Tuesday, 17 September 2013

What is a Writer?

I was clearing out my email inbox the other day, reading through blog emails about writing that had languished there for weeks when one of them caught my attention.
It was from RoW80, a year round event that I have mentioned before. It was all about remembering to have fun with writing again. And then this bit jumped out at me.

Write yourself a letter or a list about why you started writing—include what drew you in, what you love most about it, why you want to write.  Keep this someplace where you can see it and read it often to remind yourself that you love this work.”

I realised that in my focus on finishing a novel and figuring out how to publish it when I did eventually finish it I’d forgotten what I loved about writing. I’d lost sight of what brought me to writing in the first place, why I kept pushing despite never finishing or publishing anything. I’d gotten so caught up in being able to call myself a writer that I’d forgotten the joy it in, the excitement and pure love that I had felt as I first put those words down on a page. So I decided that I would take the suggestion from the post and try it out, try and see if it helped me find the fun in writing again. That's why at some point this month I'll be writing a post all about why I'm a writer.

Then I moved on to another email, and saw something similar. It was a link in an email from Joanna Penn of TheCreativePenn.com to an article another writer had written about the difference between career writers and ‘one-book writers’ as she called them. The entire thing made me question what exactly I wanted from writing. More importantly it made me question what kind of writer I wanted to be;

The one-book writer

“The one-book writer wants to be published, to maybe have a book hit a bestseller list or win an award, to be legitimately called a writer who has credentials....”

The Career writer

“The Career Writer is in this for the long haul. She has dozens if not hundreds of books in her. She wants to make a living – a good living – from writing those books.... this writer wants to spend her life telling stories and/or sharing information”
Now at one point I was probably the first kind of writer, the one-book writer, who wanted to see my name in a book in bookstores. Now though I want to make a living out of writing. The thing is though, if you read the rest of the post that this comes from, I’m not sure if I’m at the level of being a career writer. I’m getting there, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not there. Yet.

I hope to be one day though and in the meantime, while I’m writing and editing I’ll also learn what I need to learn about the writing business. After all, the world of publishing is forever changing and growing and the traditional publishing houses seem slow to catch up. I can figure out what is best for me as a writer and how I can make my dreams happen.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

A New Job and a Favourite Podcast

I meant to write a new post, really I did. I promised several posts, different series of articles that I’m still in the middle of working on. And I intended to finish them and post them. But things happened. Life happened. 

A new job happened.

That’s right! After two years of being mostly unemployed except for a couple of freelance gigs and a brief stint as a temp I am now fully employed doing a job I surprisingly enjoy.

I say surprising because every time I’d had a job before I’ve gotten fed up, longing for days off and planning ways to get away from work early. With this job though I’m not doing that, far from it in fact. I mean sure I might daydream about falling ill and coming home but that’s purely on the commute, when I’m fed up of switching buses and walking through crowds of people who think that because they’ve got nowhere to be urgently the rest of us don’t either. Once I get to work though it’s a different matter and before long it’s time for lunch and I’m left wondering how the time managed to go by so quickly.

I think part of the reason that I’m enjoying my new job so much, despite the long commute and occasional odd smell, is that it’s not boring. There are aspects of it that can be boring and that I dread doing, don’t get me wrong, but those pass quickly and I never know exactly what crisis I’m going to be dealing with next. I like routine, really I do, but too much routine is bad for me and I find myself sinking deeper and deeper into that black pit of depression that I dread. With this job I have both. There’s the routine of I come in, I have my before work cigarette (no I’ve still not quit that habit just yet) and then I start work, dealing with whichever urgent thing is happening that day. I then take lunch at about 12ish before continuing the morning’s tasks until I leave for the bus at 4:30, tired and a little brain sore but over-all, content.

Best of all the commute, while long, is perfect for listening to several podcasts that I’ve been meaning to listen to for ages. I’ve just never had the time before. Here in England it’s considered bad form to talk to people on the bus unless you know them, have been talking to them at the bus stop or they’re just one of those people who talk to anyone who will listen. So the morning and afternoon bus rides are filled with strangers, all staring resolutely ahead, focused on getting home. Ergo, podcasts.

One podcast series in particular that I’m currently really enjoying, even if it does make me laugh and earn some very disapproving looks from total strangers, is the Self Publishing Podcast. The guys who do it are funny and informative. They tell you things about the self-publishing world, like Amazon’s serialisation program or KDP Select that you might never have known about before. They give potential indie authors the hope and strength and belief that they can make an actual living from their writing. Most importantly they stress quality of work over quantity, even if two of them do work together to put out a short book each week as part of a serial.

Kind of like this
(Image found via google from The Analogous Truth )
I think the greatest thing about this podcast though is that these guys are talking from experience. They’re sharing what they’ve learnt, the problems that they’ve had and the successes with whoever will listen instead of hoarding it for themselves like some weird little Gollum type creature. 

They want people to succeed, they want people to self-publish and they want to help them do it right. They don’t care about the money, in fact they flat out refuse to discuss money outside of broad terms or jokes. Their focus is on the quality of the writing and the book.

And while they’re doing all this they’re managing to make you laugh. They talk about boring subjects, or subjects that have the potential to be so, so boring and yet they manage to make it interesting and entertaining. And for that I love them and their podcast. They make me start my day with a smile and keep me laughing on the bus to work.

I am going to be sad when I’m all caught up on their podcasts though.

Thank god they do another one but that’s one I’m going to talk about when I’ve actually listened to it.

Do you have any podcasts that you like to listen to? Let me know and I'll check them out.

Monday, 12 August 2013

I Have Returned!!!

