Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My mantra

Nothing's easy,
everything's possible.

When I was sixteen and revising for my GCSEs I wrote this statement on a piece of card and put it on the back of my bedroom door. It was somewhat of an art work and I spent an afternoon of revision time on the project. It may have been an early sign of my ability to procrastinate but in fact it was a great source of focus over the coming weeks. Every time I lost concentration or felt like I wouldn't get the grades I wanted I would look at that statement. GCSEs were not the only obstacle I would face in my quest to qualify as a physiotherapist and my thoughts often returned to this phrase.

Yesterday I was walking along the road thinking about my writing goals and 'Nothing's easy, everything's possible' popped into my head. It was the first time I recognised the fact that at sixteen I had created my own mantra. I believe it entirely. Nothing I really want to achieve in life will come easy but if I work really hard I know I can achieve it.

Anyone who knows me will recognise how this reflects my approach to most things in life. Hopefully my mantra will see me through to becoming a published novelist. So if you don't have a mantra it may be worth thinking one up!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Some recommended reading for writers

Alongside writing I have been cramming in some reading. I'm an avid reader but rather than my usual dose of fiction I've been reading up on writing. I have to recommend my three latest reads to anyone wanting to become a writer.

From Pitch to Publication by Carole Blake - This provides an in-depth look into the world of publication. Carole is a well-known agent but this book also gives valuable information for un-agented writers. I don't think it matters at what point along the writing journey you are, this book is an essential read. It has opened my eyes up to a number of aspects of publishing and the decision process that runs alongside these - most of which I had little knowledge of before reading this.

Plotting the Novel by Michael Legat - In Carole's book she has listed some very useful books as further reading. This was one of her suggestions and I have to say it is a wonderful read. The information provides a great guide, particularly the last section on synopsis with an example. I have used this information to write up my first rough synopsis for my present work in progress.

Lastly, I am presently reading Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss.  This was recommended to me as I  am aware I still have some dyslexic traits. Even though I have not finished this one yet, I can already recommend it.

You won't hear as much from me over the next couple of weeks as I prepare for the York Festival of Writing.  I am really looking forward to this; I have one to one meetings arranged with Jean Fullerton and Lyn Vernham. I am just in the process of preparing the information and first chapter I need to send ahead of the festival for them to look at before offering their help and advice. I had thought perhaps I has been a little pre-emptive booking up before completion of my first draft when many others will be at a final draft stage. Now it is getting closer to the event I feel that I am at the right stage to receive advice on my manuscript. With any changes that may be advised being much more pain-free to put into action at this stage rather than a later one.

So my next post will be after I have completed and sent of the information for the festival.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

100 stories for Queensland

100 Stories for Queensland

I like to think I have a fairly active imagination but there are always certain occasions that are just too vast for me to comprehend. The events in Queensland are a recent example with the sheer scale of the flood water covering an area the size of France and Germany combined. I can't even pretend to understand the recovery effort that will be involved.

So when there was a call for short stories I wanted to take part.  This was for several reasons including the fact my current work is progress is partly based in Australia.

So I set to writing an up-beat short story. I only had a small window as my work schedule was hectic after my days off but I managed to complete something and submit it.

During the process Nick Daws, who has been volunteering as part of the editing team, wrote a very useful blog post. The advice in it does not just apply to this project but when considering any other short stories.

When the long list was announced and I found my entry was on the list I was more than a little surprised! I went on to tell anyone who was willing to listen about how pleased I was and how I wasn't expecting to make the final cut.

I decided at that point that in order to show my support for the project I would publish my story on this blog. This is a brave step for me as I never tend to share my work on-line.

So for this post I planned to publish In A Jiffy for you. This is the point I should introduce my story and encourage you to purchase the book - but NO! You will have to wait.......until 8th March when it will be published as part of 100 Stories for Queensland!

I couldn't quite believe the news when I discovered my story had been selected amongst the 100 stories, especially given I will be published alongside some of my writing heroes! The full list can be found here and as you can see from the titles it promises to be a great read.

So apologies for not being able to publish my story here but all the more reason for you to help support this very worthy cause. All proceeds from the book are going to the Queensland Premier's Flood Relief Appeal and every one involved has volunteered their time. I must add a big thank you to all those involved who are all putting in a massive effort so the book is ready for 8th March.

I'll post a reminder nearer the time in the hope of encouraging you to all buy a copy!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Internet Black-Out

It turns out the easy way to manage your time effectively is to unplug the internet. Although if I just unplugged the internet it is pretty guarenteed I would have it back on by the evening. Instead as luck would have it our modem has died and we are now awaiting the replacement.

It means for the next few days I have no internet access at home and I'm finding this is no bad thing. It may be more of a problem if I couldn't check my emails via my phone but as I can at least do this it solves that issue. So I now have three days off work and hope for a very productive three days. Alas I will miss the interactions I normally have but I can still manage some via my phone.

