Keep writing about what you love

By Deana Luchia

A year ago, I never imagined my first non-fiction book (Happy as Harry) would be published. I  had written a book I needed for myself –  tips and advice on staying positive, being happy and fighting the blues, and it was narrated by one of my gorgeous rescue dogs, Harry. Somehow I had found an agent who liked my manuscript enough to call me about changes she thought I should make and that, in itself was the most exciting news: An agent liked my book! I didn’t dare hope or think that it would go any further because, like all writers, I know how hard it is, how so many things need to magically align, to even get a look-in with a publisher.

But my agent did find a publisher, Headline Home, and they were enthusiastic about my dog book and amazing when we met at their offices in London (with my dogs, Harry and Dottie, in tow). And so they published my book in November!

The whole thing has been a wonderful experience. And I use it to motivate myself when I’m struggling to sit still at my computer or unsure that I’m on the right track: Keep going! Keep writing! Keep writing about what you love! Continue reading


Poems from a Polar Night

The Last Glimpse of the Sun before the Long Polar Night, Qaanaaq, Greenland, 2011)

The clock is ticking before the publication of my second short story featuring Constable David Maratse from East Greenland. I have made a point of including poems from the collection called Isblink, by Ludvig Mylius-Erichsen (1872-1907), to set the scene. He died leading the Danmark Ekspedition in 1907, and his poems from a previous expedition help frame my stories. But, I don’t want to talk too much about Ludvig, as Sarah Acton – resident poet – and I have exciting news about him to be announced at a later date. Rather, I want to talk about containment. Continue reading

How Many Words in a Day?

By Lu Anne Stewart

Recently I saw a post on Facebook that listed famous authors and the number of words they wrote, on average, in a day. That set me off on a Google search for more lists and more authors, especially favorites of mine.

For the aspiring writer, there is encouragement to be found on these lists, no matter what kind of output you are currently producing.

I was extremely happy to see that Ernest Hemingway averaged just 500 words a day, preferring to leave a little something in the tank for the next day’s work.

I also took comfort in the fact that a writer I’ve long admired, Tom Wolfe, took 11 years to write the 370,000 words that are found in A Man in Full, which averages out to just 135 words a day. Also inspiring was the anecdote about James Joyce, who, when asked how many words he had written that day, answered “seven,” adding “but I don’t know what order they go in!”

Ah yes. I’ve had that feeling, too.

I’m obsessing over word counts these days because I am approximately 42,543 words along (but who’s counting?) on the novel I’m writing about an idealistic young journalist uncovering a scandal in a small town. I am determined to finish the first draft by the end of this year. Each day, when I call up the document in Word, the title on the folder makes me feel guilty. “Journalism Novel 2014.” That’s when I started writing it in earnest. But since I am not writing full-time, my pace has been Tom Wolfe-like. Actually not quite that good.

Fortunately, as I’m now in the home stretch, I seem to be picking up steam. I can comfortably write about 250 words in an hour. If I put in an eight-hour day, that would be 2,000 words (the same as Stephen King!). I think a realistic pace for me might be somewhere between Hemingway and King.

I admire the colleagues of mine here at Author Lab who are taking part in NaNoWriMo (50,000 words toward a novel in the month of November, which works out to a brisk 1,667 words a day).  And I know I will never reach the prodigious output of Michael Crichton (10,000 words a day! Although he does acknowledge lots and lots of editing).

As for me, I’m going to try to recall the wisdom in the fable of the tortoise and the hare, and just focus on producing as many good words as I can, even if it’s only seven. And hope I can put them in the right order.

A poet in our midst

by Isabella Muir

There is another member of The Author Lab who has had a fascinating twelve months. Sarah Acton is the poet in our writers’ collective and she has been busy!

Over the summer she was the poet in residence for the Jurassic Coast, where in her words she spent time…

roaming the coastpaths, beaches and cliffs for inspiration, crafting words to connect with the beauty, wild spirit and cultural resonance of this stunning and ancient land.

Sarah also ran a series of poetry workshops.  I attended the first of the Black Ven poetry workshops and found it completely inspiring.  She facilitated with confidence, professionalism, and warmth.  Her knowledge and appreciation of poetry really shone through, as did her passion.  It was evident from the way that everyone responded that they got so much more from the session than they may have expected – as did I.

I am certain we will be hearing more about Sarah’s poetry as she explores her certain talent.  I, for one, am looking forward to it!

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Nanowrimo – one year on

by Isabella Muir

One year ago I accepted an invitation.  I didn’t know then that it would be an acceptance that  would change my life.  Perhaps that sounds a little dramatic?  Nevertheless, when I look back over the last twelve months and catalogue the differences, it feels like a fair assertion.

