Tuesday, 1 January 2013

When Resolutions Work.

Last year I made the first resolution that I have ever managed to keep and let me tell you it feels really good. 

On January 1st, 2012 I resolved that I would complete my book. It wasn't the first time I had resolved this but this time I got serious. I set myself a target of writing, at least, one word a day because I found that a hard target to argue with. Everyone has time to write one word don't they? It meant that most days I wrote between 500 and 1,000 words and my 99,125 word manuscript was completed in March. Then came the endless edits and rewrites but still, by August, I was ready to send my first attempt at a novel out to agents. I didn't sit by the door waiting for their reply, however, instead I accepted the advice of a good friend and got started on the next book, a collaboration with a friend, which we self-published on Amazon at the end of October. I currently have two other works in progress and a further joint project I am about to start as well as a collection of short stories I am currently enjoying writing. All in all making that resolution in January 2012 helped me to achieve on of my life's ambitions, it kept me focused and help me to recognise what I needed to do to achieve a stated goal.

I'm going to try again this year I think.

Obviously the writing one word a day resolution has to continue.

Then there's the perennial doing more exercise. I'm plumping for 30 minutes a day and I'm including things like walking the dog and playing Just Dance or Wii Fit. Today we went for a two hour walk down the sea front so I've ticked my first day already, though of course today it didn't rain!

Also, in trying to get my diabetes under control, I have decided that this year I am not going to buy any cakes, sweets, crisps or chocolate and I am also not going to consume them at Church events. I go to a Vineyard Church and we have cakes with everything so this should make a difference though it will require huge amounts of will power.

Finally I turn to my blog. I really enjoy reading blogs and follow several regularly which make me laugh, think and sometimes even cry. Last January I started this blog to try and make sense of my departure from regular work to follow my dream of writing for a living and, to be frank, I kind of failed. I stopped blogging here back in April, though I have blogged for my Church quite regularly. So my final New Year's resolution will be to blog once a week. I set up a reminder in my phone for every Tuesday and I'm determined that every week I will commit some opinion or other to 'paper', so to speak. Why not follow my progress here, that way you won’t have to wait until next January’s blog to know if I succeeded or not.  :-)

Saturday, 14 April 2012

This is getting a bit real you know.

It is now three months since I left work and started this scary journey towards being a published author that I hope I'm on and I thought it you may be interested to know how it's going.

I can honestly say I have now take my writing much more seriously, well the task if not the content, and have actually got pretty good at writing something every day.  My average weekly word count is up to around the 5,000 mark and, my first book itself is coming along nicely now that I have got over the little timings bump you may remember I had and I am up to over 90,000 words now and, I think (hope and pray) that I will have finished the first draft by this time next month. I have three pre-alpha readers who are saying very encouraging things like 'gripping' and 'hurry up and finish the next chapter - I want to know what happens next' and today I went to my first writers group which was helpful beyond words.

Working at my friend's, who is a published author already, is a complete blessing. She has just the right mix of motivation, encouragement and cake to mean that at least once a week I am writing for five, almost solid, hours (well we all need a little natter!). I find I really looked forward to those days and wish there was a way to fit more days in at hers because, when I write at home, my most productive times are in the evenings when the housework, shopping and friends are not calling but this means I'm often ignoring my wonderful, long-suffering, very supportive (yes he reads this blog) husband and staying up until silly o'clock.

One of the most perplexing dicoveries I've made is the motivation paradox I've discovered.

I love writing, always have, always will. I love watching as characters come to life and develop before my eyes and stories take me on  journeys I could never have imagined when I first sat down so why then do I so often struggle to begin? Unless I get really tough with myself I can go for days and days and days without writing a word and the longer I leave it the harder it gets to start again so I think the best change I've made to my writing in the past three months is the 'one word a day' rule. I have to write at least one word a day, I know it sounds daft but I write directly on to the laptop so it means I have to go to the bother of setting it all up and opening the document etc so I am never only going to write one word, in fact it's generally around the 1,000 mark. But, if I don't enforce my rule then it's generally around the 0 mark. What is that about?

Answers on a postcard, or below, in no more than 200 words please?

Anyway, that's my update so far. Hopefully in another three months I'll be able to tell you I've finished the second draft and am ready to send it off to agents etc but who know what the future holds? 

Monday, 19 March 2012

Outed by a 12 year old!

Do you know children actually do listen to what you say, especially if you're not sure you want them to!