It seems like all my blog posts in recent months have involved me apologising and this post is no exception. I made a few vague hints in my last few posts regarding Germany and au pairing. If you follow me on Twitter you would have seen me mention it a lot.

The short story was that I was all set to go to Hamburg, Germany, leaving behind my family here in little old England and settle in to a new family and look after kids and other nanny-ish things. The weeks leading up to the move were hectic, so hectic that I just didn’t have time to post. I was grabbing up all the time with family and friends that I could while simultaneously working out how to fit 23 years of my life in to a suitcase or two (I can’t travel light, I try but it doesn’t work). Anyway, once I got to Hamburg (beautiful city by the way) things went a little pear-shaped. The family was pleasant enough, the area that they lived in beautiful, Hamburg was nice. Still I couldn’t shake this feeling of wrong-ness, the sensation that I shouldn’t be there. It got worse and worse until finally, the day that I was supposed to move in to the family’s home I couldn’t take it any more and begged my parents to take me home.

So I came back after many apologies to the family and it’s back to the drawing board for my life and finding work. I don’t regret coming home though as you might think. I don’t regret following my gut, I don’t regret deciding not to stay, I don’t regret leaving the family. I do however, regret that the family went to so much trouble and I turn around and leave them in the lurch. I do regret that I couldn’t stay, simply because I wish I could have lived in a different country. It’s a strange feeling but with a history of depression and a tendency to over-analyse and get stuck in my head I didn’t want to risk ignoring my instincts and ending up a hospitalised mess.

And yes, that is indeed the short story. The longer version involves a lot more crying, snot and Currywurst (which is absolutely delicious and I wish I could have one right now). For now I’m trying to get back on all the horses, including blogging and hopefully soon I’ll get back in that saddle and start posting more regularly. Until then I’ll keep trying to find my groove. Catch you next time.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

A Slight Addiction

Hello again my lovelies. Sorry for the long absence. 

I will admit that I developed a teeny tiny addiction to something and it took a lot of my attention away. And I mean a lot! When I’ve not been working on my freelance writing I’ve usually been indulging in this new addiction. I think I have it under control though so there’s no need to worry.
‘What am I addicted to?’ you might ask and well you should.
I am now slightly addicted to Minecraft and the videos on Youtube that go with it. I’ve recently started playing it although my laptop isn’t really able to handle the heat running the program generates. That’s something I mean to fix at some point. Anyhow, I’ve been playing Minecraft and watching various videos online and I have to say I really am impressed. It’s addictive sure but the creative possibilities are endless when you’re playing and I really enjoy it. I’m thinking of possibly doing videos of my own at some point but right now that’s just a thought in the back of my hand. I haven’t got a good enough computer for that and no microphone so voiceover would be really rubbish. It’s something that I do want to do eventually though so watch this space. In the meantime I think I may post a few images and entries about my adventures in Minecraft here. If I finally get around to having any that is.

In other news I have been getting organised. I know a while ago I mentioned that I would be going to Germany for a while. Well that’s all sorted and it is now definitely happening. As of the 29th of July I will be on a plane and heading to Hamburg. Once there I will be looking after twins and learning German for a year. You can probably expect many blog posts about it... if I remember or have the time. As the date for leaving is getting closer and closer I’ve been sorting things out, primarily all of my story notes. I’ve been making sure that they are all in just one of the many notebooks I have and I’ve been narrowing down which notebooks I will take. It took a while and I ended up making a list (I’ve said before, I like lists!) and it turns out that I have roughly 52 stories in the works at various stages of completion. That’s not including the RaT stories or a monthly genre stretch idea that I get from a website. There are all different types too! Some are short stories, some are novellas and some are full length novels. There’s something from most genres there and for several different markets. When I finally get going I go BIG!
Making that list though has helped me realise that if I can get at least some of these novels and shorts finished I’d have a pretty good starting point to start selling books and I wouldn’t have huge gaps between releases. Now I just need to finish the darn things and get them edited.

You may have noticed that the blog has changed a little. I like to mix things up once a month and for once, rather than trying to make the blog look like it reflects me as a person I went for something simple and muted. I can change it but for now it’s something quite pleasant to look at while I try and figure out exactly how I want the blog to look. There’s no point shoving something up that I’m not happy with and looks ugly when there are plenty of reasonably attractive templates that I can use in the meantime. So for now I’m going with this template, something nice and plain and pleasant.
Let me know your thoughts on how it looks.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

What Is It That I Actually DO?!

I’ve been saying for a little while that I’d tell you all exactly what it is that I do for work. I’ve mentioned the freelance stuff but never really gone into detail. I have a spare few minutes so I thought I’d fill you in. I get hired by various people to write the stuff that they either can’t be bothered to write or don’t have the time to write. They give me a brief and a deadline and I write to it. Then I hand it over to them and they pay me and they own all rights to it. Sometimes I have only a few pieces to do over a month or like this month I have lots to do. It doesn’t bring much money in but it does get me writing regularly, something that if you’ve read the blog once or twice or even all the time (if that’s you I applaud you and give you virtual cookies) you will know that I struggle with. They say the best writers write every day. I didn’t, I still don’t. But I do write most days of the week even when I don’t really want to or barely have time to. And that’s a big improvement.

You may also remember that in the last post that I mentioned I would be working on a series of short stories and tracking my process as I go (if I remembered). Well I have been doing the planning and the tracking actually! That’s right, I’ve been working on the story planning, only one at the moment, and I’ve been making notes about how my brain works and my process at the same time. The story is slow going, I’m not really working on it right now, but it’s coming along. I’ve not been working on much of my own stuff if I’m honest, I spent the last couple of weeks so focused on the freelance work that I neglected my own writing. That’s going to change now, I’ve got a system in place and the realisation that it doesn’t actually take me that long to write something of a decent length along with the fact that I do have plenty of time to write what and when I want to. It’s just making myself do it that’s the issue.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

A little bit of a catch up and a lot of plans.

