“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” John Steinbeck, interview with Robert van Gelder in April 1947 as quoted in John Steinbeck: A Biography (1994) by Jay Parini
This is the fifth piece in my Project… series (and the title chapter in my next book about writing). For anyone who hasn’t read the first two books in this series or the relevant posts on my blog, here’s a refresher for you:
*Project October is all about intensive writing.
*Project November is all about rewriting, polishing and finalising.
*Project December is all about publishing.
*Project January is all about starting all over again.
So what is Project June? For the purposes of this series, there had to be another Project… piece. I toyed with the idea of Project February, mostly because February comes after January. But I didn’t know what Project February was. I still don’t.
Eventually, I realised that the advice that I wanted to give and the month that went with it was all about the middle. I’d addressed the start, the sprint to the faux finish and the actual finish; the only thing left was the part in between.
Harry: “Why don’t you tell me the story of your life.”
Sally: “The story of my life?”
Harry: “We’ve got eighteen hours to kill before we hit New York.”
Sally: “The story of my life isn’t even going to get us out of Chicago. I mean nothing’s happened to me yet. That’s why I’m going to New York.”
Harry: “So something can happen to you?”
Harry: “Like what?”
Sally: “Like I’m going to journalism school to become a reporter.”
Harry: “So you can write about things that happen to other people.”
Sally: “That’s one way to look at it.” When Harry Met Sally
It’s strange but the one thing writers seem to struggle with the most is the subject they know better than anyone else: themselves. Perhaps that’s because writing an author biography is about finding the balance between arrogance and unworthiness (something everybody struggles with, of course, but only writers have to put the results down on paper). Toot your own horn without at least a smidge of self-deprecation and potential readers may write you off as a narcissist. Fail to toot your own horn enough and potential readers may write you off as a nobody who doesn’t have the right to ask them for an hours’ long commitment.
Perhaps it’s also because an author biography tends to be something we dash off at the last minute instead of giving it the thought and attention it really deserves. You’ve spent months, possibly years, polishing a piece of writing and now that it’s being published, you need a few paragraphs that will be appended to the end of it to enlighten readers about the person it came from. But if you feel like “nothing’s happened” to you, then it can be tough no matter how long you spend on it.
There is no foolproof template for writing an author biography but here are a few things that might help get your creative juices flowing about your least favourite topic.Continue reading
Today is my father’s seventieth birthday. He’s fit and healthy but a little bit sad because all his friends keep dying. Last year, it was his cousin, Ray, from a massive heart attack. The year before, it was Steve, the best man from his marriage to my mother and his best friend, and Lindsay, a work colleague and subsequent lifelong friend. This year, he already knows there will be more. These are all people he spent lots of time with over the years.
On Saturday, my sisters, their husbands and children, and I are gathering at Dad’s house for a low-key celebration. I hope he has a wonderful day.
While I’m there, I am planning to propose a collaboration. I’m a little nervous. I don’t do a lot of collaborations. And I don’t know what the response will be.Continue reading
All writers devote an enormous amount of time, effort and passion towards writing their books. And while finally holding a completed book in your hands is right up there, one of the other most emotional moments usually comes just before the end of the process: deciding on a dedication.
They aren’t compulsory but they appear in almost every book. As a way of showing our loved ones, our peers, our mentors, our inspirations just how much they mean to us. In recognition of a particular period in our lives. As an inside joke.Continue reading
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
If you’re anything like me, when it finally comes time to design your book cover, you have a rough idea of what you want but none of the skills necessary to accomplish it. I’m lucky because I once worked with someone with a boatload of design and marketing skills and she has been my book cover designer ever since. She’s less lucky because I’m a bit of a control freak (okay, a lot of a control freak).
When I eventually finalised the manuscript for my latest book, Project January: A Sequel About Writing, I contacted her to to ask if she would do the cover for this one as well and she agreed. She had also done the cover for Project December: A Book About Writing, which looked like this:
If you’ve read my book Project December: A Book About Writing or the various Project… blog posts on this blog, then you’ll know Project October is about intensive writing, Project November is about editing and revision, and Project December is about getting your book published. And, of course, I hope it makes sense that Project January is about starting all over again.
The pride and relief at finishing and finally publishing a book is wonderful. But the realisation that all that hard work, all the blood, sweat and tears that it took, all the back and forth, all of the begging for beta readers, all the doubt and belief and doubt again, the realisation that all of it simply rewinds to deposit you back at the beginning again can be hard.
Some people only want to write one book, only have one book in them. If that’s you and you’re okay with it, great. For the rest us who don’t want to be one-book wonders, we’re confronted with an entirely different set of problems from when we began writing our first books. So here are a few things to consider to help get you back on track to another Project October, Project November and Project December.Continue reading
It’s another chapter in the “How long should…” series of blog posts. I saw this question on a writing forum and immediately thought, “Should, could, would…” It’s the kind of question that someone who has never written a novel tends to ask and makes me think they want to get in and get out as quickly as possible. Boy, are they going to be shocked when they realise that’s almost impossible.
In almost every one of the “How long should…” series, I bring up the piece of string and then go into guidelines that might help somehow. But that’s unlikely when we’re talking about how long it should take to write a novel. Because it’s not like roasting a chicken or completing a school year or watching a movie, all of which will come to an end within a reasonably predictable time frame.
But here are a few things to consider about the sort of commitment it takes.Continue reading
Almost as soon as I finished writing Project December: A Book About Writing, I knew I was going to follow it up with a sequel. I told myself a year was a reasonable interval between books and that since the first one had only taken six months to write, I had a little bit of time up my sleeve. I took some time off, wrote 30,000 words of a novel I’ve been trying to finish for the last four years (still not finished) and then started to gear up to yet again write about writing.
Of course, as with all the best laid plans, life was about to get in the way. I landed a six-week writing job, then another, did a semester of intensive tutoring for a university student and last but not least received – and accepted – an offer to extensively rewrite and edit an autobiography. Suddenly, it was November and I barely had half of Project January: A Sequel About Writing written. I hadn’t even had a chance to do my traditional Project October month of intensive writing.Continue reading
I’m very pleased to announce the release of my new book, Project January: A Sequel About Writing.
A follow-up to Project December: A Book About Writing, this is more of my musings and advice for writers and those wanting to write to getting started…again, developing characters and plot, the writing itself, editing and what to do when the book is finished.Continue reading