28 February 2011


Today I came across the term SABLE (thanks Cat), it’s an acronym used by people who are crafty at crafts, and means Stash Advancement Beyond Life Expectancy.
I have tried my hand at a few craft projects in the past, and given up on every occasion due to my general lack of ability at all things crafty. 
I was doing a clean up of my writing files the other day, otherwise known as looking for an article I knew I had somewhere.  I think I can put my hand up to suffering SABLE in respect of writing stuff such as starters for short stories, novels, and magazine articles.  Not to mention the technical articles I keep for reference purposes.
When I started out writing seriously I concentrated on short stories.  The best thing about short stories is that they are short, thought they do take longer than just writing the first draft.  I have had some hanging around for a year or more before being adequately polished and sent out, but at least in that time I have been writing other stories and articles.
Writing a novel takes a lot longer, and then there is the reading and editing, rewriting, and on it goes.
Today is the last day of February and while I didn’t quite meet my goal every week for the number of days I wrote, I have (phew) met my goal of finishing what I hope to be the final draft of Ordinary Day, though I am toying with a change of title. 
However I’m not quite ready to send it out and have enlisted some beta readers while I set to work on the synopsis.  Now where was that article on how to write a winning synopsis.

26 February 2011


The reason for the silence is that I've been away.  We went to some quiet and beautiful spots along the coast of the upper South Island.  One of the places we stayed was just out of Marahau which borders the Abel Tasman National Park, and is the start of the Abel Tasman track. 
That area, and one of the beaches there, is the setting for some of the scenes in Driftwood.  It was lovely revisiting the area after a number of years.  Mobile phone coverage was patchy and internet access unavailable.  It was great.  Although I do admit to a few instances of withdrawal symptons, and wondering what exciting emails awaited me.  
We were in Blenheim getting ready to fly back to Auckland when we heard about the earthquake in Christchurch, and like many others across the country watched events happening via uncut footage from people going through the frightening events.  No one in the airport could take their eyes from the TV screens, and I guess like me, many were thinking this is happening just a couple of hours drive down the road.  The airport is next to the Air Force base and we watched the helicopters load up and take off for Christchurch.
My heart goes out to those who have gone through six months of aftershocks and tremors, only to be faced with unbelievable devastation again, and to those who have lost family, friends, and homes.  It may be of little comfort but our thoughts and prayers are with you.

14 February 2011


I started this blog to discuss writing - my experiences in writing and publishing, plus writing craft and the writing life.  Partly for my own benefit, but also for anyone else who might find this blog. 
Writing does tend to be a rather solitary occupation, and as I work from home that's a double dose of solitary confinement, and so I try to attend workshops or conferences to meet up with other writers.  I've also learned a huge amount from writers I only know through blogs and email, and so I hope  something I’ve said might help someone else.
Today I’m going to bend my rule and mention something, which at first appears as though it has nothing to do with writing.  The past few days have thrown up a couple of challenges.  First was a rupture in a water pipe, which caused beautiful fountains in the driveway. 
Then in the early hours of this morning I was woken by a loud bang, followed by a noise I can only describe as hundreds of cicadas together in a very small space - as a writer I know I should be able to do better, but honestly that’s how it sounded. 
I don’t know what caused the bang, a bird with insomnia, low flying vampire bats, possums playing catch with some rocks.  At 1.30am I’m not at my best.  
The result of the bang was that the large window next to the front door was cracking.  The window is taller than me and about as wide as my arm span so pretty big, and the cracking was the cicada noise.  In just a few minutes the whole window was opaque, in the same way a car windscreen cracks.  Fortunately all the glass stayed in place and I didn’t touch it hoping it would remain in place until it could be repaired.  I know in the scheme of things - bereavement, earthquakes, serious injury - it’s not up there in the major catastrophe stakes, but it’s caused me a few headaches. 
I was thinking about the old cliché that truth is stranger than fiction, and the coincidences that sometimes happen in real life are things we can’t put in a novel as the reader would say, ‘things like that just don’t happen.’’  Truth is they do. 
What incidents, or coincidences, have happened to you that you could use as conflict in your writing, or as a sub-plot?

