Writing Success: poetry, flash fiction & short story exercises

This book was published a year ago and is available in both paperback and Kindle versions.  You can buy it using the flash ‘buttons’ on the publications page of my website! “Writing Success” is a useful book for all writers. It encourages you to take the Alice in Wonderland approach – grow your words and then shrink them to fit a variety of markets. Many of my longer projects begin life as six word stories or poems and then develop in a variety of ways. Don’t ever waste a good idea by only using it once.

Creative writing tutors will find it helpful for planning workshops and I also give a few tips on doing readings.

Fortune’s Promise

Really excited that my book is now live on Kindle. I am now praying that people will read and enjoy it – and if possible – leave me a review (preferably a nice one!)

As mentioned before, the book (originally entitled ‘Lucinda’s Luck’) has been a long time emerging into the light. The heroine came into my life one day at a writing workshop near Oxford in 1999. I was sitting in the garden writing – and had a vision of a girl in old-fashioned dress climbing out of a window and down a tree. (This sort of thing happens to writers a lot – most of us are in our own little world and quite harmless!)

Bits of the story emerged over the next few years. I wrote several novels and a lot of poems and magazine stories. I joined the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme where you can submit a novel a year for a full critique. I created ‘Lucinda’s Luck’ in about 2007 as a 30,000 word Pocket Novel. By the time I’d finished the suggested revisions, the word count for the Pocket Novel had increased to 50,000. I put the novel on one side and got side-tracked by the publication of two more novels and lots more poems and stories.

A few years later, another plot strand occurred to me – this increased the word count to 70,000 – too long for a Pocket Novel.

I wrote another Pocket Novel and put Lucinda on the back burner, uncertain as to what I was going to do with her. Then, one evening while browsing on my computer last autumn, I read about Endeavour Press. Their submission guidelines stated that writers should do a 100 word summary of what their novel was about and also submit a short biography. I did this. It took ages to find the right 100 words! The following day I heard back from them, requesting the full manuscript. There were obviously edits and changes to be made – but this has led to something I never thought I’d live to see – the publication of my first historical novel.

What I’d say to any writer is, keep a notebook for the strange bits and pieces that occur to you. Write them down. Believe in them. You have no idea where they might lead you. I now have another regency heroine currently stranded in a bluebell wood – I’d better get back to her!



Writing Retreats

We all need to re-charge our batteries sometimes! As a writer, a good way to do this is to go on a writing retreat. This is different from a workshop in that more time is allocated for you to explore your own ideas and gain some much-needed breathing space.

Many people turn down the opportunity of going on a retreat because their writing has suffered a setback or rejection or they feel they are not writing well. The whole point of a retreat is as a form of healing. Very often there will be a scattering of writing exercises through the day or week – with others there may simply be an introduction and then you have space in a supportive atmosphere for creative ideas to grow.

It sometimes isn’t possible to afford a week away somewhere – but most people can manage a day.

Please note the retreats I am co-running with writer Roz Levens in Evesham this year. Do come and join us. For further details call 07711 293958.

Writing Inspiration – March

Go shopping for interesting characters. Sit in a shopping mall or café and, without making it too obvious, note down a few details about the people around you. See if you can use all the senses! Think about :

The colour a person is wearing – or are they wearing something that clashes?

What is their voice like? Does their laughter irritate you?

Are they wearing perfume or after-shave?

What are they eating – and are they taking their time or rushing through it?

If you had to describe them as a texture – what would it be?

If you spot a person who looks too perfectly turned out to be true, then have some fun turning them into something different in your imagination. For instance, what if her hair was snarled into rat’s tails instead of an immaculate blonde bob. What if she had dirty hands and broken nails? Torn clothing? What if she was sitting on a pavement somewhere?

Then think about how they got from A to B and back again. You never know, this could be the start of a novel idea!

Endeavour Press – New Title – Fortune’s Promise

I am very excited to announce the new title for my Regency Novel.  The novel was originally called ‘Lucinda’s Luck’ but Endeavour Press decided they wanted to go for something that fitted better with their current range of titles. A few people have asked if I’m upset about the change. The answer is – no I’m not! I’m thrilled that they’ve accepted the novel and I’m not going to quibble about two words being changed even if they do happen to be the title. Having published around sixty short stories in women’s magazines, I am quite used to titles being changed without it being mentioned to me. A book or magazine story is a product. The aim of the company producing it is to make sure it is as commercially successful as possible. Lucinda came into my mind – and my heart – nearly twenty years ago at a Kim Taplin writing workshop near Oxford. Kim urged me to write the rest of the story but because I was involved with other projects several more years passed before I went back to it. When I did I was a member of the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme and I wrote the story with the aim of submitting it as a pocket novel. The word count at that time was 30,000 words. However, by the time I got my critique, the requirements had changed and the word count had risen to 50,000. I put it on one side and my first two novels were published, together with several non-fiction books and a lot of magazine stories. I re-wrote it – more than doubling the length – for a competition. It didn’t win but I did get an encouraging critique. I submitted it to several publishers and was on the point of self-publishing (I am a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors) when Endeavour said yes!

