Wednesday 31 August 2011

I Should Probably Talk About Writing...

So yeah, I haven't really talked about my writing lately. Possibly because it's getting rather complicated. I'm progressing well with Lemons, my contemporary fiction novel, and I'm changing Guildhall over from an urban fantasy young adult novel, to steampunk. The steampunk genre suits a lot of my plot points better, and it's nice to think that my knowledge of Victorian Britain is being put to some practical use. I'm starting to outline plans for Ravensborough II. I also have a plot bunny for an adult urban fantasy series that I'm trying to resist, because I have way too many projects going on now as it is.

I'm writing first drafts, which I love. I plan my plot as I type, so I never really know where my story is going. I find out along the way. First draft involve large word counts, fast typing, and can be really tough on my hands. They're already cramping today, and I haven't even written anything, but I hope they hold up so I can get a good bit of work done. I have a ten day foster placement starting tomorrow, and three year old girls who talk a lot aren't conducive to hours of writing. Though I hope to manage an hour or two a day, anyway.

What about all of you? How is your writing going?

Tuesday 30 August 2011

How First Aid Ruined My Life

As part of being a foster carer I had to go on a paediatric first aid course. This is good, everyone always means to do these things  but life gets in the way. I've babysat my siblings for ten years, but what do I do if a child in my care starts choking? Screaming for my mother somehow doesn't seem like the right answer.

So I did my course a few weeks ago. It was on a Saturday when my husband and I were looking after my six siblings for the weekend. I got up, wished him luck and left the house, laughing to myself as I went.

My laughing was, however, short-lived. The instructor was an amiable enough man, who responded to my informing him that I was a foster carer by going off on a tangent about the horror he'd felt when his friend came out to him just before they were due to move into a flat together. I don't see the connection, but there you go. We had to perform CPR repeatedly on adult dummies, child dummies, and infant dummies. My hands, neck and shoulders were killing me. You have to push down unbelievingly hard to restart an adult heart, and while I'm glad to have that skill now the part of my brain that remembered I had fibromyalgia was frantically screaming 'This isn't an emergency! Why are you hurting yourself if this isn't an emergency?!'

I could have told my instructor, and he probably would have let me off some of the rounds, but that's not the point. In an emergency I'll have to keep going, and if I give up in a practice what hope have I got? Sure, in a really sticky situation adrenaline would probably sink in, but still.

The worst part was going through the numerous potentially fatal accidents that can occur in the home. Breaks, allergic reactions, asthma, burns, chemical burns, ingestion of solvents, things in the eye, falling downstairs, getting burnt by hair straighteners, choking on pretty much anything, getting bitten by dogs, run over by cars, hypothermia, hyperthermia...the list goes on. At lunch break I ran out and frantically called my extremely capable husband to check that one or all of those things hadn't happened to one or all of my siblings. Of, course none of these things happened.

It's scary realising how fragile the human beings we care for are, and how easily the bad stuff can happen. But you can't let it run your life either. How do you guys cope with the fear that surrounds everyday living?

Of course, if this happens then you may really be in trouble.

Will post an update on my writing tomorrow.

Monday 29 August 2011

Followers, Fibro and Purple Hued Cocktails

No real bunnies were injured in the taking of this photo.

My weekend was fairly uneventful, because I was sick for most of it. My fibromyalgia hasn't been bothering me much lately, but it has come back this week and seems to want to make up for lost time. Great.

I had a good week though. I am now godmother to my beautiful brother Jack. There's almost twenty three years between us, but as I plan on sticking at 25 for at least a decade the gap will soon narrow.

I got my husband an Xbox for our anniversary, and he's been solving crime in 1940s LA ever since. We did manage to squeeze in a meal at a nice restaurant to celebrate two years of marriage and many cocktails were consumed. My new favourite is an Avation, a mix of gin, maraschino liqueur, lemon and crème de violette. It's a pre-1916 cocktail, which means it comes from my period of history so could conceivably be called research. Unfortunately, it doesn't come from the right continent, as it originated in New York instead of Europe, but there were a lot of Irish people in New York then, right? All I need to do now is link cocktail bars to the spread of smallpox and I can come at my historical research from a whole new angle.

