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.

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!

Back from the Dead!

Well, not really but every so often I like to be dramatic. Picture that as a jump into the spotlight with jazz hands. Yup, I went there, I included the jazz hands. Deal with it.

So where have I been? Nowhere in particular, I’m sorry to say but a lot has been going on and that’s meant a reshuffle of my priorities. Now, this whole blog is for a couple of reasons. I like to write, and this is an easy way to do something I enjoy. Whether it’s talking about books, stories or other things, it helps keep my writing skills sharp. I’ve developed a style and it’s a big part of me even beyond the blog.

Second, hopefully other writers or interested parties finds it useful – at least sometimes! I hope, through my experiences, I can help you, or others, get started or overcome hurdles that I face too. Writers are solitary creatures. We’re weird and crazy and a little bit eccentric at the best of times but that doesn’t mean we aren’t, or shouldn’t be, connected to the world around us. At least, I think so.

Finally, it’s a vent – and that’s important. We all need to get things out there at times, it can make everyone feel better. Sometimes it’s a long rant, others a more structured post or it can even be creative.

So, that being said, what have I been doing to keep me away for so long?

The book

Outside of work, this is what is taking up a lot of my time. I’m working on the 4th draft at the moment and, honestly, I’m happy with the progress being made – if not the time it’s taking me. I feel like the story is getting stronger with each revision, the world is growing and there’s enough in there to get teeth into, even if it’s not the longest sci-fi book in the world.

I go through phases of productivity and I’m lacking that right now. I stare at pages and my mind won’t focus. I’ve tried working on other stories or free writing, but nothing is coming. I’ve gone back to my games to distract me and I think it helps.

I need a solid block of time to finish the thing. I can’t continue doing an hour here, 30 minutes there – I lose the flow. So, there’s an opportunity coming my way to do that. Late summer will see me spend a full month getting this sorted. I’m hoping by the time this block of time comes, I’ll be working on the 5th draft.

Ideally, I want it finished by the end of the year so I can start submitting. And to start work on book two – of which I already have a full plan ready. Maybe I’ll try writing the 3rd book’s plan…

The day job

So, the opportunity.

I had already decided that I needed time to work on my book but supporting myself financially was always going to be a concern. I live alone, it’s not the cheapest option but it’s done me well. Work offered voluntary redundancy and I applied. After talking it over with my manager, it was approved and I will be finishing my current role at the end of July, just short of 2 years in the role.

Time wasn’t the only factor. The redundancy has a good pay-out and will give me the means to live without working for a while so I can sort the book out. Get some good progress done and advance a goal that I’ve been working towards for as long as I can remember.

I’ve turned down other jobs in the process of making this decision but there are longer implications to this too. It’s all a little scary but I’m feeling calm, hopefully and even excited for what lies beyond the next couple of months.

Future plans

So, what does this mean for me after July? Well, after almost 8 years here, I’m leaving Manchester. Not necessarily for good, but at least for a couple of years. Maybe more. I’ll be heading to Newcastle to live with the parents for six months or so. I’m going to finish the damned book and maybe start the next one (I’m a sucker for punishment, it seems). I’ve covered this above.

After that, going into 2018, I’ll hopefully be heading to Australia. Some of you know I’ve been talking about this for years, seriously trying to save for the last year or two and failing miserably. This opportunity gives me the money I said I needed to do this. And hopefully a little more. The family is very understanding of my plans and while it’s always been a dream, it’s time to make it happen. After my book.

I feel like I need a change. I need to travel, go somewhere else and see what I can find. Grab some adventures and experiences. I’m stuck in a rut here and I’m nowhere near ready for relationships or houses or stuff like that. Maybe an early midlife crisis? I pulled the longest grey hair from my head this weekend. Scary. Anyway, I digress.

I’ll be looking to build some freelance work up for that time at home and maybe beyond – content and social media primarily but also social advertising, PPC, SEO and such. I know it. I can do it, time to make a living from it. Get in touch if you know of anything or have any questions about it – I’ll try and help.

For now, more regular blogs incoming.

2017: The Year Ahead, in Writing

Get it? I do like a pun – even the bad ones. Sometimes, those are the best (admit it, you agree).

