by Wendy A.M. Prosser on Monday 1 June 2015

Dottie the cat

Towards the end of April, we lost our darling, dribbly elderly, Dottie.

We first noticed Dottie living (or so we thought) in our garden in summer 2009. Like Bagpuss before him, he swiftly moved in with us and soon became part of the family.

We named him Dottie because of the white dot at the tip of his tail, and because we thought he was a girl due to the pink tag on his collar. How we discovered he was actually a boy, and why his gender stereotype-defying tag was pink (‘Rage’ was not, as we should have realized, a somewhat peculiar name – especially for a girl – but a register of rabies vaccination) is a long story, best summed up by Hubby (in an extract from an email to a friend explaining why I couldn’t come to a party because of the cats – another long story).

Dottie [a.k.a. Louis] used to live in Montreal, then decided to live with another family in Montreal headed by neighbours of ours who are nuclear scientists. These neighbours moved (with Dottie) to Paris, Strasbourg, Vienna and then to Abingdon in Oxfordshire. They started reproducing, so Dottie came to live with us. Bagpuss Senior died, so we got Baby Bagpuss. Dottie did not like Baby Bagpuss, so moved next door. Baby Bagpuss became less kitten-like and more mature in his behaviour, so Dottie came back to live with us again.

And that’s the edited version…

Dottie was 10 days short of his 17th birthday when he passed. A long life, and a pretty cool one, too. He crossed the Atlantic! (I haven’t done that.) He lived in Paris! (Which I doubt I shall ever be able to say for myself.) He had a passport! (Nope.) And after years of happy wandering, he chose to make his final home with us — twice.

We were honoured.



Second draftBelow is the draft of a post I began a little over a year ago but never published – or even finished.

I’m publishing it now (unrevised!) as a note-to-self that change is always possible, if you want it enough. One year on, the second draft of my novel is complete and with an editor, and at last I am content with the way my writing is going. If you’d told me that last spring, I would have laughed at the very notion.

Easy Does It (Draft Post From March 2014)

Is this the lamest writing target ever?

100 words. Per day.

You’d think that, filled with the joys of spring, I’d be forging ahead with my novel faster than ever. Not so, I’m afraid.

It’s hard to believe that I once wrote 10,000 words in 10 hours – though that surge back in 2012 is at the root of the present go-slow almost two years later.

That marathon (for me!) writing stint was the last, desperate race to meet another target: finish the first draft of my novel by the end of July. I did, with literally minutes to spare, but what I gained in word count I lost in description, dialogue and character development.

I can say from experience that it’s possible to write too fast!

That first draft was finished, but far from complete – and I’m paying for it now, as I slog through endless revisions requiring not so much editing as new writing, and even new plotting.

Though of course, they won’t really be endless. Even at the funereal rate of 100 words per day, I know I will finish eventually. Which makes me happy – what more can I say?

But as that final paragraph shows, it wasn’t all doom and gloom back in those dark days of 2014. I did, at least, glimpse a ray of hope for the future. And for perhaps the first time in my writing life, that hope was justified.



Getting In The Spirit

by Wendy A.M. Prosser on Monday 17 November 2014

SpiritualityEvidence that superstitious woo can infect the hardest-headed tomes: I was reading a diabetes management book packed with practical advice on coping with the physical and emotional consequences of the condition, when the authors suddenly started banging on about how we mustn’t neglect our “spiritual” side.

OK, they did concede (once, and very briefly) that being spiritual doesn’t necessarily mean doing religion, but when they listed their action plan, what was number one? You guessed it: prayer. Swiftly followed by “visit your place of worship”. Their thesis being that people with chronic illness can put their problems into perspective – and presumably find meaning in the vagaries of life – by the simple means of acknowledging the existence of something greater than them.

It’s not just these particular authors or this particular book, of course. The notion is widespread – pretty much taken for granted – that our lives will be improved if we attend to the spiritual, if we believe there exists “out there” something bigger and better than our puny little selves.

