Category Archives: The writer’s world

Imposter Syndrome – the story of my life!


Writers often talk about imposter syndrome – the gnawing self-doubt that continues to make even successful, published authors still question their ability. And since many of us oscillate between loving and hating everything we write, it’s all too easy in the low points to feel like a complete fraud. There are plenty of times when I’ve been writing something for this blog without having actually written any fiction for months. And I find myself looking at the blank page and thinking “What right do I have to write about writing if I’m not actually writing?”

Over lockdown I’ve found myself being a whole different kind of imposter. Words have been flowing from my pen (ok, ok, poetic license – from my keyboard) and the equestrian-themed story collection for grown-ups (not a catchy title….need to come up with one of those too!) is growing apace. So what’s the problem?

During lockdown I’ve not so much as thrown a leg over my horse. I’ve taken him for a few walks. Spent a bit of quality time with him, but haven’t actually ridden. All the while lots of my horsey friends are sharing photos on Facebook of all the stuff they’re getting up to. And there’s me writing about fictional characters riding, but not daring to do it myself.

I chose not to ride given it seemed an unnecessary risk during a pandemic. I made the choice for a good reason, but it still felt cowardly. And thus I was safe, I did not put any additional stress on the NHS, but for a long time I felt like a chunk of me was missing.

I’ve ridden since I was about 10, I’ve had a horse of my own since I was 28. I have British Horse Society qualifications and have even worked at a couple of riding schools. But, much like with writing, if I’ve not done it for a bit, I always end up feeling like all this experience is erased.

This weekend I decided enough was enough. I’d had his shoes put back on, it was time to get back on the horse! Yesterday I worked him on the lunge and sat on him for a few minutes, today I did a few minutes schooling in the paddock. It might have only been a few minutes, but I feel like I’m me again.

I often wish I was the kind of fearless, live-in-the-moment type, who didn’t constantly over-think everything. But then, maybe if I was like that, I wouldn’t be a writer? So, just in case, I’ll hang on to my neuroses!

I’ll probably ache tomorrow. But hopefully if I work on my stories, I’ll now feel like a genuine horsey person while I’m doing it! 😁

A Writer’s Final Resting Place


Last week we had a blissful few days away, staying in a traditional little black wood-clad cottage in Suffolk. After a hectic year, it was wonderful soaking up the unseasonably warm sunshine and the fabulous scenery, and generally re-charging our batteries.

Not far from our cottage was a stretch of common and a church, so one afternoon we went for a stroll. My husband went to look at the church, while I wandered around the churchyard. I’m not quite sure why gravestones should be so fascinating but they are. I’m always amazed by the longevity recorded on some of the stones, and appalled by the short life of others.

As I was glancing at the names, I came across this stone:

Now if, like me, you were a keen fan of pony books when you were a child, this name should jump out at you as it did with me.

Christine was one of three madly horsey sisters who all wrote loads of books (and did other cool things like run their own riding school when they were youngsters – in the age before things like licensing, qualifications, health & safety and public liability!). Of the three sisters Christine was the most productive, writing somewhere in the region of 100 books (mostly fiction, but some non-fiction) – most of which I devoured when I was young and ponyless. Indeed, one is within reach on the shelves next to my desk as I write this.

My obsession with reading and collecting pony books (mostly written in the 1950s and 1960s) probably contributed to my not fitting in too well at school since my vocab was peppered with the kind of words used by the Pullein-Thompson sisters’ characters (though I’m pretty sure those robust types would have considered me “feeble”!). But much more importantly, Christine and her sisters inspired me to try writing my own pony stories, which in turn prompted a lifelong interest in writing itself, so for that I owe them a huge debt.

Finding Christine’s grave, I was struck by how serendipitous life can be. I hadn’t known she’d lived in this particular village, it was only completely by chance that we’d wandered through the church yard, and chance again that I happened to spot her name. For a moment, I was quite stunned. Christine, you were such an important part of my childhood, I feel honoured to have seen your idyllic resting place in the Suffolk countryside.

If you were a pony-mad child and want a bit of nostalgia, can I recommend you take a look at Jane Badger’s online Pony Book Encyclopaedia which contains an absolute wealth of info about the genre – and loads and loads of cover pictures which will have you misty-eyed with recognition. All Christine’s books are listed, and it’s great to know her legacy lives on.



Social Media: it’s not all bad!


