Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I hope you had a nice Christmas and New Years. We had a pretty quiet one, I think we’re all waiting for a sign that 2021 will go easier on us.

It’s day two of the new year and it seemed like a good idea to print out all I’ve written of The Naked Ladies Writing Group so far.

After I printed it out, I read through it with a highlighter pen and cringed more than once. It’s a first draft and they are always horrible, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to see the mistakes I’ve made.

It’s obvious that changes will benefit the story, but when you see where changes need to happen, you wonder how you didn’t see it in the first place. It’s so easy to beat up on yourself.

When you’re writing, you have to trust what you come up with in the moment, and get it written down. Overthinking can kill creativity.

As I write my first draft on my blog, I’m going to have some regrets. The idea that I’m putting imperfect work out there for the world to see is a bold one.

I’m what they call a ‘pantser’, which in the writing community refers to a writer who writes the first draft without plotting or planning, by the seat of our pants.

As the new year lies before me and my first draft calls my name, I’m tempted to take a wander in the land of the plotters. Maybe just plan out the chapters? Write a few pages outlining where the writing needs to go to tell the story I want to share.

But no, I don’t seriously consider giving up my pantser style. What will I write next? Who knows? Probably something that will need some serious editing later on.

Bring it on, 2021, this pantser has a story to write. I can’t wait to see what comes out of my fingers and onto the screen this week.

Say hi on Instagram at: @rachelgracewrites

Join our writing tribe on Facebook at: Women Writing a Book In 2021

Good luck with your writing!

The Naked Ladies Writing Group part 8

NOTES: Here is part 8 of my book. It took a lot of research and conversations with my muse Calliope, to make all these choices for all these characters. This being a first draft, I definitely reserve the right to make any changes I want. I added all of the facts I’ve written here to my book bible, which should help me keep it all straight. I’m ready to continue with the story now I’ve made these decisions and recorded them.

Fia was a tiny bit annoyed that she had to speak first. She wasn’t prepared to start, the whole idea had been Ashleighs and so she should be going first.

“Welcome to my home,” she said. “This group was Ashleighs idea, so she should really be speaking first. I plan on writing a novel, even though I should be working on the next eBook for my business.”

“Good, good,” Ashleigh said. “What will your novel be about?”

“Ah, I’m not one hundred percent sure, but it will be set somewhere tropical and there will be a strong female lead character,” Fia said. “I know that much.”

“Great,” Ashleigh said.

“I’ll go next,” Ruby said and Ashleigh nodded to her. “I’ve decided to write a novel set in L.A.. I lived there for six months and it’s the perfect place for a fast-paced story.”

“Wow,” Mia said. “Your book sounds good already, Rue. I’m writing a novel about a witch, and she lives now, in our time, in a not-real village in the countryside in England.”

“A fictional village and a witch,” Ruby said. “that sounds like your style. Will she eat little children?”

Mia blushed and shook her head.

“Me next,” Betty said. “I’m writing a lesbian love story, but it’s set in the seventeen hundreds in Mesopotamia where lesbian relationships were allowed, unlike other parts of the world.”

“Just an introduction, Betty, not the entire story tonight,” Ruby said, crossing her legs and folding her arms.

Betty raised her eyebrows and mouthed Okay.

“I’m writing a novel with a positive body image message,” Alice said. “It will be set right here, and now, and when women read it they’ll feel great about themselves no matter their size or shape.”

“Will you be using a photograph of yourself on the cover?” Ruby asked, leaning forward.

“No idea,” Alice said, pulling her top down firmly over her shorts. “Will you?”

“Why would I do that?” Ruby asked.

“You said you lived in L.A., your story is set in L.A., is it all about you?” Alice asked.

“My turn,” Ashleigh said, holding a hand up. “And I have absolutely no idea what my novel will be about.”

“What?” Fia said, laughing. “This whole thing is your idea, and you don’t know what you’re going to write about? Doesn’t that seem strange? I would have thought you knew what you were doing, more than any of the rest of us here.”

“I know what you mean,” Ashleigh said. “But nope, absolutely not. I have no clue. I guess I’ll start writing and see what happens.”

“That’s so not like you, Ash,” said Mia. “You’re the queen of organisation. The most put together person I’ve ever known. Aren’t you scared you’ll have nothing to write about?”

“No,” Ashleigh said. “For once in my life I’m being spontaneous.”

“There’s spontaneous and then there’s you, girl,” Alice said. “I have to say I’m shocked.”

“You’re the girl who colour codes her wardrobe,” Mia said. “I love your colour-coded wardrobe.”

“What can I say, people?” Ashleigh said, placing her wine glass onto a coaster. “It’s time I got a little wild.”

“This is going to be a trip,” Betty said. “We’re all writing such different books. I can’t wait to start reading them.”

“Oh, me too,” Mia said. “Especially yours Betty. I’ve never read anything like that before.”

“I doubt any of us have,” Ruby said. She gave Betty a smooth smile.

“Let’s drink a toast,” Alice said, lifting her wine glass. “To all of us, women writing novels, may we be our most open, honest and naked selves as we write, and be our kindest selves when we read.”

“Oh, cheers to that,” Fia said.

“To The Naked Ladies Writing Group,” Ashleigh said.

The Naked Ladies Writing Group part 7

NOTES: Conflict time! I was meant to be writing the follow on from the section where the women were at Fia’s house and they were ready to start the very first meeting of The Naked Ladies Writing Group, when I had this powerful idea about Fia and a male entrepreneur and what he wanted from her and what she thought of that, so I had to get that started.

