2021 – Updating my intentions

Halfway through the calendar year, I thought it was time I reviewed my writing plans for 2021. I took three posts to get round to stating my intentions.

January 2021 – Look back mostly skimmed over a year tainted with COVID-19. In a moment of hope, which currently seems somewhat over-optimistic, I said:

We expect to remain shielding until everyone is vaccinated and the virus has gone… We realise this may be some time.

Well, bugger. Just when it looked like things were going well, and a visit to friends for the first time in aaages was on the horizon, the Delta variant arrived and scuppered those plans. Back into household lockdown we go. And thankful for the ability to do so, while furious at the mismanagement that failed to mitigate the risks.

I did warn myself:

“there’s also a risk that, as ever, being bogged down in the stories that fill the news… will be detrimental to creativity”

This. So much this.

Like picking at a scab and wondering why it won’t heal, scrolling social media for an echo of the same tale minute by minute just leads to wasted hours with nothing to show for ’em. No creative writing, no tasty meals prepared, no grass mown.

In the same post I wrote:

“…part of my new writing year’s resolutions is to write with more focus on work which can be published, to finish that work, and submit more poetry to online journals.”

Yeah, nice idea. Still, I have half a year left to work on it.

On top of that, I also suggested:

“There’s scope, room, for learning more skills. For reading widely, online and on paper, to research and build the worlds my stories will occupy.”

Illustration by Waltrich - a human figure reading a book

At least I’ve been able to make a start on some of this. Books, fiction and nonfiction, feed the imagination, and I have a stack of ’em to work through. Haven’t kept my Goodreads up to date though.

A trip to a museum is right out at the moment, sadly – I’d love to revisit the magnificent Kelvingrove, for example, and I’ve mothballed a proposed visit to Calke Abbey – but I’ve enjoyed the scenery of far-flung places through the writings of others.

All grist to the mill.

Here’s a reminder of my writing goals for 2021:

  1. One non-fiction project.
  2. Write more, including fiction and poetry.
  3. Submit poetry to online journals.

How have I done so far?

Hmm…

  1. I have more than one non-fiction project on my to-do list. Prioritise!
  2. Yes, I have written more this year than last, including a quarter of a new novel (Project NEVADA, somewhat stalled) and some new poetry.
  3. Umm, I submitted a couple of poems and had them returned.

Ooh, I mustn’t forget the twelve posts I wrote for The Last Rhinemaiden! And the regular posts on here.

Overall, still at “hmm…” though.

Six months to go. Time to get on it (again).


And here’s this week’s links (I think we could do with some cheering up):

A throwback to the 1970s, and a staple of my childhood: The Goodies (YouTube link, surreal humour involved). Also the official fan club, going strong at The Goodies Rule – OK. OMG I feel like I’m ten years old again… Their newsletter is superb!

Take a scroll through the collections at Calke Abbey on the National Trust’s website – I promise, there is so much junk in there that once you’ve stopped going “you what?”, your fingers will be itching to do a Marie Kondo (“The family were avid collectors but also they tended not to throw anything away”). There’s some really nice stuff, and then there’s the cr@p… small fragments of stained glass; rusted iron wotsits; illuminated manuscripts; buttons; and much more, like this:

Paper label "cut out of pheasants throat 1887"
Paper label “cut out of pheasants throat 1887”

Fab biographical article on the multi-talented Robert “Bob” Calvert at Thanet Writers Spotlight. And for those of you anticipating a return to the office once coronavirus has receded, his poem The Clerk.

Published in: on July 11, 2021 at 12:00 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , ,

January 2021 – Look back

Last year, I wrote about fifty thousand words. Apart from the posts on my blog, none of those words were published. Most of them weren’t publishable – weren’t connected to a novel, or story, or anything else creative. Much of them were journal entries.

There was a lot to muse over. Coronavirus, having appeared, proceeded to sweep across the world and curled itself into a cosy corner of northwestern Europe called the UK, and has been hogging the duvet here ever since. In my household, this is a cause for concern. Hey, if it isn’t a cause for concern in your household, 1. where have you been and 2. don’t bother coming round to explain.

We’ve been shielding since before lockdown in March 2019. We expect to remain shielding until everyone is vaccinated and the virus has gone.

We realise this may be… some time. We are prepared for this.

In terms of creativity, I spent a lot of words noodling over what to write. And why to write. Does my voice matter? (of course it does).text says Write because your voice matters

Of the many stories I have waiting for me to give them form, which of them call me right now? If none, why not? And also, I told myself, why not just come up with some new ideas (e.g. Project NEVADA).

