Strange that a long overdue meeting with old friends should cause so much tension, but there it was. There were butterflies, sweaty palms and long sessions in front of the mirror beforehand. And, once there, half forgotten conflicts resurfaced…

“Hello Fatty.”

“Hello Moley.”

The two rivals paused, sizing each other up for their next attack.

“Not this again,” sighed Iris. “We’re supposed to be working together, remember?”

‘Fatty’ dismissed this. “It’s only our bit of fun.” But everyone knew it wasn’t.

“Did you hear what happened to Pegs?” asked Moley.



“Poor thing! And always so proud of having none too.”

“That’s what fat does to you.” This was said with a meaning look.

“Of course, there are worse disfigurements.” Another meaning look.

“Right, that’s it,” said Iris. “I’m communicating with head office.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“I would. Someone has to be the brains behind this operation.”

Moley shuddered. “Don’t say that word.”



“Why ever not?”

“Hysterectomy,” Moley whispered. “Sometime soon.”

“Oh dear.” Distress caused a temporary alliance.

“I know.”

“For a minute,” said Fatty, “I thought you meant they were going to whip a not so little something off.” The alliance was over. Moley bridled.

“Or suck something out?”

“Now see here…”

“I do,” interrupted Iris in a resigned voice. “I see far better than you. Head office wants a word.”

“Oh great.”

“Great indeed,” someone snapped. The ‘brains of the operation’ had arrived and was not happy. “I was busy minding my own business and trying to have a good time with my old friends, and now instead I’ve got to think about you. You should realise how unimportant and superficial you are. I can manage perfectly well with or without you, and I will even do fine without other, much bigger parts. Because I’m not defined by you. All that really matters is that I am me. The rest is just shell. Now stop bothering me with your insecurities, because I’m not going to waste anymore of my time worrying about you.”


How To Find Places To Submit Your Writing

With the ease in which authors can self publish now, I’m finding that many actually don’t know how to do it the traditional way. And by traditional I don’t necessarily mean sending your epic novel to Penguin Random House, getting a five figure advance and winning the Man Booker Prize. (Can’t be just me who has those dreams?) No, the simplest way to be traditionally published is to send a short story out to a literary magazine, whether online or printed, and be accepted. And it is a lot more likely.

I previously did a post on ten places to submit your writing, which many of you found helpful. The problem with any sort of list like that, though, is it eventually becomes outdated. But if you know how to find these places for yourself you can be more sure that your information is correct.

What’s the advantage of this compared to publishing your short stories on your blog?

Well, first of all, you might get paid. Yes, some magazines do actually pay authors for their work. Amounts vary, but we’ll take anything right? Secondly, if ever you do decide to submit that epic novel, you’ll be taken a lot more seriously if you have some publishing credits to list.

So, having (hopefully) convinced you to send out your short stories, how do you know where to send them?

My top tip is to sign up for Submittable. You will need to do this anyway as a large number of publications only accept submissions through their portal system. But while you’re at it, sign up for their monthly newsletter. Each one includes opportunities for writers and information on publishers seeking submissions. You can also find such information on their website.

Authors Publish magazine is also an excellent place to go. As the name suggests, they are dedicated to helping authors share their work. They too have a newsletter you can sign up for to get regular notices in your inbox of which publisher is looking for what type of writing. It also includes a helpful articles written by fellow authors on some aspect of writing. (Look out for the one in issue number 246. Just saying.)

Finally, a simple search engine enquiry can throw up some very interesting opportunities. Try to be as specific as possible though. Trust me, if you search ‘short story submissions’ you are going to come up with an awful lot of results to wade through. Which isn’t necessarily bad, but including extra information that’s important to you can really help narrow it down. So trying something like ‘short story submissions, UK’ or ‘short story submissions, free’ or ‘sci fi short story submissions’ can really help.

As always, I hope you’ve found this article useful. If you have any tried and tested ways that you use to find places to submit to, do add them in via the comments.

A Lesson on Self-doubt

I learned an important lesson last month. I decided I wanted to enter some short story competitions again, something I haven’t done in a while. One of the ones I looked at was asking for short stories and poems on the theme ‘dusk.’ Now, I’m not always very good at coming with a story on a particular theme. I wracked my brains on this one, but what actually came into my head was a narrative poem. I don’t as a rule write poetry, and I’m not too good at it. However, I thought if I wrote this poem it might clear my head for another idea, or a story might come out of it. So I did. And I thought it was okay. Maybe I would enter it after all. I put it aside to think about, and then decided it was rubbish. So I did nothing with it.

