Tag Archives: Get Writing

Better use of time

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I have started translating my weekly goals onto a daily goal list. I’m still doing it, and it is working brilliantly. The funny thing is that I’m actually adding more goals as the week goes on, so I’m getting even more done.

To meet my targets, I’ve had to force myself stop watching TV on work nights. This seems to have cured me of an unknown addiction. Now I can survive without knowing who gets voted off of Survivor. I’ve also realised that it doesn’t matter if I watch all my TV in one binge session on a Friday night (I loved ABC’s War On Waste).

Most importantly I’ve discovered that I feel a lot better about going to work when I have knocked out 2,000 words, or edited a couple of chapters the night before. All this time it’s been within my power to give myself what I’ve always wanted; to write.

There are so many ways we can use time, but some take more courage, more willpower and more determination than others. But when you make those choices it can be so much more rewarding. I know I’m only three weeks in, but my general happiness and contentedness is so much higher than it has been in a long time. And my word counts are still nearly as high as when I had my 4 months off last year.

Another benefit I have noticed is that I seem to be living more in the ‘now’. I enjoy the sunrise when I walk to the bus before work. I appreciate the songs of the magpies as they welcome me home (or more accurately the leftover cat food they know I’m about to throw out). I realise that I can take moments of time for myself at any time. Even while I’m waiting for SharePoint to apply my metadata (which seems to take so much longer now it is in the cloud) I can look out the window at the park and be in my own little world for a few seconds. Time really is what we make of it.

Sunrise on the way to the bus stop

Top 10 writer things to do – finish a novel

Okay, so I’m assuming you want to be a novelist. Obviously if you love the short form or you write screenplays then this doesn’t apply to you. But if you are a novelist, then there is nothing that makes you feel more like an author than getting to the “The End” bit of a novel.

I’ve done it four times, and it is such a rush. The first three times I cried my eyes out when I finished. Not because bad stuff necessarily happened at the end, but just because it was the end. My time with those characters was over. They were now in the world, able to stand on their own feet and they didn’t need me anymore.

At least that’s how it feels at the time. Pretty soon they become like annoying family members who keep dropping around as you go through the editing process and watch the same scenes over and over again. Tweaking, re-tweaking and then totally re-writing.

When I tell people I write it is amazing how many of them say they too want to write. They then start telling me about the great idea they have for a novel. It’s incredible how many of them have not actually written a word of this novel. And that is, ultimately, what the difference is between a writer and a non-writer. Writers write, and get things finished.

Incidentally I think the only reason I didn’t cry on the last novel was because I knew it hadn’t worked, so it wasn’t really finished . That’s the novel I’m currently editing (very heavily). This time around I have connected with the characters so much more, so I’m confident there will be tears when I get to the end. Hopefully in the next fortnight or so.

Lists

I love task lists. Their big brothers are Excel spreadsheets, which I also adore, but task lists hold a special kind of magic for me. They are a promise of achievements yet to come. Just writing the list gives you a taste of what it is like to complete them.

I have an ongoing list of stories I want to complete. Each title has a box next to it for me to tick (in red so it stands out) when it is completed, and a space for the date. This list is constantly growing, but also looks very nicely actioned. That’s probably my favourite list.

I also have a weekly list of 20 tasks; 10 personal items, 10 writing items. Anything not completed by the end of the week gets rolled over to the following week. I try to always achieve a pass mark, but sometimes I only scrape a ‘C-‘. I’ve been doing these task lists for over 10 years.

This week I ramped it up a notch. After writing my 20 tasks I divvied them up into daily tasks and allocated them to each day of the week. This was in an effort to stop me from getting to Sunday and finding I have 15 things to complete (as is often the case).

I still have one day of the week to go, but it has worked brilliantly! Even on days when I thought I had my evenings free, but then they turned out not to be so, I still completed my tasks. I skipped out on most of my usual TV viewing for the week, and got to bed a little later than usual on two nights, but the tasks got done.

I won’t lie, it was a lot of work and a bit of stress, but as I ticked off those tasks at the end of each day, I had an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction. Not only that, but for the first time in months I’m going to be getting at least an A level pass even if I do nothing for the rest of Sunday –and that feels fantastic!!!

