And so it begins! Autumn is the time to write…

I love starting a writing project in Autumn. For us here in the UK the weather is going to get more unpredictable, cold, wet, maybe snow, less chance of distraction, more time to write.

That’s all well and good, but what if you’re having trouble getting going. I was the same, before I started to write The Single Feather. Well, help is here!

Recently |I’ve been reading the rather wonderful, and extremely helpful – Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark. Packed with both technical and practical help, it also has exercises to help get you writing and writing well.

The section he has titled Useful Habits contains some no-nonsense tips for getting your bum on your seat and starting to work. Here I’ll list a few of the main points, with some thoughts.

1) Adopt a daily routine.
Many people stipulate a start and end time for writing each day. The reason why is to treat writing like you would a job, you clock on and you clock off. As you get used to the routine, your mind will similarly be getting used to it. It can be in the morning, evening, during the lunch hour, whenever. Just make sure it’s every day, and at the same time. As Roy Peter Clark says: ‘The key is to write rather than wait.’

2) Build in rewards
Maybe if you hit 1000 words a day you can have a treat? Or manage to work for X number of hours? Or maybe you can treat yourself after every two or three chapters, with an extra special treat for when you’ve completed your first draft? It works for lots of people.

3) Draft Sooner
Roy Peter Clark says: ‘Thorough research is a key to a writer’s success, but over-researching makes writing seem tougher. Write earlier in the process so you discover what you need.’

4)Discount Nothing
This is very important. Clark says:’Some days you’ll write many poor words. Other days you’ll write a few good words. The poor words may be the necessary path to the good words.’

5) Watch Your Language
Try not to talk about writers block, procrastination, fears or ‘this is rubbish’. Turn them into positive words or expressions. Procrastination can be a ‘rehearsal’. Fears can be ‘getting prepared’ and so on.

6) Set the Table
Clark says: ‘When work piles on my desk, I find it hard to stick to my fluent writing style. That is when I take a day to throw things away, answer messages, and prepare the altar for the next day of writing.’

7)Find a Rabbi
Clark is saying too much criticism weighs a writer down. We need it, but also we need to find people who will give us praise for our productivity and effort, and not the quality of the final work.
It helps you keep going, and gives you that boost needed to get you over the line.

8) Keep a Day-book/Journal
This is another very important point. When you are beginning to write, you will have ideas at any point during the day. I tend to get a lot of my ideas while I’m washing up. The shower is also a popular place for plot twists. Having something to write in, that’s with you all the time is so important. Make it your journal and private. So you feel safe to express ideas, test them out before rejecting them or taking them forward.

If you are starting out on a writing project, I really do recommend this book, and wish you well. I never ever thought at the start of writing The Single Feather, I’d get to a stage where I could have the second edition of the book in my hands. The-Single-Feather bookcoverfinalsecond edition photo

However, dreaming about that stage, and having people who believed in me helped me get my book published. Get some cheerleaders of your own, get a routine going, and a journal ready, then get writing! It really is the season to start. Good luck!

Are you starting a book or other writing project. Are you finding it easy to get going? Do you have any tips? Do use the comments section below.

Shhh! Revision ongoing, but coming up….

This blog has and will be a little quiet from now until October, mainly due to my end of year exams coming up in September. As The Single Feather was released in February, I haven’t been able to devote much time to my studies as I’ve been doing book signings, book groups, blog interviews and articles, with workshops coming up soon as well. So I’m feeling a tad worried I’m under-prepared for my university exams.

However, that isn’t to say the blog will be completely silent, as coming up there will be an interview with the lovely and talented Jane Isaac about her new novel Before it’s Too Late.

Also, a notable anti-austerity campaigner recently read and reviewed The Single Feather -and wants to do an interview with me, which will be hosted on this site.

Finally, I will be posting any material that gets published. This is mainly for my own benefit as it keeps everything in one place, however if you’re interested in inequality,disability and poverty you may find something you like amongst these articles.

Then in August I will be at my first Edinburgh books Festival  – so I may have a blog post with some photographs from there!

If, and that’s a big if, I pass my exams, I will be doing a year of Creative Writing study with the OU and ready and waiting, is my box folder full of ideas, chapter profiles, character studies and more for book number two which I hope to have ready by summer 2016.

Writers Block and the Birth of a New Idea.

For months, I’ve been struggling to find a solid enough idea, which is both workable, and has scope enough for a full, 100,000 word novel. Did I have the dreaded ‘writers block’?


I’ve been reading the rather wonderful, How to Fly a Horse by Kevin Ashton, which is all about creativity, and in this book he explores writers block. He uses as an example Woody Allen, who wrote a play called ‘Writers Block’ in which he took the lead role. One thing you can’t accuse Woody Allen of is writers block –  his productivity rate is incredibly high.

In How to Fly a Horse, Ashton focuses on why his productivity rate is so high, and first looks at what Allen said about ‘use of time’:

“I never like to let any time go unused. When I walk somewhere in the morning, I still plan what I’m going to think about, which problem I’m going to tackle. I must say, this morning I’m going to think of titles. When I get into the shower in the morning, I try to use that time, So much of my time is spent thinking because that’s the only way to tackle these writing problems.’

Note Allen doesn’t use ‘writers block’ they are ‘writing problems’.  When we talk of writers block it’s not that we can’t write, or type – it’s when we feel we can’t write something that’s good.  Ashton calls it  ‘write-something-I-think-is-good block’.  The cure then is clear – write something you think is bad.  I ended up writing in my journal, writing out potential ideas, crossing these out, going back to my journal. I wrote a lot of lists, all sorts of rubbish, but I knew in the back of my mind, it was still writing and after months of that, connections have come together and I now have a strong idea.

Woody Allen said: ” Tolstoy said in effect, “You have to dip your pen in blood.” I used to get at it early in the morning and work at it and stay at it, and write and rewrite and tear up my stuff and start over again. I came up with such a hard-line approach – I never waited for inspiration; I always had to go in and do it. You know, you gotta force it.”

So, what if you’re writing and you get stuck? What can you do?

Woody Allen found “any momentary change stimulates a fresh burst of mental energy.

Ashton also points out that much of writers block comes from worrying what others might think – so it could be called: ‘write-something-somebody-else-will-think-is-good block’ and so he urges us to take the Woody Allen approach and be indifferent. He doesn’t go to awards shows, and he even hasn’t been to see all of his own movies. He feels the work in itself is the biggest reward:

“When you sit down to write , it’s like eating the meal you’ve spent all day in the kitchen cooking.”

I’m not sure I could be so indifferent not when I’ve only written one book, but I hope I’m learning to enjoy the ride. Some  days won’t be great, some day’s will feel like I’m banging my head against the wall. However, when I’ve got a good idea, it’s the best feeling in the world.


How to Fly a Horse – The Secret History of Creation, Invention and Discovery by Kevin Ashton is published by William Heinemann, Random House.