March 17, 2013

writing-later This weekend I’ve finally cracked open the laptop and written some more of my 3rd novel. This is after about a 2 month lay-off.

(Ironic since my last post was about improving my productivity).

Why? Real life getting in the way. Nothing drastic going on but I found my creative energies and focus were being directed elsewhere plus I had written myself into a place which wasn’t obvious how I could get out of it.

So how did I get back on track? What I wanted to do elsewhere had been achieved so it was just a question of knuckling down and getting back down to business. I still don’t really know where I’m going with this novel and there’s a huge gaping hole in the second half of the paper thin structure I’ve got in my mind but once you sit down and start typing it’s amazing how easily the words and the images in your head can flow together.

That is the most enjoyable part for me.

So now all I have to do is keep this momentum going until I finish. I’ve done about 11,000 words so probably about 65,000-75,000 more before I call it a day.

I’ve also found that not caring what anyone else might think about what I’m writing down helps. This is a first draft so I can always rewrite anything I don’t actually like later but caring about what others might see during a first draft is a stupid way to think. Leaving that baggage behind is liberating.

You don’t really even have to care if the whole thing makes sense or is ‘exciting’, just write down what the characters are doing. If they’re interesting and compelling enough, they’ll do interesting and compelling things all on their own.

This novel has been the one I’ve done the less amount of research and note-taking on but thinking about it, maybe I should be doing even less and simply focus on doing more writing.

* and on a side note, I’ve finally committed to the title ‘Blindsided’ and have updated the side menu link. I’m finally getting shit done.

productiveIt’s a new year and with it comes all these crappy feelings of ‘I must do more than last year‘…’I must be better‘.

Coincidently, I read a tweet (can’t remember from who) that linked to this YouTube video – ‘Don’t break the chain‘ by Charlie – showing how he uses this idea to keep up a decent level of productivity.

There are more details of ‘Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret‘ on Lifehacker.

Basically, you keep a visual calendar of the days you work/exercise/kiss your wife, ticking everyday you do something and the idea is you don’t break the chain, e.g. don’t miss a day.

I got a calendar for Christmas and thought I’d use this with a couple of marker pens…then, Holy Christ! I found an app! The ‘Wonderful Day‘ app is great and a snip at 69p. Easy to use and allows you to track multiple goals. Currently I’m measuring Writing, Reading and Exercise.

I’ve used it for a week now and it gives you a great idea of how you’re doing. I was never terrible at doing stuff before but I like the recording and visualisation aspect of the app. I’m not going to put pressure on myself to not break the chain either. I figure that achieving 80% per month is good enough, e.g. exercising/writing/reading 80% of the days per month.

So what actually counts?

  • Exercise – gym, running outside, swimming, playing sport. Walking down the shops doesn’t.
  • Writing – novel, blog post (I can tick today off!), poem, short story, thinking in front of my notebook and actually making notes. Thinking during the day at work doesn’t, neither does writing a shopping list.
  • Reading – I’ve already noticed a big improvement with the amount I’m reading recently. I used to just let it slide and go to sleep but now I’m actually making time so I can add a tick onto my app!

All these little daily achievements will hopefully go towards my overall goals of; finishing the first draft of my 3rd novel this year, read more books than last year and complete at least two sprint triathlons and one 10km.

If I don’t achieve these than it cements my belief that I’m a horrendous, abomination of a human being.

Yeah, that’s pressure!

It’s been a while as I’ve moved into home-ownership, waited for the internet to be set-up and started decorating…well, paying pro’s to decorate. This sudden break out of the void is sparked by a rejection but also a confirmation that I can research adequately enough for a dodgy old writer.

I came across this article in the i paper today – Scientists warn of sperm count crisis – which confirms a widely held belief that sperm counts are shrinking but no-one thought it was by this much, almost a third!

My novelette, ‘Branching Out’, the prequel to my second novel ‘Broken Branches’ is based on the number of fertile men falling so sharply that these men can carve out a living purely by selling their sperm…and not in test tubes but via a direct-to-client relationship, like thoroughbred horses.

That’s it really.

A novelists mental state is a delicate thing, especially after a rejection. So please congratulate me on using factually correct scientific data…if not compelling enough prose or characters.

In another act of chasing the twitter numbers and boosting the Google Analytics chart of this website, I wrote another article for ‘The Creative Penn‘.

It was published a few days ago but I’ve been so busy lazy that I’ve just got around to sticking up here – ‘10 Productivity Tips for Writers‘.

If you’ve come here from there, hello!

Follow me on Twitter!

Previously I’ve chosen a title pretty quick. I think ‘Railroaded‘ was thought of before I even started and ‘Broken Branches‘ was pretty soon after. So this is one itch I want to scratch soon, give this thing a name and get on with the rest of it.

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned I had two potential titles; ‘Blindsided‘ and ‘The Rejected‘. I like both of them. Blindsided is a simple one word title with many connotations. The Rejected sounds like a band but also makes for a title I like. Both have something to do with the novel itself…which I think is somewhat important!