Fia had a brunch booked with another entrepreneur, which was the main reason she’d stayed sober last night. This guy had sought her out to see if they could do some work together. She was out the door and in her car by nine am. It wasn’t always a good idea to meet up with people who found her through the blog, but this guy seemed to know his stuff and Fia’s interest was piqued.

NOTES: who is this guy, the entrepreneur??? Name? Maybe Lance or… Zander, yes Zander Sharp. Haha I love that name.

She parked five blocks from the cafe, and knew she was lucky to find a space so close. Sundays were busy in the city, seriously busy people seeking coffee and maybe a croissant. Fia had never been to this cafe before but she wasn’t surprised to find every footpath table taken.

“Fia?” A tall man inside the cafe waved.. Fia waved back and made her way inside to his table.

“Hi,” she said, taking the chair he offered her.

“I’ve ordered our coffee already,” he said. Fia opened her mouth to question him, as in how did he know what kind of coffee she preferred? “I’ve been on your website this morning, to prepare for our meeting and in your bio it says you like a piccolo latte.”

“That’s exactly right,” Fia said, feeling mixed emotions. Sure, it was impressive that he’d done his research, but she’d forgotten that when the blog was rewritten, her assistant had asked a few personal questions, so she could seem warm and friendly. She preferred to feel like she had the upper hand in meetings, especially meetings with important new contacts.

“No mention of coffee on your website, that I saw.” She said, smiling to cover her awkwardness.

“I am a complete coffee addict,” he said. “Would you like something to eat as well?”

“No, thanks, coffee will be fine.” She said.

“I have an idea that would benefit both our businesses,” he said.

“Go for it,” she said.

“As you know, I own the biggest ? In the country. I employ fifteen people in my content creation section alone. They keep my many blogs and websites going, popular, and selling what we want to sell.”

Fia nodded and smiled as the waiter placed her little piccolo in front of her. She tore the top off a packet of artificial sweetener and added it to her coffee.

“You’re doing well.” She said.

“We are,” he said. “And I have an itch to grow in an area where you are doing well.”

Now he had her attention. His statement had the edge of a threat, or was she being paranoid?

“Keep going,” she said.

“I would like to not only branch out, but buy you out, as a starting point from which to dive off from.”

Fia wasn’t sure she’d heard him right. “Buy my company?” She said.

“I have a very generous offer in mind,” Zander finished his coffee and placed the glass back on its saucer. “Really generous. Considering how long you’ve been in business, how long since you really started to succeed.”

“You’ve been in business six months longer than I have, no longer.” She said, not even attempting to cover her irritation.

“I’ve hit a nerve, I can tell.” He said, holding his hands out in front of him. “Absolutely not my intention to offend or irritate you. The opposite really.”

“Why do you think I’d sell my company?” Fia said, crossing her legs.

“Nothing you’ve said or done has made me think that.” Zander shook his head. “I had an idea, I jumped at the chance to speak to you about it. I don’t want to put you out of business, unless I buy what you’ve already built up.”

“Put me out of business?” Fia had to calm herself before she said something unprofessional. “I love my company,” she said. “It’s a part of me, I grew it from nothing, up to what it is now.”

“Yes,” Zander said, leaning forward. “And what it is is a truly valuable asset. One that I believe I can grow exponentially in the coming year.”

“What makes you think I can’t grow it exponentially in the coming year?” Fia said. “How do you know that’s not my plan?”

“Oh, I have my spies,” Zander said, sitting back in his chair and lifting his left foot up to balance on his right knee.

“Spies?” Fia was shocked. “Spies in my company do you mean?”

“I can’t tell you a name, but yes Fia, someone in your own company who knows you’ve gone about as far as you can go alone. I haven’t even gotten to the generous salary package I’d offer you to stay on and run things, on top of the purchase of the business itself.”

Fia was doing a fast inner inventory of her staff. Who would do this? Everyone seemed so loyal. To her face at least. She’d fire all of them. Every single one.

“Zander,” she said. “You don’t know me. We’ve never met before. So I’ll excuse you for thinking I’d sell to you, because whoever you’ve been talking to is wrong. I’m far from finished with FiaQuinn.”

“It’s a cute name,” Zander said. “Your company has been on the verge of becoming the biggest of its kind for a year. Why do you keep dipping your toe in the ocean and then running back to the pond? What are you waiting for? I think you’re waiting to find someone to partner with who is completely at home in the ocean.”

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Fia said. “I love where I’m at, what I do, and the way we are growing.”

“Zsharp can help you, it’s as simple as that.” Zander said.

Fia was thinking about throwing the table over, smacking him in the face and walking out. It was hard to concentrate on formulating a reasonable reply.

“Who have you been talking to in my office?” She said.

“I can tell you, because they are leaving you to join my team,” Zander said. “It’s Cassie Wilson.”

“Cassie?” Fia said, her mouth staying open in surprise. “I can’t imagine,”

“You can imagine,” he interrupted. “Cassie has been trying to get you to listen to her for months, trying to suggest changes, growth strategies. You didn’t listen to her, and now she’s bringing her brilliant mind to Zsharp.”

“You reached out to her?” Fia said.

“Yes, I did the reaching out, but she was ready to go,” he said. “You should be proud of her, she nailed down a mean deal with me.”

“Go her,” Fia said. “You know what they say, once a deserter, always a deserter. You can never trust her.”

“I’m sure she’ll be great for as long as she works with us.” He said. “I don’t believe in holding onto people if they want to move on. Neither should you.”

“I’m not saying another word right now,” Fia said. “Good luck to you.” She left the cafe and made it to her car, where she turned the air conditioning on and made a phone call. Cassie answered on the first ring.

“Hi,” she said, sounding very different to Cassie from the office.