Well what can I say? I have been a very busy beaver these last few weeks. I’ve been working on my freelance writing projects which almost burnt me out but a weekend of good weather, nice food and great company soon fixed me up good and proper. Anyway, I’ve just got a few thousand more words for the final project before I pitch this month’s pieces to my client. I do plan on explaining exactly what I do for my freelance work at some point I promise.

This June I meant to do a sort of A-Z thing where I posted a blog a day on a topic or theme beginning with that day’s letter. That fell through though when I completely forgot to plan and prepare any blogs. Instead I focused on getting those freelance pieces done as they were almost at deadline and I wasn’t finished. I may give it another shot next month or I might just do the occasional post now and then to give myself something to blog about.

I’ve also been hard at work planning actual stories that I’m definitely going to be selling on Amazon at some point. This morning in fact was spent getting the general outlines of 5 different shorts of varying lengths. I want to get several of those finished and ready to go before I even hit the sell button though. I also plan to blog about the process as well, just to give my own opinion on it all and let you all see how my brain actually works. I’ll probably go from concept to publication with that. If I remember. My memory is terrible you’ve probably realised by now.

I came to a very important decision regarding my writing the other day. You might have noticed this already but I have an extreme tendency to be working on about 30 different projects at once (this may or may not be an exaggeration). This leads to me being strung out and unable to progress. I’m so busy dipping between different projects that none of them get the attention and hard work that they deserve. Sometimes I’m so torn between which project to work on that I freeze up, can’t decide and go and watch tv instead. To fix that I’ve decided that I’ll work on two and only two projects, seriously, at once. I may dip in and out of a couple more that don’t require much brain-work just yet but for the most part it will be two projects in particular getting my attention. Kind of like small children. I need to make sure that these projects are in different stages too, one in editing and one still being written or planned. It should help me focus and actually keep me productive. We’ll soon see.

Well I think that’s it for today, hopefully I should be making another post very soon and I’ll see you then.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Where have I been?!

I’m very sorry for such a long silence my readers. I feel very guilty for that. I’ve been a busy little beaver since my last post though. But this time I’m not going to say that I’ll talk about it at another time. I’m going to tell you all about it, right now.

First off, I’m moving at the end of July. No I don’t mean I’m moving blogs. I mean I am actually physically relocating to another place. It’s not just a run of the mill move to a new city though. Oh no. I’ve taken it one step further. I’m moving to a whole new country. Specifically Germany. I’m off to Hamburg to look after two twins and help out a very nice family as an au pair. I’ve spent a large portion of the last month sorting that out, specifically signing the contract after talking it through with my parents and arranging a couple of chats with the adults in question. SO, come August this blog won’t just be about writing and reading, it’s going to be about living in a new country, speaking a new language and doing new things. Basically it’ll be a whole load of NEW. I plan to write a post giving a bit more detail about this at a later date though so keep an eye out for that.

Secondly, I’ve been reading. A LOT. I’ve bought a few books and rediscovered some of my older favourites. Most importantly I returned to my oldest and dearest book series by Terry Brooks again (you might remember THOSE blog posts) and I’m happy to say that reading those books has reminded me about why I write and why I write what I write (again, another blog post about that). Reading those books again has fired me up, inspired me and given me that little nudge I needed to get my butt in gear and actually write something for a change. So yeah, in the last month I’ve been reading several books that I really enjoyed. I may write a few reviews, I may not, it all depends on how busy I end up becoming as August approaches. I would like to though, just so I could share with the world what I love about books and what makes me rage and want to throw things out of the window (fortunately that kind of writing rarely appears and I seem to be very good at avoiding those books).

I’ve also been writing more. I finished the first book of the Feral Diaries (working title) and I’m currently in the process of typing them up. Yup, that’s right, I wrote each and every word of that series by hand. Shame on me. The good news about that though is that I can read through the paper copies once it’s copied up and make my notes on them before enacting the revisions on the computer file, a way that I tend to prefer working in all honesty. I have been sharing the chapters, or entries as I’ve been calling them, over on a writers board on LiveJournal called RunawayTales. I’m doing this because I used prompts from their community to write the entries and I also want a tiny bit of feedback now. They are totally unedited though which I think may be putting people off giving constructive criticism. The entries are member locked though so unfortunately you can’t see them. What’s good though is that it’s done. The novel is finished and will soon be in a digital form and ready for editing.
Also speaking of writing, I’ve been earning some money for it. If you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed the odd tweet here or there about me writing for work. Now you can’t find what I write anywhere under my name, I don’t even know what the stories are called or where they’re sold. You see I’m a ghost writer of short stories. I write them and someone pays me a one off fee for each story. I’ve currently got 3 under progress, all due by the end of the month. I’ve got a small novelette due next month as well. What it’s made me realise though is that I can write short stories and there is probably a market for them too. So I’m looking into selling some of my own under my own name.