Anyway, it got me thinking…well, fantasising. What if this thing goes to print, what does the competition look like?

A search in Amazon UK in the Books category returns 70 results for Blindsided, with quite a few books having that exact same title. A search for The Rejected returns 862 results but none of them matching the title exactly – there’s 863 titles with the word ‘rejected’ in them.

So what does this mean? How should it influence my decision?

…read more »

Another shameless act of link-baiting to increase site traffic and Twitter followers to tempt any potential agents or publishers into thinking that not only can I write but I can do promotional stuff too.

I can dance like a little chained monkey with cymbals on his knees to the hand-clapping beat of my master, the spare change falling into his crumpled hat signalling the level of contentment I can expect from that nights meal and sleep.

Except now, I’ve given the game away.

Here’s one I wrote for ProBlogger featuring the apps I use when writing: 8 Non-writing Apps for Writers.


September 14, 2012

The time has come. No amount of procrastinating or ‘research’ will better prepare me to start.

It’s time to dive in.

It’s interesting to read this equivalent post from the beginning of my second novel – Second Novel Finally Started! – it’s funny to see I’m in exactly the same position again, especially after reading this post from 3 months after that previous one – New novel binned, starting again – why do I do this?!

I’ve got two main characters, motivations, a plot, some interesting bits and bobs…and that’s about all I need.

A title would be nice but I’m still undecided. So far I like ‘Blindsided‘ and ‘The Rejected‘ but neither have solidified themselves as the final title so ‘Novel 3‘ will have to do for now.

I’m not a freestyler who flies by the seat of their pants and I’m not a detailed planner, I’m what I’ve just christened, a ‘structuralist‘. I can tell where it starts, who with, where I have to get to in the middle and where the end ends. I have a few themes and ideas to guide me and that’s it.

Now I’ve got structure sorted, I plan in about 3 or 4 chapter chunks. So I’ve got currently got the first 3 chapters planned in about 4 sentences each. The rest I leave to serendipity, chance, luck, and dare I say it, skill and experience!

I love the idea gathering stage. Just a pen and notebook, you can write what you want, scribble anywhere you want, cross stuff out, draw arrows all over the page and make a general mess. Nothing is wrong, nothing is superfluous, nothing is crap, nothing is diversionary.

But working in chaos can’t last forever, eventually you want to bring together the good bits and sculpt something meaningful. All these disparate thoughts and ideas won’t stand up by themselves, they need to be weaved into a plot using the personality and situations of your characters (I’m not going full-blown literary – there will be a plot).

I love this beginning stage too. Luckily, I love editing subsequent drafts as well.

A selective memory is a vital tool for starting a new novel; experience has told me that much!

August 27, 2012

Featured in a recent tweet from @kerrynlaws was a link to this article ‘“A Right Fit”: Navigating the World of Literary Agents‘ which highlighted the need to visit conferences and actually get networking.

Coincidently, only a day later, I listened to this podcast by Joanna Penn interviewing CJ Lyons who essentially said the same thing.

Both article and podcast basically stated that agents have a mountainous slushpile to get through, an almost impossible task meaning the time and energy they devote to yours…and my manuscript could be minimal.  It might be opened when the agent is pissed off, hungry, in a bad mood, tired, deflated…they read your name, have no idea who you are and think ‘Bollocks’ whilst firing off a form rejection with one hand and pouring a whisky with the other.

Get out there and networking actually helps…apparently. Agents get to see if you’re a nutter, have the ability to talk, pitch, interact and generally be a decent person.

…read more »

I buy the i newspaper most days. Along with it’s modern web influenced layout, fully clothed Page 3 figure, condensed news reports, a strict one page only of celebrity coverage, keen price and effortlessly Zeitgeisty name, lies a treat. Her name is Christina Patterson.

About once a week, more if the wind’s right, Christina writes the main opinion piece. What I love about her is her writing style, plus she’s right 99% of the time. I’m confident I could pick out an anonymously credited ‘CP’ article at about 20 paces…and that’s just from the first paragraph.

This blog post is a tribute and an exercise. I’m going to try and write a post detailing what you need to do to write like Christina Patterson, in the style of Christina Patterson.

…read more »

You’ve probably heard of Trent Arsenault by now. The sperm donor who’s fathered 16 children but still remains a virgin.

You can read more at The Sun and The Daily Mail websites.

Now, your first question might be, ‘Why the hell are you reading The Sun and The Daily Mail?‘. Fair question. Visit Trent directly –

In my short story, ‘Branching Out’ (the prequel to Broken Branches), the protagonist is a professional sperm donor, or ‘Donorsexual’ as Trent has now coined it (Although Trent does his donating for free). This is in a near future where sperm counts have deteriorated to a point where only a few men are able to procreate. They sell their services ‘directly’ not via cups, turkey basters, IVF or suchlike. The classic ‘Wham, Bam, Thank you Ma’am‘ method being the most guaranteed and cheapest way.

…read more »