Sunday, 12 June 2016

How to write a novel when you literally have no time

I just Googled this sentence 'How to write a novel when you literally have no time'.

And I couldn't find anything - so here are some thoughts in case you have just Googled the self-same thing.

All too often, my time frazzles away, consumed by the day job. You probably know all about this.

If you aren't writing enough, is it because you don't have time, because you don't think you have time, or because you can't think?

File:The Thinker, Rodin.jpg
The Thinker,_Rodin.jpg

The modern age is full of manufactured distractions, the aim seeming to be to not-think, and to sustain the habit of not-thinking for a lifetime.

Often, the advice to new writers is to write, but what is the point of writing if your mind is a snarl-pit of the small stuff?

But then again, if you write, honestly, without inhibition, for long enough, thinking will follow.


Stop starting at the internet.

Turn off the computer. (When you have finished reading this blog post, I mean.)

Look out of the window.

Or stare at the ceiling.

Do this for five minutes.

Then write for five minutes.

By hand, with a pen, like some ancient scribe.

Do it for a week.

Then see how you feel.

I will do the same and report back in seven days. (This is my very busiest time at work so an excellent time for such a challenge.)

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Five reasons to enter the Bridport

The deadline is looming  for the Bridport Prize. So stop whatever you are doing right now, find a short story, polish it up and enter it.  Because you might win if you enter, and definitely won't win if you don't.

Of course it's true that any competition is a lottery to some degree. And how can you judge one story against another when each one is unique? But this can work both for you and against you. Two of my frankly not-all-that short stories were shortlisted for major prizes early in my writing career (for the Ian St James and the Cosmopolitan prizes) and frankly far better ones have done nothing since. The boost - both emotional and professional - when you win or are placed in a major competition far outweighs the mild disappointment of being overlooked.

Photo by Photo by rahego, via Flickr Creative Commons /

Here are five reasons for entering:

1. If you don't enter you won't win. (Recycling the content from above for reasons of emphasis and thrift.)

2. Even getting shortlisted for a big prize can get you noticed. I got my first agent from being short-listed for the Cosmo prize - although the actual story never got published.

3. It's a deadline. Writers need deadlines, otherwise we sink into the Slough of Despond wearing faded pyjamas.

4. Entering competitions forces you to think about the current market for short fiction - at least, it should do. (Or current context, if you think the word 'market' is a little harsh and vulgar and you are producing Art.)

5. Professional writers are Submitting Machines. Everything that you have written that is halfway decent should be submitted somewhere. If it gets turned down for one outlet or competition, enter another, submit again. Don't be emotional about it, don't feel let down if nothing happens - submit, submit and submit again.

So get those words sorted now. And if you want more information about other competitions, here is Paul McVeigh's excellent blog which lists upcoming opportunities.

And here is another useful list from Christopher Fielden.