Taking a little break

So, I’ve been a little quiet on the writing front recently. Some of you may have seen that I finished the second draft of my second book, and I felt so relieved that it was done, as at times it felt like a real slog, that I realised I needed a break.

Most of you will know that I’m doing a lot of travelling right now (and if you don’t, feel free to take a look at what I’ve been up to) and this creates some challenging environments and situations in which to focus on writing. That being said, there are plenty of positives, too.

While I tried to keep everything together, and balance the travel, work and different living scenarios, it proved really taxing. That meant that when the draft was done, I was nowhere near ready to do anything else for a while.

Normally, I’ll blog more or work on some short stories, but I couldn’t even face doing those activities, too – despite how much I love writing!

A couple of months later and I’m back to it, so there’s some catching up to do on my regular updates but also a lot of short stories I want to redraft as well as some new ideas to put into writing. I know already what I want to do for the third book of this trilogy and I’m going to start the first draft of that story in January.

Compared to the first book, which I completed fully before starting the second, this is also a little bit of an experiment for me. It will keep the world and characters I’ve created fresh in my mind but in a different part of their story. I’m hoping that when I come back to edit the second book, it’ll be easier to keep track of everything, fixing mistakes and refining the novel without as much back and forth and fact checking. I have a lot of notes, but things do change during the process.

The other reason for doing things this way revolves around my longer plan. I’ve been submitting the first book to agents since late 2017 and I’ve had no luck so far. That’s a shame but I’m not prepared to give up on it, yet. All the reader feedback I’ve had (select friends and some strangers I’ve met on during the travels – not all of which are science fiction fans) has been constructive and positive.

Most of the questions they’ve raised are points I wanted them to pick up on, the story and writing style are enjoyable and the characters interesting. This is enough to keep me pushing ahead with it. If at the end, I have no luck, I’ll consider self-publishing the first book once the first draft of book three is done. Then I can edit book two while pushing that, before editing book three while getting the second book out there.

There is a plan, and while it’s not going as I’d hoped right now, it’s good to have some goals. Over the next couple of months, I’ll have some new stories to send out and post, so you’ll see more of what I’m working on, too.

That’s it for now, ‘till next time!

I didn’t write last week…

…Except, I did.

When I’m working on a novel or similarly lengthy project, I set myself a target. It used to be 1,000 words a night back when I had one job and a stable lifestyle. I didn’t always meet it, but I did get some writing done every day, no matter how little.

With my current lifestyle, where I work three jobs and don’t have my own space, I set myself a different target; to write four chapters a week. I rarely meet it but usually I can get three done a week without too much trouble.

This week, I didn’t write a single word.

Except, I did.

I write five days a week in my current job. So, in reality, I actually wrote a lot. Writing I have to do to get paid. I need that money to live and continue my travels later one.

But, when it comes to my own project, I wrote nothing.

Instead, I worked my second job on four of those days and nights, after my main job (which is a 9-5). Again, there are benefits to this, but I didn’t write anything.

And I feel guilty.

I’m close to finishing the first draft of this project, and my goal is to get it done this month. That should still be doable, I hope. Not writing for a week is just going to mean I have to do more in a shorter time.

This is what I want for my future, and I feel bad that I’ve been so lax. I can’t even say I did anything exciting or had a good time. Don’t get me wrong, the people I work with in my second job are great but it’s not the same. I have no stories to tell, no pictures to show and no writing to mark that passage of time.

I didn’t write last week.

I feel guilty every time I let an opportunity pass me by. Sometimes I am too busy, others I know I’m not in the right frame of mind to do so. I still feel guilty. I’m trying to change that, to accept the decisions I make in my life, for whatever reason, are the best they can be in that moment. Maybe things would be different if I took those chances, but maybe not. There’s no way to know for sure.

I’m getting better. This has become a bit of a mantra for me, one I wanted to share. It’s okay that, as a writer, there are times I don’t write. It’s okay there are others I do. It’s okay to enjoy other things or prioritise other parts of my life.

I’m not there yet, but I’m improving every day. Every week.

I did no writing last week, except, I did. Then again, I also didn’t.

And that’s okay.

Keeping myself motivated

It can be hard writing all the time when things are so unstable. I know some people who love that uncertainty, and to a point I do, too. However, I do like a little stability. I like to know I’ve got a job or can get one. I like to know I’ve got money to keep a roof over me and food on my plate. There have been times during this adventure when those things haven’t been so certain and it’s then I find it hard to sit down and write.

