Holding Yourself to New Year’s Writing Resolutions

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It’s been a whole year since I made four New Year’s writing resolutions. Given my previous lack of success in making plans and sticking to them when it comes to writing, I gave no guarantees about achieving any of them but because New Year’s Eve is right around the corner again, I thought I should review them and see if I managed to tick any of them off the list.

Resolution #1: Publish Black Spot
Straight off the bat, a big fat no. I didn’t publish Black Spot. I said at the time I made this resolution that I was just waiting for a couple of rejections from publishers before going ahead and self-publishing. Of course, that was before Black Spot was shortlisted for the 2016 Text Prize for Writing for Children and Young Adults. Although I didn’t win, I did get a lot of great feedback, did another rewrite and sent it off to a few more publishers. So I’m still waiting for a few more rejections. One way or another, Black Spot will be published in 2017. (I won’t call that a resolution, just an inevitability. There aren’t any more reasons to keep putting it off.) But as with everything when it comes to publishing, it’s just taking a little longer than I thought it would. Continue reading

The Risk of Exposure: Putting Yourself and Your Writing Out There

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Being a writer can be a double-edged sword sometimes. When we first publish, in whatever format we choose, we think, “What if nobody reads my work?” When we realise we are gaining some traction and are being read, we think, “What if people read my work and don’t like it?” It’s rare that we think about the stranger end of the spectrum.

But recently I was confronted with it when I received a request through the Contact Me page on this blog. It was from a man looking for a writer/publisher to help him complete, edit and publish his book. Continue reading

Book Review: The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold

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When I read the final page and then closed the back cover of this book, I thought to myself, ‘That was terrible.’ It’s generally not the feeling a reader – or an author – wants to have. And unfortunately, it wasn’t that I just suddenly felt that way. I’d felt that way throughout most of the book. But I wanted to read it all the way to the end and give it the chance that all books deserve. But my feelings didn’t change.

The subject matter of The Almost Moon is not easy. Helen Knightly is an only child and, since her father’s death, the only person willing and able to look after her elderly mother, Clair. Clair is eighty-eight and although Helen describes her as suffering from dementia on the very first page of the book, she has struggled all her life with what a neighbour tells a young Helen is ‘mental illness’. That might be how it started but now she’s also cruel and parasitic and has prevented Helen from really living her own life. Within the first chapter, Clair is dead and Helen is the one who has killed her. But almost as soon as her mother is dead, Helen realises she hasn’t thought her actions through and doesn’t know what to do next. Continue reading

All a Writer Wants for Christmas…

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An updated dictionary? A new laptop? A stylish writing desk? A comfy writing chair? A virtual assistant to help keep the virtual scraps of paper under control? If only it was as simple as wishing for our two front teeth. These days, with a quick trip to the dentist, it’s an entirely possible dream. Reference books, computers, furniture and PAs are just as achievable. But a writer’s wish list is a little harder to fulfil.

Time
When you’re working and raising a family and keeping a house clean and maintaining a network of friends and trying to find some you time amongst all that, trying to find some writing time can be near impossible. And if you’re confusing you time for writing time, then you’re doing either yourself or your writing an injustice.

Time is essential to writing and every writer wishes they had more of it. Continue reading

Guest Post: Introduction from Paula and Me by John Jeffery

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Last year, I was asked by John Jeffery (better known to everyone who knows him as JJ) to help get his autobiography ready for self-publishing. This week, Paula and Me is finally available for purchase and JJ has been good enough to let me post the introduction to his book on my blog.

If you’d like to read the whole book, it’s available for sale as a paperbook or an ebook through the following links on Monday’s book review.

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It’s been said that everybody has a book in them and it’s just a matter of sitting down and writing in order to get it out. For me, there was a crucial moment between living the life you’re going to read about in the following pages and writing this book. That moment was an old work colleague and friend suggesting that the action-packed life I had led would be an interesting read for my grandkids.

There was just one problem. I’d never written anything before and I didn’t know if I could write. But there was only one way to find out. I had to give it a go. So in typical JJ style, I started making notes at three o’clock one morning as I lay in bed unable to sleep. Six hours later, I was still typing away on my laptop. Maybe that old work colleague and friend knew what he was talking about, after all. Continue reading

Book Review: Paula and Me by John “JJ” Jeffery

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Full disclosure time:

*I was engaged and paid to edit this book (although that means I’ve read it five times so I feel very qualified to review it).
*JJ and my father worked together and played football together during their twenties (about forty years ago and before I was born so JJ and I have never physically met).
*This is the first autobiography/memoir I’ve read in a long time so I have nothing to compare it to. I guess I’ll just have to review it on its own merits.

Told in linear chronology, Paula and Me is the story of John Jeffery’s life. It starts out ordinarily enough, a little boy growing up on the fringes of a big city’s suburbs, riding bikes, kicking a football, spending as much time with his friends as possible, bored by school and dreaming of some kind of adventure. It’s terribly evocative of the innocence of the 1950s and 1960s, of times that now seem alien to us. But it’s also obvious that it is simply building up to something else because, as JJ admits in the introduction, “the story of my life is – for the most part – the story of my life with Paula.” Continue reading

Writing Worlds – Part 2: Building New Fictional Worlds

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On Wednesday, I wrote about reusing existing fictional worlds as the basis for a novel. Today, I’ll explore building new ones from scratch. It’s so much trickier than relying on someone else’s hard work but when you do it yourself and get it right, it can be the basis for a lengthy series of books, especially when readers love the world you’ve created. Continue reading