Julie's Quest

Hello, and welcome to my blog. My blog is about the trials and tribulations of writing, where we celebrate successes and commiserate our near misses. We tell it like it is here and will do our very best to help you on the road to being published and pick you up after the rejections (they will come!) Whether you are a professional or amateur writer you will find something useful here.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and will visit again soon.

Happy Writing

Julie Phillips - freelance writer - member of the Association of Freelance Writers - member of the Society of Authors

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Pat on the back

Congratulations! Yes, this week I am starting off by patting you on the back. What's going on? You might be thinking. What have I done to deserve this praise? You might even be looking over your shoulder thinking I must be addressing someone else. I'm not. I'm definitely talking to you.

There are lots of people who say or think they are writers. They say they'd write if only they had the time. The trouble is that they don't actually do anything to achieve their writing dreams. And they are dreams - they aren't goals - goals demand action.

But you're reading this blog post. You've made an effort to click onto the blog. You've probably also written something yourself recently - even if it is a plan of action. It's a start. You're already way ahead of everyone who hasn't even picked up a pen or opened up their laptop.

For that - well done. Carry on!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Lost in time

It's easy when we are in the throes of creativity to completely lose ourselves in the moment. There could be any amount of chaos going on outside but we are blissfully unaware of it. There's nothing like being and staying in the zone where our characters are real to us and we are in the scene, going through what we are putting our characters through.

I was reading recently in one of the writing magazines that if we want to be successful writers we must make time for our writing, no matter what. We have a choice as to whether we write or not; we all have 24 hours in the day and, granted, we all have different responsibilities and commitments that eat into our writing time. If we want to be published there are certain sacrifices that have to be made in order for us to achieve that. If you aren't prepared to make the change and find and ring-fence your writing time and actually sit down and write then you aren't going to be a published writer. It's that simple.

Instead of watching TV why not start writing? There will be many more times when you catch 10 or 15 minutes to write and every little helps! It can feel strange to demand your writing time and it will take time for you and your family and friends to adjust to that - I'm writing means I'm writing and unless someone is ill, injured or the house is burning down I won't be disturbed. You have to train them and yourself and stand firm.

It's important to be able to shut the door behind you so you have a physical barrier between you and what else is going on around you. If you're in an open space, like the kitchen, it's easier for people to disturb you. If they don't get the message and you're driven to distraction then think about moving your writing space out of the home. You could go to the library or a cafe and write. Yes, there will be other people there but they will be strangers and won't want you to do something or talk to you like your family and friends will. If your not at home you can't be there for their every beck and call. Be a writer and be selfish.

Before you know it you've written the first draft of a short story or a pitch for an article and you'll wonder where the time went. You'll blink and stretch when you re-enter the real world as though awakening from a trance or deep sleep. If you had caned in and become involved in the latest drama at home would you have written as much? Probably not. If writing makes you happy and you are determined to be published you need that writing time - fight for it.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

The return

Oh dear. I have been terribly remiss. I noticed this week that I haven't posted on this blog for almost 5 months. That's almost half a year! It's so easy to let things slip like that. Life gets in the way and before you know it you're way behind on a project.

I have had a good excuse, though. I have been preoccupied with WW1. I am pleased to say that all of my three WW1 books for Pen and Sword have now been published. Yay! What with edits, book launches, book signings and getting out and about marketing with newspaper interviews and features and radio interviews it's not surprising that something had to give.

I don't write full-time, although it feels like I do sometimes. I have a day job so I have to fit my writing commitments around that. It can be both a blessing and a curse! When I look back to how much work actually went into producing the books I can see that it just wasn't possible for me to keep all of my plates spinning.

Sometimes you just have to learn to let go of something so that the project that demands your attention gets the lion's share. So this post is dedicated to letting go and not fretting about it. I am still writing one more book for Pen & Sword but I am also able to get back to my other writing love of fiction.

Happy writing and don't beat yourself up if you don't achieve all you set out to do. We are only human.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

There's something about birthdays

I celebrated my birthday a few days ago. Another year of circling  the sun. Another year of writing. I find birthdays are a time when one can take stock of one's life up to now and whether I have achieved what I set out to do. In a way, I have. I got side tracked, admittedly, with the Great War, but I have achieved some success in my writing life, even if it wasn't what I had originally envisaged!