I spend too much time thinking about things that aren’t writing. Life problems, you might say, in a sense.

Of course, everything is a wave. There are highs and lows. Now that I’m on a rise, I can think clearly and put everything in perspective.

Sure, I can write a blog post or a short story at random times but for a larger project, like the novel I’m working on now, I like a bit of a stability. Which leads me to…

Getting into a routine

One thing I learned at university was a routine. If I could write at roughly the same time of day (or night) each day then it’d be easier for me to get into the flow and get more done. That has worked for me in the past, but I do like having a set space to work from, which isn’t easy when travelling.

When you get regular hours at a job, then it becomes easier to get that routine going. It might be worth writing at the same time even if those times vary through the week. It’s training your mind to know when it’s time to be creative and work, and that 9-5 mentality is exactly the same.

Seeing other people’s success

This is a double-edged sword but when you see friends and colleagues doing well, you feel happy and want to support them however you can.

Then comes the jealousy.

It’s not that they’re better than you, but they have something of market value then. That just means you have to think about your ideas and what’s out there now. It also means you need to keep trying. Don’t compare their journey to your own, just focus on doing what you do best and do it well. One day, it’ll come to you.

Yes, I’m also telling myself that. We all need to hear it at times.

The occasional pep talk

I’m grateful for the friends I’ve got who keep me going when things look hopeless. A lot of these are writers in similar situations to myself, and I’m more than happy to return the favour. We’re all still young in the grand scheme of things and it’s nice to get a little bit of encouragement amongst all the rejection we get from publishers and agents.

The same rings true for life in general, and those uplifting feelings can transfer to other areas when we need them most. If you know a creative and they’re a bit down, give them some encouragement and offer some criticism to help. You might not be an expert, but you can appreciate it. Let them explain some of their craft to you, let them feel like their skills and knowledge is valuable.

Again, the same is true in life. Look out for people who could use a little lift. Good things can be passed on really easily.

Looking back to how far I’ve come

It may sound a little cliché but it’s great to look back at where I’ve come from – in terms of my journey as a writer. I look back at the projects I’ve completed and remember thinking that I’d never be able to finish it.

These aren’t masterpieces by any means but compared to my writing now, I can see how I’ve changed, how my style has grown, and it makes me proud. I look forward to pushing on and seeing where I’ll be in the future.

Of course, hopefully that involve a published book or two (or ten, maybe more) but the more I travel, the more I learn about myself and there are always things to do and learn. Maybe it’s not what’ll happen but until I know for sure, I’m going to keep trying.

You should, too, whatever your goals may be.

Why I have multiple projects on the go at once

We’re all different, and we do things differently as a result.

That’s great, as variety keeps life interesting. Another way to keep things interesting is to have more than one project on the go at once. Now, I’m talking about writing here, specifically, but it’s advice that can apply to many aspects of our lives.

It’s not for everyone; I know plenty of writers – and people – who prefer to focus on one thing at a time and get it out the way before moving onto the next. That’s absolutely fine but I’ve found it can make things a little…monotonous.

That’s why I mix things up a bit from time to time.

The benefits of switching projects

I’ll be honest here, staving off boredom is sometimes a challenge for me. I write longer pieces of fiction most of the time, and novels feature a big part of that. However, there’s blog posts, freelance work and short stories to do, too.

Balancing all of these projects can be tricky but if I waited until the last one was finished, I’d never do anything else for a year or more (leaning more to the more here, especially as I’m travelling and working, too).

There are also times when I find myself stuck. Call it writer’s block, call it boredom, call it whatever you like – I need to do something different to take my mind off what’s stopping me.

Now, if it’s a problem I’m trying to work out, writing something different can sometimes reveal the solution. Sometimes, it’s just good to finish something – or a draft of something – to add some extra motivation.

However, it’s not as simple as just switching from project to project on the fly.

The downside to doing so

Going back and forth between projects, while refreshing, does make it much easier to lose your flow and get confused. Details from each story might cross over inadvertently or plotlines might merge and confuse the reader.

It also means each project will take longer to complete. The difficulty here is deadlines.

Even if they’re self-imposed, deadlines are important. It’s goal and lets you manage your time – and this goes beyond your writing. It’s okay to respect that things change, and life can get in the way, but if you set a deadline, it’s important to try and meet it.

