I’m thinking ahead here but I’m going to be wanting some first readers in a few months (I’m pencilling in Easter) but where do they live?

For my first novel, Railroaded, I printed out ten copies of the third draft and handed it out to people; My Mum, Dad, three friends, a daughter of a work colleague who ran a small reading group, an ex-girlfriend and a local activist I found on the internet!

Yeah, that’s right, only 8.  I’ve still got 2 copies sitting here because I really couldn’t find anyone else.

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In the early hours of Wednesday I finished the first draft of ‘Broken Branches’, stubbornly sitting up in bed determined to complete it.

I gave myself the deadline of 31st December 2010 to finish the novel, having started on 1st Jan 2010, I failed by 5 days but, to be honest, I’m well pleased because I didn’t pull my finger out of my over-preparing arse until about May plus I had a meltdown sometime in August.

Still, I beat the 18 months it took to write the first draft of my first novel ‘Railroaded’, so either I’m getting better and more efficient, or I’m just a more bloody-minded hermit than before.

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Finished Chapter 20 over the weekend which is a great relief as the past 2 chapters have been a bit of a headache and caused me to have a slight speed wobble just as my momentum for finishing the novel was building up.

A few plot lines had me spiralling into dread about their believability and clunkiness.

On the one hand I’d planned the novel to the end and had built up good momentum to get the thing finished by the New Year.  On the other hand, I had this nagging feeling prodding me that I had to do a little backtracking to fix some stuff.

The first draft is not a place to edit or seriously dwell on things, just get it done.  There’s a good post here by Emma Newman called ‘Four pillars of the first draft‘ going into more detail.

I had a major speed wobble near the beginning of this novel, but this one was just a few minor indiscretions needing to be ironed out to reach a satisfactory ending.  Nothing worse than a novel that ends badly or with a whimper.

So, I briefly ignored advice I’d received from the sage Max Barry, ‘Don’t let the editor into the room‘, and I opened the door to him. Begged and pleaded with him to fix my mess.

He did.  It wasn’t hard, just had to delete a bunch of overly-complicated factors and things seemed to pan out after that.  I’ve since banished the editor until the second draft when he can go to town on this thing.

Only 3 chapters to go AND it looks like I’ll achieve my self-inflicted deadline of finishing it by New Year.

December 1, 2010

I haven’t blogged for a month because I’ve been busy writing and  planning the remainder of the novel.  I’ve started Chapter 17 and sketched out all the chapters up to the end, Chapter 23. A huge sigh of relief, and in my post-coital bliss I thought I’d post the playlists I write to.

I say ‘write’ because in my recent planning stage I needed silence so I could hold multiple chapters, storylines, arcs, characters, twists and turns in my mind without being distracted by a clever lyric, consumed by a deep bassline or led astray by a beautiful melody.

All these tunes are from the electronica, chill-out, ambient school of thought.  Lyricless mainly, but there are exceptions.

Here’s the links to the playlists (here & here)but after submitting them to iTunes, only about 4 tunes from each list is available at iTunes, so if you want the rest you’ll have to go hunting.

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I’m a creature of habit and routine, anything outside of my realm of obssessive organisation either has to quickly find a sub-section to house itself within or freeze itself in suspended animation until it catches my eye again.

After writing for a few years and after my recent two week writing push, I became aware of a few writing rituals I perform before hitting the keyboard.  None of them are particularly Haka-like in their intensity but I don’t feel comfortable behind my laptop without them.

I’ll have to divide them into two because I write in two places; at home and at a coffee shop.

Home Routine.

Make a cup of tea, adjust cushions on my garden chair and table which are located in the lounge because interior design orientated, I am not.  Turn TV off, place tea next to laptop, fire up laptop and whilst it’s slowly waking up I check Twitter.  10 minutes later I decide on what music to play, this is usually ambient or deep/trance house music, then I read through the last few pages  to get myself back into it.  If I’m happy with the music and I know what I’m writing then off we go, if not, then I’ll stare into space searching for that starting place.

Coffee Shop.

Order espresso to wake myself up and a Liptons Peach Ice Tea to keep me going.  Go upstairs in favoured coffee shop because it has proper tables and chairs and look for a seat against a wall – I have a paranoid fear of having anyone behind me when I have my laptop open, can’t stand it even though I have sat behind people with laptops and not been the remotest bit interested in what they’re doing.  Then my music selection/reading past few pages/staring into space routine comes into play.

Nothing out of the ordinary there I don’t think, maybe the fact I always write with music playing.  Never music with lyrics though, my singalong-in-my-head reflex is too weak and interrupts my thought process.  Writing high tempo scenes with high tempo music is great, afterwards I always look around to see who’s looking at me bobbing up and down in my seat though.

What’s your routine?

October 10, 2010

Just a quick word on backing up your work.

No, I haven’t just had that nightmare scenario where your work has been subsumed into the ether never to be seen again but I thought I would share my super anal back up practises…on second thoughts, I’ll rephrase that.

This is how I back up my writing.

I write everything on my laptop, it gets saved automatically every 5 minutes or so.  After every writing session I back it up onto a flash drive/memory stick, whatever your part of the world calls it.

After I complete a chapter, I initiate my super-anal back up procedures.  I save a copy on my laptop, my memory stick, my desktop computer, the external hardrive connected to my desktop…but what if my flat is destroyed by an asteroid?

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So here’s my first ever publication, in the flesh. Feels good, feels like I’m actually getting somewhere.  The best part was seeing my name in the copyright pages, nothing like legal mumbo-jumbo to stir the emotions!

Richard from Spike The Cat sent over a copy of ‘The Last Laugh’ anthology a few weeks ago.  I thought I’d do a post after I’d read it.

It’s a collection of 12 humorous short stories, my favourites were ‘A Match Made in Heaven’ and ‘Looking Back’.

I still like my one, ‘The Lost Journeyman’, especially the fact it’s 100% dialogue – conversations on the phone.

You can buy a real life book version for £7 here or the ebook version for £1.49 here.

A bargain considering it’ll probably be worth thousands in a few years!

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September 12, 2010

Read an interesting blog post by  Heather Trese entitled ‘Should Writers Talk About Their Rejections?‘ after seeing it retweeted by @dirtywhitecandy on Twitter.

This caught my interest because I painstakingly detail all my rejections here.

I mainly do this for a personal record but intentionally because I’ve never seen any other writer do it.

The blog post goes on to highlight the fact that writers moaning about rejections and whoever may send them is not very productive, which I agree with 100%.  I don’t do that.  I just list (agents anonymously) all my rejections without prejudice or comment. No hard feelings.

To be honest, a rejection is better than being ignored completely.

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The second victim of my ‘5 strikes and you’re out‘ rule for short story submissions but i’m walking this one because it’s only faced 3 pitches.  I like the idea behind it but I don’t think the execution has been particularly well done.

Anyway, let me know what you think, how you’d rewrite it and if you actually do want to rewrite it, go for it!

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After a few false starts, some dodgy decisions, mundane storylines, awkwardly plotted ideas, cardboard characters and directionless dialogue…everything’s all tickity-boo on the ‘Broken Branches’ first draft front.

Trimmed down the characters, shuffled some scenes, deleted others, got my head down, wrestled with this sucker and now I’m halfway through Chapter 7, pretty happy with it so far and have the next 3 chapters briefly outlined, which is always a nice place to be.

So what went wrong and how did I ‘solve’ it?

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