Category Archives: writing challenge

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – March Roundup

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How have I got on with my writing, reading and blogging targets now that we are a quarter of the way into 2017?

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
Complete my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest in response to some very detailed advice on how to improve it by an agent during the submission process. I had intended to have it completed by now, but got seriously stalled halfway through December…
This month has seen me going through the manuscript after a fortnight’s break to ensure that after the rewrite, it all makes sense. I’ve completed a line edit and turned it over to Himself to read, who agreed the story is stronger. I am hoping my beta-readers will be able to let me have it back by the end of the month so I can resubmit it at the beginning of May. Overall, I lost 7,000 words through the rewrite.

• Publishing deal for Netted
Submit my work in a professional and organised manner.
The above target finally paid off. After entering Netted – my post-apocalyptic science fiction adventure – to Kristel Ink’s open submission, they got back to me last year and asked for a rewrite. I duly resubmitted the manuscript and at the end of January I got the brilliant news they wanted to publish it. I have had such a warm welcome from fellow Grimmie authors and during March, they formally announced that myself and Myfanwy Rodman have been signed up, with a view to publishing Netted in 2019. Yay!

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog during 2017
I hope to continue to read and review at least 100 books, with at least 24 being by women authors previously unknown to me as part of the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall’s post. I also would very much like to get more of my To Be Read pile read and reviewed, so will have another go at the Tackling my TBR Pile this year with the aim of reading at least 30 books during the year from this teetering stack. I have reported about my progress with these two reading targets here.
During March, I read and reviewed 13 books, which came to just under 21,000 words, including some fabulous books, and my Book of the Month was After Atlas by Emma Newman. I was also asked by Sarah Ash, the marvellous fantasy author, to contribute a guest article for her blog, which you can read here.

• Creative Writing courses
Continue providing challenging and informative courses to assist my students to become productive, adventurous writers.
We are now into the Easter holidays and last term’s course was very successful with most of my new students signing up for the coming term. I can’t quite credit that we will be starting the Summer term in just over a week.

• Continue teaching TW
Continue delivering the customised syllabus we have managed to find and devise in order to meet Tim’s specific learning requirements.
I’m so pleased at Tim’s progress during this term – he has made several significant breakthroughs since Christmas. Next term is a crucial one as he will be sitting a couple of exams for the first time.

• Continue to improve my fitness
To continue to attend Fitstep and Pilates classes to improve my fitness and regain the strength and stamina I lost after a decade of chronic lower back pain.
This continues to go well. I’m delighted that each session allows me now to steadily push myself further, rather than just stagger through without collapsing – which also makes it a lot more enjoyable, too. On a less positive note – J was discovered to have severe sleep apnea and a pre-diabetes Type II condition. This was a huge shock, but explains his lack of energy and concentration issues. He is now wearing a diagnostic sleep mask and is due to return to the Sleep Clinic for a follow-up appointment during this month.

Another great month, with some wonderful books read and a big breakthrough in my writing career. Though J’s diagnosis was a nasty surprise, it is also a plus as we had no idea just how potentially lethal sleep apnea can be, especially as J was averaging 51 non-breathing episodes per hour, which is very severe. The good news is that using the sleep mask should eradicate the broken sleep and high risk of stroke and heart attack. It is certainly a lot more restful sleeping alongside him, now I’m starting to get used to the rather eerie silence where once there was thunderous snoring.

I wrote just over 27,500 words during the month, mostly on my blog, which brings my yearly total to just over 114,500 words so far.

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – January Roundup

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Mhairi Simpson, and I, once again, set ourselves a series of ambitious writing-related goals when 2017 was only a couple of days old. This has become something of a ritual, because over the past several years I have found it so very helpful to set out my targets for the year and then at the end moonof every month to hold myself accountable for these targets. And these are the goals I have set for 2017.

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
After completing Miranda’s Tempest and sending it out last year, it garnered sufficient interest that I had some excellent advice on how to improve the storyline. So I embarked on a major rewrite at the back end of last year, intending to resubmit it in early 2017.
This slid to a halt in the run-up to Christmas and as January was extremely hectic, I only managed a paltry 7,500 words. I am hoping to make better progress during February.

• Edit Dying for Space and Breathing Space
My trusty beta-readers came back with some excellent advice on both these novels, particularly around the ending of Dying for Space and the start of Breathing Space, which I’m still not completely happy about. Given these are books 2 and 3 of The Sunblinded trilogy, I want them to be the very best they can be before I set them loose onto an unsuspecting world.

