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Showing posts from 2017

Stories are everywhere

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A couple of weekends ago, I took my teens to a local artisan market, the Makers Market at Chester. I bribed them both with a fiver to spend and they happily pootled round the market with me.

Near the entrance of the market, I spotted an artist's stall when we first arrived. In our new house, we'll need some new artwork and there were all kind of gorgeous prints to choose from.

Donning my sensible hat though, I decided to save my money until I'd been round the rest of the market.

If you ever have the chance to visit a Makers Market (and that's your kind of thing - food, handcrafted goods, artwork), then get yourself along there. My teens were especially impressed with the  macaroons and burgers.

By the time we got back to the entrance, on the way out, I half expected that the one print that had really caught my eye would be gone, but I was in luck.

If I'm like a kid in the proverbial sweet shop with stationery and books, then artwork comes a close third.

As I was l…

What I'm doing this month - October

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It's cold. My coat is rarely off my back, the garden has gone into hibernation, and my feet are freezing all the time.

I finally gave in and switched the central heating on yesterday. My feet are still cold. I may have to buy slippers.

It's going to be a weird month as 'real life' takes over. Well, not so much real as mundane and non writing.

The house purchase has progressed, although no dates are firm as yet, so that frantic decluttering I mentioned this time last month has become even more frantic. Frantic-er? Is that a word? It is now.

You know in the film Top Gun where Tom Cruise's character Maverick and his friend Goose say, "I feel the need, the need for speed"? Well, I feel the need, the need for obsessive and to within an inch of its life organisational skills at the moment. Energy would be good too but I've given up caffeine.

This is probably the last full month I'll have in this house so along with the household organising, declutterin…

6 reasons I keep a Bullet Journal

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Need a new way to organise your year, diary and thoughts? A bullet journal could be just the thing.
A couple of weeks into 2017, I came across a magazine article about an organisational tool that I hadn’t heard of before – a bullet journal. It sounded ideal so I turned to my best friend online, Google to find out more.
Whoa! The internet was teeming with entries on bullet journals – how to start one, how to organise one, where to buy one, and how to make your bullet journal look adorably stylish. How had I not come across this before?
If you’re a bullet journal virgin like I was, then let me explain.
A bullet journal is an organisational tool that captures your to-do-list, diary, thoughts and really anything else you need to capture, in a written format, i.e. a notebook, not a computer file.
How to Bullet Journal from bulletjournal.com
“A notebook?” I hear you say. “Isn’t that, well, old-fashioned and time-consuming? I can keep all that information on my phone and computer.”
Maybe you …

What I'm doing this month - September

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September always a marks a new start to the year for me as my offspring return to school after the long summer break and I get my days back.

Launching my new business

This year is an especially fresh start as I begin to develop my copywriting business.

Back in February, I started down the freelance copywriter path, writing in-house material, sales emails and other goodies for a local business.

Over the summer break, I delved into the world of copywriting a little further by seeking out relevant training and joining a number of online business groups. There is so much brilliant advice out there already from existing copywriters and business owners, that it's been easy, and fun, to put together a support network of helpful mentors. After all, who better to ask then the individuals who have already done it?

Now, with my domain purchased, I'm ready to set up my copywriting business proper, website and all.

'Watch this space' as they say, for future news of the launch of my…

Photo Inspiration for August

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This month's photo inspiration is a little different. It's actually an old slide taken in the 1960s.
What do you think? What can you tell about the inhabitants of this home? Who could live here? What would their story be? Happy or sad? 
Who is behind the camera? Why is this slide being taken? 
The room is empty (apart from the person behind the camera). Where is everyone?
Is this a wealthy house? Up to date (at the time)? Well-loved?
What story would this image inspire you to write?

Something Useful for 2017 - Exercise No. 25

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The first writing exercise of 2017 from me and it's August already. How did that happen?

This month's writing exercise is about summer, or rather what summer means to you.

For me, the summer is largely taken up with the school summer break - 6 or 7 weeks when my teens are away from school and my work has to take a sideways shunt to accommodate day trips and refereeing arguments.

I also have to feed them but since we bought a new sandwich toaster, they're sorting their own lunches out by experimenting with hot sandwich fillings. Ingredients to date have included ham, bacon, cheese, bananas, peanut butter, chocolate and jam. I'll let you guess at what combinations they've concocted so far.

So, back to the writing exercise. Summer. What does it mean to you? Does it even register in your busy life other than a change of wardrobe? Do you like summer skies or do you prefer the winter winds?

