Thursday 31 December 2015

My Goals of 2015 - Did I Succeed?

It's time to say goodbye to 2015 and hello to a new writing year.

As usual, at the beginning of the year, I sat down with writing chum Tracy Fells over teacakes and set myself some writing goals for the year - you can read the full post here.

So how did I do?

Below are the goals in brief and whether or not I achieved them.

Goal: To continue to write one short story a week.
Achieved? Sort of. I can't say that I wrote a story absolutely every week for the whole year (due to holidays etc.) but I did manage to keep up the output most weeks even while writing the novel.

Goal: Write at least 40,000 words of my novel by the end of August to submit to the RNA New Writers' scheme reader.
Achieved? Yes! I sent 54,000 words to the reader and completed the novel (85,000 words) in September.

Goal: Go to the RNA conference
Achieved? Yes! I went, I saw... I conquered (my tube phobia). It was a great weekend and you can read all about it here.

Goal: To self-publish another collection of magazine stories.
Achieved? Yes! I published The Last Rose (Stories of family and Friendship) in March. This collection contains stories from The People's Friend, Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman's Weekly and I am thrilled with it.

Which leads me very nicely to my end of year present to you. The last Rose is on Kindle Countdown for one week only at a bargain price of 99p! So if you had a new e-reader for Christmas, it might be a welcome addition to your collection. You can buy it here from Amazon.

All that's left is to wish you all  a very Happy New Year and I hope you will continue to enjoy my blog in 2016.

Sunday 20 December 2015

My Writing Year 2015

Today I am going to be looking back at all the lovely things that have happened in 2015 (excluding general story sales or publications).

January - The year started as usual with teacakes and goal setting with writing chum, Tracy Fells. I joined the RNA New Writers' Scheme and author Ben Adams wrote a guest  post.

February - Met Karen Aldous in London for a celebrity make-over with daughter Gemma as a prize win.

March - A fanfare to celebrate the Publication and Launch party for story collection The Last Rose. As part of my bog tour I was guest on these  blogs The Write Romantics, Anne Harvey, Write Minds Write Place, Karen Aldous, Ben Adams, Never too Late to Write.

April - My first serial, Charlotte's War, was published in The People's Friend. I had an article published in Writing Magazine on writing serials. Patsy Collins and Samantha Tonge were blog guests. Went to the Riot Jive Weekend on Hayling Island.

May - Had a wonderful holiday to Vengen in Switzerland and a weekend at Corfe Castle. Alison May was my blog guest. I am guest on A Woman's Wisdom blog.

June - Had three lovely guests on my blog: Julie Shackman, Malcolm Welshman and The People's Friend Fiction editor, Shirley Blair talking about writing serials for the magazine.

July - I attended my first RNA Writers' Conference in London. Deirdre Palmer was my blog guest and I had a lovely boating holiday on the Kennet and Avon Canal.

August - Entered the #PitchCB contest and had two agents 'favourite' my novel pitch. Had a story in The People's Friend Annual 2016. Merryn Allingham was my blog guest. I was asked to be competition judge for the SWWJ John Walter Salver award.

September - Had my second serial, Life at Babcock published in The People's Friend magazine. I was interviewed by Doug McPherson for his article on breaking into serials in Writers' Forum. Writing chum Tracy Fells and I joined forces to discuss writing buddies in Lyn Hackles' 'Novel Ideas' column in writing Magazine. I was featured author on the Writing and Wellness blog. Had a weekend in Bordeaux with my girlfriends. Went on a wonderful research trip to Skopelos and Alonissos and finally finished my novel.

October - Sold my 100th story to The People's Friend. Samantha Tonge and Julia Gibbs were guests on my blog.

November - Went to the RNA Winter Party in London. Patsy Collins and Leonora Frances were my blog guests. I was guest on Elaina James' and Susanna Bavin's blogs. Had my novel back from my RNA NWS reader.

December - I was special guest at the SWWJ Christmas tea in London, along with Sir Tim Rice, where I awarded the prizes for the story competition. Had four Christmas stories published in magazines. I was guest on Rachel Brimble's  blog.

Now I'm off to have a sherry and a mince pie so all that's left is to wish all you lovely readers a very Happy Christmas and thank you all for supporting my blog through another year!

Sunday 13 December 2015

To Blog or Not to Blog

Today's blog post is inspired by Carol hedges' post A Blog about Blogs in which she discusses why she continues to blog when so many writers are giving up. It's well worth a read.

The funny thing is, I read it at just the right time. You see I'd had a bit of a blank about my own blog. For the first time in a long while, the act of writing and promoting it seemed quite a chore. It occurred to me that if I was struggling to think of a topic, then whatever I wrote would be just for the sake of updating the blog rather than because I was enjoying the writing or adding value to it.

I've been writing my blog since 2012. At first I wrote three times a week (how did I manage that!) but I soon began to settle into a once a week pattern. I've always enjoyed writing it, have made some good friends through it and have had some fabulous guests. Recently, though, I've been questioning why I am doing it. This is partly because blogging is a two-way process. It's no good just being a blog writer - you need to be out there reading other people's blogs and commenting. You also need to promote your blog if you've any hope of having a healthy readership (the whole point of writing, unless you want to talk to yourself). 

All this is time-consuming.