For those not used to task lists, a good way to set them up is to think about your major goals (finish writing your novel, go back to Uni, whatever) and then break those down into smaller and smaller steps toward the big goal (write novel plan, find academic transcript etc.). Those are the steps you put on your weekly task list. If you find you are not getting around to ticking them off, break them into even smaller steps. It is amazing how much you can achieve. Try it!

Putting words on a page is not writing

This week I wrote about 15,000 words… about a form. Half of that was technical support information. The other half was a step by step user and administrator guide. There was no twist at the end, no edge or your seat horror, and it had a rather Hollywood end where everyone finishes with… a completed form.

Putting the red arrows and green ticks on the print-screens was the most exciting bit about writing the manual. I don’t think anyone will be uploading it to their kindle for late-night reading. To be honest, I’ll be surprised if anyone else actually reads it from start to finish. Even I found myself glossing over bits. I should have secreted away an offer of a chocolate frog just to see if anyone came to claim it (I have done that in a user guide once and it took over a year for anyone to spot it).

A lot of people have suggested to me that I should try to get a gig as a technical writer so I can write each day. After this week I realise, for me, that would be a really bad idea. When I got home each night, the last thing I wanted to do was sit in front of a computer. So I’ve been doing paper edits instead while lying on the lounge. It was the least typing-version of writing I could come up with while still progressing my novel.

Building a form is fun. I get to layer logical rules over the top of each other to see if I can make the form work. It’s like playing a game. Writing about form is boring. So I’m going to stop saying that I want to be a writer, what I really mean is I want to be an author. This week taught me that they are NOT the same thing.

Glorious deadlines

There is a call for novellas that closes on January 12th which I found out about in mid October. Toward the end of October I got hit with an idea. Since then I’ve been dabbling with it, writing 700 words here, 1000 words there. Back in October I figured that as long as I could finish it by December, I’d be okay.

December 31st 2016 at 3:02PM I finished the novella. I was writing nearly every day leading up to this, including Christmas day, to get it done in time. I was doing blocks of over 2,500 words in a sitting. In short, I was working to the deadline.

Now I’m editing like a crazy person. The TV is off and my social life is gone. Grocery shopping has been forgotten (I’m getting creative with making meals out of what is in the fridge), and let’s not even talk about housework. I’m losing days in a world of edit and re-edit. After all, it needs to be as good as it can be by January 12th – and that could take a while.

I can’t help but wonder if the submission due date was Dec 31st would I instead have finished the novella on December 15th? Conversely, if it wasn’t due until the end of January, would I still be writing little snippets of the first draft now? Even more interestingly, would it have been the same story as the one I’m working with now?

I have long realised that I need a deadline to get me working, but it is amazing what can be achieved when you force yourself to do something. I guess I’d better start working out what the next deadline needs to be, because this one will be up soon.

But first I’ll do some grocery shopping. The housework can wait.

2016 – a look back

The week I turned 30 I decided I was going to properly ‘try’ to be a writer. I joined a professional writers group and I made the decision to finish my novel. That was over ten years ago now (or six if you use my online age). Strangely 2016 is the first year where I have truly felt like a writer.

It has been a great year when I look back on it, even though it feels like I haven’t done much. That novel I wanted to finish back when I was 30 took over ten years to complete (all up). Last year I wrote a novel in four months, this year I wrote one in three months. I’m also on the cusp of finishing a novella. This is definitely not just a hobby.

I was made redundant from my day job in June and I enjoyed four glorious months of full-time writing. Any fears I had about the lonely life of a writer were well and truly dispelled. This is something I can see myself doing for the rest of my life. I now have managed to land a part time job which lets me continue to write at a rate I couldn’t have imagined three or four years ago.

I know I may never get a publishing contract for a novel, and my self-publishing may never hit the $ values required for me to actually get a cheque, but I love to create and explore and disappear into these worlds. 2016 has shown me that this is something I can give to myself, no matter what the publishing houses of the world may say.

I have learned a lot about myself and a lot about writing over the past year. The thing I would like to share, which applies equally to writing a novel or any other goal in life, is that you just need to do it. Say ‘no’ to lounging in front of the TV, let the dishes build up sometimes and make your goal a priority. That’s what my decade+ has taught me most, and it seems like the most obvious thing in the world.

