30 December 2010

Here are the Goals

I promised my goals before 1st January so I could hardly do anything other than deliver.  Before I published the previous post I did think about whether I wanted to put my goals online, but I decided if I was going to get serious about keeping them, then I had to make some kind of commitment, and what better way than this.
Goals are very personal beasts.  You might look at mine and think huh what’s so difficult about that, or, you’re only going to do how many comps/articles I do more than that already.  The idea of goals is that they stretch the person who makes them.  Enough stretch to ensure growth, not so much that you are going to fail before you get started.

2011 Goals

During January and February I will work on my final draft of Ordinary Day for a minimum of four hours a day (at least five days of every seven) and send it out at the beginning of March.
I will finish the first draft of my other work in progress before the end of April, writing at least five days of every seven.
This year I will enter at least four writing competitions, and will post/email my entry at least two weeks before the deadline (rather than rushing at the last minute as I usually do!)
I will submit at least two articles to each of the magazines I currently subscribe to.
I will post on my blog twice a week (Monday and Friday).
After reading the first two, I guess one of your thoughts might be so what is she going to do from May onwards.  My days of working with corporate business plans taught me that plans/goals/objectives need to be revisited and updated often.  I think after meeting my first two goals by April (note the positive thinking!) will mean it’s time to revisit my plan.
Though I’ve gone on about SMART goals in my previous post, I do also have a few other goals that don’t quite fit into that model, which goes to show rules are made to be broken.
I’m going to work on my creative writing the way I deal with my contract work.  Just do it.  By this I mean I won’t procrastinate in the form of research, emailing about writing (and anything else), surfing online newspapers/blogs/author sites, reading how-to books.
Randy Ingermanson gave a good hint in one of his newsletters some months ago which was along the lines of (sorry if I’m remembering the timings incorrectly but I’ve found this works for me for my creative writing) setting an alarm for 55 minutes, and for that 55 minutes you write.  No looking at emails/websites, or getting a drink/something to eat etc.  When the alarm goes allow yourself 5 minutes (or again whatever works for you) to flick through emails/get a drink etc.  Then you start the process again.
When I’m working on technical writing for a client I'm very focussed, as I know I am invoicing by the hour.  I need to treat my own writing time in the same way.  I’ve found this ‘alarm’ idea works well for me, but as with all other styles of working, try it, and if it works for you great, if not try something else.
I want writing to be my career so I’m going to treat it as such.  My life is busy and there are always things that need to be done.  This means writing often comes second (or much further down the list).
If I want to be published then I need to make writing a priority rather than a hobby.  Make time for it upfront, rather than trying to slot it in after everything else has been done.
Ask yourself what you want, and what it will take to get there.
I will not feel guilty when I read books (as long as I’ve done my quota of writing!)  I’m always reading articles that say if you are a writer, you must be a reader.  I love reading, but can’t seem to get rid of the guilt that I should be doing something else (like writing) when I read.  I hope that with making this a goal, plus keeping my writing target, that I shall be able to read in guilt-free peace.
Enjoy writing.  If you don’t, what’s the point?

24 December 2010


Usually on Christmas Eve I'm rushing around like a demented ant trying to get all the jobs finished that I hadn’t managed earlier in the month.  This year the deadline for my last contract writing project was early December, and so for a change I’ve accomplished the usual shopping and Christmas preparations, and been able to stay away from the shops today.
I've put in a bit more reading time recently, and have just finished On Writing by Stephen King.  Over the years several of my writer friends have told me what a good book it is, and I agree.  It's part memoir and part writing craft, and a great read.  
I've also just read the latest newsletter from Randy Ingermanson.  In part of it he talks about business plans.  He makes a good point that if you are writing with the aim of being published, then you are in business, and if you are in business you need a plan.  Business plans are inextricably linked to goals, and this is certainly the time of year to start thinking about your goals for 2011.
I’m a great believer in setting goals, though I must admit in previous years I've usually kept them in my head. 
In business there are various quotes along the lines of ‘you can’t improve what you don’t measure’.  Having been motivated by Stephen King’s book, the newsletter, and having Driftwood published this year I’ve decided to get serious about goal-setting, and actually write them down.  The obvious positive points are that you don’t have to rely on your memory, and it's easier to keep track of how close you are to accomplishing your goals.
Goals should be SMART.
Specific – 'I’m going to write more' isn’t specific, allocate a certain period of time/word count, or whatever works for you.
Measurable – 'I’m going to improve my writing style' isn’t measurable.
Achievable – A goal of being signed up by an agent is beyond your control, but you can set a goal to query (enter your number here) agents by 31st March (or even end of January!)
Relevant – keep your big picture in mind all the time.  All that research you’re doing may be fun and interesting, but if your goal is to finish a first draft by 31st March what are your priorities.
Timebound – setting a time limit is important in measuring your goals.  Sometimes in SMART goals the R is stated as Realistic.  Your time limit for a goal should be realistic.  Long enough that it can be accomplished, but not so long that there is no sense of urgency, especially if you are someone who only seems to get motivated when a deadline is looming.
Now to get working on my goals...
I promise they'll be here before 1st January.