‘Fortune’s Promise’ will be coming out as an ebook. More news soon.

Writing Workshop – Tudor House, Friar Street, Worcester – Saturday 7th October

Unfortunately, the workshop planned for Saturday 4th March had to be postponed.

This will now take place on Saturday 7th October from 10.30 – 1.00.

There will be more news about this soon – but for further details and to book a place contact www.tudorhouse.org.uk or phone 01905 612309. No previous writing experience necessary – just come and have fun.



Writing Inspiration – February

For this exercise you will need a notebook, pen and kitchen timer. Allow fifteen minutes.

Pick a colour. Set the timer for two minutes. Free-write (this means write as quickly as you can without crossing out or censoring) until the time runs out.

Pick a sound. This could be something you can actually hear at that moment – or something you remember. Set the timer for two minutes again. Write as quickly as you can.

Pick a scent. Again this could be something that may be close to you at that moment or a fragrance that has particular significance for you. Set the timer. Write.

Pick a taste. This may be something you’ve just eaten or something you like or dislike. Set the timer. Write.

Pick a texture. This could be the crisp cotton shirt you have just ironed or the soft velvet of the cushion where you are sitting. Set the timer. Write.

Take a few minutes to underline any sections you particularly like.

When you do your next writing session, see how many ideas you can develop from this.

Reward yourself for the effort you have put in.


A New Challenge 2017

My partner Bob Woodroofe has set me an interesting challenge for this year.

As many of you know, I started writing a poem a day as my personal challenge for 2013 – and I found it generated so many great ideas that I’ve carried on doing it ever since. Obviously, not all the poems are worth revising and doing further work on – but more often than not there is at least one line I can extract and do something with. As always, it is better to have created something than just talk about doing so!

I’m also a great fan of NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – in November. This has led to a number of projects I wouldn’t have written if I hadn’t put myself under a little extra pressure to do the 50,000 word challenge.

Knowing that many of my poems develop into stories, Bob asked me if I could grow a haiku (17 syllable poem) into a novel by Christmas 2017. I’m working on it! More updates on this soon.

For more details of Bob’s work see www.greenwoodpress.co.uk


Twenty Five Things About Me

  1. I have lexical-gustatory synaesthesia (I experience some words and names as a specific taste).
  2. I was born in Kent.
  3. I am left handed.
  4. My birth sign is Aries.
  5. I hate being called Susan.
  6. I love dark chocolate – although it tastes of the word ‘late’ and I’m never late for anything!
  7. I’m scared of deep water.
  8. I don’t like snakes.
  9. I prefer silver jewellery to gold.
  10. I love Italy – and Italian food.
  11. I don’t like shoe shops.
  12. I love handbags.
  13. I love charity shops.
  14. My favourite subjects at school were English, History, French and German.
  15. I trained seriously for athletics – 800m – when I was in my teens.
  16. I love trains – one of my dreams is to go on the Orient Express.
  17. I once met Winston Churchill.
  18. I love visiting National Trust properties.
  19. I love cooking and eating Indian food.
  20. I’m often awake and writing during the night – I sometimes think I’m nocturnal.
  21. I love black cats.
  22. I wear a lot of velvet.
  23. I love rings.
  24. Glastonbury is one if my favourite places.
  25. I’d love to live in Cornwall.

Writing Success: poetry, flash fiction & short story exercises

When I mentioned to a friend that I was working on this book she said: “I don’t know why you’re bothering. Let people find their own ideas.”

The best way to make me do something is to tell me not to do it! I persisted with the idea of creating a book that would help people who weren’t poets to explore and experiment in a way that would nourish their creativity. Also, when I was setting up my writing workshops many years ago, I was desperate for books that would give me ideas that I could adapt for my students. This book would be a great help to creative writing tutors.

The exercises are short. I began my writing career by writing regularly for fifteen minutes a day. Many people are short of time to write. It has to be sandwiched between work, school, taking the kids to swimming lessons and doing the laundry.

If you have always dreamed of writing ‘one day’ – don’t put it off any longer! Make a start today. Check out this book (and others) on my Publications page. Buy it. Get yourself a notebook. Start now. Let me know how you’re getting on. Good luck.