Tag Archives: Creative Writing classes

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – January 2019 #Brainfluff2019targets #ShootfortheMoon2019 #authoringannals

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This is now an annual event – in the dying days of the year, my writing buddy Mhairi Simpson and I sit down together and set ourselves targets for the coming year. The theory is that in aiming for the insanely unrealistic, we’ll achieve more than if we were more cautious in our goalsetting. These are the targets I set for 2019.

• Edit and publish Mantivore Dreams – Book 1 of The Arcadian Chronicles
I’m hoping to release Mantivore Dreams sometime in the summer – it’s been held up by my delay in getting Mantivore Prey completed. Once I’ve finished the first draft of Mantivore Prey, which isn’t so much of a rewrite as starting more or less from scratch, then I’ll have a better idea of the publishing schedule.

• Complete, edit and publish Mantivore Prey – Book 2 of The Arcadian Chronicles
At long last, the writing is going smoothly and I now know exactly where the story is headed after two false starts and some 50,000 words discarded. One of the more miserable aspects of being ill at the back of last year was that I lost my writing mojo… I think I can realistically complete the first draft by Easter. I wrote just over 13,000 words towards book in January and am now well past the halfway mark.

• Rewrite, edit and submit Miranda’s Tempest
I know have a strong sense of where this one is going and I’m determined to get this novel written, edited and resubmitted before the end of the year. I now have a wonderful editor prepared to look at my manuscripts who understands my writing style and makes it the best it can be, which should help enormously.

• Outline and start on the first draft of Bloodless – Book 1 of the Beth Wheeler mysteries
This is the first book in the spin-off series from The Sunblinded, featuring disaster-magnet Lizzy Wright who now finds herself solving murder mystery cases in space. It’s a genre I’m very fond of and look forward to writing.

• Release paperback editions of Dying for Space and Breathing Space
Another consequence of my illness late last year – I’d scheduled for these to occur then and it simply didn’t happen. Hopefully I’ll have both Dying for Space and Breathing Space available in paperback by Easter.

• Organise reviews for the release of Netted
We now have the cover done and I’m in the process of going through the manuscript for the final time looking for any errors. Netted is due to be published sometime in the autumn by Grimbold Publishing and I’m very excited about it. I’m hoping to soon have an arc available for anyone interested in reviewing the book – please let me know.

• Regain my fitness and stamina
My hypertension has been diagnosed and I feel so much better. I’d always been under the impression it was a symptomless issue, not so in my case – I felt dreadful. I’m still having major problems with rejigging my sleep patterns and need to better manage my stress issues, which are compounded by my habit of working too hard. I have restarted my Pilates class and when I feel better, I also want to find some sort of aerobic class to also join, such as Fitstep or Zumba.

• Continue delivering my Creative Writing courses at Brighton Metropolitan College
I am now running three courses a term and also hope to run a three-week Poetry Course and One Day Summer Surgery course this year. I love teaching my wonderful students and really miss them during the holidays – which is so very uncool…

• Continue teaching TW
Tim is now studying music at Chichester College three days a week and doing really well. However we still have the final element of his English exam to work towards during the next two terms. It’s lovely to see him developing into an articulate, charming young man who is sensitive to the needs of others and enjoys going out with his friends.

• Continue blogging about books and writing
I thoroughly enjoy reading and reviewing books – I’m keeping my target for the year at 100 books, although this last year I read 162 books and published 124 reviews on my blog. I am easing back from posting every day as I simply don’t have the time, but will continue to read and review. I’m intending to join two challenges – Love Your Library and Beat the Backlist, as well as continue with my Discovery Challenge to find more female authors I haven’t previously read. During January I read 12 books and posted 5 reviews.

These are my writing, reading and life challenges for 2019. Wish me luck!

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – November 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 of every month to hold myself accountable for these targets. Although that has slipped – due to being ill, I didn’t get around to writing my ‘Shoot for the Moon’ article for October.
How have I got on with my writing, reading and blogging targets now we are nearly through the year?

