Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Aims and Intentions 2018

  So, Happy New Year one and all. I know this could be seen as a belated greeting, but I’m within 365 days of my 2017 Aims and Intentions post, so it is legit I think. (Please read the small print for T&Cs.)
  For those who have been here before, this is my annual layout of my goals for the year, as I am hopeless at Resolutions. Displaying them here though has proved to be helpful, as it keeps me focused (by which I mean Frightened. But in a good way. Once I’ve said it aloud, I know I need to pony something up, in case anyone remembers and holds me to it.)
Last year, here, I did a recap of the previous three years, of what my goals had been and how that had gone. Last year’s goal was “to develop new a working practice that fits with all of us here at home and to Write smarter, write better.”
  To be honest, I don’t know if I got a grip on the working practice thing. The writing isn’t a constant beast; sometimes it is spaffing words out on the page, sometimes it is herding it into something shapely and sometimes it is reading it back while curled up on the sofa with a notebook. Some months I can engross myself in it while some months nothing happens because Christmas. BUT, on a basic level; no one died from it, cried from it, ran away or was taken into Care. So that’s a win. Any long term scarring will remain to be seen, but for now I’m prepared to say I am managing, and it’s probably a work in progress.
  As for whether the words are smarter and better? Again the jury is out. I think I came at planning Story Two more sensibly, having been through the Story One restructuring with Agent Federica in 2016. That’s not to say the current structure won’t change, but it was sound enough to write the first draft, to a state where Lovely CP was able to read it from start to finish and I didn’t cry at her feedback. Now it is with three Beta readers, so I’ll have to wait and see what they say. (No, no bum-clenching going on here, not at all, I always walk like this…)
 So what for 2018?
  Obviously the dream would be to announce a publishing deal – that is the overall aim of my game after all - but such things are out of my hands. I can only write it, hone it and send it out, and then hope an editor in a publishing house somewhere will pick it up, read it and love it.
My goals then, the things I can steer are;
I’m going to finish Story Two.
I’m going to think about, plan and start Story Three. I spent quite some time ‘thinking’ about Story Two before I started writing, and at the time I felt guilty about it, as the fingers weren’t on the keyboard and it looked like I had nothing to show for my time. But realistically I needed the time, to refuel the tanks and marshal my thoughts. I’ll be scheduling it in, without guilt, next time, knowing I need it.
I’m going to keep learning about Structure, as I suspect it might be key. (In fact I know so; if you haven’t read John Yorke’s Into the Woods, best get to it.)
I’m not doing NANO, unless I have a defined plan BEFORE starting. (Stating it here so I don’t get talked into it.)
I’m going to read more than the pitiful amount I managed last year, because I missed it and it benefits me, both as me and as a writer.
I’m not going to refer to my writing as a hobby. I write, therefore I am a writer. I need to own it, rather than feeling I have to justify it to people, in some way that excuses it or makes it sound less than it is, which is just ridiculous and I need to get over it… Oh sorry, did I say that out loud? Ahem...
I’d like to go on another writing retreat.
I must spend less time on Twitter.
I should learn to type with more than four fingers.
I will Save things better. (I wrote this post and then deleted it by mistake and saved the doc before I realised, so had to write it again.)

That should do for now. What about the rest of you? Any goals to share? Come on, write them down. There’s more chance of them happening if you’ve declared them. FACT.

Monday, 4 December 2017

That there NaNo thing...

so, as I posted below, I did it - and I DID IT!

Over 50k words in 30 days. Of course they are rubbish words - utter drivel- but they exist. For now they are to be packed away- far far away- but one day I might pull them out again and see if there is anything in there that's worth keeping and germinating.

I should probably feel like this. But.

 There were days when it seemed like a chore, which is not how I write best. And once I'd completed my daily quota, there didn't seem to be anything left in the tank to spend on writing anything else, so it wasn't a productive month on other projects. But I suppose it reminded me what I could do, and that I could get a writing habit up and running. Writing on my Alphasmart machine made hitting the word count much quicker each day, as there was no lure of the internet. I do have a weakness when it comes to the internets...

So, realistically I feel more like this.