Social media gets a lot of bad press (often, paradoxically, in posts on social media!). Rather like television or violent computer games, it seems to now be held responsible for many of our social ills. Too much time on Facebook, we are warned, leads to our making negative comparisons with our compatriots, lowered self-esteem and a rising sense of isolation. Irresponsible sharing of unsubstantiated posts engenders the perpetuation of lies, negative bias or discriminatory and inflammatory social trends. Spending too much time embedded in the virtual world of your phone means you might miss out on valuable real life experiences. You’d be forgiven for thinking that everything in the social media world is poisonous.

But this sinister view is not the whole truth. For writers in particular, the online world provides a wealth of timely information, news and social comment which not only assists you in keeping up with industry trends, but also keeps you in touch with the zeitgeist. You simply could not replicate this through TV, books, or magazines/newspapers alone.

Social media also provides a platform for finding your “tribe”, for linking up with other like-minded people (unconstrained by geographical location), sharing ideas and supporting one another. For writers, who are usually (by necessity) lonesome creatures, it’s particularly invaluable – as I’ve found this week.

You’ll probably notice I’ve not posted here for a while. And you might deduce (quite correctly) that there is a positive correlation between the number of posts on this blog and my writing output in general. So yes, for a number of reasons I’ve shied away from all things writing-related for a few months. And, as you’ll probably know, the longer you’ve not written, the harder it is to get back into it.

What has made matters worse is that I started off at the beginning of the year in a burst of creativity and wrote thousands of words in the first couple of months. I had a schedule and I stuck to it. I was disciplined. Then I decided to take a break to recharge my batteries – thinking I would go back to it later with a fresh eye.


Roll on seven months and there’s me finding myself unable to pick up a pen (or open the laptop) – frankly even to consider myself as a writer at all. My attendance on Twitter’s #WritingChat (8pm every Wednesday evening) had dwindled as I felt too shame-faced to take part. This week’s topic was the quarterly reviewing of goals.

Oh, goals. Those things crafted in a burst of New Year optimism which I’ve not dared look at for months? So I sent a brief apologetic tweet – feeling unable to take part. But the “tribe” weren’t having that. A host of positive responses began pinging into my feed – I should draw a line under the last few months, accept them for what they were, re-frame my goals and move on. If I was too scared to go back to the big project, I should start small. Just a line or two.

Later I had a sneaky peek at my original goals list. Yes, it was bad. But actually it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought. I’d made positive steps towards a few of the items on the list. Perhaps some things were salvageable.

And the following evening I was ‘direct messaged’ by a fellow writer – just gently checking up on me to see if I’d written anything that day. It was just the nudge I needed. Granted, I didn’t write anything new that evening, but I did start typing up and editing a story I’d drafted longhand a while back.

So I’d like to say a huge thank you to the #WritingChat community, and to the writer who contacted me directly (you know who you are!) – it was hugely appreciated. Because social media is not just there for all the bad things in life – it can also bring people together in a positive, supportive way.

While I can’t guarantee a sudden burst of creativity, I don’t now feel quite so intimidated by the thought of sitting at my desk. Just looking back through my file of unfinished drafts has reminded me of embryonic stories I’d forgotten all about. I’m still a writer, even if a little lapsed right now!

And hey, at least I’ve written this post! 😉

Reading: my guilty pleasure!


It didn’t use to be like this. Back in the day, I could while away a whole morning or afternoon with a good book perfectly easily. I would think nothing of submerging myself in a novel with the same joy as I might a hot bath. Occasionally I might feel a trace of guilt after the fact, when the day had slipped by with little (on the face of it) to show for it, but it never spoilt the actual pleasure of reading.

Nowadays, things are different. I find it difficult to settle to reading. The odd article or post is easy enough, but a proper book? That’s a different matter. I suspect partly (and paradoxically) this may be because I’m a writer myself. I know we writers are supposed to read all the time, and I guess I do if we’re talking about writing-related tips and info, but being a writer means you can’t help but spend time analysing and deconstructing the written word as you read. Plus you tend to read stuff that you ought to read, rather than the stuff you really want to devour. And that tends to get in the way of real reading pleasure.

But that’s not the whole story. Partly it’s habit (or falling out of the habit). Reading used to be my default setting. After a bit, writing became my default setting. Now I suspect Facebook and eBay are becoming a much less satisfying alternative. Why do I allow myself to be distracted by such tosh?!

