Wednesday, 8 July 2020

When did you start?

Although I made up stories for my little brother from when I was about five, I didn't start writing until my mid 30s. Sometimes I wish I'd started sooner, but perhaps I simply wasn't ready? When did you start, or plan to start writing – and what do you think is the best age?

This free to enter writing competition is for children aged 12 and under. They want 'funny, weird or otherwise unique' creative writing. This poetry competition is for kids aged 11-17. Do you know any child writers? (If none of you do, I won't bother sharing details of competitions for them.)

This competition is for mystery and suspense writers of any age. There's a $950 prize, but unfortunately it's one of those decided by 'reader engagement' so more a popularity contest than test of your writing. Still, it's free to enter, so you might feel it's worth a try.

Whatever your age, if you'd like to write but don't know where to start, or used to write and want a nudge to get back to it, or just want some ideas about what to write next, these two books could help. Both From Story Idea to Reader and A Year Of Ideas: 365 sets of writing prompts and exercises, do what they say on the cover.

Tonight's #WritingChat topic is 'reading for pleasure'. All readers and writers are welcome to join in by tweeting 8-9 UK time, using the hashtag. You don't need to follow me on Twitter to take part, but feel free if you'd like to do that.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020


Industry is a type of trade or manufacture, it can refer to trade and manufacture collectively. Those things will often happen in an industrial environment. Industry may also mean great activity or diligence. Those who demonstrate this are industrious.

Publishing is an industry. We don't always like to think of it that way, but it is. In common with most other industries money is the main driving force. It's often not the only one, but it's very important. If (for example) a magazine doesn't sell enough copies to buy more paper, it can't print the next issue.

If a publisher doesn't think our book will sell, they can't risk paying for an editor, cover designer, print run etc, or they won't be able to pay the royalties earned by their existing authors – and that wouldn't be fair, would it?

This month's Insecure Writer's Support Group question is – There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade?

I'd like to see things level out a bit more. Instead of a few authors making vast fortunes and the rest struggling to make any kind of profit, I'd like more of us to earn at least the minimum wage. But then I'd like that for those who work in all other industries too.

Things could be worse though. There are opportunities for 'ordinary' writers. Free to enter writing competitions are part of that. They offer the possibility of winning some money, improving your craft, building confidence, perhaps even getting noticed by someone in the industry. (Which is one reason I blog about them so frequently.)

This one from Nottingham Writers' Studio is for up to 5,000 words of fiction or non fiction to be included in an anthology titled Black Lives. The top prizes if £250. All published entries will earn at least £30.

For the Perito prize, you're asked to write between 1,000 and 2,000 words of fiction on the theme of accessibility and inclusivity. The top prize is £500. There's an anthology involved their too.

This competition from Southampton University is for children. They're asked to write books on sustainability, for which they could win £200. (It's the 3rd competition down – you'll find others on the site for adult writers.)

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Writing for a cause

Sometimes we feel so strongly about a subject we feel we must say, or even write something. Does that happen to you?

If you support the things Extinction Rebellion stand for then you may be interested in this opportunity to be published by them.

Personally I haven't written directly about any causes, other than to speak against all rights contracts. I've done that via the Womagwriter blog, and it's one of several topics of discussion in my interview for the Healthy Happy Writer Show.

Instead of writing solely about causes, I work subjects I'm interested in into my fiction, and characters often share at least some of my views. For example my books Firestarter and Leave Nothing But Footprints both include references to taking care of wildlife and picking up litter. They're not what either book is about. They're both romances, but the characters care about more than just finding love.

Which causes have you written about?

Wednesday, 17 June 2020


Judging by the response to last week's post, in which I asked for your competition news and provided the usual three links to free writing competitions, that subject is no longer of interest to my readers, so I'm dropping it for now. Instead Wednesday word of the week is back!

Wallpaper is, of course, paper sold to stick on walls to make them look pretty, or cover cracks, or both. Oddly I haven't got a single photo of wallpaper. Here's some fancy panelling (at Bolsover castle). It's a wall covering and made from the same stuff as paper ...

Wallpaper can also mean an unobtrusive background, often background noise.

I don't recall every coming across wallpaper as a writing term until it appeared in a lovely review of Firestarter last week. (Ooops, I seem to have 'accidentally' included a more recent one too!)

In this context wallpaper means background, setting or location. It can form an important part of the story, or just be there to stop the reader feeling the action happening in a void.

What kind of wallpaper do you like?

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Competition and Novel News

It's been a long time since I finished the draft of a novel – but today I have! I'm celebrating with a cup of tea, then I'm going for a walk along the seafront.

