Tag Archives: #amwriting

Diary of a hopeful author: How a deadline can make stuff happen

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

When I was young I loved studying. Loved it. I was one of those spectacled, nerdy kids who lapped up the books and got down to some serious studying every evening and thought it fun. FUN. 

That’s right. You heard correctly. Then exams came round. Exams. I’m afraid to say they never really fazed me. Christ, I sound like a right arrogant muppet, so let me explain. Exams got me nervous, of course. Exams made me question whether I knew anything. (30 years on, nothing’s changed there…) But, BUT, exams came with a deadline. A deadline! They gave you a date! You had to be there. On time! Oh it sang to my young time-concious heart like Romeo to Juliette, or Homer to Marg.

Because, you see, I love a deadline. What can you do with a deadline? You either meet it or you don’t. You sink or you swim. And that’s why I like ‘em. Deadlines are the take no prisoner guardians of time. They stand by the gates of hours and minutes, tapping their watch, shotgun in hand. You’ve got a deadline? You meet it, punk! (that sounded better in my head)

And so, to my week. I have set myself a deadline. I refer here to the editing of my book, novel number two which, it seems I have been working on forever.

Now look, I don’t know about you but I can be a cracking procrastinator. Olympic medal winning. Skirting boards need cleaning? Pass me the cloth. Cupboards need re-organising? When do I start? Kids’ rooms need cleaning? Get me…Actually, no. It’s not come to that.  You get my meaning. Add this top draw procrastination into a book edit and well, you’ve got nothing, really. No progress or, at the very least, slow progress. And so I have now turned to my old friend the deadline. If I am going to complete the 1st (only the first!) edit of this novel, then I need to get down and dirty with time.

The deadline I have set is Christmas. Christmas. I say it again so you can remember it. You can remember it so you can hold me to it. Oh crap. Saying it on this blog, you see, means I have to do it. Think of yourself as my boss, if you will, telling me to get the bloody work done by Christmas or goddammit I’m outta here! (Again, better in my head).  Meeting the deadline means averaging two edit chapters a week at minimum, sometimes more. It sounds lame, two, but trust me, it’s a lot. I have 100k words to edit. 100k words with a lot of Lovefilm app distraction on my iPad.

If you’ve got a deadline, then buddy, I salute you. If not, then go get one. Let’s do this deadline thing together, people, because, when our backs are up against the wall, it’s the only way to get things done. Nerdy glasses optional.

 Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m talking about the UK Police Commissioner elections and how ridiculous they are…**

Diary of a hopeful author: My top 10 writing scares this Halloween…Woooo!

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

Sometimes, I don’t know what to write. In fact, I’m sitting here now, and I haven’t a clue what to say. Well, okay, not exactly not a clue, but…Oh crap. See?

Not knowing what to write is something that scares me. Rather like used boxer shorts or two old people kissing, it’s something that gives me the heeby jeebies. It’s got me to thinking this week, therefore, about all things scary.

Today, of course, you lovely person you, is Halloween, that annual event where the expectation is that things scare you (as opposed to regular day scary stuff like, I don’t know, selfish politicians or iceberg lettuce) on a normalised scale. And so, I ask, what scares you? Indeed, let me take that one step further, if I may, and ask, what scares me?

In writing terms, I’d say everything scares the pants off me. I mean every-ruddy-thing. Not finishing a story. Not having any news ideas. Running out of ink. No juice left in my iPad when I need it TO EDIT!! You name it, there it is. And so, what I’ve decided to do this week, let’s say for fun, is compile a short, yet I like to think, comprehensive list of writing things that spook me right up. I may know what to do about them, I may not. You may have the same freak outs as me, you may not. But either way, it fills the page. Because, let’s face it, a blank page, writers, is the scariest thing of all…

My top ten scary writing things…

10. No pens – Yes, the laptop maybe the new pen, but no pens just scares me senseless. I need to feel the page, the glide of ink on paper. Call me old-fashioned. Or just call me old (my kids do…)