This brings me onto another thing that’s been keeping me quite busy for the last month; self-publishing. I’ve been looking into self-publishing for a while, trying to figure out if I want to go that way and which books I want to self-publish. I realised though that it’s all well and good thinking about it now but really, I knew nothing about how to go about doing it. So I’ve been looking into it. I’ve been researching self-marketing, ebook publications, paper book publications and people to stay away from. I don’t want to turn my back on traditional publishers though, not yet. So I decided to take a step towards the hybrid author route. Some of my work will be self-published, other bits will, hopefully, be done through a traditional publisher. First though I need to get some work ready for publishing. Which I should probably go do now…

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Food, Glorious Food: The Encore

On Wednesday I was in Nottingham. That in itself is unusual for me. I was meeting someone. Also unusual for me. It happened to be a male. Yes! I know, boys are evil and covered in cooties. Anyhow, that ‘date’ if you can call it that (he turned up hungover, unshowered, wearing tracksuit bottoms and a bobble hat. No not that cute Jayne hats everyone’s talking about recently. A hideous green and black thing) went alright, despite the whole... ick factor. I was wondering why he thought that turning up to meet me for the first time dressed as he was, was a reasonable thing to do. Surely he’d try and impress me, wear his nicest clothes, shower etc. Moral of that story boys is: make an effort when you’re on a date, even if it is a weird pseudo date done on the fly. And don’t go out the night before.
As I was saying, it was as the... thing... was ending, when I was returning to Nottingham Market Square to catch my bus that things got interesting. The Square was covered in tents and marquees and I could smell food. A lot of yummy food. I had a look around. It was some sort of food festival. I wanted to go.

And that my friends is how I found myself, the very next day at 11:30 in the square again. I took my friend T with me. She’s much better company and makes me laugh. We hadn’t eaten all morning, wanting to save as much room as possible for food. We decided to walk around first, see everything that was available before we bought food. There was much squealing as we saw cute things and tasty things. We wanted all of the food and all of the trinkets. It was fun. And then, as we were making our second trip around the food festival, this time with the intent of actually getting food T squealed and ran off to one side. She had seen something called a kuksa at the Finnish stall. Unfortunately I happened to be between her and the stall and almost went head over heels into the stall next door. She squealed over them for the next few minutes, had a very rapid conversation with the nice stall lady before eventually we moved on. She was still debating buying one.

From Finland we ended up in Poland. We had a Polska Barbeque Sausage, split in half, covered in ketchup and eaten in the beer tent set up behind it. We decided it was still a bit too early for beer. The sausage was delicious. Served on proper Polish bread, it was like a fancy hotdog and even more delicious. Each bit took me back to my trip to Poland around the time the nation was voting on joining the EU (I was 14 and all I remember is the food, the singing and the drunkenness when it was announced). Then, bellies slightly less empty than before we continued wandering.

We decided to try something really different and had a kangaroo burger. That’s right, you heard me, I ate Skippy. Well I say ate but really I nibbled at it, gagged a little and shoved my half of the burger at T. For the record kangaroo tastes surprisingly similar to steak. I don’t like steak. With T munching away at her Skippy burger, sharing a Tweet with the rest of the world about it we continued our wanderings, looking for something for me to take the taste of Kanga out of my mouth.

T looking very happy
with her boozey drinks
We decided it wasn’t too early for booze anymore and tried Cider slushies. Probably a poor choice considering it was rather cold and I didn’t much like the taste but ah well. I got a shot of Vimto in mine (that's why it's purple) and we spent the next hour or so continuing to wander around. It may be possibly that those cider slushies made us slightly drunk for the rest of the day. Things start to get a little fuzzy and mixed up after this point.

I do remember a fantastic stall with a bunch of handmadecraft items and the most beautiful journals I’ve ever seen. I wanted one at the time but I couldn’t afford one. I still want one though as they are so gorgeous and each one seems to be made with love. *Hint hint* They were so pretty that I was actually afraid of picking them up.

I tried a very tasty Greek dish called Gyros; pork, onion, tomato, chips, tsatsiki and paprika all wrapped up in a slightly fried pitta bread. It was delicious and T and I shared it and wolfed it down in record time. I can still taste it and I want another one. What was most telling about the quality of the dish is that a bunch of construction workers were all queueing up to buy them for lunch. They were JUST THAT GOOD.

Like this but with chocolate buttons on it too.
Then we had what I think was THE BEST dish of the day. Sicillian Cannolini. It was tasty, it was tiny and it was so good that I wasn’t able to get a picture of it. I wanted it in my mouth straight away. It was also sold to us by a very enthusiastic Italian man who was loud and young and enthusiastic. T likened him to a puppy. I decided that although he was cute if he were a few years older his selling methods would be bordering on creepy. Either way the cannolini was good and I ate it before I could take a picture. T did try to remind me but I was preoccupied with the food so instead you get a stock image.

My second Polska barbeque sausage
We took a brief break to go somewhere else to warm up, I had a chai latte and got the feeling back in my fingers before we headed out to the food stands once more.
I insisted on another Polish barbeque sausage and this time we each had a beer while I munched it down. We started discussing Firefly and Serenity (where they fit together and how they're just cool) and the amazing work of the brilliant Nathan Fillion (mostly how he's gotten more attractive with age. He really is ruggedly handsome)  before we knew it we’d lost 2 hours and it was probably time to go home. We didn’t.

That is the face of regret. When you
realise you've been walking around
 with basically a bag of sausage.
Anyone know any recipes
for salami?
Instead we walked around, trying small bits and pieces of cheese and salami. I particularly liked a sticky toffee cheddar I tried and almost wish I'd bought some. I did buy something to take home though. I am blaming the Polish beer for the fact that I went home with £10 worth of salami in a carrier bag. I only realised the truth when I was waiting for the bus. T managed to get a very amusing picture of this moment.

it's even prettier in real life
Despite the rain and the fact that at times it was so cold that I could see my breath I think our trip to the food festival was great. I had fun, I ate a lot of food and I actually left the house during the week. Sure I wish I’d tried other stuff, taken more pictures and bought some of the crafts but there’s always next year.