Then, the other day, I was scrolling through my notes and came across it. And it was actually pretty good! The only problem was, the deadline had passed just the day before. If I’d entered it, I probably wouldn’t have won anything. But I definitely won’t now! I wouldn’t have lost anything by trying. So that reminded me once again not to give in to the self doubt that is part of a writer’s life. Just send your work out. You never know.

The above post is an excerpt from the December edition of my newsletter. While it’s more for fans of my work than for new writers, whom I try to cater for on this blog, I am taking it in the slightly new direction of being a lot more open and honest about the ups and downs of my writing life. So if you enjoyed this post and think such experiences could help you, then do sign up for my monthly newsletter on the pop up form or the contact page.

What Makes a Real Writer?

‘I’d love to write a book if I had time’ is one of those comments that writers get regularly, and never fails to make them resolve to kill that person off in their next story. Once I even had someone tell me that, although now they did have the time to write, they just didn’t need the money anymore. I resisted telling them that that’s like someone who once appeared in their school nativity play saying they didn’t pursue their acting career because the fame would be inconvenient. So, can anyone who has the time write? What makes a real writer?

You all know what this first point is going to be. A real writer writes. They don’t have a choice. That’s whether they have the time or not. Because we can’t imagine not writing.

Of course, some writers come to it later in life, when they retire perhaps. And they do have time. But they still have to sit down and actually write something. They choose to do that with their spare time because that’s what they really want to do. Most people who say they would love to write a book if they had time will not do so, even when they do. Even if you sent them on a writer’s retreat for a month. That’s because writing is hard. It’s a lot harder than you know until you try. Which brings me to the next point. Yes, there is a next point. There any many quotes out there that say if you write then you’re a writer and that’s it. I disagree. I think there’s a little more to it…

Real writers finish. The hard part about writing is not starting a book. It’s finishing it. I remember when I began my first novel, I got to 13,000 words and thought I’d written half a book. I then looked up how many thousand words a novel normally is and realised I’d actually written less than a quarter. It can be a slow process and there is always a slump in the middle. The bit when you’re not sure if you can do this. Where you’re convinced the whole thing is the biggest load of drivel ever written. When you’re not sure where to go from here. Non writers drop their work at this point. Real writers work through it.

A real writer wants their work to be the best it can be. That means redrafting, rewriting and revising until your sick of it. It means editing until commas appear before your eyes when you shut them. It even means paying someone else to edit it if you’re struggling yourself. A real writer knows that the first version is only the beginning.

A real writer learns from other writers. That means reading. A lot. A writer never stops learning how to be better. Stephen King says that if you don’t have the time to read then neither do you have the time or the tools to write. And it’s true. So, if a writer is a reader, does that mean that a reader is also a writer? Often, yes. A love of words and books is usually manifest both ways. I was once told on a short story course that anyone who reads can write. But reading on its own isn’t enough. So if you read a lot and think you might like to write a book, make sure you are willing to do all the other things listed in this post too. Writing, real writing, is about perseverance.

Finally, a real writer shares their work. A friend recently expressed to me how brave she thought I had to be to send my work out. And it does take courage. But as I told my friend, no work of art is complete unless it has an audience. A beautiful picture that spends its life facing the wall is unfulfilled. There may be many examples of lyrical prose or heart wrenching stories in someone’s old exercise books, but they are never going to impact the world from there. And that’s what art should do. It should make the world a slightly different place to what it was without it. But it can only do that through its audience. And a writer can only get the true perspective of their work when it’s out in the world, standing on its own. That perspective is essential to improving as a writer. So if you have exercise books or a computer stuffed with stories that have never seen the light of day, take the final step to becoming a real writer and send them out into the world.

I hope this post has helped you realise that you are a real writer. And if it hasn’t, at least you know never to say to one that you would love to write a book if you had the time.

How Do You Know Which Writing Methods are Right For You?

There are many different ways to write. There are plotters and pantsers, writers who type straight off, writers who do it all by hand first. Writers who don’t look back until the first draft is finished, writers who perfect each section as they go. How do you know which methods are right for you?

Part of it has to be trial and error. So don’t be afraid to try different methods. I always used to type everything straight away. Then I had a great idea for a story as I was about to climb into the bath. I didn’t dare take my tablet in with me, so I took a notebook. And I found the whole thing flowed better and I was less caught up in things like punctuation. Now I usually write my words out on paper first. So just because you’ve been using one method for ages doesn’t mean another won’t work as well or better. So give it a go.

Another help to deciding what methods will work for you is self knowledge. I’m a pantser for two reasons. Firstly, because I know making detailed lists and character studies would bore me and keep me away from the actual writing. Secondly, I know that part of the fun of writing for me is to find these things out as I go along. I like to get to know my characters gradually, in the same way that the reader will. And the scenes that are unplanned, that arise out of my subconscious, are always my favourites.