I hope when you look back on your 2016 you can see all the things you have achieved and celebrate them. I also hope you can light your passion for completing even more in 2017. Happy Christmas and have a safe New Year!

Story magic

I know I’ve mentioned before that it amazes me how stories seem to pull themselves together when you write them, as if they already exist in their entirety and when you write them you are just uncovering what is already there. Well it happened again while editing this week.

In my re-read a couple of months ago I identified a question that was raised in the story and never answered. At first I thought it was too complicated to sort it all out so I was getting ready to cut all the bits that related to raising the question. Then, while laying in bed on Tuesday night, the answer came to me. More amazingly, the novel already had all the foreshadowing required to insert it.

The communal unconscious which (I’m sure) gifts us all these stories knew exactly what was happening and why the characters were doing what they were doing. It took me over a year to figure it out. I am stunned at how many hints were already placed in the book, hints I had no idea I was leaving. They just seemed right when the characters were living that part of the book.

So the edit to answer the question amounted to less than a half-chapter of re-writes for something that I think really contributes to the story. It is so addictive this story writing caper. I can’t believe everyone isn’t doing it.

Indecision

I have 5 projects I identified as being possible targets for my time off. Last week, when I was working, I thought I had identified the one I wanted to hit first. It was the epic novel I have been trying to write for 15 years that really needs some time dedicated to it. This week I’m questioning that choice because it is a totally brand new piece, and will realistically take at least 4 to 5 months to finish if I’m disciplined, over a year if I’m not. I feel like I need a quick win first.

I am a fiercely logical person, and logic is telling me to do the re-write of the novel I wrote last year. It won’t take as long and I have beta-readers lined up to give me feedback. The problem is that re-writing is never as exciting as writing new words. But maybe that is the best taste of a writer’s life I could give myself during this time off? After all it is the re-writing I always seem to sacrifice when I am working.

Then there is the young adult story which I got 30,000 words into and then totally dropped the ball. I love the story, it is funny, it is magical and it has no end. It probably only needs another 20,000 words, which seems like it should just be a few weeks work. Maybe that’s the one I should be doing?

The final temptation is the screenplay. Again, just 90 pages, it doesn’t sound like it should take that long, and I’ve wanted to write a screenplay forever. But knowing it is my first one, so likely to be crap, and both story ideas I have are stupid (yes, I’m thinking Spiders Man for those who know me), so I think it might also be a waste of time. But it would be a fun waste of time.

I’m a week in to my freedom and haven’t picked any of them, so I think it is time to just grab one and run with it. Re-write, here I come… I think.

Waiting

Sometimes I worry that I waste too much of my life waiting for things. Waiting for a redundancy at work, waiting for an answer on a story I’ve submitted, waiting for something, anything to happen to break me out of my weekly schedule. If I was a character in a novel I’d be edited out for being too passive.

I often say to a good friend of mine (who gets my 10am email every work day) that she and I need to take more action. Why is it that when I have a novel where my character is being too passive I know what to do to get them active again? I have no idea what I should be doing to take control of my life.

I know this is just my annual life crisis cranking up a notch, but maybe instead of just riding it out I should do something crazy? Is this why so many people my age renovate their houses? They are just after a comfortable change? I don’t think I’ll be satisfied with a comfortable change. I have a feeling I’m about to put myself through a very uncomfortable change. I also think it is exactly what I need.

Saved by the deadline

I know that I don’t really suffer from writers block. I suffer from not writing. It’s not that the muse is missing, the ideas aren’t coming, or my brain is shutting down on me, it is pure and simple that I don’t sit myself down at the computer and force myself to write.

How do I know this? Because this week I wrote. I wanted to enter a competition which closed at the end of May, but it had opened at the beginning of January. I had two stories which needed a bit of work, but I neglected to do it for weeks and weeks on end. Then the deadline was on my doorstep, so I sat down and did it.

I wrote several thousand new words and edited nearly seven thousand words all up. Not a huge number, but it is a number. It’s a number that really I should be getting each week. I did that number with all the same work, family and social pressures that I’ve had ever other week when I did not write.

I don’t have another deadline looming, so I know I am running the very real risk of slipping back into doing no writing. But at least now I will see that for what it really is; laziness.