Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thumbelina: The tale of the one-handed writer...

Just a quick update to say that the cast/clubhand came off on Monday and I'm now the proud owner of a thumb splint! I feel so much lighter and unencumbered it's unbelievable - and generally much chirpier in myself!

I can even type - though I'm not supposed to b/c I'm supposed to keep my left hand elevated - so am keeping two-handed typing to a minimum.

The Dragon App turned out to be a bit of a disappointment when I used it this morning. It kept failing to transcribe the chapter I was reading (though it DID transcribe my test - 'Hello my name is Cally, I live in this house' - each and every time I said it which was weird!) so I might hang onto the expensive PC version after all as the thumb splint is likely to be around for another 6 weeks or so.

As well as working on Project B - I wrote over 1,000 one-handed words yesterday taking me to 13,470 / 70,000 (19.0%) - I've been working on some of the marketing/PR ideas for 'Home for Christmas' that Louisa and Sophie and I talked through over lunch the other week.

One idea in particular sent me into spasms of delight (and guffaws of laughter) when a friend very kindly took a look at what I'd produced, tweaked it and made it 100% better. I'm crossing everything that it comes to fruition. If it does hopefully I'll get to debut it around October time so watch this space.

There are still several things on my 'Home for Christmas' PR 'to do' list and I'm working through them slowly but surely.

I'm still enjoying Project B but have found writing it comes in fits and starts. Last night, for example, the words seemed to spill out but, at other times, it's like pulling teeth. Even though I've done more plotting than normal with this novel I'm definitely writing my way into it and only discovered the true voices of two of the characters yesterday (5 chapters in). That's why I keep banging on about the importance of fast & dirty (shit) first drafts. There's absolutely no point editing and polishing your chapters as you go along because you'll only end up rewriting them once you reach the end anyway! Well, I will...

It's weird though - I do find myself re-reading bits and thinking, "that's not very good. Call yourself a writer? How clumsily did you word that?!" and then I have to remind myself to take my own advice - just get the story down and make it publishable later.

Right - I've now suitably motivated myself to log off the internet and write a bit more. Ta taaaa!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Thumb Chop Writer HEARTS her iPad

First off thanks LOADS for all the well wishes and concerned tweets and messages about my recent thumb amputation (KIDDING!) laceration. The local anaesthetic wore off about six hours after my op but, touch wood, I've had very little pain and have coped with any discomfort since by taking a couple of paracetamol.

After taking Friday and Saturday off to sulk (I mean recuperate) I got back on the Project B 'write 70k in 70 days' bandwagon today and it was all down to my trusty new iPad (I'm not being paid to pimp iPads, honest!).

First off I did a bit more plotting using a mind map app called 'Idea Sketch'. It's a great app, cheap too, but I discovered today that it's a bit memory intensive so I might have to split the novel into a couple of different projects rather than one big mind map.

Next I downloaded a writing app called 'My Writing Spot' which, at £2.99, is pretty reasonable for what is basically a notepad app that syncs what you write with an online website (good for backing up your work!) and, finally, I downloaded the Dragon voice recognition app which was FREE!

I haven't done a great deal of work with it yet but the test I did do worked brilliantly (it even recognised some fairly unusual first names) and I was able to edit the transcription and then cut and paste it into the 'My Writing' app. You can also use Dragon to post to Twitter and Facebook but I haven't tried that yet. To be honest I'm seriously thinking about cancelling my order for the £75 PC version of the Dragon software and sticking with the free iPad app!

All in all I only wrote 325 new words today but I'm happy with that as a) they were typed with one finger of my right hand and b) most of today was spend working out which apps would actually help me and speed up the 'writing' process rather than distract me (plants verses zombies I'm talking to you!).

Now to turn my attention to some proofreading comments that have come in for Home for Christmas.

Is there an app for that? ;)

12,417 / 70,000 words

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, August 19, 2011

Best excuse ever for not writing...

I sliced open a tendon in my left thumb whilst trying to remove a food processor blade from the dishwasher!

Yesterday I was on an operating table, wide awake, as the tendon was sewn back together (huge kudos to the Plastics team at Frenchay hospital, Bristol who saw me so quickly and made the whole experience stress free).

