Eight Weeks and a Challenge

red_typewriterI was going to title this post ‘eight weeks to Christmas’ but I thought you might throw things at me…

There are, however, eight weeks of the school term left, which is both a nice-sounding amount of time for a writing challenge and a terrifying amount of time in which to get everything else in life sorted. Basically, if I only had to wear one hat (my ‘author’ one) for two months, I think I could finish the first draft of my new book.

However, that is sadly not the case… This term is always busy (Halloween, school concerts, Christmas preparations, seasonal coughs and colds) and I will also have (at least) one more rewrite of my second Carina book, too. Plus, of course, my posts for Novelicious, promotional stuff, and any other bits of freelance writing which come my way.

Still. I would dearly love to skid into the Christmas holiday with a good chunk of the new book written. It’s an idea I began writing last year and it makes me all tingly with excitement. I put it to one side when I got the Carina deal in order to write the sequel to The Language of Spells, but it’s been tickling the back of my mind the whole time.

So. Eight weeks. Even allowing for everything above and the fact that I’m a slow writer, I’m going to aim for 40,000 words.

I’m going to check in here every Monday with an update on my progress and if anybody fancies joining my eight-week challenge, please ‘sign up’ in the comments. Just state your goal (it can be anything you like) and visit every Monday to let us know how you’re getting on/get support/demand chocolate.

Making Friends With Procrastination

7-secrets (1)I’ve read a lot about procrastination over the last eight years. Some might even say that I’ve turned researching productivity and procrastination into a form of procrastination, but they would be deeply unfair and must be ignored… Ah-hem.

I’ve tried lots of techniques and many of them have been helpful. Some of my more successful experiments include setting a timer for 20 minutes, using Freedom to shut off the internet, and making a lovely chart with crosses on every day I hit my word count.

I’ve written about tools for beating procrastination on Novelicious, and have had countless conversations with my writer friends about how we need to ‘just get on with it’, or how we’ve discovered that writing in the morning, or in the evening, or in a cafe, or while using headphones or whatever, is the solution.

However, this weekend, while gearing up to get back to work after a week off, I started reading this book by Hillary Rettig. In it, she suggests something that I hadn’t ever really considered. That my tendency to procrastinate wasn’t some terrible flaw in my personality. That it wasn’t a symptom of my inherent laziness, but more a reasonable response to fear.

I’ve known for a long time that writing fiction goes hand in hand with anxiety. I’ve read enough to know that this fear is a perfectly normal side effect of doing creative work. After all, when we write, we reveal parts of ourselves: Of course we’re afraid!

If you’re like me, you will also be able to add fear of failure (perfectionism), fear of success (exposure, getting ‘above myself’, not being liked, upsetting other people), fear of letting other people down or of not ‘fulfilling my potential’.

Hilary explains that our tendency to procrastinate is a way of protecting ourselves from that fear. Then, because we do really want to write (or have a deadline), our procrastination increases that fear. We respond by berating ourselves (‘why are you being so lazy? I can’t believe you’ve wasted all morning reading blogs AGAIN, you’re so useless, you’ll never make it as a writer’ etc etc). Which, and this was the light bulb moment for me, INCREASES THE ANXIETY! *slaps self in forehead*

Yes, you need to be self-disciplined in order to get stuff done, but Hilary suggests that bullying yourself, being this nasty, is not the best way. Who knew?! Plus, she makes the very excellent point that your procrastination is part of you, so it’s not helpful to demonise it.

Rather than automatically heading into a shame spiral when you find yourself procrastinating or ‘not in the mood’ to write, she suggests treating it as a problem to be solved. These kinds of techniques (skipping ahead to another scene or chapter, writing around the problem in a separate document) are things that I’d already discovered and use, but I realised that I do so with a sense of desperation and panic. A sense of ‘if I don’t get something done, I’ll have failed again and I’m so rubbish  and lazy etc etc’.

The big change I’m going to make (or try to make, I don’t expect it to be easy to break the habit), is to be kinder to myself. To stop using bullying tactics to get my word count done. To say ‘it’s okay that you don’t feel like facing the blank page and that you really want to watch Supernatural/browse eBay for three hours/take a nap, that’s because what you’re trying to do is scary and difficult.’

In short, I want to speak more kindly to myself. If nothing else, it’ll make my working hours more pleasant…

How about you, dear reader? Do you suffer from procrastination when you’re trying to write? Do you ever bully or berate yourself and do you think it’s necessary?

Author Interview: Katlyn Duncan

kateauthorpiclargeI’m delighted to welcome YA author Katlyn Duncan onto my blog today. Soul Possessed, the second book in The Life After trilogy is out at the end of this month. 