“Cassie,” Fia said. “I’ve just spoken to Zander.”

“He messaged me,” Cassie said. “There’s no point calling and chewing me out.”

“Not what this call is about,” Fia said. “I want you to stay.”

“You what?” Cassie said. “You want me to stay?”

“You’re a brilliant woman, an essential part of the team. Please stay, we can talk about a new salary package. I want to hear your ideas, I’ve been slack obviously.”

“I don’t know about this,” Cassie said. “I wasn’t expecting this. I thought you’d have people packing up my desk by now.”

“You underestimate how much we need you, how much I need you. You’re gold, your ideas are so different to mine, I need that, even if I don’t agree to implement every single one.”

There was silence on the other end and Fia knew she was in with a chance.

“Can we talk?” Fia said. “Like, now?”

More silence, and she let Cassie think.

“Okay,” Cassie said. “But that doesn’t mean I’ve changed my mind.”

“No,” Fia said, taking a deep breath. “Can I come over?”

“No, I can leave the kids here with Curtis, let me come to yours.”

“I’ll be there as soon as I can, just leaving the cafe.” Fia said.

“See you soon, then.” Cassie said and ended the call.

When Fia pulled up at home, she couldn’t remember the drive, she’d been too busy going over every conversation she’d had with Cassie recently. There had been ideas she’d rejected without enough thought. There was definitely room for her to grow as a boss, and she was going to convince Cassie to teach her.

NOTES: Now I’m writing the first group meeting of TNLWG. How is it possible that characters I create, surprise me?

The Naked Ladies Writing Group part 5

Fia was almost asleep when her phone chirped with a message. It was Ash, thanking her for a great surprise birthday. Fia replied with happy emojis and hearts. She spread out across her queen sized bed and went to sleep.

It was just as well that Fia’s cleaner came on Wednesdays, it made Fia more confident about having everyone over. The cleaner, Stacy, ran a tight ship and once Fia called and told her what was happening, Stacy reassured her that the house would be sparkling.

When Fia got home from work on Wednesday, there was even a tall vase filled with native greenery and flowers on the dining table. Beside it was a note, in Stacys handwriting. It urged Fia to check the fridge and when she did, she found a plate crowded with chocolate cupcakes, frosted and sprinkled. Stacy, you are an angel, Fia whispered to herself.

If you don’t have time for deep cleaning and baking, you should have a Stacy, Fia thought as she took the plate of cakes out of the fridge and placed them onto the bench to come to room temperature.

Wednesdays were usually a light day at work, and today had been typical.

NOTE: I haven’t decided what Sofia does for a living yet, and I need to do that. She lives in a house that she owns, I think I want her to have been that kid who saved every cent from an early age, and got a job as soon as she was old enough, like that, so that by age thirty she lived in a nice house in the city with a large but doable mortgage. So, maybe she works in finance? Oh, maybe she’s a stock market whiz? Or maybe she was, then she hopped on the YouTube trend and set herself up with a few passive income streams. I like that. Yep, she’s a YouTuber, but she’s set up so if YouTube ever dies, she has other income.

Today, maybe because it was quiet at the offices, Angus, Fia’s social media manager, had dragged the design and copy people into Fia’s office for an impromptu meeting on the decor of the place. When they’d moved into the warehouse space, it had been all go, with no time to call a painter, let alone a decorator, but now they’d been in there for six months, they felt it was time that the space reflected the brand.

Fia had agreed completely and stunned her employees by handing the job of sourcing a decorator and controlling the entire process over to them.

“If you’d like to choose everything yourselves,” She had said. “Go ahead. Or if you’d prefer to pick a decorator and hand the reigns to them, do it. I’m happy either way.”

Her people knew her well, they would make the space fantastic and they’d make choices that she would approve of.

She jumped into the shower, then chose an outfit, then changed, and changed again. Apparently she was more nervous about this than she’d realised, which was strange because she’d barely given tonight a thought. She settled on jeans and a Pink tour t-shirt. Bare feet and she simply pulled her hair back into a pony.

“You-hoo,” came a voice from the front of the house. “You forgot to lock the front door again.” Ashleigh said, putting a canvas bag on the floor next to the single seater lounge chair in the living room. “I thought I’d better be here first, I am first, yes?”

“Yes, you’re first.” Fia said.

“Oh those flowers, you shouldn’t have.” Ashleigh touched a flower.

“I didn’t!” Fia said “Stacy did.”

“That woman is wonderful,” Ashleigh said.

“If it wasn’t for Stacy we’d be sitting on dusty boxes.” Fia said.

“Don’t I know it.” Ashleigh said. “Here’s my food offering.” She lifted a cake box out of the canvas bag and lifted the lid so Fia could see rows of tiny quiches. “We can eat them cold.”

“Not really Italian,” Fia said, taking the container into the kitchen.

“Where do you want us?” Ashleigh said. “Table or lounge?”

“You’re in charge, and don’t pretend you’re not. You choose.” Fia said.

“I choose the lounge for tonight, then see if that works.” Ashleigh pulled a stack of notebooks out of her canvas bag. “I bought notebooks for everyone in case people forget to bring something.”

“You’re a control freak, you know that right?” Fia said.

“Haha Ms empire builder,” Ashleigh said. “Not sure I can take the crown for that.”

“I don’t control, I build.”

“Ah, sure.” Ashleigh looked around the loungeroom like she was seeing it for the first time. “I think I’ll sit on the floor there. That way there are enough seats for everyone else, assuming they show up.”

The sound of car doors closing sent Fia to the front door. She opened it to find Ruby giving Mia a whispered talking-to, pretended she hadn’t noticed and ushered them in. Headlights appeared at the end of the drive just as she was about to shut the door and so she waited for Alice to park her black VW beetle.

