Chained to the desk

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Where else would I be today. 

I’m lucky enough to have a writing day so it doesn’t matter if it’s bloody tropical outside. Truth is, I burn quicker than plastic white bread anyway so I’d probably be in the shade or whining if I was outside.

Instead I am inside, and whining, because I’m stuck. I’m on a six-month (online) novel writing course and it’s kind of a crunch time – midway through the writing and I haven’t written enough; my outline is problematic and I don’t want to just feck time away writing towards no likely end point; and I guess I am just generally having a panic.

The current solution is that the sloping office ceiling above my head is getting covered in post-its and I’m trying to see past all the bits of ‘story’ I’ve written and make them into some sort of ‘plot’. 

There’s going to be a tree’s worth of post-its up there soon. 

Banished by Liz de Jager

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Saw on Twitter earlier this evening that there is an excerpt  of Liz de Jager’s debut novel Banished up on Tor’s website. I’ve been looking forward to this, Liz was one of SCBWI’s Undiscovered Voices and I think was picked up really quickly as a result. Go read for yourself – can’t wait to get my hands on this one! You can preorder it, I just found out on her blog. Go!

Writing for Teenagers online course

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The very lovely Keris Stainton is running an online course in August, Writing For Teenagers: It’s not all OMG and LOL. She’s written three very successful novels, Della Says: OMG, Emma Hearts LA and Jessie Hearts NYC, the lady really knows her stuff. And you should follow her on Twitter, she’s funny. 

It’s six weeks and sounds fab. Off to reserve a spot now! 

November is for No

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Ah yes, it’s that time of year. The days draw in, I get aggrieved at the park closing fifteen minutes earlier each week, and I start to get the Guilts for not committing myself to one of the various creative marathons that the last thirty-day month of the year offers.

There’s NaNoWriMo.

Or NaBloPoMo.

For the boys, or the hirsute girls I guess, Movember.

As I haven’t written a word of fiction this year – I tell a lie, there was a single dashed-off entry for a short story competition – I think it’s probably unwise to want to throw myself into Nano this year. Except, of course, that now I’ve sensibly told myself that, I really really really want to. Ironically I even have an idea, once that’s been festering building for a while. It’s timely and will be redundant by next year.

I’ll make a decision – oh, probably late on Sunday evening.   Instead I have definitely committed to one Nano task – I am making cake and/or caramel popcorn for two able and willing participants, at the intervals of their choosing. Sugar powered wordsmiths! Meanwhile, go and read all about To Hell With Publishing. Admire their chutzpah, their drive and their brilliant determination to get back to basics and the bones of a good story. Bottom line bedamned, and best of luck to them. (I don’t doubt they’ve actually able to be profitable actually – they’re just playing the game differently.)

Walking in This World

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Another slightly halted start to the writing year. Not very much fiction going on around here, but writing for lots of websites and even rewriting other people's copy.  It's surprisingly gratifying.  I'm also in a new writing group, for some similarly terrified authors and would be authors (it seems like the fear does go away with publication.  I'm mainly scared because they are all so much better than me.

Last year, following and completing Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way did wonders for me. Then I fell off the Morning Pages path, lazily scootching down under the covers with the boy.  I went to see JC – yes, I think I was on the point of worshipping her – in a workshop.  Sadly underwhelming. But it hasn't put me off. Back to work with her follow-up book, Walking In This World. Like TAW, it's going to take me a long time to finish it. I hope it'll be worth it.

Movement

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Things are speeding forward, and it feels like the flow is going in the right direction. Interesting people, opportunities, and the end of other long-running projects are all keeping me occupied, stimulated and excited. Only eight more days in the office job before I am free!

I've planned a writing adventure for Sunday. It involves a walking tour, a camera and a short story competition. Wish me luck.

Hell.xls

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Or possibly heaven in spreadsheet format.

I think that most people who have the urge (whatever about the actual drive) to complete something like a novel can either veer off track occasionally, or be driven right off the road by their inner critic.  Also known as the duck, though I can't quite remember where that came from (possibly Pete Cohen, the motivational coach).

Basically the duck or the inner editor or your internal critic lets you steam away at something for a while, and then just when you think this is all going swimmingly – this is about the Week 2 stage of Nano, for instance – then the voices get louder and you start to lose control of the word juggernaut. You start to hear things like

  • why are you doing this? I mean, it's great and all – well, the writing's not great, ha ha, but great that you're giving it a shot,  like yay, go you. Yeah But really….
  • aren't you just a little too busy for this kind of thing?  You have a job? One of those things that actually pays the bills. I mean, 
  • other people are doing this. Already. So you don't have to. Do you really need to add to that pile of books published every year, all those trees!… 
  • are there for you to hide behind when people realise what a crock of shit you are writing. Hell, if they don't just hang you from one for crimes against literature…
  • Wait, what the hell am I saying?  Oh my god, I am so awful.  This is so absurd. Like who the hell would publish this pile of crap anyway? 

And on and on. It's amazing how many people talk themselves out of a novel. Plus yes, it's antisocial, takes time and brainpower and should you finish the first draft, editing it and then perhaps letting other people read it and hack it apart and then put it back together in a way you never could have imagined could be so utterly heinous.

Yes, well. Get over yourself. Lawrence Block claims that writing is the only hobby where its practitioners leap ahead in their minds all the way through the cycle to publication (right, people in beginner guitar lessons never ever think "Ooh. The Albert Hall. Headliner…" – aha. Sure)

My current solution is just bloody write. It just has to be done. Without churning out words every day, there will be nothing to edit in December. In order to keep me on track I've put together a devilishly fun spreadsheet – oh dear, did my inner geek pop out there?  It tells me how many of the day's word count I've done and what's left to go, and how I'm doing on the overall total. Yes I am behind on where I wanted to be by now but a weekend of solid work will get me back there. It does involve writing 30 mins in the morning before work, plus whatever else is necessary – generally about the same again – in the evening in order to hit each day's modest total, about 1150. And now that I can see what I am doing in black and white (and pink and green and blue – I made it pretty!  An excellent procrastination technique) it's much much harder to kid myself…

There’s nothing like throwing yourself off a cliff to propel you into action

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Today I quit my full-time job. Immediately afterwards my hands were trembling and then I felt a little bit sick. When an involuntary whoop came out of my mouth, I thought: yup. This is the right thing to do. 

My word count is going up, slowly but surely. Yeah, I've scared myself into writing.  If I didn't sit down and write today then I'm never going to do it, am I?!  And those 500 word chunks do make a difference. As will quitting this job, for better or for worse. Right now I believe it's worth taking the financial risk for the potential life reward.  Doesn't mean it's not scary, but that's ok. 

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage"
– Anais Nin