Paula Writes

Paula Puddephatt – Author

Fiction Writer Struggles — January 30, 2021

Fiction Writer Struggles


Am I still a fiction writer? The stories begin in my mind. Scenes. Ideas. Characters. But they come to nothing.

So many daily anxieties. Fears. Getting through, coping with daily life, is already too much for me.

I’m frozen in the headlights, when it comes to functioning, including as a fiction writer. I reached the stage of trying to write straight on to blog posts, instead of into the Word type packages I use, given that Microsoft fail to provide the Word packages I purchase: not even going there, honestly.

I see other authors with huge backlists of published novels, and it nearly killed me to write and self-publish one. I feel like screaming. Why can’t I do it? Still?

I definitely feel that the lack of support from many of the people (notably, family members) around me – their consistent negativity or/and cold indifference – has got to me. But why haven’t I used it as fuel for my passion?

My depression is winning. My mental and physical health are at an all-time low. And yet, I must remain positive online. Which is exactly what this isn’t. This blog post isn’t positive at all.

If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. If you can’t write a novel, write short stories, flash fiction, poetry

I need to write, and yet, I don’t. Am I still a fiction writer?

Brainstorming Stories — January 7, 2021

Brainstorming Stories


This is a simple, yet potentially effective, method for brainstorming fictional stories, and coming up with fresh ideas.

This approach can work for any type or length of story. Depending upon whether you aim to write flash fiction, a longer short story, a novella, or a novel, you will need to consider how much you develop and complicate your initial ideas. Smaller stories, with fewer characters and usually no subplots, work best for short fiction, and this is particuarly true for flash fiction.

Think of an object, and write down, or simply imagine, three to five specific details about the object.

Think of a location. Write down, or imagine, three to five details about the location. The more vivid these can be, the better, although it’s best not to overthink it.

Think of a person. A main character. And three to five details about the character.

Consider any additional characters. Who are they? Begin to imagine them in the fictional location you chose. Think about the object, and its relevance.

What are the characters doing? Saying? Why?

Not every story idea will necessarily be one that you want to use. Generate ideas, without expectation, removing any internal pressure you might feel, to come up with a “perfect” story, an excellent plot, and amazing characters. Some ideas work out and some come to nothing – and that is honestly fine.

I discuss my struggles, as a fiction writer, in another post.

Happy New Year: 2021 Arrives — January 1, 2021

Happy New Year: 2021 Arrives


Happy New Year. Somehow, I’m still here, and so is the Paula Writes blog. As ever, no promises, but I’m definitely hoping to add more content to this blog in 2021.

I am still here. That’s honestly all I can say. Thank you to all who were supportive, and that very much extends to my online community.

And to those who were significantly less than supportive – well, I’m still alive. And I’m still a writer. I will continue to stand up for what I believe in – for what is right and just.

Keep surviving. Keep believing.

“Guard the truth you’ve found, and you’ve got to stand your ground.” – Debbie Gibson (“Stand Your Ground”, a track from the “Anything is Possible” album).

Need tips for brainstorming, in order to generate story ideas? My short post on the subject might help.

Overwhelmed and Chaotic — November 10, 2020

Overwhelmed and Chaotic


Well, I’m definitely not coping with every day, so-called “real life”, right now – to put the case mildly.

In terms of my writing projects, I don’t feel ready to start a fresh long-term project, such as another novel. I did accept that, towards the end of writing Distorted Perceptions. But I expected to feel more of a sense of freedom. Excitement.

Maybe it’s partly on account of the pressure I feel under, with everything in my life. I can’t stand the phrase: “It’s the same for us all,” because I’ve heard it too often, and it’s simply not true or helpful. It’s dismissive. Yet, right now, many of us are going through a lot, in different ways, and I wouldn’t dream of denying that fact.

I can’t seem to fix upon the next major direction, and so I grasp at one idea and then the next. Writing short stories? Flash fiction, perhaps? Another poetry phase? Blogging?