“Fia, I hope Ashleigh won’t mind but I’ve brought a friend from work.” Alice said. “This is Betty, she’s one of the editors and she’s writing her own book at the moment, isn’t that a coincidence?” She wrapped Fia in a hug and pulled her workmate into the house.

“Everyone, this is a friend from work,” Alice said.

“Oh, I didn’t know we were inviting anyone we wanted,” Ruby said.

“Chill, Ruby.” Ashleigh said.

“Hi all, I’m Betty,” Alice’s friend said. “I hope there’s a corkscrew in the house because this needs opening.” She held up a bottle of wine, waggling it, looking out from under her thick, black fringe, from person to person.

“Charming,” Ruby said. “We’ll want to keep a clear head for writing, am I right?”

“Haha,” Betty said, throwing her head back and laughing. “Good one. Our best work happens when we’re relaxed. A little wine won’t hurt at all, I promise.”

“Is that your professional opinion then?” Ruby took Mia by the arm and pulled her over to the two seater couch. “This looks like us, buddy.”

“Pretty much,” Betty said, and she held out the bottle to Fia. “This does not need to breathe.”

Fia laughed with her and went to the kitchen to get a corkscrew.

“This house is the best,” Betty said. “Retro and shabby, oh look, birds!” She had noticed Fia’s little collection of bird ornaments.

“Yes, kind of old-fashioned if you ask me.” Ruby said.

“This one is Art Deco, so pretty.” Betty said. I have a similar bird on the tattoo on my back.”

“Oh really?” Mia said. “I’d love to see that.”

“Sure,” Betty said.

“We’re here for writing,” Ruby said. “Not tattoos or ornaments.”

“Okay people, put your food in the kitchen, then back to the loungeroom.” Ashleigh said and Fia was relieved that Ash had taken charge. It seemed like Ruby was winding up for one of her tantrums.

Once everyone was settled, Ashleigh laid out her plan for Wednesday nights. Arrive at seven, eat and catch up for twenty minutes, then settle in for writing talk, reading work out loud, critique and end with plans for the following week.

Betty was the only stranger to the group, so Fia asked her to introduce herself.

“I’m Betty, well Elizabeth originally, I’m from Perth, I’m an editor at Howden House, I like a kind of rockabilly grunge aesthetic, tattoos, and I’m writing my own novel. It’s a fantasy story about two very different women and their journey of self discovery.”

“Thanks Betty, that sounds really interesting.” Ashleigh said.

Fia looked around the group, watching reactions to the newcomer.

“We should all introduce ourselves,” Fia said, looking to Ashleigh. “For Betty, really.”

“Okay,” Ashleigh said. “Your home, you start.”

NOTE: it’s time for me to research the look of each character and write facts about each one in my story bible. I will start by rereading everything I’ve already written and taking notes. I love this part of writing a book.

I just ate lunch and spent an hour on character development, and I’ll write what I’ve decided in my next post. When I write fiction, I choose a celebrity I know from tv or movies for the personality and voice, and this makes life so easy when I think of my character and go to put words in their mouths. The way I choose to write each person never ever comes out exactly like the person I chose to base them around. It’s more like a hook, a quick way into the mind and heart of my characters. I then choose an image from the internet to represent the physicality of each character, although this time one of my characters will be set after a certain celebrity in manner as well as looks.

I’ve been unhappy with the way I’ve written my main character so far and it’s because I hadn’t done this characterisation process. She will pop now, well not pop, but she will come to the fore as the main character. I hope.

The Naked Ladies Writing Group part 4

NOTE: Welcome to part 4 of my novel. It’s a first draft, and the work has a long way to go. Writing dialogue is always daunting for me, not because of character voices or interactions, but because of the grammar. I could swear I was absent the day they taught about comma versus full stop in dialogue. Yesterday I decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo, which is a writer challenge held every November. The goal is to write fifty thousand words in November, which is about 1660 each day. I’m counting my notes and character development writing, my plotting, and basically all the writing to do with this project. It’s exciting, and fun, I just hope it doesn’t start to hang over my head and bog me down. Okay, here’s part four, I hope you like it. (To refer to part 3 for context click here)

“Magpie, I’ll call her Maggie for short.” Ashleigh said, holding the tiny pup against her.

“Oh, that’s so cute.” Mia said.

“Let it lick the cake,” Hayden said.

“Yuck no.” Ashleigh said.

“Give it time,” Hayden said. “It will be eating off her plate, that’s what my sisters dog does.”


“I have a staffy, we’ll have to do a doggy date.” Ruby said.


“Only if you want a dead Magpie,” Hayden said. “Your dog is a raptor, Ruby.”


“She is not,” Ruby said. “People are always hating on staffies, but they’re actually great dogs.”


When nobody said anything, Ruby added. “Morticia is an idiot, not a monster.”

“Let’s get her used her new home before we start socialising he.” Ryan said. He squeezed Ashleigh’s shoulder.

“Thank you so much, Ryan, I just love her.” Ashleigh said. She lifted the puppy so she could see its face. “Such a precious little thing.”

“Okay, now you can open some other presents,” Ruby said. “We might have been in on the secret and bought you some things for the Magpie.”

“Maggie,” Ryan said. He shook his head at Ruby.

Ashleigh looked around at the party faces, appreciating the moment. She searched the small crowd until she found Fia, then waved her over.

“Here,” she said, holding the pup out to Fia. “You hold my baby and I’ll unwrap the rest of these gorgeous looking presents.”

“Your baby hey?” Fia said, laughing. She took the warm bundle into her arms.

