(Not) NaNoWriMo

Mechanical Paper Art by the talented Jennifer Collier
Mechanical Paper Art by the talented Jennifer Collier – www.jennifercollier.co.uk

On the podcast this month, I interview thriller author Catherine Ryan Howard. Catherine was lots of fun and the interview has been described as ‘giggly’. Good thing I cut out lots of the laughter in the edit…

Hop over here to listen (it’s free!) or via iTunes.

In other news, I have been attempting to get a chunk of my new first draft done. I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, but a personal challenge to get 30,000 words down in November.

How’s it going? Well… Given that this first two weeks has been filled with visitors and life stuff and volunteering at my daughter’s musical theatre group for their annual production (backstage only, you’ll be relieved to hear), I’m pretty pleased: 9,288 words.

Yes, this leaves me with the lion’s share, but the next two weeks are infinitely quieter than the start of the month, so I have every faith I shall catch up.

I also finished reading this fantastic collection: P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters, Edited by Sophie Ratcliffe. It’s a fascinating look at the life of a prolific writer and full of reassuring ¬†lines such as:

‘I am now trying to get a plot for a new novel, but so far only incoherent ramblings.’

How about you? Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo?

[Wonderful typewriter art found via DesignSoak]

Lessons From Space

astronautI’m reading Chris Hadfield’s book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth at the moment and I can see why it became an international bestseller.

He’s an immensely impressive and accomplished human being, one who has (quite literally) been places and done things that the vast majority never could, but he writes in such a gently humorous and self-aware way that it utterly charms you.

In a chapter on success he talks about attitude and how it’s vital that you enjoy (or, at least, find interesting) the on-earth aspects of being an astronaut. To become an astronaut takes incredible focus, sacrifice and hard work and, even if you are one of the very few chosen, there is no guarantee of making it into space.

The life of an astronaut is endless study, physical and mental training, and performing support and research roles on earth. The point he makes is that you have to be okay with that. He consciously found the interest and satisfaction with every part of the process, so that if he didn’t get into space he would still have had a happy and successful working life.

As always, I can’t help relating *everything* to writing, and this reminded me of the journey to publication (and beyond). You spend years training (reading, writing, learning the craft) before you finish a decent, readable book, and then there is absolutely no guarantee that you will get an agent or a publishing contract. Yes, you can put stuff ‘out there’ yourself (especially these days with the advent of digital publishing) but there is no guarantee that you will find readers or become ‘successful’ (whatever that means).

Essentially, you have to love the practice. The writing and rewriting and editing. You have to love thinking up stories and sitting alone to write them down. You have to find joy in the day-to-day process because, ultimately, that’s all you have.

Even if you strike gold and become one of the super-successful authors and get invited on breakfast television and to literary festivals and have a fancy-pants book launch, those things still only take up a very small amount of time. Overall, your life remains the same; sitting on your own and putting words on the page.

Reading about the insanely vigorous and difficult (and life-threatening) work of people in the space programme, I’m just deeply grateful that my dream job is writing and not being an astronaut. Today, after all, I just have to drink tea and type some words. When you consider that a typical day for an astronaut might include putting a fighter jet through emergency manoeuvres, weightlessness training in a deep pool, or survival training in the mountains, that’s really not so hard… Perspective: Marvellous thing.




Tracking Goals Using The Plannerisms Planner

I’m obsessed with goal-setting and stationery, so when I discovered a planner/notebook thingy which has been designed expressly for the purpose of tracking goals, I knocked it out with a club¬†and dragged it to my cave immediately.*

It’s called the Plannerisms Planner and I went for the ‘aqua’ colour-way which is a lovely soft turquoise. The pages are decent quality and there are two ribbon markers so that you can keep your place in both the monthly and weekly planning sections. There are also pages for listing monthly, quarterly and annual goals, a pocket in the back and an elastic closure.

Here it is with a lovely spotty-fabric notebook my daughter gave me for Christmas:


I’m going to use this alongside my Filofax (which I will continue to use for appointments, daily to-do lists, and notes).

If you want an idea of how the weekly view looks, here are last week’s pages (at the beginning of the week, before I’d filled it out):



As you can see, you have a blank column at the start of the week where you can list recurring goals such as ‘writing’ or ‘yoga’ and then you can either put a tick in the appropriate box (or a value if you want to track number of words written or miles walked or whatever).

I’ve split the pages with some washi tape so that I have space above my recurring goals for other tasks and deadlines.

I’m using the monthly planner pages to continue with my sticker reward system for writing fiction.

I know that we’re not even half-way through January, but this is really helping me to stay motivated. Hurrah for stationery!

* Well, you know. Clicked ‘buy now’ and waited impatiently for the post.

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…]

2015: Dreaming Big, Setting Goals

ID-100298534Hello my lovelies!

I hope you are having a wonderful winter holiday.

In addition to eating chocolate and spending time with family, I’ve been chucking stuff out in preparation for the new year. There is something about the dead time between Christmas and January 1st which gets my ‘clear the decks’ head on and I’ve filled several bin bags.

I also love the chance to take stock of what I’ve achieved, to think about what I want to do next and – my favourite activity – set some goals!

Some of these are largely out of my control and, as such, fall into the ‘dream big’ category. I’m hoping, of course, that my latest book finds an amazing publishing home and that I have happy book deal news to tell you all soon.

And, if any passing film producer wants to snap up the rights to The Language of Spells or The Secrets of Ghosts, that would also be sweet!

However, in terms of stuff I can actually control…

My main goal for 2015 is to write a new novel but, after reading Joanna Penn’s Business For Authors and doing a lot of thinking during December, I have a few other goals to add to that:

Update this blog regularly. I didn’t do too badly this year, but I would like to consistently update once a week during 2015.

Overhaul my website. I’m moving to self-hosted and I also want to tweak the design.

Send out my first newsletter (and a couple more throughout the year).

Try another format for blogging/connecting with readers. I adore listening to podcasts and would really like to try making one of my own.

Write lots and lots. I’m stealing my friend Keris’s 2014 strategy and am aiming for a yearly total of 150,000 words (her total was much larger – hush now). This works out at 15,000 a month for ten months (giving myself two months off for holidays/fallow periods).

15,000 a month can be further broken down into 3750 per week or, 750 words each work day. That sounds pretty reasonable, but I shall update throughout the year to let you know whether it’s working.

So, how about you guys? Are you setting goals or making resolutions?




Progress Update: Includes Stickers!

Just a quick check-in today, my lovelies, but I thought I’d let you know how my November mini challenge worked out.

As I’ve long suspected, the secret to getting anything done lies in stationery…

I wanted to re-establish my morning writing routine during November, so I gave myself a cute shiny star sticker for every time I wrote as soon as I woke up.

As you can see, it worked a treat. I’d set the bar nice and low (twenty minutes of writing at a time of day that really suits me) and, once I had a nice line of stickers, I didn’t want to break my streak.

Plus, I was reminded of just how much I can get done in a short time. Even on those mornings when the kids needed me/the new kitten wouldn’t stop jumping on my hands, and I literally wrote for twenty minutes ONLY, I still got at least 250 words down. That doesn’t sound like much, but it all adds up, and it kept the story live and kicking in my mind.

My other goal for the month was to write (at least) 15,000 words. I’m not certain of my final tally (I had to switch back to my official WIP halfway through and that involved lots of deleting/rewriting as well as new words) but it’s in the region of 16,000, so I’m delighted.

How about you? Did you take part in NaNoWriMo or something similar?