Entries in writing (76)


A Line A Day Story

This time last year, I was posting about my 'A Line A Day Poem'; since then the living room's been quiet. But as I promised then, I have spent the year drip-feeding individual lines of a story to Twitter, eventually creating a whole piece. Like the poem, it wasn't at all thought-out, and often lines were hurried; I didn't look back over what I'd written nearly often enough. Honestly, I haven't read the finished product back at all yet... I enjoyed the process more than I did with the poem - although I executed it badly, I enjoyed the process of developing characters and finding a narrative. Somewhere along the line, I'll try to edit it into a story I can be proud of - or perhaps I'll just explore the idea in a different way. But either way, I'm pleased to have finished the experiment. If you're interested in reading the story from beginning to end, you can find the thread here. Don't expect gold though: what this is is a healthy mound of straw waiting to be spun into something more valuable.

2016 also saw the completion of my photo project 'A Sense Of...' which explored the senses - sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively - through daily pictures. 2017's project is 'Moments of Light', which you'll be able to find on Instagram.

And I’m going to continue ‘A Line A Day’ this year too: I’m going to attempt ‘A Line A Day Play’. I don’t really write plays, so this will be a particularly interesting experiment! Follow me on Twitter if you’d like to see the next experiment unfold!



My Writing Process Blog Tour

Although the living room is still closed most of the time, I’ve been tagged by Jacki Donnellan (in a rather flattering write-up – thank you, Jacki!) in the My Writing Process blog tour, so I’m opening the door to write my post. The meme asks that I tag three other writers I admire to post about their processes, and it turned out to be tricky finding writers who haven’t already done it! For that reason, only one of these writers has been tagged afresh; one has already done her post, and one once did one but has since deleted it… but I’m linking to her anyway because she’s brilliant! I know I’m breaking the rules, but I do that with memes… I’ll tell you a little more about the writers at the end of the post, but in case you want to jump straight to them, the three writers I’m tagging are Emily Cleaver, Valerie O’Riordan and Shirley Golden.

So now to the questions…


What am I working on?

Mostly, I’m working on a novel, currently called ‘The Space She Filled’. I’ve been working on the bugger for about six years and it’s getting quite close. It’s a magical realist story about the relationship between a comic book artist and his central character, who disappears from the pages of his finished manuscript. I’m at the stage where you cut vast chunks of prose and start to panic that there’s going to be nothing left. Apart from that, I’m not working on anything too much at the moment. This year has been full of real life, and that’s meant that my normal short fiction and blogging work has been on hold for a while.


How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Now that’s a hard question! Memory is a recurring theme in my work, and that’s largely because I have a peculiar relationship with mine. My short term memory is very good, and aspects of my long term memory are pretty functional. But my memory for plots and characters, amongst other things, is dreadful, and this includes my own. This means I have to be creative with my process – more on that later – and it also means that memory is something I’m constantly exploring. If I take my general genre to be magical realism (although this isn’t the only genre I work in), I think it is this marrying of the slightly unreal with stories of memory that makes my work slightly different from other work in the field. That said, I wouldn’t say that my work does differ wildly from others in its genre, beyond the obvious stylistic differences. I hope my work has a unique voice, but I wouldn’t like to claim that it’s particularly unusual.


Why do I write what I write?

Neil Gaiman once said something along the lines of, ‘I write to work out what I think about things’. This is almost certainly a misquote – certainly I can’t find the real quote now – but it sums up my own relationship with writing. Even when I’m not consciously exploring my own position in the world, that’s what I’m doing when I write. I think probably most of us are. Memory, consciousness, reality and sleep are recurring themes in my work; these are all areas that interest me and that I enjoy exploring through fiction. I rarely set out to write about a specific topic: I write what’s in me. In short, I write what I write because I am who I am.


How does my writing process work?

My writing process is basically an elaborate way of dealing with my terrible memory. I take copious amounts of notes, lose them, rewrite them, and stick them all over the walls. Sometimes I refer to them, sometimes I never look at them again; often I look at them and have no idea what they mean. I plan everything meticulously and then I put my headphones on and disappear into an ocean of words and take very little notice of my plans. When I emerge, I go back to the plans and tweak either them or the writing until both look like they apply to the same piece of work. And then I rewrite and rewrite, find I’ve over-written, and cut back. It’s a long and not very efficient process, which I hope I’ll hone over the years. Certainly as it stands now, it’s not an approach I’d recommend!


