End of January Update

I’m sure this will come to a total shock to everyone, but breaking the habits of a lifetime is a process that, apparently, takes a little while.

If you’ve read my earlier blog posts this month, you’ll know that I’ve been trying to be more organized and get myself into a routine. Well, results have been… mixed.

On the whole, good progress has been made and I’m happy about that, but I am by no means the entire way there yet.

With regards to my reading goal for the year, I’m sitting at two books ahead of schedule with a total of six books completed so far.

I am, for the most part, on top of the housework and am not being overwhelmed by a mountain of socks (or anything else).

I have re-joined Slimming World and lost a further four-and-a-half pounds this month.

I caught up on all my accounts and submitted my tax return which was quite a big task that had been weighing on me.

I haven’t been too bad about getting out for walks most days, even if it’s only to the local shop.

I have been sticking to a steady upload schedule for the Women Aloud NI YouTube channel and am on track to have the backlog of footage all online by our events in March. I have started planning the Women Aloud NI event I’m coordinating in March. Both these things remain to be finished.

I’ve been semi-successful in sticking to the general day-to-day routine I set for myself in that I am getting myself behind a desk and using the office for it’s intended purpose, but doing so ‘before noon’ each day as I had planned turned out to be a bit too much of a stretch. I still can’t really do mornings. I can barely do afternoons.

Being at my desk helps me to focus, but not always. The other day, I sat watching videos on my iPad as one I had edited exported on my laptop. That was fine but, when the time came for me to put the iPad down, I didn’t. I fell down a rabbit hole of the internet instead. I’m trying not to beat myself up too much about that, because some level of procrastination happens to everyone, but it is something I need to be careful doesn’t become a common occurrence.

Some writing, editing, and plotting has been done but not nearly as much as I would like. My hope is that I can get a bunch of other tasks out of the way tomorrow and find more time for my novel in February. Allons y!

Where Change Continues?

Giles being my office co-pilot (looking at me like I’m mad because I probably am).

It’s Monday morning, day fourteen of 2019. After an initial wobble on day one, this New Year has been pretty good for me. I don’t mean to say that the past two weeks have been completely plain sailing, because there have been a couple of health-related blips, but I’ve been feeling pretty positive aside from them.

At least until I hit this past weekend.

After ten days of being on top of my game and managing to stay in super-productive-mode, I got up very late on Friday (the eleventh). It was to be date night for my husband and I and we’d pre-booked tickets to go see Collette at Queen’s Film Theatre. We were both pretty tired and, I’ll be honest, the fact that we’d already paid was the only thing that stopped us going back to bed immediately after breakfast.

We went, we saw, we enjoyed. Then we went for dinner at a Chinese buffet restaurant where I overate and ended up in very intense pain on the walk back to the bus. I think I triggered one of my food allergies but, regardless of the cause, I was left feeling pretty rough. I went home and slept. I slept for most of Saturday, and most of Sunday, though not restfully.

Last night, I took a look at my commitments for the rest of the month and freaked out a little. Here I was with so much to do and I’d wasted a whole weekend!

One of the things I’m continually trying to fine tune is how to pace myself; to not do too much and find a balance between home and work. I wanted to make a resolution about it for the year but found that A-I already had more than enough to try and achieve by the time I wrote all my necessary tasks out and B- I couldn’t quite put my need for balance into any better words than that.

‘Do more but not too much’ isn’t a very helpful goal to try and strive toward. It’s not specific. It’s not measurable. It didn’t make it onto the list. And yet here I am, striving for it anyway. Because as much as I’ve resisted following a routine for most of my life, I’ve come to a point where I’m finally willing to admit I might need one.  Continue reading

2019 Goals (Part One)

I’ve come to the conclusion that, too often, the goals I set are unrealistic. I usually make a list of everything I want to do — everything I want to be — and that’s that, goals made. This year, however, I’ve been putting more thought into it. It’s why I’ve held off announcing my resolutions for the year before now, because I hadn’t made any firm decisions before now. I had my updated list of everything I wanted to do, same as always, but I wasn’t making a direct translation of it to my ‘to do’ list because some of what I want to do just isn’t in my power. Prime example: getting a literary agent. It’s something that I’ve been striving towards for a long time but it’s not something I can make happen completely under my own will. It’s in my power to make my novel the best it can be and it’s in my power to submit that novel to agents, but there’s absolutely no guarantee that an agent will take it. Great books get rejected every day. It’s not a failure to be one of them. Not when the odds are against you to begin with.

Alongside my ‘get an agent’ goal for the past few years has been one to join the Society of Authors, and that’s more realistic but still slightly beyond my reach. To clarify, I’m talking about associate membership here, not full membership which would require me to already have an agent and/or publisher in place. What’s holding me back, then? Well, I simply can’t justify the money for it right now. It’s not a lot, in the grand scheme of things, but when you’re struggling to pay for bread and milk (which has been the genuine reality for me a couple of times in the past year), of course I’m not going to be signing up for anything.