If you'd have told me a few years ago, on my fortieth birthday, that I would have 4 books published with a forth on the way with a reputable and successful publishing company in half a decade, I wouldn't have believed you. But that's the beauty and the fear inducing reality of this writing game; you never know what's around the corner and what opportunities may arise.

What I actually wanted to do was get my short stories published regularly in the major women's magazines that carried fiction - I did manage to do that with one of them, so I was partly successful there, but the others have, so far, alluded me but it's something I am still working on. The main thing here is that I am doing all I can to give my stories the best chance they have: reading published stories in the magazines I want to see my own work in, writing lots, coming up with ideas, posting my finished stories on a critiquing blog I run so other writers of women's magazine fiction can give me pointers, reading and commenting on other writers' stories on the same blog and subbing short stories. They won't get published if I don't sub them! So there is every chance that I will succeed.

Researching and editing my Great War Books has been an experience that will help my fiction writing too - it takes great determination and organisational skills to write three books on three different towns within 18 months and these skills are transferable to my fiction writing. All that research I did won't just remain with the non-fiction books; it will crop up in a few short stories too I am sure. It would be a shame to waste it.

Anyway, back to birthdays and reminiscing/taking stock. Whilst I was lying in my sick bed, feeling very sorry for myself and miserable, I decided that my poor sore throat could do with a soothing throat sweet, so I duly popped one into my mouth. No sooner had I done that when I took on an almighty coughing fit and inhaled rather abruptly. Yes, you've guessed it - the sweet disappeared. There was a dreadful second or two when I wasn't sure if I had inhaled it into my breathing apparatus or it was winging its merry way into my stomach. I was alone in the house and there was no-one to help me. Luckily, I found I could still breath so it had, fortunately, gone into my stomach. The incident, none the less, scared the living daylights out of me - something I might work into a story at some stage.

You see, anniversaries, thinking about the past, near-death experiences, lying ill in bed on an enforced rest does lend itself to providing inspiration for writing and now that my eyes are also sufficiently rested I can get typing some of those ideas up - but not for too long. I don't want square eyes.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

If you sit too close to the screen you'll have square eyes ...

I was forever been told when I was younger that if I sat too close to the TV screen, or the for too long, my eyes would turn square. I also remember overhearing the owner of the local corner shop telling his daughter that if she swallowed her chewing gum it would wrap around her heart and she would die. What have these memories got to do with writing, I hear you ask. Well, apart from inspiring an idea for a short story, they are also reminders about taking a break from your computer screen, and not to swallow your chewing gum.

Recently, I have been concentrating my efforts on writing non-fiction books. This week I have been reading and checking the proofs for one of those books as well as sorting the index out. When I received them, a couple of weeks ago, I was ill in bed with a ferocious and very frustrating chest infection, one that didn't require antibiotics but still had me out of action - the effects I'm still suffering from now. As I lay in my bed I was moaning about the fact that not only could I not go to my day job in school, but I was unable to write, edit or read, either.

So, I had an enforced and unwanted break from my computer screen. This was doubly frustrating because the manuscript for this particular book had been with the editor since July 2015 and it was now January 2016! The editor herself had been ill and had a lot of other clients' work to go through too, hence the delay, and now I was having to delay the process further because I was too ill to go through it.

Frustrating as this was, I now realise that it actually did me a favour. I was forced to rest, recuperate and do nothing and this rest really did me and my proofreading ability the world of good. Taking a break from your proofreading also gives your brain the chance to cogitate on the information it is receiving via your eyes and if you proofread for too long you can miss silly mistakes that are staring you in the face, waving flags, blowing whistles and jumping up and down in front of you.

Also, staring at a screen or text for too long is bad for your eyes and can cause eye strain - or, in my case, migraines as well. So, no matter how tempted you are to plough on, my advice to you is to not. Step away from the screen or paper manuscript and do something else for a while. When you come back to it you'll do so with fresh and rested eyes and a brain that is ready to see what is really on the page, not what it thinks is there.