Writing Is What Happens While You’re Busy Missing Deadlines

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About eighteen months ago, I published my most recent book, Project January: A Sequel About Writing. But I’d actually planned to publish it about four months earlier. Yet as the deadline I’d set for myself arrived, the book still wasn’t finished. I still have the publishing plans for it and my next four books written on one of my whiteboards:

*Project January: A Sequel About Writing – November 2016
*Black Spot – November 2017
*Trine – November 2018
*Project February: A Trilogy About Writing – November 2019
*Matriarchy – November 2020

I eventually finished and published Project January in March 2017 and you can read about how I did that in my post on how to psych yourself into writing a book. But because it was four months late (or at least four months later than I’d planned to publish), suddenly my subsequent publishing plans were also thrown out. (Obviously I like the idea of publishing roughly one book a year.) Continue reading

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The Insult of Being Called an Amateur Writer

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Amongst writers it is a well-known fact that the majority of us can’t earn enough just from our writing to give up all other forms of employment. There are a lucky few but not nearly as many as those of us wanting to join those few would like. It doesn’t mean we give up on writing. It just means we supplement our incomes with other work like editing, teaching and more often than not jobs that have absolutely no link to what it is we’d much rather be doing.

In 2014, I was lucky enough to be able to begin three years in which I spent the majority of my time writing my own work full-time. During the times I wasn’t writing my own work, I was employed as a writer writing for others (six months here, six weeks there but for less than a year of those three years). Prior to that, I spent six-and-a-half years as a corporate writer and before that, I was a textbook editor for three years. I even have two postgraduate writing degrees.

And in the past five years, I’ve published three books, written two more, ghost-written another, written and published over 400 blog posts, and written and published about two dozen articles, one of which had over 10,000 views on LinkedIn. I was even shortlisted for the 2016 Text Prize for my upcoming novel, Black Spot, and it was a point of pride for me when one of Text Publishing’s employees told me my book wouldn’t need an editor because I’d done such a good job.

So imagine my surprise when, as I sat right beside him, my father told a group of his friends and acquaintances that I was an “amateur writer”. Continue reading

Should You Set New Year’s Writing Resolutions?

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Knowing that this blog post would be published just before New Year’s, I thought to myself, I should write a New Year’s themed blog post (just like the Christmas-themed blog post that was published last week just before Christmas). I’ve written about new year’s writing resolutions before, setting four goals at the start of 2016 (that I pretended weren’t goals to relieve a little bit of the pressure on myself) and writing at the end of 2016 about how successful I’d been (about 50/50 – I achieved some of them, failed entirely at others and achieved things during the year that I’d never even thought about when I was setting those goals).

I wasn’t sure I wanted to set goals again. Setting goals and then failing is demoralising. And I always fail at goals, especially ones that have definitive and relatively short deadlines. More often than not, I accomplish them but long after any arbitrary time frames I’ve set. That sums me up really. I’m easygoing. I’m laidback. I’m not ambitious. I’m happy to succeed over years rather than months and pressure to do it sooner doesn’t make it happen. In fact, it makes it less likely to happen.

So then I asked myself, Should I be setting New Year’s writing resolutions? Should I be setting goals at all? Continue reading

The A to Z of Writing

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Just because everybody loves a good listicle (so I hope it qualifies), here’s the A to Z of writing.

A is for Authenticity – you don’t have to know what you’re talking about. Write what you know, write what you don’t know but just make sure you sound like you know what you’re talking about. If you write about the police force and someone actually in the police force reads your book lacking in accuracy or verisimilitude (the ring of truth), then that person won’t hesitate to tell the world. And you’ll just come off as someone who couldn’t be bothered doing a little bit of research.

B is for Brainstorming – it’s one thing to have an idea but to bring it to life with all the little details that give it depth, you’ll have to do a lot of brainstorming. If you want to write about a man who kills his father, great (maybe not for your father, who might wonder why). But it becomes two very different stories depending on whether the son had a happy upbringing or an abusive one. And only brainstorming will get you to the point where the story makes meaningful sense. Continue reading

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

What I Learned from Keeping a Writing Journal

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After I wrote a blog post on the value of keeping a writing journal, I decided to keep one while I undertook a month of intensive novel writing. In addition to the 30,000 plus words I wrote for my novel, I also wrote 10,000 plus words for the writing journal. Although I posted the journal in its entirety on my blog during October (and although I think it’s a pretty interesting read, especially considering what happened to me in the final days of the month I was keeping it), I thought I would take pity on those readers who don’t have the time to read it all and distil a few things I learned along the way. Continue reading

How Long Should Chapters Be?

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“How long should chapters be?” is the proverbial “piece of string” question but I’ve seen writers asking it on writing forums so I thought I’d have a go at answering it. The definitive answer, of course, is that there is no fixed length any chapter should be. It needs to be determined by each individual author and depends on their preference, the type of book being written and how the chapter reads when it’s eventually written.

But there are some identifiable methods that it might be useful to list if you are struggling with this question. Continue reading