Saturday, 31 December 2016

#PoCoLo Blogging Showcase

In a shameless attempt to write a post despite having no inspiration I have stumbled across #PoCoLo hosted by Morgan at and Stephanie at so I decided to join in with their Blogger Showcase. Helpfully for those of us whose brains aren't working yet this morning they have supplied a list of questions to help me! So here goes...

Who are you?
I'm Johanne a fifty something aspiring writer. A Brummie by birth I now live in Oxfordshire with my hubby and grown up son. Three cats complete our family and they are the real bosses in our house.

How did you discover blogging?
I guess like most people I fell into it by accident. I spend far too long surfing the web and I stumbled on a blog called I enjoyed reading about what Jocelyn was up to and started reading regularly. This lead me to the blogs of people who commented on her blog and soon I wanted to be part of that community. And the first version of my blog was born!

When did you first start blogging?
I really can't remember! However I have been doing it for a few years now and it's hard to remember what life was like before I blogged.

What do you find most challenging?
I struggle to be consistent. I'm full of good intentions but sometimes life gets in the way and I forget to blog. Then I feel guilty and fall out of love with my blog and it snowballs. So one of my challenges for 2017 is to be more consistent with my posting.

What is your favourite topic to write about?
I love sharing my writing on the blog. I haven't done that recently because I have been busy with my novel and don't know whether to share any of that before it's finished. But I love hearing what people think about my stories.

Are you blogging for fun or do you have goals?
Until last month I would have said for fun but I am trying to take blogging more seriously in 2017n so I now have goals. I'm very motivated at the moment so let's hope I can keep it going over the next 12 months.

What is your favourite thing about blogging?
I love all the virtual friends I have made through my blog. I have been lucky enough to find a really supportive writing community and I rely on them to keep me motivated and grounded when I get down about my 'talent'. I hope to meet some of them in real life in 2017; I'm sure we can chat for England about all sort of stuff.

Have you ever attended a blogging conference?
No. Short answer! So far I've not taken blogging that seriously but maybe 2017 is the year I get round to checking out the conference scene.

What are your best 3 posts?
Gosh, that's a tough one to answer. I have enjoyed writing some short stories that I have shared on my blog so they must feature. The most viewed posts are ones where I've shared something about my writing like the post about winning at NaNoWriMo.

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Another tricky one. I always think that when you choose your own words folk who know you say 'Really? I've never though of you like that.' So I'm sticking my neck out by choosing anything. But here goes nothing: caring, funny, loyal. Now don't judge me too harshly, there are plenty of other facets to me.

Are you a tea and biscuit or a coffee and cake person?
To be honest I'm a tea and cake person! I'll always choose tea over coffee, I'm typically old school English and everything can be solved over a pot of tea. And yes, it needs to be leaf tea from a tea pot. Given the choice I would have a slice of cake with my tea, lemon drizzle or banana cake by preference.

What's you idea of a perfect night out?
A trip to the theatre will always please me. I'm far too old for clubbing and I'm not keen on the modern pub culture so a trip to see a play will suit me.

Your perfect night in?
Pop a DVD in, pour me a G&T and I'm a happy bunny! Something with Benedict Cumberbatch or Daniel Craig will be fine.

What would your best friend/Mum/OH or kids say is your best quality?
Wow! This sounds like a trumpet blowing moment and takes me right out of my comfort zone. If you force me to pick one I suppose it's my sense of loyalty and fairness. Makes me sound rather worthy but I had to pick something. I'm more fun than that really!

So there you are, something about me and my blogging life. Things will be hotting up on my blog next year so do pop by and see what I'm up to in 2017!

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Blog Goals for 2017

So Aby challenged us to post our goals for our blogs now we've completed her course So I'm putting my goals for 2017 here and hope that by doing so it will keep me accountable - feel free to help me with that!

1. My first goal is to blog at least once a day. This seems a lot for someone who is lazy at blogging *waves*. However I have noticed that people who have a successful blog do a lot of posting. If I am to use my blog to promote my novel then I need to improve the audience and the traffic. So I intend to blog more frequently. I have already scheduled some posts for the New Year and have decided on topics for many more posts.

2. I want to have a book review on the blog every month. I enjoy reading and also enjoy reviewing the books I have read. I'm already reviewing on Goodreads so what I need to do is remember to pop a review on the blog when I do one for Goodreads. It will also keep me on track with my reading which is very important for me as a writer. Call it research!