Recently I have started helping out with the kids work in our Church and I've particularly enjoyed helping out in the 9-12 year old group which is made up mostly of 11 year olds with a fairly equal gender mix. They are sassy and full of questions and a great bunch of kids but yesterday, amongst all the usual 'is it OK to talk to dead people' questions I seem to attract, one of the boys asked me what my job was. Quick as a flash one of the other boys answered him. 'Oh she's got a really cool job, she's writing a book!'. Now I know this chap quite well, he's a friends son and lives just up the road from me and recently I've been helping him make a paper mache castle for his history homework. Clearly, while we've been gluing endless bits of paper to balloons I have been talking to him about my story but I had no idea he'd taken it all in until he proceeded to tell the curious questioner all about it, about how mean I was to my characters, about how unfair he felt the death of one of the main characters was and he explained the general plot so well I'm thinking of asking him to write my back cover for me! I was flabbergasted and made a mental note to be a little more sparing of the details in the future.  On the other hand I might offer him a job as my publicist, he made the story seem so exciting the other boys were casting the film by the end of the session and getting very excited about all the talk shows I'd have to go on. It was quite heady stuff, I had to remind them that it wasn't finished yet and that I didn't have an agent, much less a publisher so we were all getting ahead of ourselves a little but nothing could dampen their enthusiasm and I think, if I'm honest, their excited anticipation is what led to a mammoth writing session in the wee small hours of last night, I've got to finish it now, otherwise my whole Humanoids class will be so disappointed.

So there you are, my tale of the day a 12 year old outed my secret life as a writer of science fiction and gave me a little taste of fame.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Day Seven

Really must get more inventive with my titles.  Any suggestions would be gratefully received. 

So, motivation, it's a fickle thing isn't it?  Two weeks ago I was actually thinking I was only a couple of weeks from completing The Start, two weeks away from editing and moving into the next exciting stage of learning just how many ways agents and publishers can say 'no thank you'. I was loving the way all the threads were interweaving themselves beautifully and the characters felt like real people.

Then everything changed.  I realised that the parallel time lines I have going on for my two main characters, which need to meet at the end, are still four months apart.  I also realised a character development I was keeping for the next book actually belongs in this book and, finally, the resolve to write at least one word a day I had been doing so well with disappeared! Result, the book is not finished and still sits at about 65,000 words and I now know it's going to take at least another 30,000 to tell the story well and I've not written a single word this week, if fact right now I'm writing this as a distraction. lol.

Now, whilst it is true that this week I have almost felt ill enough to sleep on the kitchen floor, I have still put off the writing, which is total craziness because once I actually start I LOVE writing, I get a real thrill from watching my characters develop and a buzz from getting to direct their lives - it's better than SIMS for goodness sake! So what's to be done?  Well tomorrow I'm hoping my good friend will allow this recovering plague bunny into her home to write and that should kick start me and get me back onto the one word a day thing.  If not I'll just have to get my Mum to ban me from writing - that's sure to make me do it for hours and hours on end.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Out with the new?

So recently I've been having a bit of a 'letter to The Times' feeling.  I blame the fact that I now listen to far more Radio 4 than is strictly healthy for a girl of my age!  The problem is it is totally against my principals to ever read The Times, much less send them a letter, so I thought I would rant away here where you good people can ignore me and I can safely vent my ire, so to speak.

Recently I've been thinking about old things and how much I love them, nothing to do with my husband's age, honestly.  I love old street signs, shops, lamp-posts, post-boxes and houses and I'm not just talking about big old stately homes either.  I adore my little two bed room Edwardian flat just as much and, as I think about it, I realised why.  It's the care the things represent. 

My flat, which was always designed to be a little flat above a pub, has beautiful skirting boards and cornices, the doors are solid timber and the windows, both internally and externally, have the sweetest little black iron curly fittings.  My flat looks like the people who built it cared about it and, by definition, cared about the people who would live in it in the future.  They cared about me! 

Old lamp-posts have swirly bits of iron that are only there for decoration and old post-boxes are adorned with unnecessary grandeur.  The people who built or made things in the past were proud of their work.  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying architects and builders today are not proud of their work, I'm sure they are but, it seems to me, the appropriation culture if different now and we don't give them enough to work with. 

Now a days, when we are thinking of building something, anything, from a shed to a house, we think 'how can we do this in the cheapest way?'. We limit creativity to pennies and end up with soulless, boring dull buildings with no character, with street furniture that no-one cares about, with lamp-posts only fit for graffiti and with cities that are grey, boring and depressing. 

Where cities in this country remain in their pre-war state they are majestic, inspiring places full of grand buildings which bestow a feeling of meaning and worth on their people. And I'm not just laying the blame at the city planner level, we all have a part to play.  It is our sheds, fences, doors, windows, walls, paths etc which make up most of what we see. Of course we can't tear down the grey in one foul swoop but let's at least think about what we're leaving behind next time we need something repairing or replacing.  Let's not always go for the cheap option, let's take some pride in our communities and do our little, tiny bit to stop the atrophy. Who knows, if we make our towns and cities places to be proud of we may save the money we've spent by not having to clean up so much graffiti, litter or dog mess after all.