“Yeah, the furry kind, never the naked kind thanks.” Ashleigh

“Here,” Mia said, reaching over the cake and holding out a very large black gift box tied with a silver bow. “Start with this.”

“It’s a dog bed,” Ruby said, folding her arms. Mia looked at her with her mouth open.

“What?” Ruby said. “It is,”

“You didn’t have to tell her.” Alice said from across the table. She looked away when Ruby glared at her. Mia sent her a small grateful smile.

River rescued the birthday cake, taking it to the kitchen so it could be sliced and put on plates. He loaded the dishwasher and tidied up the bench tops. His mobile buzzed, telling him he had a message, and he checked it and sent a reply assuring a friend he was going to leave his place soon, to attend their party. He left his kitchen in a pretty bad state, knowing he’d hit it sometime tomorrow, and went back out to the patio. 

Fia smiled at River as he reappeared and he came over and stood beside her. He leaned across and spoke to her as quietly as he could. “Come with me to Harry’s, once the excitement is over here.” He said.

“Oh,” Fia said. “Thanks for the invite, but I’ll probably stick with Ash until she goes home, and who knows when that will be. I’m pretty beat anyway, had a huge week, looking forward to a reasonably early night.”

“Okay, not a problem,” River said. “But you can change your mind anytime, the offer stands. Be great to have you there.”

“Thanks Riv,” Fia said. In a few hours she knew she’d regret her choice, but she still held a grudge against Harry after the way he’d dumped Mia.

Ashleigh unwrapped the stack of gifts that had been moved to the table in front of her. She got dog toys, dog outfits, a blanket, a rubber bone, a black collar with tiny silver stars, and a few things for the dog mum, like candles, a t-shirt, some books and a bum bag, which she held up, looking confused.

“The best thing to wear when walking the dog, I promise,” Jack said. “You put the poop bags in it.”

“If you have zero style,” Ruby said, shaking her head at Jack.

“Function over form, for sure.” Jack said.

“It’ll be very useful,” Ashleigh said. She wrapped it around her waist. “I can wear it under my top.”

“There ya go.” Jack said and he finished the beer he was holding.

“Now that the presents are out of the way, and I think the cake is ready, I think it’s time for a speech from the birthday girl,” Ryan said.

“We didn’t sing Happy Birthday yet,” a friend of Jacks said.

“Ah, we don’t do that,” Alice said. “Never.”

Over the top, someone called out “Yeah, speech, speech, speech,” and a few guys picked up the chant.

Fia was surprised when Ashleigh stood up, scooting her chair back.

“Yes,” Ashleigh said. “I know it’s not like me to be up for giving a speech, but I have an important announcement.”

“Really Ash?” Alice said. “Go you.”

“Come on now, a bit of shoosh for the birthday girl if you don’t mind.” Jack said.

“A bit of shoosh.” Hayden repeated and things quieted down.

“This should be good.” Ruby said.

“Having turned thirty, I want this year to count,” Ashleigh said. “There’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve put it off forever. I’m not putting it off another day. This year, I’m writing a book.”

The silence spoke volumes, but it didn’t deter Ashleigh. “I’m writing the novel I’ve had in my head for about four years. And also,”

“There’s more?” Fia said. She turned to Ashleigh, a shocked look on her face.

“Yes there’s more,” Ashleigh said. “I’m starting a women’s writing group, and if any of you feel the writing bug like I do, please join me and we’ll smash this thing.”

“Well count me in,” Ruby said, while everyone else was still processing. “Everyone knows I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

“Me of course!” Mia said, nodding.

“Come on Fia,” Ashleigh said. “We always talk about writing for real, not for work, and now is our time.”

“Yeah,” Fia said. “I guess so.”

“So much enthusiasm,” Ryan laughed. Fia gave him a fake mad glare.

“Alice,” Ashleigh said. “You have a book in you, and we need your expertise, you know, because you work in writing.”

“If you want me, I’m in, yeah for sure,” Alice said.

“So women only?” Hayden said. “No men allowed, isn’t that discrimination?”

“Yeah, unfair,” Jack said. “Boo.”

“No, let’s be real, it’s for self-preservation.” Fia said.

“It’s the best idea you’ve ever had, Ash.” River said. “Your book will be brilliant, all your books will be brilliant,”

“Yeah but no men?” Jack said.

“Get over it, man,” Hayden said and slapped Jack on the back.

“Now,” River said. “everyone go into the kitchen and get some cake, I’m not serving you guys.”

Once the cake was demolished, the party thinned out pretty fast. People had other, serious venues to get to.

River had asked Fia one more time if she’d go with him, no pressure, just checking, and she’d told him no again. He’d said goodbye and taken off in his car.

Ashleigh and her writing group were left around the stone table.

“When will we get together?” Mia said, draining a bottle of beer.

“Where will we get together?” Alice said.

“I’ve already thought about this stuff,” Ashleigh said.

“Why are we not surprised?” Mia said.

“We meet up every Wednesday night, at Fia’s place.” Ashleigh said.

“Oh, what?” Fia said. “My place isn’t really the best house.”

“Oh rubbish, and it’s roughly the same distance to all of our homes. And there’s parking. And you’re near a train station.” Ashleigh topped off her wine glass and took a sip.

“I can make Wednesdays,” Alice said.

“Me too,” Mia said.

“You’re all free Wednesday nights,” Ashleigh said.”I pay attention, you know.”

“Apparently,” Ruby said. “Well if we’re meeting at Fia’s, we’d better bring food. The girl never has food in the house.”

“Bring food, fine by me,” Fia said. “Extra points if it’s Italian.”