At the risk of sounding bigheaded (and let’s face it, we humans are already far too arrogant for own – or anyone else’s – good), why should there be anything greater than us (or any one of the trillion other living beings with which we share this planet)? And why can’t we live a fulfilled life without it? What is it within ourselves that we lack? Doesn’t it denigrate us all, believing we are somehow less than… less than what, exactly?

If there is something greater than each one of us, maybe it’s the fact that we have, as a species, arrived at a stage in our evolution where we can (begin to) understand the Universe in which we live and appreciate our (minuscule) place in it.

Our collective curiosity, our will to knowledge, our capacity for scientific enquiry… surely that is something worth looking up to.

Or as I like to think of it, a non-spiritual way to nurture the spirit.

Image by ArchBob



Thought For The Week

by Wendy A.M. Prosser on Sunday 5 October 2014

RosebudAn unhealthy habit I have: fear of other people’s opinions of me. This holds me back from doing what I want, saying what I think, being who I am, achieving my dreams.

But it’s never too late to change. I don’t even like most other people that much, for goodness sake. Why should I care what they think?

If what I do/say/dream/am is good enough for me, it’s good enough.

My challenge to myself: stop worrying what other people think and start doing what matters.

Image by Daniel Ito


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Not The Writing Process Blog Hop

by Wendy A.M. Prosser on Sunday 14 September 2014

Pen and blank padI feel really mean. Many months ago, Kari Ann Ramadorai (visit her website here) very kindly nominated me to pen a post for the Writing Process Blog Hop. It should have appeared in March; now it’s September, and still nothing. I hate to be unreliable and I feel bad for letting Kari Ann down (though I doubt she would’ve lost any sleep over my no-show, me hardly being a blogosphere luminary and all that…).

So why didn’t I write the post? The clue is in the title. To be sure, I do have a writing process, and though I wouldn’t recommend it to others (nearly 6 years and counting on a single novel, anyone?) I could have cobbled together a piece on the subject, posted it and come away with a clear conscience.

Except, being asked to consider how I write made me think about what I write, too, and I quickly realized that in no way am I qualified to give other people advice on how to do it. When I’ve done a serious amount of writing, when I’ve published many books and made many sales, maybe then I’ll know something worth reading on the subject. But until that glorious day dawns, I shall henceforth keep quiet.

For a long time, writing about writing has distracted me from doing the writing that matters. Writing about writing hasn’t made me a writer, even if I like to pretend it has.

Many aspiring authors produce excellent blogs, of course; genuinely inspiring and helpful blogs with lessons their readers can learn from. Unfortunately, all I have to offer is glacially slow progress, tiresomely repetitive starts, stops and restarts (“it’s all going to be different this time, honest!”) and zero wisdom to share.

So now I will turn my words into deeds, and focus on contributing something of substance to the world rather than doling out trite hints and tips.

I ducked out of the Writing Process Blog Hop, but learned a valuable lesson myself: that frankly, it’s kind of embarrassing to blog on a subject about which I have nothing worthwhile to say. And that I promise not to do it again; or least, not until my achievements justify all that hot air.

And talking of hot air… back to the novel…

(And thanks to Kari Ann for the blog-changing experience.)

Image by Jessica Gale



Spring daffodilsNever mind the weathermen – for me spring begins, not on the 1st of March but at the Equinox, that potent symbol of life and rebirth, when the days become longer than the nights. In celebration of all things vernal (and surely not because I’m feeling a bit lazy this week), I am handing over (most of) the rest of this post to people with a far greater command of the English language than I.

I love new starts, and spring is full of them…

“Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” ~ Mark Twain

“Life stands before me like an eternal spring with new and brilliant clothes.” ~ Carl Friedrich Gauss

More prosaically…

“Spring is the time of plans and projects.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

So I promise to make the most of it…

“I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen.” ~ Anne Lamott

“For every person who has ever lived there has come, at last, a spring he will never see. Glory then in the springs that are yours.” ~ Pam Brown

Even the lawn-mowing bit…

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes, and the grass grows, by itself.” ~ Basho

How about you?