So, welcome to 2017. Anyone interested in horoscopes? I am. I don’t follow them but I am curious as to what they say. It’s strange. Without them, you go about daily life and that’s that but with them, you can’t help looking for what they say and even the loosest connection is formed. Our minds are marvellous, no?

With the Chinese New Year at the end of the month, I had a quick look – and a lot of laughs – at what’s in store for me. Needless to say, I don’t care about that. I know what I need to do and it begins with a look at what’s come first.

A (not so) critical reflection

Damn, I hate this part. I’m either too hard or too soft; never seem to find the right balance. Even all of the reflections and analyses at uni didn’t help me with this. However, I’m going to give it a shot – but only about the current project.

So. I started this in September 2014. I needed a break from other work and I had a flash (ahhhhhhh! In the style of Flash Gordon, you nerds) of inspiration and that ended with me writing about 30,000 words to end a novel. Great! Fantastic. Now, what about the rest?

Well, back in 2008, I had started a novel. It was light-hearted, for a younger audience and a lot of fun. A side project. I got about 30,000 words in and stalled, other work taking priority at college and then uni. So, I have an ending and a beginning that don’t match. Only one thing for it: take the beginning and rewrite it to match. So, I did.

That left the middle. That took a while but I got it done. FYI, that’s a horrible way to write a book. Try not to do it that way if you can…or, if you do, have a plan. I did not have a plan.

So, by the end of May 2015, I had an 83,000 word novel. Fantastic. Nine months of writing after work. I took three or four months off and then went to do the second draft.

My. God.

I was happy to get the first draft done but it was horrible. Really, really, REALLY horrible. Only when I was editing it did I realise. This is why no one should see your first draft. Ever. However, after three months – hard months, I didn’t think they’d be that hard – I’ve finished the second draft on the 8th January 2017. Almost 18 months after starting this project, I’m only on the second draft. If I could do this full time, I might have gotten here this time last year but that’s life.

Speaking of which, I’ve not stopped it. I’ve done things I wanted to do, socialise, game, read, play games, watch films, learn things and, most of all, work. It stops me getting bored but it also disrupts my flow and motivation. Catch 22.

I could have been more focused, sure. I could have turned off Facebook and knuckled down. Turned the phone off, the music off etc etc etc. The fact is…I didn’t. I don’t regret that, even though I’d have to knock points of my productivity for it. I’m glad to be at this stage now.

What’s worse? I’m already planning the next books even though this one isn’t finished. Damnit.

Getting ready for the third draft

So while I’m taking a few weeks off – other than planning the next books and blogging – to recharge, from March I’ll be working on the third draft. This and any subsequent drafts will hopefully be a lot smoother. Now that the biggest issues are (hopefully) resolved, I can get down and gritty with the details, the subplots, the niggles and just the bits that I think are a little awkward.

If you know anything about me, it’s that the flow of a book is incredibly important to me. The story needs to work!

I’m not the kind of writer who can focus on one thing per draft. One for grammar, one for spelling, one for subplots, one for plots – I can’t do that. Intentionally ignoring one thing to find another would drive me crazy.

Perhaps that’s what took me so long with this draft; I noted everything I found, no matter how big or small, significant or not. I fixed A LOT, though not everything.

While editing is the bane of my existence right now, I think the next drafts might – MIGHT – actually be enjoyable.

Dealing with life

Life can be a pain in the ass. I’m trying to save some money, have been since July last year. It hasn’t gone well so far. I had to buy a new laptop in November and a new phone today. That’s seriously dented my finances but no point crying over it – although I will complain and rant and you can’t stop me.

Then again, I have a holiday in Budapest next month! That’s going to be incredible. Expect a lot of pictures from my shiny new phone. That’s another hit to the finances but as I said above, life doesn’t stop and nor do I.

2016: A Round-up

I actually can’t believe we’ve almost reached the end of 2016 – I still want to write/type 2015 half the time! It’s been a year of up and downs, like most years are, but I’m not talking about the wider events of the world, just the personal ones for me.

