When does it stop being Procrastination?

August 31, 2013

I have been writing my novel, “Endless Possibilities” (EP), it would seem, forever. I was easily distracted during the writing process by side projects such as John Chapman’s, Jonnie Rocket where I ran the website and Twitterfeeds under the guise of Doctor Avatar for a while and then there was the various short story competitions and other projects that I fired up to keep myself busy. Busy not finishing the novel that is…

But, actually, I did finish EP and so began the even more traumatic and apparently long-winded process of editing the first draft. I have found that it is even easier to be distracted during the editing process than the writing process.

My major distraction has been, as you will have gathered from many of my earlier blogs, Paragraph Planet. I have used writing these little 75-word stories to justify so many things…

They have improved my ability to capture the essence of an idea incredibly quickly and succinctly – like a skilled artist capturing a hasty pencil sketch to be used later to form the basis of a much grander painting.

They have taught me how to make every word count, that there is a skill to using contractions, especially in dialogue that can completely change the way somebody sounds inside the reader’s head. They have taught me how to avoid repetition or to use repetition to create a rhythm within the words.

They have taught me that sometimes, one-word sentences are OK. True.

They have taught me that I can write, at least in very small doses, not just the Science Fiction and Fantasy that I cut my teeth on, but drama, comedy, horror, tragedy and RomCom (to name but a few). Neil Gaiman said during his talk to RS Literature back in June that the world thought he was just a comic book writer. What they didn’t realise was that the comic is just the medium used to tell the story and that his stories crossed all genres, that he could in fact write in any genre he chose. I am no Neil Gaiman, but I’m not as two-dimensional as I once thought!

They have taught me how to edit and edit quickly. I’ve been sharing a lot of my 75-worders with the rest of WordWatchers via email. They only take a few seconds to read and quite often I’ll get a quick one liner back saying “I liked it, but…” and that “but…” has been incredibly useful. I’ve tweaked sentences, rearranged words, changed POV, changed past tense to present tense, even rewrote entire paragraphs where only the underlying idea has survived the editorial process and not one word of the original paragraph remains. Endless Possibilities is already benefiting from this.

They have taught me to make writing a habit. I managed this during the final days of writing EP because I was getting up at 5AM to write for an hour every morning. When you get up that early you do write something because otherwise you’re very angry at yourself for not writing and missing out on an hour’s sleep! So, I write at least one 75-word Paragraph a day and so I cannot wheedle my way out of this self enforced commitment, after I have sent them to WordWatchers for a sanity check I then submit them to Paragraph Planet. Richard at Paragraph Planet will presume that I have either lost Internet connectivity or have died if he does not find a Paragraph from me waiting in his inbox. Except for a few days when during my week long family holiday at the end of July I have submitted at least one story to Paragraph Planet every day since July 4th. (Occasionally I fall asleep before Midnight and have to submit two the next day, just to make it right)

So, am I using my 75-word stories to distract me from editing Endless Possibilities? The truth is, I definitely was, but I’m not any more. WordWatchers as a group are currently helping me down select 92 paragraphs (which I had already down selected from 120) to the 75 I want to put into my first book. Not only that, but I have teamed up with a fantastic illustrator, Helen Withington, who is doing amazing things with some of my 75-word stories.

So, while WordWatchers helps me turn 90+ random paragraphs into a genuine collection of 75 and Helen brings a selection of them to life with her amazing illustrations I’m already planning and writing the content for book 2. Why? Because, to put it simply, I want you to read my stuff. Not only do I want you to read my stuff, I want you to enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. A novel is a big thing, a big commitment, I would be asking you, as a reader, to take a chance on me having read nothing more than my tweet feeds, my blogs and a few short stories that are floating around the Internet. So, I’m not going to do that, I’m going to ask for an hour of your time, I’m going to ask you to read 75 tiny little stories, that will each take up a minute of your life, so that if you didn’t like it, you don’t feel like I’ve stolen anything from you…

I’m going to hope that you will love every single story. Hope? Yes. Expect? No. I will be delighted if you find a connection with half of them. I will love you forever if even two or three trigger something in you that makes you think that I am worthy of future investment or persuade you to mention my work to other people who trust your opinion.