• Write the first draft of Bloodless, my space opera crime novel, featuring Jezell Campo, my protagonist who features in The Sunblinded Trilogy
I have the plot outline sorted out and I’m going to have a go at writing this one, while editing Dying for Space and Breathing Space. It may not work as I’m the ultimate monotasker, but I won’t know until I try, will I? Another project that got shunted further down the line when Netted needed a major rewrite last year. I am really hoping that by the end of the year I will have a first draft completed.

• Complete Picky Eaters
This is the novella that mushroomed from my short story, published at Every Day Fiction longer ago than I care to mention. While reading it to the grandchildren, I realised there were another couple of plotpoints that needed tidying up. I wanted to have this one completed last year, but my major rewrite of Netted took priority so this one got pushed to the side. However, I would really like to get it to a standard where I can either self-publish or submit it.

• Continue submitting my work
Thanks to the Shoot for the Moon Challenge, I have become far more professional and organised in submitting my work. As a result, I am now rewriting Miranda’s Tempest, achieved significant interest in Netted and have Running Out of Space out with an agent. Anyone who has been through this process knows it can take a long time to get a response, so I am continuing to work on a number of other projects while waiting.

• Self publish a novel
I have wanted to get at least one of my novels self published for a while, now. Hopefully 2017 will be the year when this happens.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
I easily achieved this goal in 2016, having reviewed 150 books, while also becoming very involved in reading and reviewing new releases, which was one of last year’s targets. I don’t intend to increase this target but hope to continue to read and review at least 100 books, with at least 24 being by women authors previously unknown to me as part of the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall if you’re interested in joining the 2017 Challenge, here is her post.
I read 12 books, DNF’d another and reviewed 11 of them during January, which came to just under 15,000 words. I am not sure this will be a pace I can continue once I am writing again, as opposed to editing and rewriting.

• Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for the academic year 2016/17
I have next year’s courses sorted out and during the second half of the term I will be submitting them for approval to Northbrook. In addition, I am starting a series of Creative Writing courses with gifted writers and talented teachers Sarah Palmer and Linda McVeigh, called Writing Sussex. This promises to be a really exciting development.
We are planning to start our very first courses at the end of February, so if you live in or around the Worthing area in West Sussex, check out our website and course availability.

• Continue teaching TW
This has been a roller-coaster year as it proved a whole lot harder to find a suitable syllabus and qualifications suitable for Tim, who is autistic and taught at home. However his mother managed to find a series of projects based around acquiring practical skills that I will be helping to deliver, alongside Tim’s team of other tutors, which will also give him qualifications he can use to access college or university courses in the future. In addition, I am also helping Tim acquire the necessary skills to take the Functional Skills exams, so have doubled my teaching hours with him.
This is, obviously, going to take priority as it becomes necessary.

• Continue to improve my fitness
I suffered a major back injury back in early 2005, leaving me with ongoing sciatica that meant I was a constant visitor to the Physio for almost a decade. After Mhairi’s suggestion back in 2015 that I try a TENS machine to see if it would improve the nerve pain during yet another flare-up that was making my life a misery, I have gone from strength to strength. I now attend a Fitstep and Pilates class every week and have managed to lose nearly a stone so that I have now reached my target weight, which I want to maintain – more or less – throughout the year. One of my goals for 2017 which we didn’t achieve last year is to resume hiking with my husband on a regular basis.

Those are my 2017 Shoot for the Moon Challenges. Wish me luck!

Shoot for the Moon 2016 Challenge – How Did I Do?

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For the last three years, my writing buddy Mhairi Simpson and I have set ourselves a series of ambitious goals to work towards. How did I get on with the targets I set myself last year?

Publish the Sunblinded trilogymoon
Nope. Still not happened… In the flurry of submitting work to a number of agents who appear to like my writing, one of them specifically requested to see Running Out of Space, instead of the manuscript I was submitting. This presented me with a dilemma – ROOS was all set to be my self-publishing project, but if I was serious about also wanting a traditional publishing career, it seemed that I should submit it. So I have. In the meantime, I’ve got further work to do on Dying For Space and Breathing Space as my wonderful beta-readers have provided me with invaluable feedback that impacts on the ending of one and the start of the other.

Write the first draft of Bloodless, my space opera crime novel, featuring Jezell Campo, my protagonist who features in The Sunblinded Trilogy
Again, no. I have been busy rewriting and editing a number of other manuscripts, so this simply didn’t get done.

