our part.

Yes, we all have to survive in a ‘dog-eat-dog’ world but does that mean we have to be yet another dog? Can we not transcend and show them it is possible to be a better person, a kind and compassionate person, whilst still achieving what you want in life.

Maybe you don’t feel this is possible if your sole occupation is based on tearing out people’s hearts (metaphorically speaking, I hope), and if you’re happy that way then good for you. But that’s it. Have fun in your selfish world, I hope you live a long and fulfilled life in your solitude for you would have surely destroyed everybody else’s spirit in your success. You deserve a pat on the back for such dedication.

One step back, two steps forward

This isn’t about who is right and who is wrong. It’s about building a better world for everyone. One in which we actually give a shit about the person who lives next door so that you’d actually notice if they didn’t leave their house for days. The kind of world where you stop to ask if someone’s ok if they fall/crash their car/you walk into them.

They are not unreasonable adjustments to lives we live but it is about being more aware of our environment and those that inhabit it also. Being more considerate to others on our way.

You may not realise how much a smile may change a stranger’s day.


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The key to success: flexibility.

This feels like a check-point where I feel I need to reflect on my progress, re-evaluate what is important, and adjust my plans accordingly.

Since starting ROW80, I have been adding new challenges and targets to encourage improvement and to see how much I can accomplish.

Overall, I’ve been fairly successful. My main challenge hasn’t been work, like I feared, but myself. My own drive, my own motivation, and my own confidence in my abilities. I have repeatedly been heard mentioning terms like “a positive attitude” which I believe is any writer’s downfall if they don’t have it. Even when you’re super busy, if you don’t believe that you can fit something in, if you don’t believe you can achieve whatever you want to despite the demands on your time, you won’t then work out a way to fit everything in. You won’t organise your time, your priorities or reshuffle your commitments to enable everything to work out. Because you won’t believe that there is a reason to.

My first post for ROW80 was here

When looking at my first goals, many of them I have been able to stick to or go above if I re-worked when I did them. For example, I set 750 word goal a day which was achievable. But I found it was more productive to use my days off and plan to do 5,000 words every day I was off (2-3 days) and achieve more than the 750 words a day. That then meant I could use my breaks to continue reading a book for the BCC challenge (100 books in a year). Since making this change, I’ve managed to reach the ‘two books in a week’ minimum for the first week since starting the challenge. However, this sometimes means that my days working run over some of the check-ins and it appears that I haven’t done anything for the week

I started The Rising on the 2 January 2012 with very little idea of where it was going to go. I’m now at 24,000 words (I still have another 10,000 minimum to add by Friday) and I’m feeling incredibly positive about it. I know it’s not perfect, but it’s as close as I’ve ever come to a complete idea taking shape in a draft that I feel I can actually work with.

I have set up and post regular updates on page to promote myself as an author.

Blogging has become much more regular and I’ve even set up another blog here: to share research, opinions and recipes on improving the quality of the food I eat and making more home cooked things.

I’ve learned so much in the last two years about what doesn’t work for me that it’s so nice to finally know that I’ve found a method that does. I’ve been using a combination of Scrivener and Write or die to achieve my word counts in the quickest time possible, to organise my ideas, to create templates and fill out work sheets, and make the chapters easier to edit or add to later on.

I have found that very detailed plans don’t work for me. I need a rough idea, a few chapters briefly planned and then, as I write, the story and characters take shape. I can then jump into the separate folders and add details, chapter synopses, research folders etc.

In this time, I have proved to myself that I can do this work, I could (if writing was all I had to do) be a full time writer, I can fit networking, work, reading, writing etc in around each other. It’s just a shame I’m not getting paid to write. Yet. (Mark my words, it will! Ha!)

Though, within this last week, I have submitted a piece of flash fiction to an online site that pay $3 for published work on their site – it’ll be a good start!

Continuing to look through my initial goals, the sleep thing is something I’m struggling with as it’s not something I can force. Some days I have the time to sleep for hours but then I get woken or I can’t settle. Other days I could sleep until next year but I have only four hours until I have to get ready for work. I’ll keep trying though. I’ve been spending more time at my mum’s to try to encourage more of a regular sleep patter whilst I’m working. But, again, this is hit and miss as to what my body will allow. I’m getting on alright though as I don’t feel I’m suffering in any way.

I have finished The Tudors: season 3 and a friend at work has supplied me with the fourth and final season to get through. Yey!

In terms of making more home cooked food – it has really only happened in the last week with chicken stew, fresh curry and, as I write, potato cakes are just starting as boiled potatoes.

I didn’t get chance to continue with a food, fluid and exercise diary as I don’t seem to be consistent with when and where I am and what food is available. If I’m at home then I can eat more fruit and veg, fresh food etc. But my mum doesn’t really eat those things which makes it difficult to keep up elsewhere as travelling for over 2 hours can really affect the quality of some food choices I want if I want to take them to Mum’s. Plus it’s the actual lugging them about 3 miles – hardcore! I will have to look at putting in some orders for their next food shop to accommodate a better diet for me. 😀

So, whilst I may feel at times that I haven’t achieved anything, when I look at what I have accomplished in less than a month it really makes me very proud.

Thank you ROW80 for teaching me the value of flexible plans that can work with and not against having a life.


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Bcc challenge: book review

Alice Hoffman: The Ice Queen

I started this book yesterday during my shift at work and found that, despite the little time that I had to read it, I whizzed through it.

It was a thoroughly good book to read with really vivid descriptions of places, people, and incidents. I particularly loved the blend of fantasy with contemporary settings.

The book delved into the phenomena of lightning strikes and survivors and what peculiar incidents occur during this time (such as strange patterns on people’s skin). However, the story does take more of the supernatural with certain ‘gifts’ being granted by the strike.

The novel explores feelings of loss, inability to understand our meaning in the world, friendship (or lack of), love and family. How everything interlinks, even when we don’t mean for it to.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that loves to laugh, cry, be mystified… and it’s only really a short book!



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BCC challenge: book review.

Well, I may be taking a chance reviewing a classic novel but I hope, if nothing else, it sparks some conversation on the matter.

Jane Austen’s Emma

I must admit, I have a very soft spot for Austen’s work despite not being much of a ‘girly-girl’ myself. Emma did not disappoint.

If anything, I found I related to this novel far more than the others as many of the sentiments seem to be more relevant to me though, not in all regards given the era it is based in.

The beautifully written prose are very typical of Austen’s ramblings but I always enjoy the read and find myself thinking in similar terms, which is often quite amusing to me.

What I always find quite confusing is the constant use of Mr, Mrs, and Miss, which is understandable for the era as it is how they spoke, but it becomes quite confusing when several characters are referenced that belong to the same family (father and son, for example).

I quite enjoyed my time with Austen and finished off the book with a treasure of a find – a programme called Lost in Austen which is a fantasy reworking dedicated to Pride and Prejudice.


On to book four – The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman.

Book Chick City

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Not enough hours: a ROW80 update.

Well, just a very quick update since I’m at work.

I haven’t done any work on the The Rising since Tuesday but, in terms of the week, I have done:

*well over 10,000 words (5,000 on the first two days off)

* a blog post on philanthropy

*lots of planning of further chapters/gap filling on The Rising

*submitted one short story ($3.00 payment if accepted which is better than nothing) but a 2 month wait until I will know

*made home made lasagne, and home made chicken stew

*networked (but not so many on ROW80)

Plan for the next few days…

*Still need to finish book 3 for BCC challenge (Jane Austen’s Emma).

*Another 10,000 words I think.

Hope everyone has a great week.


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