Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Upwards and Upwards

My my my! I think I might actually be close to allowing myself to call myself a writer. On Friday August 26th, I officially became a staff writer for Milliver's Travels, yay! However by the time I came round to rewriting my biography, I think my brain had turned to mush so it sounds a bit daft, but check it out at the bottom of this page.

This of course was the result of finally submitting my second article, Seaside Weekend on the Southbank, my first London based article, which means that I have the honour of having written the first articles in both the UK and New Zealand sections of Milliver's Travels :-)
Please do comment on my articles if you enjoy them, or equally if you don't, feedback always helps any writer to improve.

Sunday saw me buy myself a new camera, just a nice little Fujifilm Finepix, nothing particularly expensive or swanky, just enough that I know I've got pictures of a decent quality for any future articles.
I got to test it out yesterday on a day escape from London with the girls to Southend, so there should shortly be a follow-up article on Milliver's detailing how the real Southend beats the Southbank edition hands down.
The camera will also be getting tested in a darker environment on Wednesday when I review The Folly Mixtures at Madame Jojo's in Soho. Certainly looking forward to that one ;-)

So it would seem that writing articles is something I'm not too bad at, though of course there's still plenty of room for improvement, I know of at least two people who don't like the conversational style that I use.
So can I knock the fear out of writing fiction?

Fear of Writing's 10K days didn't go as well for me as I had hoped. While I was working on the Southbank article things were ok, but I was having to dash onto the internet quite frequently to check details, making focus an issue.
Once the article was complete I tried to work on some of the character profiles for my novel. It was slow going though. Total word count for the day - 2870.

So fiction is still a bit of a problem. Though the novel is well formed in my head, committing those details to the page is like pulling teeth. And I think I've figured out part of the problem. Very few first novels get published. They are often considered to be the practice novel, the project where the writer is learning how this whole shebang works. Anne R. Allen gives some helpful advice in her post Can You Write A Publishable First Novel?
But even with this advice, I don't want to risk The Pirate's Daughter becoming a practice novel! It may not be the best story ever, it may not even be that original, and yes I may very well be being far too precious about the blasted thing, but I think it's a good story that it could do well given a chance. But then I have to live up to that expectation. I have to actually write it. It's all well and good talking about how good my novel is going to be but I've got to deliver the proof, thus mounting a lot of pressure on myself.

Perhaps I need to find another concept to use as my practice novel? Sure I've got loads of other stories that I've started in various formats over the years...but I don't want them to be practice novels either!

Something of a quandary I am left with. Would love to hear your thoughts on this one.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Onwards and Upwards

Hi Folks!

It's been an eventful couple of weeks that is for certain. Can't be bothered to waffle too much at the top of this post so I'm just going to jump into it!

My first guest post is live! Actually, it's been live for nearly two weeks now but that's by-the-by. Milli and I managed to move my first guest blog from first draft to live post within the space of a few hours. It was a very exciting day, with lot's of emails flying back and forth across the pond.
So here is the link for my first post on Millivers Travels. Please go have a read, and feel free to comment on it. As a result of this post, Milli has invited me to join the staff writing team for her blog, once I submit my next article.

Since that first post went live it's changed the way I view the things I do. I get involved in a lot of events of different types, and now I can't help thinking "I need to make notes on this, Milli might like it!"
It's also made me realise that I need to buy a new camera, as the quality of photo's coming off my Blackberry (the Raspberry/Riotberry! (see report's on the London riots to understand this reference)) is pretty rubbish.
I have a whole list of other articles to write for Milli, at least 10 more on my travels around New Zealand, and a number on event's in or around London. I would have liked to go up to Edinburgh to collect some "stuff" from the Fringe Festival but a) can't afford to get up there at the moment, b) it sent me crazy last year! Before I went up to Edinburgh last August, my hair was almost half way down my back. By the time I got back to London, there was maybe 3 inches of it left.

