Thursday, 24 December 2009

Festive Cheer

Happy holidays to everyone.
I am taking a festive break from a week or so as I need to recharge my batteries and also the Macbook has asked for some annual leave. I can't say no, she has helped me write the majority of the novel.

I hope everyone has a happy and joyful time and don't forget to leave a mince pie out for Father Christmas.

See you on the other side!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

How I Made it to the Finishing Line

A few people have asked me for some tips on writing the first draft. The easy answer is bum on seat and WRITE! But I thought I would be the longer answer on here. These are not rules but my method. I hope they can help someone else too.


Three failed attempts. Some people would have given up, headed back to the poetry and short stories, maybe tried again in another decade. I did not want to be beaten.

Having ‘thinking time’

I let the idea swim around. Made notes, Gave some thoughts to the plot.


I normally write a few hundred words and then make a few scribbled notes. Planning is for school assignments but this time I planned the structure. Post-it notes were my saviour.


Dragging yourself to the writing desk after a full day at the office is sometimes hard. Spending 7.5 hours staring at the screen only to come home and do the same for another 2-3 hours in the evening. I needed a target – initially 250 words every day. Nearer the end it was 500.

Letting Go

Just writing the book that I want to read and not writing for the market.

Not caring about the first draft being perfect.


I stopped reading ‘writing manuals’ for the whole time I was writing the novel. My only concern was about getting the story on to the page. ‘Technical’ bits are for later.

Other things that helped:

  • Drinking hot blackcurrant.
  • Remembering Anne Lamott’s in ‘Bird by Bird’ – first drafts can be shitty. That is their purpose.
  • Reading other writers blogs as they recorded their novel progress.
  • Keeping a notebook near me at all times – ideas always spring up when you least expect them.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

I Wish My Macbook Had A Drum Roll....

I have finished the first draft of my novel. *Jumps in air* My fourth attempt and I have finally did it. The first one reached 10k, the second reached 19k, the third one reached 14k. This one is 82,390. This equals 292 pages double spaced! I think I might need some more ink for my printer.
The plan is to print off the whole manuscript and then hide it for a few months. I am going to keep myself in the writing mood by finally finishing some stories, writing new ones, getting back into 'morning pages' or as I like to call them 'before bedtime pages.' I am hoping that by doing some 'free' writing will release some locked away ideas. I'm also going to read some writing reference books and do some crafty things too.

WOW - I actually did it!

First draft word count - 82,390

Friday, 11 December 2009

Short Circuit Blog Tour - Editing and Redrafting - In Conversation with Vanessa Gebbie

Welcome to the first Blog Interview at Writer's Little Helper.

Vanessa Gebbie, short story writer, editor for Short Circuit has kindly agreed to a quick Q&A session as part of the Short Circuit Blog tour. Short Circuit is the ideal book to buy the writer in your life this Christmas. 24 essays written by award winning writers and tutors talk you through the writing process and get you thinking more about your own techniques too.

Short Circuit is the kind of book I wished was around when I did my Masters and Degree. This book has a different author for each chapter as they explore the important elements of a short story. Reading their writing process is more insightful to a writer rather than the 'How to' approach that you find in most creative writing books. As well as using the advice for short story writing I also believe you can adapt some of the ideas for novel writing too. The reading lists and short exercises at the end of each chapter are really great for writers block cures!

Vanessa has already talked to Nik Perring and Sophie Playle about the formation of the book. So, I have gone for something a bit different. I have asked Vanessa some questions about editing and redrafting. I hope you find the interview interesting. I know I will as the next stage for me after the first draft of my novel will be editing and I am currently craving any advice at the moment.

