Writing is my second job, albeit unpaid for now. It means I need to make the most of my free time so I can make the most of my writing time. That includes preparing food.
Winter is coming, and the days are getting colder and shorter. I’m sharing my versatile recipe for sweet vegetable stew, which could also be a soup. It’s easy to make and lasts for days without being the same meal over and over.
Ingredients for the soup
1 tbsp of olive oil.
1 small squash (butternut is my favourite)
1 red bell pepper.
1 yellow or green bell pepper.
1 stock cube
4 large tomatoes
1 small tin/jar of a simple tomato sauce
For more variations…
1 jar of beans/chickpeas.
1 tin of meatballs or a jar of mini hotdogs.
Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large pan and set on a medium high heat. Chop all the vegetables into half centimeter slices. Add the leeks first until they start to brown, then turn down the heat to medium. Add the carrots and squash. Crumble the stock cube and mix into the vegetables.
Lastly, add the peppers and tomatoes. Let them fry a little and leave for 10 minutes with the lid on. Stir in the tomato sauce and leave on a low heat for 5-10 minutes.
This is where you alter the recipe depending on what you want. I recommend scooping out the amount you want and leaving the rest so you can decide what to do with it later.
For stew, leave the veggies as they are. You can mix in some beans or chickpeas along with meatballs or mini hotdogs. This makes it a full mean in a bowl.
For soup, you need to put the veggies in a food processor or chop with a handheld mixer to make it super thin in texture. This goes great with a cheese or ham sandwich.
This recipe lasts for 3-4 days in its various forms without being repetitive or requiring more cooking. Or you could freeze some for the next week. All it needs is reheating with an extra ingredient or so.
Your sustenance is important to keep your writing brain active. But healthy, versatile eating doesn’t have to eat into precious writing time.
I’ve recently read a few forums with experienced/published writers giving new/budding writers great advice on creative writing courses, getting an editor to go over their work, and paying for beta readers. But that’s not financially possible for those of us with day jobs that just about cover our existing bills.
I’d love to take a really good creative writing course and share with fellow writers in person. I’d love to get all the wonderful software that helps me create polished work. I’d love to send some sample chapters to a professional editor for some real feedback and the main things I need to work on. But money doesn’t grow on trees.
I’ve already shared some writing tools and useful software in Let’s Get Technical. But here are some things I use within my budget.
Expanding Your Writing Skills
Joining a critiquing website has been an amazing learning process (see below from more), but it’s good to find other ways to learn that don’t involve expensive courses.
Invest in a good grammar for writers book. I have a few books from “The Busy Writer” series by book editor Marcy Kennedy.
There are some decent online course, according to the forums I follow, but again, they cost money. Masterclass and Skillshare are ones I hear about a lot. However, there are a ton of YouTube videos giving advice. Advice is subjective as I mention in this post, but for writers getting started, they are some great videos for you to think about.
I typed “writing advice” in YouTube and recognised several of my favourites on the first page. They’re more idea and concept related, but they’re great to get you started with plot ideas, characters, avoiding common mistakes.
Meg LaTorre is another one I follow.
A freebee from Margaret Atwood, also on Masterclass.
Scrivener is pretty cheap and a one-off payment. But I find OneNotes a great free alternative for organising ideas. I created a new notebook for each WIP with tabs for notes and ideas, outlines, feedback, characters, word building etc. Each tab has multiple pages with the different versions of my outlines, different characters with full descriptions and inspiration images, and feedback by chapter or beta version depending on how I have received it.
OneNotes is also available on Windows (obviously), Android, and Apple devices. I haven’t checked if it’s on Linux, but you can access it through most browsers, including Firefox, so you can basically access it anywhere.
I decided to keep my Office 365, but if I had to, I could use Google Docs. I save my writing to my Gdrive so I can access, share, and edit in Chrome. There are extensions worth flipping to Chrome when editing. You don’t even need to pay for a word processor. Also, you can save offline versions of your work in the Gdrive app and Chrome or get the free Google backup folder for automatic synchronisation on your computer. You can open, save, and edit as a Word .docx or Google document.
The best thing about using Google Docs is the extensions. Which leads me to…
Pro Writing Aid and Grammarly have free extensions for Chrome and are super useful to pick up silly writing mistakes. That’s not to say they pick up everything, so you need to do a good run through yourself.
This is where Natural Reader comes in handy. Again, it’s a free TTS extension on Chrome. It uses either Microsoft voices built into Windows or Google voices via Chrome. I personally prefer Google’s voice because it feels more natural. They even offer twenty minutes per day of the premium voices, so if you want to go through a poem, flash fiction, or a short scene, then you get this included.
Sharing Your Writing
I use Critique Circle, which is convenient because it’s all online, and it’s free to join and share in the public queues. This is where any member can submit a story for review and any member can review it. You earn the same credits as everyone else when you critique a story, and you pay the same in credits when you submit a story.