 I also got a new iPhone, which I love. I had an iPhone before, but I lost it in the Big Snow of 2010 (for my North American friends, the 'big snow' was around five inches, and the country ground to a halt. Ireland doesn't usually get snow). It's handy because it means I can check my email on the go and I don't have to be at home to update my Facebook or Google+ status. I can also take pictures for my blog, like the one of my dog at the top of this post.

And hello to all my new followers! I've broken the 150 follower mark, so a contest of some description is called for. I'll try to come up with a suitable prize. And for those of you who want to take part in Rachael Harrie's Platform-Building Campaign there's still time to join in. You can sign up until August 31st.

Hope everyone had a great weekend! :)

Friday 26 August 2011

Paper Hangover and Anniversaries

Every Friday the writers behind the YA website Paper Hangover give a blog prompt. This week they want to know about everyone's five favourite back to school books.

I don't actually have a 'top five', but I did enjoy reading books set in schools when I was a child. Going back to school when I was a child meant rereading books by Enid Blyton, primarily the Mallory Towers and the St. Clare's books. They are fantastic and I used to fervently wish that I could go to boarding school. As a complete homebody I would have been miserable as hell in a boarding school, no matter how many midnight feasts were consumed or the lashings of ginger beer.

I'm having a lovely day today, because it's my two-year wedding anniversary. It's hard to believe it's been that long. We're going out to a Thai restaurant and to my favourite cocktail bar after that, which should be lovely and romantic. The we're going to spend the rest of the weekend ignoring each other while my husband enjoys his anniversary present (LA Noire) and I enjoy mine (The Song of Ice and Fire series). Is it still anti-social if we do this is in the same room...?

Anyway, hope you all have a great weekend :)

Thursday 25 August 2011

My Name is Christine...and I'm Addicted to Books

My husband knew when we met that I liked to read, he just didn't realise how much I liked to read. He thought I was a book a week girl, and really how bad could that be?

When we moved in together, the problem was hidden by my illness. For two months I didn't read a single book, and in hindsight that should have been my first hint that I needed to go to the doctor. When you've constantly add a book on the go since you were a toddler (holding a book upside down still counts, you know) then suddenly not caring about reading should have set off the panic alarms. But I had just finished my final college exams in history, a subject well known for its heavy reading list, and we presumed that I was just burnt out. Anyway, even if I had suspected that something was seriously awry, I was feeling way to lethargic to actually do anything about it.

I was married and on honeymoon before I read another book. I was on medication for inflammatory arthritis by then, and felt clear enough to read Breakfast at Tiffany's (I was honeymooning in New York, it was the obvious choice). I only bought one book there, and a magazine of short stories. Again, very strange for me, but I didn't realise it at the time.

Back home, with a fibromyalgia diagnosis finally under my belt and some effective medication, I began reading again in earnest. I discovered young adult urban fantasy, and started writing my first novel. Slowly, my reading climbed up to its pre-illness level, and our Ikea bookshelf began to fill up. So much that we had to buy a new one. Books were stacked on window sills, on my bedside table, and on my office desk. So much so that I started to do that tell-tale addict activity: hide the signs of my purchases.

I was reading a book a day, or at least every two, so I stuffed all the paper bags from bookshops into the green bin when my husband wasn't looking. It's not that he would mind, he's very easy going, but because I was embarrassed.

He recently asked me to consider throwing out my books. I gave around a dozen to a charity shop, and called a halt to it there. He brought up the subject again the other day, talking about how much space my books take up. I now have a couple of cardboard cartons full of books in the cupboard under the stairs. However I pointed out, reasonably enough, that I let him have his Warhammer models on full display, so he needed to be respectful of my collection. He left it at that, though he does seem overly keen for me to get a Kindle. To help my hands, apparently. Hmmm.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Writer's Block

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic is how we deal with writer's block, but honestly? I don't believe in writer's block. I think writer's block is a fairy story we tell ourselves when we want to avoid the fact that we're not being productive.

Obviously, we have days when we feel lethargic, fed up, and writing 200 words can seem like an uphill struggle. But, I think that describes bad days in any job, I don't think that it's unique to writer's. But because we're on our own clock we can get away just saying to hell with it.  

Of course, I could be just grumpy. This is very possible, as I have been sick for the last week and am sleep deprived. Every time I lie down I get a coughing fit. This means I get no sleep, and I wake up husband several times a night. It's easier to come down downstairs and work. Of course, then I wake up my dog with my periodic coughing fits. She's not speaking to me now, and every time I cough she gives me a withering look. She honestly does. I'll have to bribe her with a rawhide chew.

What do you guys think about writer's block?

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Fostering: It's A Weird Trip

Yeah, I know. The title isn't exactly social worker friendly. But there you go.

I looked after a three year old girl a couple of weeks back on a respite placement. That's when the child's usual foster carer needs some time free, usually for a holiday or because of ill health. She was a lovely child to have, and even though I knew she would be going back to her usual foster home at the end of the week it was impossible not to get attached.

When she left, I couldn't believe how quiet the house was. Even at night time, when she should have been fast asleep in bed, it was like I could feel that the house was emptier than it had been. I folded up some of the clothes that she'd left behind and put them in a drawer to send to her foster mother. I stripped the bed, washed the sheets and put away the Peppa Pig DVD's. What was worse, was that my husband and I realised that we'd started to talk about her like she was dead. 'Remember when she used to do this? The way she did tumbles to music?' I wasn't very upset when she went, because I had known all along that she was only with us for a week. But, knowing that I was probably not going to see her again was hard.

Then I got a call last week asking could we take her for ten days in September! I'm really looking forward to it now, and I'm going to get all her favourite things in. Also, it was her birthday in August so I can now buy her a birthday present without feeling like an over the top foster carer/stalker.

Having an energetic three year old will take some organisation on my part though. I need to get some systems in place to stop me doing the same amount of work I did last time she stayed (tl;dr: none).

Looking forward to it now, she's arriving September 2 :)

Monday 22 August 2011

Five Top Twitter Tips For Writers

I'm relatively new to the world of Twitter. I held out for a long time because I thought that 140 characters was a ridiculously small amount of space to say anything worthwhile in. But since activating my profile a couple of months ago it has become a staple in my tabs bar, and a place for much procrastination.

But how can you get the most out of your twitter account? The micro-blogging site can be a really effective tool at any stage of your writing journey, but only if you you it correctly. That's where these ten tips come in.

1) Have a small focus: Twitter is at its best when it's used to track a particular industry. If you are looking to become a professional writer, then you should primarily follow other writers, publishers, agents, and aspiring authors. If your best friend is on twitter, then yes you can follow her too. But if you follow widely and indiscriminately, then the tweets in your feed will be mostly useless to you.

2) Follow people who give value: This links in with the first point, but there are many people who tweet useful links for different professions. Elizabeth Spann Craig is a published author who tweets links to useful advice from people at all stages of the writing cycle. I've found her links (and her own posts) invaluable.You can find her at @elizabethscraig.

3) Go for quality, not quantity: It's true that the more people that you follow, the more people who are likely to follow you. While you should bear this in mind, following people just to up your own follower count is counter-productive. First of all, as I said before, if you don't enjoy the person's tweets then you get no value from the follow. Also, if a person is only following you because they want you to follow them then they won't be interested in the content of your posts. This will be a particular problem if you intend to tweet links to your blog, or build a buzz about a book release. It's better to build meaningful relationships, rather than shallow connections.

4) Keep self-promotion to a minimum. Yes, twitter is a good vehicle for promoting your book/blog/published short story, but keep it polite. There's a difference between telling someone at a party that you have a book coming out, and jamming the title into every topic of conversation, from the price of baked beans to Kim Kardashian's wedding. Have some news that you think would interest your followers? Tweet with a link, no more than twice in one day. And that second time is only to account for different time zones.

