Tag Archives: Reading

Diary of a hopeful author: I’ve only gone & finished my novel

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

Oh my days, I am excited. And it is not because we go on holiday in THREE WEEKS, although, to be fair, that is up there with the best of them. Nah, the news I bring you this week, after a couple of months of re-blogging old posts on a Wednesday because I have had my head down busy editing, is this: I have finished my novel. I will repeat that because it sounds soooo good: I have FINISHED my novel.

Yessury, after one whole year of researching, planning, developing outlines, creating a synopsis and eating my body weight in chocolate, my novel is now not only written, but edited – four times. I now have 74k words of, what I hope, is a cracking psychological thriller, the first in an instalment of three. Draft one of book one was 90k words, meaning that the four editing phases I have completed have culled nearly 20k words. Holy mother.

Next up now is to get it sent off to agents and then, go for it. I’ll post back next week on, what I think, are the dos and don’t of contacting agents on this one, so that’ll be one to watch out for. Until then, I am going to rest my fingers for one night and maybe not get up at 5am tomorrow. Just 6 am instead.

So, if you’re writing a book, or have an idea for one, all I can say is this: do it. Don’t give up, keep going, because when you finish it, when you know you’ve done the best you can, it doesn’t half feel good. And then you open the laptop and start book number two from scratch.

Writing a novel? How do you keep going? Still in the middle of writing or just finished yourself? Let me know.

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: The book pulping has to stop

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of 

Photo of a Diarya Hopeful Author…

Call me old-school, but I like books. Not simply the e-ones, although, to be fair, they are amazing, increasing, as they do, the universal access to reading and information and the wonder that is knowledge. But books, the ones with spines and pages and the heady scent of learning – they are something else. And so, I bring to you this week – whilst  I swim in the deep end of my final book edit -a piece I wrote back in June 2012 for an old ‘Media Monday’ post, all about how Manchester Central Library were going to cull their book stores, pulping them, just like a similar proposal for New York Central Library.  Have a read and see what you think. I, meanwhile, shall go edit another 20,000 words…

 

“They’re pulping all the books” – Media Monday post – June 2012

Book pulping. Is it a) a new a Tarintino film; b) a fist-fight at a literary festival; or is it c) the shredding of books from a library. Well, this week, Manchester Central Library has found itself in a pulping mess after – in an open letter to the Head Librarian (you can read it here) – a host of eminent literary names called for a halt to the destruction of thousands of library books from the vaults of the long-standing library.

According to The Guardian, it turns out that for the past 18-months, Manchester Central Library has been culling – pulping – its stack of non-fiction books because renovations for the elegant domed building have not included enough room for, well, all the books.  You’ve got to question what on earth they were they thinking when the renovation decisions were being made. Just imagine the meeting where they discussed the library’s future. ‘Right, so, we need to renovate, yes?’ Cue murmurs of agreement. ‘It’s going to cost £170million and take three years. It will look fabulous. Any other considerations? Anyone? We’ll have enough space, right? Right? Great. Custard slice?’ Hmmm.  The thing is, I understand why libraries

Manchester Central LibraryManchester Central Library – but where are the books?

have this predicament. The more books they have, the more space to store them becomes an issue – it is a problem the New York Central Library is experiencing right now in their own renovations process.

But the point of a library is to have books. And those books are used by the people to learn, to expand their knowledge. Take older books away and you take away a history, a timeline of information and a generation of experience and thought. It turns out I’m not the only one who thinks this way. In their open letter, the literary figures said: “We are concerned that far too much of the irreplaceable collection is in danger of being lost forever. We demand that the current destruction of stock is halted and that a thorough investigation of the library’s disposal policy is carried out.”

In this age of the digital book, there is a clear argument that the use of books via such media can provide constant access to literature resources whilst saving valuable space and money. This I agree with in many ways. But to destroy old books, just like that, with no consultation with the public who use them and in many ways you could argue own them? That’s wrong. Would artifacts be destroyed from a museum? Or Royal documents or jewels be scrapped? Of course not – so why these books?