Just saying is all, and now my rant is at an end.  Hope i can remember all that when I'm looking at the quotes for the new windows and bathroom we desperately need, especially if we have to replace them before we win the lottery. :-)

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Day Five

For a number of years now I have been more and more concerned by consumerism and the way it has been sucking me in.  The idea that what I own or am able to buy somehow gives meaning and purpose to my life and adds value to me as an individual is one that we are encouraged by the advertising all around us to see as the norm and, in a rare moment of lucidity I realised I didn't agree.  It all started a number of years ago when, on one of my all time favourite shows, Dharma & Greg, Dharma was having a declutter and when asked why she replied 'because if you own too much stuff pretty soon it starts owning you.'.  The more I thought about that the more true it seemed, not that it really did anything to curb my buying stuff, after all I didn't buy nearly as much stuff as other people did I so it wasn't really my problem was it?

However this December we had some big, unexpected outlays.  The car needed a new clutch and gearbox, which decided to break two days before we were due to drive to Scotland meaning we also needed to rent a car for 10 days.  When we got back from our holiday the wooden stairs from our kitchen down to our garden gave up the ghost and became too dangerous to stand on meaning we had to pay to get them fixed then we had a very large, unexpected bill we had to pay.  All this before we'd started buying Christmas presents for our large and extended family and friends.

Now, as many of you will know, I have amazing friends and we all decided that we would 'charity shop' and 'second-hand' for pressies because it is, after all, the thought that counts.  We had a fantastic time finding wonderful, perfect little bargains which brought such joy both for me when I found them and to the recipients when I gave them so why then, I wondered, did I feel like I was somehow cheating on my presents?

I did a bit of soul-searching and realised that I really did believe the monetary cost of a gift said something about its value.  That shocked me.  I would never have said I bought into consumerism but here I was waist deep.  Something had to be done.  I needed a break and to re-evaluate why I buy gifts, which I love doing.  I came up with a radical solution.  My new years resolutions.  Normally I don't make resolutions just because I don't really see why Jan 1st is any different to any other new day but this year I decided to challenge myself. So I have three new years resolutions.

1.  No new clothes.  I am only allowed to buy second-hand or make them myself.
2.  Nothing new for the house.  Again I'm only allowed to buy second-hand or go skip-diving etc
3. (And this is the toughie) I am not allowed to buy anything new to give to people as presents, they need to be pre-owned, hand-made or (because I want my friends to still be my friends at the end of the year) I am allowed to make a donation to charity on their behalf if that is what they prefer.

We're only 14 days in but I do have two good friends' birthdays coming up at the very start of February and I've already got their gifts within my new limits so I'm feeling pretty good about it all so far. Will keep you all informed of how it goes through-out the year.

PS I have now found the spell-check but lost my glasses so the spelling should be ok but as this all looks like a grey blur to me I'm sorry for all the extra spaces etc.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Day Four

So Friday 13th was actually a really good day.  Went to a very useful seminar on funding bids and made some promising contacts then went for cake and coffee with friends followed by beating my wonderful husband 8-1 in a Wii tournament and writing another 1,235 words of my book, taking the total to over 40,000! Really quite happy. But why, oh why, did I lose my glasses and the usb stick in my glasses case again?!  I actually have the memory of a goldfish.  I put something down and forget it exists. Ho hum.  If I ever did develop senility I'm not sure any of my friends would notice the early signs.

All in all though a really good week, I had two wonderful surprises this week, I was sent a 'good luck in your new job' card by some very selfless women who I only speak to once a year when they donate toys for the looked after children at work and then I was given chocolate and wine by a lady who I gave a pushchair that I'd been given to.  I like it when brilliant things happen, especially when they're unexpected, it just reinforces my strongly held belief that almost all the people we meet are wonderful people, even if they are being grumpy at that second, after all we're all entitled to bad days.  It's a maths thing really isn't it.  If there are 70,000,000 people living in our country and the papers can only find around 3 or 4 people a day who have done truly bad things that still leaves 69,000,096 wonderful people out there and that has to make it a brilliant world, doesn't it.

At this point I feel I really must apologise for all the spelling mistakes you are going to find on this blog - as a dyslexic I rely on spellchecks and this interface doesn't have one, sorry, just think of it as a raw art form, like your toddler's pictures.

And did I tell you I have the memory of a goldfish?