5) Have fun: Twitter is a fun medium. You get to find out news as it's happening through a cascade, often before the main news sites and channels have released it. You get to read pithy takes on current events, find out random facts and meet some very entertaining people. Who doesn't want to follow a person who's having fun? Enjoy yourself and the rest will take care of itself.

Oh, as writers we hear a lot about developing a platform, but sometimes it can be difficult to do. Luckily, Rachael Harrie is holding her third Writer's Platform Building Campaign. It's a great chance to meet new writers, and you can sign up until August 31st. Head over here now to take part.

Friday 19 August 2011

Paper Hangover, Beer Festival and Lucille Austero

I've had a cold hovering for the last ten days and it hit yesterday with a vengeance. Today it's even worse, and I look disturbingly like Rudolph the red nosed reindeer crossed with a laboratory mouse i.e., all red nose and watery eyes.

Still, tonight I have to go out because it's beer festival time. Remember I was writing part of the programme for a beer festival a few weeks ago? Well it's on tonight, and as the husband and I are beer buffs, and as we both wrote in the programme, we're heading along. I love offbeat, imported beers so this promises to be fun times.

Anyone read about the world markets? It's vertigo-inducingly scary. In a Lucille Austero way...

Got to love Arrested Development.

 Every week Paper Hangover gives a blog prompt for the YA writing community, and this week they want to know the five apps that you use most for writing or recreation. So here are mine:

1. Focus Booster : This is a great app for reducing procrastination. It is a little window that changes colour as the time you set to complete a certain task runs out. It makes you more concious of your time, and therefore more productive.

2. Write Or Die : This menacingly named app lets you write in a window, which turns pink when you've gone too long without typing. When it reaches dark red it plays a punishment sound, such as a baby crying or Hanson's Mmmbop. This app forces you to keep writing, thereby increasing the number of words you can churn out in a set amount of time. Great app, but for first drafts only.

3. Tweetdeck : This is a great app. I use it for scheduling tweets about my blog, which is handy because most of my readers live in different time zones to me.

4. Kindle for PC : I haven't yet succumbed to the lure of the Kindle, but this app means I can read self-published books by my writer friends on my computer.

5. Angry Birds : I haven;t yet succumbed to the lure of the smartphone, but I play this regularly on my husband's Samsung Galaxy. Seriously glad I don't have it to hand, as it would be another large thief of time.

What about you? Any useful apps that you couldn't live without? Hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday 18 August 2011

There Goes The Neighbourhood...

My husband and I recently moved to a new house. It's in a great location for my husband's job, I'm near my family, and it's further away from a convenience store that sells chocolate than our last home was. Doesn't sound like much of a plus, but I've lost ten pounds. Win.

The one issue was our next door neighbour. Now, she seems nice enough, if a bit nosy. She's the kind of person that knows everyone else's business, and that in itself doesn't bother me. It's the decline of close knit neighbourhood's that has lead to a lot of social problems after all, such as increased crime and depression. However, she seems to take an inordinate amount of interest in our household waste.

Every time I go outside the house when she's there, she reminds me that the council will collect my bin on a certain date. I've explained to her that I don't find the council good, and, as in Ireland you have to pay every time your bin is lifted anyway, I've decided to go to with a private company. Despite this, she sent her son around to remind us about the bin situation a couple of weeks ago. I politely explained our arrangement again. During the week I saw her lifting the lids of our bins to look at what was inside them. How strange is that?

Last night, she called around to make her case at 10.50 pm. Who does that? I'm sorry, if you're calling unannounced to my house at almost eleven, then it needs to be urgent. You need to have seen someone vandalising our car, need help in some immediate way, or be a card carrying member of  An Garda Síochána (the Irish Police Force). Our refuse is collected, it's not piling up on the pavement posing a health risk to the neighbourhood, so what's the problem?

It would seem that by not conforming to the bin collection system of the community, that we are bringing down the neighbourhood. Which is quite ironic coming from people who have a Third Reich-esque eagle on top of their property and hang the Irish tricolour. In other countries, I know it is perfectly normal to hang a flag from your property, in Ireland it is connected with strong nationalist political views and sympathy with the IRA. Now, I'm not saying for one minute that my neighbourfolk hold any of these extreme political ideas, but that their questionable taste in house adornments doesn't exactly reflect well on the rest of us. People in glass houses and all that.  

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: Real Life Settings

The nice people over at YA Highway a ‘Blog Carnival’ every Wednesday, where the contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week the prompt is: What is the most inspiring setting you've ever visited in real life? My answer is fairly predictable and boring for an Irish writer, it's the west of Ireland. The landscape is so beautiful in a harsh and rugged way, and the wide open spaces give your mind room to think properly, away from the constraints of concrete buildings, neon lights and worries about bills, the day job and city life. I'm definitely a Dublin girl at heart, but I love the west. I dream about going on a writers retreat there one day.

What about you? Any inspirational places?

Tuesday 16 August 2011

My blog is on fire! (Now I have that Kings of Leon song stuck in my head)

The lovely Hart Johnson Gave me the Blog on Fire Award. I'm super happy, because Hart's blog inspired me to start my own after I met her on the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award forum. I got this award a few months ago, but this time it comes with a new meme, which is pretty cool. So here we go!

1)  Are you a rutabaga? I had to Google this to find out what it was. To be honest, if I'm going to be a root vegetable I'd rather be a carrot. Doesn't sound very fancy, but makes great soup.

2) Who is your current crush? I'm holding on to James McAvoy, even though he kind of reminded me of a bumbling David Cameron in the X-Men prequel. Hopefully that was a one time blip, because David Cameron does not a leading man make.

3) Upload a heartwarming picture that makes you smile.

These pictures are of my Labrador Roxie when she was just twelve weeks old. When she was this size I carried her to other peoples houses in my handbag because she wasn't completely vaccinated, and couldn't touch ground that other non-vaccinated dogs could have walked on. She's now seventeen months old, sixty pounds, and carrying her anywhere would involve a wheelie suitcase and a back injury. I love her to bits, and these pictures makes me smile in that goofy way that parents do when they're looking at pictures of their newborn. Yes, I'm one of those dog owners. 

4) When was the last time you ate a vine-ripened tomato?

Probably the last time I ate in my mother in law's house. She buys vine ripened cherry tomatoes because they're the only kind her tortoise will eat. True story.

5) Name one habit that causes other people to plot your demise?

Probably my absent-mindedness. I can tell you the names of prominent nineteenth century physicians, but will forget where I put vital things and to do things you specifically asked me to do. Despite frequent reminders. I have a planner, post it notes, flash cards, Google reminders, and to-do lists but I still manage to forget almost everything important.

6) What is the weirdest, most-disgusting job you've ever had to do?  

I haven't had any weird, disgusting jobs (yet), but the worst job I've had was as a telephone market researcher. I had to ring people and ask them lots of questions on behalf of big companies. My worst day was when I was ringing on behalf of an Irish bank, I rang a woman and asked to speak to her husband. She told me that he had passed away a few weeks ago. I apologised, and said it was nothing important, just a customer satisfaction survey about his account with said bank. She said that he hadn't had an account with that bank, and got quite upset. I felt awful after the call. I'd just informed a grieving woman that her husband had a secret bank account. She didn't need to hear that, especially not then. Other bad days involved ringing people at 10am on Saturday mornings, and a woman who was convinced that I wasn't ringing from a call-centre, but was in fact her husband's mistress. Fun times.

8) What author introduced you to your genre?

Young adult urban fantasy: Richelle Mead. I love all her books. Women's contemporary fiction: Marian Keyes and Sophie Kinsella.

9) Describe yourself using obscure Latin words.

Sorry, I'm not going to even attempt this. My father and husband both learned Latin, and will pull me up if my declensions are wrong. 

That's it! Hope everyone is having a more productive writing day than me, I have a cold that is making my life (and that of my husband) miserable. Hope it passes quickly.

Monday 15 August 2011


Just where is the line when it comes to self-promotion?

Since I’ve started using social media to reach members of the writing community I’ve met a lot of great people. Most of the people that I’ve met are aspiring writers like me, but some of them are published writers. There’s both indie and traditionally published authors in the mix.

Now, I have no problem with someone using their blog, Facebook page or Twitter feed to promote their books. Marketing is part of the writer’s job these days, whether you have the backing of one of the big six or not. If I’m following your blog or your Twitter account it’s kind of assumed that I have an interest in what you write, and that information on how to purchase your book could be useful to me. I love reading about new titles, book covers, and all that jazz. What I don’t like is when a writer crosses the line from informing to spamming.

I follow an author on Twitter who is self-published, and she is a lovely person. She was very welcoming to me when I was a newbie tweeter and I like her. I don’t want to have to stop following her. But the writer in question regularly tweets message after message with slogans about her books. When I say regular, I’m talking about multiple times an hour.

So where is the line? What is an acceptable amount of promotion for authors to do for their book? I find the hard sell off-putting, and if someone engages properly with me and tweets interesting things and occasionally mentions their book, then I’m much more likely to purchase.

What do you think?  

Friday 12 August 2011

In which someone entrusts me with a living thing...

The title is a bit disingenuous, because obviously I can be trusted with a living thing. I am an approved foster carer. I have a one year old chocolate Labrador who is happy and healthy. My parents are going away this weekend and are leaving not one but six children in my care ranging from eighteen months to fourteen years old. So obviously, I can be trusted with multiple species of from the animal kingdom.

Plants though...plants are a very different story.

My husband gave me a rose plant when we first started going out. She is no more. I have had half a dozen plants given to me by well-meaning family members over the years and none of them have survived. My mother in law gave me a tub of geraniums, which I put outside and entrusted to mother nature. These alone have survived, without any input from me.

It's not that I don't like plants. I love them. I love the idea of looking after them. I always start off watering them regularly, giving them plant food, doing everything that is required to care for them properly. And then...I sort of forget.

I'm absent minded, and not the most organised of people. If I forget to feed my dog, she lies beside her bowl to remind me. She's clever, so sometimes she 'reminds' me after my husband has already fed her so she gets two dinners. We have to watch her, she's half dog half Wile E. Coyote. But plants don't remind me to do anything. So they eventually die, and I feel terrible because these are living things and I am a terrible person to let this happen.

I looked after a little girl on respite last week, while her regular foster mother was on holiday. Said foster mother bought me a bonsai tree to say thank you, which was a lovely thought. But knowing my track record, I kind of wish it was plastic. How do you look after a bonsai tree? Is it difficult? Maybe I should look for a good adoptive home for it.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday 11 August 2011

Liebster Love

I was the lucky recipient of the Liebster Blog award a few days ago, and now I find out that I've been given it by three more people! How great is that?

What makes it even better is that the three people who gave it to me have brilliant blogs, so the fact that they even pop on by here occasionally is amazing in itself. You should definitely check them out.

Julie Fedderson is a physician, blogger and romance writer. Her blog is laugh out loud funny, and definitely one of my favourites. When I grow up I want to be Julie.

Caitlin Vincent is a nanny and novelist. Her blog deals with the technical aspect of writing, and she explores language and new words regularly.

Krista M is a prolific writer who blogs about writing, life, and her pending move to New Zealand. Well worth stopping by.

Have a happy Thursday everyone! :)

Tuesday 9 August 2011

The London Riots

The London riots have now gone on for three days. What started out as a reaction to one man getting shot has escalated into full blown violent protest against the Tory government and the economic situation in the United Kingdom.

