Can You Speed-Write Poetry?

Discussing goals with my local writing group on Sunday, I mentioned that I would need to write 42 poems in 9 days (approximately 5 a day) to reach my goal for July. That statement was met with the question “how?” (Well, not exactly, but that was the gist of it – I’ve paraphrased for clarity.)

My answer is this: exactly the same way that you speed-write a novel – knowing that it is an imperfect draft but that the seeds of a great work are there.

When I’m speed-writing these poems, I’m not intending for them to be the final, finished, published work. I am getting down the kernels of the truths I’m trying to write. And once the month is over, I’ll tweak them and polish them. I’ll give them to my CP to read over and feed back on, and I’ll work on something else while I wait for that feedback. We’ll tweak and polish them together.

And then I’ll polish them a little bit more, because that’s what you do.

Some of them are close to what I want already, and won’t need much work. Some of them are so far away that I can’t see what I want with a telescope – but somewhere inside them is something I wanted to say, and that is what I’m doing when I’m penning 100 poems in a month. Well, 80 – I had about 20 before the month began.

It’s not about perfect. It’s about done.

The Mid-July Report

This post was intended (but not yet written) for last week. Life, however, decide that we had not had enough lemons, and Mr Sage ended up in hospital, where he has been for the last week. (He’s home now, and doing much better).

On 8 July, I had a moment of bravery/temporary insanity, in which I made a public declaration on Twitter. The Bestseller Experiment witnessed it and has shouted it out on the podcast, so there is no turning back for me now.

What did I declare?

Part 1: I will have ALL 100 poems for my book written by 23:59 (GMT+2) on 31 July 2019.

As it stands currently, I have 58 poems ready – 42 still to write. There are 9 days left, not including today. That means 4,7 per day, rounded up is 5 a day. Maybe a little on the hectic side, but not impossible or even improbable.

Stay tuned to find out if I manage it!

Part 2: The poetry book will be available for sale by 01:30 (GMT+2) on 2 October 2019.

Even if I miss the 31 July deadline for completion, which I’m not intending to do, the book WILL be available by 01:30 on 2 October. Why 01:30, I hear you ask. Well, that’s another story for another time – but keep your eyes peeled for more info info and announcements on my blog!

PArt 3: The current draft of Number 19 will be completed and in the inbox of my alpha reader by 23:59 (GMT+2) on 30 November 2019.

No more fannying about with this! This story has taken up too much of my brain space for far too long, and I need to be moving on to other things. So it WILL be done, and sent off for alpha reading, so I can get on with one of the other million ideas incubating in my brain.

I should probably make a start on finding an alpha reader at some point, too…

And what about CampNaNoWriMo?

I am 395 minutes away from my goal of 1200. I’m behind where I should be, but not by much (less than 10 minutes) and I’m sure I’ll make it up this afternoon.

We’re in the home stretch now so – be productive, do the things, be good, be kind, and stay hydrated! You’ve got this!

A Public Declaration

Some valuable lessons and words of wisdom here.

And if you like fantasy and haven’t already purchased Mr Stay’s very fine novel, The End of Magic, might I suggest that you do so posthaste. It really is an absolutely cracking read!

Mark Stay Writes

We had a pivotal episode of the Bestseller Experiment podcast this week. We finally revealed if we made our target of ten thousand copies sold of Back To Reality by the end of Glastonbury weekend. You can listen here…

EP208: Glastonbury Or Bust – Did We Make It?

It’s not much of a spoiler to say that we didn’t make it. However, if failure is a teacher then we learned an awful lot. Here were the big lessons for me…

  • Write a series – It’s much more difficult to sell a standalone book using advertising tools (Amazon Merchandising Services, Facebook Ads, Bookbub, Publisher Rocket) that are best designed to sell more than one product. So guess what I’m writing next…?
  • Not being able to use AMS in the UK hurt our chances of success. Yes, I know some authors have managed to use loopholes to run ads in the UK…

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The Best Part of Camp(NaNo)

I’m in control.

I can change my mind, change the rules, change my project, change my goals.

And that’s brilliant because I’ve been feeling conflicted, uneasy about my project(s) for Camp. Even before Camp started. Because the plan was based on the fact that I have two projects bumping around in my brain space. I was going to try to give time to both of them. It’s a solid plan. It’s been done before (I’m looking at you, Robyn 😉). There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be possible.

But four days in, my uneasiness has been proven warranted. This plan is not working for me and I would rather do one thing really well than two things poorly.

Which brings us to the New Plan:

  • Number 19 is, once again, on the backburner. I am definitely going to get it done this year, but not this Camp.
  • All focus will now be on my as yet untitled poetry project, which we’ll call ??? because I can’t think of anything better right now.

You might be asking why I’ve chosen to focus on the “new” ??? over the longer-lived Number 19. You might accuse me of Squirrel Mind or Shiny New Idea Syndrome.

Well, certainly that’s an element, but it’s not the whole story, and it isn’t an entirely new idea – before I ever dreamed I could write a novel, I dreamed of writing a book of poems. I made a fair start on one in high school which can only be described as ‘the pretentious ramblings of one who has no experience of life, the world, or indeed anything outside their own skull’. I will not be recycling any of those works.

Even that is not the whole of the thing, but it must be enough of the thing to satisfy you until I make a more formal announcement about ???, with an actual title and details and things.

So, if you’re taking part in this Camp, remember that YOU’RE in control, YOU make the rules, and you can do it!

Diving In

CampNaNoWriMo starts tomorrow! (It’s not too late to sign up, if this is your kind of thing!)

Mr Sage and I met with our local writing group this afternoon for the pre-Camp kickoff party, where we indulged in various refreshments, caught up on what we’ve been doing since the last Camp, and set our goals for this one.

Our motto for this camp is “make something imperfect”. I kind of want to make a T-shirt with that slogan.


(Edit: I actually did make this available as a design on my Redbubble.)

I’m going to be jumping between two projects for this Camp, with an overall goal of 20 hours of writing for the month. Obviously the site only lets you track one project at a time, so I’ll be “booking” all my time to Number 19 but working on both. (That pun was very much unintended.)

I’m hoping to be able to have this “side” project ready for publication in early October, so that means I really need to push to get it in front of alpha/beta readers and editors etc. I would be thrilled if I could get Number 19 to a state of alpha-readiness as well, but I’m less concerned about that for now.

Good luck to everyone doing CampNaNo – I know you can do it!

The Truth Is…

I’m struggling.

I’m struggling with my mental health, with my physical health, with my job, with my finances. I don’t really want to get into specifics right now, because that will overwhelm me.

I’m just struggling. And it’s impacting on my ability to create, well, anything really – despite the fact that I have hundreds of ideas and am hugely excited about them.

This post isn’t meant to be a pity party – just an update.

So here’s the plan. I’ve already taken some (completely unplanned) time off from my blog, and that’s been helpful to some extent, but I need more time. I’m going to finish the MSUM series in the next month, but I don’t know how much other content I’ll be posting for now.

I want to thank everyone who has supported me in my journey so far. You are all deeply wonderful people.

Until we meet again – be good, be kind, stay hydrated, and know that you are loved.


MSUM Part 2 – Ably Addressing Adverbs

Welcome to Part 2 of “My Stories Under the Microscope” or “MSUM”, where I run 13 of my short stories through Hemingway and take a closer look at the results.

This time it’s all about the adverbs.

If you need a refresher on your parts of speech (as I always do), adverbs are words or phrases which modify or qualify the verb in a sentence. They provide more information about how, when, where, or how often that action occurs – think gently, yesterday, outside, sometimes.

Adverbs are quite nifty little words and they can be very important. But too many of them can weigh your writing down, making for slow, clunky sentences. There’s also the danger of heading into purple prose territory, so it’s a good idea to try and only use them when they’re really needed.

Hemingway highlights all of the adverbs, and tells you how many adverbs are appropriate for the length of the piece. Here’s an example from one of my stories:


Look at all of those lovely, blue adverbs. In this example, every one of them could be cut, and I would end up with a stronger story. Yes, they add some flavour and I quite like them where they are, but none of them are really vital.

Now let’s have a look at my adverb count across the stories. I took the Hemingway adverbs target for each story and divided it into that story’s word count. It isn’t an exact formula, but it seems to average out at about 1% – that is, 1 in every 100 words is “allowed” to be an adverb.


The chart shows that, out of 13 stories, I went over the acceptable adverb count 3 times, matched it exactly once, and stayed under 9 times. I’d say that’s not too bad. The 3 stories where I went over were particularly emotional stories for me to write, so I think it’s understandable that I would use more qualifiers and modifiers in those pieces.

The chart also shows an overall decline in adverbs in my work. Theoretically, that means my pieces are cleaner and, hopefully, punchier. That’s certainly something I’m working towards. I look forward to revisiting this exercise in a year’s time – we’ll see if I’ve improved at all.

Do you use a lot of adverbs, too? Do you have any tricks for cutting down? I want to hear all about it!