08 December 2010

Exciting or ...

I've just looked through a few of my earlier posts and noticed the number of times I've said something was exciting, or another new experience.  Rather like the letters I've just written to include with the Christmas cards.  A prĂ©cis of the year.  Highlights and fulfilled aspirations.
The work that goes into making the dreams come true fades into the background.  That’s not what people want to read.  But without the mundane everyday experiences I don’t think we would appreciate the highs when they appear. 
The past few months have also been filled with plenty of the routine and ordinary, hopefully the bedrock of some more exciting new experiences.

26 November 2010


Having got over my recent nerves at reading some of my work for Jam Radio, I have just come home from reading an extract of Driftwood at my local Borders store. 
Yes, it was all arranged, and the staff did know I was reading.  It wasn't a case of rocking up and standing in the middle of the store while people gave me a wide berth, wondering if I had escaped from an institution.
It was all very civilised actually.  There were four of us reading, and the lovely staff of Borders had tables and glasses of water for us, as well as a huge board outside the store advertising the event.  I did a double-take when I noticed a photo of myself as I walked past the board into the store. 
Everyone was very polite, clapped at the appropriate place, and didn't ask difficult questions at the end.
I might even do it again.  If I get asked!

24 November 2010

Jam Radio recordings

About this time every year I promise myself that things are going to be different.  That this year I will be organised.  That everything will be accomplished in good time, allowing me to actually enjoy the tasks, rather than feeling as though I've come last in every race.  
Suffice to say I haven't even made the promise this year. 
It's two weeks since the last post - oops and apologies, and I won't bore you with the litany of other things that are falling off the end of the list, as I'm sure you have your own long list.
On to happier topics. 
In previous postings I've mentioned the Creative Hub, and group of fellow writers I've been working with this year.  Recently we did some readings for Jam Radio, and those are now on their website.   
Happy listening, and once again thanks to Emma and the folks at Depot Artspace.

09 November 2010


A recent posting was on the recording we did for Jam Radio.  For that I decided to read the opening sections of a work in progress.  Until last week it was still without a title, although I started it about a year ago, and am three-quarters of the way through the first draft.  To be fair (to me!) I've done very little on it most of this year.  My excuses include that I've been editing another novel, Ordinary Day, and doing some actual paying work (which has been busy this year). 
I digress - while practicing the reading a title for the novel came to me in a flash of inspiration.  Though maybe not so much a flash as a flicker, because it had been staring me in the face for some time, as it is the name of the village in which I've set a lot of the story.   I'm so thrilled I've finally decided on my working title I shall keep it to myself for a while longer!

05 November 2010

Driftwood Review

It's been an exciting week.  Yesterday Craig Sisterson posted a review of Driftwood on his blog Crime Watch.  The review was written by guest reviewer Jeannie McLean, who writes young adult crime novels.
You can find the review here and Jeannie's blog I did do it! Confessions of a Crime Writer here.
Thanks Jeannie and Craig. 

04 November 2010

Jam Radio

Last night was another new experience.  The Creative Hub writing group I belong to went to Depot Artspace in Devonport to use their studio to record extracts of our work in progress.
It took me several days just to decide on the extract.  A short piece that was complete in itself.  Not too much dialogue, as I can’t do different voices, or accents.  Not too far into the manuscript or I’d need a long explanation on what had gone before.  That was Ordinary Day out the window.  Eventually I decided on the opening sections of the novel I started early this year, which is in first draft and about two thirds complete.
Then followed rehearsals at home to make sure I could read it without stuffing up (and also that it wasn’t too long – 7 minutes maximum).  My way of writing is to finish the novel before doing any editing.  So this work hadn't been edited at all. 
Ironically reading aloud is part of my editing process.  You find the missed words your brain kindly inserts for you when reading silently, the word repeated several times in a paragraph, or the tongue twister phrase.  Some of the culling I did will remain for the next draft, some was just to make the reading easier.
It was a great experience, though nerve wracking beforehand.  I dread to think how anxious I’d be for an interview on live radio, knowing this reading could be edited if I stuffed up helped enormously.  Ten of us crowded into the small control room, plus Emma in charge of the controls, to watch as each of us had our turn in the hot seat.
As with many things, it was a great experience once it was over.  But once it was over I wished I could do it again, because naturally it would be so much better the second time!
Depot Artspace is a great place with some beautiful artwork – see a photo of the main gallery here. It will be a week or so before our work is on the website, but I’ll include the link on this blog.