1. Soul Possessed is the follow up to your debut YA, Soul Taken. Can you tell us a little about it?

Soul Possessed takes place roughly two months after Soul Taken. Without spoiling too much… Maggie is in training and she goes on a mission with Cooper, Ally, and Jackson to find the Shadowed.

2. Did you always plan to write a series? And will there be a third book?

I didn’t plan on writing a series. I knew I had to sell one book before the next. The story I originally submitted was neatly tied up in one book, but I am so thrilled that I can explore this world through three.

3. Did you always want to be a writer? How did you get started?

It wasn’t a conscious choice to “be” a writer, I’ve just always written. Whether it was movie scripts, plays or short stories I just had a lot of ideas I wanted to share, even if it was just for the fun of exploring the characters and world I thought up. I think my love for books was what started everything. The more books I read, the more ideas for stories came to me.

4. I love YA literature and am always looking for new recommendations. Can you give us your top five YA books?

Oh geez! I love so many books, but if I have to pick five… in no particular order… The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick;  Rampant by Diana Peterfreund; The Iron King by Julie Kagawa; Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris

5. Could you tell us a bit about your path to publication?

I tried the traditional route of getting an agent but I didn’t have any success with that. I might have jumped the gun a bit when submitting but I did learn a lot in the process. I submitted to a feedback request from Mills & Boon late last year and they offered to sign me. It was quite a pleasant surprise and I am so thrilled Maggie’s story found a home!

6. What advice would be you give to aspiring writers?

Write as much as you can and read as much as you can. Writing is a daily activity for me whether it is 300 words or 3000 words. You can’t publish an empty document. Being a reader and a writer, I can see what I like and what I don’t like in books and I constantly strive to bring out the emotions that other authors bring out in me.

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Guest Post: Aurelia B. Rowl reveals her Scrivener secrets

Today I’m delighted to welcome fellow Carina author Aurelia B. Rowl. 

Thank you for inviting me onto your blog, I’m thrilled to be here.

One thing that Sarah and I have in common – aside from the same publisher – is that we both use a writing software called Scrivener. In fact, I’m not sure I’d have achieved as much so soon without it because it truly is invaluable to me as a writer, so I thought I’d tell you a little more about it.

I’m not going to try and teach you how to use Scrivener though – there is a perfectly good tutorial within the software itself and if you do a quick search on the internet, you’ll be met with a whole heap of articles – but I can share with you some of the ways that I personally use Scrivener, and I thought I’d do it with the help of some pictures.

These pictures are actually screenshots from my custom template, which is something I’ve modified and tweaked so that I have everything I need already set up when I start a new project

First stage: plotting (plus overview)

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In the left-hand column you’ll see all of the files and folders I work with, and in the right hand column you’ll see the info for meta-data and such. In the centre section, set in Scrivenings mode in this instant, you’ll see the very first screen I come to when I start a project… creating the storyboard based on the W-plot structure.

If I’ve already got a good idea on some of the key scenes – the islands – I’ll fill in the relevant index card right away, and speaking of index cards, here is the what the screen looks like, and it’s a great way seeing my story on one page:

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Second stage: brainstorming (plus meta-data settings)

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Sometimes I don’t know exactly what happens in the story, and even when I know the big picture I still need to figure out the scenes that will get me from points A to B and so on. In another life pre-kids and pre-writing, I used to have to go to “brainstorming sessions” where no idea is a bad idea and everything gets written down so that’s exactly what I do.

Opening up a new index card for each and every idea, no matter how far-fetched or ridiculous, I record each possible scene or action because you never know if that will then spawn another idea or a new thread to follow. I also get all my back-story ideas out here too, to help get a good feel for the characters or setting before I actually get on with writing.

There may also be times a story just isn’t working or a scene feels flat and lifeless so I can return to my brainstorming cards and see if anything else could fulfil the purpose better. Throughout a project, I may keep dipping into the possible scenes and dragging them into the actual manuscript.

Highlighted in this screenshot as well are the different labels I use, assigning a colour to each one and then having that colour show in the binder – that first column – and the outline.

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It Always Seems Impossible Until It’s Done

it-always-seems-impossible-until-its-doneYou know I’m fond of a good quote, right?

This one (from Nelson Mandela) has been my mantra over the last three weeks while I’ve been wrestling with draft two of the new book. (Well, this and the ‘why is my brain so stupid?’ mantra, but that one’s less helpful…)

I sent it to my editor yesterday and although I know it’s not ‘done’ yet, another stage has been completed and that’s something.

[Image Credit: Pearls & Lace]