9. Being cold – Okay, I admit, an odd one this, but hear me out. I work at home. In the UK (one for the international folk. Hi!) In the winter it gets COLD. I mean shiver-to-your-bone-freezing. Trouble is, when you are sitting in one room in the house, it seems like a crime to put the heating on for just one person. So, I come armed with: a) a hot water bottle, b) furry slippers, and c) blankets. As I said, call me old…

8. Running out of coffee – Oh dear Lord, right. I ran out of coffee the other day and oh sweet Jesus, I couldn’t keep awake. It was 5 am and believe me, you don’t get much done when your eyes are clamping shut and your head is lolling on the key pad. My forehead, it turns out, can’t type that well. So coffee. Need it!

7. Running out of chocolate – as per above but in a different way. I don’t actually eat too much during the day as it sends me on a sleepy sugar low 20 mins later and all I want to do is crawl into bed and ignore everything. But, other times, chocolate is all you need. It can help me feel better! It has serotonins! It tastes so, so good! So if I’m out and I need it, well, god help me.

6. No internet access – What on earth did we do before the Internet? I mean, what? I cannot imagine researching my novel/column/where to go on holiday by library alone. The internet is so quick! So instant! And I don’t have to move. That gives me more time for chocolate.

5. Running out of ideas – Arrrggg! ARRRRRGGGG! Please! NEVER LET THIS HAPPEN OR I’M STUFFED! Enough said.

4. Writer’s block – Holy crap. Holy, holy crap. This scares us all, doesn’t it? Does it scare you? It scares the bejesus out of me. Usually, I can cut short a lull in writing by doing something else then coming back to the writing. Which leads me on to my next scare…

3. Not being able to run – It’s how I overcome a scribe’s blockage, if you will. Yup, got writer’s block? Go for a run. Or a walk. Or a cycle, whatever, just get out. Works for me so much that I cannot cope without it. And, it also means I can keep eating all that chocolate, so you know, every cloud…

2. My laptop breaking – Nope. Sorry. Just cannot contemplate this one. Uh-uh. No. NO!

1. Never getting a chance to write – It’s the number 1 and boy, what would I do without writing. I love writing. Love it. It’s my (cringe alert!) passion. It really, really is. It’s all I want to do for a job. It’s like a job that doesn’t feel like a job, and if you can achieve that, when you have to, as a grown up, work for a living, then you’re on to a winner, right? It might be hard at times, low paid for a looooong time – you may even start talking to yourself (hello, me!). Heck, people may say along the way that it’s a dream this writing lark, but I ain’t giving it up. Nope. No way. Because that really would scare me.

What scares you about writing? Or about, hey, anything else for that matter? Tell it to me.

 Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m talking about the wrongness of the objection to the solar panels in Thornbury’s Castle Street…**

Diary of a hopeful author: How to find more time to write…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 Time’s a devil, isn’t it? I mean, a right old devil. It’s rather like a teenager; one minute it loves you and gives you a kiss good night, the next it hates your guts and will do anything it can to sabotage your day.

Well folks, I’m here to tell you that rather like marmalade and ham, or a fleece with heels, say, writing and time do not always go together. Unless you’re my daughter, in which case, apparently marmalade and ham are as tasty as a chocolate covered marshmallow.

You see, as a writer, one of the things I find myself uttering is, ‘I haven’t got enough time.’ Sound familiar? Heck, if you’re a mum/dad/busy employee/avid House DVD box-set watcher, you’ll know exactly what I mean, too. Because we never have enough time, do we?

Our days are packed, stuffed, if you will, to the rafters. Like a cupboard that is rammed full of clothes we don’t want but haven’t yet sorted, our days are fit to burst with things to do. Work. Making dinner. Eating dinner. Having dinner flicked on you by child. Seeing friends. Phoning friends. Ebaying till the wee hours of the morning to win the all-wool blazer you’ve had your eye on (long story – it’s coming up to winter here…). Either way you split it, time ain’t on your side. And that’s before you even begin to do something as taxing as writing.