That novel is pretty much all I've written since lockdown started (I'd made a start on the novel years ago and abandoned it.)

Obviously there's lots of work still to do before the novel is ready for publication, but I'm going to take a short break and do something else for a while.

Maybe I'll enter one of the free competitions I blog about every week?

It won't be this one as it's for children, and it won't be this one as it's for people over 70. Maybe this one? It is for novels, and it's an excellent prize.

I'd love to hear your competition news.

Have you entered any comps? Had any luck? Heard about interesting contests? Got any tips to pass on? (Although I only feature free to enter competitions in my posts it's fine to share news about other competitions too.)

For those who are unsure, this post explains how to leave a comment. (If you've subscribed to the blog by email and wish to respond, you'll need to click on the link and add a comment – it's not possible to do this by replying to the email.)

Wednesday, 3 June 2020


Hello and welcome to my June Insecure Writer's Support Group post, combined with the usual selection of free to enter writing competitions, and a spot of marketing. That seems a lot to fit into one post, but that's not going to stop me sharing photos and giving you some topical trivia – June who got me started as a writer. Not the month, but author June Hampson. I was very lucky to have her as my creative writing tutor for several years.

The photos are of castles I've visited in the past. I miss doing that – hopefully we'll be able to travel later in the year.

Do you recognise any of them?

Thanks to Alyson Hilborne for reminding me about the Scottish Book Trust's little monthly free writing competitions. This month they want 50 words about fog and the prize is publication on their website and a mug. They sometimes run other free competitions too.

Soundworks are running another of their monologue competitions. Winning entries (which may have been previously published) will be recorded by a professional actor and put on the site. I made the shortlist in the last one.

Beechmore Books want up to 1,000 words on the arts, written from a journalistic perspective. The top prizes is publication, a notebook and £200.

This month's IWSG question is – Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

That's an interesting one. I don't think I have any secrets which have been kept out of my work. I don't mean I write about myself, because that's not the case, just that having written five novels and thousands of short stories it's likely I've touched on everything I'm interested in and care about. For example there are quite a few castles and coastal walks in the novel I'm currently working on.

I have no idea if reading my fiction gives readers a true impression of me as a person – I'd be interested to hear from those who've read my stuff and met me if they feel that's the case.

If you've not read any of my books yet, now is a great time to start as two of them have been reduced to just 99p (99c) until the 6th of June.

Both Firestarter and A Year And A Day are humorous, romantic stories and include a man in a uniform and a lot of food. Like I said, I don't keep secrets from my readers!

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Hot and happy

How are you? We're both fine here. I'm weirdly short of time though, considering we can't go anywhere in the van. The garden is looking great though, my chilli peppers are coming on a treat and the latest novel is now at 82,000 words.

Hmmm, maybe that lack of time isn't so weird after all? I know losing track of days isn't, and you'll forgive me for once again not getting round to posting until Thursday.

Here's a little competition passed on to me by Alyson Hilbourne. They're looking for very short stories, flash fiction and poetry. There's also a competition for under 16s. A £25 prize is offered in each category and all winners and runners up will be included in an anthology. 

This competition is for a thrilling, suspenseful or frightening novel of a minimum of 7,500 words. You may send works in progress which is just as well because there's only a couple of days left to enter. There's a prize of $500 plus some publicity stuff.

Do you think that's enough chillies?

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Are you writing about C 19?

Thanks to Fiona for passing on this link to a call for submissions. Stella Quines want letters relating to the 'precarious and pertinent moment in history we are living in, together, globally'.  

Themes are provided and you're allowed up to 400 words. 'Each chosen letter will be performed by a professional actor, directed by Shilpa T-Hyland, Caitlin Skinner or Amy Liptrott, and filmed. 

The films will be shared online across Stellar Quines’ website and social media on June 8 2020.'

Are you writing about the Covid 19 virus? Or are you otherwise writing something different from usual?

Personally I've (temporarily) stopped writing short stories and am concentrating on another novel. 

The word count is going up steadily, but I have a long way still to go. That's OK though as I'm enjoying it.

I've also been doing things to bring colour into my life. Mainly gardening, but I also had a go at flower arranging and brightening up my lockdown hair. 

What have you been doing to occupy yourself when you've not been able to get out and about as usual?

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Competition news

I'd love to hear your competition news. Have you entered any comps? Had any luck? Heard about interesting contests? Got any tips to pass on? (Although I only feature free to enter competitions in my posts it's fine to share news about other competitions too.)

For those who are unsure, this post explains how to leave a comment. (If you've subscribed to the blog by email and wish to respond, you'll need to click on the link and add a comment – it's not possible to do this by replying to the email.)