Milli also did me the honour of making me a guest blogger on her Fear of Writing blog as well. She'd had trouble finding material for that weeks post, so she hijacked (with permission) a section of my last post on here.  So here is my second guest post!
Thanks to Milli's mentoring, my blog follower count has increased from 2 to a whooping 5! How cool is that?

Tomorrow is the first attempt at a 10k day. Today is all about the preparation for it. Today, I have pre-procrastinated! I have swept the stairs and the hallway, I've done the washing up, I've put the shower head in a jar of vinegar to remove all the calc that resulted in the shower exploding again last week, I've put the washing through the machine...all those little things that I know I will use as an excuse not to write tomorrow. Except tidying my room, but that never gets used as an excuse not to write!

Later this evening I will be making a massive pasta bake so I've got plenty of healthy and quick food I can grab between sessions tomorrow, as well as having a box of apples and oranges (and chocolate bars) next to my desk in case I need a snack.

I intend to be writing in 45 minute sessions, with 10 minute breaks between them, with a couple of longer breaks every 3-4 hours. I know the chances of reaching 10,000 words in one day is pretty slim on the first go, but this is as much an exercise in self-discipline for me as reaching the word count.
For most of the day, the Self-Control application will be my best friend, preventing me from getting stuck on the internet, and my phone will be on silent, hidden under my pillow to stop me from glancing at it in case the red light is flashing and something "interesting" has happened.

The rest of this afternoon will be spent preparing the items I want to work on tomorrow. I will be reviewing the outlines for Becca and Misty, as well as preparing outlines for two more articles for Milli. There will also be the challenge of transferring the 8500 words that already exist of the outline for my novel into Scrivener. This could be an interesting few hours as I will have to copy it all out by hand instead of copy and pasting so that the formatting is right. The bigger challenge will be stopping myself from editing what already exists. That will happen when the outline is complete.

And so to end this post, a quick discussion on title. I stumbled across this blog article by Katie Ganshert on the importance of title. And it got me thinking. Is The Pirate's Daughter a title that would make you pick a book off the shelf in a bookstore? This has always been the title of my work-in-progress, even though somebody else already used it, but their story isn't even about a pirate, it's about Errol Flynn, so I think I have more right to use it :-)
Let me know what you think.

Take care folks.
Jo x

Monday, 1 August 2011


Evening people!

Ah bet this has surprised you, two posts within just days of each other? As I pointed out at the end of my last post there were a couple of other things I wanted to talk about, so thought it best to get on with putting them on the page while my writing mind is still willing to work!

The notebook is getting used, it's just not filling up as quickly as I thought. There's a few idea's for blog posts appearing, shards of a couple of stories, and fragments for a piece I want to, almost need to write but is currently still too raw, painful and distressing to focus on. Hopefully by keeping the pieces safe in my notebook, when the time is right, this piece can be written.

At the moment I really want to start pushing myself with my writing. As stated in my last post, very little writing got done over the last two months while I was working and not only do I want to make up for that downtime, I also want to make writing a more integral part of my life so it's more difficult to set it aside for such long periods.

The self-bribery idea never really worked. Well, it worked for a couple of weeks and then ... I don't know, like all my attempts to improve my writing habits it fell by the way side.
And I now have a kindle. It was my reward for making some money instead! But that means I have an unlimited supply of reading material to carry around with me without fear of my precious books getting beaten up in my bag. I have over 100 pirate stories on there that I'm dying to start reading, but I want to finish reading the final instalment of Robin Hobbs' The Liveship Trilogy first. I started reading this trilogy over 18 months ago, and got up to the last chapter of the book, but then jetted off to New Zealand and lent the books to my house-mate to keep her entertained in my absence. Upon agreement she kept those copies, and I never read the last chapter, and I'm so nearly there. Do you ever find you're desperate to finish a book to know what happens, but at the same time don't want to reach the end? As if by closing that book on the final page that magical world will disappear?