“Seven o’clock, Fia’s place, this Wednesday,” Ashleigh said.

“Wow, that’s soon,” Alice said.

“Bring food, and whatever you want to write on, paper, phone, tablet, laptop, whatever” Ashleigh said.

“We get it,” Alice said.

“So, all I have to do is be home,” Fia said. The women laughed.

“We should all commit to a writing project,” Ruby said. “And be prepared to share. And we will all commit to completely honest feedback.”

“Yikes, okay, I’m in,” Fia held her wine glass up.

“I’m in,” Alice said, raising a bottle of cider.

“We’re all in,” Ruby said and raised her beer.



“This is going to be awesome,” Alice said. “I know it is. We’re going to get writing and get real.”

“I’m always real,” Ruby said, frowning.

“Oh, we’ll see about that,” Alice said, standing up. “Hey, I know exactly what we can call the group.” She looked around the table and saw nods of encouragement. “We are going to write, and be real, and honest and open. We’ll be The Naked Ladies Writing Group.”

Mia choked and drink came out of her nose. “The naked who now?” She coughed.

“I like it,” Ashleigh said. “Balls to the wall, ladies.”

“Not writing in the nude, but as a group we’ll be as open and real and honest as we can be. Naked.” Alice said.

“Brutal,” Ruby smiled.

“So we’re going to write, then come to the group and share some of what we write, and everyone gets to tell us what they think?” Mia said. “Scary,”

“No pain, no gain,” Ruby said.

Fia smiled at Ashleigh and handed the puppy back. “Surely the dog needs to pee by now. Should I get her some water?”

“Oh, good idea,” Ashleigh said and walked the puppy over to Rivers garden and put her down so she could sniff and do what she needed to do.

Fia went into the kitchen and found a dish, she filled it with water and brought it back outside. The puppy was whining now, and Ashleigh was holding it out in front of her, asking it what the problem was.

“No-one ever accused Ash of being the motherly type,” Ruby said.

“I’m being a great mother,” Ashleigh said. “I’m asking it what it wants.”

“Here, try this,” Fia said, placing the dish of water on the pavers next to Ashleigh.

“She’s not thirsty for water,” Alice said. “Maybe she wants some of your wine?”

“She can’t have wine,” Ruby said.

Fia decided this was a good time to leave. She’d put in a good effort and had a great time. Ashleigh had had a good birthday, although Fia was doubtful that the puppy would end up being a good idea. Not that she’d say this to Ash.

Driving home, Fia was happy about two things. One, she’d hardly had a drink all night, and two she was glad to be the one without a new dog. As she put the key into the door at home, she sighed. There were definite benefits to living alone, and coming home after a huge day to shower and hit the sack without having to talk to anyone was right up there.

Mind My Creative Writing Muse She is Telling Me How To Write a Book

I’m Freaking Out

That’s right, reader, I’m going crazy imagining what the half a dozen people who might have read my novel so far, are thinking about me. I mean, what sort of lunatic writes a book on a blog? And we’re not talking the finished, polished product, no, no, we’re talking the first draft, all iffy and basic.

Somebody Stop Me

Please, someone have a word with my Muse. She’s always been a tad looney, and now she’s got me doing this thing, putting myself out there for anyone, well all half a dozen of you, to shake your heads and wonder what the frag?

Your Basic Muse

Haha, no, my muse is anything but basic. In fact she’s ten times cooler than me and doesn’t put up with any of my excuses or whining. To look at, she’s somewhere between Harley Quinn and Frida Kahlo, yes I know, not what you’d expect.

Her name is Calliope, and she is generous when I sit myself in front of my writing, any writing, and commit to getting the work done. She keeps me going, encourages my ideas and makes sitting alone in a room writing words a bit less lonely.

She guards my imagination and creativity against her writing partner, my Inner Editor.

My Inner Editor

Only once the first draft is written does Calliope disappear, off to do whatever imaginary friends do when you don’t need them. Then my Inner Editor cracks his knuckles and expects free reign over my writing. He pushes me to be logical, truthful and at times brutal about my writing, deleting what is unnecessary, improving what is essential.

Before My Muse and Editor Knew Their Places

– I used to write without acknowledging the importance of separating a first draft from an edit.

– I would try to write my best work right away.

– I put terrible pressure on myself to get it right in one go, and I thought that if I was any kind of decent writer, surely that would be the way it’s done.

This doesn’t work for me, even though a lot of my first draft will end up in the finished piece in one shape or another.

Reading About Writing

I read some books about writing:

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Becoming A Writer by Dorothea Brande

Living The Writer’s Life by Eric Maisel, Ph.D.

How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author by Janet Evanovich

I learned a lot reading these books, and none of them told me I had to get the words right in the first draft. Each author had their own way of writing and a lot of it was about showing up to the work on a regular basis.

The separate tasks of a writer became clear to me:

– writing

– rewriting, a lot

– editing

– proofreading

This seemed logical, which I liked, but a little bit cold, and I do love words and writing, so I decided to invite a fun, cool imaginary friend to help me with the first draft writing; my Muse, Calliope, and somehow by default she brought along a kind of parental and somewhat perfectionist Inner Editor. He’s jacket and tie and all business, and when I need him that’s fantastic.

For Calliope…

I know that millions of people write without needing imaginary friends, but this way suits me. If one of you six or so readers think of me at my desk writing, I invite you to send a smile Calliope’s way. She’s too cool to care, but deep down I know she likes the attention.