30 October 2010


I am definitely a writer who needs quiet time and space when working.  But I also enjoy the occasional excursion to a workshop or writing group, and the opportunity to talk shop with other writers.
This week has been busier than most in that respect.  I recently found out about a thriving group of writers in my own community, who meet once a month to share their work.  I went along on Wednesday, and had an enjoyable time listening to readings, and finding out about the projects they are involved with.
Yesterday I attended a publishing workshop organized by the NZSA.  It was an interesting day with some good presenters, and new information.  With so many new avenues opening up in e-books and print-on-demand it is an exciting time to be a writer, though the odds of being picked up by a major publishing house are still as nebulous as ever. 
It's a good thing that writers have vivid imaginations and dream big dreams.

28 October 2010


Here in the southern hemisphere we are enjoying spring, and lighter evenings.  We have just had our first long weekend of the season, Labour Weekend, and many New Zealanders like to take this opportunity to get away and celebrate the end of winter and the hope of a good summer.  
I spent the weekend in Sydney, a city I love visiting.  Walking around Circular Quay and the Opera House I couldn't help but be reminded of a visit I made to Sydney while I was writing Driftwood.  I had decided to set part of the book there and spent quite a lot of my trip making copious notes, and deciding on settings for various scenes. 

20 October 2010

Beginnings and Endings

I'm a details sort of person.  One of the ways this shows up is that when I'm writing I like to keep a note of my word count.  More than a note actually, a spreadsheet, along with dates.  Recently I looked at the spreadsheet I kept for Driftwood and saw that I started writing it in 2005.  Five years ago - for those who need my help with the maths!
I am still working towards many of the goals I had then.  I've been able to tick of a few: being accepted by a publisher and holding my first book, but there are still plenty more dreams to turn into reality.
Talking to other writers, and listening and reading interviews makes me realise, that like most things, there is no one route to publication.  We all find the path that works for us.  
Ultimately we have to believe in ourselves, and keep on writing.

12 October 2010

The Book - at last

I finally held a copy of my first novel, and I have to say there is nothing quite like it.  Thinking about the moment now makes me smile.  
Driftwood has been published in the UK, and given that I live in New Zealand there is a slight distance involved!  Due to email this hasn't seemed like such a distance until waiting for THE book.
Ironically the copy I held wasn't my copy, but one a member of the writing group had ordered.
It has reminded me though of all the times I wandered around bookshops picking up books and reading the back cover, the first page, and imagined how it would be to see my book on a bookshelf. 
At the moment, for New Zealand, Driftwood is available through online retailers only, so the delight of seeing it on a bookshop shelf is another first I have to come.   

06 October 2010

Other writers

I've spent most of my Wednesday evenings this year (well since April), in Devonport at the Michael King centre, as part of an advanced writing course with The Creative Hub.  In an earlier post I mentioned the good points of being part of a writing group. 
This course has been part learning experience through workshops with New Zealand writers, and also learning through sharing work with the others in the group and getting feedback from them.  It has helped me tremendously with editing a 3rd or 4th (I don't remember) draft of my second novel. 
I'd urge anyone who writes to join (or start) a writing group, or find a course like this.  It's invaluable for finding out what works, and what doesn't.

30 September 2010


It's funny how time expands or contracts depending on what you are doing, or waiting for. 
Since I first received the contract from Kinglake the time seems to have whizzed along.  Contract, proofs, cover, and not forgetting the delight of telling people, or my usual work that still needed to be done.
Driftwood is now 'out there' but as I live in New Zealand and the publishers are in England I haven't yet seen the finished product.  Another exciting 'first' that I can't wait for - again that ever changing element of time working its magic.
After finishing Driftwood I started on my second novel, Ordinary Day.  When I sent the synopsis and opening chapters of Ordinary Day to the publishers, time really did start doing some funny things.  
Every morning I would open my inbox and hold my breath hoping for a reply.  Any reply.  Euphoria when they asked to see the full manuscript.  More months of time kaleidoscoping until finally a no softened with good comments and constructive feedback.
So what do you do with this ever expanding and contracting commodity?  You write.  

29 September 2010

Moving on from enjoying the moment

I think I was always meant to be a writer. I'm not talking about talent (or lack of it) just that I enjoy the solitude, and have always been happy with my own company.  I need peace and quiet to write.  I'm not the type of writer who thrives on noise and confusion.
However I do realise that having a book published isn't the end of the story, and people need to know it's out there. 
I've put my toe in the water (yes I know it's a cliche) by telling extended family members, friends, people I know but haven't been in touch with for a while, and every so often someone I only know in a vague sort of way.
People have been amazed, surprised, astounded and many other adjectives, but all have been pleased and excited for me.
It's been fun and has made a great moment even better.