I’ve been quiet over the last few months. I mentioned this previously but I’ve had a lot on. It hasn’t been easy but there are good memories in there too. I figured now is a good time to do a little round-up of 2016 and where I’m up to now – as well as where I’m going.

The last three months have been ridiculously hard. Nothing ‘bad’ has happened but I didn’t expect the redrafting to take so much out of me. I was ill during this period and there was work to contend with, among other things, but I’m hoping future drafts will be easier to manage. It’s hard to describe but writers will probably get it – and maybe when people read the book they’ll understand why it took so long. Maybe not.

The book

This is probably my biggest ‘thing’ of 2016. I started writing this story in 2008 and got about 30,000 words in before stopping. It was a filler project and it fell away when other projects took over.

Last year I had the perfect ending for it – so I did what any writer would do and got to work. It was only when that was done that I realised the ending did not match the beginning at all, so that needed to be rewritten. From there, it was obvious to write the middle. What started as a side project was now a main project.

I finished the first draft in May this year and I needed time away. I took the summer off, it reminded me of when I finished uni, and didn’t touch a single story or draft for months. Writing it took a lot out of me and I don’t know why but I expected the redrafting to be easier.

Nope. Not a bloody chance.

Working on the second draft

So, after a few months off, I came back to the novel at the end of September. I printed the whole thing off and got to work when I could. Juggling this between work and social activities was hard, and if I’m totally honest, I slacked off a little at times.

What I’ve also realised is this story is a lot darker and heavier than I planned or expected. Reading through it and editing the thing has made me realise just how much it’s changed from it’s very first iteration back in 2008. It’s not a bad thing but it does mean I need to re-evaluate the trilogy’s plan.

The second draft is essentially done. I’ve made revisions throughout and written two new chapters. All that’s left is to transfer this into one new document and then I’ll take another month or two before going on to work on the third draft.

It’s not glamourous but it is necessary.

It took a lot out of me, I won’t lie. It’s heavy. Very heavy. There are much stronger themes than I ever planned originally. What was going to be a light-hearted story now isn’t. That’s not a bad thing, and I think it better reflects my writing style and the genre now. I was aware of the changes as I made them – they were planned in the first draft. Their full impact only hit me when I read it all back together.

The holes are being filled in, strands being tied together. That makes the hard work worth it but…it was damned hard. Now, in future drafts, I think it’ll get harder as it takes more effort and energy to spot and then correct issues.

Working on some shorts

While I’m doing that, I have three short stories I’ll be working on and editing. I’m hoping to send off at least two of them for submission somewhere early 2017. The third will probably make it onto the blog, and is the first of a trilogy of shorts that I’ll hopefully finish next year. I’m not sure how that’ll pan out but it’s something I’ve never done before so, personally, it’ll be interesting.

If no one else agrees, hopefully they’ll still be decent stories on their own!

Whether I submit to comps or find some magazines, I haven’t decided yet. I’ve not had much luck with the former in the last couple of years but I’ve never tried magazines or anthologies so maybe I’ll have more luck? Always worth a shot.

Playing a new game!

Noctis in FFXV

Noctis in FFXV

There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll spend A LOT of time playing Final Fantasy XV. It’s exactly my kind of game: RPG, big open world, a good story, stunning visuals and much more.

 

I tried to tell myself I wouldn’t start until I had compiled the second draft of my novel – ha! That was never going to happen but due to that project and work, I only got a small amount of time on it. That’s already changed now I’m off for Christmas. It’s REALLY not disappointing me. I’ll do an in-depth look at it next month because, story-wise, it’s got a lot to offer and unlike past titles, it makes a lot more sense.

Weird, right?

2017

So, next year. More blogging, more writing, more editing and, hopefully, submissions. I want to send the novel out next year. It’s a big ask as I’m not sure how many redrafts it’s going to need just yet. I can already tell the story is much better after the first round of edits and my readers have been fantastic. I’ll try to keep more regular updates coming despite the editing next year but I make no promises.

I’ll be going on at least one holiday, maybe two, as well. New sights and experiences! I’ll put them here too. I want to read more, keep swimming and manage my time even better than I do now.

Time is the biggest challenge I face and I want to make the most of it.

Until next year, have a great festive season wherever you are and whatever you do. Ciao!