How to be a Completely Unambitious Writer

It’s odd to think that, as recently as 2013, I had enough self-discipline to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days.

Shortly after that, I wrote my series of vignettes for the Library Book Project. I still feel that series is possibly the best fiction work I’ve ever completed. At that time, I had absolutely no issue with calling myself a writer. There were stories I wanted to explore, and it felt so good to get them all down on paper.

While I never really had grand ambitions in terms of getting published, I felt like I was definitely improving and developing a skill. There were so many times growing up where I didn’t feel that I had a “talent” like other kids, and finally I felt like I could be really good at something if I just took the time to practice.

Unfortunately… things happen.

There’s a number of factors involved, but the truth is that I really regret dropping the ball. Being out of practice has meant that I’ve lost some faith in my ability as a writer. It doesn’t feel the same as it did before.

Another problem currently is that I’m also so stressed I find it difficult to actually relax and enjoy writing. Like, I’m really stressed out. Final year and graduate application rounds are totally kicking my arse. And, I get it, there are probably people who have lives exponentially more stressful than mine, and you have to be resilient, but, I’m seriously stressed out.

So, writing might not be my biggest priority right now.


I’m not going to give up. I’ll try things from different angles, maybe start some smaller projects, and keep talking to the people who I know will motivate me. I’m confident that one day, I’ll get some writerly mojo back.




Sunday Photo Fiction – Sharing

Sunrise coming through the clouds. Of course, in your fiction, it could be absolutely anything

Copyright – Al Forbes

Read the rules and submit your own story based on the prompt here. I’ve actually started writing up a new novel. This isn’t an extract, but it’s a short segment based on another character’s point of view.

She never smiled. I only noticed it after a couple of weeks of knowing her. It wasn’t obvious straight away. She didn’t give off this vibe of being completely miserable or anything like that. It was more like there was always a little part of her that was dwelling on something else.

I guess I really wanted to fix her. I was arrogant enough to think I could just talk to her and she’d suddenly open up. I imagined her smiling, and I thought it would be like the clouds suddenly parting and the sun shining through, or a similar cliché.

It never happened. I took every opportunity to be alone with her, and I asked her a million questions. I wanted to know about her home, her family, and why she’d come to the academy. Her answers were always half-hearted and she didn’t look me in the eye. Eventually she began avoiding me altogether.

Years later, when I found out the unremarkable truth, I wondered why she’d been so reluctant.

In another few years, the issue of what truths are better left unshared would almost tear our marriage apart.

Friday Fictioneers – Tree

Copyright - Adam Ickes

Copyright – Adam Ickes

If you’d like to see the extended version of my last FF post, Some Culture For You, click here. You might be a little surprised at where it goes.

If you’d like to check out the other FF stories or submit your own 100 word piece based on the photo, click here.


I am a tree.

I am a large, deciduous tree, watching over the woods and spreading my branches protectively under the sky.

My trunk is massive-



I lose concentration as my tutor hushes the other students. I press my eyelids together tightly, but I’m now far too red-faced to be a tree. My exasperated tutor calls me down from the stage.

I’m a student failing to be an actor. I might give in to my parents’ wishes and quit Drama school.

It could be worse.

I could be the guy pretending to be a pair of boots.

Sunday Photo Fiction – Madam Omogote

36 12 December 1st 2013

Copyright – Al Forbes

Click here if you’d like to read the other stories, or if you’d like to submit your own story based on this photo.

Didi tugged at her school skirt as she shuffled in the plastic chair. An acidic sensation spread from her stomach to her throat as she thought of the imminent meeting with her headmistress. She tried to warm her numb fingers by pressing them between her knees. Despite her situation, she smiled when she thought of whose fingers had last touched her, and she knew that meeting him was worth the punishment for being caught.

Madam Omogote opened the door and motioned for Didi to enter her office. She was a squat beast of a woman whose formidable roar was feared by students and teachers alike. She bared her teeth at Didi and pointed towards the bench on the other side of the room. Didi knew the drill. She bent over the bench and grasped the supporting plank on the opposite side.

There were a few tense seconds…

The cane sliced through the air and Didi gripped the plank tighter.

