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Showing posts from 2017

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One of the dilemmas that many unpublished, or even published, writers fall into is how to cope with differing advice.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.

Photo Inspiration for February

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Can you see me? I'm in this photo somewhere. I thought I'd have a little fun with this month's photo inspiration and use a moment from the pantomime my daughter and I performed in recently. 
What do you think? The night there was a power cut in the theatre? The pantomime characters escape? What does this inspire you to write?

What I'm doing this month - February

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Last month was stupidly busy and productive but as the days passed, it all felt like the tag end to 2016. There were strings to tie off, chores to finish and niggles to appease.

This month feels like the real start to the year. My job search has led me to a new path for not only my income but also my writing career. With a new contact in hand, I'm moving into copywriting as another string to my creative bow. Like the door at the end of the alleyway in the image (left), it all looks very promising but until I've stepped over the threshold I won't know exactly where I stand with this new development.

At the end of last month and the beginning of this, my daughter and I were involved in a pantomime with the local amateur dramatics group. We enjoyed it immensely, although we were exhausted by the time we helped pack everything away (scenery, props, even a mobility scooter). We made new friends and I rediscovered the buzz of performing. Returning to the stage has also reminded…

Photo Inspiration for January

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It's all a bit bleak out there at the moment. It seems to have rained every day in January so far where I live. Dog walks are short, pavement-bound and with my eyes downcast.

I took this photo on one of the few dry mornings we've had recently. The towering branches of the oak trees, dotted with crows, painted a picture of black on white. I always enjoy watching the crows which mass in these trees at the end of the road where I live.

What do you think? Depressing? Foreboding? Stark? Or do you find something inspirational and thoughtful in this image?

What does it inspire you to write?

My 2017 reading habit

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Last year I set myself a reading list of twelve books. I reckoned one book a month was doable  but unfortunately I failed abysmally. I managed three books over the year. Well, that's not totally true. I read three books from my list but also read several ARC books and draft novels for fellow writers. Still, I didn't meet the challenge I set for myself.

This year, I'm doing things differently. Rather than setting a list of books to read and ticking them off as finished, I'm going to add to my 'read' list on the right of this page as I finish each book. I'll review the novels that stand out as special too.

As writers, we need to read. It's the other side to our creativity. 2017 is going to see a lot of change in my life and committing to read as much as possible is one of those changes. Wish me luck.

What I'm doing this month - January

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This is the bandstand in the city where I live. It dates from 1913 and is still used as a regular performance space. This image perfectly represents how my life feels at the moment - an empty stage waiting to be filled with music and colour. I'm nervous about stepping out onto that stage but excited too.

You see this year is all about stepping up to new challenges, learning my lines and realising my roles. It isn't a complete change because I'm bringing the best from last year with me but I'm adding some new ideas too.

In January, I will be:
looking for a job (although continuing with my script writing business too),revamping my novel, Shadowbinder,rehearsing for and performing in a pantomime (my daughter is taking part too),and cleaning up my business website. It's going to be a nose-to-the-grindstone kind of month but that's ok. I need the exercise after all the festive indulgences. I foresee the need for lots of coffee.

Life in the New Year

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Many people have slammed the door on 2016 as a year of divisiveness, hate and loss. I have to agree that yes, it's been all of that, but for me it's also been a time of growth and realisation. Not all of that was comfortable, for the world or me personally, but no worthwhile change was ever achieved from a place of safety and comfort. Challenging times bring out the best in people.

The beginning of most years have felt like this - a blank page. I'm not a one for making new year resolutions (the spring always seems like a much better time for that) so I've kind of drifted into each new year with a vague sense of needing to make a change.
I've made the usual vows - eat healthier, exercise more, be a better person - but that has often felt like an empty effort. Shouldn't I be doing those things anyway? Perhaps that's the problem. This time of year excels at selling expectations. We should do this and we should get rid of that. I've always been uncomfortabl…