Oh and T did end up buying that kuksa.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Food, Glorious Food

Today I'm off to the city, with my friend T. We're going to the Market Square and hopefully attending a food festival type thing that's popped up there. I will eat lots of food, take lots of pictures and have fun. Expect a post later or tomorrow.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

RoW80 Check In and Some Startling Realisations

For a long time I’ve thought that my blog posts need to be witty, informative and well written. It’s probably part of the reason why I haven’t blogged that much lately. Today though, as I was sat in the Arboretum (a small park in Nottingham for those not in the know which is probably all of you) I realised that this was complete and utter poppycock. Yes I use words like poppycock. My blog posts can be whatever I want them to be. It’s my blog and my voice, I shouldn’t change it for no real reason. With that in mind I want to tell you how my RoW80 is going.

1) Write 500 words of my own work a day. - I’ve not been writing any of my own stuff. That’s my first goal failed since I signed up.

2) Participate in Camp NaNo - Secondly, I haven’t written a thing for Camp NaNoWriMo either. All of my stories are still in the planning stages or partly written. I wanted to start with something fresh, something I haven’t tried before. So this weekend I’m going to sit down and plan it out, vaguely and quickly, and then I’m going to write it. Simples.

3) Work on new web-comic once a week - I haven’t worked on my webcomic idea either. Unless you count a few vague plans for a daily auto-biographical stuff which I suppose you could. Actually scratch that. This goal I’ve managed to reach. Last week I planned a couple of pages, this week I’ve planned a few more. I even have thumbnails. Maybe one day I’ll actually put them online.

4) Blog at least once a week - My blogging went wonky, I won’t lie. Mostly because of the reasons I outlined at the top. I had failed my goals and there was no fancy witty way to say it. Now, with no pressure of sounding informative or even intelligent, I can probably get more blog entries done.


In other news though my freelance writing is going swimmingly. I have a regular contract; one short story a week of 5,000 – 6,000 words, for $20. It isn’t much, I’ll admit, but it’s a start. It gets me into the habit of writing every day, of working to a deadline. Those are both things I’ve struggled with outside of NaNoWriMo. Now though I’m slowly conquering those problems. And with this freelance writing stuff I’ve come to another startling realisation.


Just because I’ve not got a full length novel to publish doesn’t mean that I can’t simply write some short stories and put them up for sale. It’s a smart thing to do in my mind. People can download them, read them and slowly they’ll start to remember my name. That way, if and when I eventually publish a full-length novel (either traditionally or through Amazon’s Kindle store and various other eBook outlets) I may already have a following. So for the rest of April and probably a large chunk of May I’ll be working on building a back catalogue of writing and figuring out how the hell to use that stuff. It’s a little confusing at the moment. If anyone knows any good sites that explain it in simple language then please let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 1 April 2013

RoW80 Round 2: Getting back on the horse

I’ve recently begun free-lancing. But that’s not what this post is about today. That is going to come another day.
Instead I’m telling you all what I plan on doing for Round Two of RoW80. Round One was a bust, I won’t lie. Things happened, my productivity dropped to near 0 and I essentially vanished off the face of the internet (this part at least). I’m not back on full power just yet but I’m getting there and one day, when I’m feeling stronger I will tell you about what exactly happened in January.
But, pushing the miserable stuff aside, my aim for this round of RoW80 is to just get writing again. I have a few goals but not as many as I usually set myself.

1) Write 500 words of my own work a day.

I’m freelancing yes, and that means I am actually writing more days again, but I’m not writing what I want to write. I’m writing for someone else. So, to get me back into the spirit of writing my own work I’m going to aim for a minimum of 500 words a day. It’s not much, it should only take me about half an hour on a good day but it’s more than I’m doing now.

2) Participate in Camp NaNo

I’m taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo this month so I’ll be trying to write for that. It’s pretty self-explanatory really.

3) Work on new web-comic once a week

I’ve been working on a new web-comic idea recently and so I want to make sure that I’m not just leaving it by the wayside as I focus on other stuff. I may even post about it a bit at some point.

4) Blog at least once a week.

Writing the blog is something I find very therapeutic and it’s something that I need to do more of. I realise that I need to start planning my posts more though. Usually I’m just writing them on the day they get posted and it feels like a bit of a cop-out. So I will do some blog series at some point this round... when I’ve figured them out.

So, there we have them; my goals for RoW80. Enjoy!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Why Can't I Do This?

I’ve been struggling a lot lately. Part of it is due to the issues that became overwhelming in January and part of it is due to me having too many ideas. It’s got to the point where so many of my projects are crowding in on me, screaming ‘work on me! Work on me!” that I’m just paralysed. I don’t know which way to turn, where to go.

Add in the fact that I’m starting to question who I really am and you’ve got the recipe for a serious disaster. I’m trying to figure out who I am, what I want to do with myself, what my dreams are. All the while I’m trying to find a job and get in shape. Like I said, disaster.

At the best of times my mind is constantly going. Now though it’s just overwhelming. Maybe it will change soon, by my own hand or by the actions of someone else. Who knows? I certainly don’t.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

What have I been doing?!

I finally feel up to posting again. I’m not totally out of the woods yet but I’m getting there. Things are beginning to look up and I’ve got some of my old drive back.
With this in mind I thought I’d fill you in on a few of my projects and how they’re coming along.
First up;

Darkling Watch

I was sat the other day, slowly working through the first chapter of Darkling Watch (printed off and steadily being covered in highlights and scribbles) when I came to a realisation. I need to rewrite it. All three books.