Friday Fictioneers – A Domestic Carol


Copyright – Rich Voza

I haven’t done any photo challenges in a couple of weeks, partly due to my laptop breaking and partly due to the fact I’ve been so busy, so I’m feeling a bit rusty. On the plus side, I went to freshers fair today and joined the creative writing society, plus got lots of free stuff, including pizza, omnomnom. If you want to take part in Friday Fictioneers, click here.

“Let me guess. One door takes me to the past, one door takes me to the present, and one door takes me to the future?” Sam asked. He was bored after listening to the sage’s poetic witterings for the past half hour.

“No.” she replied, crossly. Her scowl made the wrinkles around her eyes deepen. “Why would you need a door for the present? You’re in the present, stupid!”

“So where do they go to?”

“Take a look and see.” she instructed, as annoyingly mystical as ever.

Sam opened the first door.

“It’s full of dirty dishes and laundry, I don’t understand.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to.” she said, sadly.

The Library Book Project – 13 October 2010

To read more about the library book project, click here.

I count the change in my hand, hoping that I miscounted or that an extra pound coin will appear somewhere. The sum of money in my palm does not change. I shift my weight and begin to make decisions. Maybe if I made half? No, I’d still have to buy the same amount of eggs and ground almonds. The macarons will have to wait for another day. I venture down the baking aisle, flicking through the recipe book of my mind.

As tempted as I am to go look at cheap fruit, chocolate is a surefire winner at these family get-togethers. No matter what Nigella says, all I can afford is the supermarket value range, so that is what I pick up. I already have all the other ingredients, so I walk towards the chilled goods section. Philadelphia is on offer, giving me a glimmer of hope, but I am twenty pence short of being able to choose it over the own-brand cream cheese.

Once home, I find the recipe book and lay out the ingredients, relieved that I have everything I need. I love baking. It really is just as simple as following the recipe. If only life worked that way, just get the ingredients and follow the instructions. While you’re at school, they make out that’s the way forwards. A handful of hard work, some education, a splash of initiative, and a couple of good ideas. Mix them together and you’ve got a bowl of success.

It wasn’t until I graduated that I realized I was fresh out of good ideas. A minimum wage cleaning job ensued, one I’m still trenched in, waiting for that golden handshake to pull me up. If it wasn’t for my boyfriend, who got straight into the graduate scheme he wanted, I’d probably be back to living with my parents. He makes it feel okay that I’m a cleaner, he makes me believe this rut really is temporary. My family are the opposite. Why am I in minimum wage work? The idea is abhorrent to them. What am I doing about it?

I didn’t even want to go to my father’s birthday party, but I knew that wanting avoid those questions wasn’t exactly a reasonable excuse. I’m determined to give them something positive to say to me this time. I stare at the brownies in the oven. Even if it’s something small.

The Library Book Project – 25 July 2008

To read more about this project, click here.

Well, that was awful. I mean, I never even realized people could be so rude. My first ever shift of my first ever job, and I’m already exhausted. All I thought about when I applied and had my interview was the money. The woman who trained me, Martina, she was alright, but the customers? Don’t even ask. The rest of my summer stretches ahead of me, like the days are being reflected by a fairground mirror.

It blows my mind that some people do this day in, day out and that’s all they have. At least I have college to look forward to in September.  (That’s the first time I’ve ever said I’m looking forward to college.) This job makes the prospect of A-Level maths quite delightful. God, A-Levels. I mean, when I first started secondary school, sixth-form students were like this whole other species. Frankly, even as a GCSE student, they were weirdly different from us. Like they were way, way more than a year or a couple of years older than us. I think it’s the lack of school uniform.

College is even more… I don’t know. I know that it’s supposed to be the same as sixth form, but everyone told me not to stay on at my old school, or I’d regret it. “College is way better!” they told me. “At sixth form they still treat you like you’re a kid.” To be honest, I always wanted to ask them how they knew. They either went to sixth form, or they went to college. How could they compare and know which was better?

Still, it gave a finality to my last days at school. I handed in my textbooks and filled in the leavers form. I had to ask the librarian to stamp a sheet saying I didn’t owe any books or fees despite the fact I’d never even taken a library book out. I stood in the very long queue to her desk and wondered why that was. I loved reading and must have read all the books at home twice over.

With that in mind, I’d visited the library in the town centre during study leave. The book I took out is sitting on my desk. It hasn’t been touched in the past two weeks, and now it’s almost time for it to be taken back. I’ll have to return it on the way back from one of my shifts.

Friday Fictioneers – The rather complicated model


Copyright – David Stewart

So, I just got back from helping out at my uni department’s summer school. It was a three day residential thing and it was totally awesome, but I am just absolutely, utterly, completely exhausted. At the moment, I’m putting off unpacking and reluctant to get out of my lovely, not-so-flattering ambassador t-shirt, because I enjoyed it so much and it went by so quickly I’m finding it hard to believe it’s over. I’m still in a kind of psychedelic ambassador mode which involves smiling until it hurts and being very energetic and “out there” which does not come naturally to me. (Might be something to do with the billion cups of coffee I consumed over the last few days in order to survive.)

When I saw the photo, it for some reason made me think of a model that had gone badly wrong somewhere, and the person building it had given up. Here is my summer school themed FF contribution:

“Guys! Guys! Seriously, you need to hurry up! The other teams have practically finished building their models!”

 I look nervously over at Melissa, knowing that her words are only panicking our already flustered team.

“It’s impossible, I don’t understand!” a girl wails. I suddenly start sneezing.

“Ah! Ah! Picture clue four-CHOOO! Oh dear. I think I need a tissue…”

The girl’s eyes light up and she studies the picture instructions closely before showing the rest of the team. Melissa shoots me one of her world-famous death glares.

“We’re not supposed to help them!” she says.

I pull an innocent face.

Taking Back The Crown – Part Twelve

Sonya visited Linden’s camp every night while she completed her training with Seta. As time ran only slightly slower in the Sprite World, she survived on very little sleep. Seta noticed her fatigue, but she gave him no hints as to why she was tired. To keep secrets from him, to put this emotional distance between herself and her mentor, saddened her. However, she had many distractions.

 Linden had been correct in his assumption that magicians would be more willing to fight with a member of the Royal Family at their side. The numbers grew quickly, and there was barely enough room for all of the recruits. Eventually, they created a concealed camp on Litia’s outskirts, one that was much larger. This made things much easier for Sonya, as the time difference meant she could get more rest.

 After weeks of patrolling Litia’s outer districts, they had not seen anyone, Rutilus or human. They came closer and closer to Litia’s capital, Helena. Only when they reached the edges of the capital did they come across small groups of Rutilus. Most of the time, they hid. When the time came to attack, they wanted to be prepared and they wanted the element of surprise. On one patrol though, they were seen by a female Rutilus. They captured and restrained her in an abandoned home.

 “Your efforts will be in vain!” she hissed. “We are all faithful to Magdalene. If she calls us you’ll have our entire race to contend with!” She spat in Orika’s face, broke her bonds and sent an attack flying across the room. Linden yelled out as it hit him in the face, cutting deeply across his cheek. Sonya quickly reacted, using her magic to trip the Rutilus before she could escape.

 Sonya executed the Rutilus that night. It was the first time she had killed anyone, and was shocked to find it so exhilarating. Having the power to rip someone’s life away was terrifying, but Sonya had no regrets. It needed to be done.

Taking Back The Crown – Part Seven

“You hesitate too much. You’re thinking, that’s a good thing, trust me, I didn’t think at all when I first started training. I’d just lash out and my mentor would walk circles around me. But you are thinking too much. You shouldn’t need that much time to make judgements, trust the first one that comes to you.”

Sonya stood on the opposite side of the combat room, a sweaty layer forming on her back, trying to take Seta’s advice in. Part of the problem laid in the fact she constantly had to scale down her true power. If he realized how strong she really was, they might figure out who she was and not let her stay. Besides, she might end up killing Seta in the unlikely event that she actually landed a blow on him. Power wasn’t everything. Seta was extremely fast, elegant and he made controlling his strength look easy. Even if Sonya wasn’t holding back, she wouldn’t win.

She supposed that was why they’d let him become a mentor early. Normally, a student did not become a mentor until they were thirty. Then again, Sonya was a year younger than all the other new students. She was also much more female. They had all stared at first. Some still did. She didn’t know what they thought of her. Students here did not socialize much with each other. Everyone travelled around in their mentor/student couplings.

Seta was a good mentor to her. When Trin or Naria had escaped the “abyss” the Rutilus had put them in, she’d be ready to fight with them.