Considering how small the initial cut was (about 1cm) it's amazing I managed to do so much damage. The gignormous cast on my arm is to stop me from moving my thumb in the wrong direction and breaking the tendon sutures (eek!) and it's held in place above my heart by a collar and cuff sling! hopefully it'll come off in the next couple of weeks and I'll get a splint instead. In 5 weeks time I'm allowed to hold something the weight of a cup of tea and in 7 weeks something the weight of a filled kettle.

So yeah, this little mishap (my first visit to hospital in 22 years - the last time was to have teeth out!) has pretty much put paid to my 70k in 7 weeks plan for Project B. I was doing so well too, 12,000/70,000 words written longhand in less than a week and a half! Hmmm...pride comes before a fall and all that.

My new plan (as I am left handed and can't write with my right hand) is to explore voice recognition software and transcribe what I've written so far and then add to it if I can. I've ordered 'Dragon' software from Amazon which should hopefully arrive soon. This blog entry, btw, is being typed with one finger of my right hand. I'm a touch typist normally so this is pretty slow going for me! Not much I can do about the cross stitch I was working on before the accident and I guess knitting is out too!

While I spend the next 5 weeks recuperating if anyone can suggest how on EARTH you can do up a bra one handed (or butter toast, or slice an egg or any of the other myriad of things you don't realise you need 2 hands for until you only have one!) do please let me know!

One bit of news to cheer me up this morning - my agent emailed to tell me that Heaven Can Wait is a bestseller in China. Yay!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Well that was knackering...

...but I did it!

10,189 words this week (2,000+ words a day for 5 days).

I had to work hard to get 2,000 words down after I met Sophie and Louisa from Orion for lunch on Thursday (SO fancied slumping on the sofa with a film) but I did it. We talked about promotion for Home for Christmas (there's going to be a great Facebook competition to celebrate publication week in November so make sure you 'like' me there if you want to be kept in the loop - and they were really enthusiastic about the marketing ideas I'd come up with. So really it's my own fault that I've got a bunch of other stuff to write/organise as well as 60,000 words of Project B to draft in the next six weeks!

Anyway Project B is definitely a dirty first draft at the moment and it'll need a hell of a lot of editing before I'll be happy showing it to anyone, but it's great watching the story unfold under my hand and I've already been surprised by one cliffhanger I didn't see coming.

Now to relax until Monday when I start the next 10,000 words!

10,189 / 70,000 (14%)

How's your writing week been?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Why writing is like exercise...

So, until Tuesday, the only thing I'd written in approximately 18 months was my entry to the RNA Elizabeth Goudge competition and that was a couple of months ago. My lack of words wasn't because I was competing in the world procrastination championships but because I was hard at work editing and rewriting Home for Christmas whilst holding down a full time job and cramming in a busy social life.

I've got a bit of time on my hands at the moment but it's limited and in approximately six weeks time Project Top Secret (what is it with me and all these stupid projects I won't reveal? Annoying i know but I'm incredibly superstitious) begins and I won't have time to dedicate to Project B for quite a while.

So...I need to make the most of the time I do have available to me - hence the 10,000 word a week targets.

'I can do 2000 words a day, no problem' I told myself as I was typing up my last blog post. Sure, it took me 7 months to write the first draft of 'Home for Christmas' but I wrote 'Heaven Can Wait' in 3 months and 3 weeks - that's 2000 words a day isn't it (actually its more like 1,600)'

But you know something? Writing really is like exercise and if you don't do it regularly not only will you dread (and make excuses for) doing it again but your first attempt will be tough, you'll feel like it's taking forever and afterwards you'll be exhausted! And the next day you won't want to write again because you mentally ache, but you have to if you want to achieve whatever goal it is that you set yourself.

Meg Rosoff recently posted a blog post about how coming up with an idea for a novel is the fun bit and writing it is hard work. I totally agree. There's nothing I love more than lounging around, daydreaming about a novel idea and occasionally scribbling a few ideas into a notebook but that's just the writer warming up (the exercise equivalent to driving to the gym whilst telling your passenger how you're going to go on the treadmill for half an hour followed by an hour of weights and a 20 min bike cool down). You're wearing the right gear and you're talking like someone who exercises but you're not actually sweating!

Writing, like exercise, IS hard work and, over the last 3 days I've had to use all my mental reserves to keep writing until I hit 2000 words and not give into the gremlins in my brain that tell me I'm tired and deserve a rest and who really cares if I hit my self-imposed deadline or not. It's the same sort of thing when I'm on the treadmill 'one more mile and then you can stop' then, when I hit that mile, 'just to the end of this song and then you can stop'. I trick myself into continuing.