So, I haven’t achieved those goals. They are still goals but they’re not going on my list for this year and that’s completely okay. Their time will come.

I started 2018 with three other goals: to read 52 books, to get healthier, and to learn to drive. Driving didn’t happen for the same reason as above. It’s just too expensive for me right now. But I do have some good news to report on the other counts.

Part-way through the year I upped my reading goal from 52 books to 55 and I smashed that by completing a total of 61. I also lost a good chunk of the weight my doctors told me to shift, and I’ve been more active.

I have set my 2019 Goodreads reading challenge to 60 books and that’s the only year-long goal I’m assigning myself. What I’m going to do instead is set myself shorter-term goals that take into consideration what I already have on my plate.

The first quarter of this year will see me submitting my tax return in January, celebrating my second wedding anniversary in February, and turning thirty in March. March is also a big month for Women Aloud NI, so that’s going to be fairly busy. Plus I’m helping to put together an anthology for Belfast Writers’ Group.

Three things I want to do between now and the end of April, aside from all that: Lose another stone in weight, finish editing and uploading the backlog of Women Aloud NI videos for their YouTube channel and, the biggy, completing the first draft of my second novel.

That’s definitely enough to be getting on with!

Writing Goals for the Second Half of 2018

Being pretty much halfway through the year, I thought it would be a good time to refocus myself and set some goals for the next six months.

I’ve come up with five specifically writing-related ones.

Here goes…

1. Put a Big Dent in Book Two

Having completed a novel during the first half of 2018, I want to start work on a second – the sequel. Mostly, I see myself doing this during CampNaNo in July and NaNoWriMo in November, setting myself up to finish it during CampNaNoWriMo in April 2019.

2. Finish One Piece (Short Story or Poem) a Month

Given that I have so many things half-written, this shouldn’t be too difficult. I just need to dig them out and wrap them up. (It helps that I already have a spreadsheet for this.)

3. Submit Two Pieces Per Month for Publication

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. There’s no point in finishing things up and having a back catalogue of work if I’m not gonna do anything with it. Already, I have a bunch of completed works sitting doing nothing. I’m gonna get on that.

4. Self-Publish Two Micropoetry Collections

I have both of these almost ready to go and have done for some time. Why I haven’t finished the polishing process and pressed ‘publish’, I’m not quite sure. I just wanna get them out into the world already.
Torn between having a launch this summer or trying to get them out for National Poetry Day in October, I’ll be happy as long as they’re complete this year. Details to follow on that soon.

5. Acquire Literary Agent and Join the Society of Authors

This has been on my list – and, indeed, a few different lists – for a long time. Eventually, it’ll happen and I’ll keep going (and keep including it on my ‘to do’ lists) until it does.

What I Wrote in 2017

It took me some time, but I now have a typed record of everything I wrote last year, and I can tell you it all totals one-hundred-and-forty-six-thousand (146,000) words (rounded figure). That equates to a decent sized novel.

For context and comparison, it’s quite a bit more than Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and a bit less than Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (which are 107,253 and 168,923 words, respectively – source for that info. here).

On average, it’s 400 words per day, which is just shy of the 500 words per day that Ernest Hemingway wrote during his life (source).

So, this blog post can be summarized by me saying I’m basically the Ernest Hemingway of Harry Potter. Except, you know, nothing like that at all.

A lot of the words I wrote were towards my novel, but most of them were scattered across a lot of other projects, including 42 blog posts, 80 poems, 20 pieces of flash fiction, a hefty amount of fan fiction (as always), and non-fiction (reports and memoir).

All of the blog posts made it into the world (most of them here on this very website), the fan fiction was all published, and some of the flash fiction got shared online, too, while most of the poems form the second micropoetry collection I’m working on.

I had a poem published in print as part of an Arlen House anthology, had two-and-a-half short stories published in anthologies by Belfast Writers’ Group, a poem published on the website of the Imagine Festival, a short story in an anthology by A New Ulster, and another one published by ANU in their regular journal. (Full list of publishing credits for all years here).

I’d say that’s pretty good output for a year that threw me more than a few curve balls. We’ll have to wait and see how the rest of 2018 pans out for comparison.

The Fear

I have wanted to be an author for a very long time and have been working on novel drafts since 2009/2010. That’s nine years ago, give or take, which seems crazy to me.

Undoubtedly, a lot has happened in that time, not least of which, I have improved my writing and related skills.

I’ve said before that the novel I’m working on at the minute (that I started at the beginning of 2017, I think) just feels right to me. I really think this is the one that could see me getting an agent and publisher. I’m also so close to finishing it; on the pinnacle of sending it off for submission. My beta readers have given me nothing but positive feedback (and I’m not even bribing them, promise!).

