Tag Archives: writing

Writing Progress

20 Mar

Earlier on this year, I decided to stop making excuses and sit down and write a book. This is something that I have wanted to do for a long time but I have always come up with reasons as to why I can’t or shouldn’t attempt it. I feel like the time is right at the moment to put my efforts into a project this size.

I decided to make the first draft on paper which might seem a bit old fashioned. I do feel like a dinosaur when all of the other members of the writing group furiously typing away on their brand new Macs and I’m fumbling around in the bottom of my rucksack trying to find a pen that works. I realised recently that 98% of the short stories and work that I have tried to do on a computer have remained half finished and my theory is that writing a first draft on a computer stifles my creativity. I have no evidence at all for this theory but I think that there is a ring of truth to it. I’m not sure if this is connected to the fact that I wrote stories by hand in English when I was at school and I have it in my head that that is the correct way to do it.

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I started off with a rough idea in my head about what I wanted the story to be about. So I just started writing. I wanted to get into a habit and write something every day if possible. It isn’t a hard habit to keep especially if you dedicate set hours each day to it. I guess it’s like watching a soap opera every day of the week at 7pm – once you expect to do it every day it just naturally happens.

As I was writing lots more ideas popped into my head and I became bombarded by ways I could improve things I had already written and how I could develop the back story of the characters more. I was so tempted to start the story again adding in the bits that I thought would make the story better. I wasn’t sure if this was the correct approach though. I asked the members of the writing group what they did – did they start to re-write the story as they went along or was it more useful to keep on writing until the end and then go back to add improvements?

The overwhelming answer was to keep on writing. One member of the group said that she had gone back to make improvements as she was writing and she hasn’t made any progress on the book as a whole because nothing that she ever writes seems perfect enough. I think this is also one of the reasons why I have found it problematic to finish even shorter pieces of writing; I get stuck on one bit where the writing doesn’t flow properly or I can’t think of the right words to express what I want to say. In the end I just give up because I can’t work out a way to progress.

So, I carried on regardless, knowing that some of the writing was awful (and some of it truly is) and that there were characters needed to be developed, specific descriptions that needed to be worked on and many other things. I made of list of things that I needed to address as they came into my mind. Things like: is the character’s reaction believable? Does it make sense that this person would live in this community or this style of housing? The more you think about it, the more it makes you crazy. By having a list, I hoped that it would be easier to come back to my original ideas later.

I finished my first draft two weeks ago. It is a very rough draft. I have a good outline of the story. Some parts make more sense than others, some are much better written than others. But it’s written. People often say that no one ever writes a good first draft and I certainly wasn’t going to disprove that.

I left it a few weeks so that I could forget about what I had written and come back to it with fresh eyes as I begin to type the manuscript onto the computer as I attempt to improve it and make it readable for an audience. I have found that as I improve something in one part of the story that I have to change or improve something in another part to make the story make sense. It’s very much a work in progress. I realise that I am at the start of a very long journey. I have, for example, started another list of things to consider and improve for the next draft version!

Like before, I am trying to write a bit each day. This time around I am making a conscious effort to make sure that what I am writing is good rather than just trying to get words down on a page. It seems to be working so far.

I have no idea how long it will take me to finish the second draft. Or the third. Or even the fourth but I am finally making some progress at last. I will, of course, let you know how I am progressing…

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Challenge #17 complete!

2 Jan

Another challenge from my #40Before40 list is complete. My seventeenth challenge was to write a diary for a whole year.

As a teenager I always thought that this was a good idea but soon got bored of it, so I thought that this would be interesting to see if I would have the discipline to do this as an adult. It was also a way to make sure that I was writing something at least once a day. I have heard that it takes between 30 to 60 days to form a habit so it was also an opportunity to test this theory.

I started the challenge on 1st January 2018 and finished writing my last entry on 31st December 2018. I was glad that I chose this year to document. We spent the best part of five weeks travelling around South America last year. While I wasn’t able to write down every single thing that we did on holiday and all of the funny encounters that we had, I have a comprehensive account of our time there and I think I will definitely come back to the diary to relive some of the things that we did and experienced there.

Of course, there are a lot of days when not a lot at all happened. This is perhaps a reminder that life isn’t always go, go go and that we need some normality mixed into the extraordinary to achieve the right balance.

I was particularly impressed that I managed to fit the whole year into one book and I didn’t have to buy an additional one. My entries towards the end of the year seemed to get a bit shorter at the end but every day is accounted for. I used the ink from one and a half pens over the course of the year. I was careful to find the same type of Biro when the first one ran out. I couldn’t stand a different colour being used for the second half of the year.

So there you have it. One of the “longest” lasting challenges from my list is completed. I will miss sitting down at the end of the day to think about what the stand out point of the day have been. I may even carry on but not commit myself to write in it every single day but there are more challenges to get on with (34 in fact!) so I can use some of the time I am saving to concentrate on my other challenges.

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Happy Anniversary

13 Sep

Today http://www.ourgirlinzurich.com is 6 years old. How time flies!