Write a piece about summer from someone else's perspective:
A single parent …

What I'm Doing This Month - August

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August is always a mixture of a month. On the one hand, it's summer break and my teenage monsters are off school. They're of an age to keep themselves and each other happy (aside from the bickering) but I try to get them out of the house (and away from their computers) most days. They're good company, and with our dog in tow for some of those outings, I enjoy our summer adventures.
The downside is that my work schedule is massively interrupted. I'm lucky to be self employed, working from home and able to arrange my hours around my family, but it means early work before everyone else is up, and working some evening hours too. 
So, aside from the adventures, I'll be juggling my time this month to include: ongoing copywriting work along with some training I'm taking on the subject too,finding new clients for my scriptwriting business plus adding more value to my existing clients,working on my novel, andinvestigating setting up a new writer/copywriting website. On …

Can I? Can I? Yes, I Canva!

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Creating quality images for my blog posts and website has always been a bit hit and miss for me, so when a friend introduced me to Canva I was delighted.

Canva is a "free graphic design tool website". You can create all kind of  graphics on there, such as social media images, letterhead, certificates, books covers, and marketing flyers.

What's more, it also provides royalty free images and photographs for no charge, along with shapes, frames, layouts, fonts and backgrounds. Having said that, if you can't find exactly what you want then you can pay for additional items.

Of course, you can always upload your own images, which is what I've mostly done.

There are a lot of Canva tutorials available, both on the website and posted online by users too, but I found Canva easy to pick up with a little trial and error.

So far, I've created images for Pinterest, photo galleries, email headers, and blog posts, along with my 2017 vision board.

It's free to join, free …

Book Review: Watling Street by John Higgs

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When the Who Do You Think You Are magazine gave me the opportunity to review Watling Street by John Higgs, I jumped at the chance.

British history, especially history from the point of view of the people, has always been one of my favourite topics to read. Add to that, the chance to get a free book and what's not to like?

I initially received a paperback proof copy of the novel  but a few weeks later, courtesy of Higgs' publisher Orion Books, a beautiful hardback copy arrived too, this time full of maps and photographs that hadn't figured in the proof copy.

The colourful cover perfectly captures the contents of this book with its witty combination of the past, national identity and more recent pop culture (the Tardis is my personal favourite).

According to the accompanying press release,

Watling Street is a road of witches and ghosts, of queens and highwaymen, of history and myth, of Chaucer, Dickens and James Bond. Armies from Rome arrived and straightened this 444 kilome…

Photo Inspiration for July

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I haven't posted photo inspiration for a few months now (sorry about that) so I thought I'd return to it with a summer shot.

This is a seaside telescope, all ready for someone to pop in a coin and have a look.

Who do you think might use this? Are they alone? What are they looking for? What do they see through the lens?

Choice Words for July

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I'm on the countdown to the school summer holidays and I know that once my two are at home all day, my writing time will be eaten into by trips out and requests for food, drinks or to watch one of their latest animations or memes. So advice on how to keep writing thoughout those six weeks is always welcome.

Julia Munroe Martin's article on Writer unBoxed, Survival Pack or How to Keep Writing No Matter What is ideal.

And just as a little extra for you this month, Em Lynas' article Who Is Driving Your Story? is well worth a read. Have a look.


What I'm doing this month - July

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Yes, you've guessed it. July is going to be another busy month for me, doubly so because my children's summer break begins towards the end of this month - argh!

Murdering The Text

The June target was to complete all the changes to the Murdering The Text website before July started. Did I do that? No!

To be fair, I got a lot of the changes finished but two things happened to stall my progress.

One, as I made the changes, I thought of better ways to improve the website so the planned changes took longer.

Two, I came up with more changes to make. They're all good ideas but they'll take extra time to put into place.

So the 'new' plan is to finish the changes to the website before school breaks up for the summer.

There's a slight complicating factor though - I've come up with a new marketing plan for the website. I want to start it right now but I know that I need the website to be as good as it can be before I begin to attract new peeps to it. I desperately…

Watching the Midsummer Watch

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This last weekend, I persuaded my family to head into Chester to watch a local parade.

The Midsummer Watch, obviously linked to midsummer's day, is one of Britain's oldest festivals apparently, dating back 500 years to medieval and Tudor Chester. You can find out more about it here.

According to an extract from the  Book of Days,

The pageants became general in the reigns of the Tudors and Stuarts .. and have, like their predecessors the mysteries, their relation to English drama; not only were they composed for the purpose of flattering and complimenting their princes, but a moral end was constantly kept in view; virtue was applauded, while vice was set forth in its most revolting and unpleasing colours; and the altercation between these two leading personages often afforded the populace the highest amusement.