I'm not sure when we will have the internet back. I hope it's not too long as I already have the jitters. Needless to say I won't be doing any more posts until it's back up and running.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Focus Check-List

When you are working on a large project it is really easy to lose focus. I know because I'm pretty guilty of that presently. When I started working on my novel I was doing it at my own pace. It was a steady pace and one I would be pleased with but then I took part in NaNoWriMo and completed 50,000 words in one month. It highlighted to me the fact that when I am focused I can be much more productive. I don't think I can work at that break-neck speed all the time but it did prove if I put all my effort in I really can achieve results.

Since completing NaNoWriMo the novel has progressed to 75,000 words but at present remains without a beginning or an end and these are very essential parts of a novel. Yesterday I had lunch with the lovely Penny Legg and chatting to her made me realise I am not focusing enough on my main work in progress.

I find it far too easy to get distracted by short stories for competitions and smaller projects. Whilst this is all very well for learning it doesn't make for finishing my novel. With the York Festival of Writing coming up I really do need to adjust my focus onto this.

So after some thought I decided to write this blog with a check-list of questions. These questions are the problem areas I identify with.

Are you spending too much time on unnecessary tasks?
In other words - Am I procrastinating? Every writer is guilty of this myself included. As an example, if I start working before I log onto twitter, I get a lot more done than with it on. This is something I need to keep a check on over the next couple of months to help improve my productivity.

Are any extra tasks appropriate?
I get distracted far too easily. It is not necessarily that I am distracted from writing but I will often have ideas that are nothing to do with the task in hand. Instead they may be ideas for short stories or non-fiction articles. On occasions it may be appropriate to complete these tasks ahead of my main objective but more often than not it is just another form of distraction. The same can be said for any other number of chores/tasks/ projects/social events* that we take on.

*delete as appropriate

Are you avoiding it because it's difficult?
I'm missing the beginning and the end - I think this says something about me. These for me will be the most difficult parts to get right so I have to ask am I avoiding them? Undoubtedly the answer is yes. I am at the stage where I need to get down to the nitty-gritty and that means a lot of hard work with some stressed out moments. This is partly my own fault for not plotting beforehand - something I've learnt for next time - but for now I have to untangle the web I have sewn to make sure it works. This question is important for me as I don't always realise I am partaking in avoidance.

Are you using your time effectively?
Phew! Something I am not guilty of. I do think that since starting this blog I have learnt to use my time effectively when it comes to writing. I work 25 hours a week so I have to fit my writing time around my work schedule. At first I found this difficult as I felt almost like I had to be in 'the zone' in order to be writing but pretty soon I discovered the zone doesn't really exist. You just have to get on with it. Nowadays I write for the half day I'm not at work, I read about writing on the bus, I blog and plan in the evenings and then take my book to bed with me. So all I need to do now is be more selective in what I am writing.

How much time do you need to complete the task?
This ties in with some of the other questions I have asked here. If you have started to use your time effectively it is helpful to have a goal in mind for when it will be finished.  It will make setting aside time a priority. I originally had mid-February in mind for completion of my first draft but I have slacked and this is unrealistic given that it's the 5th already! So I will now be aiming for the end of February and that means lots of work ahead.

This list of questions will help me to double-check that my focus hasn't shifted. You may identify with some of them or have your own ways of keeping focus. I'll let you know how I'm getting on - although does that count as a distraction?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Clash of the Comics!

This year for Comic Relief Walkers crisps have four new flavours! Each one is linked with a famous comedian as you may be able to guess from the flavour names: Stephen Fry Up, Steak and Al Pie, Frank Roast Dinner and Jimmy Con Carrne. Walkers need your votes to help them on the way to raising one million pounds for Comic Relief. The best part is the comedian with the least votes will play a forfeit! So who will you choose to back - Stephen Fry, Al Murray, Frank Skinner or Jimmy Carr? 

Which to try first?
I got together an unofficial taste tester panel - the five strong taster crew consisted of Mr Russ, Mr Ed, Mr Dan, Kat and myself! At the end of the evening the votes came in at:
Mr Dan making a tough decision!

  • Stephen Fry Up - 2 votes
  • Steak and Al Pie - 1 vote
  • Frank Roast Dinner - 2 votes
  • Jimmy Con Carrne - 0 votes
So no clear winner but looks like if it was up to us Jimmy Carr would be doing the forfeit! Fortunately for him it is not up to us and you can help by voting for your favourite.

So make sure on your next shopping trip you pick some up and help decide the fate of these fine fellows. Once you have tried them all make sure you vote for your favourite. You can also pledge your support and  follow progress via twitter and facebook!