Month: December 2013

What to Get Your Writer For Christmas…

When it comes to buying gifts, getting into your writer’s good books is easy. Forget trawling through endless book blurbs in the hope you will come across something they might like (trust me, if it’s any good they’ve probably already downloaded it) – this is what they really want for Christmas:

1. Time

Actually top of any writer’s wishlist is a writing retreat. Somewhere comfortably secluded, preferably with the phone turned off, and where the only interruptions are food deliveries…

But if your budget doesn’t quite stretch that far (and sadly mine doesn’t seem to), the real treat is time. Time to dream, to head down the rabbit hole and disappear into the bliss of uninterrupted creativity. So clear the decks, give your writer some space and wait for the gratitude to flow your way!

2. Tools of the Trade

Stationery is the writer’s catnip. I recently bought a Christian Lacroix notebook that sent me into raptures. The paper was heavy, with a silky finish. The embossed cover was smoothly textured. And it had a continuous spine – which means no matter where you open it, it lies flat. It is also perfectly complementary to the type of ink pen I favour; no blots or smudges, just words that sink seamlessly onto the page.

It’s Christian Lacroix Baby!

Overcome, I may have tried to express some of these remarkable qualities to my family. Needless to say, I saw the widening of the eyes and the metaphorical step back… ‘Yes dear, whatever you say dear...’

Silky Smooth…

So for those of you who are not as… er, invested, here are some things to consider when buying writing staples:

Journals – They come in all shapes and sizes, and most writers will use a variety. Buy something beautiful, or manly, or funky or whatever your writer is into. Open the journal up and see how it lies. Sometimes journals with a heavy spine won’t stay open, and aren’t easy to write in. Check the line spacing. A large journal with narrow line spacing drives me nuts, but is perfectly fine in a smaller journal that I might tuck away in a purse. Choose good quality paper. Thin, cheap paper will tear easily and often you can’t use both sides effectively.

Pens – Good pens make great gifts. Bear in mind that writers usually have a preference. I prefer blue or black uni-ball ink pens because they write smoothly. Sadly they’re not cheap either, so I also have a stash of biros (medium point – not too fine) for those times when I’m just scribbling out plot points or editing (nothing beautiful about that process). If you’re buying a gift either find out what your writer favours (they will usually wax lyrical with little prompting), or try the pen out in the store. It’s like driving a car – you’re looking for a smooth ride.

Post-its, Folders, Highlighters, Display Books – These are in no way limited to the stock-standard plain versions – although if you package them creatively they can be just as sexy. A stack of good quality legal pads wrapped with a ribbon would make my day. Look for something just a bit special that will give your writer a thrill when they’re cross-referencing or marking up. The key is quality not quantity.

3. Book Vouchers

If you know your writer well, by all means buy them a book. (As I’m writing this my son has just wandered in and said, you know Mum I bought you a book for Christmas… I’m sure it will be wonderful!). However, if your writer is also a voracious reader and is prone to pre-ordering books, this is the one time when a gift voucher is perfectly acceptable. Watch them pull out their to-read list and pore over which great tome they’ll purchase next.

4. Beverages and Accompanying Paraphenalia

Mugs. Teapots. Glasses. Jugs. Coffee. Tea. Hot Chocolate. A writer needs to stay hydrated after all. Avoid things that have a propensity to tip easily. No one likes coffee all over their folder (one of my favourite, special, folders still smells of coffee after an unfortunate incident – and I’m still a bit tender about it). Chocolate. (Goes without saying). Or nibblies that won’t make a mess on the keyboard…

5. Bottled Silence

I’m sure I read about an apothecary shop that sells this. Somewhere. For exorbitant prices. (It’s all about supply and demand after all…). It’s probably on the shelf next to the formula for finished manuscripts, the fount of eternal inspiration and the mythical self-editing quill rumoured to be responsible for those pesky grammar rules.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope this helps. Happy holidays!

PS. To my beautiful friends and family this is not hint – I’m sure I will love whatever you’ve bought me for Christmas. After all I’m not just a writer, and you know me well. But if you’re ever stuck you might want to bookmark this page…


TADA! Win a Critique


There and Draft Again: The Fellowship of Fantasy Writers has just celebrated its first blogiversary! As part of the celebration there are seven – yes seven critiques to be won courtesy of my fellow fellowshippers? Check out what’s on offer:

  • A Full Manuscript critique from Jessica Montgomery (manuscript must be complete)


  • A query critique from Mara Valderran


  • A query critique from Rachel Horwitz


  • A first 5 pages critique from Kate Michael


  • A first chapter critique from Rachel O’Laughlin


  • A first 5,000 words critique from K.L. Schwengel


  • A first chapter critique from yours truly!

To enter head on over to There and Draft Again and sign up. The competition closes on Saturday 7th December.


It’s the day after the close of NaNoWriMo, that juggernaut that drives many into a November of frenetic writing. Yet instead of a rough and ready 50K manuscript, I’ve logged back on to my neglected NaNo account to check out my word count of – drum roll please – 5977.  And no, I haven’t missed a zero off anywhere. And yes, the drumroll was totally undeserved.

So what went wrong?

Nothing actually. Life happens. Got sick. Have kids and other responsibilities. Discovered Scrivener…

Well I didn’t actually discover Scrivener (the much lauded writing software package), so much as a writing bud  taught me how to use it properly. The result was my November disappeared into a frenzy of transferring the WIPs, importing pictures from pinterest, colouring-coding, cross-referencing and writing in-depth character summaries. I found I had an instant overview of my giant story and an easy-to-manage way of navigating the text. I got excited about writing again.

It was a revelation.

In fact so enamoured have I been one friend actually said…

Well if you love Scrivener so much, why don’t you marry it?

She really did. To be fair I may have been laying it on a bit thick. Channelling my inner 14 year old…

As for NaNo, however, I’ve had to acknowledge that after two years of failing to get anywhere close to writing a novel in a month, that perhaps it is time to hang up the October-tinted glasses and just write when I can, in the way that works best for me.

For all those who slogged it out this November and smashed the wordcount out of the park – you are NaNo rockstars! But as for this writer – I’m afraid it’s NoMoWriMo for me!