I always knew that I would need to do some extensive editing when I finally got around to it but as I thought it over I saw the truth. I’d been putting off and putting off doing the edits or simply going over the same parts again and again. I gave a quick read-through of the story and finally it clicked. I knew why I’d been procrastinating on doing those edits. I wasn’t happy with it. Not in the slightest. Sure there were some parts; a paragraph here, a scene there; that I was in love with. Parts that, as I’d written them the words had just flowed and poured onto the page. Those parts were few and far between though.

It’s not the writing that I’m unhappy with. The writing is, for the most part, alright. It’s the content, the story, the plot. It’s barely there. I know what I want to the plot to be and sometimes it does poke through. Most of the time though it’s hidden by the scenes that I WANTED to write, scenes that I saw clear as day in my brain and more than likely were reflecting things that I wished I was doing at the time. These scenes that I had written aren’t what is need for the story to move onwards. They didn’t do anything, show anything or even pull the reader in (all things that most scenes are meant to do but more on that another day). Yes, Darkling Watch had character development, but barely, it was hidden amongst the fluff, teenage relationship angst (between a woman in her late twenties and a centuries old shape-shifter may I just add, yet something else that needs work) and ‘witty’ dialogue. The character development and the plot and all those other things that make a good story needed to be yanked out, prised from the grips of the rest of the word vomit and cleaned off.

I know why these problems came about though. The story was only beginning to form in my mind when I began to write it. I’d just discovered NaNoWriMo, just over a week before it was due to start and I had no idea what I was doing. I got my basic idea, did a ridiculously vague outline and then just went with it from there. I tried to write as much as I could, more than other people in my area were writing and I cared little for the quality of what I was writing. As a result Darkling Watch is very much a NaNoWriMo novel; huge, vague, sprawling and disorganised. I focused on the word count, rather than the story. It’s poorly planned and poorly executed and there’s very little I can do to save it in its current incarnation.

So I’m scrapping it. I’m pulling out the bits I like, the scenes relevant to the plot or some good characterisation and saving them somewhere nice. The rest I’m putting into a folder in my Dropbox account where it will stay forever or until I decide that ‘yes, actually, I can delete this awful festering turd of a manuscript’ and hit that button. I plan on starting from the very beginning of the whole process; planning and plotting everything. I want to track my character development, the main plot, and the sub-plots. I might even find that fabled theme and message in there. I don’t know. All I know is that come tomorrow Darkling Watch will be torn to the ground and rebuilding will begin.

The Web-comic

No, it still doesn’t have a name. My characters don’t have names. My world doesn’t have a name. It’s just a big nameless mass. And yet...
There are things coming together. I’ve been doing reference sketches from comics that I find with an interesting art style. The images of some of my characters are slowly building up. The plotlines are growing within my mind. I even see, now and then, how a particular scene might be drawn. Hell I’ve got a theme and everything.

The way it’s all happening in my head is strange though. I’m seeing bits and pieces and they’re piling on top of each other, slowly melding together into one form. The excitement is all there, I want to work on it. But it’s a new kind of excitement. It’s not pushing me to dive right in, to start churning out pages and pages of comics that I grow to hate and will eventually throw away. Instead I feel like I’m being encouraged to take my time, to make sure I’m mostly satisfied with each thing before moving on to the next. I say mostly because creative things are never truly finished, sometimes we just have to say ‘enough’ and step back. I’m not focused on what I want the comic to be in the same way that I did when Project Labolai was a web-comic. Instead I’m focusing on making the comic the best it can be NOW, using the idea and momentum to create a story and characters that I can be proud of.

I don’t know when the comic will be released online. I’ll be sure to mention when it is though. For now I’m just going with my imagination and slowly creating it how I want it to be. In the meantime I might experiment with my comicking, draw a few practice pages, write a few practice scripts, just to get in a comicking groove and so that when it comes to doing the real thing I know what I want to do and how I want to do it.


One thing that many of us writer-types sometimes let fall by the wayside is our health. We spend so many hours sitting at our computers or bent over our paper just telling our story. We get so embroiled in these worlds we’ve created, manipulating these characters that are almost like children to us, that we forget that we’re actually real people. We give our characters and our plot lines more polish and care than we even think about giving ourselves sometimes.

At the beginning of the year I made several resolutions regarding my health. I said I would quit smoking. I said I would start going to the gym more and get in shape. People didn’t think I would do it. They didn’t believe in me.

I’ve now been cigarette-free for almost two months. I’ve been going to the gym roughly three times a week for the last month (apart from last week when I sproinged my ankle [and yes that’s a real word now, I say so]). I haven’t felt this good in years. I’m getting slimmer, I’m saving money and I can finally taste stuff again.
I do miss smoking now and then. Usually when I’m bored or stressed about something one of the family-members is doing to wind me up. Mostly it’s when I’m on a night out and I’ve had a bit to drink. For me cigarettes were part of a night out. Thankfully my nights out are few and far between and the temptation, when it does appear, is surprisingly easy to fight.

Overall I can say that this particular project is going wonderfully well. Sooner or later, possibly after a few more months of going to the gym regularly, I’m going to need to buy new clothes. I’m getting excited about it already. Sure it will be a hard hit to my already meagre funds but it will just show how much hard work I’ve been doing.

Besides, in the case of the inevitable zombie apocalypse it means I may actually survive. After all...
You don’t have to outrun the zombies; you just have to outrun other people.

Monday, 11 February 2013

An Apology

Firstly I would like to apologise for my lengthy internet silence. I had my posts planned, I’d begun to write them in my head but then life got in the way. 