Having said all that, some methods will depend on what you’re writing. My last manuscript jumped back and forth between past and present, and the timing was quite complicated as it had to align with some real historical events. So I made myself a timeline, something I would never ordinarily do. One of my future projects will need each chapter to be (roughly) outlined to make it dovetail together properly. But for my current project I just know basically what I want to happen, and there’s a few scenes in my head, otherwise I’m just going for it.

You also need to recognise that in this case there is no wrong or right way to do it. All writers are different. The oddest method I’ve ever heard was Lin Anderson’s. She starts with one scene, always a crime scene. When she starts she has no idea how it will end. And she just writes a chapter at a time, only starting the next one when the previous is polished and ready. I’ve never heard of any writer doing it that way before, but clearly it works for her as she has had multiple works published. So don’t be afraid to come up with your own, unique method.

Do you have any interesting writing methods? I’d love to hear them! Feel free to leave a comment.

A Week Without Social Media

How does a week of no internet affect my writing?

Day One

Post a message on Instagram to let everyone know I will be away for a week, though I don’t bother with my other social media platforms. I’m not so popular on any of them.

On the way to the holiday cottage, I have a sudden thought that I might have forgotten my phone. It’s a thought that happens fairly regularly, but this time it’s unaccompanied by the usual panic. I don’t bother to check. It doesn’t really matter if I have it or not. There’s no internet or even phone signal at the cottage. So I just lean back and go to sleep. It’s oddly freeing.

Day Two

I’ve already read two books and written a review for another. I’ve also had a nap, watched a film, had a walk by the sea and cooked a nice dinner. Not missing social media yet.

Day Three

My new book isn’t quite so gripping as the last two, plus I’ve taken some good bookstagram pictures, so I wouldn’t object to a few minutes on social media. I’ve also submitted a few short stories lately and want to see if there’s been a response to either of them, though it’s probably too soon really. Nevertheless, I can’t resist quickly checking my messages in a nearby coffee shop. But there’s nothing of much interest. Although, curiously, I’ve had an influx of blog followers, even though I haven’t posted in quite some time now. Examine my stats, but am unable to find a reason. Still, it’s good to know people are still reading my blog even though I’m not promoting it.

Finish book number three and write a blog post and part of my next newsletter.

Day Four

Have written three more blog posts. Feeling really good about getting ahead. Normally I would also make some visuals to promote them on social media, but for that I require internet. So that’s slightly frustrating, until I remember that I can just use my own photos or simply some text. Have some fun doing that. My phone now needs charging. First time in two days. Finish book four and write a review.

Day Five

Feel like I really ought not to start a new book yet as have so far written a good many blog posts but absolutely no new chapters for my WIP. So I must do that today. Not this morning though, as I didn’t wake up until 10:45. It is now 11:30, I’m still in bed and we are going out for lunch. I believe we are planning to take a walk afterwards, but when we get back I will settle in front of the fire with a warming drink and possibly a slice of cake and write my book. I do like holidays.

Finished book five. Didn’t do anything to my WIP. Whoops. I did write a short story to feature in my next newsletter though.

Day Six

Got up a bit earlier today. Hubby is getting restless and wants to actually wants to do something today. Outside. So we have decided to visit an aquarium. Which sounds like great fun and perhaps could even inspire a story. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway. Not sure what that means for working on my WIP.

Never made it to the aquarium, it was closed. So we looked around Duff House instead. A stately mansion and art gallery that made me feel very uncultured. A tour guide pounced on us in one room and asked if we’d spotted the painting that was worth more than the house. I said not yet to point out that we’d only been on the room about thirty seconds. Then felt incumbent on me to guess, which I did without success. She pointed us towards an original El Greco painting of St Jerome. Apparently it’s worth around ten million pounds. Sadly it merely confirmed my conviction that I have no real soul for art. Although there was a Picasso which I enjoyed- Soles I think it was called- and a Lavery, which was my favourite.

There’s something peculiarly exhausting about looking round old houses. When we get back to the cottage I take a gin and tonic to bed and prepare to work on my WIP. Only to find that the full manuscript is not downloaded from the cloud and I can’t do that with no internet. (According to the file I haven’t opened it since the beginning of July, which shocks me. But then, I have moved house and released another book since then.) And I can’t quite remember where I’d got to. But I write a scene anyway and hope it fits.

Day Seven

Finish book six. Then go to a coffee shop with wifi just so I can download manuscript. iPad has been disconnected from the internet for so long that it’s agonisingly slow. But we get there in the end.

