Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Big List of Things To Do 2011

There is something wonderful about the start of a new year. I have always been quite a focussed person and I find it a great time to reflect. It is always the time when I think about what I want to do, what I want to change and where I want to be in another year's time.

I have to admit to a sense of achievement in knowing for once I have actually taken action on these things over the past year. My 'Big List' in 2010 included 79 tasks and I managed to complete 55 of them. I'm pretty happy with that as some of the tasks on the list really weren't that important and they'll get done when they get done. I think I tried to 'micro-manage' my list last year and wanted to include every little thing I needed to do. Life doesn't quite work like that though and in the end I concentrated on my writing and health goals. So this year, rather than the seven categories I had last time I have just four. They are health, writing, household and competitions. I have tried to make the list far more achievable this year and as a result the household category no longer contains house chores and instead the single goal of 'Get a dog!' 

The main focus remains on my health (presently half-way to my three stone weigh loss goal) and writing. It is a single page this time and far more achievable. As this blog is about writing I have added my writing goals below but don't be surprised to find me blogging about the other goals as well.

·         Complete first draft of ‘The Shortlist’
·         Complete second draft of ‘The Shortlist’
·         Complete final draft of ‘The Shortlist’
·         Send ‘The Shortlist’ to agents/publishers
·         Complete final draft of ‘The White China at Rose Cottage’
·         Enter ‘The White China at Rose Cottage’ into some competitions
·         Get 10 writing ‘hits’
o   Number One
o   Number Two
o   Number Three
o   Number Four
o   Number Five
o   Number Six
o   Number Seven
o   Number Eight
o   Number Nine
o   Number Ten

This year my writing goals are more specific and the first half focus on completing my two large works in progress. I have also set a goal of reaching 10 'hits.' I first heard this term used on Sally Quilford's great blog - well worth a follow. A 'hit' refers to an acceptance but it will only count if it is paid work. Last year I had nine different things accepted but not all of them were paid work so I am hoping to increase my hits to 10.

I think the goals I have set are obtainable within the year. There is a great amount for me to learn alongside this and I will be doing this in a variety of ways. I wish you luck on achieving any goals you may have in 2011 and I will keep you updated on how I am getting on with mine.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

What a year it has been and to think in a few days it will be Christmas! This year I have been absolutely rubbish and not managed to do any cards. I would like to say that it is because I have been busy writing but the truth is I just haven't been organised enough.

So I would like to wish everybody a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in 2011!

2010 has been a fantastic year for me where I have learnt lots, made lots of new friends and written more than in any previous year. I hope to top that in 2011 and have already started writing up my 'Big List of Things To Do.'

In the meantime I am having a relax from writing. I will be spending Christmas with family where I plan to 'eat, drink and be merry!' I hope anyone reading this has a great time over Christmas and you will hear from me again in the New Year.

As the blog has now reached 50 followers I will be running a competition in the New Year to celebrate. I had planned to run it before but the snow has stopped me getting some of the prizes so I will run it in January instead! So keep your eyes peeled for that in 2011!

Love and Best Wishes,

Catherine x

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Finding Time to Write

Something has shifted this year. I have found the gear lever and finally put the car into motion. I can pinpoint exactly when this happened and now it has finding time to write is paramount. So if you are still struggling to find the time to write I'll let you into my secrets (because they're not really secrets!)

First the point when I realised I had to do something about it. Writing has been a passion all my teenage and  adult life but it was a hobby. I never considered it anything more than this but dreamt of being published (like you do.) My imagination has always been very active and in my final year of University when I should have been concentrating on my dissertation I was busy writing  a novella at the same time. In my early years as a physiotherapist I continued to write but this became less and less as my job role became more senior. I have always been quite a bold and determined woman so becoming ill was not part of the agenda. So when not so much my illness but the side effects of my tablets became problematic I started thinking about what else I could do. 

My job as a Senior Physiotherapist was strenuous and as I am on immuno-suppressants I caught every bug going. It was a big decision but I decided to leave the NHS as by that stage I was really struggling with fatigue as a result of continuous sinus infections. There were lots of jobs within the same field I could have considered  but they were only a substitute for working in the area I loved (Medical In-Patients - I always liked trying to work out what was wrong!) Somehow I knew the only thing that would satisfy a change in career was if I pursued my writing ambitions.

This however is not the light bulb moment I am referring to. I think my light bulb was on some kind of dimmer switch. I totally gave up my job and started working part-time in my local shopmobility. It was a total change in lifestyle but for the better. I then went on and spent almost a year not really writing. It is very easy to not write. 