Image by Alan Cleaver



Stop signThe day after last week’s post on how to get started with your writing even when you don’t want to, up popped the following in my Twitter stream:

Or keep off Twitter and reading other folk’s blogs. If you don’t feel compelled to write consider why. I can’t stop

This raised a couple of questions. First – was the tweeter (who I shall refer to here as “C”) mad at me, or not? Always difficult to tell on social media, especially for one as socially inept as I. However, we had a sort-of friendly exchange later in the day, so I think we’re OK.

Second – the suggestion that “If you don’t feel compelled to write consider why. I can’t stop”.

This sentiment turns up everywhere and often on the Interweb – the notion that, to be a proper writer, you have be driven, compelled to create by some irresistible internal force over which you have no control. The implication: real writers don’t struggle.

But spend the briefest time reading other folk’s blogs (sorry C!) and you’ll find any number of writers bemoaning their problems with motivation. There’s obviously a whole lot of people out there who would love to be unable to stop writing, but just haven’t got started yet. Or maybe we’re not proper writers!

It reminds me of that other interminable debate, between “pantsers” (who write “by the seat of their pants”) and “plotters” (who work it all out carefully beforehand).

Maybe I’m being paranoid, but I get the impression that many writers consider pantsing more artistic, more authentic, just more plain fun than boring old plotting. They’re eager to expound on how their novel lacks a plan – on a how having a plan would, in fact, stifle their creativity – whereas those who dare describe themselves as plotters do so almost apologetically, as if they’re owning up something shameful. It’s the same way people feel embarrassed to say they like/are good at maths, but hardly anyone would revel in being rubbish at reading.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not criticizing anyone’s writing process: plotting or pantsing, can’t stop or can’t start. That’s the point of this post! There’s room in this world for every writerly type – all that matters is what comes out at the end.*

Are you a pantser or a plotter, a can’t-stopper or a can’t-starter? Does it matter? Do you care? Let us know in the comments below.

*Insert your own scatological joke regarding the contents/quality of this post, if you must.

Image by Fleasha87



Thermodynamic stabilityI posted here a few weeks ago about how I (re)kick-started my writing so-called career by the simple act of getting up an hour earlier each day. Maybe you’ve done the same, or tweaked your daily schedule in some other way to gain time. If you did, you now have opportunities to write that you didn’t possess before – but how do you make the best use of them?

Start as you mean to go on

There’s no point creating time to write if all you do with it is stare at a blank screen or distract yourself with other tasks. If something is that distracting, do it the night before, or schedule it for later in the day. Then forget about it and do what you’re there for – start writing.

Although we all know, of course, that starting isn’t always (or ever) as easy as “just doing it”. And with only an hour to spare, it’s important not to waste precious minutes prevaricating, procrastinating or generally beating around the bush (much like this introduction).

If, like me, you need all the help you can get in surmounting the activation-energy barrier, the following tips might help.

Trick or treat

The nicest one first – promise yourself a reward once you’ve reached your target, be that time spent, words written, pages complete or any other goal.

If you’re writing first thing in the morning, your reward could be as simple as breakfast. I have a different delicious morning repast planned for every day of the week (breakfast is now my favourite meal of the day) and I’m not allowed to even think about preparing it until I’ve finished my hour on my WiP. Your reward could be a shower or even coffee (though I will never, ever deny myself my early morning can of PepsiMax, to which I am mildly addicted).

If rewards don’t work and the thought of returning to that blank screen remains as scary as ever, try reminding yourself that you’ll only be there for an hour. I wasn’t too keen on writing this post (does it show?) and clock-watched incessantly for the first five minutes I toiled on it, but once I got down to work the time began to fly; by half-way through, I’d stopped checking the time and was even beginning to enjoy myself.