Have had slightly panicked text message from sister asking if we are ok. I’m sure I told her we would have no internet this week but seems she didn’t expect us to drop so completely off the grid. Interesting aspect of modern life that if you’re not posting on social media then you could be dead.

Do quite a lot of work to my WIP before dinner. Finally get past the wedding, which means I’m about a third of the way through. Slightly worried that the whole thing is really boring. But I always get that feeling.

Day Eight

Finished book seven late last night, then didn’t get off to sleep very well. Maybe it was the seafood for dinner. Hubby chooses this morning to wake up really early. Resolved not to read another book today but concentrate on my writing and get an early night, which I actually stick too.

It’s back to normal tomorrow. I’m looking forward to having the internet again, looking forward to sharing what I’ve been up to this week. On the other hand, it’s good to know that I can quite easily go for a week without social media. I’m not dependent on it. I don’t need the likes and comments to tell me how interesting I am. Has it boosted my productivity though?

Well, I’ve certainly read more. But then, why is lounging on the sofa with a book considered better than scrolling through Instagram or Twitter? Social media teaches me just as much about other people and places and social issues as reading does, perhaps more. I’ve found that if I don’t stay up late reading articles on Facebook I’ll stay up even later reading a book. Part of that has been knowing I don’t have to get up in the morning, but it’s mostly that a book is more gripping to me than social media can ever be. And that forces me to the conclusion that social media isn’t limiting my productivity.

On social media I quite quickly run out of things to do. So actually, if I want to write more, then I need to read a bit less. It’s not the conclusion I thought I’d come to at the beginning of the week. I thought I’d get so much writing done without the big distraction of the internet. And I have done a lot. But I think that’s more due to having so much extra time. The time I would have spent on the internet I’ve not spent writing. I’ve read and watched TV and gone for walks on the beach. Social media isn’t limiting my productivity, I am. I need to be stricter with myself, to get on and do it. Write when I don’t feel like it. So this experiment was definitely worth it, if only for that little bit of self knowledge.

What I Learned from my Book Launch

Last week I launched my first independently published book, a collection of 12 short stories with diary extracts, taking you on my journey from unpublished writer to debut novelist. As you will have gathered from this masterly description, although it was my first self published book, it was not my first published book. My teen novel, Victoria’s Victorian Victory, was released last year by Rainy Day Reads Publishing. The thing with this, though, is that they launched the book. I let everyone know on social media, but that was the end of my role really. With my new book, is was all down to me. Perhaps because of that, I staged a rather elaborate launch across all of my platforms. Some things I got very right, some things I got a little wrong. As you know, I always like to share my experiences so other writers can use them. So here’s what I learned:

You will have to give away quite a few paperbacks.

I staged paperback as well as eBook giveaways across all of my social media sites. I also sent one out to each of my market research team. Doing so created a buzz on the day, with lots of people entering the competitions. Over 4000 people saw my post on twitter alone. Having said that, many of these will be giveaway accounts. It’s a good idea to exclude these if you want someone to win the book who really wants it. If you’re not bothered about that and just want the publicity then it’s a great tool.

Sending out paperbacks also keeps the momentum going. As everyone starts to receive their free paperbacks they will likely post about it on their social media for you. They may also give you a great review.

Make sure you get the book absolutely right.

If you’re going to make a big fuss on your launch day, you need to make sure the book is worth fussing over. People will be quick to spot all hype with no substance. Make sure the eBook and paperback are both the best you can make them. It’s a good idea to get a proof of the paperback sent to you beforehand to check if you can. This really pays off though. I’ve had a lot of great comments on the quality of my paperback in particular.

Have some advance reviews to share. This tells people, not only that your book is now available to buy, but why they should buy it. I only had a couple, and I shared them the day after the launch, but they made a big difference.

Use videos to get more views. People on social media like videos. They are more personal, they get to see and hear you, and they still have a certain novelty about them. The two videos I posted to Instagram, one telling everyone what was happening, the other doing a short reading from the new book, got more interaction than any of the other things I posted that day. I also did a Facebook live session. I’ll be honest, not many people tuned in for that and it was slightly off-putting. I think I did it too early in the day. However, I needn’t have worried- lots of people have watched it on playback. However, next time I do a live video I may try it on Instagram. Instagram sends out a notification to all your followers that you are live. So we will see if that works better.

Don’t expect huge sales straight away. Unless you’re spending a lot of money on advertising, these things take time. They build like a snowball. For now, lots of people on social media are hearing how great my new book is. Some bought it straight away. More will follow. Interestingly, I’ve also seen an increase of sales for my novel. I guess if people like one book then they are more likely to buy the other.