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.
If you’ve been following this one, you’ll know I sent Miranda’s Tempest back to the agent after a rewrite. She sent back more notes and helpful advice on how I could further improve it. This is such a help, but as I’ve been busy sorting out Dying for Space and working on the blog tour, I hope to be able to return to this during the Christmas holidays.

Continue with the courses at Northbrook
Continue to run the Creative Writing courses at Northbrook Metropolitan College.
I have the course written for the coming term What Is the Time and Is It Raining? Setting and Why It Matters and have photocopied all the course notes. I just have to write up the Scheme of Work and lesson plans.

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.
During November, I read and reviewed 11 books. This brought my yearly total of books read by the end of the month to 164. Book of the month was Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett. I haven’t yet sat down and worked out exactly how many reviews I’ve written, but I know this target was achieved back in September.

Continue teaching TW
Continue delivering the customised syllabus we have managed to find and devise in order to meet Tim’s specific learning requirements.
Last term was epic – we managed to complete the filming of Tim’s script Hoodwinked 3: This Time It’s Personal by the end of November, which was an amazing achievement considering the cast numbered 25 with 13 songs and locations ranged from the seafront and pier at Bognor, to the museum. Watching Tim rise to all the pressures and deadlines that came with such an ambitious project has been wonderful.

Continue to improve my fitness
I attend weekly Fitstep and Pilates classes to improve my fitness and regain the strength and stamina I lost after a decade of chronic lower back pain.
And this has been a car crash! I’ve only attended three sessions in last term. Hopefully I’ll be able to return to the routine in the new year. Ditto going for walks with Himself – we simply haven’t had the time or inclination. Now that he is back on track, hopefully things will get back to normal…

Overall, November was a busy but successful month. I am aware that I have been feeling very tired and rather frayed, but the constant uncertainty and resulting insecurity also played its part in that. Now things are on a more stable footing, hopefully I’ll feel more energised and positive.

ANNDDD…

Between the Bindings is promoting Dying for Space

ANNDDD…

Writers and Authors is publishing an article by yours truly entitled ‘My Protagonist and her Point of View’ about the issues I confronted while writing about my main character, who features in the Sunblinded series

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – September 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 of every month to hold myself accountable for these targets.

How have I got on with my writing, reading and blogging targets now we are three-quarters through the year?

• 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.
If you’ve been following this one, you’ll know I sent Miranda’s Tempest back to the agent after a rewrite. She sent back more notes and helpful advice on how I could further improve it. This is such a help, but I need to put it on one side just for a while to give myself some perspective before tucking back into it. Anyway, this is such a busy month as I’m back in the thick of it with starting back at Northbook and once again restarting my sessions with Tim.

• Get my courses ready to start the new year at Northbook
While I wrote the new course ‘How to Write Believable Characters’ during August, there is a host of admin tasks and extra handouts that need to be written before I start work on the lesson plans and print out the course notes and writing exercises.

• 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.
During September, I read 15 books, reviewed 13 of them and DNF’d 2 more. This brought my yearly total of books read by the end of the month to 136. As for book of the month – I think it is a tie between Tricia Sullivan’s Sweet Dreams and Austral by Paul McAuley. Again, I have managed to achieve my target of reading 100 books with ease.

• Continue teaching TW
Continue delivering the customised syllabus we have managed to find and devise in order to meet Tim’s specific learning requirements.
We have now resumed Tim’s classes and it’s all about the rehearsals and preparing for the filming schedule that will be taking place in various locations during October.

• Continue to improve my fitness
I attend weekly Fitstep and Pilates classes to improve my fitness and regain the strength and stamina I lost after a decade of chronic lower back pain.
I resumed the classes after the summer break, but unfortunately I wasn’t very well for a couple of weeks, so wasn’t able to get back in the swing of it. But I have the autumn term to continue to build up my fitness and stamina again. Himself has some annual leave coming up next month and we’re hoping to go for a couple of hikes – autumn is a great time to go walking.