For the last few weeks, probably the last few months if I’m really honest, it’s felt like I’m living under a big dark cloud. A dark cloud that’s gradually been pushing me further and further down, sucking away all the enjoyment I can find from things like writing or drawing. I went to the doctor about it recently when I realised that this wasn’t going away, it was getting much worse and it was actually really starting to ruin my life. Turns out it was actually a big deal, how I was feeling. I’m not going to go into that though.

I’m not saying sorry for the fact that I stopped posting. That break from interaction with readers and the blog has given me some much needed perspective. What I am sorry for is going completely quiet. I didn’t write anything about feeling down or the dark cloud and I definitely didn’t give you any warning that I would stop posting. It’s that which I’m apologising for. I feel like I owe you the apology for just disappearing and an explanation for my absence. Unfortunately I don’t feel strong enough to properly explain it all yet, partially because I’ve not fully wrapped my head around it.

I will say this though. Some of the problems I’ve been dealing weren’t made any better by these self-imposed deadlines and tasks that I was setting. In fact they were probably making it much much worse.
I’ve relaxed all my goals, shifted my life around a little bit and slowly but surely the big dark cloud is lifting. I’m finding enjoyment in writing again, and editing and I’m working on a couple of new projects as well as the old ones. I will be resuming posting again starting this week but, unlike before, there will not be a set schedule and I have no specific plans to write certain posts for certain dates. I’m hopeful for what the rest of this month and this year will bring.

Will there be bad days in the future? Most definitely.

Will I ever actually properly explain what’s going on in my head? Who knows, my mind is a dark and twisty place.

Will I try and keep you posted should I go off the grid again? Yes, I will try as hard as I can.

For now though I’m focusing on feeling better, writing and editing and trying to find a job. No deadlines, no daily to-do lists, just long term goals and the occasional reward when I’ve worked hard.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

A few thoughts on novel series

Looking through my lists of books (written, part-written and to-be-written) and the series they belong to, at least in my mind, got me thinking about the very fluid way that we use the word ‘series’.

More often than not it’s used to describe a set of books linked by a character and a storyline (like for instance, Harry Potter). Other times it is used as a way of describing a group of books set in a particular world or ‘verse’ that share a common theme and sometimes share characters (Such as Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series). Other times the series in question is an amalgamation of the two, one over-arching theme involving the same characters showing up now and then or all of the way through, but each individual book has its own storyline that links to the bigger picture (take The Saga of Darren Shan by the author of the same name). Personally I like that kind of series the best.

A lot of my books, or ideas, or partially written manuscripts are series. For some reason I think of characters or a storyline that is just too big for one book or I want to explore the past of other characters that isn’t really gone in to within the main book. That’s what happened with the Darkling Watch. The trilogy is set in a ‘verse’ as it were and there are other books within that same verse that either draw from characters in the trilogy or are influenced by elements that I have only scrapped the surface of.

The Chronicles of Geniania (that name needs work I know), which now also includes P.L. (previously o.S.a.M) is more a series of standalone books that are set in one world and now and then characters from one story may make cameos in another.

I don’t know what it is about series but I tend to prefer reading them, to reading standalone novels. Maybe it’s because inside it feels like maybe it will never end, I’ll get to keep seeing these characters living their lives, making mistakes and falling in love for the rest of my life. Or it might be that with series there’s that promise that all your questions will be answered within the other books eventually, as long as you keep reading.
I feel like it takes a lot of work for a writer to write a series. Not only are you charting the plot of each individual book but somehow, usually, you’ve got to make sure that each book links to another and that all questions are answered eventually. A writer has to stick to their characters not just in one book but in many. They have to make sure that characters don’t develop a completely new personality half way through the series. Most important is the amount of skill needed in their writing to make sure that their readers keep coming back for more.

Maybe I’m being overambitious, starting with a trilogy within a series or even setting most of my books within one series or another. It may drive me mad, it may make me want to crawl under my duvet and cry or take up chain-smoking some days. But it’s a challenge and I do so love to be challenged.

Monday, 7 January 2013

RoW80, Round One; Goals

Well once more it is the start of a new round of RoW80 (A Round of Words in 80 Days for any newcomers out there). More importantly it is Round One, time for a fresh start and time to set some new goals. First though I have a few thoughts, more ramblings, so I just want to get them out of my head and on to paper as it were.
I didn’t do overly well last year. I set my goals either too low and was easily able to reach them or I set them just right but didn’t bother. Chronic laziness is a problem of mine but I want to change that which is what I’m trying to do with this year’s goals. So... here we go again:

Writing Related Goals

1) Edit ½ a chapter of Darkling Watch; book 1 a week.
Darkling Watch is my baby and I need to get started on actually editing it seriously if I want to publish it. I’ve made a good start so far but I want to go further with it and so I need to knuckle down and get to it. But more on that another day (Yes, I say that a lot but I promise I will get on to it more another day)

2) Write one Feral Diary entry a week.
I only have about 7 entries left to write for the Feral Diaries and I want to get it finished so I can begin editing again. Ideas are already forming in my head for how to edit it and how to write the next book. To do all of that though I need to finish writing the first book which won’t happen until I sit down and put my mind to it.

3) Plan the web-comic idea once a week.
Yes I have a new web-comic idea. No it will not become a novel this time. This idea is really best suited to illustration format and because I’ve always wanted to create a web-comic and keep it going this seems the best route to take. So I’ll be trying to plan at least part of it once a week.

4) Write a chapter of Project Labolai a week
I need to finish Project Labolai soon, it’s been almost a year since I had the initial idea and although I have changed it quite a bit I want to get it written and ready for editing before the year is out. Maybe even before this round is over. We’ll have to wait and see though, it may be that it gets even bigger than Darkling Watch.

