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Craft or Art?
Category: Writing

“If you want to be a commercially viable author, you must admit to yourself that writing is a craft, not an Art.”

I read this on The Query Tracker blog today and it made me wonder how true it is and what the consequences are. Of course, it also depends on whether you want to be a commercially viable author or whether you are writing for your own pleasure. But I think the majority of people would like some success with our writing, so I guess it applies to most of us.

I believe writing is a mixture of art and craft, which is a little unfortunate as I’ve never considered myself an artistic person. I’m also not sure you can become more artistic, so I’m going to have to work at improving the craft side of things all the more.

So what are the ways you can improve your craft? These are a few of the things I’ve tried over the years:

  • Writing, writing and more writing. Stop thinking about it, reading about it, talking about it, hunting on the internet for articles about it (that was a little lecture to self), and just do it.
  • Finding critique partners or joining critique groups. It’s great to find like minded people willing to be objective and truthful without totally destroying your confidence. Thanks WA!
  • How to Write Books. I’ve talked to some people who say they never read these, but I have to admit - I love how to write books, and have an ever expanding library of them. My particular favourites are Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer, and Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey. Both of which I delve into again and again when I’m struggling.
  • Courses. There’re all sorts of courses available, but they can be expensive. I’ve wasted quite a lot of money over the last few years, but I’ve also learnt a lot (I hope).
  • And finally my favourite – reading. I don’t see how you can write without a love of reading. But it can also be a useful learning aid – recognize things that work, and don’t work. If you read a book you love, or hate, spend a few minutes analyzing why.

We do all this, we write, we read, we go on courses, we ask people to criticise us (we must really be crazy), but how do we actually know if our writing is improving. The obvious one is that work starts getting accepted. But one of the problems with writing is it’s very often the case that we send our precious little gems off, either to magazines, publishers, or agents and all we receive back (often after a long and painful wait) is a form rejection that tells us absolutely nothing.

So can we tell if our writing is good or bad, better or worse than it was a year ago? With my own, the more I do, the more I can see what works and what doesn’t. In the end, I think we have to learn to trust our own gut feelings.  

So, what are you doing to improve your craft ?  I’m always willing to try something new!

The Write Tools
Category: Writing
Tags: writers tools technology drafts


Much as I would like to remain a Luddite in terms of my writing equipment, I know deep in my heart that I cannot. In this day and age, all writers, whether we like it or not, need to get a modernisation makeover. Many writers love all the techie gadgets; laptops, palmbooks, Blackberries, Kindles and the like, but most of it leaves me cold. Don’t get me wrong, I know how to use the tools of the trade but sometimes I just wish I were alone in the room with quill, ink and paper…

I spend the majority of my working day sat in front of the computer, though I do draft most things (well, everything) in pen or pencil first. Its habit, I sit at the empty screen, looking at the blank page and my mind goes to mush. With a nice lined hard book journal, it is different. Anyway, I digress. My computer is over 6 years old, and that must be at least 100 years in PC terms. It is beginning to show its age, increasingly so. It has become very slow, has many co-ordination problems and often goes into sleep mode when things get tough. Of course not, these aren’t user problems… it’s the machine! Honest.

As a writer and as an expat writer, my ability to communicate via the virtual world space we occupy is important. Perhaps the most important ‘tool’ in my toolbox. But most of all the matter is urgent because my tolerant levels are becoming dangerously low and I don’t want to be accused of PC abuse. Therefore, my talented (and very patient) Man Friday is currently researching the options. Talk of OS systems, AMD platforms, caches, gigabyte space, usb ports… zzz… zzz… zzz…

Now where did I put my favourite fountain pen?

Happily Addicted
Category: Writing
Tags: short story competitions


Am I glad to see the back of June? No question. I become a bit manic at the end of each month as the short story competition dates head for closure. Last month I entered five separate competitions. Two stories were new, first-time submissions and the other three had all been entered in at least one competition unsuccessfully before - one short listed and the other an unpaid runner-up.

It's like an incurable disease. If, like me, you can't bear waiting for months or a year to hear from magazine editors (or not at all) you'll find entering competitions much more exciting. Instead of imagining my story mouldering in the depths of some edito'rs in-tray, I picture it neatly stacked in a pile awaiting a judge's appraisal. If it doesn't make the cut, I won't even need to cope with a rejection letter or email.

The closing date approaches. I edit and edit. And edit again. Then press the 'send' button. Too late for that inspiration that comes later, but a great sense of relief and achievement. Next is the agonising wait for the shortlist, and too many visits to the website concerned to see if I've already missed out. I leap in the air with joy if I'm short listed. Once I've peeled myself back off the ceiling, I prepare myself for disappointment. 'Just be happy with that, you can't possibly win' I tell myself but all the time desperately hoping.

Even more fun is when several WA writers enter the same competition. For some reason it feels less nerve-racking - safety in numbers perhaps. And if any one of us wins it will feel like an achievement for everyone, for the group as a whole.

Like an addict reaching for a fix, I entered the Writers Bureau competition. The winner takes a four-figure prize. Okay, you're right, I was only hoping to be short listed. Or more like 'commended'. But just as people throw money at the lottery, you never know. And there's no room for modesty in this profession (or so I'm told).

And did you see how many people entered the 'unpublished author' Britwriters Awards for that big prize? 21,000! And I think the same for the 'Open' one. It should be no surprise. I expect you'll agree - including the novel writers among us - all writers have a hunger for recognition.

So it's back to the waiting game. And if all my stories come back unsuccessful, I'll just tell myself, 'The winners were better story tellers than me, or the judge just preferred them', but I won't be cured of my addiction. I've got to the stage of taking rejections positively. A story can always be written better. I see there's an article on how to win competitions in the latest Writing Magazine. Must read it, there's bound to be something I've overlooked.

Now which ones were closing 31st July?


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Monday, March 12, 2018
This Week 12 March 2018 posted by Debbie Hubbard
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