Editing and Redrafting
After writing a story do you hide the file away before editing or do you jump straight in with the editing?
There isn’t a single answer to this one. Sometimes, (and certainly when I started writing) I tip out a whole first draft without looking back at all, then go back in later and edit. Sometimes, I get the sense that it is OKish, and the editing is done straight away.
Now, I do wait. Sometimes I wait a long time, before looking at a piece. For example, I wrote about 10,000 wds in Ireland in September, and haven’t read it back yet.
But often, now, I am editing in my head all the time. I will go back and re-read a paragraph, and think ‘I can’t write the next one unless this building block is solid’. That is a real pain. It slows everything up. I get quite scared that I’m editing the life out of the thing.
A lot of writers like to edit and redraft from the computer screen. I like to print off my manuscript and scribble notes to myself. How do you edit your work?
I do the sort of editing described above on screen. Reading through the para I did last and tweaking before starting the next.
But when a piece is completed at first draft stage I print off, curl up in a chair away from my study with a cuppa and a pen and edit like that. I read out loud and mark the paper copy. I scribble out bits I don’t like, and scribble whole new paras on the back of the paper. I make notes in the margin, things to think about. Or just ‘THIS FEELS WRONG’ in capitals if I don’t know why… it just does.
Then I go back to the study and incorporate the edits. And start the process again, until I am happyish. But I always save the previous copy as well… I don’t delete versions.
Do you find peer editing (online forums, swapping with writing friends) useful or do you benefit more from redrafting on your own? Or a mixture of both?
I was taught by a tutor who pointed out the inadvisability of relying on other writers to guide the editing process. He point was to make us aware of our own work, our own ‘right and wrong’, to create our own stories, not a committee effort which by definition would be a compromise effort.
So although I value feedback as to whether something is working, whether my intentions have come across, I know that in the end it’s just me and the words, and I can’t hide from the fact that I ought to be able to see what is good and what isn’t.
I know that peer feedback is valuable. But I (and others) had our work and ideas stolen by a colleague working in a closed private online group earlier this year. That has made things a bit lonelier for me, as I don’t know many writers living nearby. I will not share anything online now, unless it is just little instant flash pieces. I certainly would not share my novel online now, or longer work of any sort. Indeed, if something I write for an online thing strikes me as interesting, something I might use in another guise later – I will not share. Once bitten twice shy.
I do work face to face with a friend and colleague whose integrity is beyond question. He is a journalist, a playwright, writer of best-seller non-fiction books, and now a novelist. He gives encouragement when things fall badly, and he gives intelligent, considered comment.
I listen to what he says very carefully, and wait. Then I do final edits, sometimes using what he has said, sometimes not. In the end, it has to be mine and I am guided by some inner voice that says yes or no.
Are you a multi-tasker writer? Can you write one story and do editing within the same session? Or do you like to keep both separate, no new stories until the editing is done?
If I get an idea for something else while editing, I won’t let it go without making notes, often extensive ones. I may even start to write… I think if you try to control the flow of creativity, it shows in the work, it becomes controlled in a bad way.
In your blog post, ‘Aftershock,’ you talked about feeling ‘flat.tired.low’ after completing Short Circuit. What did you do to break out of the aftershock?
I am quite pathetic. When I have finished something, or achieved something (that includes winning a prize, sadly) there is a period of intense flatness. Almost depression. A sense that that’s one mountain climbed, and now there’s just another rearing up ahead.
What do I do? This time, I stayed in bed for a morning, with my laptop and MADE myself write a part of the ‘novel’. It didn’t matter how bad that bit was, I just wrote, to remind myself I could. I’d put it aside for the best part of a year, because it is very hard to edit and compile and cajole others in a project like Short Circuit- and have the inner peace needed to write creatively.
Its an instant fix. I reminded myself I was a writer. And felt better!
Any other techniques you would like to share with regards to editing and redrafting?
The only technique I’d share is the advice to try everything. Not to get stuck thinking ‘THIS is the only way to do things’. I think we change day on day week on week, year on year. I know my approaches to writing have shifted enormously. See the evidence in my answers to your editing questions above!
That’s why I did Short Circuit the way I did. I know from experience that a how-to- book is only as good as the practice of the writers who are giving advice. If that advice is from one writer, who says ‘Do this. Because I do it, and it works for me’, then forget it. They are not YOU!
The point was to give you a whole raft of examples, for you to feel instinctively which chimes with you at this point in your journey. Craft is craft – but the application of that craft can be an exciting adventure in which the writer steps into the unknown every time they sit down to write. Your creativity is unique to you. And mine is unique to me. I just wanted to help others see that – for them to recognise and relish their uniqueness. That’s the way for people to nurture that spark which sets their creativity apart from the plodding masses who faithfully copy the processes of others.

