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

Sunday, 9 May 2010


Having been to several places recently where I have been spectacularly inspired and my flagging motivation levels have been raised, I have also read a few books that have made me fall in love with writing again. To be honest I've been stuck under a black cloud with thought that I'm never going to get published again and that there really is no point in trying to get my novel finished when the chances of it getting published are so low I'd actually have more chance of winning the lottery!

I'd read a report somewhere  - I think it was over on Carole Ann Carr's blog  -  about the depressing state of publishing and she, Diane and I decided we'd rather chance it and try and be the 5% of authors who make it through the mud, their manuscript gripped in their hands, fighting their way through the rejections and the slush pile towards the publisher!

I'm glad to say that my recent trips out (moe about them later) : a Scout and Guide Summer Fete, Attingham Park  - an estate in Shropshire with wonderful sprawling grounds and manor house  - and my secondary school reunion, as well as reading such great books has tipped me out of my writing doldrums and I feel I'm moving forward again instead of just treading water.

What I would like to do is start a book discusssion forum on my blog. Nothing fancy or too taxing on the brain - I don't know about anyone else's but mine certainly can't take too much thinking! I think that reading is such a great tool for writers and if we can look at a piece of writing as writers,  with a critical eye, it can go a long way to informing us about our own writing and hopefully improve it

So I'd like suggestions of books people have enjoyed reading as well as those you haven't. Examining why a book moved you or left you cold can teach us valuable lessons about what a reader wants and expects from a writer and a novel. It can help us to move forward with our own writing as well as being an enjoyable experience. I love reading, exspecially when a character stays with me and speaks to me long after I've finished the book. I want to learn how to write like that - how to use words and characters that fully engage the reader, make the reader become part of the story and think about that story and talk about that story long after they've read the last line.

In order to learn to write like that I think reading the books that leave you with a sense of continuation and resonance as you go about your daily life, as well as those that you forget as soon as you've read them, can help us to be better writers as well as better readers and help us to appreciate the power of the written word on the page. Why are we so touched by what we read? Why does what author A write leave us wanting to read more while what author B wrote made us stop reading after the first page? And what can we do to produce a book or piece of writing that gives our readers the same effect as Author A!

I've just finished reading Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones which I loved so if anyone else has read this book maybe we could start with this? If not, any suggestions of books we could do a brief analysis on as both readers and writers will be most appreciated. We could, if you prefer, look at short stories in the women's mags we have enjoyed and analyse why they were published and why they work. I know a lot of us read all of the fiction in the women's mags so this may be a better plave to start. What say you?!

Anyone with me? Or shall I just crawl back under my pile of women's mags?!

Happy reading, analysing and writing!

Julie xx


Carole Anne Carr said...

Hi Julie,
Certainly no need to crawl into your pile of woman's mags, your comfort zone, but you are trying to run before you can walk, to use a tired old saying.
Writing a novel is a marathon task, even for old hands who have been at it for years. I started writing short stories about 1980, that's a terrifying 30 years ago. If I'd come across Swain earlier I might have shortened the length of time, but like you, I was writing with work, home and children.
After a few short stories were accepted, I moved on to other careers, but all that work stood me in good stead when I turned to writing novels.
I must have written them seriously from about the year 2007, although I was writing, alongside this, weekly sermons from 2000, the latter teaching me construction, direct communication, how to cut out waffle, improving my spelling, grammar...
Sadly a very long process, but I got there. With no full time job, you have more time than I had during the learning stages, and you'll get there very much quicker.
If you should have any questions about novel writing, I'm here to help. Planning, etc, anything.
Don't give up, you have the ability, just practice the wretched rules that bring the whole thing together.
Hugs, Carole.

Sue Ross said...

Great idea.
I'm a member of a book club and it is useful to discuss the characters and style of writing.
I'd say a book discussion blog would be a smashing idea Julie.

Mike said...

This is a good idea. There's lots we can learn from the successes (and failures!) of others. The plan and form of a novel is important as well as character and style. Here's a question: what makes a sympathetic character; someone who is nice, or someone who is active? Jack Sparrow isn't nice, but we all like him much more than Keira.

Mike said...

I just read the reviews at http://www.complete-review.com/reviews/austnz/jonesl.htm and have decided I must read this book! Thank you for suggesting it!

David said...

Hi Julie,

I think that's a fantastic idea and I'd definitely be up for it.

I have Mr Pip somewhere in my TBR pile but could fish it out and get on with that one first or as you say stories in Womags sound like a good idea too if that is what most people are aiming for.

Yes, I guess you're right. If any of us thought about the actual likelihood of ever getting published we might all give up but then again where would we be without stories? And authors to write them? What a sad, dull world...

Plus you know your articles and short story have been published already and will be again. Therefore you have a head start on the rest of us! That next acceptance could be just around the corner!


Olivia Ryan said...

Hi Julie. Just wanted to echo Carole Anne's comments. You're doing so well, honestly. Yes, it's difficult, nobody pretends it isn't - and yes, publishing's in a bad way generally which makes it even harder right now. Like Carole Anne, I was writing and selling short stories for decades (feels like centuries!) before attempting a novel, but that's not to say you shouldn't try, and that you might be one of the lucky ones who 'makes it' sooner. You're right to hold on to that hope. We all get depressed from time to time about the odds against us and the rejections - I still do. But I'm glad you're feeling more motivated again now. It's good to take a break from writing now & again and not become totally obsessed, in my opinion.

I think your suggestion of an on-line 'reading group' is an excellent one, but I'm so bad at keeping up with my favourite blogs (I do try, honest!) that I wouldn't be a reliable participant. I'd enjoy following it when I'm 'around', though! x

Elizabeth McKay said...

Hi Julie

After years of moaning there wasn't a reading group in my town, I started one myself! We've been meeting once a month since September and I love it. I'd be happy to contribute to yours as well as I think it will be interesting to discuss books/stories with writers as well as readers. Happy writing!

Julie P said...

It certainly is a long process, Carole! I stared writing seriously in 2007 too! But I wasn't writing like you thirty years ago. I'm not sure how long it's going to take for me to get my fiction published but I'm having fun trying!

My progress has been slowed somewhat with work and volunteer stuff, but that is of my own choice so I know it will have a knock on effect on my writing. But I find my writing goes through phases like this. But I'm happy to just potter along with my writing at the moment.

I intend to submit four short stories I've been (slowly) working on by the end of May, and to have finished the first rough edit of my novel. So I am getting there but I'm realistic about what I am capable off given the time I have.

I could easily reduce my volunteer work at school to give me more writing time but I get too much out of it to do that.

It will be really interesting to hear from everyone what their take on certain novels and short stories are and how we can all move forward with our writing.

I'm aware that there are writers of some considerable experience and knowledge out there and others with relatively little so I'm keen to learn from those who know of what they speak to help others.

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Great Sue - we'll get working on it!

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Tis true Mike!

Mind you my husband does prefer Kiera - can't think why?!

Yes you should read Mister Pip. I resisted the urge to read it for ages but I'm glad I did. I'm sure you'll enjoy it too.

Julie xx

Julie P said...

I'm hoping I get another acceptance soon, David - who knows! But that's all part of the fun!

I'll have a think about which books we could look at - I'm thinking maybe the short stories in one magazine at a time might be a better way to go? Anyone got any suggestions? TAB Fiction Feast maybe? The recent issue? We could have a look through and say which our favourite story was and why and have a discussion about it?

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Thanks, Olivia! Yes I'm back to my normal enthusuastic writing self now - and if I could just have a ten day week instead of the seven to get more time to write I'd be okay! We al know that feeling eh?!

I'm hoping to look at short dtories first and work our way up to longer pieces! Do join in when you're able - we appreciate your input.

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Hi, Elizabeth and well done for starting your own reading group. That's fab! Maybe I need to start one of my own in the 'real' world as well as in blogland!

Yes all opinions and expertise welcome thank you.

Julie xx

Diane Perry said...

Oh yes I love the idea. It's a wonderful feeling when a book leaves you with something special and even better to share it with others. I think it could work for non fiction too, if we have a really useful reference book that we want to share with others.
Great idea

Julie P said...

Hi, Di

I'm glad you think it's a good idea. Yes, it could work for any piece of writing really, poetry too. I think I'm going to start off with short stories in TAB Fiction Feast so we can all choose a story that we liked and discuss why we think it worked and we liked it so much.

Julie xx