As I wrote here last time, January 2021 – Setting my intentions, nobody wants more junk.

So part of my new writing year’s resolutions is to write with more focus on work which can be published, to finish that work, and submit more poetry to online journals.

There’s scope, room, for learning more skills. For reading widely, online and on paper, to research and build the worlds my stories will occupy.

Scope, too, for reading the guidance and wisdom shared so freely online by other writers – Joanne Harris, Kris Rusch, Terri Windling. And scope for humility too, accepting that my work isn’t ready, that I need more practise, that I need to take my time to make stories that enhance my body of work, not blight it.

Saying that, even with a whole fresh year ahead of us, how many of us believe time isn’t precious?

One breath in the wrong place and you’re infected with COVID. And right now, the UK is near the top of the list of the wrong places. With six weeks of lockdown now in place over England, the old rules apply – stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives. (Might be longer than six weeks, but hey; six weeks is an old-skool beach-body diet plan…)

There are tales to be told of life on Plague Island, to be sure. Many will be horror stories, others tragedy. We Brits have a streak of black comedy a mile wide. What tends not to be noticed are the humdrum, daily dull, background stories of ordinary people who are managing, just fine or just coping.

Some of us aren’t struggling, although we’d like to get out more (but daren’t risk the plague).

Some of us can’t get out even if we’d love to (and to Hell with the virus), even in the Old Normal Age when disability kept us enclosed like rare, exotic pets.

Some of us are skating a thin line down the middle of Okay and Not-Okay, wobbling one way or the other from day to day, hour to hour, like a violin saw screeching not wrong but not-quite-right.

But there’s also a risk that, as ever, being bogged down in the stories that fill the news and the airwaves and online media will be detrimental to creativity.

Those fifty thousand words I wrote last year were mostly random musings. Life planning. Thoughts that wouldn’t stop bugging me until I wrote them down, let them flood out of my head through my hands and onto the screen, where I could pin them down like beetles in a Victorian collector’s case.

There’s a risk that this year’s writing might follow a similar path, if I don’t focus on specific goals.

I already have the skills to make this happen. I’ve written before about how I manage writing projects – spanners and screwdrivers at the ready – so I need to take my own advice as well as that of experts. I have to make a start on writing the works I want to see on my own private bookshelf by the end of the year.

More on that next time.


In the meantime, please enjoy the Yorkshire Musical Saw Players performing Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy”. Yes, indeedy.

Other links I found while researching this post:

The Yorkshire Musical Saw Man(Charles Hindmarsh)

Saw Lady (Natalia Paruz)

Thomas Flynn & Co, the UK’s only musical saw manufacturer

January 2021 – Setting my intentions

Usually at the start of January, I have a burst of creative energy, planning all sorts of creative projects for the year ahead.

Some of these are writing; some are practical, like sorting out home improvements.

There’s a balance to be made between solitary projects and collaboration. Between enjoyable tasks, and chores.

Writing projects on my “Hmm…” list – stories and ideas that I can’t prioritise over any of the others – run to about forty, novels and non-fiction and series, over different genres. Project NEVADA is one of these.

Maybe I just don’t care enough about them. If the writer isn’t excited by the prospect of spending a few months coaxing the characters through the story, then the reader probably won’t want to spend a couple of days – or hours – doing the same.Vintage Typewriter with case

It’s easy to tell myself that if I’d thrown wordcount down on the page for those projects, I’d have something to publish, more novels to add to my body of work.

Another little voice tells me that I might just produce junk.

Nobody wants more junk.

So this year’s plan for creative works will be short.

What’s yours?

Published in: on January 1, 2021 at 12:00 am  Comments (6)  
Tags: , ,

News and tinkerings

You may notice a few changes about the blog over the coming days and weeks.

Stonemasons at work on a tracery window at Guédelon castle, France

Stonemasons at work on a tracery window at Guédelon castle, France

The overall design was set up years ago, to suit the Cuckoo Club novels I was writing, with a focus on Victorian London and the River Thames.

Well, that was then. This is now, and my body of work has expanded to include the Petticoat Katie series of very silly steampunk novels. Future work won’t be set in London – there are a whole host of other places available.

Poems, by their nature being brief and faster to compose, tend to reflect the location where they are written, with allegory and metaphor adding context, e.g. December 2019.

My future plans include non-fiction books, poetry chapbooks, and (heh!) novels. None of these fit in with the theme of the blog, or rather the blog theme doesn’t fit in with the main body of work.

And it’s easier to update the blog than to re-write a novel.

Published in: on December 6, 2020 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on News and tinkerings  
Tags: