Productive ways to avoid your novel and Victorians at their best.

I have two articles out today. The first, ‘Productive Procrastination’, is in the June issue of Writing Magazine. I lay out twelve good excuses to avoid your novel. This didn’t require much research. I shouldn’t blow my own trumpet too much, but I’m an expert in this area. As usual, my mate Gary Dalkin provides market news.

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(I’m the ‘Don’t fret about downtime’.)

I own to a natural bias towards WM as the editor gave me my break into journalism. This makes the subscription that meant I had some idea of what he was looking for, quite literally, one of my best investments yet. But it would probably have been that anyway. It provides ideas and fresh perspectives, and if nothing else, injects a dose of encouragement every thirty days.

The second article, published in the June/July issue of Discover Britain, is about ‘model’ villages. These include Saltaire, Bournville, Trouse and Port Sunlight- self-contained communities created by industrialists to improve their workers’ lives. It was a lovely job throughout, straightforward and involving research on one of my favourite subjects- Victorian game changers.

When the washing machine’s a few feet away.

When the washing machine’s a few feet away.

 

I met a deadline yesterday. Relaxing a little today, I had a very pleasant morning and early afternoon with my next one. I’d already done the research and produced a rough draft. Now it’s a matter of making sure it reads well, makes sense and importantly comes in at the right number of words. Hopefully, I’ll manage to send it in a few days early.

This means that tomorrow, I can afford to focus on other things in my life, like catching up with friends. I’m not talking about long lunches, just messaging people to let them know I’m still alive. And laundry. I wish I knew how to drop housework into a writing day, but I don’t really. You’d think it would be easy to put a load of washing on when I’m working in the next room.

If any of you have any tips on the whole freelancing/housework balance thing, I genuinely want to know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psychological edit- Would he really say that?

Psychological edit- Would he really say that?

I’ve not been sleeping well recently. There are of course many downsides. Sleep is pretty important. Upside? I feel justified sitting in bed to write. Insomnia is the ultimate antidote to perfectionism. But I better get this written before I collapse.

It’s half term in Dorset, so anything I achieve other than parenting is a bonus. Yesterday, I sent off three pitches- in a single email, but that’s a day record for 2017. Today, I’ve continued the structural edit of my novel.

I’m at my favourite stage- well away from realities like finding a publisher, but no longer creating something from scratch. I have a plot, subplots and characters. I know my setting. I can now enjoy getting those things right.

It’s a psychological edit as much as anything at the moment, as I focus on plot. Is that really what my main character would do at that point? Is that how she would break the news to her brother? What would he do then? And when he can’t do that? Isn’t that just cheesy? Yes, it is. Oh yes, I remember, you were thinking about word count. It’s all very messy, but it’s getting less so, every time I sit down to write.

 

 

 

 

Revising the Nanowrimo Novel

Revising the Nanowrimo Novel

Yesterday morning, I started revising my new novel, simply because I didn’t have the creative energy to pitch article ideas. And I’d run out of every other method of procrastination I could justify that early on in the day.

Printing the manuscript provided a major mood-lift. Whether e-books take off or not, there will always be something about seeing your work on paper.

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I remained cheerful, glancing through as I manually numbered the pages. (Learn from me, and do it in Word, before printing.) I wrote most of the novel during a prolonged November lie-in, focussed on word count rather than the Man Booker prize. But the story looks as if it’ll hold together without massive plot adjustments. My last book took three or four years to get to this stage.

Then, mid-print out, this month’s issue of Writing Magazine belly-flopped onto the door mat, cheering me up further, as my article, “Get Serious”, is inside.

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Professionalising Creativity

Professionalising Creativity

I’ve found this week difficult.

Last week, I created a Scrivener file of ideas for the next month. This was the year when I was going to professionalise my creativity. I was going to find a process. And every day, pitch at least one idea to a magazine.

This week, I suffered pitcher’s cul-de-sac, a variant of writer’s block. Those ideas looked a lot less brilliant in the bleak light of mid-January. I tried to fit them to good magazines, but the most promising angles were going to take far more time to develop. Others had already been covered by the most obvious outlet. One of my stories disintegrated with research. By yesterday, I’d only sent two of the five pitches I’d hoped.

My conclusion? Creativity might respond to regular hours and discipline, but it certainly doesn’t like production targets, even modest ones. It also becomes easily fed up of the same surroundings and inputs. In the end, I took yesterday off, to see people and think about a new sewing project. I started feeling human, and less like a broken machine.

While I was procrastinating on-line, I read a post from the Getting Things Done people about turning your problems into projects and looking for the ‘next action’. This morning, when there was no pressure- it was Saturday and I might have been at parkrun- I knew what I could do. I opened my computer and browsed through potential magazines on the WH Smith website. An hour later, I had plenty of leads to try next week.

 

The new organised (and slightly more courageous) me

The new organised (and slightly more courageous) me

This is not saying much, but I have never been as organised as I am now. Not since A level revision anyway.

The obvious reason is the children are now all at school. I have time, not just to go through files and washing but to think what I need to do and how best to do it. I’ve also space for trial and error.

I thought I was keeping records for the tax man. I do have a spreadsheet detailing articles, when and to whom they were pitched, when they were accepted, the fee agreed, when they were published and if I’ve sent an invoice. But not when they were banked- one of the few things HMRC actually want to know. I can look at my statements, but it’s another case of learning as I go along. I dreaded my first tax return as my own boss, but I now have a workable system. I’ve gone retro and have a paper cash book and a pencil case for work receipts inside my handbag.

Perhaps reasonably, given my medical background, I’ve been terrified of making mistakes or courting criticism before. Now, I find that’s how you learn. And as you learn, you gain confidence to try new things and make other errors.

It’s raining heavily outside. I was thinking about going for a run, but…

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The wrong temperature for a reset.

The wrong temperature for a reset.

Am I alone in thinking New Year is a very strange time for a reset? For one thing, I am in a state of over-relaxation, where it’s hard to take sudden school drop-offs and homework seriously. For another, it’s freezing. Like a reptile, I slow down when I’m cold. I’m torn between my need to keep on top of things and a desire to curl up in front of the fire and go to sleep.

But I’m finding end-of-day lists really helpful. They not only provide a “sign off” before I switch back to parent mode for school pick-up, I know where to start the next morning, circumventing the need for decision-making much before lunch.

A couple of journalistic firsts (for me, not mankind) this week:

One of my editors suggested I write under a pseudonym. I had a happy minute or two trying to work out a name that would baffle the authorities before I realised, as I’m not indulging in espionage, my maiden name would suffice.

I saw one of my pieces advertised in the “coming soon” section of a magazine. And that was how I found out it had been accepted.

Happy New Year. Thank you for reading my blog. It justifies my pleasure writing it.

New Year- good or bad timing for a restart?  Anyone else slow down in the cold?