IWSG: Spinning Plates

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time to have a whinge at myself in the name of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group.


I’ve been writing a fair bit over recent months, trying to keep a variety of plates spinning, writing for different sites on varied subjects.
There are many writers who are much more prolific than me, but I’ve been stepping up the amount of writing I’ve done – most of it web-based, as well as writing a few bits of fiction.
I have let down a few people, unfortunately – for instance I discussed writing something topical as a guest author, but because of being busy/having less than ideal time management, I let it slip away. I’ve got a similar backlog of what I think are decent ideas tucked away in the back of my head or in a Word file somewhere or other.
I’ve also found that working on so many things at once can lead to making daft mistakes.

For instance, in recent months I’ve been writing about football statistics for
One of the problems with writing on a statistical basis about players I’ve only watched irregularly is that I feel that people who watch the players on a regular basis, who’ve seen every game that player has been involved in, will know things about the player’s performances that I’ve not seen.
I  made one particularly amateurish mistake – in a piece talking about Manchester United midfielder Nani, I mentioned in passing that his midfield rival Antonio Valencia was in his second season at the club – it was actually his fourth.
Obviously this kind of thing isn’t all that important, and didn’t affect the broad strokes of what I was arguing… but it’s still annoying to let that kind of mistake slip by.

I’m a fiction writer by instinct, and find research a bit stressful.
As much as I enjoying expanding my knowledge, learning more about the subjects that interest me, I find myself thinking about the information I’m not seeing as much as what I am. I’ve been writing a ‘Lower League Week’ for a year and a half now, and it can be a bit difficult to get my hands on information for some of the less well covered teams in England’s professional leagues. Coverage of what’s going on inside the clubs can be hard to come by, and there’s always the worry of local media glossing over the complications to keep their contacts inside the club, and fans reactions being clouded by emotion, often over-reacting one way or the other.
Personally, I prefer to get the foundations right, and then go off on tangents, inventing my own stuff. Unfortunately, I think this tends to be frowned on in factual writing.

I've been told dozens of times that the phrase 'and then the cake came to life and invaded the pitch' has no place in a football match report.
I’ve been told dozens of times that the phrase ‘and then the giant cake came to life, looking down upon the pitch with it’s cherry stalk eyes’ has no place in a football match report.

Stieg Larrson, a very influential journalist in his field, reportedly wrote the ‘Girl with a Dragon Tattoo’ books in the evenings, as a way of unwinding. Previously I hadn’t been able to understand that – I’m generally the kind of writer to plan things out in massive detail in advance, before getting started. I take story structure and character development very seriously, it winds me up enormously when a character behaves in a way that I feel clashes with their previously established behaviour, or a twist comes along that feels forced and artificial.
But I’ve been finding in recent months that, when I’ve got so many ideas going round in my head, there’s some that excite me more than others, and it’s useful to think of those as a kind of treat – things I can let loose and be more natural when writing, without worrying quite so much.
It might not be the ideal way to accomplish it, but one of my key aims when setting up this blog was to get myself writing more quickly and on a regular basis, rather than trying to make everything perfect, moving at a snail’s pace, and finishing nothing.
I’m currently trying to reach a pace of writing that I find difficult, but it’s better than the alternative.

As with actual spinning plates there are techniques to make the trick easier.
Just this past week I’ve gotten half a story written on Sunday night, 2 and a half thousand words written in a few hours. Not only was this a decent achievement by my standards, it left me feeling refreshed, and more energised for the factual work I had in my ‘to do’ list. I’ve also enjoyed collaborating on what could be a rare case of football-themed comedy that actually ends up being funny.

Really, I need to be better at both de-stressing and forcing myself to sit down to get first drafts of things completed. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I feel as if I’m moving in the right direction.

16 thoughts on “IWSG: Spinning Plates”

    1. You may be right, maybe I’m stretched too thinly at the moment.
      The thing is though, I find the other writing commitments motivate me to get writing, the sense that I only have so much free time before I’ve got to start on something else.
      And having things published on a regular basis gives me a bit of a boost as well.
      Two years ago, I was hardly writing at all, so I’m moving in the right direction… it’s just a pain finding the right balance.

      It’s a shame you don’t post on your blog so often, but I’m going to buy one of your books sometime soon, I need my Cargill fix!


  1. At least you still manage to write, maybe not what you like, as often as you like, but you still make it all work somehow. Good for you. Don’t worry about the mistakes, as we all make them, just as long as you had the guts to admit that Valencia has had 4 seasons and not 2. Whatever you decide to do, I wish you the best of luck. As you will know what will suit you best on the long run. Thank you so much for the kind words and great advice on my blog today. It really helped.


  2. It’s interesting that Stieg Larrson wrote his books as a way to unwind, even though I totally get that. Fiction is strange that way because stories do go in unexpected directions, and usually to a place I haven’t researched yet! That’s why I’ve resigned myself to getting a decent sketch of my story in first draft and doing the research once I have a good idea of where I’m going with it.
    Good luck with the spinning plates too. Writing has a way of doing that to a person I think. Between a blog, critiques, writing first draft, and revisions I don’t know how we fit it all in. Just take it one day at a time I suppose! And keep writing. 🙂


    1. I suppose if your day regularly involves receiving death threats from neo-nazis, then creating a compelling hero won’t be quite as stressful.

      Thanks, think it’s just a matter of sharpening my skills and balancing my workload, sure it’ll come in time, one way or another…


  3. You’re totally moving in the right direction. I usually start with detailed outlines and character sketches so I can do the hard stuff first, then when I draft, it’s fun and easygoing. This is because I’ve already got my structure nailed down. Doens’t mean its perfect the first time, but it takes a lot of the frustration out and uncertainty where my story’s going. 🙂


  4. And I wish I could be more like you! I’d love to be able to plan everything out before I sit down to write… I’ve tried, but my creativity hardly works that way… I feel like I waste so much time just creating and experimenting when I would be so much more efficient if I could plot it all first. 🙂


    1. Sorry for taking so long to reply, I didn’t realise there were still a few things I’d not responded to…

      I think my creativity works pretty efficiently when planning the stories overall, but when I get into the nitty gritty of writing, I get obsessive about getting the prose perfect, which is a slight problem.


  5. I did a time management course at work not so long ago and two things I found helpful were the art of saying no to people and the salami technique, which is basically cutting down the big jobs in to little bits so you only get stressed, I mean focus, on one manageable chunk at a time.
    Sounds like you’ll fix it though. Good luck.


    1. Sorry for taking so long to reply, I didn’t realise there were still a few things I’d not responded to…

      I quite like the term ‘the salami technique, it’s not something I’d heard before, but I do find things less overwhelming if I divide them down in that way.


  6. You can still plan out those fiction treats. And then just enjoy the writing.
    Keeping up with sports teams must be a real challenge. Remember, most of the reporters, like the big guys on PTI and Around the Horn, have an army helping them gather data.


    1. Sorry for taking so long to reply, I didn’t realise there were still a few things I’d not responded to…

      True, there is that. I don’t know what around the horn is – I’m going to assume that it’s a show about rhinos, because that sounds like fun!


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