The Naked Ladies Writing Group part 3

NOTE: Welcome to part 3. Writing fiction is very different to the ghostwriting I did, it’s freer and yet I’m more nervous in a way. Yeah, because I’m putting this first draft out there for the world to see, but also because I’m using my imagination and not holding back a single idea. Fiction first drafts are for exploration and the expression of whatever the hell I want to add, given that future drafts and editing will save my readers from poorly written sentences and unnecessary paragraphs. I’m writing everything I think needs to be in my book, to drive the story forward, but I know from experience that some of this stuff is headed for deletion at some point. I hope you’re having fun on this journey with me.

Alice went inside, shuffling between people, holding her drink above her head. She didn’t need to listen to Ruby and she definitely didn’t need to be where she wasn’t wanted. There was only one reason she’d bothered to kick on to Riv’s place and there were ninety nine percent more people at this party than she wanted to see.

“Seen River?” She asked a guy dressed in orange from head to toe.

“No, sorry,” he said. “I only just arrived.” and he turned his back on her.

Typical, Alice thought. She got to the front door, which was wide open and letting in even more random people. Alice waited for a gap and slipped outside. She went over to a low garden wall and sat, placing her drink on the wall. I am a bit sloshed, she admitted to herself, but Ruby was out of order treating her like that in front of everyone. Alice ran her fingers through a grassy plant nearby.

“Are you okay, Ali?”

Alice looked up and was shocked to see River standing there in front of her, looking down with kind eyes. She went to say something like I’m okay or I’m alright, and it came out garbled like I’m ok right.

“I didn’t think anyone had noticed me come outside.” She said.

“I was worried you were going to leave before the cake,” River said.

“Cake,” Alice said, nodding. “Can’t have the big girl missing out on the cake. Oh sorry, that sounds so, sorry.”

River shook his head, smiled and held a hand out to her. “Come on, let’s get the music turned up and start the dancing,”

“Riv, you are so nice,” Alice said. “So, so nice,” she stood up and enjoyed the way his hand felt holding hers as he led her back inside. He waved at the DJ in the corner of the vast living room and the music went from a good background mix to some serious beats.

Alice danced with Riv, then everyone was dancing together, one big jumping, swirling mass mingling. Hands were in the air or on someone else’s body. Alice was just drunk enough to enjoy the dance floor, shaking her soft curves, moving her feet in the high black boots that had seemed like a good idea when she’d thrown them into the car to wear tonight.

“Ali,” Fia shouted over the music. “You got the moves, girl.”

“You know it,” Alice said.

River moved closer to Fia and took her left hand in his right, pulling her up against him. Fia arched her back and shook her head so her long blonde hair flew about. She smiled at Riv, grabbed Ali’s hand so they were three people dancing in the room, and in spite of the crush of bodies, and the volume in the room, Fia felt fine.

Alice pulled her hands away and Fia couldn’t read the expression on her face as Alice slipped backwards between dancers and disappeared. River put his free arm around Fia’s waist and swept her up and around, a strangely waltz-like move considering the music pulsing through their bodies. Fia held onto his shoulder and went with the flow, being dipped and swung and finally back up on both feet. River chose that moment to swoop down for a soft, long kiss on the lips and Fia was too shocked to respond.

What is that supposed to mean? She thought, as she kept dancing. Then pushed the thought aside, imagining it for a simple spur of the moment thing. A really nice spur of the moment thing.

Alice was watching from the other side of the room. She stood and observed the actions and interactions between River and Sofia. She judged the movements as intimate but more friendly and fun than passionate, until that damn kiss. A stumbling dancer bumped into her, face to face and she laughed as he gyrated and threw himself in circles with his face just centimetres from her own. She let go of her thoughts, bouncing and thrusting to the beat. She let go of her worries and danced.

Cake time happened much later than anyone expected. River stopped the music and got the DJ to start packing up. He went around the house, corralling people, moving all to the back patio, stopping everything else that was on the go. Ashleigh was stood behind the table with everyone around, waiting on the cake. Ryan, who had ordered the cake and wanted to do the honours, walked out of the house with the creation, fizzling with sparklers. People made way and he placed it in front of his wife with a smile and obvious pride.

Ashleigh laughed loudly, smacking her hips. “You didn’t!” She said.

“Oh he did,” River said.

Everyone was craning their necks to see what was up with the black and white cake.

“What is it?” Mia said.

“It’s a Frenchie!” Ashleigh said.

“A what?” Mia said.

“A French Bulldog,” Ryan said. He was standing next to Ashleigh grinning like a fool. “She loves them.”

“But she doesn’t have a dog,” Mia said.

Ryan made his way through friends, back into the neat garden that surrounded the patio, and picked up a large carry case.

“Happy Birthday, Ash,” he said, putting the case beside the birthday cake. “Sorry it’s not wrapped,”

“Typical,” she said, rolling her eyes. “What do I do first? Cut the cake or open my present?”

“Open the present,” Ruby said. “Hurry up,”

“Okay,” Ashleigh said. She found a zipper on the top of the case and pulled it all the way open. The outside lights cast a mottled view of whatever was in the bag and Ashleigh stuck her hand in.

“Oh god, what is it?” She said, then “Oh my god Ryan, oh my god.”

She lifted a soft mound out and held it to her face.

“It’s a dog,” Ruby said. “A puppy, worse than a dog, worse than a kid,”

“He, she, it, it’s perfect!” Ashleigh said, her eyes shining with tears.

“It’s a girl,” Ryan said. “You have to name her,”

“Black and white,” Ruby said. “Call it Cruella,”

“Domino,” someone else said.

“No, I know what I’ll call her,” Ashleigh said, holding the pup up and looking into its eyes. “I will call you,…

NOTE: I don’t have a name ready for Ashleighs new puppy. Help, please suggest a name, so I can choose one and get on with the story. Thanks for reading.