Would I do it again? Maayyyybe. But absolutely, definitely, only if I have a pre-devised plan to work with. Whilst 'making stuff up' is what I do, having to do it on the spur of the moment at every sitting for so many days isn't fun. At least it wasn't for me - I know others love that pressure. I think I'd find it more productive, more satisfying, if I could feel the words contributed more to a whole, and that at the end of the 30 days, I'd have something far further developed than the- sometimes desperately- improvised twaddle I am currently burying deep for now.

Did anyone else NaNo?  How was it for you?

Thursday, 9 November 2017


 In the long lull of no blog entries before my recent NaNo confession, I wasn’t twiddling my thumbs. Honest. Story One has been on submission with publishers and I’d been further-tuning that first draft of Story Two, to send it to Lovely CP for feedback. Fingers have been on keys, mind has been off the submission cycle.
  But I’ve also had a real treat. I booked onto BookCamp, a writing retreat in Somerset, run by writer Cesca Major. I had four days away, being a grown up, in a beautiful barn conversion, where I was fed by someone else (aahhmmaaggaahhdd bliss!), connecting with other writers, in this case -coincidentally- all Romance writers. There were published authors there; a couple who I already knew and others who it was a pleasure to get to know, and then two of us who are unpublished but who everyone was really generous to with their advice, as they’d all been in the same position at some point.

  I went without anything specific to write, where others were working towards a daily word count on their WIPs. What I got was some thinking space to consider various ideas of what to write next. I also got views on the genre and industry and other writers’ experiences of publishing. It was a fab week and one I’d like to do again if possible (not least for the wine-charged chatter in the hot-tub or dinnertime stories/intrigue) and certainly one I’d recommend.  

  Further details on BookCamp can be found on Twitter at @Book_Camp

(* The cake is Cesca's teatime Triple chocolate Malteser cake, which jacks you up and spawns words from your fingers like you wouldn't believe. I was tripping on the sugar for days... Photo credit and cakery thanks to Cesca Major.)

Sunday, 5 November 2017

I am officially a nutter

 For the last many years, when November has loomed, I have looked at NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) and considered it. For all of 30 seconds. Tops.
  Look at it; 50k words in one month. It isn’t even a long month. And it is so close to Christmas and the schools do so many things I have to pitch up to in this time. So I say to myself, “Don’t be a nutter. Don’t even embark on this ridiculous task. It’s doesn’t fit into your life at the moment. Maybe one day when the kids have flown.” Instead, I wish the NaNo-nutter’s well, waving at them from a distance as they embark on their journey of lunacy.
  Only not this year. For some reason, back in the summer, when November and it’s tasks seemed so far away, I thought it might be a good idea to get another vomit draft under my belt, to rest in a drawer and mull for a year or so. The words would be rushed and messy and ugly, but there would be a germ of something there to grow a story from later, rather than angsting around desperately seeking an idea when I need it.

  I know I can write 50k words in a month. I’ve done it before when I’m in a drafting phase, but the timing has always seemed difficult – or maybe I just don’t like the pressure of having to do the 1667 words a day. I have resisted whole-heartedly and quite happily, thank you very much.
  And I did resist this year too, when the actual event came nearer. Even though I had discussed it with Lovely CP and she’d signed up, and I’d convinced DD2 to have a go at Junior NaNo, (Deflecting? Moi?) I still didn’t sign up until the last second. Most likely this was because I hadn’t actually formulated any sort of plan, (and I do prefer a plan,) or perhaps it could just be because I am just plain chicken.
  But, I did sign up, and therefore I have to out myself as a nutter. We’re five days in, and I’m vaguely on schedule, but I’m having to find ideas from one day to the next already, and the words are – as expected- rushed and messy and ugly. I might not make the 50k, as life has a way of getting in the way, or I might just manage to hit the target by the skin of my teeth, but I’ve decided that if I can at least get to know these new characters say 30k better, then that has to be a win of sorts and I’m going to have it.
  Anyone else taking part in this mad endeavour?

  Onwards, nutters!

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

I have time to read again!!!

The blogging has been very thin on the ground this first half of the year, and it was already thin on the ground before that. I had to stop the TBR piles and Gut reactions, because it all got too much. I was busy trying to fill my head with things, so I could cough out a new first draft. Which I did in 9 weeks. Hurrah!

 And now it is mulling and I am ignoring it while it mulls and I shall fill my little head with other people's writings. I have just thrashed Amazon and stuffed my kindle.