Then, almost before you know it, your time is up. Chances are, you’ll be enjoying yourself so much you won’t want to stop. So do you keep going? I would say, no. Put your WiP away, get on with the rest of your day – and hope that your new-found enthusiasm carries over into tomorrow!

If neither of these strategies works, you can always try fooling yourself into starting. Tell yourself you don’t have to write for an hour if you don’t want to. You can work for just 30 minutes, or 15, or 10. And you can stop whenever you like, if things get too bad. No pressure. All you have to do is write one sentence.

If you’re anything like me, one sentence almost always turns into two, then into a paragraph, then a page. Repeat that a couple of times and your hour will be over – and as painlessly as it was productive.

Carrots, not sticks

Whatever you do, don’t punish yourself if you fail to meet your target. Life is too short, writing is meant to be fun, everyone has their bad days (or years) etc., etc.

Just give yourself a pat on the back for what you did achieve (even if that was only sitting at your desk for the required time), learn lessons (e.g. don’t go to bed at three if you’re planning on rising at six), then come back tomorrow and start again.

Do you use sticks, tricks or rewards to start – or keep – yourself writing? Which work best? Let us know in the comments below.

Image by Woudloper



BooksThe more eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that this week I passed the 80,000 word mark on the second draft of my WiP.

The end is nigh(ish)

With the achievement of that small milestone, it occurred to me that I might one day actually reach the end of this book. After which, of course, I will send it off for editing, and then I’ll get it back and possibly spend several more years on a third draft, and a fourth, and beyond…

But I can now at least conceive of a time in the distant future when this novel will be complete and I will have to move on to something else.

If you’ve laboured on single project for a long as I have, you’d be forgiven for finding it hard to imagine yourself working with different characters, creating a different world. I can appreciate the attractions of writing a series.

If you’ve spent as long revising as I have, you might even feel you’ve lost the ability to write. As I realized the other day, it’s 19 months since I last added anything new to my current WiP – and over two years since I last worked seriously on anything else.

Moving on

I’ve talked about Shiny New Idea Syndrome before. I’ve always suffered from it and it’s been getting worse lately – a sure sign that my love affair with my current project is coming to an end.

So I’ll have no problem moving on, then?

Not quite, for although I’m a prolific spawner of grand ideas (some of which even seem quite good), that’s all they are – ideas. I’m rubbish with plotting – going from the Big Concept to the minutiae of moving a story from A to B and then C via D and E.

It’s soooooo frustrating; in my head I’m the author of epics, but their words never reach the screen.

From splurge to dirge

I’m happy with the plot of my WiP (though what the editor will think of it is, of course, another matter), which, uniquely for me, I splurged (almost) fully formed in a single sitting one gloomy Sunday evening more years ago than I care to admit. I’d never done that before and haven’t repeated it since.

Which leads to me wonder, is there really only one book in me?

Who knows… success with – or even simply completing – my current novel might trigger in me an outpouring of plotting prowess. The problem might become choosing which one of a legion of gripping titles to write first.

On the other hand, I could have a go at a sequel…

Image by Earl53



Spitting Images

by Wendy A.M. Prosser on Friday 21 February 2014

Hubby pointed out to me the spooky resemblance between Frida and Agnetha’s (clearly very popular) T-shirts in this 1975 Abba clip:

and those lovable rapscallions Baby Bagpuss and Khufu:

Baby Bagpuss and Khufu

(ignore the photobomber; he is merely a hot-water bottle cover).

Puts me in mind of this:

Dogu Miyagi, 1000 BCE to 400 BCE




Hamilton Sundstrand space suit

and even this:

Michelin People, Douglas, TT 90

– what do you think? Coincidence or…?

(Read my standard disclaimer for posts of this nature here).

Snuggly kitties by Arshad M. Makhdum
Dogu Miyagi by World Imaging
Pilot by Matthew Hannen
Hamilton Sundstrand space suit by Sphilbrick
Michelin People by Andrew King