Happy New Writing Year 2014

I have been reading a number of writer’s blogs over the Christmas period and they have all written resolutions as to what they hope to achieve in the coming months with their writing. Last year for me would have been a good year to have set out a number of resolutions at the outset, but I didn’t get around to writing them down. I have decided to follow the same course of action for 2014. 

Even though I didn’t get around to making any resolutions last year, I can look back on the year as one with some degree of success and achievement. 

My writing highlights for 2013 are as follows.  

  • Taking part in the Pulp Idol writing challenge in Liverpool.  
  • Starting my MA in Creative Writing
  • Finishing NaNoWriMo for the second time 
  • Attending a number of writing workshops and writing groups over the course of the year

I think if I was to formulate a list for this year, I would hope to achieve a number of these again this year but I would maybe add the following:

  • Attend a writers retreat. 
  • Write more short stories and get them published.
  • Continue to enjoy the MA in Creative Writing. 
  • Attend more writing workshops.

Here’s looking forward to a creative and productive 2014.

End of Term Report (December 2013)

Well, somehow it’s December. Soon it will be Christmas. Even more significant than the aforementioned festivities, it’s also the end of the first module for my MA in Creative Writing. Back in September, when I wrote about my intentions to do an MA, I didn’t think that the first term would whistle by as quickly as this one has. I may be premature in writing and posting this about it being over. I still have a 3,000-word essay to write – due in January, but that’s all in hand…I think.

It has been an enjoyable experience. The staff and students that I have worked with have all made the Tuesday night sessions worthwhile attending. It is also inspiring (and daunting) to read some of the work from the cohort. It’s certainly of a high standard. 

The first module was not about the writing aspect as much; instead, it was devised to get the class to read from a selected reading list. Looking back it was an interesting and enjoyable experience to be given a reading list and told what to read, a few of the selections I would not have done so without being prompted. A few of the selections I was glad that I was, as I will now try and read other books from the authors. Some, not many, I think I won’t be going any further with the other works.  

The reading list for this modules was as follows: 

Patricia Highsmith – The Talented Mr Ripley.
Anthony Burgess – Time for a Tiger. 
Vladimir Nabokov – Pnin
VS Naipaul – Miguel Street.
Muriel Spark – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Russell Hoban – Riddley Walker.
Milan Kundera – The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Carol Shields – The Stone Diaries
Beryl Bainbridge – Master Georgie.
JM. Coetzee – Disgrace.

I enjoyed The Talented Mr Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith, which was the first one that we looked at. This is the first in a series and I may investigate the others in due course, but don’t ask my opinion of the film. I have never been a fan of Jude Law, who plays one of the central characters Dickie, so that may explain my antipathy to it. I didn’t really enjoy the adaption from book to film. 

The Anthony Burgess book A Time for Tiger, was so good that it I will try to read further books by him (I had only read A Clockwork Orange previously). I am also in the process of reading through the second and third parts of the trilogy for my essay. I am enjoying them as much as the first book. The genesis of most of what makes up the trilogy has seemingly been drawn from his life and very loosely fictionalised. This doesn’t detract from the accounts on any level. 

I enjoyed Pnin, by Nabokov. I had only previously read Lolita. This was a book that provoked great discussion in class, some hated it, I quite enjoyed. It was hard work, but some of the exquisite writing that made the hard work worthwhile. 

Muriel Spark’s, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was enjoyable and not too dated. It was nice to read about the Edinburgh of the author. Beryl Bainbridge’s, Master Georgie, likewise, even though it was set in a different time frame from the time that she was alive, what could be drawn from this book was a sense of place. Her descriptions of her home town at the outset were so vivid that you were drawn so easily to her account of the Crimea that came later in the book.  J.M. Coetzee’s, Disgrace was bleak at times, but I could see why it received the plaudits that it did. 

Miguel Street was an easier read after Pnin, but it wasn’t one that I full engaged with at the time. I’m sure that I will revisit it in the future. The same could be said of Ridley Walker. I had a week to read it and I don’t think that was conducive to enjoying it. The theme was something that I would normally go for, but it’s densely written and not designed to be skimmed through. I enjoyed two-thirds of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, before it fell away at the end. The film likewise is equally baggy.  

The book that I enjoyed without reservation was Carol Shields’, The Stone Diaries, this is an episodic book that details the lives of a family over the course of a century. Though don’t do what I did and turn to the family tree at the back of the back first, as it acts as something of plot spoiler. 