As always, I hope you find that helpful, and please feel free to add your experiences in the comments.

New Book Cover Reveal!

If you follow this blog or my social media, you’re probably aware that I’ll be releasing my very own short story collection in October. So obviously I’ve been working very hard getting it right for you, and the cover is finally ready for the big reveal! (Though newsletter subscribers have already seen it…) Anyway, here it is:

And the back:

There’s all sorts of great giveaways, readings and events planned for release day, so make sure you’re following me on Instagram and/or Twitter (username for both is @abiwriting), or signed up to my newsletter, so as not to miss out!

Moving Experiences

“It’s exhausting moving house,” I remarked to hubby this evening. And indeed, I really think it is the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done. Even more so than getting married. It’s not just the packing, lugging about and unpacking of innumerable boxes. In fact, the moving day itself was the easiest of the lot. Several family members came to help, and by 7:00 we were all sat outside in the sunshine eating the most enormous Indian takeaway you have ever seen.

No, the next day, wherein we had to go back to the old house and get it cleaned up for the new occupier, was by far worse. Is there anything more dismal than a house with all your furniture and belongings moved out of it? And is it just me who suddenly realises that they really ought to have vacuumed under the bed and behind the fridge semi-occasionally? I was never more embarrassed when my mother and father in law removed these particular items and revealed what was underneath. I fleetingly resolved to spend less time reading and writing and more time on housework. I say fleetingly because I’m now starting to think it would be easier just to never move house ever again.

Anyway, once the old house was ready to hand over, it was time to concentrate on the new one. A few new items of furniture being needed, we set forth to IKEA, and five hours and four trolleys later we congratulated ourselves in having remembered everything. We subsequently discovered that our new dining room table came in two boxes, of which we only had the second one. So we had to go again, which somehow ended up being another five hours and a further two trolleys. I think we have almost everything now…

IKEA is a delightful place, but it does pall when all the muscles in your feet ache. And then when you get home you still have to assemble the furniture. Hubby is complaining of ‘Allen key arm.’ But I was very good and didn’t get upset when he made a mistake with the console table and left four little holes evenly spaced all along the front.

We have also done seven trips to the recycling centre with all the resulting cardboard from said furniture and the boxes. However, we love our little tiny house and are finally starting to get organised. I’ve arranged my new bookshelves by colour. And I’ve finally even found time to write a blog post.

What To Do Before You Publish Your Book

There’s nothing that feels flatter than sending your hard work out into the world, only to realise that your audience is either indifferent, or worse, nonexistent. The problem is, many authors make the mistake of thinking that it’s enough to develop a small social media following and then do one or two posts about their book release immediately before or during publication. But in fact, only a very small percentage of your social media followers will rush out and buy your book. There are just so many authors out there, only a millionaire could buy every book advertised on their social media the moment it’s released. So you need to build excitement for your book and show people why they need to read it. Here’s a few suggestions on how to do this:

1) Grow an email list. Please, if you’re releasing books that are barely making a ripple in the sea of social media, put your pen down and create a smaller pond. Yes, it takes time away from writing. You may have to release your book a few months later. But it’s worth it. People on your email list are far more likely to buy your book than people on your social media.

2) Get your audience involved. Ask your email list and/or social media to help you name a character, choose a title, or critique a blurb. Readers will enjoy a book they feel they’ve had a part in making so much more.

3) Release regular updates. As parts of your book become finalised, such as the cover, keep your audience informed of its progress. This not only keeps everyone updated and creates anticipation, it gives people multiple opportunities to see that you have a book coming out.

4) Get advance reviews. I really regret not doing this for Victoria’s Victorian Victory. I meant to, just a weird combination of circumstances meant I couldn’t. But what that means is you have to wait for reviews until after your release day. Which means you can’t tell everyone what great things others are saying about the book to build excitement on the release day itself. And those who do buy your book that day will likely take a week or two to read and review it. By that time, most people have forgotten about your book release. Harsh, but true.

5) Do a blog tour. This is something I did do. Ask a few bloggers you know to host you on their sites. I had five or six guest blog posts lined up, and the lovely ladies who published them for me kindly staggered them to go out every two days leading up to my book release. It got me a lot of great exposure.

6) Send out a press release. It doesn’t cost anything to email a press release to your local paper, but it may result in some great free advertising if they take up the story. And if they don’t, what have you lost?

I hope those are some helpful suggestions. Remember, releasing a book is a big, exciting thing. Treat every book you publish as special. Make a fuss. Because if you don’t, no one else will.