The Manchester Central Library was built in the Great Depression as a symbol of hope, its vast circular inscription reading “exalt wisdom and she shall promote thee”. Maybe, before they destroy any more books, the powers that be should stop and read that inscription for a second. At least it’s one set of words that can’t be pulped – I hear stone’s is hell to pick out of a shredder.

 What do you think? Should books be pulped or kept?

 Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog…*

Diary of a hopeful author: How to be a better proof reader. Sort of.

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

I bring good news. Well, it’s good news for me; you, however, may not share in my celebration, unshackled,as you are, by the endless workings of this blooming novel, but still – I shall share with you. Yes, the news is that I’ve (finally) finished the 3rd edit round of my book – and I am mighty pleased. Edit three was an additional, character development edit layer, where I worked on the main character, her traits and general characterisation throughout the book. And while I’d like to think – after reviewing 90,000 words and cutting to 70,000 – it was over, I’m having to slot in another final edit, a vital one: edit number 4 – the proof check. Be afraid.

So, while I work on that to a deadline, I bring you to a post I wrote back in January on my traditionally, and quite frankly, rubbish proof reading skills – and how to get better at it. (Top tip: when proof checking grammar etc, I read it in the voice of a robot. I do. I sound daft as a brush, but it works. God, this life.) Enjoy!

“How to be better at proof reading. Sort of…” (January, 2013)

It’s been all about the edit this week. But not as we know it. Last week I (finally) finished my second novel, and while I’m chuffed to bits, I am relieved not to look at it for a while because the amount of things to do while I wrote it have been piling up around my head – the biggest of which is my first novel. ‘Honey,’ my hubbie says as he reads through my weekly column before I send it to my editor, ‘I corrected a few mistakes there for you.’ I nod my weary head and take the laptop from him.

You see, as well as not being able to cook for toffee (I burn soup), I am utterly rubbish at proofreading.  I’ve mentioned this slight downfall of mine in this blog before and how it is a bit of a pain, considering my profession. It’s a bit like a doctor saying diagnosing isn’t their strong point, a government saying it’s not really the best at closing tax-haven loopholes (little bit topical there, see…) or a dog not quite being able to aim at the lamppost correctly – it’s supposed to be what they do.

It’s because of my little weakness that I find myself in the frantic position of having to re-edit my first book, The Boy Who Played Guitar. The fantastic thing about publishing on to Amazon has been that it has put me out there and given me amazing feedback on what I can do. I’ve been lucky; everyone has been positive. The reviews have been good and readers have loved the heart-warming, sad tale, the twists, the turns, the characters. The only downside is the odd mistake littered here and there because of, quite frankly, my crap proof reading skills – and readers deserve a well-proof read book with as little mistakes in it as possible. I did proof read the book before I self-published it – and it got amazing feedback from literary agents – but the thing is I did it all my myself, pulling an all-nighter to do so, so that, by the time I reached the end of the novel, I was bleary-eyed, grumpy and unable to check a my kids’ homework for errors, never mind a piece of writing. In fact, have you spotted any mistakes in this piece? No? Go on, have a look…See, told yoo…

One of the most crucial things I have learnt since first publishing my book is this: get someone to help. Anyone will do. Your neighbour (I did), your mates, parents, spouse (it only causes a few arguments, so…) Just be ready for some clear, honest critiquing and always pick someone who is going to tell it to you straight. Best not pick a politician then. I have been proof reading The Boy Who Played Guitar now since Saturday and it’s – touch wood – going okay. I did stay up until 2 a.m. on Saturday night, but got so tired I had to have two cat naps to keep going. When it got to my eyes dosing off for the third time I decided to call it a day, well, night – I’d make more mistakes proofreading half asleep, and believe me, I can make mistakes at the best of times (just ask my kids…).