And this is the thing. Writing, if that’s your bag, is the job that gets shoved to the bottom of your to-do list. ‘I don’t have time!’ we wail, crawling into bed, our minds alert to the fact that in 6 hours we’ll be up and on that living treadmill again.

So what do we do? Well, apart from eating our body weight in chocolate and watching re-runs of Friends, we stop. Yup, you didn’t miss hear me. Stop. Go on, put those feet up. That’s it. Now  breathe. Because, halting what we do, you see, strangely, gives us – yes you’ve guessed it, you bright spark, you – time.

This time slot though, is different. It’s different because this time haven gives us time to think, and as writers our ability to think is one of our best assets. So, if we always fill our time and never stop, how will we ever, you know, think? You with me?

So, once you’ve let your brain loose on some free-range thinking, your next task is to be honest. No, I don’t mean fess up on the knock-a-door-run you used to play on your neighbours when you were 9 (it wasn’t me, honest), but be honest with yourself. Come on, get it out. How much time do you really waste? We’re talking honesty here, remember? I bet you my entire chocolate stash that, if you really thought about it, you could identify little pockets of time where you either : a) waste; b) take on too much; or c) procrastinate. Me, I can answer a safe ‘yes’ to all three. See? Me, being, you know, honest.  Virtual high fives.

Now, once you’ve been honest, take that thinking time you’ve stolen and get time slotting. When do you think you could snatch some writing time? Thought yet? I’ll help a little. You see me, I’m a morning gal. Sad, so sad, but true. So for years now, morning writing is my thing. When my kids were babies, I would rise at 5am to get a couple of hours writing under my belt before the day’s vomiting/feeding/bottom wiping/gurgling would commence, and that was just my husband (joke…).  Today, the girls are a tad older, but I still get up early where I can. My hubbie is not like me. He is a night owl, and while I fall asleep in front of the TV, mouth dribbling like a carp on a ship deck, his brain is just beginning to whirr into action. Me, I am useless to no one at that time.

So, that’s the next nugget – pick your time poison, so to speak. Are you a morning dude or a night rocker? And don’t forget those middle-of-the day snippets, too. 10 minutes of writing here, 20 minutes there. Grab a pen and write down whatever waffle comes into your head (or look! Write a waffle blog…!) And of course, folks – and here’s the silver lining – reading counts as time well spent when you’re a writer. I know! Yup, who knew that reading books was a job-ish. Dammit – it is! If you don’t read, you can’t write – and that is the joy (jammy sod element) of our craft

So go grab that time, people. Go! And when you get it, stick it between your teeth and don’t let it go until you’ve written something. And me? I’m releasing my jaw on this, my own sneaky little writing time slot…now.

Do you have enough time to write, or to do anything, for that matter? What are your time-snatching secrets? Share it with the people – come on! Let’s hear it.

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m talking about the NHS and how privatisation of it is wrong. So very, very wrong…**

Diary of a hopeful author: Hey! How an iPad can help you edit…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 These iPads are the thing aren’t they? I mean, really, they’re snazzy. Have you got one? Tap it. Go on. Hmm? You‘ve not got one? Okay, so reach over and tap someone else’s. What’s that? It’s the bloke’s next to you sat on the train? What the hell. Give that screen a little slide.

You see, as I write this, I have an iPad by my side all flat and sleek like washboard stomach at a gym. But, thing is, I haven’t used it much for writing. Well, I say much, not at all really. And the Love Film app, it turns out, doesn’t count. You see, if you follow this Wednesday Waffling/Diary blog (and MASSIVE thanks if you do) you’ll know from previous entries that I am in the throes of editing my second novel. It’s not been going so well.  Thankfully, I’ve figured out that editing a book is like painting a picture – it’s got to be done in layers, like the colours on canvas. I’ve also figured out that it takes time and patience. I know, doesn’t take Einstein to figure that one out. 

The tricky thing I’ve been finding this week though is that when I’m editing my novel, I’m not reading it, you know? I mean really reading it, like a reader. But woman! You may be saying. You are reading the thing, goddammit, you’re editing it! And yes, my friend, you’d be right. But, trouble is, I’ve not been reading my novel like I would if it wasn’t mine – and this is the nut at the centre of my issue. 

iPads- snazzy & handy for editing. Who knew?

