Making Progress

I knew this would happen. After spending the last week working on my book, and just working on my book, I’ve made more progress with it than in the last three months combined. It’s great to have that opportunity but it’s not always possible. I’m glad I took the voluntary redundancy from my last job to do this. Even if it doesn’t work out, I was able to give it my all, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

I have realised some things along the way, however.

Editing isn’t actually that bad

I enjoy writing. Always have done – even the boring stuff like essays and articles on tyres (ugh). Stories are my passion and I’m quite happy writing away when I can.

What I’ve always said to people is that the editing sucks. It’s boring. It takes forever. It can be soul destroying when you find a section that you love and worked so hard on but have to cut it because it doesn’t fit, isn’t believable, doesn’t flow…ie it just doesn’t work.

Now, my view is different. Maybe because I’m in the latter stages of editing so I’ve done the REALLY hard parts already. Or maybe it’s because I don’t have to juggle my time as much as in the past. I can spend more than an hour a day without cutting into sleep and feeling sluggish at work. My targets, while always challenging, are met more often than not and that helps.

The circumstances around me are different and as such, I’m enjoying editing and redrafting (but it’s still not as fun as the actual writing part, just saying).

Junk food becomes a staple

Over the last fifteen months or so, I’ve been eating better and exercising more. The latter fell apart over the last couple of months with work and the move and now the book. While my eating has remained fairly consistent, this last week has seen one major change.

Junk food.

Yup, I’m eating a hell of a lot of crap right now. Crisps, cake, snack bars, chocolate, fizzy drinks have all become regular picks throughout the day. It’s partly for ease, as they’re right there, and because of the energy boost. I’m not as physically active as I’ve been previously but this editing malarkey is exhausting. I need those boosts.

This is going to be a pain when I have to cut it all out again and start exercising but I’m trying not to think about it right now. One thing at a time, eh? In the future, I need to find a different vice.

Don’t worry, I’m eating fruit too.

When is enough enough?

This is a question I’ve been grappling with for years. How do you know when to stop editing? When the changes you make aren’t improving the story at all, and you’re making them just because you can or feel like you should, you could actually be making it worse.

This last week, I realised this clearly. Maybe it’s because I’ve had no distractions; no job, no social life, no games etc to get in the way. I read the book from start to finish and early on, I noticed some of the changes I was noting didn’t make anything better. I was doing it purely because I wanted something to show for my efforts.

When I understood that, the number of edits dropped. Significantly.

I’m not sure the book is done. I don’t think I’ll consider it done until it gets published (and even then, I might not) but if I’m at the stage where I’m making changes for no other reason than because I can, it’s a good time to move on to the next stage.

If it isn’t taken, then I’ll return to it again in six months or so and take another look. In the meantime, the real hard part starts.

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After a quick recharge

My dog 'helping' me work

My dog ‘helping’ me work

The last couple of months have been busy! I finished the three-month notice period at work and as soon as it was done, I packed up and moved to Newcastle. I’m currently living with my parents to make the money last. I miss the freedom but it’s nice to have people around.

Also, dog. Although, she tends to hinder more than help when it comes to editing my book!

I’ve spent most of the last two weeks relaxing. I made a flying visit to Edinburgh, spent some time exploring Newcastle city centre, playing some games and finishing the fourth draft of my book. Today I’m starting the fifth draft. With no distractions, I hope to have it done in a week to ten days. We’ll see how that goes!

Newcastle-upon-Tyne

First impressions of Newcastle as a resident (I’ve been here before to visit the family) are that it’s a nice place. I’ve got plenty more exploring to do but I know only one person here so that makes it a bit harder. I’ve met a few more in my adventures but it does make it harder to socialise when people don’t know you that well.

The weather’s been nice mostly, too. That’s helped. There seems to be plenty of bars to try, museums and parks and such. How good the live music scene is will take more time to figure out but there are good connections to other places so I’m not limited, really.

The people I’ve met are friendly too. That makes a big difference. Once my book is done, I’ll feel better about spending time doing things other than working on it.

The book

The fourth draft of my book

The fourth draft of my book

So, I wanted to have the current draft done before I left Manchester. That, ultimately, didn’t happen.

During my ‘two-week vacation’ I was able to transfer all my edits from the fourth version of my book to the master file. I printed it in Newcastle and, now my parents are on holiday for two weeks, I have an empty house (excluding the dog) to do what I’ve wanted for over a year; sit down solidly and work on it.

I’ve set what I feel is an achievable target for each day and, while I could do more, I don’t want to get frustrated if I can’t focus some days. Taken time in to transfer notes from the printed version to the master copy, two weeks is plenty of time.