September was another very busy month – I’m aware of being tired, but it’s been great hitting so many of my targets and hopefully later in the autumn we’ll get a chance to get away for a few days and rest up.

This was written before I went down with flu… So I need to regroup in the next few weeks once I get back to full fitness, because clearly my current work/life balance is not sustainable. While going down with an illness like that can happen to anyone, I was already stressed and exhausted after a very tough summer. As I work in compressed, intensive bursts, I think I need to build into my working pattern at least two days when I take it easy before diving into the next project – and ensure I get more walks and time away from the computer screen. What about you? Is anyone else battling with this issue?

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – June Roundup

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How have I got on with the writing, reading and blogging targets I set back at the beginning of the year?

• 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…
During June I continued my line edit of Miranda’s Tempest.

• 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.
During June, I read 9 books and reviewed 8 of them. This brought my yearly total of books read by the end of the month to 90. As for book of the month – The Dog Walker – Book 5 of the Detective’s Daughter series by Lesley Thomson.

• Creative Writing courses
To continue to deliver my courses to the best of my ability.
We have now completed this year’s courses, apart from a one day Summer Surgery writing session in July. It was a successful year and I am now beginning to plan the 2017/18 programme of study.

• Continue teaching TW
Continue delivering the customised syllabus we have managed to find and devise in order to meet Tim’s specific learning requirements.
Tim took his first external academic exam in June and took part in Chichester Free School’s end of year concert, singing ‘You Got to Pick a Pocket or Two’ from Oliver and ‘Evermore’ from Sleeping Beauty as solos. He also completed his film script and the songs he has composed, along with the lyrics and is in the throes of rehearsing with a cast of 15 youngsters, often leading the sessions as he plays the piano and coaches them as they learn the songs. It has been a busy, challenging month for him and he has responded magnificently.

• Continue to improve my fitness
To attend weekly Fitstep and Pilates classes to improve my fitness and regain the strength and stamina I lost after a decade of chronic lower back pain.
I restarted my Fitstep and Pilates classes, though I now have to attend both classes on the same morning, which isn’t ideal. I’m struggling a bit with the new Fitstep class as they are far more advanced. However, I console myself with the thought that as I strive to pick up all these new moves, hopefully I am giving my poor old brain a thorough workout, as well as my befuddled feet…

June was a special month as I also celebrated a BIG birthday. I decided to dye my hair purple – I’ve always been very conservative regarding my appearance, so I thought I’d do something different. It was a busy month with lots going on, including my sister moving from the south of France into a flat just up the road. It’s marvellous having her living in the same town – the first time that’s happened since 1977…

I wrote just under 20,500 words during June, mostly on my blog, which brings my yearly total to just under 194,500 words so far.

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – February Roundup

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So now that I blinked twice and discovered February has gone, how have I got on with my writing, reading and blogging targets that I have set myself for the year only last month here?

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
Complete my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest in response to some very detailed advice on how to improve moonit by an agent during the submission process. I had intended to have it completed by now, but got seriously stalled halfway through December…
This had me tearing my hair out all through January and the first half of February. I’d roll up my sleeves, all set to get stuck in and only to just get stuck… Then in the last quarter of the month, Himself and I went on a walk on one of the few sunny days in the month – and I made a breakthrough halfway through whining to him about how hard it was. He’s a great listener and knows this project almost better than I do, so is an invaluable partner in the whole process. And sure enough, as soon as I sat down I managed to power through it in five days of intense writing nearly 25,000 words. The relief is indescribable…

• 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.
During February, I read 17 books, wrote reviews for 16 of them and DNF’d another two which came to just over 16,000 words. This clearly isn’t my usual reading pace and is down to the fact that during half term – unusually – I didn’t have the grandchildren to stay at all so read far more than normal.