Anyway, I know that part of the reason I find it so difficult to focus on my writing, like so many writers, is the internet distraction. Certain sites, mostly social networking and email related constantly need to be checked just in case. I know it's neurotic. But I've found my god-send for this.
SelfControl is a brilliant (and free!) application that blocks websites you put on your blacklist for a period of time that you set. Once you've set the timer, there is no way to remove the block until the time runs out. You can restart the computer, even the delete the application, you've still got to wait. Steve Lambert only created this application for Mac and has no interest in creating a PC or Linux edition, but as it is free source, I'm sure these editions exist on the internet somewhere. I'm seriously considering downloading a similar application called Freedom, which is very similar but blocks all internet access for your set time.
Of course using these apps only works for me if I turn my phone off and hide it over the other side of the room, but typically once the FB updates stop pinging at me, I don't feel so driven to check the sites, and knowing I can't access them anyway stops me needing to check peoples profiles just because... you know... something might have happened since I checked it five minutes ago? There's currently a little red counter sitting in the bottom of my screen, unobtrusively letting me know that there's still a little while to go before I'm allowed back online. Sometimes I don't even notice the time has run out because I've finally managed to focus for a while.

So to make myself write, I'm trying to find places to submit my work. My aunt has always encouraged me to try writing competitions, but I know that at the moment with my aversion to deadlines it's not a particularly practical idea. With any luck the deadline aversion will become less and less of a problem and then maybe I'll start looking at the competitions.

One place I've found that I'm very interested in submitting to is Open Pen. This is "London’s first ‘open Literature’ bi-monthly magazine", publishing two stories each issue, a winner and runner-up of the open submissions the team has received in advance of the publication deadline. I'm also considering submitting my mum's story to these guys. Having read the two issues that currently exist, I think it would fit in quite happily.

Anyone else know of any similar types of publications that take open submissions?

In my attempts to avoid writing, I found a very interesting website, Fear Of Writing. This is run by a wonderful lady called Milli Thornton, who seems to love nothing more than helping writers find their love of writing again. One of my favourite parts of the blog attached to her website is the regular 10K days. Two of these days are scheduled every month, and the aim is for each participant to write 10,000 words in one day, or simply as many as they can manage. Though I haven't taken part in one yet, from reading the blog there is a great community feel to these days with participants posting updates on how their days are going and supporting each other through what can be a very gruelling day. I can't wait for the August dates to come around, and I'm hoping to use these days to help me progress my novel, which still doesn't even have a complete outline, at least not on the page. I'm even tempted to do one as a sponsored event once I start producing decent word counts.

Milli runs a couple of other blogs, including Millivers Travels. On Friday, a notice popped up in my Twitter feed about a travel writing crash course. I assumed that would be literally all it was, just another writing course, but no. Milli is offering to tutor people through writing a travel article to be published on her blog. As soon as I read the post I started thinking Tatapouri, Franz Josef, Rotorua ... then started thinking "Don't be daft! You can't write anything good enough for someone else to post on their site!" But I couldn't stop thinking about it. The post was open somewhere on my desktop all day and I kept coming back to it, until the evening when I read Milli's submission guidelines about 20 times before typing up a tremulous query to her. I read it back several times, let it sit for an hour, read it again and then hit send. Now I certainly wasn't expecting to hear back from her before the end of the weekend.
Milli emailed me back in an hour! And crikey was she excited! She'd been hoping that someone would offer her some New Zealand content for a while now and there I was offering her enough for a potential series of posts. After reading that email I literally bounced around the room cursing and swearing out the nerves and excitement before composing my reply.
And now I'm halfway through writing my first draft of my first article! Hopefully it'll be finished tomorrow evening, then I can send it to Milli and wait for her judgement. It's a scary experience, knowing you have the attention of someone who's work you've been reading from afar and come to think of as an expert in their field.
But despite being scared I'm very excited as well. I'm hoping this experience, while getting my work seen by a wider audience, will also kick start my other writing projects and allow me to work on them in a happier and more productive manner.

And on that note, I'd better take another crack at that article!

A pleasant evening to you all.