The day was sunny and the square outside the town hall wasn't as busy as I thought it would be, although there was a cheerful, family crowd waiting for the parade to…

7 ways to cope with hot weather when you work from home

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Summer is here. The birds are singing, the grass is rampant and the temperatures are rising. Joy, joy, joy.

Well, not if you work from home like me. Weekends are wonderful but my working week is dominated by the heat. My husband moans about how cold the air conditioning at his office is, while I melt as I type away at home.

So, how do you cope if the weather is gloriously hot but you're a home-based worker?

Stay hydrated

I'm a big coffee drinker but in this weather that amount of caffeine really doesn't help. In hot weather, I limit myself to a mug of coffee first thing (for me that's around 6.00 am before the rest of the household stirs). After that, I stick to water.

Now I know what you're saying, "water is boring". I can't completely disagree with you there. It doesn't taste of anything. I add a little variation by dabbling in sparkling water on occasion, and if you like you can add a dash of lemon juice, but it's the water bit that's g…

Choice Words for June

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One of the dilemmas that many unpublished, or even published, writers fall into is how to cope with differing advice. One agent says this about your manuscript, another says something completely different. One publishing company expresses their slant on what is market-worthy fiction, while a competing publisher disagrees. Even editors and writing coaches don't see eye-to-eye.

Who can you listen to? For me, the answer usually lies with other writers, the people who have gone through the grindmill and hammered it into submission. One such writer is Chuck Wendig, novelist, screenwriter, and game designer.

For me personally, his website terribleminds is a delight to read and darn-right useful too. A recent offering - A Hot Steaming Sack of Business Advice for Writers is just what I needed at the moment. Have a read.


Have you heard of CreativeMornings?

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The writer Iain Broome first drew my attention to 'Creative Mornings' when the CreativeMornings chapter in his home town opened.

Have you heard of Creative Mornings before? I hadn't.

Here's what it says on their website.

CreativeMornings is a breakfast lecture series for the creative community. Our free, monthly events feature a short talk and breakfast!

CreativeMornings are held in over 170 cities all over the world, from Sheffield (Iain's hometown), to New York, to Barcelona and Johannesburg. Click on the links to see the chapters for those cities.

What is CreativeMornings?
Now, unfortunately, there isn't a meeting near me but what's great about CreativeMornings is that each lecture, from all those cities, is accessible through the CreativeMornings website.

Here's a recent lecture, by Mr Bingo, that I love - 37 things that I have learnt.

Each month there's a theme. The theme for June is 'Survival'.

What appealed to me most about CreativeMor…

What I'm doing this month - June

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Tick tock, tick tock. It's going to be a busy month for me this time round which isn't a  bad thing. It just needs a whole load of preparation and many many cups of coffee.

That Work-y Thing

The Murdering The Text website is still undergoing a lot of changes and my deadline is to finish them all by the end of June, in time to start on a new play in July.

The copywriting work is still ongoing. I'm learning so much with each piece I write, both about the writing craft, what kind of copy sells, and how to work to client-imposed conditions and deadlines. I can already see that what I've learnt will benefit Murdering The Text.

Novel

With my latest murder mystery play out of the way last month, I can concentrate on writing my novel on an evening. This will be the final draft and I have definite plans about what to do with it once it's finished.

What else

June is the birthday month for both my son and my husband two days apart (one of them's due to become a teenager - g…

My inspiration walk

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At the end of the road where I live is a fenced area of grass. It isn't very big but it houses a family of immense oak trees and a scattering of bushes and rowan trees.

Most mornings you will find me there, walking my dog, perhaps talking to other dog-walkers, or just on my own with my pooch.

There are roads on two sides of it, houses on the other, and I can hear the traffic and the airplanes from the nearby airfield. This is no countryside haven but it's one of the places where I go to think. It is my inspiration walk.

As I follow my dog between the grey trunks of the oak trees, I think. Sometimes, I don't purposefully think. I just let my mind run away with me or I listen to the birds in the trees. I breathe in the air and allow myself to be.

More likely than not, an answer will come to me when I'm walking there, or an idea, even if I'm not thinking about anything.