The invitation came from Authorlab colleague, Chris Paton who writes as Christoffer Petersen ‘How about joining in with Nanowrimo?’ he asked me.  Back then, I didn’t know much about the forum that encourages authors to write up to 50,000 words during the month of November.  The forum works on the basis that online writing buddies support each other through the ups and downs of putting together the first draft of a novel.  Chris and I spurred each other on.  During that month I worked to complete a novel I had started for my MA in Professional Writing.  The novel, Forgotten Children, had itself been forgotten and it was a good feeling to re-immerse myself in the plot and get to know the characters.  I didn’t achieve my 50,000 words, but by the end of the month I had got into the habit of writing daily.  More than a habit, that daily writing became a comfortable addiction.

By Christmas 2016 I had finished the draft of Forgotten Children and sent it out to friends and family for comment and feedback.  But I wanted to keep writing.  In February 2017, while strolling along a beach in southern Spain with my faithful Scottie dog, Hamish, I had an idea for another novel.  Continuing my daily writing habit, I started drafting.  Then in April, Chris suggested we commit to Campnano, which works in a similar way to Nanowrimo.  With a daily target to push me on, I managed to complete the first draft of The Tapestry Bag.  During the spring and summer I beavered away drafting and re-editing until I was ready to send The Tapestry Bag out to the world.

While writing The Tapestry Bag I got to know my key character, Janie Juke, very well.  So well, in fact, that I realised she deserved a series of stories.  Janie is a young and unlikely librarian who has a passion for Agatha Christie novels and sees herself as a budding Hercule Poirot.  The Janie Juke crime mystery series is set in the late 1960s in Tamarisk Bay, an imaginary seaside town, modelled on my home town of St Leonards-on-sea.  As Janie goes about her library work she discovers many of the characters in this sleepy resort are not quite what they might appear.  She cleverly weaves her way through a puzzle of clues, unwrapping secrets and challenging lies.

The second Campnano in July helped me to complete the second in the Janie Juke mystery series, Lost Property, where Janie is approached by a Second World War pilot to track down an old friend.  In Lost Property Janie teams up with local journalist and friend, Libby Frobisher, and between them they delve into the past in order to solve the mystery.

Janie Juke Promo 01


In between drafting the two books in the Janie Juke mystery series I’ve been delighted to learn about the successes of two other Authorlab colleagues.  Continue reading

A few observations on time management

by Sarah Acton


I’m reassessing the boundaries I’ve been living within regarding time management and writing practice. Most of all I’m thinking about how to root these within mythological, ecological and poetic dimensions rather than clock time.

I’m currently otherwise unemployed, so I’ve had all day to write for two weeks…so how come I was producing more work whilst juggling two part time jobs?

Time for a new approach to time, and this is what I have to share so far:

  • First I’ve been observing how I am spending my days. There’s a lot of constant movement: creating things to do here and there, none of them urgent. The framework is often hung around a task at the end of the day, and I work backwards from this, almost waiting to fulfill the final task rather than start something productive even half way through the day. There is confusion between what I need to do, and distraction.
  • Day dreaming, thinking, walking and time out on the land, beholding and listening to nature are not distractions, and should be prioritised, not permitted as mini-rewards. I give myself absolute joyful permission to study life in this way as often as possible.
  • Social media, looking for interesting courses, and wondering what to do next in life by looking at my friend’s online communities are huge distractions. Less screen time is good. I can write first drafts in manuscript, in fact I write differently in manuscript, I focus deeply when I’m away from the screen.
  • The concept of creative time is conditioned by clock time. Energy put into different small activities as the minutes pass by creates a groove and pattern that leads often into distraction. This is all in my control, I am not a passive bystander. This is happening and I’m making it happen by using my energy in this way.
  • Reclaiming my time has nothing to do with the amount of hours I can give to writing, and everything to do with how I mentally prepare and approach each session, and my attitude to my life on this earth each day. Embodying my life more fully is a conscious decision as are all of the small decisions I make as I take a seat at my desk to work. Everything is connected.
  • Working in less familiar surroundings, or in certain atmospheres from time to time can assist the quality of work and focus. As I sit here I’m remembering that I like to work in empty churches, the heavy stone cools my head and the dim stained glass light calms my eyes.
  • Exercise, and health are important to focus long term. No one gets to be the exception on this one.

Foolishness? No, It’s Not.

Sometimes I spend all day trying to count the leaves on a single tree. To do this I have to climb branch by branch and write down the numbers in a little book. So I suppose, from their point of view, it’s reasonable that my friends say: what foolishness! She’s got her head in the clouds again.

But it’s not. Of course I have to give up, but by then I’m half crazy with the wonder of it — the abundance of the leaves, the quietness of the branches, the hopelessness of my effort. And I am in that delicious and important place, roaring with laughter, full of earth-praise.” (Mary Oliver)






Shamanism and the Short Story

I’m taking a chance here – another one. I have a character I need to get to know in order to write about him, i.e. give him his own series. His name is David Maratse, and he is a policeman from the east coast of Greenland.

It’s not like we don’t know each other, but I feel I need to get to know him better, before we can start a crime series together. Continue reading