And the other thing is the dullness of being a grown up, with grown up responsibilities. You sit down for a moment to read, and the thought begins to gnaw at you that you put a wash on a little while ago and hadn’t you better get the washing out to dry? Or the washing up needs doing (OK, we’re probably the only people in the universe who don’t have a dishwasher, but that’s fine by me.) Or the dogs need a walk. Or the garden is looking neglected. Or the car needs vacuuming out. Or you really ought to write a blog post…

I have to face facts: there are 24 hours in day, everyone gets the same number – but how you spend them is up to you. If you want to do something you will make time for it, even if it means making a compromise somewhere else. And I want to be a reader again. A voracious reader. A reader who reads for the simple joy of it.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I have a book waiting…….. 🙂

Support Networks for Writers


For those of us in the Midlands, it’s been a week of proper winter weather – snow and freezing temperatures has made those everyday journeys suddenly ridiculously difficult. One evening in particular, we had a sudden heavy snowfall and, in the space of a few minutes, the roads went from perfectly passable to treacherous.

We happened to be out in the weather at the time, driving back home through the neighbouring village. Our old Volvo (with almost a quarter of a million miles on the clock!) is four wheel drive and did us proud, but we came across several stranded cars and others wheel-spinning on the ice. We ended up pulling over and helping push several vehicles to get them on their way. There was a real feeling of camaraderie as we, and other passers-by, joined in. It seemed particularly appropriate given the time of year – it being almost the season of goodwill!

It also made me think about support networks and goodwill in general. Us writers can be a little insular at times, but that’s not to say we don’t need (and value) the network of people around us who help us do what we do. Our families, who accept that often we will be busy scribbling alone, and who take an interest in what we do without perhaps really understanding why we bother doing it! Our friends, who take the time to read those dodgy first drafts and make useful comments, or who are quick to provide a hug when things are not going so well. And the wider writing community who are so ready to offer support and encouragement.

Put a post on Facebook about a problem you’re having with your writing and in no time there’ll be a string of comments from other writers telling you they’ve experienced something similar, or offering advice. If you post about a rejection, you’ll get commiserations. If you post about a writing success (however modest) you’ll soon be inundated with generous and humbling congratulatory messages.

So if you find yourself wheel-spinning on your writing journey, don’t worry – just shout, and someone will soon be along to give you a push. And if your writing road is looking pretty clear, don’t forget to pay it forward – in lots of little ways:

  1. tell someone if you like their novel/story/blog (it might be just the lift they need)
  2. tell lots of other people too!
  3. remember to leave a review (for all those people you can’t tell personally)
  4. retweet their tweets
  5. comment on or share their posts
  6. follow their blog or their author page

And most importantly, say thank you to all those who’ve done the same for you:

So, thank you, folks! I appreciate every little push! 🙂

Writing Aims: Overambition and Underachievement!


It’s December already! How did this happen? I swear it was late summer just a second ago… OK, so I have to face facts, it’s coming up to the end of the year, and I daren’t look at those “Aims for 2017” which I have pinned up on my noticeboard (they’ve been strategically hidden under a post-it note and a postcard, so I don’t have to continually beat myself up about not having achieved any of them…).

Of course, I’ll wait until the traditional ritual-shaming at the end of the month to blog in detail about this year’s failures, and to entertain you all with my next batch of unlikely ambitions for 2018. I will say though that realistic goal-setting has to be based on a suitable mix of self-knowledge and boundary-pushing. Yes, you need to push yourself to strive for that which is currently just beyond your reach, but you also have to take into account your need to turn up at the day job, or the necessity to spend time with your nearest and dearest or indeed, your desire to watch Strictly.

Writers are notoriously good at beating themselves up – either for crimes of procrastination and under-achievement, or though constant (unfavourable) comparison with others. We read lots of articles which attempt to shame us into better working/creative practices. And there is probably much truth in these (I don’t need to watch any more amusing cat or dog videos on Facebook – I know this!), but you have to extract the bits of advice that work for you.

This is why I was so amused to read Sophie Hannah’s latest blog post. As you may know, I’m a big Sophie Hannah fan, and I came across the article through following her on  Goodreads (but you can find it directly from her website here). In it, she goes through the most common advice available for authors, and gives her take on the wisdom contained therein.

It’s a refreshingly down to earth (and entertaining) article, and the strongest message which comes out of it is that you have to discover a working pattern which works for you, taking into account your responsibilities, internal body clock, levels of OCD etc. For this, you need self-knowledge.