11 February 2011


One of the things I moan about (often I guess!) is not having enough time.  Though if I think about it realistically we all have 24 hours in a day. 
It’s not the time we have, but what we do in that 24 hours, or 16 hours if we’re generous and allow ourselves 8 hours for sleeping.
If I look seriously at my day there are plenty of things that look like activities but are really just distractions: unnecessary phone calls, surfing the net aka research, you get the idea...
To make better use of our time the first thing to do is analyse how we spend it.  Write down the amount of time you spend on various activities, and when. 
Be honest with yourself with doing this analysis.  How many hours do you waste in front of the TV?  Talking to friends on the phone?  Again I could go on but you get the idea.
Most of us will already know what times of the day we are most creative.  That is obviously the time we should be putting in our hard work and writing.  It’s far from a perfect world and often we will have to compromise.  Our best time for writing might be when we should be at work, or we have other things we need to do.  But there will be some things we can change. 
Boy I’m sounding like a schoolteacher here, and I can tell you I’m far from being perfect, but I have realised if I want to be able to put novelist as my job title then I need to get serious about it.  I can still talk to friends and watch TV but only after I’ve put in the time on my writing. 
It’s not that we shouldn’t do these other things, but we should be aware of the time they are taking, and whether we absolutely have to do them when we should be writing. 
If these activities are taking precious writing time then make the calls, or do the research at a time when we aren’t so creative, or there are other people around which inhibit the concentration we need for writing.
More hours in the day won’t help – besides I can’t see it happening anytime soon.  We need to be in charge of the hours we have in the day, rather than let them get away from us.

07 February 2011

Progress vs Perfection

Here in New Zealand it’s summer, and with Christmas/New Year and the long school holidays it means the contract work I do to pay the bills is almost non-existent during January and February.  Therefore lots of writing time, hence the goals for this draft.  Later in the year when it gets busy (hopefully), it gets more difficult to stick to set goals of daily times or word counts, as work doesn’t come in a steady flow.  I can find myself working all hours for a time, and then a week or so with nothing, so I am more pragmatic about progress then and take advantage of the quiet times when they arrive.
I’ve spent the last three days reading and marking up my manuscript.  While I can see there is progress in the writing, I do find it depressing at how much red pen there is on a lot of the pages.  I sometimes feel as though the perfectionist in me will never be happy with it.  But then I read other blogs and articles that say the worst thing a writer can do is to send out work too early. 
Hmm how do you know when it’s the right time?

04 February 2011

Progress report

Well the date says it all – the first month of the new year already behind us.
After I finished writing today I decided to have a look at my goals and check my progress.  As one of them has a time limit of the end of February it seemed a good idea.  
So how am I doing?  The first week was good and I wrote six days out of the seven and met the daily hours target.  The second week in comparison I missed on both as I had a quick-turnaround contract job that took a lot of hours.  I had set myself high targets for January and February knowing that (usually!!) it is extremely quiet for training and development work.  Still I have to eat so the work was very welcome.  Since then I have made the number of days goals and most days met the hourly target (occasionally exceeding it when the work was flowing). 
But those measurements don’t mean anything if the writing progress is rubbish, or the writing come to that.  Overall I’m quite happy with the progress.  I’ve worked through each of the character strands, adding a few sections where needed, rewriting, and some restructuring.  Today I started reading through the entire manuscript, once again making notes for change.   Why are there always things to change?  I wonder if I’ll ever get to the stage where I’m entirely happy with a manuscript.  In addition I’ve realised that I need to rewrite the closing sections, but I think I’m still on target.
As for the other goals - I’m improving on the procrastination, though some days are better than others!  Considering my creative writing as a career is certainly helping in that respect.
I haven't done any writing on the articles or competition entries, but I had always intended finishing this draft as the major goal for January and February.
More than anything I am enjoying my writing.  If I don’t, what’s the point?

01 February 2011

Natal Charts and Characters

I have a first draft of a novel set in Cornwall, which is about three-quarters complete, and when I finish this draft of Lives Interrupted and send it out into the world I will get back to the Cornish novel (as I call it because it's still untitled).
I mention this because I worked hard on the characters for the Cornish novel before starting to write.  When I first came up with the initiating incident I knew that character was going to be a huge part in what happened.
The main characters are siblings: two brothers and a sister, and central to the story is their relationship with each other, how they view themselves, and how their place in the family structure i.e. oldest, youngest, middle child, impacted on them.
One thing I found incredibly useful was Natal Charts, or birth charts, as they are sometimes called. 
Astrological signs are a useful beginning point for a character, but natal charts also look at rising signs, moon signs etc as well as the sun sign.  This gives more in-depth character information, and shows positive and negative sides of character traits. 
I selected a sign for each of my main characters that reflected my initial impressions of them, and from that chose a birth date for each of them.  There are numerous websites that have this information and give free information from a birth date and place.