That said, if, like me, you like switching projects, you’ll need to accommodate for this in your deadlines. Don’t make them to short or you’ll get stressed.

That’s not good for anything.

How I cope with changing over

The biggest tip I have is to plan ahead.

There are times when I feel like I spend more time planning my projects than I do writing them (and even editing, as hard as that is to believe).

Not only does this help with the writing itself, but it means every time I switch from one project to another, my plans and notes are so comprehensive that I know exactly where I’m at and what I need to do next.

Now, my plans and ideas can change during writing. That’s okay and its part of the editing process to make sure it all fits together neatly in the end. It’s why no one ever gets to read my first drafts – they’re far too embarrassing!

As with everything, you’ve got to find what works for you. I’ve found my balance and until it stops working, I’m sticking with it. What about you?

The hardest parts about writing while travelling

I’ve been backpacking and living in hostels for close to 18 months now, and it’s an experience I wouldn’t change for the world. I’ve met some amazing people, seen things that are literally mind blowing and done things I never thought I would (like a skydive, can you believe it?) but one thing has really taken a hit during this period; my writing.

No matter where I go or what I do, I always try and find at least a little time to do some writing, just as I used to do back home. There are some pretty big differences between those two situations, though, and it has slowed me down quite a lot.

With the launch of my new website, and a plan to really start pushing this area of my life forward, I felt it was a good time to lay it all out.

I hope this will be of some use to you!

Not having a dedicated space to write

Every “home” that I’ve lived in has featured a dedicated space to write. Sometimes that comes in the form of a desk, other times it’s a table but it can also just be a corner or area of a room that I can get comfy and sit for hours if need be.

Most of the last 18 months have been in hostels, and if you’ve ever stayed in a hostel, you’ll know what I mean. For those who haven’t; you pay for a bed rather than a room. There are social spaces but not necessarily quiet ones, and since my laptop is a bit old, I need it plugged in constantly. That gets difficult and so I’m confined to my bed.

That’s right, I write in my bed. It’s generally not the comfiest option and these are bunk beds, so there aren’t many ways to get comfortable. Not only that, there are other people to contend with.

Right now, for example, I’m writing this in the dark while others are sleeping.

When you constantly change rooms and hostels, it’s always different and that’s a bit unsettling. It means new people to adapt to (even if you do remain in the same place) and you just don’t know how anyone will react. It’s part of the travel experience I love but it can be distracting.

No consistent routine

Moving on so much means new jobs, and a change to your routine. Sometimes its day work, other times evenings or mornings – hell, I’ve even worked nightshift for a few months while in Melbourne! Switching from different schedules takes time and saps a lot of energy and motivation, which, for me, is counterproductive.

Now, if I sit down and force myself to write (or do anything, really) I will. Eventually. However, what I found back home was writing at the same time every, or at least most, days meant that I was able to dive in easier and get more done in a shorter amount of time.

That doesn’t and won’t work for everyone, which is fine, but I did find it worked for me. If I could write full-time, maybe it wouldn’t be as big an issue for me. That’s the dream, and if I get there, I’ll let you know.

For now, I try and stick to a regular time and if I’m not working, I try a couple of times each day so that when my schedule does change, I hopefully have a few options to fall into.

Losing my preferred ‘setup’

As a part of my dedicated writing space, I had a particular setup I liked. Now, I’m not one for listening to music while I write. Sometimes, I like it but, in most cases, music distracts me and I focus more on that than the words I want to put to page.

There are times, especially if a song or genre resonates with me in that moment, that I’ll listen to music but mostly that happens outside of the writing and I use my memories or the emotions evoked when writing.

What I prefer is to have a TV show or movie on in the background. This is usually something I’ve seen numerous times before so as not to distract me but I can glance up every now and then and know what’s going on before returning to my work. Sometimes, I notice something completely new or inspiration strikes or that particular moment helps me solve a problem.

A lot of the time, it’s just noise.

Now, however, I just have my laptop. That means, to create that ‘noise’ I have Netflix or something similar running in the background but to have a glance, I change windows on my screen. It’s longer and disrupts the flow.

Yes, yes, I know; such a lousy problem to have, right?

I agree, but it is a problem. It’s something I’m trying to adapt to and get over but it’s not proving as easy as that so far!

So, what have I done about it?