I started my blog six years ago because this was the time when I found out that I had received a job offer in Switzerland, which I decided to accept. Six years later, I am still in the Land of Milk and Money.

My original idea for my blog was to be able to keep in touch with people back home – sort of a regular newsletter so that friends and family could see what I had been getting up to and I could share some of the highs and lows of living in another country. Although I did take a bit of a break in the middle, I have been regularly blogging since then.

My blog is still a way for loved ones to check up on me but it has also become more than that. I now have a growing amount of followers in many different countries. Some are interested in what I write about life in Switzerland and trying to learn the German language, others are interested in how I am getting on with my #40Before40 challenges. The answer is: very, very slowly!

It’s a wonderful feeling when someone tells you that they read your blog and they are really interested in what I am getting up to. It’s even more wonderful when people tell me that I have a talent for writing or that they have been inspired by the success and ideas in my #40Before40 list.

For me, the most important part of my blog is just writing. Nothing more, nothing less. As a child and and teenager, I loved writing and that passion has never left me. If things were different and my younger self would’ve been more confident, perhaps I would be writing full-time now. But it is never to late to try to become anything that you want to be. And writing a few posts a week for you to read is a good way to improve my writing skills and to keep my desire to write alive. I hope that one day I will be able to write a post about an acceptance letter from a publisher or the date when my new book will be in the shops.

Until then, thank you for visiting and reading my blog. You might not realise it but you are keeping me motivated with you kind, lovely and inspiring comments!

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Writing progress

28 Feb

Finally, I have managed to finish writing, not one, but two short stories, and I have started writing a third. I think the last time I wrote one in its entirety I was still at school.

Undoubtably, going to my Writing Group on a Wednesday has really helped. Writing is a solitary pursuit and it can be very difficult to have the motivation and will to carry on, especially when you don’t feel like you are making any progress at all. Being part of the group makes me has really spurred me on to write more.

There is also a lot of hints and tips that you can glean from other writers. My problem of not being about to finished any storied was partially solved by a fellow scribe assuring me that every first draft is terrible. This gave me the confidence to just get something written and then at least I have a starting point and I can go back to it and make corrections and improve it. Lots of people in the group seem to have this problem as well so it is a bit like group therapy where we help each other through the problems together.

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I am certainly feeling a bit more confident about my writing, even though I am learning and practicing as I go along. I have been attending the group since October last year and last week was the first week that I felt confident enough to read out what I had written. At the start of the session, we are given a writing prompt and we spend 15 minutes writing about it. We are then free to share what we have written but no one is forced to share if they don’t want to. It did help that there weren’t too many people at the session, so I didn’t feel so self-conscious and I was pleasantly surprised about the positive reaction.

Something that has inspired me is that someone in the group has had her debut novel published a few weeks ago. I am completely in awe and it make me realise that it is possible to write a novel and to get it published. Gabi actually quit her job to dedicate time to writing the first draft of her novel. I am nowhere near being about to do this and I know that it is possible to write whilst still having a day job. But it is interesting to hear that there are different way to become a published author – you just have to find the way that is best for you. Oh, and I didn’t tell you the bit that I am possibly most impressed about: Gabi’s novel is in English and English isn’t her native language. Serious respect.

I haven’t been able to read the whole book yet, and I will order the book so it is ready for me to read once I am back from travelling, but you can get her book here if you are interested in reading it.

And as for the stories I have written… they still need a bit of work. (Edit: a lot) Maybe I will share it once I have improved them a bit. Practice makes perfect, after all.

40 Before 40: Challenge #17

2 Feb

I am officially 8.5% of the way through the seventeenth challenge on my 40 Before 40 list. My 17th challenge is to write a diary every day for a year. 31 days of the year have already been and gone so I can be very accurate with how much of this challenge I have completed.

The reason I decided to add this challenge to my list was because I have tried several times to write a diary for a whole year and I have always failed after a few weeks. I’m not sure why I have managed to fail so often but this time I am determined to complete the challenge. Of course, if I fail to complete the challenge again in 2018, I still have a few more years to try to complete it.

Recently I have been wondering why people write diaries at all. Famous diarists, like Anne Frank and Samuel Pepys, would never had known that their daily musings on every day life would be still being read today and the insights that they would be able to give to us into historic events.

I have no doubt that what I sit down and write each time before I go to bed will possibly never be read by a wider audience and probably not even by myself. Personally, it had more to do with the act of sitting down at the end of the day to reflect on what I have achieved and what I have found difficult about the day. I have found, even at this early stage, that it offers time to sit quietly after a day which might have been very busy or stressful. This is something that modern life doesn’t often allow us to have.

I was hoping that it would also help to clean out my thoughts before I go to bed and, therefore, help me in my New Year’s Resolution to get more and better quality sleep. Unfortunately, I haven’t found this helps all that much. People often advise that writing something down that you are struggling with during the day is a good way for you to get these thoughts out of your head. I find the opposite is true. After writing things down, I find that I want to think more about these things and try to solve them if possible.