And what direction should this blog be taking? Writing craft posts come when they come. Same with book reviews, of which I would love to do more. See my review of The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim, keeping in mind that I’m new to reviewing fiction, and never expected it to be an area I would go into.

This blog post is going to be another spontaneous, unplanned one, and not particularly focused, but it does help me to keep going, and also to think everything through as I write. As I’ve mentioned before, NaNoWriMo isn’t for me, but trying to blog more is something I feel I can actually manage, as long as I don’t overthink the whole process.

And yes, another comparatively short post, but never mind. Sometimes it’s more important to achieve what you can, when you can. Regularity is key. I’m not blogging every day, although I would love to. I’m simply blogging more frequently than I have been – on as many days as I can.

Keep believing, and working towards making your own writing dreams become your reality.

Reaching My Limit — November 9, 2020

Reaching My Limit


Firstly, I just Tweeted: “Microsoft have serious influence. The ability to make a writer feel triggered by the word Word. Some accomplishment…!”

Not that Microsoft Word is by any means my most significant problem right now, but the brand name does have a way of coming up at the precise moment…Anyway, that’s that.

But, yes – I am at breaking point, and still being pushed. I don’t like to be too specific because, apart from anything else, I feel that matters are often subsequently made even worse for me, by way of direct punishment. I will say that many people have failed to help, and could easily have done so. I feel deeply disappointed and let down.

I appreciate those who have supported. And those who have done less than they could and should have, will know who they are.

One more specific comment that does need to be made: Housing conditions are appalling for many of the most vulnerable people here in the UK, and this is potentially dangerous for our mental and physical health. In fact, people are dying because of this, which is unacceptable.

Please see my recent posts about unsupportive families and my writing legacy.

And hopefully, there will be more posts about writing and related subjects on this blog soon, but I’m necessarily taking it moment by moment, as well as day by day.

Writing: My Legacy — November 5, 2020

Writing: My Legacy


Writing as a job or career. Writing as – personal trigger word – a “hobby”.

It goes far beyond either, for me – always has. Writing is my passion. It’s my therapy. It’s my life. And yet, more than any of that. I’ve always wanted – longed for – my words to become my legacy. I’ve wanted to be a writer whose work lives on beyond her own death, reaching generations to come.

It’s almost easier to admit to aspiring to movie deals – and many, if not most, of us serious fiction writers, have at least had some thoughts in that general direction, right? Vague or specific, but thoughts of some description.

The truth is, many of us have no control over what happens to our books, blogs, and social media accounts beyond our own deaths. We simply aren’t at the stage where it’s necessarily a consideration. But we do think about it.

Jane Austen has an impressive internet presence, for someone who knew nothing about Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and so on. I don’t know exactly where thoughts like that lead, but do remember returning from a rare afternoon out with my parents to Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, sitting in the back seat of my dad’s car, and contemplating whereabouts one of the local pubs could possibly situate a gift shop.

Whoa, so I had dreams, but they were not merely fantasies. They were ambitions that I held on to and, to the best of my ability, in extremely difficult circumstances, worked towards making into my reality. I haven’t entirely succeeded or failed. I’ve done what I’ve done, and will do what I do.

Words are my legacy. I want my writing to inspire people, now and in the future. It isn’t about money. It’s about the ability to connect. No single blog post can do justice to this subject, but I have to start somewhere, and can’t not say these things. Or maybe won’t not say them is more accurate.

This is the truth of who I am, and what I believe I was born to do. Not only to create my own legacy, but to inspire others to do so as well: the ripple effect. It’s my mission – always has been, and always will be.

My Writing Journey is a somewhat related post. Also, see: Reaching My Limit.

If, like myself, you are estranged from your family, Standalone is a useful resource, which I encourage you to explore.

Blogging Consistently on Paula Writes — November 3, 2020

Blogging Consistently on Paula Writes


I’m definitely intending to at least go through a blogging phase on Paula Writes. No specific goals, and I definitely can’t promise that every post will be substantial or significant. But I do want to blog more, if possible.