I wish I could tell you that I found some great secret that let me fix all of this in one go, but that’s not the case. Life doesn’t work like that.

All I’ve done is redoubled my efforts to sit down and write. Some days, I’m lucky to get 100 words done but others I can get a lot more. Even a little helps and I won’t turn it down – especially with what I’m doing right now.

It means not going out or drinking every night like a lot of people I stay in hostels with. It makes me seem antisocial and boring, I guess, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay. It might be having a goal, or being a bit older than most people I meet backpacking – it doesn’t really matter.

The important thing is I’m happy with my life and the things I’m doing. That’s just another step on this path.

Writer Problems: A Not So Comprehensive List

We all have problems. Some are serious, some not so much. How big or problematic they are depends on our view at the time and with the passage of time, they seem to get smaller until we wonder why it bothered us in the first place.

That being said, some are more annoying than anything. They can be ironically funny, blindingly frustrating, facepalm cringeworthy or many other colour adjectives. Writers are no different. So, here is a list of writer problems. It’s not extensive or comprehensive but they’re all problems I’ve encountered (and not always solved) as well as those of other writers I’ve met and spoken to.

Hell, they probably apply to many creatives and professions – but you’ll have to tell me that.

Pets like getting involved

Not much to say about this one but any writer with pets will know exactly what I’m talking about – our lovable companions just KNOW we need their help.

My dog 'helping' me work
My dog ‘helping’ me work

I can’t deny it’s true at times, but when I’m on a roll and my dog decides to jump on me or my laptop, that’s more hindering than helping. Still, wouldn’t trade her for the world.

Feeling guilty over a lack of productiveness

I don't work right up here gif
Something’s wrong with my head, I think

I’m starting with one of my favourites. I like to take a break between big projects and drafts. It helps me put some distance between what I’ve just done and what I’m going to do next. It can be a week, a month or even a year – it really depends on the project and how drained I feel.

So, FREE TIME! That’s what I tell myself. I’ll catch up on my favourite TV shows, go to some gigs, tick off a few books in the ‘to read’ pile and get some gaming done. Actually, no. Very little happens because I feel guilty about not writing or editing! So, I find other work to do, whether it’s planning something new – or related – to the current project, doing some redrafting etc. It’s great but everything else listed above, well those piles, lists and such get bigger. Who knows when I’m going to get around to them?

Oh well, I keep up with Facebook…

The anticipation of feedback

I like to think that I’m pretty patient while waiting for feedback. I do understand that people are busy and have their own lives and things to sort. That’s what I tell myself and hope it conveys that way to others.

I just have a lot of feelings gif
WHY WON’T YOU LOVE ME?

However, on the inside I’m screaming ‘READ THE BOOK AND TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK!’ every day until I get it back. Sometimes I can’t wait and I break my rule and ask. I feel guilty about that too. Thankfully, my writer friends understand that…I think…I hope!

The infamous writers block

I got nothing gif
I relate to this way too much

I could write 1,500 essays on this subject. It. Is. So. Annoying. And frustrating. And has a particularly awful sense of timing. Countless are the times I’ve been on a great role and the one day it just stops. And I end up staring at a blank screen four hours searching for a particular word or phrase.

Sometimes a film, a show, a song, a book, a game, a word or accident can snap me out of it. Other times, I need a good sleep or swim to clear the head. Other times, I think it’s a way for the mind to tell us to take a break. Maybe to organise our thoughts or think about a problem – or just give us a rest. We’re not machines, we do need it every so often.

Knowing what you want to say without having the right words

Use your words gif
How I feel with my mind when it blocks me

Sort of related to the last point but how many times have you had the PERFECT idea for that scene or chapter that’s been bugging you for weeks but when you come to put it on paper or screen, you stall. It’s not a block because you know exactly what you want to say but it just won’t come out. Damnit.

This is a fantastic example of why redrafting is so key. I’m all about the flow of my work and stories but sometimes you’ve got to force past it and just get it on paper. The editing lets you find those parts and smooth them out to match the rest of the story. That doesn’t stop me from wanting to tear someone’s arms off when it happens, though.

Not being able to stop the inner monologue

Maybe this is just me, but sometimes I wish I could switch my brain off. A CTRL+ALT+DEL function would be amazing. Simply amazing. Someone do this and I will love you forever.

