Archive for the 'Writing' Category

NEWS – UK Song writing ContestIn Twenty Four Hours

 I nearly missed the deadline on the above comp last year and that saying, ‘what can go wrong, will go wrong’ loomed large. The computer chose to hang at the worst possible moment (just after I had entered all my details and my mouse was poised over the ‘Submit’ button), the dog barked furiously during a quiet phrase, and my fingers almost got too sore to press down the chords on my acoustic guitar. I finally completed the song, made a recording, without the dog adding his contribution and uploaded it before the midnight hour. Phew, mission accomplished. Then I forgot about it. Or tried to. Have you ever entered a competition and been able to totally put it out of your mind? The thought of it lurked in the shadows until the results email pinged into my Inbox.

Now I am pleased to report that my hastily-written song, In Twenty Four Hours had reached the Quarter Finals and was ‘Commended’.  The scoring system showed that I had missed qualifying for the Semi-Finals by only one point. Note to self: must complete this year’s entry with time to spare! It might earn me some extra points. Watch this space to see if I do.



 Another competition, another deadline beckoned. This time I wanted to enter the recently revived Plough Poetry Prize with Sir Andrew Motion as the Judge. Thankfully, I had already written the poems. The decision was how many to enter and which ones were most suitable. I decided on four as a good round figure, not too many, not too few and made my choices. Not quite so easy, especially after an initial sort through produced a pile of ten. My final choices were, in order of my preference:

1. Loving, 2. Hands of Men, 3. Conquistadora, and 4. In answer to William Carlos Williams.

Sending the fee and submitting the poems was a simple, painless process. Then, like every other entrant, all I could do was to wait and try to be patient. The results were announced after a couple of months. I scrolled through the long list and found two of my poems listed. Not too bad. Then I looked at the short list. Another of my poems was listed there. It was my no. 4 choice – and the one I thought least likely to stand any chance at all. I haven’t entered many poetry competitions although I have had one shortlisted before. Getting three listed feels like a good achievement.

High five!


Today I saw an author on a TV show. Nothing remarkable in that, it happens all the time. But this particular lady made me sit up and think. Having come into breakfast late and missed all the TV news programmes, due to my life-long habit of feeding my family of animals first, I tuned into The Wright Stuff. Matthew Wright was introducing one of the panel members, an author called Jodi Picoult. Not knowing her work, I decided to watch the interview. The first words I heard her say was that she didn’t believe in ‘writers block’. So I pricked up my ears – I don’t believe in it either.

As I watched this charismatic author from New Hampshire, USA, my writer’s wheels started to turn. Her clarity of thought and the way she expressed her views made me want to read her latest novel, The Storyteller. It also prompted me to check out her website. Once there, I signed up for her e-newsletter, this is something I rarely do.

This then led me to thinking about how important it is for an author to strike the right tone in promotional interviews in order to attract readers. Is it necessary for a reader to like the author? With my reader’s hat on I would have to say, ‘yes’. If I take a dislike to an author for whatever reason, then it would probably take a hefty bribe for me to read his or her work.

Fortunately for me, and for more than a few authors, it often happens that I read the work before learning about the writer. So I’ll throw a few names around. Examples of some long-dead authors whose writing I now view through dark-tinted glasses are Thomas Hardy (didn’t like the way he allegedly treated his wife), JM Barrie (did he ever grow up?), and Enid Blyton (welcomed young fans but didn’t appear to like her own children).

Authors who have first charmed me with their eloquence or anecdotal skills are ones like Jeffrey Deaver, Stephen Fry and Lee Child. If anyone is in any doubt, these are living authors. Politeness stills my hand from mentioning any authors of unpleasant character who are currently alive.

It is a good thing I have no similar prejudice against drug-taking writers such as Baudelaire, Hunter S. Thompson, Jack Kerouac or Samuel Taylor Coleridge. If I disregarded all those of a similar vein, then my reading list would swiftly halve. The world of literature would be a poorer place without being able to imagine that ‘stately pleasure-dome’ in Xanadu. (Kubla Khan)

By the way, Jodi Picoult’s book The Storyteller is at the top of my to-be-read list.

Do you have any favourite, charming authors whose books deserve reading?

Happy writing… and reading,

Run screaming for the hills? Welcome him or her with open arms? Well, if it’s a modern-day Mr (or Ms) Darcy and provided you are (i) the right age and (ii) the opposite sex, all will be well.  But what if it’s the villain of the piece with equally real murderous intentions? Or some insipid person who desperately needs to develop a strong backbone? I’ll pause here to kick a few hovering grey characters around the room. Character abuse, some might say. Maybe, but with some of the tricks and traits they acquire, it is an author’s privilege.

Recently, I described a fictional character of mine to an artist friend. Though loosely based on a composite of fairly unpleasant and negative traits, the resulting drawing fitted well with my imagined character. As time passed, I realised that the real life person I had used as my base character, (no pun intended but if you see it, well done!), was getting to look more like the fictional character drawing even though the artist had never seen him in reality. The real life character was letting his hair grow into a wild, unkempt mess and it had started to fall out, leaving behind a bald spot just like his fictional alter ego. His dress sense deteriorated into a scruffy, tramp-like lets-wear-anything look. He seemed to be neglecting his personal hygiene too – hey, do you think I really want to get close enough to check it out?

If this character shows up on my doorstep, I will definitely be heading for the hills. I’ll hide up somewhere and write about my flight, as, like all writers, I use every experience to enrich my writing. I hope this particular baddy never finds me. If you are reading this, rest assured that I have banished him to the shady realms of my archived computer files. Now, where is Mr Darcy?

One of my pet peeves, and it might also be one of yours, is the lack of adequate proofreading in written documents, whether online or on the printed page. I sometimes get distracted, as many writers do, and surf the web for fun as well as research. Just today I happened on a website which promoted a particular company as marketing and re-branding experts.

I read one or two pages, found a category marked ‘creativity’ and clicked on it. I found a short 140 word piece about the importance of being able to write well. Did I find any errors? Yes, I did. How many? Six. Okay, so one or two were stylistic but there were also mistakes in basic grammar, punctuation and the absolute howler of using it’s when they should have used its. I was tempted to offer my services via the Contact Us button but thought better of it. But I certainly won’t be using that company should I ever need re-branding!

I accept that Blogs, by their very nature, are spontaneous and might contain a couple of errors but the page I was reading was supposed to be a slick, polished professional website blurb. Not so polished when viewed through the eyes of a real writer/reader. Even in Blogs I think writers should at least strive for accuracy of spelling and clarity of meaning because they are trying to communicate, aren’t they?
Printed pages are often sitting ducks for my wrath. Recently, in a modern novel, I found that on one page the name of main character was spelt out in full. In the next mention it was abbreviated to the diminutive and then changed to its masculine form two sentences later. All this within a couple of short paragraphs. As a reader, I was definitely confused, though I did read on. Many might not.

If you find any errors in my copy, I don’t mind if you point them out to me. There is always room for improvement in my book, and I hope, in yours.

Yours correctly,

Just write for 10 minutes.

Writers everywhere are guilty of procrastination. I know I am. It lurks in the darkest recesses waiting to delay the unwary. In my attempt to banish it forever, I’ve borrowed a tip from top exam expert, George Turnbull who gives similar advice on exam revision techniques, and applied it to my writing day.

I promise myself that I will sit at my desk for ten minutes and write. Then I can stop, do something rewarding or just relax. My reward is usually playing my guitar, although unless I am currently writing a song, I limit myself to ten minutes of noodling. (Noodling is the guitarist’s equivalent of doodling; it doesn’t have anything to do with eating instant meals.)

So far, I haven’t done much noodling during my writing sessions. By the time the first ten minutes of writing is up, I am so involved in my story that the passing of time barely registers. Only when I get stuck do I pick up my guitar and let the creative dust settle. You don’t have to play guitar. Just pick a reward that will distract you from writing.

While I never have subscribed to the idea of writer’s block, this method has helped several fellow writers leap away from the daily starting line. So why don’t you try it? Let me know if it works for you.


I first took up the Script Frenzy challenge after successfully completing a couple of novels with National Novel Writing Month, fondly known as Nanowrimo, to aficionados. Little did I know then that it would be a life changing experience. Every day, for thirty days, I wrote pages and pages of screenplay. It was a steep learning curve combined with hard work and I loved every minute of it.

Learning the correct script layout was the easy part. Writing the dialogue let me use my writer’s voice so no problems there. But writing out the action sequences meant I had to imagine viewing the finished film rather than simply hearing the story unfold in my head.

Undaunted, I imagined casting Johnny Depp as the madman/romantic lead, (only JD has the expertise to play such a role, imho), and hey presto, I could see it all. My main character was also a jazz guitarist and the same actor had to play his own grandfather. This concept intrigued me. My fingers flew across the keyboard like a demented spider. The file of pages increased in megabytes and suddenly it was 30th April. I had reached my goal of 110 pages of screenplay.

But honing and polishing the script presented me with another challenge. First, I had to research all the historical facts, and then I had to make sure the story structure worked. I asked an ex British Army expert about the demolition scenes and re-wrote those. I polished and cut and polished and cut some more. I spent a while choosing a one-liner to describe the film.

I ended up with:  The Great Gatsby meets Indiana Jones – a cross-Atlantic tale of decadence, money, intrigue, madness, music and romance.

Now comes the hardest part of all. Finding someone to make the film. So if you know a gambler who likes to explore the human psyche while blowing up historic buildings, just let me know. I’ll be waiting for your call.



When I was little, my Dad thought it amusing to introduce me, to his friends, as Ermatrude.  I loved seeing the shock on their faces as they looked down at my blonde hair and big blue eyes. I could almost hear them thinking, ‘oh the poor kid!’

I grew up with Yvonne as my name and no one shortened it to Yve until I reached my teens.  With the casualness of teenagers everywhere, I accepted my new moniker. When I started writing I became more formal and reverted to Yvonne.

Then one day a friend (yes, you know who you are) insisted on called me Yves. I said that a French masculine name was not me. My protests were ignored and now I am known as Yves to all my friends, as well as it being my main writing name (btw, the ‘s’ is silent, as in the French pronunciation).

Choosing a writing name is not always easy; many writers use their own names or a variation.

William Trevor took his own first two names to write his literary fiction. Ian Mortimer, best-selling author of The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England, used his middle names, James Forrester, when he turned his hand to novel writing.  Other writers use different names for specific character series or for different genres.

Along the line, I have also compiled cryptic crosswords under the pseudonym of Marocco, a long-dead, though intelligent, horse from the Elizabethan era. And, horror of horrors, I have been published without a by-line. Like most writers, I’ve developed a rhino hide to deal with this type of treatment.

I’ve never minded what people call me, though that may change. I’ll even respond to a ‘hey you’ shouted across a crowded room (thanks, Mum).

For now, I invite everyone to call me Yves even if some think I should really be a Contrary Mary.



image of a quill

Yves Potter

© 2012