November, even without mentioning that this is 2020 (enough said), is a particularly difficult time of year for me, for various reasons. And I know that many writers love NaNoWriMo and similar challenges, but I’m not remotely suited to goals of this nature. I’m a painfully slow writer, and do also have good and bad days, and weeks, due to various health issues, which I’ve mentioned before, both on this blog and my social media.

At the moment, I have multiple technical problems, with everything from my mobile phone and email, to the fact that book publishing sites, and also now WordPress, have updated and “improved” their software. Aspects of these website alterations are making it difficult, and in some cases, currently impossible, for me to carry out functions I was previously able to. As a result, I’m not planning to release any further books for a while.

I am, as I said, hoping to blog, but some layout issues are going to necessitate that my blog post style be simplified (relating to section headings, etc) – and, right now, my blog posts are Uncategorised, until such a time that I’m able to work out how to place them into Categories, as before. In truth, I made a mess of the blog’s Categories anyway, in the early stages. But hey, details can be fixed at a later date. Whether they will be or not, who knows? But I’m going to create blog posts, anyway.

Keep believing, and keep visiting this blog. If you can share this, or any of my other posts, either via your social media, or by email with a friend or family member, that would help me out so much. Any support is deeply appreciated, and makes a difference.

Imposter Syndrome and Unsupportive Families — November 1, 2020

Imposter Syndrome and Unsupportive Families


Imposter Syndrome is frequently discussed, and most creatives, including writers, are likely to be familiar with the term. It describes the feeling of being a fraud, and of not deserving the success you’ve achieved. There is a sense of waiting to be “found out”.

When it comes to our own talents and abilities, self-confidence is a complex issue. It’s perfectly possible to be fully aware that you’re a competent writer, and to be confident of this fact – and yet, paradoxically, also to have a fragile sense of your own worth as a writer. We often fluctuate, and can go to extremes. Sometimes we do also realise and believe that we have talent and potential, but feel that this will never be recognised, and that’s not easy to talk about, without coming across as egotistical or deluded.

Unsupportive families definitely don’t help. I know, from experience. There can be total apathy, such as my mother and younger brother demonstrate. They are completely dismissive. Success, in their minds, would involve “getting on with” what they regard as ordinary, “real” jobs, of which I’ve had many. The very notion of my being a writer is invalidated and discouraged, met with hostility and stonewalling silences. Equally, my in-laws are dismissive and silent, but certainly not when it comes to what they regard as their own “successes”, about which they are prone to boast and exaggerate at every opportunity.

It’s not always easy to remember that, hey, I have written a novel – and other books, too – and that’s huge. It’s real. For years, I allegedly “thought I was writing a book”, in the view of my mother. I can still hear her voice in my mind, reciting such phrases. But, now that I have indeed completed my novel, does she recognise my success, in having done so? Do any of these people I’ve mentioned? No. None of the line-towing I managed to do, over the years, against the odds, was ever truly appreciated. They didn’t, and don’t, care what I do.

But here’s the thing. We, as writers and other creatives, have achieved what we have. Hopefully, we will go on to achieve more. And we ourselves need to recognise the fact, because those who are too busy being self-interested. judgmental, and disapproving to acknowledge our value – they aren’t going to change, unless and until they themselves decide to do so.

Yes, Distorted Perceptions, and my various other publications, exist. I’ve published a novel, and done so in overwhelmingly difficult circumstances. Not many members of my family can say the same. All of this with due respect to those family members who actually have been supportive, to whatever extent. Ironically, the ones who should really be receiving this message won’t read it, and would remain disinterested, even if they were to.

Believe in yourself and your dreams, even if those around you refuse to do so. Your words can become your legacy, your gift for the generations to come. Your stories need to be told. They, and you, matter.

See the Standalone website, if you are an estranged adult, like myself. An interesting and positive resource.

Or/and read more about family estrangement and the associated trauma.

Siblings in Fiction — October 31, 2020

Siblings in Fiction


I’ve always enjoyed writing and reading about sibling relationships, which is ironic, given my own non-relationship with my brother, and the extreme stress caused by various family members, particularly in-laws. I definitely feel more comfortable with fictional families than real ones.