I think this on a weekday when I am rushing (always rushing – always late no matter what time I get up!) to get ready for work. And I glance longingly at my writing desk wishing that instead of the day job, I could be spending my day here. But I know full well that on my non-working days, I will find it impossible to make it to my writing desk anywhere near the time I’d make it to my work office desk. Would I be any more productive if I didn’t have a day job? I’m really not that convinced!

There’s that old adage, “if you want something done, ask a busy person” and I’m pretty sure it’s true. When you’re busy, you can shoehorn in an extra task. On a lazy day, leaving the sofa to make a cuppa can seem too onerous.

So, I shall leave beating myself up until the end of the month. In the meantime, I’ll do as much as I can. As much as I can fit in around the rest of life. Probably not any of the things on my “Aims for 2017” list – but perhaps instead achieving some things I’d not anticipated. I’ll tell you more about that in my next post. 😉


Smart Phones for Smart Writers



One of the great conundrums of the modern age is that despite all the technology which has been developed, and despite all the labour-saving devices we have in our homes, we appear to have less and less time. How can this be?

Well of course, we still have exactly the same amount of time as we’ve always had. Those 24 hours won’t grow or shrink. It’s what you do with them that counts. So, yes you can get up at ridiculous-o’clock to squeeze in a few more useful hours. You can multi-task up to a point. You can choose to stop doing certain tasks to devote the time to something more important (see Kath McGurl’s Give Up Ironing book for more ideas on this approach!). And you can stop getting distracted.

I’m not a big TV fan – and you’ll absolutely never hear the words “box set” pass my lips in the context of losing a whole weekend watching 400 episodes of some show or other. (I am the person who can’t take part in office discussions about Game of Thrones etc.) But I am totally addicted to the internet, particularly because of my smart phone. I love YouTube videos which help me improve the way I ride my horse. I can lose hours googling random facts, or watching amusing or tear-jerking videos on Facebook. I’m also plagued by a kazillion emails (many from all the great writing-related websites I’ve signed up to). And I think this is the route of the time problem we all face. Whether smart-phone-related or not, there is simply too much information out there for our brains to process. So, I’ve decided I need to be more selective.

Before I had a smart phone, I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. People had managed perfectly well for centuries without such a gadget. It was just a silly fad. Now? It’s an integral part of pretty well every aspect of my life. Its alarm gets me up in the morning, and the sleep app tells me how long and how well I’ve slept the night before (last night was amazing – 8h 4mins – almost a record!). My running podcast takes me through my morning’s run, and the health app monitors my steps/distance travelled. On my way to and from work, I listen to a writing (or sometimes horse riding) related podcast – at the moment, I’m checking out the backlist of The Creative Penn which is amazingly informative about the indie author world – and also very entertaining.

This week is National Short Story week, and my smart phone has been invaluable in helping me advertise my two short story ebooks The Camel in the Garden and Beyond Words, which have been on special offer. Using my phone has enabled me to access Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, post photos and links, join in discussions, to post and comment on this blog and, of course, keep track of downloads – at any time, not just when I’m at home at my writing desk.

But I need to get better at sifting online information, saving the important bits (such as story competition info) and managing it in a way which means I won’t overlook it later.

If you have any top tips on the way you manage this process, please share them in the comments below.  I will be eternally grateful!

And if you’re the sort of really organised person who has arranged their life so efficiently that you have an afternoon free for a spot of reading, Beyond Words is still half-price for the remainder of this weekend. 🙂

“I am a #writer” – Keeping the Faith


One of the best Christmas presents I ever received was a portable typewriter. Granted, we’re going back a bit. I was 13. My mum had watched me scribbling away in notebooks, or head buried in a kazillion novels over the previous months/years. She had listened when I told her I wanted to be a writer. And she wanted to help. Opening my present on Christmas Day was one of those rites of passage moments – not only was it something I really wanted (I appreciate this makes me a pretty nerdy teenager!), but it was a proper grown-up present. And most importantly, it meant that my parents didn’t think I was being silly. I said I wanted to be a writer: they believed me, and believed in me.

I now know how lucky I was. And I also now know that having people around you who believe in you is only half the battle – you also have to believe in yourself. There are so many hundreds, thousands, of great books out there, so many talented writers, it’s easy to become discouraged, to think there’s no place for you. Even literary success may not wholly dispel feelings of “imposter syndrome”.