• Creative Writing courses
To propose and plan next year’s course to Northbrook College and continue delivering this year’s Creative Writing courses.
This term’s course has gone very well so far, despite the seasonal illnesses that have put a dent in attendance figures. We haven’t had to cancel any sessions due to snow, thank goodness. I have next year’s courses sorted out and will probably be submitting them for approval to Northbrook in the next few weeks. In addition, I have completed writing my One Day Poetry course due to run on Saturday 11th March at Northbrook. I hope to get sufficient students to be able to teach it as it should be great fun.

• Continue teaching TW
Continue delivering the customised syllabus we have managed to find and devise in order to meet Tim’s specific learning requirements.
The decision to increase my hours with Tim has continued to be an unqualified success. Sally and I had an exhaustive planning meeting during February to monitor our progress and came away very heartened at the progress we’re making so far. So now it’s just a question of continuing to focus on the areas that need ongoing development and ensure we go on covering the projects within the necessary timescales.

• 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.
I’m really enjoying both the Pilates and Fitstep classes as I can now see the progress I’ve made in my strength and stamina. I now carefully watch my sugar intake as I realise just how much it aggravates my back and general joint pain, increases the wrinkles on my face and messes with my focus and concentration when I’m trying to write. It’s something of a shock as I have a very sweet tooth and really enjoy my sticky buns… no more, though, except for the very occasional treat.

Despite loathing February as the dreariest month of the year, this one has been nothing but successful work-wise. I wrote just over 51,500 words during the month – a goodly chunk of those on the Miranda’s Tempest rewrite, bringing my yearly total to just under 90,000 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 Challenge 2016 – June Roundup

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Here we are – halfway through the year, already. Though it feels as if we are permanently stuck in April, given the shocking weather. So how am I doing with the targets I set myself back on New Year’s Eve?

• I’m now working on the line edit of Breathing Space. Events like my birthday, the end of the college moonyear at Northbrook and changing over my computer have slowed everything up over the last week and a bit, but overall, I think I’m more or less on track. I now have the covers for all three books – Running Out of Space, Dying for Space and Breathing Space organised, thanks to the wonderful Janet Sked.

During the All Night Write event, I started work on the opening passage of Bloodless, which will be the first book in the Jezel Campo murder mystery series. While it wasn’t my best effort – there was too much going on to really get into my writing zone – it did feel great to actually get back to writing, rather than editing.
Challenge – To have The Sunblinded trilogy published during 2016. Still on target…

• I read 10 books in June and will be reviewing all of them. I have slipped slightly behind on my reviews of NetGalley arcs, as I miscalculated just how long it would take me to read Justin Cronin’s The Passage. It’s a remarkable book, but a really hefty read and I had a whole lot of other things going on. I have read 76 books so far this year and enjoyed most of them.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2016 and widen my reading to include more authors new to me.

I should be able to achieve this target, though it won’t necessarily be with such a wide margin as the numbers might suggest so far. The numbers of books this month I managed to read has fallen and I’m expecting that trend to continue through the summer while I get through the mountain of work I’ve got waiting for me. However, I am really enjoying blogging and interacting with fellow book bloggers.

• I have now completed this year’s Creative Writing classes at Northbrook College, other than a one-day Summer Surgery course on Friday 22nd July. It has been a successful year, with most students continuing to improve and several celebrating successes in competitions.
Challenge – To have at least two of the four courses I hope to run next year planned and written by the end of the summer holiday.

eve-of-war-finalThere are still a couple of my 2016 Shoot for Moon challenges that need serious attention, but I am reasonably pleased with where I am halfway through the year – I just need to sustain my momentum. I was delighted that my short story ‘Miranda’s Tempest’ was published in the anthology Eve of War. I wrote just over 13,000 words on my blog in June and just under 5,500 words on teaching admin, as well as nearly 1,000 words on Bloodless – though a fair chunk of those won’t ever see the light of day!

How about you – how did you get on during June? Are you where you want to be halfway through 2016?