I know that not everyone has such a place to go to. In fact, not everyone likes being in nature. W…

What I'm doing this month - May

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It's almost summer. How did that happen? I'm not complaining. My dog walks are more pleasant when I don't have to drag the pooch through the rain, and it's nice not to be bundled up in jumpers and big coats.
Last week, I finished the murder mystery play I was writing and that'll soon be winging (or whatever emails do) its way to its client. More news about that later this year.
This month, the copywriting continues and, after the month and a half of murder mystery-ing, I can return to my novel. 
The birds are singing, the air is sweet, and life is good. What are you doing this May?

Choice Words for April

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Although I'm working on the latest draft of the first novel in a series, I'm aware that I really need to finish the plot for the whole series. I've even bought an A3 pad for this purpose.

Shaunta Grimes of the Writing Co-operative has come up with a different approach - a plot board. Have a look at her article, How to make a plot board, to find out how she did it.


What I'm doing this month - April

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Yes, that's the same image that I used for March. April will be much the same as last month.

Murdering The Text

This month, I'm concentrating on finishing my twenty year anniversary murder mystery. It's still as yet untitled but already the characters are sharing their stories. I can tell the writing process is going well when I can picture the characters moving through the play on-stage. Once the script is finished, that isn't the end of it. I then have to put together character histories, motive sheets and a guidebook for the director.

Copywriting

I'm now firmly settled into this career path. I have one main client for now which is fine while I gain valuable experience. I do wonder why I didn't try this out before now.

Apart from that, I'll be enjoying the spring weather and getting the family out and about over the Easter break. There'll be chocolate eggs and dog walking, not a bad combination. See you next month.

Choice words for March

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Back in January and February, I returned to an old love of mine - acting. It was a small part in a pantomime, and it's definitely not the most attractive I've ever looked, but I enjoyed it immensely.

It wasn't until after the show had finished that I realised how acting on the stage had sharpened my scriptwriting skills, reminding me how my plays felt to perform and looked to the audience.

Fellow writer Nick Cross came to a similar conclusion recently. His blog post Can Acting Make You A Better Writer? appears on the Notes from the Slushpile site. Have a look.

Resetting my Mindset

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I've always had a specific approach to getting writing done. I write. Then I wander around, get a coffee, do some housework, while I think about the next stage in my my writing. Then I write some more. I've always done that, whether working on a play, my novel or these blog posts, and it's been an effective way to get things done in the past.

It doesn't work, however, when you're writing to a time limit. I have 20 minutes to write this email, or I have an hour and a half to turn this bullet list into an informative piece on productivity, all under the remit of a client.

When it's my own time, it's fine to have those 'brainstorm' walks but when I'm writing for a client who doesn't want to pay for any more time than they have to, the wanderings are out of the question.

It's a new puzzle to solve. I need more focus within a tighter time frame. I have to 'parent' myself like I do my children as I drag them through the door each morn…

Photo Inspiration for March

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This month's photo inspiration is a snapshot from my family life. I saved this photo on my computer as 'shopping trip' but it could be so much more. What do you think? What clues can you find to a new story?

What I'm doing this month - March

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After an introductory month to my new role as freelance copywriter in February, I'm now set firmly on the course of this fresh career path. With plenty of work on the way, I'm enjoying the challenge of writing for a different arena. Writing to order isn't new for me. Plenty of my murder mystery plays were commissioned by customers. Being economic with time and wordcount, however, is something that I haven't had to deal with much in the past but it's a new development that I'm relishing.

Murdering The Text

This year, I will have been writing murder mystery plays for twenty years. Twenty years! How did that happen? To celebrate this impressive anniversary, I'm writing a new, as yet untitled murder mystery that relates back to the original script that started this journey. I already have a cast, a setting and a decade (the 1980s). I'll let you know when the script is finished and ready to be performed.

Shadowbinder

I'm still working on the re-write of m…

Choice Words for February

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One of the downfalls of working on my novel over such a long period of time is that I can lose track of all the changes that have happened over the numerous drafts. More than that, I can forget to add the knock-on changes and repercussions of altering characters and plot lines.

In her article How To Create An Editorial Map, Janice Hardy provides a straightforward and valuable approach to re-drafting and editing your novel. Have a look.


Murdering The Text is 20 years old

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20 years! Started with a friend back in 1997 as a way to raise much needed funds for the amateur dramatics group we were part of, I never envisioned that I would still be penning murder mystery plays for an ever increasing number of customers in the UK and beyond by the time we hit 2017.

To celebrate this impressive anniversary, Murdering The Text will release a brand new, murder mystery script later this year, a theatrical nod back to our original play, The Tangled Web.

Happy birth-year Murdering The Text.