You Cannot Do It All. (No, really: You can’t)

8314704680_1c8faa4603_zIt’s the first week back to work for many of us and, perhaps, you’re already regretting the shiny list of goals and resolutions you made in that hazy, optimistic pause between the third and fourth glass of Baileys. There are many reasons resolutions often (always?) fall by the wayside, but if (like me) you’re determined to make 2015 an amazing, productive year, then you need to accept something right now – you cannot do it all. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my almost-38 years, it’s this: You cannot chase perfection in every area of your life at the same time. Also this: If my house is ‘visitor-ready’ clean, I’m not writing enough. Look at your list of goals again. You don’t have to cull it if you don’t want to, but it might be worth seeing if you really care about each and every one of them. Then, pick one thing off the list and throw all available time and energy at it until it’s done. Also, for the sake of balance, kick something OFF your list. Something that you already do during a normal week: Ironing is a good one to chuck (sadly, I’ve never ironed so this one doesn’t work for me). Watching television or playing video games is another possibility. Or, you could cut down on your gardening/cleaning/tidying/scrapbooking/socialising. I have a terrible tendency to try to do All The Things and my goal-list for the year is ambitious to say the least. Still, I’ve taken my own advice and have (regretfully) resigned from Novelicious to make room for a new project I have planned. It’s terrifying to turn down paid work (particularly work which I enjoy so much!), but that terror is going to push me to overcome the nerves I have over my new project – as well as freeing time and head-space in order to make it possible. At least, that’s my theory! So, how about you? What will you give up in 2015 in order to achieve your goals? [Image Credit: John Levanan, Lamp, typewriter and specs…]

The End of the Summer

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Hello, hello!

Apologies for the radio silence, I’ve been busy with summer holiday stuff (lots of lovely visitors, days out and family time) and with – pause for drum roll – Finishing The Book! Hurrah!

It is, of course, not really finished. There will (possibly several) rewrites, but it’s an achievement nonetheless. I can’t quite believe I’ve typed The End on another book-shaped thing.

I’m letting it ‘rest’ while my agent reads it and have been getting stuck into other projects. Top of the list is a short story for a charity anthology. I decided to revisit Iris Harper (who you may remember from The Language of Spells) and I’m having a blast!

I’ve also been busy over on Novelicious, writing about theme and, ahem, sex scenes.

It’s the last day of the summer holidays here and there is a decidedly autumnal nip in the air. I’m up to my neck in school bags and uniforms and am feeling ambivalent about the new term. On one hand, I shall have more time in my writing shed but I know I shall miss my children and the long, lazy summer days. Sigh.

I hope you had/are having a truly excellent summer and, as always, thank you for reading.

 

 

 

Friday Five: November. Seriously?

ID-100114850Yes, yes, I know I’m always commenting on how quickly time flies, but really… Seriously? November?!

1. For many writers (both aspiring and professional), November means one thing: NaNoWriMo.  I’ve previously established that 50,000 words in a month is utterly beyond me, but I’m still setting myself a writing challenge. Read about it here and feel free to join me!

2. I also wrote about NaNoWriMo for Novelicious.

3. Still need inspiration? Rainbow Rowell (author of one of my favourite books of this year, Eleanor & Park) has written a brilliant pep talk for NaNoWriMo.

4. In addition to stationery and writing challenges, the change in season has brought something else to the front of my mind: knitting. After a break over the spring and summer, I’ve picked up the pins again and started a new project. (This pattern, in case you’re interested.)

5. Contrary to the weather, I’ve just started Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell. I’m a big fan of her writing, so have high hopes… I’ll report back later!

[Image Credit: Free Digital Photos]

Taking my own advice…

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Last week I heard back from my lovely editor re. the first draft of book two. It’s a follow-up to The Language of Spells and I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to match the tone or ‘voice’ of the first book, or that my editor wouldn’t like the central idea or something equally fundamental.

However, all is well. She likes it! Plus, I have a list of excellent editorial comments and suggestions to help me with draft two. Yay!

I decided I ought to take my own advice, so last week I started stage two of the editing process. (Head here to read my piece on it for Novelicious).

This stage involves looking at the big picture and thinking about the major structural, character and story changes.

I printed out the manuscript and armed myself with post-it notes and coloured pens (stationery!) and the obligatory cup of tea. I read through the book and summarised each scene using colour-coded sticky notes for each POV character.

It’s a technique I’ve used before and, my goodness, it’s effective. You can see at a glance whether you’ve got a serious imbalance with your POVs (um, yes) and, with a quick read of your scene summaries, you get a sense of the overall structure and story line. For an outline-free ‘pantser’ like me, it’s essential, and enables me to see plot holes and inaccuracies with painful clarity.

So. Now that I’ve identified the problems, I just have to fix them. Easy. (Yes, that is the sound of nervous laughter you can hear…)

In which I am hasty

crow roadJust a quick post today, as I’m determined to up the word count on my WIP and if I have any spare time I’m going to re-read The Crow Road in honour of the great Iain Banks.

It’s the last stop on my blog tour and I’m with fellow Carina author, Katlyn Duncan, giving a mini-tour of my writing room.

My writing column at Novelicious this week gives a brief overview of the classic three act structure for novels and screenplays.

The always-brilliant Keris Stainton has written about her writing process here.

Neil Gaiman is as thoughtful, kind and truthful as always in his post on the loss of Iain Banks.