The Writers I’m Tagging


Emily Cleaver

I met Emily when I joined my writing group about five years ago. She lives in Oxford so we don’t often see her at our meetings in London these days, but she’s still very much a part of the group. I admire Emily’s writing enormously. She has a wonderful voice, and writes with a precision and control I envy, painting vivid scenes and characters that stay with you long after you’ve finished reading her work. You can find her at her website or on Twitter (@EmilyCleaver). She’s the only writer I’m tagging in the way you’re meant to!


Valerie O’Riordan

I’m not quite sure where I first came across Valerie, but it was probably on Twitter, where I’ve met so many of the wonderful writers I’ve come into contact with. Over the last few years, I’ve been exploring flash fiction a lot, and as someone who has won the Bristol Short Story Prize with a piece of flash, Valerie has been an inspiration to me. She is brilliant at travelling to great depths with few words, and does so with warmth and flair. You can find her at her website or on Twitter (@valerieoriordan), and you can see her My Writing Process post here.


Shirley Golden

I definitely met Shirley on Twitter, though I’ve no idea when. She’s another writer who’s highly skilled at telling big stories in a small amount of space; I particularly admire her Twitter stories. It’s hard to tell a story in 140 characters, but Shirley manages to create characters and details that are much bigger than the words they’re told through, leaving just the right amount of room for the reader to infer the deeper story. You can find her at her website or on Twitter (@shirl1001), and we’ll have to imagine her writing process because she’s already done this thing once and we don’t want to make her do it again!




I’m juggling too many balls, and I’m not doing it well. From the Living Room has been seriously neglected recently, and I have a constant nagging in the back of my mind that I need to post. The nagging is uncomfortable and I don’t want blogging to be a stressful thing, so I’ve decided to close the living room door, at least for the time being.

My other blog, Four Wise Monkeys, has also been neglected recently, but it’s a much more manageable page and has a much clearer focus, so I’m hoping that concentrating on one blog for a while will help me to post more regularly.

From the Living Room will stay up but there won’t be any new posts for a while. If you’re a regular visitor to the living room, please come and visit me on Four Wise Monkeys instead. It’s a much more useful page to me at the moment but it’s rather short on readers.

I hope to wake the living room up again at some point in the future. Thanks for bearing with me.

Image by JamesAlan1986


The Retreat and Beyond

I’m someone who thrives on routine so long as I design it myself, and this I managed well during the week’s retreat with my writing group. I quickly fell into a habit of morning walks along the beach, stopping for some alfresco writing and editing along the way, followed by afternoons of computer-based work.

Our writing holiday provided me with the perfect combination of solitude and social time; of work and relaxation. Each day, I would set out on my own to walk by the sea, sometimes actively thinking about my novel, sometimes allowing my mind to wander – which is, I think, just as valuable. I’d stop somewhere to work for a couple of hours, and then I’d head back home to work some more.

At 6:30pm every day, we’d reconvene for dinner, each of us taking a day to shop and cook so that domestic necessity didn’t get in the way of any of us. Dinner would be sociable and fun, giving us the element of relaxation and holiday which was, I think, so useful to all of us productivity-wise. Then we’d settle in for a night of critiquing.

I’m someone who needs a lot of time to myself, and this arrangement suited me perfectly... because no matter how much I forget it, I also need conversation and outside input.

I’m ridiculously lucky to have found my writing group: serious and talented writers from very different walks of life, all tied together by a love of writing. Their feedback is immeasurably valuable to me and what I can get done during a week away with them is huge.

The trick now will be to transfer what I’ve learnt about myself and my work to my ordinary life. Around work, home and a social life, I need to remember what I can achieve when my head is in the right place, and do all that I can to make sure I’m in that state as much as possible.



I am away on retreat with my very wonderful writing group. This year we’re in Ramsgate, in a beautiful house two minutes away from the sea.

We arrived yesterday and spent the afternoon getting our bearings and settling in. Over dinner, we talked through our personal writing goals and sorted out the practical plans for meals and critiquing sessions, highlighting anything we might want to discuss with the group while we’re away. From the group point of view, everything was in place for us to begin.

Which left me with one thing last thing to sort out before I could crack on: I needed to get my head in the right place to use the week productively. I have spent the morning walking down a quiet beach, feeling the sand beneath my toes and the sea around my ankles. I am someone who spends a lot of time in my own head. This can be useful for writing, or, if I have other things on my mind, it can be very distracting. I have a strong inclination to over-indulge in introspection. The walk was about clearing my head. It was about putting on hold the thoughts that can wait until I get home and remembering that when it’s going well, I believe in this novel. I want it to be the best it can be, no matter how hard the journey is.

My walk allowed me to engage with the sense of calm and contentment that I always find on my own by the sea. By the sea is where I am internally happiest, flooded with a sense of calm and peacefulness.

Refreshed and reset, I climbed back up to the house. Now I am ready to work.