My Book Encyclopaedia

When I write, I keep a book encyclopaedia where I record every detail about characters, places and things I need to remember. I want to be sure that I don’t change someone’s eye colour or preferences halfway through the manuscript. It can happen.

My favourite part about my book encyclopaedia is that I find images of people online to ascribe to each character. I search faces until I find someone who looks the way I imagine a character to look, then I print it out and keep it in the encyclopaedia with my data on that character, to refer to. Somehow, these pictures inform my imagination about personality, strengths, flaws, obsessions, relationships and more. I first used this method when I wrote my unpublished book Diva Sisters, which is about two sisters who sign up for a reality TV show. I was searching online for inspiration about the younger sister whose personality I didn’t quite have right, and I saw a photo of a random woman and bam, that was her. I printed that image and stuck it in my book encyclopaedia, then wondered if I could find images for the other main characters. It works really well for me because I’m one of those writers who is full of new ideas, and sometimes those ideas can make me drift off track, obsess about an irrelevant detail and waste precious writing time.

If you’ve seen my photo’s of my book journal where I write possible plot points, connections, and ideas, you might have noticed it isn’t lined. My book encyclopaedia isn’t lined either. I have found that unlined pages inspire my imagination to go in any direction, if that makes sense. I can make a mind map or I can draw lines between characters and note significant exchanges or conflict points.

I’m using the small Clairefontaine A5 blank booklets, so I can always add another one if I fill the current one and they are easy to store. Below is a photo of the booklets, they come in packs of two.

Sorry about the crappy photo, but this is the brand I use.

Once I get some content in the book, I’ll show you a photo or video inside my book encyclopaedia so you can get a peek into that process.

The Naked Ladies Writing Group part 2

Here is part two of my new book. From now on, I’ll make occasional notes about changes and ideas. My notes might seem random at first, but as you read on, you’ll see how I have used ideas that start out as a short mention in my notes.

NOTE: Zoe is now called Sofia, Fia for short. / Someone reminds her of an old friend or a cousin. Carry this through the story to use later / Is there a pregnancy early in the book? What use would it serve in progressing the story? Maybe as a parallel to the group growth and development? Group collaboration book of stories as well as their own writing? I like this idea.

Fia drove right up to the house and parked next to the kitchen. She went straight in and checked the big fridge, sighing with relief at the sight of the gorgeous black and white birthday cake.

“It’s there,” River said. He took two bottles of champagne out of the fridge and closed the door with his elbow. “You didn’t trust me Fifi,”

“Hey, don’t call me Fifi, and the only person I trust is myself,” Fia said. “Is that all of the champers?”

River laughed and pointed to a smaller fridge with a glass door.

“Oh, that should do us,” Fia said, and she gave River her best smile, the one normally saved for social media and job interviews. “I need to unpack my car,”

“No, no,” River said. “Hey Jack, Callum, get in here and help.”

“I can,” Fia got out before River waved her to silence and pointed the guys out to her car.

“Hi Fia,” Callum said, hugging her as he walked past.

“Fifi,” Jack laughed at her frown. “I know, I know, it’s Fia or bog off. Which car’s yours? I was in the middle of a very promising convo in there, thanks Riv, the sparkly blonde with the teeth.”

“Forget about her,” River shared a grin with Fia. “Not your type at all, mate. It’s the red Ford Focus. Unlocked,” he looked to Fia.

“Yes,” she said.

“Type? I don’t have a type.” Jack stepped outside.

“He doesn’t have a type,” River said.

“No, not at all,” Fia laughed. “I’m going to find the girls.”

“Later then,” River said.

“Later, Riv,” Fia said, meaning it.

The girls were sitting around a large stone table out on the back patio, and they were enthusiastic in their waving to Fia to come join them.

“How did you get here before me?” Fia said and she realised she hadn’t grabbed a drink on her way out.

“Ruby drove,” Mia lifted her glass in Ruby’s direction. Fia nodded. That would explain it.

“Cosmo?” A cocktail appeared at Fia’s elbow.

“Oh my god yeah, and keep ‘em coming,” she turned to see who knew she was a Cosmopolitan girl and found Zachary Pratt smiling down at her. “Thanks, Zach,”

Ruby and Mia looked at her with raised eyebrows, and F rolled her eyes at them. She lifted her Cosmo and said “Cheers to Ash for making it to thirty,”

“Cheers,”

At six o’clock, caterers turned up and served a seafood spread on Fia’s trestle tables which had been set up against the back of the house.

“Is it too late to hope this will soak up the champagne?” Alice said, holding up a king prawn.

“For you? Definitely,” Ruby said, giving Alice the side eyes.

“Hey,” Alice said. “Do you want to wear this drink?”

“Only if you can spare it,” Ruby laughed.

NOTE TO SELF: Start making connections between characters and their upcoming style of writing for better flow. Fia has part of a manuscript in a file in her laptop, and that’s her writing secret. Ruby is a blogger with a bit of a following for her wild ideas and brutal judgements. So she can be pretty blunt with the friends. There will be conflict among the characters, so get ready for that and don’t feel like you have to resolve it immediately. You know you do that. Time to start the book encyclopaedia. Link to what that is here.

NOTE: There will be more story writing almost every day from now on.

Write Today

Today is your day to start. Find ten minutes in your day, doesn’t matter where or when, and write the first sentence you think of when you think of your book. Beginning, middle, end, doesn’t matter. Write. You’ll be so glad you did. I’ll give you the shout-out you deserve. #novel #starttoday #writersofinstagram https://www.instagram.com/p/CGlOEsihk-p/?igshid=1l23pttquw4yn