Our youngest is off ill today, so I’ll spend the day catching up with paperwork and emails while I keep an eye on her (sore throat – poor poppet) That means I should be able to finish proofreading tonight and all day tomorrow. After that, I’ll be ready to re-upload it to Amazon and then? Contact as many blogs I know who take submissions of books for review. A scary thought, but highly essential. Once that’s done, it’s back to more editing, but this time of my second novel. Dear God, no wonder I’m cream crackered. ‘Mum,’ says our youngest, ‘I’m cream crackered, too.’ Her voice makes me jump – she is behind me, reading as I type. ‘Honey, you snuck up on me.’ She smiles. ‘Sorry.’ Then, as she gets back into bed, she says, ‘Mum, you spelt ‘you’ wrong in paragraph three.’ I look. She is right. She’s 8-years old. Told you I was rubbish at proof reading.

 Have any proof reading top-tips to share? Do let me know – I need all the help I can get…

Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog…*

Diary of a hopeful author: How to find time to write in 7 steps

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

Photo of a Diary

Well now, hello there. I’ve been a hot footing it gal this past week, trotting off on my hols and now I’m back. Although, to be fair, those “hols” were in a wet field in North Wales, camping under canvas in the driving wind and rain. Ah, the joys of a British break, the cold, grey swill of clouds that cover the sky like a dirty blanket.

Anyhoo, I’m back to it now and, as the finishing of my book approaches, I’ve trawled through my blog this week to find a piece I wrote on, well, writing, or, more specifically, how to keep on writing. And so, because, writing’s a solitary job, below you’ll find my wafflings on how, when the doubts set in or the ideas dry up, I keep on writing all the same.

I’ve added for you, at the end of it, a 7-step summary, a quick-fire solution, if you will, on how to find time to write.  Hope it helps. Laptops/pens/crayons at the ready…

“How to find time to write”

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.

7-Steps to take to find time to write:

1. Stop. Breathe. Step away from the laptop/pen/crayon

2. Use this break as time to think. Maybe fix a snack.

3. Now ask yourself (honestly): How much time do I really waste not writing?

4. Identify, from that time wasting analysis, slots where you can write – e.g. before breakfast, on the train, when the kids are asleep, lunch break

5. Know if you are a morning or evening person. When do you work best?

6. Put steps 4 & 5 together and there you have identified times when you can write. High five.

7. Get writing – anything will do, whatever’s in your head. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Just write it. Get it out of your head and on to the page. Go on. Edit later.  If struggling, repeat steps 1&2, with extra snacks.

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…**

Diary of a hopeful author: The day I accidentally got into the wrong car

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

This week I’ve been impatient and I thought, hey, this sounds familiar. Turns out, it is, familiar, I mean, to me, this impatience thing, the jitteriness that makes me forge an inability to wait for the good stuff like a toddler struggles to wait to for the loo.

Rubbish analogies aside, while I now approach the end of edit number 3 of my second novel, I looked to my blog to trawl for posts on impatience and happened upon this one. The reason I like it isn’t just because it’s a memory road trip for me on self-publishing my first book, but it contains a very funny, real anecdote about me, basically, getting into the wrong car.

So, if you’re getting fed up with the pace of how your work is going, my message is this: hold  on. Get stuck in and keep going. Just don’t get into the wrong car.

Being impatient gets me into the wrong car

Last  week I had a cold, this week I have the sulks. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking toddler tantrums here, we’re talking a mild, lingering bottom lip, and like a case of bad flatulence, it won’t shift.

The reason for my dedums is simple: I am impatient. ‘You’re not checking your book sales again, are you?’ my husband asks as he sticks his head around the study door. I attempt to cover the screen with my palm, but, like a News of the Word Editor in a court room, it is useless.