So, there will be a book 2 of 75-word stories and, because writers love a trilogy, the inevitable book 3. At some point during this process I may ask you to make that time and emotional investment in Endless Possibilities and I hope we will know each other well enough by then that you will know what you’re letting yourself in for.

So, I finish by sharing one of Helen’s illustrations with you (and the Christmas themed 75-worder that inspired it). I am so glad I let Helen have a free rein at which paragraphs she chose to illustrate and in what style because I would never have picked either the paragraph nor the interpretation.

Helen can be found on Twitter as @HelenWithington and on her website: Here.

Helen Withington illustration

Helen Withington illustration

Jeff in the Benefits Office rubbed his throbbing temple. “Ok… Mary… if we could go through this one more time… You’ve left the name of the father of your unborn child off the form. While I understand this can be a delicate matter, it will help process the claim… So, if I could just have the name? Please don’t say ‘God’ with such an exasperated tone, I’m just trying to help you, really I am.”


As ever, thank-you for your time.

John Hoggard

John Hoggard







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If it can happen to me, it can happen to you.

August 7, 2013

I have been within the welcoming bosom of WordWatchers for just over a year now, and my goodness, what a year it has been.

When I joined I had delusions of grandeur of having a book published, but never in my wildest dreams, did I believe it would become a reality.

My story is this…..

I have a nephew called William, and a couple of years ago he asked me for a bedtime story. ‘Not a problem.’ I replied.’Which book would you like me to read?’

‘No, no. I want you to make one up.’ was his reply.

And that, ladies and gentleman, was how Alonzo the chicken was born.

I made up a story about a magic super-hero chicken called Alonzo, and quite frankly, I thought the story really wasn’t any good. William, however, thought it was fabulous!

‘Tell me another Aunty Debbie. He was great!’

The pressure was on.

I was was overwhelmed by the realisation that William thought my story was good, even though he may have been slightly biased. The next day at work I asked my team what kind of adventure Alonzo should have next. ‘Underwater’ was the response.

And that was how Alonzo and Molly the Mermaid was born.

After going to a couple of WordWatchers meetings, and feeling completely and utterly overawed by the talent in the group, I took a ‘brave tablet’ and asked them to critique my book. This they did, and in their words, ‘they tore it apart with velvet-clad claws and loving words’.

Thank goodness for their honesty as my book is all the better for it.

Through the people in the group I found my illustrator, Monika Filipina Trzpil. She is amazing, and I am truly blessed in meeting her.

We talked via email, and then finally met up in a coffe shop in Trafalgar Square. It was just like a blind date!! I didn’t know what she looked like, and visa versa! After a great couple of hours, she agreed to illustrate my, what was going to become a book. This was a surreal moment. Me? A book? With proper illustrations? Really?

What she said next blew me away. ‘ Why don’t you contact a small publishing company called Digital Leaf? I think they would love Alonzo. Give them a call.’

So I did.


Alonzo and Molly the Mermaid

Alonzo and Molly the Mermaid

One year on, and not only did I call them, but they had enough confidence in me and Alonzo to publish our first book In December 2012. I was, and quite honestly still am, staggered.

After 6 months, not only has Alonzo and Molly the Mermaid been downloaded (albeit free), 1500 times in Australia in January, but wehave sold over 500 books and 140 of those were in the US. Alonzo is truly global!


Whatever is next? Well apart from school visits and book signings, book two, Alonzo and the Meteorite will be released 1st October 2013.

Who’d have thought it? I never dreamed this could become a reality, but it has. If it can happen to me, it could happen to you.

Never say never.

Debbie signs another book
Debbie signs another book


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