28 September 2010

Enjoying the Moment

I checked on Amazon (and a few other sites!) and there it was.  My book, Driftwood, for sale.  It's an amazing feeling, and while as a writer I should be able to liken it to something, at the moment I can't. 
It's amazing. 
John Cranna told me recently just to enjoy the moment.  He said publishing your first book only happens once.  So I'm enjoying the moment.

24 September 2010

Starting out

When I first started to take my creative writing seriously I decided to write a novel.  Hardly an original idea I admit!
I wrote about 25,000 words before realising my idea wasn't a large enough canvas for a novel.  
About that time two important things happened.  I attended a weekend writing course at Auckland University, and read an article which stated would-be novelists should cut their writing teeth on short stories. 
The premise of this advice is that much of our early writing is autobiographical and it is good to get through that stage in the form of short stories.  The second reason is that short stories are good vehicles for practising the craft of writing. 
I took this advice, and from the writing course found three similar minded writers and we formed a critique group.
For me it was good advice, and the feedback from the other writers was invaluable.  I must stress here that I don't think short stories are just a stepping stone for writing a novel.  They are wonderful in their own right, and I love reading a beautifully crafted short story.  However the advice in the article was good for me, and I wrote short stories for a couple of years before deciding to start a novel. 
I still love writing short stories, and am helped in this with the growing variety of short story competitions - at the moment I have details of competitions ranging from 25 words to 4,000. 
By the way I have since rewritten my original 25,000 words as a 7,000 word short(ish) story - so there was a lot of padding in the original. 

23 September 2010

Writing Groups

For most of this year I've been part of the Advanced Writing Course run through The Creative Hub in Auckland.  Being part of a writing group is a must (in my opinon) for writers.  It's great having a group of other writers reading parts of a work in progress and giving insightful feedback, which the CHubbers always do.  
There are always those parts of your work you have a niggling feeling about, but just can't see what isn't working, and also the bits that you think are great, but others, not so close to the work, can see the gaping holes in the plot. 
Being part of this group has also allowed me to read great work from the other writers, some in genre's I wouldn't otherwise read.
For any writer who isn't part of a writing group I'd say, go and find one, or failing that, start one yourself.  It's brilliant spending an evening talking about writing and writers without boring everyone else in earshot. 

18 September 2010

Book Covers

Seeing the proofs of my novel was thrilling for about 5 minutes, then came a dawning realisation I had work to do.  
Receiving the mockup of the front and back cover was exciting with the added bonus of no work to do.  
I've always loved words and the meanings they can convey, and am fascinated that in communication with others we can still end up thinking different things though we agreed on everything. 
I exchanged some emails with the publishers regarding the cover, and fortunately they had much the same idea as I did.  However, I had a specific beach in mind when writing several of the scenes in Driftwood and so the reality of the cover was never going to be the same as the images in my mind, but they did a great job and I'm glad we weren't too far apart in our ideas. 
It's getting closer and the release date is just a few weeks away.     

16 September 2010

Proofing Can Be Exciting

Things are moving fast, or at least that's how it feels to me.  I worked through a set of proofs from the publisher, detailed the changes and sent them off.
A few days later I received the amended proofs with a sign-off.
What would we do without email?
It's exciting, and I'll admit, a little scary.  I'm not sure why the scary bit, as this is something I've worked towards, and dreamt about, for a long time.  I guess it's to do with a desire for perfection, and always feeling I've missed it by miles.
On this topic here is one of my favourite quotes.
'When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find that sometimes a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.'  Winnie-the-Pooh.
Do other writers feel this way?  I know I do.   

12 September 2010

A Publishing Contract

Three weeks ago I received what every writer dreams of - my first publishing contract.  Some days I still can't quite believe it.
I've been writing seriously for seven or eight years now, and in that time I've had some small successes, but nothing like this. 
About five years ago I wrote my first novel, edited and polished it, and decided it hadn't turned out quite the way I wanted it to, and so turned my attention to others ideas
Earlier this year I saw a competition for unpublished manuscripts and decided to send in the first novel. 
In my usual fashion I then forgot about it.  I work from home and my first job each morning is to check my emails.  Seeing one from the publishers was exciting enough, but I couldn't believe what I was reading.  I was speechless - for a minute or two!
I had won, and my novel was going to be published.   

11 September 2010

Titles - the hardest part of writing

Creating this blog was easy compared with deciding on a name for it.  I've looked through my Thesaurus, the dictionary, book titles, song titles, texted friends, and yes, in the end Wilful Words was the best I could come up with.
I toyed with Racy Writing, but I couldn't live up to that, so if anyone reading this has an idea, any idea, please let me know.
This blog is just the latest in a long line of hard to name writing.  I'm always impressed when writers talk about their latest work throwing in the title as if coming up with it was simple.  
My writing is usually finished, or at least well into the editing stage before I manage to work out a title, or in desperation look for a good line from it that I can use.