Honestly, I’m feeling really good about this. Even if it ultimately flops and sits on my hard drive forever, I can say that this has been one of the best writing experiences I’ve had, despite the ups and downs and interruptions. It’ll hopefully set me up for future projects. More on that in a few months.

Future plans

Well, once I finish this next draft I’ll decide whether it needs another or if it’s time to start sending out. I’m feeling better with each version done and making fewer changes each time, and my test readings are coming back positive, usually pointing out things I know or have planned for. In fact, recent changes have mostly been cosmetic or consistency based.

The hard part will be submitting and waiting. Not looking forward to that. At all. Nope.

Gotta be done, though. Right?

With that, I’ll be looking for work in Newcastle. Most likely digital marketing related but I am also weighing up a bar job or retail too, just so I have some money coming in to do things while I make further plans. There’s a lot of decisions to be made in the next few weeks or month.

Still, it’s good to have a goal…and be busy. That’s what I’m telling myself!

Return of the Writer

Once again, ladies and gents, you have my apologies. I had hoped to get back into the swing of things long before now but the book took a lot more out of me than I first thought. I really needed some time to recover – mentally more than anything – and to be able to look at all three books with a fresh mind.

Now, I feel like I’m finally at that stage. Oh, and I like puns. You should know this by now (and in case you didn’t get it – shame on you – that’s a Star Wars reference at the top. Can’t believe I explained that).

I’ve not been sitting idly by, however. Some things have been going on. So, my friends, join me on what, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a riveting tale. Maybe. Possibly. Okay, probably not but bear with me.

Where have I been?

I’ve been here and there, keeping busy without exhausting myself further. Or trying not to. I tried reading but that was a little too close to home and I found that even gaming wasn’t as appealing as I’d thought it would be. I did keep up with swimming, other than last week where I had other exercise plans (dodgeball – don’t ask but I do have a medal!). Hell, I even tried quitting smoking.

The one thing that is worth noting is that over the last couple of weeks is that it was the fifth Manchester Children’s Book Festival. I’ve volunteered at every single one to date and this year was no exception, although following the pattern of the previous two, I’m not as involved as previously but that doesn’t stop me enjoying it all the same.

It’s fantastic to see so many children getting involved with reading, writing, performances and much more – anything creative and wacky! It’s been a pleasure to see the festival grow since 2010 and I’m looking forward to next year already.

Expect a more detailed post on this in two weeks. I wouldn’t want to break tradition now, would I?

Finding motivation

One thing that I think has been really lacking for me is motivation. Since finishing the first draft of the most recent novel, I’ve been finding it hard to come back – for whatever reason. Life can work for or against us and we subconsciously associate that with actions, activities, emotions and such. I think when I’m not happy with something big in my life, it stops me from wanting to write as I feel that should be fixed first.

It doesn’t apply all the time but it does have an impact.

I also had a conversation with a friend about writer’s block, which I’m still not convinced actually exists as a thing but yet I’ve yet to encounter a writer who hasn’t used this term when they struggle. That seems to be more to do with ease – we all understand it, from varying sources – so it doesn’t need explanation. Despite that, why is it a thing and is it only a thing because we make it so? I don’t think I’ve had writer’s block as I write at work and generally. Hey, I’m writing a blog post right now! It’s an interesting thought, though.

Actually, I think this is a topic for a full blog post next month. Look out for that!

Putting together a plan

My manuscripts: one novella and two novels - not related to each other

My manuscripts: one novella and two novels – not related to each other

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have three projects to edit. The novella is first up, and I’ll be starting that at the weekend. I like it’s length but the ‘professional’ feedback (from agents and publishers) suggest it would work better as a novel. I’ll decide that as I go through the draft but I’m not convinced yet. There are other things that need to be fixed, however.

After that, I’ll start on one of the novels. The sci-fi project is up first, as it’s more recent and I think it needs less work. The story is well rounded, it just needs to be padded out in places, with a few more explanations and sub plots, supported by a little character development. That might sound a lot, but it won’t be as bad as you might think. Of course, after that comes the nit-picking of later drafts.

Finally, I’ll work on the fantasy novel. That needs a fair bit adding to it for me to be happy. The good thing is, I know what to add, the big question is where it should go. I have some ideas but the edit will help identify weaker areas and the plot holes that I know exist.

If I can get all that done over summer, I MIGHT just have one ready to send out by the end of the year.

If I’m lucky.

It’s time to…edit!

