How to make my writing better?

“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”

Albert Einstein.

E=mc² Einstein

 image by Binlid at

I’m not good at asking for help, but I’ve reached a point in my writing where I can’t move forward without it.

Apart from an LSJ course on Writing for Children (which was excellent), no one has ever critiqued my work. I don’t belong to a writers’ group and I don’t have critique partners, but I also don’t have a completed manuscript, so to be fair, I was concentrating my efforts on that.

Here’s the problem: for the last few weeks I’ve been posting short flash fiction stories to the Writer Unboxed site for their summer competition. This was a big step, no one apart from the tutor at LSJ had ever read my work. And I had ‘beginners luck’ I think, as the first posting got an honourable mention, but the thing is, I’ve been posting every week since then, and I’m just not getting any better, or even equalling that first success, and I don’t know why.

My goal is to write novels, and I appreciate that short stories (and you don’t get much shorter than flash fiction) are a different medium entirely. But I should still be able to see where I’m going wrong.

Maybe I’m bad at editing – when I read the stories over, I don’t know what’s missing, but I’m clearly not connecting with the readers or the judges. If anything, I’m getting less ‘likes’ each week I enter.

There are a couple of my stories that I don’t like myself, in retrospect, but others I still do. And this isn’t about wanting to win the competition, it’s about spotting a problem and just not knowing how to fix it.

And then I thought about an episode of The Big Bang Theory I’d seen, where Sheldon quoted Einstein’s definition of insanity. Click here for a clip from the same episode, but not the actual quote, which is so good, you’re getting it again –

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results


I don’t want to be that person, it strikes me as such a huge waste of time, (I barely have enough of that as it is!), so I need to ask for help.

I’ve decided to reach out to a couple of other bloggers and see if they know of any competitions or other online forums where I can submit work and where feedback is encouraged.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

And if you’re aware of any such places out on the Web, could you let me know?



3 inspiring links to keep you writing

So, are you finished your book yet?

Friends used to ask this question when I started writing. Now? Not so much.

I guess they figure I should be done already. My book should be sitting on a shelf somewhere, and I should be signing copies in Waterstones, and doing ‘famous author stuff’.

I have to admit, I believed this fantasy once. I thought I’d write the book (which would be easy), and it would be snapped up (preferably with a bidding war) and I’d be going to the film premiere in Leicester Square in no time!

I’m not so embarrassed to admit this, since the fantasy was enough to get me started on this writing journey. We all have to start somewhere. And thanks to the many hours I’ve spent staring blankly at my current Word document, and all the writer’s blogs available online, I know a LOT better now.

But once you know how hard it is to get published, it can be a little gloomy, so here are my links to the most inspiring, honest and upbeat accounts of the road to publication.

1. Shannon Messenger, who began writing in 2009 and has her first MG novel out soon.

She does a great roundup of her writing year, which makes for an inspiring read.

Here they are in order      2009   2010   2011

2. Then, there’s Amanda Hocking’s story of how she self published all her books (and there are many –  she writes FAST!) – an epic tale of how it all happened

3. Laini Taylor’s post about how Daughter of Smoke and Bone (wonderful book!) came into being –wheeeee-real book!  You have to click through a few links to get the full story, but honestly, reading this blog is such a pleasure anyway, it’s worth it. Laini also has a great blog about her writing process, called Not for Robots, which is well worth checking out.

Of course, while you’re reading these posts, you’re not getting any work done…but procrastination is a topic for another time!




If manuscripts were dogs….

Learner bloggers are often advised not to write about their pets. No one’s interested in your cat or dog unless you’re Neil Gaiman or (insert famous author name),* though I guess if you have a pet crocodile or armadillo, that makes a good post.

Apologies then, as in my case, Bertie serves as a living canine reminder of how long I’ve been writing. He was there at the very beginning, making him roughly the same age as my manuscript.

black cocker spaniel puppy, bertie Back then, he was a messy little distraction, dashing about all over the place and constantly craving attention; meanwhile, on the computer, my children’s novel was much the same.

But unlike the manuscript, Bertie grew up quickly.

He now looks like this…..

Black cocker spaniel, Bertie

And if my manuscript was a canine….



it would look like this.

Serious editing required!

If your current manuscript was a dog, what would it look like?

* (worth clicking on the link, lovely black and white photos of famous authors and their dogs)