You see, when you’re at stage one of editing a novel you have to look at the bigger picture issues. Does the plot make sense? How is the characterisation working? Is the POV – the point of view – right? All bullet-landing questions and ones, I’ve discovered via mild swear words muttered at my laptop in the small hours of the morning,  that I cannot fully answer when I’m pouring over every detail on the laptop screen, my eyes literally seeing double as I stumble jelly legged to the kettle in desperate need of more caffeine.  

So, imagine my surprise when I discover that the answer to all my problems lies not in a new foundation from Bobbi Brown (although, given my current caffeine complexion, that may also help), but in the iPad. My iPad. And, specifically, the Kindle app on my iPad. 

What I didn’t know that I do now is that you can send PDF files to a Kindle/Kindle app and then read it on said technology. Whoa! This is the gold nugget, people. Because, you see, reading on a Kindle is, you know, just like reading a book. Are you with me? And so, if I sent my draft novel as a PDF to the Kindle app on my iPad… yes! Do you see where I’m going here? Of course you do, you sharp tack in the box, you! By reading my novel on my iPad/Kindle, I can view it JUST LIKE A READER WOULD. Ta-da! Seriously, I cannot believe I didn’t think of this before. It’s like discovering that I actually do like dark chocolate all over again. 

So, what I am doing now is going through the 1st edit stage of my novel using my iPad/Kindle. I read my draft as I would any other book on the Kindle app and then, on the table, I have open my laptop on which is the novel as a word document. Then, when I read something that needs editing, I tap on the laptop and hey presto! Progress! You knew? It’s the ‘reading it like any other book’ bit that’s the key here. By reading my novel in this way I am more objective. I can see what readers might see, not just what I see, which is, let’s face it, coming from a highly critical stance. Yup, writers are their own worst critics, and, as it turns out, their own worst eyebrow pluckers, but that’s another story (why do tweezers hurt so much?).

So, for the rest of this week I shall be iPadding. I will be using my iPad Kindle app thingy to edit my book at this all-important big picture stage. Hopefully, it will help me steer the novel in the right direction. And if not, at the very least, it will mean that I am using my iPad. It has apps! It has games!  It has instant celebrity gossip magazine access! Oh yes, iPads really, really are the thing.

So what d’you think? Is the iPad really the thing? What’s your thing for editing or, hey, reading, you know, books? Let’s hear it.

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m going back to wind turbines and looking at the cold, hard data, people…**

Diary of a hopeful author: How to edit your novel like a painting…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 Do you sometimes have days where you don’t know what to do? Well, welcome to my week. Yup, these past few days I have been procrastinating with a capital P, and here’s why: my editing sucks. There said it.  The editing of my second novel is going worse than a knees up at a party political conference and it’s doing my head in. You may recall me mentioning my editing issues before, and for this, I apologise. Thing is, it is now reaching boiling point and do you know what? I know why. I do. So, I’m going to be honest with you now. The reason why my editing is going so badly is because I am utterly impatient.

When I first began writing books some years ago, editing seemed easy.  Yes, it appeared like a breeze on the wind after a long trek through the desert. But now I know better. Oh yessurey. You see, editing a novel cannot be done in one go, as it turns out.  And it is this I have to come to terms with.  Think of editing a book as a painting. Paintings are full of colours, textures, layers, but of course, they were not all put on in one go. Oh no. And, hope you’re sitting down, because here is my analogy.

Look at all those layers..!

Paintings have a base layer of colour. For a book, this base layer is equivalent to edit number 1. Yes, edit number one is your base edit. ee? It is the very first edit of your work after the idea has spilled out of you on to the blank page. At this first stage, you need to edit your style. Read through each chapter, adjust your lines, your dialogue.  Ask if your writing is good. How are you characters?

What you can’t do at the same time as edit one is figure out pacing. Pacing goes to edit number two, or, if you’re a painter, your next layer of colour. This is the one that gives the artwork dimension. The pacing for the novel is how the chapters flow together. Ask yourself is it fast enough? Slow enough? Cut and mold your chapters. Include here too how the characters fit together. Cull also anything you don’t need.

When your washed out doing that then your ready for the final edit – edit number three. This is your final layer of colour, if you will, the layer that makes the eyes visible on the face (stay with me). At this stage of the novel edit you need to proof check like crazy. And then read the entire thing back through again. Check for the flow after all your work from the other edits. Read it as if you are a reader. Ask yourself would you buy it. You may find you need to tweak, and God forbid, you may need another mini- edit, but it will be the signature on the canvas, so to speak.

And so there you go – the reason why I am impatient. Because editing comes in layers. If I want to do it well  – and I really, really do – then I have to do it like this. I have to stage my edits, polish my work so it ends up shining enough for someone to want to read it. And all that takes time.

So, I guess I’m going to have to suck it up and get on with it. Yes, it’s going to take forever, but it will be worth it. Better than a knees up at a party political conference any day. Now, where’s my paintbrush.

How do you edit? Do you do anything different? Or does it take forever too?

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about the badger culling in Gloucestershire…**

Diary of a hopeful author: How I write to episodes of 24…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

How do you work? Or more’s the point – how do you write? It’s a subject of reasonably fevered discussion here and I’ll tell you why. Nine times out of ten, I can’t write in silence. It’s like time has stood still and my brain has frozen over. The reason I say all this is that the past week has seen me swimming in editing and writing. Sometimes it works out well, other, mah, not so much. But imagine my surprise when I realise that my best bouts of productivity come when I have 24 playing on my iPad in the background! It’s like having your cake and eating it. My friend thinks I’m nuts (don’t say it…) ‘Christ,’ she says, ‘how can you work with all that going on? If anyone so much as sneezes when I’m working at my desk, my mind implodes.’ Best not tell her then about the gun-shooting chase scenes in 24 then…

There is research out there that says that when a brain is multi-tasking, you know, lots of noise, activity, it can lock down on the task its owner needs to do.  Owner. It makes my brain sound like it’s a little puppy. Actually, that’s not a bad analogy…Anyway, of course, even though I am a woman, multi-tasking doesn’t always work out. I do find myself catching a scene of 24, for example, gauping at it then returning to my work and wondering what the hell I was writing about. And then it…Sorry, where was I?

It doesn’t just have to be episodes of 24 for me. In the past few months of writing and editing various projects I have got through: The entire series of My So Called Life (I learnt so much!); Series 1-4 of Prison Break (tattoos as maps – who knew?); over 10 films; 5 BBC documentaries; and one episode of Dennis the Menace (my daughter was off ill…). I’m like the hungry catapillar of box sets. Sometimes, when on the rare occasions TV and film on loop doesn’t boost my brain, I switch to music. We’re talking a bit of classical, jazz mainly. Sometimes only talking will do, so I go to BBC radio 5 or 4. If I’m feeling really with it, I’ll go to radio 1, but, as I am not below 25, this has literally only happened once.

As I shuffle through the rest of this week, I shall be watching 24 on loop. In fact, as I write this at, let’s see, 5.40 a.m., Episode 16 of Season 3 is playing on my iPad. It does make me feel quite sneaky, watching programmes when a) I am working and b) everyone else is still asleep. It’s like sneaking out of class at school without permission and going down the shops. Whether I’ll get a load of work done this week is still to be seen. But hey, at least I’ll know what’s happening to Jack Bauer and his team. Him and Denice the Menace.

So, how do you work or write? Which camp are you on: Is it total silence or a little bit of noise?

 Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about speed cameras…**

Diary of a hopeful author: E.M.Forster is teaching me to write…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

Sometimes your brain gets in a right old muddle. Do you ever get that feeling? When everything you do seems like your walking through a sludgy river and you’re hardly moving at all. Well this past week I’ve been editing my second novel and that is how it has been – walking through sludge. It’s not been all bad. I’ve had a great time procrastinating watching back to back episodes of 24 on Love Film.com, and I’m getting exceptionally skilled at making a pot of coffee in less than three minutes. I haven’t timed myself or anything. No, no… 

Anyhoo, twas during one of my more productive days – namely one where I was writing my column and not editing my book – that I wandered into Stroud library on my way home. There upon I stumbled upon (just picked up) a book that, quite frankly, has cleared my waters, as it were, to the point where I can finally see my boots (stay with me). The book is called Aspects of the Novel, and its author is the late, great E.M.Forster.  The book is a transcript of a series of lectures he gave back in 1927 to Cambridge University about, as you may have guessed, the novel.  In the lectures, he breaks down and analyses what it is that makes a great novel – and as a writer it is the best thing I have ever read. Forster was ahead of his time. Describing stories, plots, he is witty but grounded, informative yet inquisitive. Basically, he knows his stuff. There are six main areas he covers:

  1. The Story
  2. People (two lectures)
  3. The Plot
  4. Fantasy
  5. Prophecy
  6. Pattern and Rhythm

Right now, I’m immersed in The Plot lecture, but I have learnt so much.  Forster’s lectures have given me my confidence back a little – and if I’m honest with you, I’ve been lacking this for the last few weeks.  Take the story. Forster says the novel must tell a story. We all know this, you may think. And you’d be right. But then he goes on to talk about the story aspect of a novel. He says the story is essential, without which, novels cannot exist. It’s like a huge dose of reminders all in one go. Reminders like: story is different to plot. Story is: ‘The wife died and then the husband died.’ Whereas Plot is: ‘The wife died and then the husband died of grief.’ See? Also, in a story, the reader says, ‘and then?’; in a plot the reader says, ‘why?’.  Handy reminder, right? It’s things like this I already knew, but, when clouded by an edit of a book I am close to, they are aspects I sometimes forget. And forget them at my peril, because without them, basically, my novel would suck. Not E.M Forster’s words, but I think he would wholeheartedly agree.

His ‘People’ lecture is another aspect that has helped. Forster talks about round characters and flat characters. Dickens used flat characters. Flats are one that are, effectively, like a forest stream, predictable. Stereotypical, if you will. Yet rounded characters – as used by Jane Austen – like the sea, surprise us. They do unexpected acts, thoughts. This in particular was an eye opener to me.  Forster discusses having both types in a novel. The reason Dickens uses just flat characters is because he bounces the reader from one aspect to the next so you do not mind the shiftings in viewpoint, the shape of the characters. So if you’re as good as Dickens, go for it, flat your characters right out. But which ever way you roll, the most important point is this: make your characters convincing.

Well now, get me and my pep talk on novel-writing. There is so much more Forster dishes out that I could talk about but I don’t want to drone on so I will sush. What I will say is that if you are writing a novel, then get your hands on his book. Mine is only a library copy, so the important points I would like to pencil I have had to instead post-it note. The book now resembles a ticker-tape parade. I shall be buying my own copy very soon.

So, that’s been my week. I am now gradually walking faster through the sludge and at some point hope to make it to clear water (how far can I push this analogy?) Editing a book is great and rubbish all in one go. But at least now I have Forster on my side. Him and more episodes of 24. May your waters be clear….

Links: Aspects of the Novel on Amazon, E M Forster on Wikipedia

**Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about the endangered school playing field…**

My latest column: Shop fronts should look better for business

It’s “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my weekly newspaper column to my blog so you can have a read…

This week my column for the Gloucestershire Gazette is all about why better shop fronts are better for business. You can also catch up on my Gazette columns from the past few weeks. To read it, simply click to my Column page.

What do you think? Should shop fronts be neater? Should they follow a town ‘brand’ including colours? Or should each shop be individual? 

**STOP PRESS: I’m writing for a new newspaper very soon. It’s a brand new weekend column. Details to follow shortly. Watch this (well not this, but you know, the blog..) space…**

**Look out for  Wednesday Wafflings next, um, Wednesday, where I post the latest entry in My Diary of a Hopeful Author**