3. I also want to publish more poems on the blog. I tend to write poems in response to a writing prompt like this one but I want to write and publish a poem each month. Writing poetry is something that I enjoy but lately it has taken a back seat to my novel writing so I am challenging myself to write more poems this coming year.

4. Guest posts are something that I want to include. I have never hosted a guest post but I want to do so in 2017. I have a few people in mind to ask and I will do my research before I approach them. I would also like to write a few posts to include on other people's blogs but am unsure about the protocol for asking if I can guest post on someone else's blog. That is something I will check out during January so I can achieve that particular goal.

5. My major goal for 2017 isn't a blogging one. I want to complete, edit and publish my novel. However I want to use the blog to promote it so my goal is to make the blog a great platform for promoting my novel.

So there they are, my blogging goals for 2017. Please help me to stay on track by nagging and asking how I'm getting on.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

5 Things I Learned This Year

As 2016 winds slowly down (taking far too many lovely folk with it IMHO) I thought I'd look back and analyse the year from a learning perspective. Maybe that's the ex-teacher in me but I needed to do some reflection today and a post here seemed obvious somehow.

1. I learned that I am a writer. This came as a wonderful surprise to me at least. I always wanted to write and have written on and off for most of my life. But nothing made me think that I could call myself a writer. For far too many years I lurked around on the blog and social media, following people whose writing I admired and wishing I could be like them. This year I realised that I was like them! They supported me when I felt unsure and built up my confidence until the day came when I felt able to announce that I was a writer. It still doesn't trip off the tongue but with a deep breath and a following wind I can tell people that I am a writer. And it feels so good.

2. My blog is important to me. For far too many weeks this year I have neglected my blog. I have been too busy; I have lacked inspiration; I have forgotten about it. Excuses, excuses. Bad blogger. But recently I took an online course that helped me to re-focus and to plan for next year. I also realised that when my book is finished I will need to use my blog as a platform to promote it and that means consistency and hard work building my audience. So no more excuses, I will be a better blogger in 2017.

3. I need to grab life by the scruff and dive in. I have seen many friends have wonderful experiences and have loved hearing/reading about them. But I have remained a wallflower, sitting on the side-lines watching all the fun but never joining in. Slowly I realised that I want to join in, I want to look back on interesting and fun times. So I have decided that in 2017 I will try to overcome my reticence and get out there more, including meeting online friends when I get a chance.

4. This one stems from the others a little but I learned that things don't fall into the laps of people. They work hard to make stuff happen. For some weird reason I thought some people were just blessed and things happened to them, almost in a passive way. Like the universe was blessing them. But this year I read a lot about how people made things happen, how they worked to get those opportunities that I so envied. There may be an element of luck or fortune for some people but most folk work bloody hard to create opportunities and if I want things to happen for me, I have to work towards them rather than waiting for them to drop into my lap.

5. I still have ambitions. I never thought of myself as particularly ambitious. I didn't have a career or life plan and drifted from one thing to another, happy to let fate decide where I went and what I did. Yet this year I have realised that there is still much I want to do. I have come scarily close to writing a bucket list, something I always swore I'd never do, but I have thought about the things I still want to do. Top of the list is publishing my book and I want to do this by the end of 2017.  I won't list everything I want to accomplish this year here (there may be a post about it later!) but it has come as a shock to learn that I have more ambitions and more things to look forward to. Blimey, too much positivity here, most unlike me!

So there you have it, 5 things I learned this year. Not a bad haul, if I'm honest. But if 2017 is as positive as I hope to make it I should have much more to reflect on this time next year. Fingers crossed!

Monday, 26 December 2016

It's That Time of Year Again

I'm usually pretty rubbish at self-reflection. I'm far too critical, even hyper-critical, of myself that I struggle to find something positive to say or an achievement worth celebrating and the whole thing ends up as a wail of despair. I wear reverse blinkers so I can see everyone else's achievements but am blind to my own. Yet I know it is a skill I should have learned by now and something that I ought to be able to do as an adult.

This year however I feel as if there is something that I genuinely want to celebrate. This year I won at NaNoWriMo and that is a first for me. I have written about winning in an earlier post so I won't bore you with the same old stuff but I do feel the need to look back at that as a major achievement of 2016.