After some initial (perhaps too easily won) success in short story writing when I was a teenager, my writing “career” took a nose dive. For many, many years I dabbled, but didn’t work at it. Only when I made the decision to do a Creative Writing MA did I truly start to take myself and my writing seriously. There were huge benefits – from writing regularly, from being exposed to other people’s writing processes and discussing each other’s work, and from learning about the wider publishing industry. Building my author identify online (instead of hiding way in anonymity) was a huge step for me (I kept waiting for the sky to fall in – just for reference, it didn’t). Achieving the MA gave me some kind of validation – as did publication and success in writing competitions. But hearing feedback from readers is the best thing. (This is the first year I’ve had “fan mail”! Thank you so much to the people who have emailed or contacted me via Twitter to tell me they’ve enjoyed my stories – I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support.)

I know several would-be writers who are too nervous to show their work to the wider world, or even talk about their writing. But if you write, you are a writer, and if you want the wider world to believe in you as a writer, you must first believe in yourself. If you want the wider world to know about your writing, you have to talk about what you do.

Next week is National Short Story Week – a great opportunity to talk about all things writing and short story related. To coincide with this, I’m running two special offers on my eBooks:

The Camel in the Garden will be FREE from Monday 13th – Friday 17th November 2017

Beyond Words will be HALF PRICE from Monday 13th – Sunday 19th November 2017, so you will be able to pick up 12 stories for a mere 99p.

To find out more about either of these short story collections, click the relevant tab at the top of this page.

If you’ve struggled with self-belief or “imposter syndrome” and would like to tell us about something which made the difference for you, please comment below. Similarly, if you read any great short stories over the coming week, please let us know. 🙂

Ode on the Blessed Printer! #writersrhymes


Ode on the blessed printer
(or “I wish I could make all submissions by email”)

I’ve just finished my story
It’s ready to submit
I’ve tweaked the dodgy plot line
Proof checked and re-checked it

So I fire up my printer
Plug in the USB
But my laptop does not recognise
The software that it sees

I wiggle all the cables
Until it finally connects
Then wait for several seconds
For the command to take effect

The printer starts to rumble
But the text’s a right schemozzle
Onscreen a warning light appears
I need to check my nozzles

I press the “OK” button
And watch the screen with dread
The problem clearly isn’t fixed:
Now I have to clean my heads

Then another warning light
A cartridge out of ink
And though I’m only printing black
I somehow still need pink

Next I fix the paper jam
Has the printer given up the ghost?
No, the pages finally tumble out –
But by now I’ve missed the post!

Resolving NOT to Write


Yes, you read this correctly. I’m NOT writing. Deliberately. I’m itching to make a start. I have the first line in my head and I’d love to get going and see where it takes me, but I’m not allowing myself to do so.


Because although I can write a short story with just the glimmer of an idea, allow it to take hold and just go with it, when it comes to writing something longer, the whole “pantser” thing has failed me. I have about five half-written novels languishing in my hard drive. They have each suffered the same fate. They started with an idea, they grew and developed, their characters became well-rounded and compelling, plot devices sprang up which promised to keep those pages turning…. And then about two-thirds in, everything went horribly wrong. The plot fell apart. The path to “the end” faded and then disappeared altogether. And I couldn’t get myself out of it.

I thought I was a pantser, but it turns out I’m not. I need to plan. So this time, I’ve promised myself, things will be different. The initial idea for my current project actually came to me in a dream….  No, really!  I woke up, and the characters were there in my head.  Of course in the dream, it all made total sense and was already planned out – and then when I woke up, there was just the impression of the story which needed all the details filling in. So that’s where I am at the moment. Filling in the details.

I’m currently researching the setting, pulling together all the backstory for each of the main characters, drawing up a chapter plan (horribly sketchy at the moment), and working out the plot. I’m determined that this time I will have it all planned in advance – before I so much as begin to write the first page. Of course, I’m prepared for the story to develop in ways I’d not expected, so it’s possible the plan will need some revision on the way, but the plan needs to exist at the outset.

I know this isn’t the way that all writers begin a new piece of work – I know of many who say they just have an outline, start writing and see where it takes them. I wish I was like that, and who knows, maybe one day I will be. But right now, it’s me, a notebook, a pad of post-its, some highlighters – and a lot of time on Google!

If you have any great planning strategies and tips, I’d love to hear them! In the meantime, I’m attempting to develop my own method. Wish me luck – I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