From the ten books I would say favourites were; The Stone Diaries, A Time for Tiger, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Master Georgie and Disgrace. 

Here’s to the next year of The Workshop module, when we have to present our own examples of writing. 

Thirty Days Later

For the second time in two years, I have just completed the November writing challenge, NaNoWriMo. Last year was a bit of struggle, as I battled the norovirus to complete it, this year didn’t throw up (pardon the pun) any challenges of that scale but it was still quite difficult to achieve the target given my increased commitments this year. 

The reason that I wanted to do it this year, more so than usual, was for the usual challenge but it was also to get a head start for the module of the MA that will see each member of the class present samples of their work in progress. As my course is three years, I am ahead of the game as a result of the last month, given the final year is about writing up the 60,000-word novel. 

For this year I had a theme that I wanted to write about – it was always going to be something relating to my interest in music. Right up to the start of my course, I didn’t really have an idea what I was going to do but that wasn’t a problem as I had a few weeks before NaNoWriMo came around and I could knock something into shape by then. Thankfully inspiration struck me on the way driving home from the Induction event. 

The challenge now is to go back and edit what has been written so far and shape it into something approaching how a novel should look. This has sadly not been the case with what I produced last year.  I think I will have a few days off from it and get the red pen out and get to work and putting a workable draft together. So far, I would say that this is draft 0.5 because I know it is littered with typos, literals and other horrors that I would be embarrassed to publish. 

No matter what state it is in, the position I’m in now, highlights the benefits of Nanowrimo, with the fact that I am 30 days along from having a blank page, to have written over 50, 000 words that can now be deleted, extended and corrected as I see fit. 

Though I am rather tired now, I can look back on the last month with some satisfaction. Given that the time is now 1am on Friday night/Saturday morning, God knows where I found the energy to put together this blog post, I suppose it shows that with the discipline of non-stop writing for a month, makes it easy to write when you need to. 



Nanowrimo is well established in the diaries of most writers.the challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel is one that many writers have accepted the task each year 

Some eventually make it the publication stage but many writers undo the good work of November by losing momentum in the months that follow. 

I have experience of that Nano attempt 1 is yet to be finished Nano 2 is being complete as aI write

Pick up in January when the nights are not too much to do. 

Thirty days later (November 2013)

NaNoWriMo 2013

Difficult First Album Word Doc

Given that I have signed up for a creative writing course, so far my writing has been minimal, to say the least. For that reason alone I have decided to get my act together by signing up NaNoWriMo again. 

Last year, I successfully completed the challenge for the first time; this was despite going down with a vomiting bug in the last week of the month-long challenge. That draft remains unfinished but will be returned too in due course. For now, I have decided on a new idea which goes under the working title of ‘Difficult First Album’ a concept that until now has been a title in search of a plot. That may be the case when the month is up. 

Ironically the plot/plan was formulated on the way home from the first session of my MA. I was jolted into action hearing how the other students had already written novels and had work published. The idea almost came to me as I walked back from the pub. In case I forgot it all, I jotted notes on my phone before I drove home. 

Most of those ideas I will be looking to develop as I draw together a plan for November. I am making use of a rare day off work – I’m on strike today (an official one I might add). So I have put the day without pay to good use by getting this together. 

So here’s to another month of nonstop writing and the same result as last year – minus the vomiting bug hopefully. 

MA In Creative writing

It had always been something that I had planned to do someday, September always came around and I managed to find some excuse for not doing it, usually that I was too busy at work or that I couldn’t afford it. This year I have put all excuses to one side and I have finally signed up for a creative writing MA. 

So why this year? One of the catalysts was the Pulp Idol Competition back in May where everyone who did well in the competition seemingly had done or was doing an MA in Creative Writing at Liverpool John Moores. This was an option as a place to apply to and I spoke to one of the lecturers about their course and he sold it to me perfectly well. 

There was only one place that I wanted to do it at and that was MMU in Manchester, given its good reputation and where it’s situated. Also what dissuaded me from doing it at Liverpool JMU was that I’d already previously studied there for my degree and masters. Though I enjoyed my time there, I wanted to experience working in a different academic establishment. 

The route that I am taking is part-time over three years, two years in class and one writing up the novel that forms part of the final project. 

For now, the first module, of the first term is Contemporary Novels, where there will not much writing to do, but we have been presented with a reading list of 10 books that we have to read in as many weeks. 

I’m genuinely pleased that from the list I have not read any of these particular books – I have read a couple of the author’s other works (Nabokov and Burgess) but this list will be a real journey of discovery.

First up is Patricia Highsmith’s, The Talented Mr Ripley followed by Anthony Burgess, Time for a Tiger. Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin. VS Naipaul, Miguel Street. Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker. Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Carol Shields, The Stone Diaries. Beryl Bainbridge, Master Georgie, and finally JM. Coetzee’s, Disgrace. 

Pulp Idol 2013

Pulp Idol heats 2013
Pulp Idol heats 2013

Liverpool is again staging its annual Writing on the Wall Festival and as usual, it has an array of interesting talks and events. There is also a writing competition as part of the festival called Pulp Idol, which is now in its fourth year. 

For years I have been meaning to enter this competition and this year was no different. The competition sees writers submitting the first chapter of their novel and then read out the chapter in front of an assembled panel of judges at a designated heat.  

The finalists work is then compiled into a compendium of work called ‘Firsts’, I read a couple of these in preparation for my submission, to see what styles had been successful in previous years. I decided to enter with a newer chapter of an idea I had on the back burner and not the one that I was working on for Nanowrimo last year. 

Having written up my chapter entitled ‘An Eighteen Year Winter’, I entered the competition and I was thankfully shortlisted for the heats which took place in The Kumaba Imani Centre in Liverpool. 

Though I made it to the heats, I wasn’t successful in reaching the final stages. Although it was disappointing not to proceed to the next stage (I could see why when reading my work again and from seeing the level of work produced by the other writers). The experience was worthwhile for the feedback received by the judges. I think this has been a worthwhile experience and one that will spur me on to go further with my writing.  

NaNoWrIMo 2012

An Eighteen Year Winter Word Doc

Well, thirty days have passed and despite the last week being laid up in bed with the norovirus, I have stumbled over the line and completed NaNoWriMo. It was a good job I was ahead of the word count before the bug hit, otherwise I would be writing about another NaNoWriMo failure. I didn’t post anything at the outset as I was in two minds whether I would it again this year. I also didn’t want to herald another failure. At the last minute, I decided to do it. Thankfully I did as I have now a draft completed. 

At this moment I have a feeling of elation, tiredness, and weakness (as a result of the illness). The first draft stands at 50, 067 words, though a quick scan of the finished draft suggests that some of that will be cut from the final version. 

The story arc is complete but I now need to give it a thorough edit. Given that it has been written at speed, my pages are awash with green and red squiggles that Word kindly uses to indicate the error of your ways.    

This is a long way from being publishable which I am under no illusions at this part of the process. I see this as the something to edit stage. This is more than I had at the start of the month. Which I suppose is the point of the exercise with Nanowrimo. 

Here’s to the editing process. Which I am assured is just as painful as sitting down to writing a novel. 

No NaNoWriMo 2010

NaNoWriMo Logo

My second post on this blog mentioned NaNoWriMo and how I had set myself the task of writing 50,000 words in the month of November.

Today is the halfway point and I should now be bragging about my achievements so far…Well the dog ate it, I left it on the bus… blah blah blah! excuses ad infinitum.

This year, like last year, I was probably a little presumptuous that the work situation would have calmed down by November. That has not been the case, if anything it has become increasingly busier.  So with great reluctance, that I have decided to wave the white flag and give up. The novel that everyone supposedly has in them (so the cliché goes) will sadly have to wait for another year.

Though I have written 5000 words for an academic paper in the last few days – though I doubt that will be able to count towards the Nano word count.

NaNoWriMo 2010

NaNoWriMo Logo

Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo and like last year I have tentatively signed up for it. For those that don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it is a novel writing challenge that sees you sign up to write a 50,000 novel in 30-days. Easier said than done? Well last year for me it was, as I struggled to make it over the 25,000-word barrier. This year after much delaying and dithering, I have signed up to it again. Probably expecting work to get in the way again.

Tonight, if I was on course I would be signing off with a daily total of 1667 – so far I have done everything else other than what I was supposed to be doing. Already my idea, one that I have figuratively blown the dust off for this year, is looking like it may be discarded for something else!

It’s still not too late to join in the fun/stress – you will no doubt catch up with my not be revealed paltry total so far. I can be found here on their site (I need to update this too).

If you are still undecided here’s an interesting article on the process of writing