And you know what? When I complete that 3 mile run or hit 2000 words it's a similar kind of buzz. Because I've achieved something I worked hard for.

Today I wrote 2234 words, yesterday it was 2054 and the day before that 2058. That's TWENTY-SIX and a half pages of my moleskin notebook (I thought I'd give writing longhand a go for this project) and every one of those pages would be blank if I hadn't been my own writing personal trainer mentally shouting 'you can't stop yet!'. (That's not to say a big part of me isn't secretly dreading another punishing writing regime tomorrow and would much rather lie on the sofa and watch DVDs!)

My aim was to write 10,000 words this week. I just need to write another 3,654 in the next two days and then I can give myself Sunday off! Now there's another way to motivate myself...

How do you motivate yourself?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

If a new front cover makes a writer's heart sing...

...mine is burbling along to Stevie Wonder's 'Isn't she lovely'!

I know I'm biased but what a lovely cover for my second novel!

'Home for Christmas' is set in Brighton and Hove and this could SO be one of the lovely squares in Hove. AND my name in sparkles in the sky looks a lot like the Flash animation I created for my website ( Clever Orion designers :)

Roll on 10th November (publication day), I can't wait to see it in the shops!

What do you think?

P.s. Thanks for all the comments on my plotting becoming procrastination post yesterday. I hit my target for the day & wrote 2,058 words. Haven't written a single word today - better get on with it!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

When Plotting Becomes Procrastinating: just get on with your novel!

I've been planning 'Project B' for a while now - and thinking about it even longer. It's been important to me not to rush headlong into into this new novel, partly because it's a departure from my published (or soon to be published) rom-com novels, but also because the experience of having to rewrite Home for Christmas a couple of times has made me realise how important it is that you get the 'thinking' about a novel right before you sit down and start writing.

I know some writers (my favourite chick lit writer Lisa Jewell included) sit down with the sketchiest of ideas and just start typing but that doesn't work for me. I need to know WHY I'm writing the novel I'm writing - what is it that is going to force me to give up large chunks of my social life for months on end? What is it that's going to get me out of bed in the middle of the night to write down an idea for a new scene? Who are these characters that chatter in my head as I walk to the shops and what do they want? Am I excited enough about this idea to see it through from beginning to end (including that awful sticky bit at 30,000 words in where you just want to chuck it in the bin)?

So yes, I've been thinking about Project B for a while and started plotting it (not entirely, I like the characters to surprise me) while I was on the writing retreat a few months back. Plotting was somewhat successful and spelled out the first couple of chapters but there were still things I needed clarifying - who were the characters, what did they look like, what did they want, what were their emotional arcs? - so I did a bit of paper-based brainstorming/mind mapping, did some fact-based research on the Internet/twitter, went on Flickr and printed out 'photos' of my characters, drew a map of the main location in the book and downloaded mind map, index card and storyboarding apps for my new IPad and bought an 'ugly toy' to represent my internal editor so I could throw it across the room if it dared tell me that my idea/writing/story was rubbish.

Hang on! 'Bought an ugly toy'?

Because that's, you know, vital preparation for novel writing isn't it?!

You can see what happened can't you? Instead of getting on with writing my novel I was making excuses why I wasn't ready yet. I still had to research x, plot y or buy z. If I didn't actually start WRITING project B I wouldn't have to face my very real fear that the final book wouldn't live up to its potential in my imagination. And if that happened I'd have failed. And no one wants to be a failure, even if just in their own head.

So you know what I did? I gave myself a start writing date - non negotiable.


And, like I did with Heaven Can Wait, I've given myself a tight deadline. 10,000 words a week, for 7 weeks, to produce a first draft of 70,000 words.

And it's allowed (supposed) to be shit.

This novel isn't under contract, it hasn't been promised to any publishers and the only people who know any of the plot details are my agent and my boyfriend. This is a novel I'm writing for me. It's a story I have to write. And yes, it might be the worst thing I've ever written but it might also be the best and I won't know unless I face my fears and write it. Starting today.

How about you? What are your fears stopping you from doing?

*(500 / 70,000 words written before breakfast. 1,500 left to write today.)

Friday, August 5, 2011

iPad test

Just a quick test to see if I can successfully blog and upload photos from my new toy (yes, another one!). Nothing to see here, move along please... ;)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad