Getting organised: Trello

Yesterday I realised I’d not done any writing in almost two weeks – not ANY writing at all …

… well, I lied. I *did* actually write the structure for a book proposal on 29 June, complete with outline ideas for a further 14 potential non-fiction books.

Obviously, I’m not going to be able to write 15 new non-fiction books any time soon. And many of the ideas may be rejected anyway. But I can do the book proposal for book one and include two books on the same broad topic as the three-book-option.  If the publisher likes all three, then he’ll give me the go ahead. If he only likes one or two, he’ll come up with suggestions for book(s) two and three himself.

And, of course, he could just hate the first proposal and it’ll be back to the drawing board. It’s good to know, though, that there are already 12 more waiting in the sidelines.

But it’s a start, and that’s the main thing.

Getting organised
After tidying up my diary and sorting out my workload yesterday, I did two more things:

  1. I updated my online T-card system
  2. I started a new think/query/write/submit

Because I’m very behind on the think/query/write/submit system, I’m coming up with ideas for all four: Feb 18/Jan 18/Dec 17/Nov 17.

Fave short story market is already looking for stories for October and November. I have one November short story that’s already doing the rounds. But if I can come up with new short stories very quickly that would be suitable for November publication, or if I can slant one I’m already working on to October or November (or December), then I’m halfway there.

For everything else, I have to start again from scratch.

And that brings me on to my online T-card system.

Because I *do* juggle so many different ideas and projects at a time (I get bored and need the variety), I tasked the poet with finding me some kind of online project management system.

The first one he came up with was a Gantt-type chart. I tried it, but it was too big and complicated for what I needed. Then I asked him to find some kind of T-card system instead. And he found Trello.

Does anyone remember using T-cards? I’ve used them in loads of jobs and find them very useful.

I use the free version, but there is a premium version too. This is what my main Trello board looks like:

The picture’s a bit small, but you might be able to see that I can “star” or “favourite” however many boards I want to. And I can share the boards with other people, or they can share their boards with me. Then I can copy T-cards from one board to another.

I’d like to be able to update just one card and it automatically update all other copies elsewhere. I don’t know yet if Trello does that or if it’s in the premium version. But if it does, then that would also be very useful for me.

I have a board for each of my editing and proofreading clients, I have a board for my own books, I have a board for my short material, and I have a master board for all the books I’m working on. This master board used to include short material too, but it just went on and on and on for ever…

Here is my own book board:

As you can see, there are a few books on there. The cut-off column to the right is books still in planning stages.

I choose to change the background colour of each of my boards. I can also colour-code the labels and I have a key to remind me. These coloured labels show me at a glance how far I’ve progressed for each project.

I’d like to be able to move short card-sections to beneath existing columns. At the moment each new list starts a new column so there’s wasted space beneath shorter sections. Again, that may be possible, but I haven’t found it yet.

Here is my short material board:

This has ALL of my short material on – short stories, articles, RTEs (reader’s true experience), fillers, reader’s letters, etc. At every stage of production. The “in progress” section goes below the screen area, but you can scroll down to view them all.

Again, the labels are colour coded.

Even the cards themselves can be edited to suit. You can add pictures, comments, details such as targeted word-count, target market, target fee, actual fee, and a to-do list, which I really, really like. You can also attach files…

Here is a close-up of a T-card for a short story that’s currently with a market:

(They’ve asked for a slight re-write, so I need to crack on with that this week.)

I’m not using it to its full capability, but this is enough for me. I can tell at a glance how far along in the production process it is.

The beauty of Trello, for me, is that I can access it and update it from anywhere online, even via the mobile phone. So as I’m in the habit of packing a notepad and pen and writing something wherever I end up, I can easily update how far along I am. I can see which of my short pieces is next on the to-do list (and I’ve probably taken a previous draft or any notes with me), and I can mark off whichever task or chore I’ve done.

If you fancy giving Trello a go, it’s free and you can do so by following this link. Let me know if you do and how you get along with it.

Do you have any online organisation tools you like to use?


My work output just lately has been absolutely atrocious.

I just this second updated my word-count spreadsheet for July, and I had to spend some time first putting in a series of zeroes for June!

I’ve not written a word since 22 June. This is disgraceful! Especially when I have so many ongoing and new projects bustling for attention.

I wouldn’t mind, but it isn’t even as if I don’t have anything to pay for. I have a new car to pay for, for a start! And yes, it really is yellow! I’m very, very happy with it.

They made us feel very special at the dealership when we went to collect the cars. Even they said they don’t often hand over two cars. We were both given a key ring and a tin of car sweets each.

I wondered where my car was, but it was beneath a sheet that was ceremoniously whipped away to reveal my lovely little new motor. The poet’s car was outside.

So now we have these two new cars to pay for, we need to pull our horns in and I need to get earning. I do have editing work in, and there are proofreading jobs on the way too. But my resolution for July is to write something every day, even if it is just a blog post – it’s all exercise.

What have you been up to while I’ve been AWOL?

(There’s 243 words to start me off …)

Having a splurge

I seem to be having a mid-week writing splurge – and long may it last.

I’ve been very busy editing a heavy book, but I finished it and sent the queries back to the author. It did take longer than I thought it would, though. I’d hoped it would take around a week and it took the best part of two weeks. I was so determined to finish it that I worked until 10pm on Monday night.

It’s done now, though, so I have a free conscience.

On Tuesday I wrote a blog post for Baggins Bottom, then I checked through the revisions on an earlier book I’d edited, and Tuesday evening we nipped out and delivered that to the publisher by hand. I also started the next edit for the same publisher, and continued with that into yesterday.

Last night we prepared the two cars for going back to the showroom. I’m over the moon about my new car as we were able to stretch to a larger deposit on the Zetec after all and bring it to within the cost of the Studio. Things will still be incredibly tight, but I’m very excited – I’ve been waiting for this car since 2011, remember.

Anyway, we cleared out all the rubbish that needed to go straight in the bin, all the stuff we want to go into the new cars, and all the stuff we want to go back into the house. At the end of it, in the current heatwave, we both needed a nice relaxing bath each.

I had my bath first, and while he had his, I hauled out my notebook computer, opened up Scrivener, sat on the bed and started to make character and setting notes for The Fool, which is the first Stevie Tarot novel. I wrote over 1,000 words in all.

Today, I’m taking a break from editing and shifting some of my own stuff instead. I’ve already done an hour of creative writing study, which is my writing exercise every day now. I’ve done one blog post too plus, of course, there’s this one currently underway.

I also wrote draft 1 of a short story, and then I’m writing draft 2 of a different story.

If all goes well, I’ll try and write 500 words of the cat-rom too. But I’m packing up a little earlier today as the poet has band practice, before that we’re nipping in to see his mum, and then while he’s with the band I’ll be doing the week’s shopping.

Tomorrow we pick up our new cars. I’m so excited!

52 books in 52 weeks: How to Write a Book from Outline to Finish Line

I set myself the goal of reading and reviewing 52 writing guides over the year. Here is book 16.

I bought How to Write a Book From Outline to Finish Line: 10 simple ways to outline your nonfiction book by Shelley Hitz because I wanted to refresh my memory on writing a book proposal.

What I should have looked for was a book on writing book proposals rather than a book on outlines, as it wasn’t really what I was looking for – not the author’s fault at all, but mine.

However, when I say “I bought” it, the book was actually FREE on Kindle, so I didn’t need to worry about returning it and asking for a refund. And, because I’d bothered to get it in the first place, I decided to read it from start to finish anyway, and it didn’t take long.

The book actually does do exactly what it says on the cover: It does suggest ten different ways to outline your book. These cover apps and packages such as Trello, Evernote, Scrivener, et al, and other more tried and tested systems, such as whiteboards and sticky notes. And then the chapters very quickly cover how the author uses these tools to outline her own books.

There then follows a chapter on writing the book itself, or how to start and then how to keep your bum on the seat, and then there’s a chapter on dictating the book, writing it yourself, or hiring a ghostwriter.

If you’re looking for tools and apps, etc, to help you brainstorm your next book, then this is a good place to start, and it’s free (at the moment). It’s a short, quick read written in an enthusiastic style.

How to Write a Book From Outline to Finish Line: 10 simple ways to outline your nonfiction book is available for free on Kindle, in the UK and in the US, and probably elsewhere in the world too – just copy and paste the title into the search and you’ll find your local copy.


Once again I have been very busy and I’ve neglected both of my blogs. I’m waaaay behind on my 52 books in 52 weeks, but I *am* still reading them, I *am*still digesting them. And there’s another finished one I’m about ready to review too.

I’m trying to get a bit of cash in, though. There are a few things I’d like to clear and I’m looking at buying a new car – this is the new car I’ve been promising myself since 2011, when I was going to get a VW Golf (Rabbit), and then lost my editing job.

But I’m getting a Ford Ka instead.

Now, I’ve always steered clear of the Ka as it’s always been a bit … dinky. But when we went to look at a new car for the poet last week, we both gasped with shock when we saw the new Ka+. It’s MASSIVE. In fact, it’s more like the old Fiesta than the current Fiesta is, which is actually more like a Focus these days.

And the upshot is … one new car has become two new cars (he’s having another Focus). I’m not getting the top-of-the-range model that I wanted, though. Instead, for now, I’m getting the basic model as the finance is just a bit easier to manage – or that’s the plan at least. But it does mean we need a few more “readies”, and that means I need to do a bit more guaranteed paid work.

My dad’s coming to visit at the end of the month, and I’d like to take some time off with him. And I have to go into hospital for a very minor, routine, no-worry procedure – well, I don’t even *have* to go in, but I think I will. Plus we have holiday coming up too. And this all means time away from the desk, so time *at* the desk is now suddenly at a premium.

I do have three books in to edit and one to proofread, and those must take priority.

However, I’ve been trying to write something of my own every day. This has mostly been at least a Teach Yourself creative writing course I’m doing just to keep the writing muscle exercised. The target for this is an hour a day, and I even set a timer. The problem is, though, the exercises keep giving me lots of new ideas – so many ideas, so little time!

At best, I’ve also been pantsing a new novel. Well, I say “new”, but it is, in fact, a very old idea that keeps resurfacing. My target for this is 500 words per session.

On top of this, I’m planning a new novel too, and I have two NaNoWriMo projects (2015 and 2017) to edit/rewrite/polish.

And then! One of the books I’m editing gave me the glimmer of an idea for a book of my own, and then another, and then another. And then I got a glimmer for another set of three! This is what happens when I exercise that writing muscle. They keep on coming.

Anyway, I tentatively pitched the first series of three books to my favourite editing client to see if (a) they already have something in the pipeline, (b) they already have something on the topic(s), and (c) they’re interested in *me* subbing a full-blown book proposal …and they said No, No, and YES!

Because, like, I could always do with the work! But at least, at this stage, it’s a better chance of a paid writing gig.

With all of this, and with me squeezing in the odd short story or article pitch here and there, I’m hoping the cash will soon start to drift in.

So … that’s what I’ve been doing and what I’ll continue to do for some time to come. What have you been up to?

PS I think we need a new ideas masterclass, so watch out for one of those in the coming weeks as well.

52 books in 52 weeks: Writing Crime Fiction

I set myself the goal of reading and reviewing 52 writing guides over the year. Here is book 15.

The first thing Writing Crime Fiction by Rosemary Rowe advises you to do is ALL of the exercises in this book – and there are plenty.

The second thing it tells you to do is to work on something fresh for the purpose of these exercises …

However, later in the book, the author does say that readers may work on something they already have in progress now that they’ve done all of the other exercises.

I love these writers’ guides from Teach Yourself Books. Some fall into the “get started in …” category while others, like this one, fall into the “creative writing masterclass” category.

Of the entire series, this is one of the shorter books, coming in at just over three hours to read the whole book from cover to cover. Obviously, joining in with the exercises will take much longer.

Topics covered include genre, setting, character, dialogue, structure, viewpoint, editing, etc.

The first few exercises are what I call exercises-for-exercise-sake. But from the middle of Chapter One the exercises start to build on each other with ideas for those who aren’t sure where they’re going just yet,

I’m not sure I see the point of the workshop exercises in many of the Teach Yourself books as they’re more of a comprehension exercise. True, this will exercise the writing muscle, but for me, I’d far rather be expending time on something that at least has the possibility of turning into something I can send out.

If you have a burning desire to write something but have no idea what exactly you want to write, then this is an excellent resource for getting the writing juices going. Personally, I’d like a few more write-along exercises that can be applied to new or existing material.

However, I do recommend the book for any level of writer at any point in their career, as we can always learn something new and fresh. And it might kickstart a stalled project.

Writing Crime Fiction  is available on Kindle for £8.99 ($11.38), and in paperback for £12.99 ($16.99 – although at the time of writing, the US paperback was out of stock).

52 books in 52 weeks: How to Write Short Romance Kindle Books

I set myself the goal of reading and reviewing 52 writing guides over the year. Here is book 14.

How to Write Short Romance Kindle Books by Nina Harrington, claims to be a 40-minute read/masterclass. My version was part of a bundle, and I think it took me just about an hour to read it from start to finish.

It’s a great little step-by-step read that does exactly what it says on the cover. Each “step” is presented in an order that would probably work for most.

There are no exercises as such, but if each chapter is taken as an exercise, then again, that would probably work.

A whole chapter is devoted to the actual Kindle procedure while another is dedicated to marketing your work – the latter being something a lot of authors are now having to do for themselves anyway.

I think the advice in this book would apply to most Kindle books, rather than just romance. But short romance reads are, apparently, doing very well.

How to Write Short Romance Kindle Books  is available on Kindle, as a standalone for £2.41 ($3.09), or in a bundle £5.39 ($6.92), and in paperback for £3.99 ($5.99). The bundle isn’t currently available in paperback.

Short story news: Shaking the Tree

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I wrote a short story based on the great storm that lashed the British Isles in 1987.

That story, The Spirit of the Wind, eventually found its way into My Weekly, and then into Twee Tales (on Kindle here, and in paperback here).

A little more recently, a friend of mine nagged me for a sequel to that story. She said she’d love to know what happened to everyone.

Towards the end of last year, I finally finished the sequel and called it Shaking the Tree.

I’m delighted to say that Shaking the Tree (my title) was bought by The People’s Friend in February of this year, and it has been published in their Special 141, on sale today – 31 May.

It took me a long time to crack The People’s Friend – more than 30 years, in fact. But they also have another short story of mine, The Complete Angler, which has been published in their 2018 annual, on sale on 11 July – pre-order your copy here.

Do let me know if you manage to read the story and what you think of it. Thank you!

52 books in 52 weeks: Liz Fielding’s Little Book of Writing Romance

I’ve been a bit busy in recent weeks, mostly catching up on my self-imposed publishing schedule, so I’m a little behind in this. However, I didn’t forget, so …

I set myself the goal of reading and reviewing 52 writing guides over the year. Here is book 13.

Liz Fielding’s Little Book of Writing Romance is a short read of just over an hour – if you read it straight through.

There are no exercises, as such, but the book does lay out the various steps to take when embarking on writing romance, in an order that’s certainly worth trying.

Throughout the book there are examples illustrating the point(s) just made, mostly from Ms Fielding’s own back catalogue. I confess, I skipped much of these as I was in a hurry to get to the end of the book in my first reading. But personally I think, if I decide to try a romance, I’d probably use this as a write-along guide, alongside a novel within the genre/imprint I’d like to target.

There is useful advice for the beginner writer that the more established may also wish to skip. But, generally, for all levels of writer, it’s a good road-map to follow.

Liz Fielding’s Little Book of Writing Romance is available on Kindle for £3.49 ($4.55) and in paperback for £4.50 ($5.99).

Twee Tales Too on Kindle, 2 new covers and even MORE news

I did say I’ve been busy …

I’m delighted to say that Twee Tales Too is the latest to become available on Kindle. You can buy it here for just £1.99.

I’ve also republished the paperback with a new cover, and I’ve revamped the original Twee Tales with a new cover – so they both match.

The Kindle stores will, however, take up to 72 hours to refresh the covers, but I think they’ll automatically refresh next time you update your Kindle, for those who already have book 1.

I’m waiting for all links to become active, but if you go to my “buy my books” page, the links will all gradually update, and you can see all of the books now available.

ALL of the Diane Parkin books are now retired and have been replaced with Diane Wordsworth versions.

BUT … it doesn’t stop there.

I’m in the process of publishing Tales from Baggins Bottom Best Bits book 3 on Kindle,  I’m already collating stories for  Twee Tales Twee (do you see a theme here?), and I’m also  in the process of editing Tales from Baggins Bottom Best Bits book 4.

Once all of the books are on Kindle, I’ll look at publishing them on multi-ebook format as well.

You can see other future projects on my “current projects” page.