Facepalm gif
There are never enough facepalms for this

I find this more when I’ve been writing for a while or working for a long time on a project; I just can’t stop. I know I’ve got work in the morning or an early start for whatever reason – or I’m supposed to be meeting friends or family or whatever – so I stop writing but that monologue is just going on and on.

The worst part is, whether I cave and get up or return to it the next day, the ideas are gone. Potential writing gold gone for good. That’s when the facepalm strikes.

The conflict of how to tell people what you do

All is good, you’re at an event, seeing some friends and there’s new people around. You strike a conversation and then they ask you one of the worst questions ever; ‘what do you do?’

Why is life so hard gif
Sometimes this is easier than changing words on a computer…

Where to even start with this? I write words and hope it’ll make me money is one option. I tell stories sounds childish. A writer sounds hipster and clichéd. Aspiring writer makes it seem like you’re trying too hard. Author? Not a chance, not till I’m published. Usually, I tell people I’m working on a book. They’ll either be interested and ask more or they won’t. It’s a safe option but why is it so hard?!

Not knowing when to stop

This is another favourite of mine. How do you know when it’s finished? The amount of times I’ve done the final draft of something only to come back in six months and let my inner voice yell ‘WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING, THINKING THAT WAS DONE?’ until I cave in and do another draft.

I’m not always convinced the new draft is better. Surely there’s a point where what you started with or tried to achieve has been lost through so many edits you have something new completely. Is it still one story or is it two? If I find an answer, I’ll let you know.

Getting published!

Cats headbutting each other gif
It’s not a brick wall but very cute…and painful

I saved the biggest problem for last. It is one of THE biggest hurdles any writer who wants to make a career out of putting words on paper can and will face – unless you’re incredibly lucky. If you are, don’t forget about this blogger/writer/Scot.

I’ve not explored this much compared to others but even what I’ve experienced I can liken to headbutting a brick wall over and over and over and over. And over. Repeat until brain becomes mush. Hunting down and acquiring an agent is much the same. And yes, I’ve headbutted a brick wall (a lot as a child and once recently to test out this experiment. It hurt. A lot) so take my word for it.

Any other big writer problems I’ve missed? Let me know!

Tackling Lethargy

Lethargy. It’s something that I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in suffering from from time to time. Yes, that is why I’ve been silent recently. I have the ideas but not the energy or motivation to work on them. Sorry about that.

I’m aiming to change that. I still have the lethargy but the only way to beat it is by getting organised and doing things (I say this while not swimming, which I should be doing right now. One thing at a time.) that I do want to do anyway.

Master of Procrastination

Yes, yes I am. It’s very easy to waste time. Facebook and social media in general is good for this. Fear of missing out (or FOMO) means we’re glued to the news feed whether at home or on the go. We don’t want to miss out on anything that MAY happen. Before you know it, three hours have passed and it’s almost time for bed.

Binge watching TV with the likes of Netflix is another way of losing time. Pottering around the house/flat/home. Basically, anything you do when you know you have other things to do wastes that time. I’m especially bad when I have to do the cleaning. Sigh.

Becoming more organised

As it stands now, I don’t have much in the way of free time during the week. An 8 hour day at work as well as three hours – minimum – travel time means I have about four hours after work to do things. There are the daily chores and tasks that must be done, eating, showering etc.

I swim twice a week, which takes up a good amount of time on those nights too. I like to read and play games too so finding the balance that allows me to do these things, as well as write and/or edit for a while every day.

That means a schedule.

It’s not fun to stick to a routine but it does seem a part of normal life these days. It lets me manage my time and hopefully get the best out of myself. I can appreciate the limited time I have and make sure every day has work, writing and some sort of enjoyable activity.

It does mean some sort of sacrifice. Something is going to have to give. Social media is the first thing to go. It’s still there – you might have found this on Facebook or Twitter and such – and I’ll check back every now and then, but until I can make some sort of progress, it needs to stop distracting me.

The proverbial kick up the backside

Sometimes, we need something else to get back into the swing of things. Whenever I submit any kind of writing to something/somewhere/someone, I always ask for feedback. In most cases, it doesn’t happen but occasionally it does, and it can sometimes be that kick needed.

I was told this particular story had basically no chance of going anywhere without serious work – a complete overhaul of the story. I’m not sure what exactly that overhaul needs yet, maybe I never will, but that’s okay.