The point at which I realised I had to do more than just say I was a writer was before I started this blog. Within a short period two things happened that helped spur me on. The first was the renewal (or rather the non-renewal) of my registration with the Health Professionals Council. It was a bit like pulling my safety net away from me. Then on holiday someone asked what I did and I said a writer but then how can I back that up? I was still at that in-between stage (still am really) but at least these days I know I am doing everything possible to get myself there. It had dawned on me that I had shut the door on my previous profession and I needed to start working on the next. On that holiday I scrawled my first blog in a note pad determined that I was going to make a start. Now I have made a start I'm finding it easier and easier to make time for writing. So now I have waffled on for a bit here are my tips for anyone wanting to know how to find time to write (without the whole 25/8.)

  • Are you sitting comfortably?
    • One of the major reasons I get lots done is because of how I sit. I get back ache if I sit at a conventional desk for any period of time so I type from my sofa! I get up and do other tasks in between and never end up with an aching back. I have a nifty tray for my laptop and my office is created.
  • Have more than one project on the go
    • How much you write depends on the time you have available. If you only have ten minutes why not write a piece of flash fiction which you could later enter into a competition? My varying shifts mean having more than one project to choose from can be helpful.
  • Learn to say NO
    • It is very easy to let everything and anything get in the way of writing. Whether it is your working or social life there is a point at which you have to say no. Only you can decide at what point that is. But if like me you are hoping that writing will become more than a hobby then you have to start treating it as a profession. I now treat my free hours as working hours.
  • Ignore the housework
    • On the same note you must also learn to ignore the housework. It can wait. If you worked away from home you couldn't nip back to do the washing up or any of the other household chores. 
  • Write with purpose
    • Have a plan, know what you are up to or what competitions you plan to enter that month. If you have set goals in mind you are more likely to try and achieve them.
  • Increase the amount
    • I have found over past months this has happened naturally for me. The more I have written the more ideas I have been able to identify leading to more projects. If this does not happen naturally set yourself a challenge of increasing the time you write or the word count you produce.
  • Find a vice
    • Mine is tea and plenty of it. When I'm writing tea breaks are what get me through and having something to break it up will make it more enjoyable. As long as this doesn't turn into procrastination.
  • Never give up hope
    • Writing is not easy. If I wrote a list of reasons not to find time to write this blog would be much longer. When rejections come along or your great idea didn't win don't be disheartened. Instead do some reading, find out where you want wrong and try again. When I was eighteen and wanting to get into University to study Physiotherapy I was essentially told not to bother. The ratio of applicants to places at that time was 25:1. I didn't get through the conventional UCAS system and instead sent out an 'Information Profile' to all the Universities after failing to get even an interview. I included a photo on everyone and all the glowing placement reports I couldn't include on the UCAS form. The week before clearing two universities phoned me up and offered me a place. It was an unconventional way to go about it (and it is now banned - think I started a trend!) but it worked. I see writing a little bit like this. You have to find a way to elbow your way through and get yourself noticed. If you let yourself be turned away at the first hurdle then there was little point starting in the first place. Instead when ever you feel like giving up, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start writing again.  

If you have read all of this I salute you :) 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Top Tips for Christmas Shopping On Your Scooter (Disabled Shop Blogging Contest Entry)

Mobility Scooters are a great way to get around the shops. Whether out on your own scooter or hiring one there are certain things you can do to help make your shopping trip safer and more enjoyable.

Wrap up warm
You may have noticed but it’s unusually chilly and that means making sure you are prepared for the weather. If you are heading outside for any of your Christmas shopping you may feel the cold more if you are sat for long periods. Try and go out in several layers and if that is not enough why not consider a Deluxe Scooter Cosy.

Deluxe Scooter Cosy
This will keep you nice and toasty on cold days (think we may be due a few more seen as winter isn’t upon us yet!) The other weather condition to consider is rain and there are a variety of products that can help keep you dry.

Keep the key with you
Like you would with a vehicle make sure if you are leaving your scooter you take your key with you. Shopping can be very busy and it is the only way to help ensure your scooter is safe.

Be careful with your handbag
Most scooters have a basket at the front and this is the obvious place to put your handbag. This could prove tempting for bag snatchers. Instead use a shoulder bag that you can put around you or place your bag between your feet.

Keep the handlebars clear
The controls are situated by the handles and hanging anything from here is extremely hazardous. If you hang any bags on here you are at significant risk of catching the controls and the scooter going out of control. Regard the scooter like a car; you would not store shopping by your foot pedals.

Load your shopping on safely
Scooters are very helpful for carrying your shopping when your bags are stored correctly. It may be tempting but try not to overload it. There are some great bags available specifically for scooters that enable to carry any extras you might get. They can be attached to the back and the side arms and are a fantastic way to carry your shopping. 

Armrest Pouch and Saddle
Bag Set - Tartan/Blue

Ask for assistance
If you can’t get to a shop – make sure you ask for assistance. With the Disability Discrimination Act in place access to shops should be possible but this is not always the case for smaller shops. If you can’t access a shop or areas of a shop they should help assist you in locating any products you may need. Even the larger shops at this time of year can be guilty of putting promotional products in the way of normally clear aisles. If this is the case don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. It can be a pain but they are there to help you and it is their duty to do so.

