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Posted By Michelle Birbeck


I’ve been to a few author talks these last couple of months, and one thing I have noticed from each of them is that they all have a different idea of where to start if you want to be a writer. One said we should all start writing poetry because it gives us a better understanding of how words work, and another said we should start with short stories before making the jump into a full length novel.

I don’t agree on either of these points. Who says you have to start in any particular place? I know I didn’t. And I certainly have issues with poetry, so it would have been no use me starting there, unless I wanted to be put off from writing for the rest of my life. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind reading poetry on occasion, and I don’t mind looking at it from an analytical point of view for college. But writing it? Kill me now. Ask me to write a poem and I will stare at a blank page for three hours not writing a single word. I can never think of anything that rhymes and makes sense, and I always want to make full sentences, expand the story, give it more description and depth. Poems always feel unfinished to me, like there’s more to the story and we’re missing it.

As for writing sort stories before jumping into novels, well, I suppose on that one I am a little less disagreeing. Personally, I like writing short stories, but only of late. Up until recently I would have bitten your head off if you’d have asked me to write something at less than the hundred thousand word mark. These days I’m writing them for fun. I’m even getting them published! But I didn’t start out writing short stories.

The first time I tried to write a book, I was in school, and a little bit ditzy. Still, I had such plans! It was going to be the most epic fantasy you’d ever read. Of course, I never finished it. I wish I’d managed to keep hold of the pieces of paper I’d written the story on (it was before the days of everyone having computers, and yes, I know that makes me sound old), but alas, I didn’t. They disappeared in a series of moves and changes in life.

Second time I tried to write a book, it was on a computer, and I still have it. I cringe every time I look at it. Half formed sentences, grammar that may as well not have existed. But hey, it is an actual book, and it’s where my first published short story Consequences came from. There’s a scene in it that I loved so much, and when I stumbled across Pocket Novels, I decided to revamp it and publish it.

It wasn’t until my third attempt at writing a book, The Last Keeper, that I decided to try and publish it. The fact I finished it was an accomplishment in itself! A whole book! Some hundred and twenty thousand words. It didn’t even take me that long.

I got the acceptance for Consequences before the one for The Last Keeper, but I started with a book, a full length book. I like lots of words, long sentences, and ideas that aren’t limited to a few thousand words or a poem. So for me, full length novels were the way to go. Yes, it’s a lot of work in some respects, but wherever you start, it’s all a lot of work. And it doesn’t stop once the work is finished.

But if you’re just starting out and want to know where to start, don’t listen to the professionals. Just because they started with poems or short stories, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Doesn’t mean it’s wrong, either.

Posted By Michelle Birbeck

Many of you may have seen, if you follow me over on twitter, my weekly retweets about WCs. I’m not talking about a reminder for toilet time, no need for that, but the humble word challenge. A friend of mine introduced me to them a few years ago, and ever since I’ve been hooked.

It’s a simple concept really, but a very effective one. Take an hour, or half an hour, or even two hours, and challenge yourself to get some writing done. Doesn’t matter how much, just some. So if you want to write a thousand words in an hour, then challenge yourself to do just that. Then beat it. You don’t have to beat it, there are no consequences for not doing so, unless you set some.  You can even set rewards for getting past your goals. I used to bribe myself with chocolate or sweets for getting past my goals, but these days I stick with non-sugary things, like breaks and cross stitch time.

One of my favourite parts about the WCs is that you don’t have to do them on your own. Get a group of friends together, you can use skype chat, msn, gmail, yahoo, or any other chat function that you have to hand, set a timer and away you go. Turn off all your distractions, and knuckle down for your set time and write as much as you want/can. Then, at the end of your time, see how you did.

I do a weekly word challenge for a Twilight fan site I volunteer for. Tuesday night’s at 8pm UK time. We write for an hour, and then see how we did, and we even do ‘teasers’ at the end. People don’t have to join in if they don’t want, and any teasers we share go no further than the group, unless you want them to. The teasers are great, especially from a feedback point of view. It might only be two or three hundred words that we each share, but it’s a great way to look at other people’s writing, as well as hearing the group’s thoughts on each teaser.

So get a group of friends together and have a go, or keep an eye out for the weekly tweets and come join us. We’re all a little loopy, but don’t let that scare you off!


Posted By Michelle Birbeck

It’s been a while since I blogged, mainly because things have been exceptionally hectic over the last few weeks. Not only have there been awards evening s and ball gowns, but emergency hospital trips and various doctors and scans. Fortunately everything is now settling down, and things are slowly returning to normal.

So, first of all the exciting things that have happened; the awards evening. I don’t think I have ever felt my heart beat so hard as when I was waiting for them to announce the winners. I even shed a tear when they read out my nomination. Though I didn’t win, it was a fantastic evening and getting dressed up in my ball gown was so much fun. I did, however, receive a nomination certificate, and that is now proudly displayed on the wall in my library for all to see. It’s right up there with my 2009 NaNo most words written certificate and my 2010 NaNo Literary Robot award.

Now for some more exciting news. Book 2 has been through several edits since I first wrote it, and I am finally at the stage of printing the whole thing out and editing by hand, then forcing my husband to read the whole thing with bribes of making him coffee. One more edit after this and it will finally be ready for submission to my publishers. I’ve even managed to start and finish the first edit of book 3. I finally caved and got a blackberry when I upgraded my phone, and spent the first four days playing with it my editing book 3 cover to cover. Safe to say, I put the battery through its paces. Then some.

Lastly is a little of the not so great things. Well, that’s not to say anything is wrong, despite the emergency hospital trips in the last month, it’s actually a facebook thing. As many of you know, I have a facebook page for my books (you can find it here). Since facebook started playing with the pages they’ve done a few things, including enabling us to like other authors from our facebook pages. Then they changed it again and we can still like the pages, but it doesn’t show up on the like counter. Why is beyond me. However, since I now like all the wonderful authors with my personal profile, I’ve run across a bit of an issue, people keep sending me friend requests.

Not that having friend requests is ever a bad thing, but I have to draw a line somewhere. My personal profile is completely private, after I had a few issues, and it is where I rant and rave, swear and moan, and where I talk to my family and real life friends.

So in the interest of keeping my personal life and my professional life separate, I have decided that if I don’t know you in real life, I won’t be adding you to my friends list. I have no problem talking to you on my page, feel free to just pop on over and say hi whenever you want, but I would like to keep my personal page to myself.

And on that note, I have a load of stuff to catch up on after being incommunicado for a couple of weeks, so have fun!