I hoped to post this last week but, according to my schedule, there are still two weeks until the next post so I’m safe (the glory of a five-week month) for now. I teased previously about why I’ve been so quiet lately, with a lot of things on the go and now I’m finally ready to show you what I’ve been working on.

So, here are my three babies manuscripts. Aren’t they pretty…?

My manuscripts: one novella and two novels - not related to each other

My manuscripts: one novella and two novels – not related to each other

What are they?

From left to right, there’s a novella in third draft, a novel in first draft and another novel in first draft (yes, that’s a long way of saying it but I’m enjoying my words. Hush). I feel like it shouldn’t have taken this long to get this far but then I remembered life easily gets in the way. That’s a whole different topic.

I hope they’re all published one day, obviously, but I’m proud of reaching this stage. I’ve covered fiction, fantasy and science fiction (in that order, respectively) so not completely in my comfort zone but trying something new is always harder than anything else. Maybe that’s why it’s only a novella right now, but who knows what could happen.

If you want to read them – tough! They’re not ready yet but when I’m looking for readers, I’ll let you know.

What’s next?

Editing! The novels are only in first draft and need a fair bit of work. There are plenty of inaccuracies and continuity errors – and that’s not counting the grammatical issues. Who said writing was easy? Then again, I like a challenge. I’ll distract myself with redrafting some short stories in between as there are plenty of competitions to enter. When I find them, I’ll put them up here as normal.

Blogging resumes as normal (I promise) in two weeks. Updates on the editing will come as and when there is something to report. Until next time!

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

After my first swimming session

After my first swimming session

I remember – a long, long, loooooooooong time ago – that I used to be physically fit. I could run for more than ten seconds before running out of breath. I could push myself to do more rather than just get up the stairs. I used to enjoy it.

I used to want to write a hell of a lot more than I do now.

Now, hear me out. I haven’t lost my will or love of writing over the years (although…there have been days…) but I had a lot more stories to tell. My mind would run free and come up with some truly crazy shit, even when I was completely knackered. In fact, sometimes those were the best times to be creative. Then, like now, the hardest thing was finding the time to sit down and get on with it. Only this time, the reasons have changed.

I think exercise is important to a person’s wellbeing but also to a writer’s creativity. I have no proof – though this is the internet, so I’m sure you can find some if you want – this is all from my own experience.

The old days

So, some context.

Back in my younger days, I played basketball at school, and then beyond. I trained four-to-five nights a week, volunteered with the Youth Service, worked, studied and tried to write. It was hard, very hard.

One thing I was never short of was ideas. Inspiration came easily, just not the time to put those words to paper (or screen, for the pedantic among you). I was always busy, and I had a social life. They were simpler days, happy days and that makes a huge difference. As a writer, I draw upon a range of emotions to propel readers through my stories, whether long or short. Happiness is a key part of that – and teenage angst can only take you so far.

Without basketball – or a form of exercise in general – I wouldn’t have had that balance. I was too young to realise it then but looking back now, I’m glad I had it.

The in-between years

Whether through illness or injury doesn’t matter but I stopped playing and training. I replaced it with bar work – and in general jobs that kept me running around a lot so I was getting some exercise. Not only that, I walked everywhere.

I kept this up through university. I had every intention of packing in smoking and joining one of the sport societies but like all best laid plans – it didn’t happen.

I convinced myself that since I was young-ish, my metabolism was high and I had other ways to exercise, I’d be okay. One day I’d sort it. Besides that, my studies kept me writing. Not what I wanted but I was determined to finish this degree and get a good result. Since graduating, I had other priorities (finding a job, mainly) and now, I am trying to balance work, a social life and travelling time with writing.

I ended up with a desk job, public transport and plenty of cigarettes smoked each day (but not as many as others) so, yeah, I had lost the physical exercise. Over the years during university and beyond, this has had a knock on effect. I don’t feel physically worn out, no matter how tired I am mentally. When I do sit to write, I get itchy feet and have to move about quite a lot. It’s hard to find that balance. I knew then that something had to change.

And now, I’ve started swimming

The key word is ‘started’ as I’ve only just (literally) finished my second session. I could barely get through 22 lengths in an hour in the first session but I doubled that tonight. Not for one moment do I expect another jump like that next time but I can already see the difference – see the picture above of how I looked after the first swim last week!

I have to be careful as to what exercise I do. My knees are dodgy and swimming isn’t weight bearing. There’s still a burn but it’s better for me than running, I think. Maybe one day, I’ll try that. Oh, and I’m trying to get rid of the cigarettes. That’s helping too.

Through all that, I can feel the ideas returning. That can only be a good thing – I just need to balance the rest of my free time to make use of it.

Keep an eye on this space!