When it comes to writing about siblings, I find my inspiration to do so from within, from my reading, and from various experiences of relationships in general, including friendships.

Sibling relationships are fascinating and complex. Consider different family positions: eldest, youngest, middle children. One of two, three, four, or ten. Only children, where siblings are almost a presence through their very absence – and somehow, I can relate strongly to that one. Half and step siblings.

And of course, one of my favourites: twins. Also, triplets and beyond – something I would love to explore. I’ve written about identical and fraternal twins, but primarily the former. There are twin girls, Jade and Jessica, in my novel, Distorted Perceptions. Jade and Jess are very much a case of identical on the outside, but not so much in other respects.

And in fact, sibling relationships are important throughout Distorted Perceptions. Lucy, the protagonist, is the second youngest of five, with two older brothers, Matthew and Danny, an elder sister, Catherine, and a younger sister, Sarah. The twins just mentioned, Jade and Jessica – along with their elder sister, Bonnie – are Lucy’s nieces. Well, that may be a simplification, but I can’t say more without getting into spoilers.

I find that sibling relationships are an element that draws me in as a reader, too. Jane Austen does an excellent job of exploring sibling relations in her various works – most notably, for me, the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice, and Elinor and Marianne in Sense and Sensibility. And don’t forget that the Elinor and Marianne sister friendship is contrasted with the more difficult relationship with Elinor and Marianne’s half-brother, John, and his controlling wife. Going beyond Jane Austen, another sister relationship that I enjoy is the one between Dorothea and Celia in George Eliot’s Middlemarch. I must also admit that I grew up on Sweet Valley High books, and Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield definitely helped to fuel my interest in twin characters in fiction.

I’ve already discussed the importance of friendship in fiction, as well as romantic relationships, and this post is acknowledging that brothers and sisters can also play a vital role in our stories.

The Enchanted April – Elizabeth von Arnim: Book Review — October 29, 2020

The Enchanted April – Elizabeth von Arnim: Book Review


Written and set in the 1920s, The Enchanted April is a truly beautiful novel. If you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller, this book may not be for you. However, if you enjoy stories that focus upon characters, The Enchanted April definitely does this, and comes highly recommended.

The novel begins in a club in Hampstead, UK, where Lotty Wilkins and Rose Arbuthnot formally meet for the first time, although Lotty already knows Rose by sight. Both women are drawn to an advertisement in The Times, for a mediaeval castle in Italy, which will be available to rent in April.

Both Lotty and Rose are married, and neither is entirely content. Lotty, by nature painfully shy, tends to fear her husband, Mellersh. She also feels out of place with his work connections, friends, and family, who form the entire social circle in which the two of them mix. Rose has become estranged from her own husband, Frederick, who earns his living by writing memoirs about the mistresses of kings, a fact that his religious wife cannot accept.

Lotty and Rose write to enquire about the mediaeval castle, but discover that the rent is too expensive. They decide not to give up, but instead to advertise for two more women, with whom to share the holiday and expenses. They receive precisely two responses in total, from Mrs. Fisher and Lady Caroline Dester. And, after various difficulties with Mellersh, who strongly objects to the idea of his wife going away without him, the two women duly leave for Italy, expecting their guests to arrive later, although both Mrs. Fisher and Lady Caroline end up arriving early, intending to secure the best rooms.

Mrs. Fisher, a widow, is older than the other women, and initially appears abrasive and judgmental. Lady Caroline is extremely beautiful, and yet, disillusioned, and desperately wanting her holiday to function as a complete rest cure.

The descriptions of the beautiful house and gardens are a pleasure to read and, from a character development point of view, the novel is excellent. The female friendships remain central to the story, although the husbands, along with Thomas Briggs, the owner of the mediaeval castle, do join the ladies by the end of the book, and there are some romantic storylines.

I adore the characters in this novel, and find myself wondering about what happened to them after the story ended. I like to imagine that some of the friendships formed on this holiday would have endured.

Read an extract from my own novel, Distorted Perceptions.

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