‘I just wanted to see how it was doing,’ I say, knowing how whiny my voice sounds. ‘And,’ I continue, rising an octave to rival Mariah Carey, ‘things have gone quiet!’ My husband sighs. He is used to me and so deploys the only weapon he knows will work. ‘Do you want me to pick you up some chocolate for tonight?’ ‘Yes, please,’ I choke, and shuffle downstairs behind him to put the kettle on. ‘You know,’ my husband says, grabbing a mug and chucking in a tea-bag (actually, he doesn’t really make tea, but hey! I’m a fiction writer! I ‘m gonna run with it!) ‘you just need to be patient. You’re working really hard. It’ll all come together. You just have to wait.’

At this juncture, I must tell you a little story. As I said, I am an impatient sort. I want things to happen pretty much immediately, not only in work, but in almost all aspects of my life. Learning patience – after cooking for kids and understanding what’s happening in The West Wing – is the singularly most difficult thing I have learned to do.

So, to the story. One day, let us say three years ago, we were returning from a family trip to Wales to visit my husband’s grandmother. At the time our girls were aged 7 and 5 and at an age when we needed to stop at the delightful motorway services for a nature break or three. My bladder never quite being the same after two babies (sorry, men folk), I also needed to stop. The girls having now falling asleep, we agreed that I would nip out to use the facilities and run back.

Now, it is important to point out here that I was , even then, in the iron-grip of writing and had a deadline to meet for a Guardian travel writing competition. Needless to say, I was keen to get out and get in with maximum speed and with my skirt not in my knickers. All goes well. I run in, do what I need to do, and then, my mind on the Guardian job, I sprint out of the automatic doors and into the car park. Scanning the cars, my impatient autopilot kicks in, and, spotting our red Freelander, I peg it over and, hauling the door open, throw my self on to the passenger seat panting, ‘Come on! Let’s get a move on!’

Now, I don’t know about you, but do you know that dream when you are walking somewhere and then you look down and you are completely naked, in the nuddy, and you feel a wave of mortification wash over you? Can you recall that feeling? Well, this feeling is what came over me when, glancing from the corner of my eye I notice that the car seats in the back are different to my girls’ seats. Strange. And then my eyes fall to the seat covers – leather. What the? Ours are fabric. And then it hits me. I am in the wrong car. The wrong car.

I look up to see a man, mid-forties, balding, frowning, staring at me, mouth agape, finger, probably, hovering over 999. ‘OhmigodI’msorry!’ I blurt, and, faster than you can say, ‘naked dream’, I am out of that car and breathing like a phantom caller in a film sketch scanning the parking lot like a crazy woman. When I eventually locate our family car, my husband and girls are in fits of laughter, the whole sorry episode not having missed their unforgiving eyes, and it has made their day. ‘Mum got into a strange man’s car!’ they yelp. ‘Just drive,’ I mutter. But it is a good five minutes before we can leave because my husband is laughing too much for his eyes to focus.

Back in the study and my mind in a work muddle, I break up the fugg by going for a run to clear my head. Showered and back at my desk, I decide to look through my marketing notes for my book The Boy Who Played Guitar. On it there is a post-it note with my writing scrawled on it. I squint (even I can’t read my own writing it seems). The note says: ‘Re-edit book. Get friend to help.’ And it comes back to me. A friend of mine read The Boy Who Played Guitar and loved it – even said she prefered it to David Nicholl’s One Day, to which I choked on my Mars Bar. Crucially, she said that she would be happy to re-edit because my proof reading skills are almost as bad as my patience skills (Oh keep up alredy! See?). Not that there is much wrong with the first version – just the odd mistype here and there (it’s only 99p…)

But, if we re-edited, it would mean that I could begin to submit The Boy Who Played Guitar to book review blogs, just like the amazing Amanda Hocking did to publicise her book. At least then I would be actively doing something to promote it and then perhaps I could calm down.