5) Complete WriYe challenges.
I need to explain about WriYe, something I plan to do next Monday but suffice to say that the event (for it is an event) has a lot of different challenges running throughout the year and I want to try my hand at all of them, although some interest me more than others. You’ll be hearing about WriYe throughout the year though so don’t worry about that.

6) Blog 3 times a week
I fell apart in December and barely blogged. I didn’t know what I wanted to blog about or I just couldn’t be bothered to write. Now though I spent the last hour or so planning out the timetable for my blog posts so that I can begin writing them tomorrow or even once this one is done. This way I can have actual blog posts up without having to worry about writing them on the day. Once they are written and edited then I can schedule them to go up when I should. I’m trying to be organised you see.

Life Goals

1) Exercise 3 times a week
A friend and I are both joining the gym. I want to get in shape, I want to be able to run and wear clothes that I like and I just want to look good. Right now I have a figure but it’s a bit blobby around the edges, like a woman shaped wax figure that’s been left on top of the oven and melted a bit. So exercise it is. Plus, it’ll give me time to think out plot points I’m stuck on.

2) Apply to universities for Masters
In 2011, just after I graduated I got accepted onto a Master’s course at my university. I had to turn it down as I couldn’t afford it then. Now though, I want to try again. Although I won’t be returning to North Wales I plan to do a very similar course at a local university and commute in. To make that happen though I need to actually apply AND get a job to pay the fees and travel costs. So it’s a goal.

3) Read one book a week
I enjoy reading but too recently I’ve stopped reading as often as I could. Sometimes I go an entire month without reading a thing. I want to change that so I’m setting that goal. Considering that I do a RoW80 check in post once a week I think it works as a measurable goal really.

4) Stay off the cigarettes
I quit smoking on Wednesday. Now I just need to keep away from the cigarettes once the quitting aids ends and I’ll be a happy bunny. Already I can feel the improvement to my health; my mouth doesn’t taste like something died in it when I wake up, I can run up stairs again without getting out of breath, everything tastes better and I can smell properly.

And those are my goals for Round One of RoW80. What do you think?

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

2013: Looking back and looking forward

So, it’s the New Year and I realise that I have been incredibly rubbish at posting during December. I’m not sure why although it may have something to do with my incredible bout of laziness that struck me during that month. Either way, I intend to remedy that this month and for the rest of the year, starting now.
I want to look back on the last year. I was considering addressing each of my resolutions and saying how miserable I failed in them but then a very smart person told me to look at the successes, rather than the failures so that’s what I will do. So...

1) I finished the first draft of Darkling Watch, a project, or rather THE project that helped me realise that I wanted to be a writer and share my stories with everyone. I managed to get it finished and even began the editing process.
2) I wrote the complete script for a web-comic. I never began drawing it past the thumbnail stage but I wrote it, I edited it and I was happy with it, for the most part. And then I turned it into a novel instead. Yeah... I’m still not sure how that happened but the fact is I managed to finish something. 
3) I got my writing organised. I managed to find a way to make myself write down all those amazing ideas I was had, sort them out and keep track of them. The system isn’t perfect yet but it is much better than it was. So I see it as a success. 
4) I got some very valuable work experience under my belt. Although I didn’t get paid for it I got lots of experience and something new to put on my cv. Plus, I also learnt that I could write and work at the same time without any real damage to the quality which is always a plus. 
5) I lost a bit of weight. Not much and not as much as I could have hoped but considering I didn’t really change my lifestyle I’m still quite happy that I managed to lose some. Now instead of looking 5 months pregnant I’m just chubby. For me that’s a vast improvement.

And that is the key success of 2012 for me. They’re not many and they’re not all that great to other people but for me they are important and I’m glad that I looked back on them. But now, for resolutions for 2013;

1) Lose some weight and get in shape so that in the possible event of a zombie apocalypse I won’t get eaten. I’m already looking at joining a gym, I’ve got an exercise buddy and it’s looking good right now. 
2) Quit smoking. I tried several times last year, with sheer will power but each time something would happen and I would fail. But now I’m taking advantage of the schemes on offer by the NHS and I’m using New Leaf, nicorette lozenges and patches. My first official start day is tomorrow and my last cigarette was at around 3pm this afternoon. 
3) Finish editing and release Darkling Watch Book One. It’s been over a year since I started that novel and I want to edit the first book and have it on sale on Amazon by September at the earliest. A lot of work needs to be done on it though and I’m hoping that I can push myself to do this. 
4) Reach my RoW80 targets. Last year I struggled and I’d stop trying and posting. Whether this was because I was lazy, I’d set my targets too high or they just weren’t measurable enough I don’t know. This year though I plan to set them and reach them. AND actually keep posting about them. Fingers crossed. 
5) Be an adult. This doesn’t mean being boring and growing up. To me being an adult means taking responsibility for myself and that includes finding a job and moving out of my parents house. I’m fed up of having a tiny room and having to go into town each week to sign on to JobSeekers. So I’m determined that whilst my work experience is current enough I will apply for jobs left right and center and hopefully find one. 
6) Start and maintain a webcomic. I know that I made that resolution last year and I did quite well with it until it came time to draw and then I grew to dislike the script. Hopefully that will be changed this year, especially with the new idea I’m working on. 
 7) Complete WriYe. I’ve set myself the word target of 400,000 words by the end of December this year but more on WriYe in another post.
And that is that; my successes of 2012 and my aims for 2013. I don’t know if I will achieve them but I hope I do. Keep an eye out on Sunday for my RoW80 target post and as always
Keep Writing!