And here’s the thing: I am scared to go that last mile.

For all I’ve dreamed about coming to this point and talked almost incessantly about nothing else for months of my life at a time – and for all of the hugely terrifying, genuinely important things going on in the world for other people (like, you know, terrorism and Brexit) – I am currently gripped by the sudden realization that this is real. Or it could be.

I’ve built this up in my head and heart for so long, I… I’m not scared I’ll fail, I don’t think. I’m not sure what it is that’s behind the fear, I just know that it’s here and it’s making me hesitate.

Maybe I’m worried I’ll actually succeed – get an agent and publisher – and that it won’t live up to my expectations, which aren’t even that inflated, realistically. I’ve done my research. I’m under no illusions that I’ll become a rich and famous. And yet… there’s something.  Continue reading

Conquering Chips

Don’t be fooled by the title. This is not a post about dieting.

I know I set out some new year’s goals for myself here yesterday, but I’ve been thinking about how I want to develop my writing specifically, and none of them were really about that.

So, my plan, cunning and complicated as it is, is to write (at least) a little bit of fiction every day. Poetry and blog posts are great (I mean, really!), but I want to start chipping away at the big mass of novel ideas that are in my head.

‘You know how you conquer a mass?’, I remind myself, ‘One little bit at a time’.

More practically than that, though, I’m thinking of getting something (anything?) down in a Word document before I open my web browser for the day.

Yeah, I know, cunning and complicated it is not. Maybe that’s why it stands a chance of success. Either way, I feel the need to keep track of my progress, so I might pick up a diary or calendar to mark off as I go.

And, of course, I’ll still keep posting end-of-month writing wrap-up posts here. Let’s just see if I can make the total wordcounts a bit bigger!


A little gift from Day One – new short story: Blast Zone.

Productivity, Procrastination, Deadlines, and Goals

Before I get onto the main point of this blog post, I really recommend watching this YouTube video about procrastination. (Yes, I mean that all irony aside.)

I agree with the conclusions of the video – that there are no such people as non-procrastinators, and that procrastination falls into two main types: short term (in which there are set deadlines) and indefinite (in which there are not).

I suffer from the latter.

Now, that isn’t exactly news to me, but what has changed is my approach to the issue.  Continue reading

September Reading Wrap-Up

Throttlepenny Murder Book CoverOver the summer I read the entire Harry Potter series. (Previously, I’d just read the first book, and watched all the movies.) I also read some fan fiction (quite a lot of fanfic, actually), and some non-fiction books on the craft of writing. I’m not going to talk about either of those two things any more in this blog post, but I will be making a separate post about the Writing Guides, later in the week.

I just thought maybe people would be interested to know what novels I’ve been reading. Because I certainly like to know what everyone else has got their teeth into. (Do leave me a comment telling me, won’t you?)

Currently, I’m 83% through my personal Goodreads writing challenge for the year. That’s four books ahead of where I should be (33 out of 40 books down), and I’m quite impressed with that. I’ve said before that I only really started reading when I went to university (2007). I’m dyslexic, and I take my time, but my time has been paying off.

In 2012 I set myself the goal of reading 25 books, and I smashed it, reading a total of 32 that year.
2013, I set my target for 30 books, and I ended up reading 34.
Then, in 2014, my goal was 35, and I finished 39 books. So, it’s all going well.

But let’s get back to this year. I’m currently halfway through The Trottlepenny Murder, a YA book set in 1885 about a thirteen year old girl set to hang for supposedly killing her miserly employer. It’s one my boyfriend gave me, from his school days, and I’m enjoying it.

I also read a few poetry books, My Sister’s Keeper by Jody Picoult, and a book of short stories by Edgar Allen Poe. My plan is to read P.S. I Love You, next, but we’ll see how that goes.

I’ll make another reading update, next month.
In the meantime, you can follow me on Goodreads, here.

Positivity, Possibilities, and Pushing Myself

Following up on my last blog post, I can now tell you that not only will my work be in the exhibition, starting Thursday, but I’ve been asked to read at the event, too. And, if that’s not enough, I’ve also been told there’ll be a photo-op with the Mayor. Exciting times!

This has really come out of knowing the organizers. In previous years I considered entering a poem but, in the end, I shied away. This year, however, I was greatly encouraged, and it’s made all the difference.

On that note: I went to the local poetry recital I blogged about, as planned, and I’ve decided to enter the FSNI competition after all.

My partner has been telling me I need to push myself/self promote more, and I have to admit that I think he’s right. Even if I don’t come anywhere near winning either of the competitions, I’m already glad I entered. Even if my artwork doesn’t sell, I’ll have still made it, and I’ll be able to keep it and show people.

This week, and going forward, I’m feeling positive. If there’s something I want to do, I’m going to go for it. Who knows where it will lead me?