Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Writing is making me thin

by James Batchelor

I'm a firm believer that where you write is as important as how, what and why.

Stephen King wrote in his semiautographical book On Writing that writers need a personal space of their own to write: a basement, a loft, a study. While most of us probably have that space, we might always have access to it due to work, family and all the other excuses we have for not writing that bestseller.

The answer is to find an alternative that sits with your daily schedule. For me, the only time I have is my lunch break. Since my office is a little too noisy, I have to find somewhere else to write.

The nearby library is perfect, but they don't let you bring in food (a man's still got to eat, after all!) and it's closed on Wednesdays (no ones knows why. Do people not read on Wednesdays?).

Costa is an option but I always feel obliged to pay for overpriced drinks, and even more obliged to clear out when I've finished them. The same goes for all the 'greasy spoon' cafes and sandwich bars in the area.

The wetherspoons is too noisy and my far-from-Herculean physique could do without more of their £5 burgers.

By process of elimination, I found my public writing space... in Sainsbury's cafe. It's big enough that no one notices me in the corner. And if I pick up cheap food from the store, I don't feel guilty for taking up a table.

Best of all, the cheapest food is the always-varied salad bar: a couple of pounds for a reasonably sized bowl of leaves, veg, rice, pasta, etc - far healthier than the usual slabs of cheese crammed between bread or the monstrosities I used to pick up from Subway.

The result is I can split my lunch break into fifteen to twenty minutes of buying/eating salad - and at least forty minutes of writing, enough to add up to 1,000 words to my total count.

A productive writing session, no pressure to cram in some novel time after work and gradual weight loss on top of it - that's the new 'where' of my writing.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Importance of Writing Exercises

by Carlie Cullen

You sit down at your computer for the first time of the day, open up the document ready to dive into your latest work of art and what happens? You struggle to get started. Once you get into the flow, you’re fine, but it’s those first few painful minutes where you suddenly doubt yourself. So why is this? Why does it happen?

Your brain and creativity, like any other muscle in your body needs warming up before you start to really exercise it. Put it this way – would you run a marathon without stretching your leg muscles first? Would you try bench pressing a huge weight without easing into it with lesser weights first? Not if you’ve got any sense you wouldn’t!

You would end up with painful pulled muscles and ligaments which would seriously inhibit your ability to do everything you’d normally achieve without thinking about it.

So why strain your creativity in the same way?

A five or ten minute writing exercise completely unconnected to your current ‘Work In Progress’ will warm up those muscles in your brain and get the creative juices flowing.

Here are some examples of what you can do:

·         Free Writing – pick any word at random and write whatever comes into your head about that word. Don’t stop to correct spelling mistakes or grammar, just keep writing.

·         Pictorials – pick any picture from a newspaper or magazine and write about what you see. Describe the environment, describe any people in it, describe any feelings the picture invokes.

·         Photographs – choose one of your own photographs and write about the day it was taken. Where was it? Why were you there? Who were you there with? Describe the scenery or buildings. Talk about any people in the photograph; who they are, what they mean to you.

·         A lyric from a song – it may be an unfamiliar song you hear on the radio or a new CD, or one that you know particularly well. What feelings does that lyric invoke in you? Does it fill you with joy or happiness? If so, why? Does it make you sad and if so, why? Does it make you remember events from your past? If so, what, and how does that affect you now?

·         Look out of the window and choose an object or person/couple you see. Describe it/them. If it’s a person, wonder about what sort of life you think they lead, where they’re going. Look at how they’re dressed. If it’s a building, what sort of people do you think live there, what are their lives like? Describe what you imagine.

·         Everyday objects – choose a random object from your house and build a mini story around it. It could be something as basic as a ball of string, a rolling pin, a candle, a pack of playing cards, a box of matches. The list is endless.

As you can see, there are so many possibilities of things you can write about to exercise that muscle before you attempt to begin on your latest project. And because the creative juices are already flowing, you will find it much easier to pick up where you left off with your project.

If you can discipline yourself to spend those few minutes doing your warm up exercises, I’m sure you’ll find those moments of doubt and struggle disappear, and your writing will be all the richer for it.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Competition Winners

On 1st March the Essex Book Festival launched. During the launch at Chelmsford Library, a competition was run, announced by Dave Monk. The challenge was to write a story in 100 words. There was no theme or prompts to help. Below are the top 3 chosen entries.
In First Place is Jean Randall from the Writebulb Writers Group.

Blackness, silence, the bittersweet taste of bile and blood erupted from her body.

Her dream cottage lay a few yards away on her right hand side facing the tranquillity of the river.

“It’ll be the death of you” her father had commented wryly as he’d viewed Heartsease Cottage just before he’d died.

“Lorna, Lorna” shouted a voice sharpened by anxiety.

Dry twigs impatiently snapped beneath running feet; Pete noticed the deeply scarred road as he ran towards her.

Her prized Ducati’s formerly gleaming frame lay nestled beside her; symbolising she painfully considered her shattered dreams.

“Mummy, Mummy where are you?” wailed an unanswered voice.


In Second Place is Adrienne Tinn from the Harlow Writing Group.

He sat staring into the distance, his old dog Tom beside him. He looked thankfully at the nearby bus stop. He knew the timetable by heart. Due to his failing health, poor eyesight and arthritic fingers he could no longer drive. The bus was there again – the untimetabled bus which had been arriving regularly at eleven each night. It waited there a while then silently moved off vanishing into the distance. Tonight although the pain in his hands and arm was really bad, he together with Tom would catch that mysterious bus and see where it took him.


In Third Place is Beverly Townsend from the Writebulb Writers Group.

Brenda stepped into the lift avoiding looking at her reflection in the mirror. With a gloved hand to avoid infection she pressed floor 3. She took a deep breath, counting to four as she exhaled in an effort to slow her thumping heart. Staring at the metal floor she heard the click of the lift doors closing behind her. With a sigh she reluctantly looked in the mirror as the floor started to move. A red flushed face stared back at her, downlighted by a single ceiling bulb.

“Why does it have to be so difficult visiting my mother?”

Congratulations to everyone that took part, and we hope to see you at next year's launch!