Complete Chaos in New Cluster
This is the novel my writing pal, Michael Griffiths, and I started in 2014. Yes – we completed the first draft and Mike has someone looking over it. As this is a project we will be working on in between everything else, it is ticking over quietly in the background.

Complete Picky Eaters
No, this didn’t get touched. I have been busy on a variety of other projects and didn’t have the time or headspace to get it done. However, Frances regularly asks about it, and I have made a PROMISE that it will see the light of day at some stage.

Edit Miranda’s Tempest
Miranda’s Tempest was duly submitted after being edited and I had some excellent feedback from an agent. So I am now in the process of rewriting it, which is challenging but much easier than it might be, because getting that advice was a lightbulb moment where I could then see exactly where I could improve the story flow and tighten up the plot.

I am working through it right now, though I took a break over Christmas as I also needed to produce my course notes and it was particularly busy, social time.

Submit Miranda’s Tempest
This year, I have been far more organised about submitting my work and while I don’t have a publishing contract, I have had some very positive feedback, which will help me move forward. One of the reasons why I failed at some of my other targets, was that earlier in the year a publisher considering Netted, my other novel which was ‘out there’, asked me to undertake a major rewrite which took me the best part of five months to complete. I’m now waiting to see if they like it sufficiently to offer me a contract…

Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
I wrote 150 reviews for my blog during 2016, the most I’ve ever posted. I also nailed my target to read and review more new releases as 71 of those reviews were about NetGalley arcs. I made one of my goals to increase my blogging output to every day and I have also mostly achieved this, too. Indeed, my views on my blog during 2016 have nearly doubled from the 2015 figure and I also have far more interaction with a number of wonderful bloggers who love books as much as I do. Given the fact I’ve been rewriting and editing throughout the year, reading and reviewing have become increasingly important to me as a source of pleasure and escape, particularly as personally 2016 was something of a heartbreak throughout the latter half.

Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for the academic year 2016/17
Obviously, I had these planned, but due to all sorts of things going on from August onwards, I didn’t get the Spring Term course notes written during the summer as I would have liked. Last year’s classes went really well and I was also able to run my one day courses. I have a lovely time teaching – it’s got to be the best gig of all, teaching a subject I’m passionate about to a group of people who are equally keen to learn.

Work on the teaching syllabus for TW
I undertook to teach English to Tim now over a year ago, paid for by County. Last year, we needed to find a suitable syllabus for him to study with a view to getting him some qualifications. This proved to be far more difficult than we initially thought. However, we now have found a way forward that is unusual but doable and I have now begun working on a series of projects with him that will provide Tim with a qualification commensurate with an English GCSE. Meanwhile, I am privileged to watch Tim continue to blossom into a remarkable person.

Continue to improve my fitness
This has gone really well. I decided to become vegetarian right at the end of 2015 and while I still eat eggs and fish occasionally, I haven’t eaten meat for over a year. I cannot get over how much better I feel – I have so much more energy and my nails, hair and skin have never been in better condition. I’ve continued my Pilates classes and now also attend a Fitstep class, which is exercise through dance and so much fun. Just before Christmas I finally achieved my target weight and although I put on a few pounds over the holiday, I’m confident I’ll soon lose it again. It’s marvellous to open up the wardrobe and know I can wear everything in it!

It’s a mixed picture, isn’t it? On one hand, the aspect that is really important to me – my writing – hasn’t appeared to make much progress. However, all that rewriting and re-editing prompted by professional advice has helped me to further improve my craft, which was one of the reasons why I wanted a hybrid career in the first place.

As regards the reading and blogging, it’s never been better. Though I don’t expect 2017 to be such a productive year, as I’m hoping to spend more time writing and less time reading. And teaching continues to provide me with plenty of challenges and much-needed interaction with other people.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2016 – November Roundup

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After setting some crazy writing goals with my writing partner, Mhairi Simpson, moonway back in the dying throes of 2015, how am I doing?

Family issues rather ambushed me and I had little mental energy or necessary headspace required to cope with my demanding rewrite. On a more positive note, I gave a talk at West Sussex Writers on the joy of writing reviews and posting them online and my Creative Writing course gathered momentum, while Sally and I finally sorted out Tim’s syllabus and have drawn up a coherent schedule of work for him for the next two years.

• During November, I read eleven books. Again, it’s been a great reading month. I really enjoyed songsofseraphinethe wonderful the children’s book Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson, cyberpunk adventure Synners by Pat Cadigan, Bloodrush by Ben Galley and E.D.E. Bell’s penricsmissionThe Banished Craft – however Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton and Penric’s Mission by Lois McMaster Bujold are my standout reads for the month.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2016 and widen my reading to include more authors new to me. I fulfilled this challenge in August, but I am continuing to read and review more enjoyable, exciting books.

 

• I am currently stranded in the boggy mid-book bit of Miranda’s Tempest. Realistically, I don’t expect to get much further this side of Christmas, but there’s no point in getting in a spin about it. I’ll continue as and when I can manage it.
Challenge – To continue to submit my work.

 

• I’ve continued to improve my fitness with Pilates and Fitstep classes and we’re now learning extra steps for the jive and tango – so much fun … thanks to the marvellous Louisa Jones, an inspired and very patient teacher. I hadn’t quite reached my target weight during November, but it was very close and I am continuing to improve my fitness and stamina.
Challenge – To continue to improve my fitness.

Another month where nothing has gone to plan… Oh well, that’s Life I suppose. I wrote just under 17,000 words on my blog during November, nearly 6,000 words on my teaching admin and just over 10,00 words on my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest, bringing my total for the month to just under 33,000 words.

How are you getting on with your targets now the year is drawing to an end? Are you anywhere close to fulfilling them?

The Freestyle Writing Challenge

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So here goes – the RULES of this challenge:
1. Open an MS Word document
2. Set a stop watch or your mobile to 5 minutes or 10 minutes whichever challenge you think you can beat.
3. You topic is at the foot of this post BUT DO NOT SCROLL DOWN TO SEE IT UNTIL YOU ARE READY WITH A TIMER.
4. Fill the word doc with as much words as you want. Once you begin writing do not stop.
5. Do not cheat by going back and correcting spellings and grammar with spell check in MS WORD (it is only meant for you to reflect on your own control of sensible thought flow and for you to reflect on your ability to write the right spelling and stick to grammar rules)
6. You may or may not pay attention to punctuation and capitals. However if you do, it would be best.
7. At the end of your post, write down ‘No. Of words =_____’ so that we would have an idea of how much you can write within the time-frame.
8. Do not forget to copy paste the entire passage on your blog post with a new Topic for your nominees and copy paste these rules with your nominations (at least 5 bloggers).

My topic – Blood
I wandered along the corridor, looking forward to spending time with my new best friend – and realised it had been too long since I’d had a chance to sit and relax with another woman just… talking about things. And laughing. When had been the last time I’d laughed?

Which was when I became aware that something wasn’t quite right. As I rounded the corner, the lights didn’t automatically come on. And my knife – the one I keep in my sleeve – was now released and pressing against my wrist, in readiness for whatever. Maybe that was when I caught the first whiff of that thick, coppery smell. Unmistakeable. I don’t remember hitting the door override button. I don’t recall pressing the Alarm. But I’ll always remember seeing her lying in a crumpled heap. Floating in a scarlet pool. I didn’t bother rushing over and checking for a pulse. No one could have survived that slash at her throat. Though judging by her wide-stretched eyes, it wasn’t an easy death.

I felt sick. I felt sad. And angry. And yet… which shows just how twisted I’d become by all that had gone before – excited. Until I’d caught the scent of her blood and the adrenaline kicked in, I hadn’t been aware of just how truly bored I’d been. How disgusting is that? A monster – that’s what I am…

Which was when the security officer burst through the door, yelling at me to put my hands up and babbling some nonsense about
249 words

Many thanks to BibliomanicEzza for nominating me for this Challenge. As I’m still firmly in Editland, it was fun to actually write something other than book reviews or course notes – and when I started and saw the topic, I knew I was meant to do this. The next book in the Jezel Campo novels I’m currently working on, will be a murder mystery set on a space liner and put her on the path to becoming a PI, starting a series of crime novels featuring her as the main protagonist. And the first one? Bloodless, where a woman she befriends while having a go at gee-free dancing, is brutally murdered and she’s first on the scene. I’m not all that happy at what I’ve written – it’s very rough and there isn’t nearly sufficient description or mood music in there. But I obeyed the rules and didn’t add anything or clean it up!

I’m following Bibliomanic-Ezza’s sensible lead and keeping my nominations to three people, however if you want to have a go, even if I haven’t put you on the spot – why not go for it?
Sara Letourneau
Joanna “Melfka” Maciejewska
Drew @ TheTattooedBookGeek

 

Your topic – Stars