Keep your walking aid handy
If you will need your walking aid whilst you are out keep your walking aid handy. A crutch and walking stick Scooter bag can be attached to your scooter so you can take them with you easily.

Switch it off
Whenever getting on or off the scooter do make sure the scooter is switched off. It is very easy to knock the controls when you go to sit or stand so make sure the vehicle will not move by switching off and removing the key.

Most of all make sure you enjoy your Christmas shopping experience. Don’t forget to have as many tea breaks and coffee stops as required and get something for yourself in the process. Or if you’re stuck with what to get your loved ones why not consider making their life easier with one of these Scooter Accessories.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Disabled Shop Blogging Contest

I always like to feature more off the beaten track competitions and there is another great one over at The Disabled Shop Blog.

The competition is geared towards writers who have a disability or work with disability. The prize is £250 in cash and the possibility of becoming a regular (paid) blogger! The closing date is the 18th December.

The current entries are featured on the blog and they have provided clear guidelines on what they are looking for so bear that in mind.

This is another one I will enter as I have lots I can blog about on this subject; I have sarcoidosis, I used to be a physiotherapist and I now work in Shopmobility. My only problem is deciding what to blog about! They are allowing more than one entry per person so if I can't decide I may write more than one. I will share the links to them here when they are up on the website.

Good Luck if you decide to enter.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Writing Competition round-up!

Just a quick update to mention a couple of competitions. There are always lots about but I like to keep an eye out for others. These are the ones I know about and intend to enter myself.

The first is on Simon Whaley's blog and it ends on the 10th December. The challenge is to write a piece of flash fiction (no more than 100 words) about love at first sight between two people. Details can be found on Simon's blog and the prize is the book '12 points to writing romance,' by Kate Walker. The book sounds very helpful and it is worth taking the time to enter.

The next competition is from Words with Jam and the idea is to send the last lines of a story. This is free to enter and the prize is a Writers Retreat with Ruth Saberton. I have just read Ruth's book 'Katy Carter wants a Hero' and loved it. I would dearly love to win this so feeling very generous to be sharing this! Deadline is 14th January so you have a while. You can enter a maximum of three times and no more than 40 words per entry.

Good Luck to anyone who is entering. I better go and get some writing done. Feeling very lazy after my week off and haven't got back into gear yet!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Post #NaNoWriMo Interview

I am back from a refreshing break at the Christmas Markets in Germany. It was nice to have a break booked directly afterwards and it has given me a chance to reflect on #NaNoWriMo - so here we have it, an interview with myself! It's the effects of #NaNoWriMo!

Now it's finished, would you do it again?

Definitely! For me it has pushed an idea forward and put some real momentum into it. I have enjoyed it much more than I ever thought I would at the start.

You enjoyed it? Surely not, writing 50,000 words must be tough going?

It was tough and certainly isn't my usual style of writing. It's a more visceral style and there is no time for editing or any such luxuries. The benefit of this is you don't stop writing. Whereas normally I might try and perfect a segment of work there is no room to indulge yourself and you just move on to the next part. It meant the story moved on much quicker than it normally would and I didn't waste any time in making decisions. There were times when I struggled but I was fortunate to have some days off work. I'm not sure I would have managed it without them.

Where you ever in danger of not finishing?

Fortunately no. Although I did have to finish early as I was going on holiday and hadn't really thought about that when I signed up. I got a bit stuck at one point but with some tips from Fiona Kendall I moved on quickly. I think my main difficulty was not having time for research. There were points when I would normally double-check stuff but wasn't able to. I'll have to fill in those blanks later.

So is your novel finished now?

No. Far from it. I still have approx another 50,000 to get the first draft finished. It is a very rough first draft and then the real work of editing/re-writing will start. I plan to finish the first draft by the end of January. This may be quicker as now I've got into a momentum I want to carry on with that.

So what tips would you give anyone wanting to do it in the future?

Well from my first time experience these would be my best tips:

1) Let everyone know you are taking part. 
This way you get support even though you are being anti-social to your friends and family.
2) Scrap all the excuses. 
There are always reasons not to write. Okay so there may be some excuses that are acceptable but I think they are in the minority. The excuses that stop us writing tend to be the more mundane ones.
3) Get in contact with others taking part. 
Their support will prove vital.
4) Treat yourself at regular intervals.
Set an amount (more than 3 words) and when you get to that point treat yourself. I had two-finger kit-kats stored in the fridge and rewarded myself with tea! Not very exciting but I am slimming world!
5) Don't give up too soon and don't dismiss your ideas.

What are you up to next?

I will be finishing this project but at a slower pace. I have some admin and competitions I want to enter and I will spend some time on them alongside the first draft of 'The Shortlist.' I will also be back blogging! There have been several posts I would have completed over November but had no time to do them so have some catching up to do!