When I started Wendy's Writing Now, I was at a very different stage in my writing career. I'd just had my first story published and the idea of the blog was to chart my journey from that point. There was no pressure, to be witty, informative or entertaining as there weren't very many people reading it. Now, 150 story publications later, with my first novel written and a high number of pageviews per post, I'm wondering as to the purpose of my blog. 

I looked at the list of blogs I follow and realised that there are only about a third of these blogs still active. These writers have moved away from their blogs but I still see them on Facebook or Twitter. Others resurrect their blogs when they have a book out... then fall silent again. I'd like to ask them why they stopped - or more importantly whether they are glad they did. Also, it made me wonder about those of you who continue. Is it because you love writing it? Is it because you hope it will promote sales? Is it because you're scared to stop? If you feel inclined to tell me - please be honest.

One of  the things that was worrying me was the fact that my blog isn't a 'How to Write Better' or even a particularly serious blog. When I looked back at my old posts, I saw that there was a lot more about my bad step-dog, Bonnie, my dancing and singing and even my holidays. Not exactly a serious writer's blog.

Did it matter though?

Through the simple act of writing this post, I've realised that maybe it doesn't matter. Wendy's Writing Now was never meant to be serious and I must stop thinking it must be. I don't want to teach or preach. I want to enjoy my blog and allow it to show the reader a little bit more about me. My blog post To Read of Not to Read  (where I talked about not reading the magazines I write for) has become legendary and garnered some of my highest number of comments and pageviews! That post was me just being honest.

Over on Carol's blog, book blogger Rosie Amber, says that she loves writing her blog but 'when she gets fed up, she'll hang up her hat and walk away'. Clever lady. 

Giving up on my Wendy's Writing Now would be like saying goodbye to an old friend... and I'm not ready to do that but if that time ever comes, I hope I shall have the courage to do the same. 

Please let me know your thoughts.

Sunday 6 December 2015

The SWWJ Christmas Tea... and Meeting Sir Tim Rice

Many of you will know that it's been a difficult time for me recently with two bereavements in the space of just a few days. I made the decision not to update my blog last week and retreated from social media for a while (sorry if yours was one of the blogs I didn't comment on) but there was one shining event to brighten up my week - the SWWJ Christmas Celebration.

You might think I'm looking rather pleased with myself in the photograph and that's because I never in a million years thought I'd have double billing with Sir Tim Rice of 'Joseph' and 'Evita' fame. I even have the programme to prove it. Okay, so my name is slightly smaller than his but I won't hold that against him.

So why was it that at 2.20 pm on a Thursday afternoon I was standing at a lectern, speaking into a microphone to a roomful of writers? It's not as if public speaking is something I do a lot. Being a typical writer, I don't particularly like being in the spotlight and, as a former teacher, I'm more comfortable speaking to a classroom full of children. The answer is, I was presenting the prizes for the John Walter Salver short story competition which I adjudicated. Sir Tim was there because he is one of the society's patrons.

That I was even at this lovely event was due to fellow magazine writer Vivien Brown (Hampshire) as it was she who asked me to be the competition judge. What an honour. It was a pleasure to read everyone's stories when the entries were sent to me and it was nice to have the chance to meet the winners. First prize winner, Carloline Aukland, is in the photograph above.

The event took place in a beautiful room at the National Liberal Club in Whitehall Place, London. It was a very grand venue - finding the cloakroom in the maze of corridors was an event in itself!

I was quite relieved that I would be reading my judge's report and presenting the prizes at the start of the afternoon which left me no time to get nervous.

After a lovely introduction by Viv (thank you for making me sound so important!) it was time for me to take my place at the lectern. Luckily, once I'd started speaking, it wasn't nearly as nerve wracking as I'd imagined it would be - it's amazing what can be achieved when you picture your audience as a class of seven year olds! It was also nice that a few of my RNA writing friends had come to the tea to support me. I was thrilled when it turned out that one of them, Margaret Mounsdon, was the third place winner (she'd kept it quiet that she was a member and an entrant). Here I am presenting Margaret with her prize. People were so lovely and said such nice things afterwards - I'll certainly feel more confident if I have to do something like this again.

The presentation was followed by a delicious tea with sandwiches, cakes and scones. I'd been a little worried about what I might talk to Sir Tim about as I was slightly star-struck (in junior school I was in a school production of Joseph and since that time, have seen every one of his musicals except Chess) but I needn't have worried as he was warm and friendly, praising my short story success and 'meteoric rise' in the market. Gulp! I only just managed to stop myself from blurting out, 'You've done pretty well yourself'. If you're reading this, Sir Tim, I'd like to thank you for making me feel so at ease - I hope I didn't bore you too much with stories of my children!

After the tea, there was the chance to talk to some of the other guests and then it was time for Sir Tim's speech. Amongst other things, I found out that he started his career wanting to be a pop singer and that his favourite out of his songs is 'Another Suitcase in Another Hall'. It was a great speech to bring the lovely celebrations to an end.

Wouldn't it be lovely if  next time I speak to an audience it's to introduce my debut novel. Well, you know what Sir Tim Rice would say... Any Dream Will Do!

Sorry, everyone - I just couldn't resist it :)

If any of you are thinking of joining the SWWJ, their website is here