I will persevere though. It takes 66 days to form a new habit. So I still have a number of days to go until this has become a habit. It does help that I have set a recurring alarm on my phone so that I remember to do it every day and the diary lives on the bedside table. There is no way that I have been able to forget to make my diary entry for the day. Every habit needs a bit of encouraging and I hope that my sneaky tricks to make sure that I write every day will get me closer to ticking off another challenge from my list.

My very colourful diary

My very colourful diary

Article writing

10 Jan

As part of my increasingly desperate attempt to forge a career of some sort in the world of writing, I have started to write articles for my friend’s tea website. I noticed that the blog section of the website hadn’t been updated in a while, so I asked (rather cheekily) if I could write some articles for him. I was delighted that he said yes! After 35 years on this planet, I am finally beginning to understand that the phrase “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” has more than a grain of truth to it.

I never knew that tea was so complicated and how many different types of tea there are. I have had to do quite a bit of research about tea because, apart from liking to drink it by the bucketful, I didn’t know too much about it. There are some very technical aspects to brewing tea, which have been fascinating to learn.

At first I was hoping that I would be able to write about one to two articles per week but work and other commitments very easily get in the way. It’s also easy to make excuses to not write anything. Slowly, I am learning to get into the habit and I am finding that I have more and more ideas about what to write and what people might like to read and learn about tea.

However, I am still writing a bit less than I was hoping to but at least I am writing something. The feedback is that the articles seems to be well received by people on social media and the website, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

Now, here comes the plug. If you are interested in having high quality teas delivered directly to your door, then you should definitely check out Tèaura. First founded in Zürich, Switzerland, all of the teas have been hand-selected from Taiwan, China, Japan and South Africa and can now be shipped worldwide. There is also a UK-based website (www.teaura.co), if you are based outside of Switzerland.

If you look hard enough, you might also find something written by yours truly.

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Photo Credit: Jamie McKee @ Tèaura

#40Before40: Challenge #9

6 Jan

The ninth challenge on my #40Before40 list is to write a novel. This has been something that I have always wanted to do and I have always put off because of my lack of self confidence and a little bit of lack of discipline. When I was younger, I used to like writing stories and making things up but, as I have got older, I have found excuses not to do more writing but this is still a dream of mine.

A lot of people have looked at me in horror when I have told them that this is on the list. The main thing to remember is that it does have to be any good. I only have to write it. I never said anything about being published. This might be a bit of a cop out but this is definitely my line of thinking: get the thing written and then take it from there.

As I mentioned, the key to this task is to get into a habit and develop discipline. It is possible to write a book in six months if you write a regular amount each day. November is also National Novel Writing Month, which was started in the States. In this challenge, you have to wrote about 1,500 words a day for the whole month of November, so that in the end you have a 45,000 word novel. 1,500 words a day is not a lot in theory. Of course, if you then come to a part of the story that you are having trouble with, it could take you an hour to write 200 words.

In an attempt to ease myself into this challenge and to develop my self disciple, I have joined a writing group. We meet every Wednesday at a very interesting place which describes itself as Bar, Bücher und Bühne (in English, Bar, Books and Stage). It’s a book stop but a café and bar and they also hold more creative and arty events, which is the stage part.

I was nervous at joining at first. I had never been to anything like this before but I already knew roughly the format of the session. To begin with we decide on a writing prompt and we have 15 minutes to write about it. A writing prompt is a topic or idea that you use to spark creative ideas and writing. It can be one word, a quotation or even a picture. For example, last week the prompt was “Christmas emergency”. At the end of the 15 minutes, we are free to share what we have written, if we want to. I haven’t yet shared anything that I have written. All of the other members of the group are far too good and I feel like I would sound a bit silly in comparison to what they have written. But they have been part of the group for a lot longer than me and a few of them have given up working to write. In my world that is living the dream.

It is always interesting to hear the different interpretations of the prompts. With “Christmas emergency” one girl wrote about someone going into labour, one guy wrote about the Christmas tree accidentally being set on fire and I wrote about someone opening a very expensive bottle of champagne by mistake. I guess this all depends on how you interpret the word “emergency”. I think this reveals a bit too much about my personal preferences.

After a break, we have between 30 and 40 minutes to write on something that we are working on. Some people work on novels, others on non-fiction articles and I am still yet to decide what I want to work on. I have some ideas for novels but I am a bit unsure if I should plan the whole novel out or just go for it and start writing. For the time being, I have been trying to work on some short stories, with varying degrees of success.

My main problem is that I can’t seem to finish anything. I get half way through a story and get stuck, not on what I want to write, but on how I want to write it and then I never finish it because I take this as a sign what I am writing can’t be all that good. One advantage of the group is being able to talk about these problems. One guy told me that every first draft is rubbish but you have to get something down on paper before you can begin to improve it. It is more than a good point; it’s the truth.

Having said that I have completed the first writing project I have started since I was at school. I have written a bedtime story book of short stories for my niece for Christmas. I am more than sure that no publisher would even consider looking at but my niece likes it and that is enough for me. Unfortunately, my children’s story book is not more than 50’000. So, the challenge is not yet complete. In the meantime, I will keep writing and look for inspiration for my first novel.

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