That night, me and the hubbie catch up. ‘How was your day?’ he asks. ‘Oh, I got another chapter of my next novel written. I’ve only got five chapters to go now.’ ‘Wow,’ he says, ‘how many words have you written now?’ I think. ‘67,000, roughly.’ We sit and stare out the window as the number count lingers in the air. ‘Oh,’ I say, ‘and I’m re-proof reading The Boy Who Played Guitar so I can get it back out there.’

He smiles at me. ‘So you’re feeling a bit better then, a bit happier?’ I consider this. I am lucky to do what I do, I tell myself. It could be worse – at least I am not a Chilean coal miner or the Greek Government, say. ‘Yep. Happier. I know I just have to wait a little longer for it all to work out.’ He jumps up. ‘That’s great,’ he says, ‘I’ll check on dinner.’ ‘What?’ I say, ‘you mean it’s not ready yet? How long does that oven take? Come on!’ My husband sighs and reaching down, hands me some chocolate.

**Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: Self doubt – my running-naked dream

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

This week I am going through another inevitable writer’s wobble where I am doubting my work and, basically, lacking a tad of confidence. So, as I was going through my old blog ramblings for my Wednesday Wafflings post, I came across this one I wrote back in January that’s, funnily enough, about self-doubt. So I read it and, hey, it helped.

Writing is a funny thing where we sit at home on our own, which on one hand is great because you can wear your pjs and stuff your face with popcorn and no one can see; but the downside is you are, well, on your own, your tod, if you will, and with that comes creeping doubt. So if you’re having a little writer’s wobble, I hope this candid analysis of my own neurosis’ will help. And I hope this makes you feel you’re not quite so on your own anymore.

Some things scare the crap out of me.  Dogs, massive insects, seeing a fleece being teamed with heels. Republicans. They just make me freeze with fright.  But there’s another thing that scares the bejesus out of me. Something that, if I let it, would take over me and, like a fossil frozen in time,would immobilise me to the spot, never moving on, always preserving me at the exact moment I left off. That thing is self-doubt.

Doubting myself is my running-naked-dream, one of those where you look down and realise you have nothing on. Like a shadow creeping across a field, it dawns on you that you’re unclothed. Naked, wearing nothing but your birthday suit. In a room full of people. The agony that comes with this is that you are mortified, utterly, devastatingly mortified.

Self-doubt as a writer is a double edged sword. In my line of work, I have to approach people. I always have. I am, outwardly, what they call a ‘people person’. I am smiley. I have that annoying habit of engaging everyone in the room so they feel involved. I network, listen, understand, mingle. I nod at bad jokes. Think of it as a swan, gliding, confident, chin slightly beaked, whilst underwater, the feet are kicking, frantic, mad.

Self-doubt, you see, is my swan feet. I am awash with the stuff. It cripples me, sometimes so much that I will start a project often only to stop it half way through declaring it to be ‘rubbish’, then start again from scratch.

Flip side is, I know I have a good radar, a kind of instinct I suppose, for what works and what doesn’t. This is the other side of that sword. It comes into play a lot in writing, thank God. It’s an instinct that tells me when to revise a chapter, when to really cut a joke out of a column and when not to write a blog on self-doubt… Trouble is, when you mix this handy instinct malarkey with this self-doubt cess pit, you end up with something that resembles an oil slick, something that renders you unmoveable, sticking you together until you are blinking through dripping oil and wondering how in the hell you are going to make it out.

This week I’ve had to approach people – and I’m drenched in doubt. I am freelance, my promo person is me. I am the one who has to shout about me, even if, inside, it’s absolutely the very last thing I ever want to do. The approaches this week I’ve had to make are to do with festivals, things like that, speaking, if you will, at big literature events. I have done this on a a few occasions before. Heck, in my marketing life guise, I’ve presented to rooms of over 300 delegates. I’ve been on the radio – live. I do actually like it. So, clearly, being there isn’t the problem.