For the paid version, you get private queues where you can save credits, invite specific people to review your work, and submit as often as possible. I do recommend this version because it really helps with learning and getting more tailored feedback. If there is anything I suggest you invest in early on, it’s a good critique site.
I can’t rave about this site enough. They have great forums for sharing thoughts and ideas as well as helping with publishing advice when you get to that point. I admit I roll my eyes at some of the things people say on there at times, but I’ve learned what kind of advice best suits my work. For example, I write fantasy, so if everyone said that I need to dial back on the visuals, then I’d be concerned that I’m overdoing it. But if only one person made a big deal of it when I’m trying to describe something unique to that world, that would concern me as to whether they really understood the genre.
Long story short… Writing isn’t cheap, but whether it’s a hobby or leading to a second career, it’s worth investing a little from the start then saving up for the bigger costs as and when you really need them.
It might seem silly to celebrate a website birthday, especially a little writing site from an unpublished writer who claims to know what she’s talking about. But I don’t care. It’s my WordPress birthday and I can cry if I want to. Except I don’t. It’s a happy thing,
So thanks to my followers, all 73 of you. Because I started with zero, so I’d call that a win. Also, I’m half Spanish and will use any excuse to celebrate.
In life, we need a break, a holiday, and day on the sofa before we burnout. Why would writing be any different?
I felt a burn out brewing last week, so I took a three days off writing. It might not sound like much since not everyone writes daily. I do. Between my novels, short stories and blogs, I write every day.
I tend to balance my primary WIP with my other writing so as not to overload my brain with one project. I’ve been so immersed in mine that I forgot to come up for air. My creative brain was running on fumes while the rest of me was just about doing okay.
I seemed to have been hit with a bunch of life stuff all at once again. I blame Covid since just about all of it stems back to the virus in some form or another. But I’ve ploughed through as best I can, and things are settling again.
I took a long weekend to just relax without feeling like I’m missing out. I dabbled in blogging, I played a lot of music, which has taken a back seat to my writing, and I finally watched The Rise of Skywalker having missed it last Christmas because I was ill. Thank you, Disney +.
Now I’m ready for another stint of edits and whatever life throws at me again.
Here’s a fun Imagine Dragons track for you.
Don’t forget my Writing Ranting with Others Discord group. Message me SilverLinings#0367 for more information.
We all make silly mistakes in writing, especially during a draft or when focussing on style rather than editing. Those pesky spellings like they’re, there and their or using past simple when you should use past perfect can really bring your writing down a peg or two.
Learning Spanish as a foreign language force me to relearn my own language and made me much more aware of spelling and grammar mistakes. This is when I’m grateful to be an English teacher. There are occasions where my grammar brain and creative brains are at war, but I’m quite good at separating them. I’ve always had trouble with spelling and reading because of some weird thing in my brain that I have decided is wired for Spanish, not English. I think phonetically and used to spell a lot of things wrong. I still do, but rarely.
But something that I see all the time that seems to be a major issue is lie, lay and laid. It’s not even the spelling people are getting confused with, it’s the meaning of the word. And people have “corrected” me when I’ve used the correct word.
Definition according to Oxford Dictionary.
For example, my story is in 1st person present, so when I write…
The empty space beside me is cold where Nathanial lay.
I’m using lay as the past of lie since Nathanial was lying there but now he isn’t. Well… I got “corrected” and told to use laid. Really, folks?
If I switched this to past, it would be…
The empty space beside me was cold where Nathanial had lain.
It’s a completely different word, even in a different tense. How is it that so many people just don’t get this? Writers, too. It has been mostly Americans who I see with this issue on the critiquing site I’m on and blogs.
This brings me to another issue I find. When people used the past perfect, or rather, they don’t, when their story is in past tense. The past perfect tense helps define whether you’re in the moment of the story or jumping to some point before. The past of the past, AKA double past.
I realise throwing in had done, had been, had taken and so on can get a little taxing on the eyes especially with a flashback or backstory that goes on for a few paragraphs. If you start a flashback or backstory without making it clear you’re jumping back in time, you risk confusing readers. The same applies when coming back to the moment. End the double past paragraph with a couple of past perfect verbs and that will finish it off nicely before you slip back into past simple.
Use words and tenses properly, folks, and help the reader’s imagine your story correctly.
Well… they do and they don’t. But they are necessary for any writer, so suck it up and deal with it.
A few days ago, my revisions felt marvelous with a minor plot addition that really built on my driving plot points. Honestly, it was genius.
Now, I’m knee deep in edits and consistency revisions, and they’re boring as Hell. But it’s a small sacrifice for a publishable novel. That’s the whole idea of revising, editing, beta reading, and more revising and editing.