 These are some of the titles that are on there. Sonya Lalli's The Arrangement releases on the 10th of August, so that'll  be added then.

You'll have to excuse the deranged layout of this post, but I genuinely seem to have no control over how my pictures turn up. I was hoping to do some kind of slick montage thing, but had forgotten that I have no technical ability whatsoever.


Monday, 22 May 2017

Writing Stuff

  I haven’t been here in a while, but please don’t take it personally. So as not to neglect the blog totally- although I know I’m do a fair job of it- I wanted to poke my head above the parapet to at least let you know that I am, honestly, busy doing wordish things.
 The story so far; 
 Story One is currently on submission with publishers - actually out there in the world, begging for attention, hoping someone out there might love it and want to give it a home. I’m trying not to think about it, as I’ve been assured that waiting is par for the course. Besides, it is absolutely out of my hands now. So this is me not thinking about it, la la la la la la lahhh…
  In the meantime I’m working on Story Two. I thought I’d be able to dive right into it, but that wasn’t the case. I dithered and procrastinated for a while. Now I think I needed the time to replenish and refill the thought banks. I did however make copious pages of scribblings in my notebook and last week I started whacking words on the page. There’s 14k banked as of Friday, which is pleasing, although who knows how many of them are any good or likely to stay. (I try not to read back straight away so they can mull and so I'm at least a little surprised when I come back to them.) I’m attempting to follow the plan I had last time of 2k words a day Mon- Friday and if I don’t make the 10k target then I have to do detention during the weekend to make up the shortfall.

What I did do before starting, amid all the note-taking (and actually many of the notes were prompted by this) was reread the "How to.." books I studied during The Great Rewrite, so as to have them in mind from the start. There’s three of them and they are, in the specific order that I read them; John Yorke’s magnificent Into the Woods, which anyone who wants to be a storyteller IN ANY FORM should read. It looks at Why stories have the structure that they do; Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering is a mechanical approach to the actual structural nuts and bolts. He’s bossy but clear about what you should know from the beginning, in order to write more efficiently and deeply; Alexandra Sokoloff’s Stealing Hollywood takes screenwriting principles and applies them to novel writing. Screenplays are generally super tight with their plotting and structures, that there’s lots to be emulated and she's also good at pointing out generic plotting traits. I’ve found them all ridiculously useful, in fact, learning from them has had me asking myself what the hell I was thinking before. I’ve told myself I won’t start any other stories EVER without rereading them first.

This one by Libbie Hawker, is another one which added itself to that pile just recently. It’s a short read (thank goodness!) and I imagine one that I’ll dip in and out of to keep myself on track. Also one I’d recommend.

   And then there are the podcasts. Maaaan, I love my podcasts... 
I think I spent a week trying to make the transition from the note-making to the bum-on-seat-and-typing stage, and flailing simply through The Fear and dealing with my Inner Critic, who can be a bitch. The podcasts have really helped. I’ve mentioned The Bestseller Experiment before, which is great for feeling part of a community and learning about publishing on the whole, but I’ve now also found The Worried Writer, where novelist Sarah Painter talks to published writers about how they write and more importantly how they deal with the worries, The Fear and the procrastination. I can’t tell you how helpful it’s been to see that every writer has this and essentially it's part of the deal. Knowing this made it easier to step over it. And having binge-listened to numerous episodes, I was finally able to overcome it or at least quell it enough to start. Have a listen. They’re both entertaining and useful, although Sarah’s voice is sometimes almost too soothing!

  The TBR pile is the bit that's failing at the moment but frankly, with kids in exams, there aren’t enough hours in the day, and something has to give. But then maybe having a chunky pile staring at me isn’t what I need at the moment and only picking up the ones that really appeal to me is more beneficial.

  So that was my update. Hope you are all well and the words are flowing for those of you who write.

Let me know how you’re doing! Chuck me your “How to” book and podcast recommendations too please.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

*Cue tumble-weedy silence" My lack of Spring '17 TBR pile.

 Given the fail of last season, I need a catch-up period. Therefore other than what was left over from the last pile, I’m not posting a new one. I will be reading- but I’m just not sure what yet, although that kindle of mine is rammed. There'll be a pile for summer though. My shirking will only last the one season.
 I’d love to hear what you have planned for your Spring reading though. 
Share please!