It’s getting there in the first place that’s the issue. I just assume, you see, that I’m pants. It’s my default button. But I know it shouldn’t be, though.  And so, mercifully, just when I feel as low as a river in a drought, I get a life line, a little splash of rain. Writing is that line. Writing. I love writing. My dream. It flies in just in time, swoops me up and saves me.  The thought of writing is the thing in me that says, ‘just keep going, just do it, do it. Stuff it. What’s the worst that could happen?’

And that’s it, really, isn’t it, in all this writing lark, in this profession where you are critiqued by everyone, up against thousands of others, shooting your arrow to hit a target 100 miles away. Before you throw in the towel on it all, you have to stop, you have to, and ask yourself, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’

‘Cos the answer is nothing. Nothing could really happen if you approach people, if you try, if you give it a shot. So why not just do it? Just sod it, and do it. The worst they can say is no, at which point you smile and move on to the next.

Because – and here’s the really scary thing -if you don’t do it, if you end up jacking it all in and packing your dream – whatever it is – into a box, if you find yourself about to do that, then ask yourself, in that scenario, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ and I’ll guarantee you, that answer will scare you the most.

So me, I’m off to scare the living daylights out of myself and approach people. Sod it. Take that, self-doubt! I mean, what’s the worst that could happen..?

What scares the pants off you? What stops you from moving on and what do you do to get going again?

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m talking about  the Severn Barrage in Gloucestershire…**

Diary of a hopeful author: How to keep on writing

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

Photo of a Diary

This week I have trawled through the archives again to pick out another post which went down well. This one is all about how to keep writing, or, at least how I keep writing. There’s an analogy with running, but stay with it, it’s not too energetic. The thing I like about this post is that when I re-read it, it’s still relevant to my writing now, finding myself, as I do this week and next, in the throws of major editing deadlines. So, after over a year of this blog, hope you enjoy this post – and that your writing is going good. Don’t give up.

I used to run a lot when I was a kid. Give me a road, and I’d be on it. I was a right Forrest Gump. I loved the feeling of being outside. The fact that we didn’t have a car might have had something to do with it, too. No car and friends living 7-miles into the next village, plus no buses. So I ran.

The good thing about all that running was stamina. I got it in the bucket load. I was like a Duracell bunny, going on forever, not running out of energy. I love a bit of stamina. It links arm in arm with its old pal, motivation, like two BFFs but only, well, cooler.  They’re a right old double act. Motivation gets us up and going, while stamina picks up where it left off and makes sure we keep moving forward.

This week I’ve been needing the two in spades. I am shattered. Cream crackered and in need of two weeks of sleep in one hit. But that ain’t going to happen any time soon.  Christmas is juggernauting its way to us all and with it a whole heap of preparation, pressie buying and workload shifting.

For me that means writing. Five columns. I wrote, last week, five columns in one day for my Weekend paper because, when I looked at all the deadlines and factored in Christmas and the fact that I want to spend time with my family, I just had to get it done. And that’s just for one paper. I haven’t started on the Gazette column deadlines yet. And then there’s the novel. 100k words it’s up to now. 100k! Not entirely sure how that happened, but I do know it needs editing. I’m now averaging on that 2 chapters a day – that’s 8,000 words – all to get it done by, yup, Christmas.

I was flagging, and then I gave myself a dose of motivation followed by a swift kick from stamina.  Alright, maybe there was some caffeine, too, but you get the idea. I want to finish this book edit. I have to. I just want to see how far it can go, that if, in the New Year, it will hit the shelves. That’s my motivation. It’s a dream, I guess, but it works.

My stamina – I’m not sure where it comes from. I get up at 5 every day while the family sleeps. I then write during the day, too, the columns, blogs, the novel, any other writing job that springs up. I think the stamina is connected to the motivation. When I was a kid, my motivation to run was so I could see my friends, and because I loved to run. The stamina came along with me because it had to – without it, no matter what motivation I had, I wouldn’t get there.