My excitement is up and down again today with another batch ready to go, but TTS is slow going on Chrome. What I’m doing is saving the batches of chapters in a separate Word document and editing with Chrome’s free Pro Writing Aid and Natural Reader extension. Between the spell checker and the TTS, I’m picking up all sorts if silly things.that Word missed.
Then, once each batch is edited, I copy it into my beta document and set the track changes option in case I think of anything else. I’m always thinking of something else. But at least I can keep track of what I added after I sent out the chapter batches.
Also, I track my progress from red, yellow, orange and green text in my outline depending on what stage I’m at with each chapter. It helps me see where I’m up to and some later chapters are fully revised and just pending edits while others need another quick revision before that final edit.
It all these little things that keep the revisions and edits on track. I haven’t come this far to let some SpaG or silly wording let me down now. It also helps that I have a good work/life balance, so I have time to put into my writing like a 2nd job, which is good because I hope to make it a paid one, eventually.
So editing is a chore, but if you stay organised with your edits, then you’ll get through them and polish that publishable book.
I once had a collection of pearls in an iridescent shell. Each one contained a piece of my heart. Some I wore on a necklace when I needed them while others were safe away from the cruel world.
They shimmered in the sunlight and brought me strength when I doubted myself. With so many, I occasionally gifted one to the people I cared deeply for. Sometimes, they gifted one back.
One day, a man came into my life and shared his heart’s pearls with me, so I shared mine with him. A woman soon joined us, and our pearls glimmered as if from the same shell. They were beautiful together.
That was until I stumbled, and my pearls rolled away. My friends did not reach out to catch them. Instead, they stomped and crushed them to dust until my heart had no joy, no laughter, only emptiness. Once there were no more pearls, the pair left me to pick up the pieces.
I collected all the dust I could and placed it back in the shell. For weeks, months, I stared at that shell with my broken heart, occasionally peeking at the destruction inside.
Each time I did, I cried until I was out of tears for the day. Begging my friends did nothing, only left more anger and pain within me.
Those who broke my pearls did not take responsibility but blamed me until I blamed myself.
Eventually, I stopped looking in the shell, but the memory of the cracking pearls haunted my days and nights. I was adrift in this fog with no strength or solace.
I ached with more pain than I could handle. It drained me, stole the last of my hope. Days, weeks, months passed as my heart remained pearlescent dust. I wandered aimlessly in a fog, going through the motions as one does when they have little to live for.
I cannot recall what made me look in the shell one day. A speck of hope or desperation. But when I looked, a pearl had reformed, and a piece of my heart along with it.
Now, I open the shell to find more reformed pearls.
They do not shine the way they once did, but the pieces of my heart come back one by one.
I bought a beautiful planner. I used to buy one at Christmas, but since I started teaching, I’ve bought one in August in time for the new academic year. It got me thinking how there is creativity in organisation.
My computer backgrounds alternate in themes from fantasy images, character inspiration, nature and space. Every time I open my PC, there’s beauty on my screen. So why not my diary? I use it multiple times a day and even make notes at the back. I want creativity in my organisation.
But what about organisation in my creativity?
I rave about Scrivener because I genuinely love it. But there are many ways you can organise your thoughts and intentions.
Here are some thoughts you might want to consider organising…
Characters – Give each character a page for a full description or make a quick-view table. I have both in my Scrivener file. Their role, goals, family, appearance, backstory, maybe even an image. Anything that applies to your characters whether they’re MCs or secondary characters. Try devianart for portraits or fantastical character inspiration.
Locations – Main buildings with descriptions. A map of you can draw one or make a digital map. Research structures that apply to your book and use images for consistency.
Worldbuilding – Reality or fantasy, your world needs history, culture, religion, lore. Whatever it takes for readers to understand the world from your MC’s perspective. You don’t need to use every aspect of the world or culture you’re writing about. But you need to know it inside and out.
Abilities – This is more important for fantasy or sci-fi but still applies for a real world story. Magic, integrated tech, you need to establish what your characters are capable off at the beginning and at the end of the book. Your MC needs some special skills or potential skills that make them stand out. This can be something new or something that they already have but find new uses for. Detective skills, relationships skills, magical skills, new tech. It all boils down to the same idea of character growth.
Speaking of Character growth – Add this to your character description. Events that push them to change for better or worse. Make a timeline of key moments that cause these changes to various characters.
Outline – Make a table with columns. The chapter number and title if you use them. Write a synopsis for each chapter leaving a space for each scene if you have more than one. List the characters in the scene so you can see if you’re overloading the reader with too many people. Put the POV character at the top of the list for stories with multiple POVs. Colour code character actions if you want.
I’m probably missing some stuff here, but you get the point. Organising your creativity can help keep those inspirational thoughts together, making way for new ones.