Build a Writers’ Toolbox (Part 2)

You'd never fish without a line

This week, I’m continuing the idea of building a writers’ toolbox, looking at some really useful and/or inspiring websites. Please add more of your favourites below…

Informative Websites

  • The literary hub of Ireland: is essential for writing tips, news, competitions, articles, events coverage
  • Thresholds – home of the international short story forum full of submission and competition info (thanks to @averillB for pointing this one out)
  • Bookmunch – as writers we’re also avid readers – but it’s not always easy to select what to read. This corker of a book review site is full of ‘acerbic, pithy and/or witless book stuff’ – a really useful guide
  • The Short Review – the best place for reviews of short fiction collections – new and old.

Inspiring websites

  • Creative Writing Prompts – It sure is ugly, but hover over a number, read the prompt, go write! Useful for the morning pages or to inspire a new submission when you’re short of ideas. You can also find more ideas in the weekly write section of the Scottish Book Trust website.
  • while I’m still getting to grips with it, this is a fun place to network, meet some cool people and get more coverage for your blog posts (as well as going to bonfires and earning bones…check it out to see what I’m talking about)
  • Prefer visual prompts? Try this Easy Street blog for ideas, or be get fresh ideas from Jason Lee (particularly good for characters & mood) or Gerry Chaney (think settings & space). Then, of course, there’s always National Geographic.
  • Authonomy – created by HarperCollins, a great community place to hang out, share ideas, get tips etc

Don’t forget to add your own favourites…


It all started with this on my friend’s Facebook page:

These images really got me thinking, because this pretty much sums up many people’s attitudes to writers and writing.

Whenever I tell people I’m a writer, living in the countryside, I always get the same reaction; “Ah, that’ll be inspiring. You can look at the sea for hours on end, waiting for the ideas to come. That’s the life!

Well, yes, in many ways, it is the life. I’ve surrounded myself with beautiful views and inspiring people, and I get to do what I love every day. But as any writer knows, writing doesn’t entail sitting and waiting for an idea to form; writing is hard work. You have to discipline yourself to sit and write every day – you have to make ideas work, yet be prepared to scrap hours, days, or even several months’ worth of work if the plot/characters/general ideas don’t work out in the end. And you also have to be ruthless and selfless enough to spot the failure in the first place, despite the time and effort you’ve invested.

Writing can be lonely, time consuming and takes an enormous amount of self control – it’s a selfish monster but, if you’re a writer, it’s a necessity. Writing is embedded in your soul and words need to be formed, manipulated and loved on a daily basis, no matter what else is going on in your life. But don’t get me wrong; writing is also a complete delight. And there’s an unidentifiable joy that you gain from jumping into the sea of language and coming up with a handcrafted pearl.

As writers, we take huge risks to follow our passion, our dream. We risk isolation, rejection and failure as, every day, we strive for perfection. We practise and train as much as athletes, craving success and recognition as well as the satisfaction of producing an enjoyable read. Ask any writer; you can write for yourself and try to feel satisfied with your work but there’s an inherent need for verification in the form of a publishing deal.

Yet, with or without a publisher behind us, we have to remind ourselves on a daily basis that yes, we’re writers. We have to know what we’re aiming for and be prepared to go out and get it. So we stoke up our laptops and wield our pens, then leap back into the tide – unsure of where we’re going but delighted to be going on the journey.

Why? Because, contrary to popular belief, writers don’t navel gaze; they write. No matter what else is going on, writing is our driving force for everyday life. And, I must say, it’s magical.

How do you keep the magic alive and keep on writing?

Sailing into the unknown

(originally posted on my old blog, Serendipitypoetry)

Weird gifts

This was a weird gift

Inspired by a tweet a month or so ago by Rick O’Shea, about ridiculous art purchases, I decided to release images of possibly one of the strangest gifts I’ve ever been given – a two headed stuffed duck. Now, I love this little fella (and so does @Katyod); he sits in my writing room, happily looking down on me as I work. I like to think he’s spurring me on. But, of course, he got a mixed reaction on Twitter…after all, he’s not quite ‘normal’.

The funny thing is, the reaction I got to this little fella (feel free to suggest a name!) was akin to the reaction I get when I say I’m a writer. Especially when you’re an, as yet, unpublished author. Set in whatever backdrop you like (a party, a shop, a reunion), I’m sure this conversation will resonate with many of you:

“What do you do?”

“I’m a writer.”

“Oh, wow! have I heard of you? Do you have anything published?”

“No, not yet but…”

“Oh. You must be mad!”

*Interested party skulks away*

There’s no denying that writing is a weird gift…after all, you lock yourself away in a room, making up worlds and people, hoping someone other than you/your other half/your retired neighbour will read it one day. You feel driven by the characters, the plot, the twists at the end. You spend nights dreaming about plot blips and days dreaming about a publishing deal. And once you get the publishing deal, you start dreaming of deadlines and starting something completely new.

But lightheartedness aside, this ‘weirdness’ is not limited to writers; and there can be a dark side to creative talent. It’s well known that many of the world’s most creative minds (whether in film, science, art, sculpture, writing, comedy, etc) also suffer from some form of depression/social difficulties/addictions/phobias. Of course, just as many creative folk don’t – but there’s still no denying that creativity and the darker side of the brain may be linked.

Mslexia is currently conducting a survey on creativity and mental health – there are only twelve questions to answer and I think the answers will be enlightening. So, help us to understand the weird gifts we have and click here to take part (deadline Sunday, February 12th).

New beginnings

Our daffodils are nearly out!

It’s the start of the year; a time when everyone, especially writers, thinks about what they want to achieve in the twelve months ahead. There are the usual goals, like giving stuff up we don’t want to (chocolate, wine, meals out) and then there’s the unachievable goals like ‘write a novel in six days’ (while also being the best mum/wife/cook/electrician in the world).

Instead of making goals or resolutions this year, I’ve decided to focus solely on priorities. It feels less intimidating; and if I stray, I can take a peek and get back on track without stressing about the missing bits and feeling like a failure. So, my 2012 priorities are:

1. Writingfor enjoyment as well as publication, with more submissions thrown in.

2. Healthkeep up the outdoors shenanigans and worry less over the little things; they’ll take care of themselves.

3. Funmaking stuff and doing stuff, from knitting to piano, festivals to fishing. And lots of it.

4. Making moneywe’re never going to starve.

I’ve come a long way from the old, corporate me and if I learned anything over the last year, it was that rushing gets you nowhere. Like this skeleton leaf I found in the garden today, I’m going to take my time and let things happen a bit more naturally in 2012.

How will you make 2012 your best year yet?

Nature doesn't hurry - neither will I