There was something positive to come from it. I was told my writing is good. The form, the technical ability, the style etc – overall, I’m a good writer. I know that, or I wouldn’t have made it this far but it’s good to hear, and from a stranger. Every so often, we need that compliment and I know there are better stories in me, already in the works. If I get them done, I may just have a chance to make a real career out of this!

How No Man’s Sky Helps Me as a Writer

No Man's Sky
No Man’s Sky

Another tangent this time but this one, arguably, has more of a relevance to my writing. This time, I want to discuss No Man’s Sky, a game I have been looking forward to for many years.

I generally avoid reviews and critics on most things. If I come across something, I won’t run away screaming but I will treat it objectively – I’d rather make my own mind up, even if it’s not ‘popular’ opinion. It goes for games, films, TV shows, books, music – everything. That’s why, even though a lot of people seem to be complaining about No Man’s Sky, it doesn’t bother me. There are specific reasons I want the game beyond just enjoying it for what it is. I want to go into these shortly.

First though, I’ll address some of the elephants in the blog post.

It’s not perfect, by any means

Let’s get this straight right now. This is not the best game in the world, probably not even close. The crafting system is limited, the interface clunky (at least on the PS4) and the lack of direction can be off-putting for some people. There’s also very little in the way of tutorial, you’ve got to try things for yourself and learn as you go.

Look too closely at the graphics and they’re not as impressive as you first thought. The game is very grind-heavy and repetitive, you’ll be doing similar things on each world you come across as you follow the very loose objectives you do actually have.

But, for me, a game doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s about overcoming the problems and still succeeding, finding solutions that give the best returns and being inspired. The planets I’ve come across have been awe-inspiring. Standing at the top of a cliff and looking out over the plains with water in the distance. Others are harsh and barren but make me work faster to survive and move on.

As a writer, it has already been a big help

One of the nicer planet's I've found on No Man's Sky
One of the nicer planet’s I’ve found on No Man’s Sky

Now, I’m not just a sci-fi writer, and most of my stories don’t resolve around a being alone and fighting for survival on empty worlds but that doesn’t matter.

The scenery, as I’ve mentioned before, can be great at helping me find the perfect setting for a scene or story. It might only be a small part of it, a section or one particular thing that stands out – maybe on something I’ve been working on before and felt was lacking something.

The emotions I feel as the protagonist can also be applied to stories. As a writer, I draw upon my own experiences and imagination, so anything that can help broaden that is welcome. By immersing myself in these kinds of games, by giving the character a life through role play techniques, I can then use some of what I experience in stories, regardless of genre. It takes practise but over the years it’s become a handy skill.

You need an imagination

One of the harsher planet's I've found on No Man's Sky - with a weird, flying beast
One of the harsher planet’s I’ve found on No Man’s Sky – with a weird, flying beast

Well, you don’t NEED one, but if you want to use the game as I do, then you kind of do, yeah. My character has a background, a story, a purpose (that sometimes goes against the point of the game but it is so free and vast it doesn’t matter) and I use that. It can change each week.

Sometimes I create one specifically for a project I have in mind, while others are existing characters I transfer to this. It’s a big change for them and that’s a good process to explore. It lets me dive a little deeper into their mind and that, in turn – I hope – makes writing that character a better experience for my readers.

I’m actually doing it with a character right now, but it’s all hush hush. Sorry!

So, despite its shortcomings, I still think No Man’s Sky is a decent game for what it is – and for what I expected it to be…like I said above, not one to follow the crowd for the sake of it. The extra value I get from it won’t work for all writers but maybe for some. Hell, any creative may find it of use in the same way I do.

Then again, there are plenty of ways to find inspiration, if we only remember to open our eyes, ears and other senses to what’s going on around us.

Or, you can read this post and get some other ideas from me!

Return of the Writer

Once again, ladies and gents, you have my apologies. I had hoped to get back into the swing of things long before now but the book took a lot more out of me than I first thought. I really needed some time to recover – mentally more than anything – and to be able to look at all three books with a fresh mind.

Now, I feel like I’m finally at that stage. Oh, and I like puns. You should know this by now (and in case you didn’t get it – shame on you – that’s a Star Wars reference at the top. Can’t believe I explained that).

I’ve not been sitting idly by, however. Some things have been going on. So, my friends, join me on what, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a riveting tale. Maybe. Possibly. Okay, probably not but bear with me.

Where have I been?

