The Writing Sabbatical

After nine years of workshop facilitation I have decided to alter my work pattern to take a six month writing sabbatical. Effectively this means I will be working just over two days a week running and planning workshops and will be lucky enough to be able to devote the rest of my working time to my writing. Hurray!

My sabbatical officially started on Tuesday 17th July but, after an exceptionally busy period, work has been winding down for me since the 3rd of July.

This is the first blog I’m writing to report on how it’s gone for the last few weeks. I’m intending to write approximately one a month.


I love running creative writing workshops – watching people feed their passion for writing and helping them to develop their skills and even get published is incredibly rewarding so this was a big decision for me. However because of work
commitments, my own writing has always taken a back seat and I needed to create an opportunity to prioritise my own work. You cannot repeatedly tell people to follow their passion without accepting your own gauntlet.

The aim of the writing sabbatical is to focus on finishing my long suffering second novel, look into getting a poetry collection or pamphlet published and to try to sell more of my work.


I have set myself general aims for each month and then at the beginning of each month I plan to break that down into daily and weekly targets. I know all this sounds business-like but having targets is a good way to make sure you think about what you want and do something about it. Procrastination can be very tempting!

Stephen King sets himself 2000 words a day as a target when he is writing. If King can be as prolific as that with that word count I am happy to aim for half of that! Also I am used to setting myself impossible-to-reach targets so I thought I’d aim small and definitely achievable for a change.

My Initial Aims

• Finish draft one of ‘The Sound of Candyfloss’ (working title for my novel) – by 15th August (approximately 80,000 words). Starting word count when I began writing again on 5th July was 62377.
• Daily word count of 1000 words per day when not running a workshop or planning and 500 words on days when running a workshop or planning (+ appropriate research). Plus weekends off and a few days off when visiting my family in mid July!

Achievements So Far

• Completed accounts and tax return but we won’t talk about that!
• Finished summarising the novel’s scenes so far and restructured the plot.
• Researched and wrote 22,313 words of my novel (not including the 500 or so words I deleted as I was editing, taking me to a total of 84,690 (10,813 over target – almost on a par with King for productivity after all!).
• Began two short stories.
• Put together poems for a pamphlet and sent to a poet I respect for feedback.
• Wrote and edited one poem and wrote it up into my commonplace book (an autobiographical scrapbook in which I use pieces of my own writing to reflect particular times of my life and photos/images/flyers etc)
• Wrote up three poems and how they came about in my process book and filled the book (I began this notebook on August 20th last year and aimed to finish it by the 20th August this year. I have included every poem I’ve finished up until July this year).
• Set up a Twitter Account. Followers welcomed:
• Set up a blog/new website here. I love my existing website but it is too complicated for me to update myself so I’ve set up this Word Press site. It is currently at a Word Press domain but I will be transferring it to my own domain soon and may well change the template. Please do follow.
• Set up a mailing list.
• Updated my Facebook fan page. You can find it here: I seem to have been as busy with all these websites as with writing this month but I’m aware that a web presence is a big factor in selling books so better sooner than later.
• Started learning Italian.
• I bought an Eepad – lightweight beautiful Ipad equivalent – so that I could easily work out of the house without relying on heavy laptop with 20 minute battery life and faulty cable.

The Unexpected

• I developed a faulty laptop cable which meant my laptop kept turning itself off.
• Learning to use the Eepad was so much fun but time-consuming.
• Lots of socialising with neglected friends and family meant I didn’t get as much done as I might otherwise have (the rest of August is looking similar but from September I may have to become a social recluse except for writing-related events)
• I realised that some writers can write a lot more quickly than me and decided that my low-medium word count could be explained by the fact that I have been focussing on poetry for so long. 1000 words a day is a hell of a lot for a poet! That’s my excuse anyway.
• Someone very like one of my main characters cropped up in the news. I don’t want to reveal any more than that at this stage but it was pretty spooky.
• The novel needs more ‘scenes’ than I thought to tell the story, in the first draft at least, so it is going to take me a little longer than I thought (I’m estimating around 90000 words).
• I still have a lot of work to do in understanding what the plot is and how it should all fit together and will, no doubt, cut out a lot in the next draft.

Aims For The Rest Of August

• Complete first draft of Candyfloss
• Proof-read and send pamphlet to first publisher
• ‘Publish’ one blog about writing progress
• Write one poem for 7 Wanders event
• Complete commonplace book
• Begin writing up newer poetry in a new process book

And Some Performance Dates For Your Diaries

Would be lovely to see you at one of them.

1) 7 Wanders at Ilkley Literature Festival Fringe with 6 other writers on Saturday 29th September at 9 pm at Wildman Theatre, Ilkley Playhouse
2) Puzzle Hall poetry night, Sowerby (near Halifax) on 5th November
3) Pecha Kucha – 20 slides with 20 seconds to talk about each on a subject tbc at The Hepworth Wakefield on Tuesday 4th December at 6-8.30 pm

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