SJG – an old / new author's blog.

The urge to write can overcome anything. I’ve been ill enough to put that to the test and it’s official: If I can hardly walk, talk or think, I still pull up a chair and try to write.



“Come on, Marie.” I dragged her from the chair.

Twelve stone, my arse. Always dieting, she was; always complaining and drinking her gin, now slumped in the garden with a wet mouth and puffy eyes.

I resumed my grip beneath her arms, supporting her weight. “That’s marriage,” I supposed.

Later, I breathed in the silence.

The seat was hard without any padding. I had to laugh, that sounded a lot like divorce. I didn’t really mind.

“To you, Marie,” I toasted the night air.

I’d had to bury the cushion when I’d buried her. I’d used it to suffocate Marie.

Garden Night


I’ve just completed CamNaNoWriMo for July, where I was challenged to write 50,000 words of a potential novel.

Novelists typically plan their work before they start to type. They map out plots, build new worlds and develop compelling characters. This preparation can take some time and effort, but it’s that old adage in practice: fail to prepare, prepare to fail. No-one likes the staring horror of a blank page.

I did none of these things.

I joined on a whim, just hours before Camp began. This is typical behaviour for me. I’m a pantster: someone who writes by the seat of her pants. I’m not alone in this approach, but it comes with its own challenges. A notable challenge is that it doesn’t always work.

For those who don’t know, CamNaNoWriMo is a virtual writer’s retreat; an online haven for anyone who thinks they might have a novel in them, however fleeting the thought. It uses daily motivational messages, both from Camp and from fellow authors, along with a visibly ticking deadline to whip us slacking writers into shape.

I was interested to see how this could work for me as someone who needed to redevelop a writing routine. I’ve been writing for decades, but I needed to re-engage after an enforced break from it. Aha! I thought, this could be the very thing I need.

50, 463 words later, I finished a day ahead of time. Having achieved my aim, what have I learned? The answer is I would have found it much easier if I had stuck to three simple things:

Destroy the blank page at all costs.

That expanse of white is your enemy and can stop you before you’ve even begun. To avoid this psychological trap, write something. Write absolutely anything. Jot down a few lines of dialogue, outline the first chapter or list what you had for breakfast if that helps you get started. It really doesn’t matter. You are a magician. You have the power to reshape your work later, deleting your breakfast along the way.

The more time you spend writing, the less time you spend worrying about what you should write. This creates a healthy psychological precedent.

Create a plan, but be prepared to betray it.

Begin your project with some sort of idea where you want it to go. If you can develop your characters and lay out a plot before you start, that’s great, but don’t fret if you can’t go into detail. These elements will only come alive as you write them and are bound to change profoundly as they interact. Characters can rebel and plots can ring hollow so have the confidence to go with what feels right rather than what you planned.

Just have a general idea of what comes next and that will be enough – and you can always change that too.

Don’t be precious about your work.

The point of a first draft is to make a start; a terrible, imperfect, confused and illiterate start. Give yourself permission to be bad. No-one needs to read it but you. Don’t judge it. it’s doing its job by existing. This is part of a process that all writers follow, including your literary heroes.

Just write now and worry about quality later. It will be there, I promise, often well-hidden, but always ready to be transformed into something good.



I am battling an addiction.

Like any potent drug, it’s become an indelible part of me. Test my bones and you will find traces there.

I was exposed to this compulsion in early childhood and I still remember how it harnessed the passion of my teenage years. In the decades since, I’ve often broken the habit. I’ve refocused on all the things that I’m told are more constructive: a career, meaningful friendships and the pursuit of other hobbies.

I always fall off the wagon. I want to answer that primal call.

My addiction is writing. Is it yours?


I have passed 10,000 words. This feels like a significant marker, although I know it’s just as arbitrary as any number. Perhaps it’s the presence of the extra zero that adds a certain weight to my efforts.

Or perhaps it’s the fact that I can see it in terms of 20%. What’s the significance of 20%? If I pick up a book I value and I flip to the place where the tale is 20% told, I can derive some satisfaction from the thought that maybe, just maybe, I too have got to the hub of the story – the place where momentum has swept up a reader and will carry her to through the end, come what may.