The point is though that I want to have many more of those achievements next year. I want to have lots to celebrate when 2017 draws to a close. So I have to make these things happen. I know that stuff doesn't fall into my lap, the gods don't shower things down on me so it is up to me to make it happen. I have made plans to improve my blog with more and varied posts; I have planned how I will bring the novel to publication next year; I want to embrace new opportunities rather than always saying 'no'.

All this is going to take me outside my comfort zone. I need to be brave - and that's not me at all! But if I want to have plenty to reflect on in 12 months I need to make it happen. I'm in control of how this next year pans out and nobody else will be to blame if it drifts past without much to get excited about. So for the first time in many years (if ever) I am looking forward to a packed and exciting year ahead. And if I'm honest that scares me a little. I'm one of life's plodders and I don't go out of my way to seek excitement.

I'm also aware that writing it all down isn't the same as doing it. I'm a past master at good intentions that amount to nothing. This is my default position - think about it, decide to do it, think again and put it off/cancel it. That's why I struggle to think of things worth celebrating or mentioning when I reflect on the past year. I need to push past my reluctance to get out and do stuff, my reluctance to grab chances and see them as opportunities to do interesting things rather than opportunities for the Universe to kick me in the teeth. I need to be braver and more accepting of the good things that may/will come my way if I seek them out.

Wish me luck as I try things out and go against my anxious nature.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

15 minute chunks of time

As the end of the year approaches I always start to think about what I can do to make next year better than last. This year I've accomplished something I never thought I would when I wrote 50,000 words to win at NaNo. So I feel that my writing is finally coming together and I look forward to 2017 with excitement as I try to build on this and get my first novel in some shape to be read or even published.

But sadly the blog has had to take a back seat and I'm afraid that it's been rather neglected of late. So I enrolled on a course to help me re-focus my blog and move it on a little. But as ever time and enthusiasm are my problem.

I also started reading a book about organisation by someone called The Flylady. Lots of useful tips about getting on top of household management (some of which I may put into practise!) But one thing that she said struck home. She said that you can manage to do anything for 15 minutes, talking about cleaning and tidying tasks mainly but it got me thinking.

15 minutes isn't much time to spend doing a task. Thinking about household tasks I don't enjoy, even I can manage to spend 15 minutes cleaning the bathroom or kitchen. Knowing that the timer will go off and I can stop is key. Yes, she advocates using a timer! You can commit to any task as long as you stop as soon as the timer goes off and then move on to another task.  No task has time to become overwhelming so you breeze through them. At least that's the theory...

So I wondered if it would work in other areas of my life. For example, I allocated 15 minutes to writing this blog post and here it is! It didn't feel like too much of a chore and I knew that if it took longer than 15 minutes I could leave it and come back later to finish it off. Winning at NaNo has shown me that I can sit at my computer and write for a couple of hours. But I think giving myself permission to write for just 15 minutes will help me fit writing into my life in a way that banishes the guilt I sometimes feel.

I also plan to spend some 15 minute chunks dealing with the blog - writing posts, promoting it, scheduling and all that stuff that I know I should do but never get round to.

So let's hear it for the 15 minute chunk of time and using it productively in 2017!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

NaNo Winning

I try not to blow my own trumpet but sometimes it has to be done.
After several years of trying I finally won at NaNo! I wrote 50,000 words in November and that is so much more than I've ever managed before. I am mostly happy with what I've written - I know, there will be flaws to discover when I edit but so far, so good. I feel really proud of myself and that's not a feeling I have often.

So what have I learned from all this? The most important thing that I learned was that I can do it. I can sit and write for a few hours; I can put words on the computer and do it all again the next day; I can write and most of what I write is good. There, I said it, I can write well and it's something I enjoy doing. This is a big thing for me so it feels right to celebrate it here.

I also learned that I can write in a genre that is not the one I usually choose. The NaNo novel is a fantasy type novel which is something I have read before but never tried to write. I'm not sure I will write only fantasy from now on but it is interesting to do something different. And maybe that is why I won this time because I was doing something outside my comfort zone and it just seemed to flow.

The last thing I learned is that I want to get better and do more writing. I've always felt a little guilty at putting time aside to write - there's always something else I 'should' be doing, right?  Well now I've decided not to bother with the guilt! I'm a writer so I have to spend time writing. It's not a waste of time, it's what I have to do.

So as the year draws to a close I am still writing the NaNo novel and I intend to complete it. So at some stage I'll start worrying about whether it's any good, how do I edit it etc. Join me on that ride in 2017!

I'm sharing this on What I'm Writing.