I’ve been here and there, keeping busy without exhausting myself further. Or trying not to. I tried reading but that was a little too close to home and I found that even gaming wasn’t as appealing as I’d thought it would be. I did keep up with swimming, other than last week where I had other exercise plans (dodgeball – don’t ask but I do have a medal!). Hell, I even tried quitting smoking.

The one thing that is worth noting is that over the last couple of weeks is that it was the fifth Manchester Children’s Book Festival. I’ve volunteered at every single one to date and this year was no exception, although following the pattern of the previous two, I’m not as involved as previously but that doesn’t stop me enjoying it all the same.

It’s fantastic to see so many children getting involved with reading, writing, performances and much more – anything creative and wacky! It’s been a pleasure to see the festival grow since 2010 and I’m looking forward to next year already.

Expect a more detailed post on this in two weeks. I wouldn’t want to break tradition now, would I?

Finding motivation

One thing that I think has been really lacking for me is motivation. Since finishing the first draft of the most recent novel, I’ve been finding it hard to come back – for whatever reason. Life can work for or against us and we subconsciously associate that with actions, activities, emotions and such. I think when I’m not happy with something big in my life, it stops me from wanting to write as I feel that should be fixed first.

It doesn’t apply all the time but it does have an impact.

I also had a conversation with a friend about writer’s block, which I’m still not convinced actually exists as a thing but yet I’ve yet to encounter a writer who hasn’t used this term when they struggle. That seems to be more to do with ease – we all understand it, from varying sources – so it doesn’t need explanation. Despite that, why is it a thing and is it only a thing because we make it so? I don’t think I’ve had writer’s block as I write at work and generally. Hey, I’m writing a blog post right now! It’s an interesting thought, though.

Actually, I think this is a topic for a full blog post next month. Look out for that!

Putting together a plan

My manuscripts: one novella and two novels - not related to each other
My manuscripts: one novella and two novels – not related to each other

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have three projects to edit. The novella is first up, and I’ll be starting that at the weekend. I like it’s length but the ‘professional’ feedback (from agents and publishers) suggest it would work better as a novel. I’ll decide that as I go through the draft but I’m not convinced yet. There are other things that need to be fixed, however.

After that, I’ll start on one of the novels. The sci-fi project is up first, as it’s more recent and I think it needs less work. The story is well rounded, it just needs to be padded out in places, with a few more explanations and sub plots, supported by a little character development. That might sound a lot, but it won’t be as bad as you might think. Of course, after that comes the nit-picking of later drafts.

Finally, I’ll work on the fantasy novel. That needs a fair bit adding to it for me to be happy. The good thing is, I know what to add, the big question is where it should go. I have some ideas but the edit will help identify weaker areas and the plot holes that I know exist.

If I can get all that done over summer, I MIGHT just have one ready to send out by the end of the year.

If I’m lucky.

It’s time to…edit!

I hoped to post this last week but, according to my schedule, there are still two weeks until the next post so I’m safe (the glory of a five-week month) for now. I teased previously about why I’ve been so quiet lately, with a lot of things on the go and now I’m finally ready to show you what I’ve been working on.

So, here are my three babies manuscripts. Aren’t they pretty…?

My manuscripts: one novella and two novels - not related to each other
My manuscripts: one novella and two novels – not related to each other

What are they?

From left to right, there’s a novella in third draft, a novel in first draft and another novel in first draft (yes, that’s a long way of saying it but I’m enjoying my words. Hush). I feel like it shouldn’t have taken this long to get this far but then I remembered life easily gets in the way. That’s a whole different topic.

I hope they’re all published one day, obviously, but I’m proud of reaching this stage. I’ve covered fiction, fantasy and science fiction (in that order, respectively) so not completely in my comfort zone but trying something new is always harder than anything else. Maybe that’s why it’s only a novella right now, but who knows what could happen.

If you want to read them – tough! They’re not ready yet but when I’m looking for readers, I’ll let you know.

What’s next?

Editing! The novels are only in first draft and need a fair bit of work. There are plenty of inaccuracies and continuity errors – and that’s not counting the grammatical issues. Who said writing was easy? Then again, I like a challenge. I’ll distract myself with redrafting some short stories in between as there are plenty of competitions to enter. When I find them, I’ll put them up here as normal.

Blogging resumes as normal (I promise) in two weeks. Updates on the editing will come as and when there is something to report. Until next time!