And so that’s been my week. Bleary eyes, LOTS of coffee, and a whole heap of writing and still more to go. But it’ll be okay, because I’m looking forward to Christmas when I can forget all about it and listen to our youngest belt out carols on her guitar. Yes, motivation comes in the form of Jingle Bells.

What’s your motivation?  Stamina? What keeps you writing when you feel like throwing in the towel?

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: Why silence is golden – even in the words of a book

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

In my cap dothing to the fact that I’ve been writing this blog now for a year (a year!) – in fact, a touch longer – I’m going through my favourite blog posts and sharing them with you. Last week was deadlines; this week it’s a post from February 2013 on silence and how, in the pages of a book, it really is golden.  

This week I am channelling silence. Well, I say silence, what I mean is editing.

You may recall I have been editing my novel for some time now, and I am here to tell you that edit is still continuing. I know, I know, it seems to be going on longer than a speech at the Oscars, but hear me out. See, this edit is going well. It’s edit round two of a novel that’s: a) turned out to be a psychological thriller; b) is bloody good fun to write; and c) has taught me more than anything else I’ve written. It’s point C here that’s the clincher. And the reason is this: it’s taught me less is more.

Less is more. A little phrase we all know, but turns out is quite handy in the book editing department. Who knew? See, I have ended up cutting loads these past few weeks, loads. I have gone down from 90,000 words – let me say that again 90 thousand words – to 75,000. 75. Maths ain’t my strong point, but I calculate that’s 15,000 words of my sweat (and, admittedly, at times, tears) on the cutting room floor – or this case, the study-floor-that-used-to-be-the-spare-bedroom.

And I feel better. I do. It’s not just the book that’s lighter, it is me. I feel better, more hopeful. Because the writing, writing my novel, the thing I have been working on for getting up to a year now, is tighter, sharper, more focussed. I have learnt a lot in the process, I have. And the biggest thing I have learned is the fact that, when writing, you have to think of the reader. The reader. The person who will kindly purchase your book and sit there and read it.

I may be teaching you to suck eggs here, but, see, the reader is not daft. They have thoughts of their own, feelings, emotions. They think for themselves. And that’s it, that’s the golden nugget that thinking for themselves bit. Because, when I wrote the first draft of my novel, fresh on to the page, I wrote it all down, and I mean all. Every description, every emotion. I thought I had to explain everything to the reader, spoon feed them, if you will, as to what was going on. And then I edited. I edited and edited and I realised: spoon feeding grown-ups, like onesies on adults or a sultana in a salad, is just wrong.

So I stopped. I let the words sit on their own on the page, ready to be eaten, or not.  And this is how I did it: I quit explaining everything. I ceased telling the reader all the stuff that was in the protagonist’s head or every tiny detail that was in a scene. Because, when you are a reader, just like you don’t need your mum to feed you, you don’t need to know all the details.

In fact, as a reader, a book is better if you don’t know all the details. See, the fun, the reading a book, the thing that makes you want to turn the page over and over, is that you are using your own head, transferring your own emotions, ideas, imagination on to the characters, on to the plot. My novel’s a psychological thriller so leaving details to the reader’s imagination works particularly well, but think of the good novels you’ve read. Think of what made them work for you, what made you want to read on, and you’ll be looking at a book where the author has edited to death and left the between-the-lines thinking to you, you clever thing.

So that’s it, really. My slogan to you this week is this: when in doubt, cut it out. Cut it. Like teaming no jewellery with a black dress, less is definitely more. I shall be continuing doing this cutting malarkey, this silent writing, if you will, this week and the next and the next. It’s a slog. I ain’t finished yet. I will have to write completely new chapters and take old ones out, but boy it’s better. Enormously. And that’s why silence, people, is golden – even in the words of a book.

How do you edit? Do you hang on to the words? Are you in the middle of cutting out what you don’t need or do you think you need to keep hold of it?

**Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog….**