I'm not saying that they don't have a right to be angry, or that they don't have a right to peaceful protest. But there is something disturbingly ironic about a group of people protesting over unemployment by burning down businesses. Some of these businesses were barely hanging on in the current economic climate, and many will not be able to reopen. This causes yet more unemployment, exacerbating the initial problem.

I'm angry. I'm angry that the leaders of my country made stupid decisions, and that the European Union requires Ireland to repay bondholders at a high level of interest rather than let them take the hit of their bad investment. I'm angry that because of stupid decisions Ireland is losing her frontline services. We have a smaller police force and less doctors. Our teacher to pupil ratio is climbing to among the highest in Europe. Services for rape victims have been scaled back. Special Needs Assistants for children with learning difficulties have been dispensed with in all but the most extreme cases. Rising oil prices are affecting the prices of food, heat and transport while welfare to the unemployed and elderly is being cut back. Most of the people who graduated with me are unemployed or have emigrated. I'm very angry. But how is going to my local shopping centre and setting fire to small businesses the answer?

I don't know what the answer is, but the scenes that we're seeing across London is certainly not it.

Monday 8 August 2011

A new way of writing

So last week I had my first foster placement, a three year old with a huge amount of energy and a love of chatter. We had her for a week, and I loved it. When she went at the end of the week I missed her, the house seems unbelievably quiet. But the week made me realise something that all of you who are parents already realise: writing with children is tough.

It shouldn't have been too difficult, after all I have a month off from my journalism job which frees up around two hours in the working day for me. My plan was to look after the girlie in the day, and do a couple of hours writing in the evening. This did not happen. I looked after girlie, put her to bed, and was exhausted. It was all I could do to slump in front of the television in the evening, and even this required propping myself up with a double shot Americano. Twelve hours of complete responsibility for a three year old left my brain unable to process anything much more complicated than the plot of a Peppa Pig episode.

Yet I know that it's possible. I follow many blogs of writers who juggle not just parenthood and writing, but full-time jobs,  part-time jobs, volunteer work, academic study, etc. And, if I'd had time, I could have gone to their blogs and picked up a few tips. But my commitment to blogs, both my own and those of others, also suffered a knock last week.

Next time I'll hopefully be more prepared. My new plan is to make notes on scenes and characters as they occur to me throughout the day and then write them up in the evening. That way I have a framework which will hopefully stop me staring blankly at the flashing i-bar ready to fall asleep.

What about you all? Have you any special tips for juggling busy lives with consistent word count? Any and all help gratefully received.

Oh yeah, and sorry for being so flaky for the past week.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Why You Should Never Compare Your Manuscript to a Published Book

Ok, well maybe never is a bit strong, but there are several good reasons why you should try not to compare your polished manuscript to a traditionally published novel. Most importantly: It. Will. Drive. You. Crazy.

Of course you should read widely, and reading in your genre can make you aware of certain tropes and issues such as pacing and tone. Reading books by good authors is inspiring, and can fire you up with enthusiasm for your current work in progress. But it can also make you want to throw it in the bin/set fire to it/use it to line your cat's litter tray. Why? Because most books have a team of people behind them, rather than just the author. Unless you have hired a multitude of publishing professionals to go over your manuscript with a fine tooth comb, it's not going to be in the same stratosphere.

Publishing companies hire commissioning editors, copy editors, fact checkers and it's not because they're trenchant socialists eager to give everyone a job. They hire just enough people to ensure that they can produce a quality product that will make consumers part with their cash. These people are necessary, and any self-publishing guide worth its salt will tell you that if you're going to forgo the traditional route you're going to need to hire at least some professional freelancers in to help polish your manuscript.

A team of professionals will point out weak points, repetition, inconsistencies, and points where the plot needs improvement. There's a reason why authors usually thank their editors in the acknowledgements section.That doesn't mean that you don't need to edit, though. Your book should be as polished as possible before you start querying. But if you're plagued with self doubt every time you pick up a good book, you should remember that you're just one person. And maybe you should cut yourself some slack.