Fantastic questions, Jessica! Thanks such a lot. And because I am hooked on William Faulkner quotes, can I finish with one?

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.”
Isn’t that fantastic!

Thanks Vanessa for some great answers and quote!

Short Circuit can be purchased over at the Salt Publishing website with 20% discount.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Word Count Wednesday

Writing has slowed down. I think I am dreading the end of the first draft. I know its only the beginning and redrafting can be such fun but the mammoth task is only starting to dawn on me.

But I want to finish in two weekends time. I need to stay focused and just attached my bum to the seat and not move until I have reached my daily word counts.

Over all word count - 80,775.

Must. Write. Tonight.

I'm actually writing this blog post as novel writing avoidance.

Now. Back. To. Writing.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Advanced Warning

Whenever I see signs with the words 'Advanced Warning' it always makes me panic. Normally it means your gas or water is going to be cut off, or you have a bill needing your attention or there is going to be a strike. Or the internet is about to end... 
But fear not, this is a good advanced warning!

Vanessa Gebbie will be here on Friday to take about Editing and Redrafting for the Short Circuit Blog tour. This is a Writer's Little Helper first! Be there or be square as they say on the TV!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

The 80,000 Pit Stop

Today I reached 80,000 words. Plus I am now one and a half chapters away to having a complete first draft. I keep going on about it but to me this is the biggest writing project I have attempted and finished (nearly!). 

I found this picture after typing eighty thousand into Google images and thought it seemed to fit the mood. There are still a few more steps to go before I reach the top. Then there is a new flight of steps for the editing and redrafting. 

I am now off for my first Christmas dinner of the year. Should be yummy for my tummy!

Friday, 4 December 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

Valerie over at Not Exactly True has nominated me for a Kreativ Blogger Award. *Does a victory dance* Thank you, this is my first blog award. I promise not to have a Kate Winslet moment and start crying. But I have some tissues at the ready just in case a few tears do escape.

There are some conditions just like there is with the Oscars. (e.g. Make a better film, win again, thank God and your Mother in the acceptance speech). So here are the more nicer conditions:

* 1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
* 2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
* 3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
* 4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
* 5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
* 6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
* 7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.

Okay, Number one, two, three are done. 

Seven things about me: 

  1. I dream of one day being published in Mslexia. 
  2. I don't drink tea or coffee because it gives me headaches but more importantly its a sign of being an adult. 
  3. Pizza reminds me of sick. 
  4. I tried to write a science fiction novel when I was 18 and all the characters had names that either began with a 'X' or ended with a 'Z.' 
  5. I prefer a night in either reading/writing/playing scrabble/watching a film rather than being sick in a nightclub toilet after having too many vodka redbulls. 
  6. I have nightmares about spiders. They are so bad that I wake up screaming and climbing out of the bed. 
  7. I like writing poetry but haven't done any this year. 
My Kreativ Blogger Nominations: 

(Sorry if you have already been nominated). 

Essygie's Ghost - I think this blog especially the little people watching blog posts and the bite size Twitter stories

Teresa over at This Writer's Life - She was a Bridport winner this year and her blog is great too. Teresa lists writing comps and also her progress with submissions. 

Emma over a Gargling with Vimto - She is currently taking part in a 100 day challenge to do something creative every day. Inspiring stuff. 

Katie over at Katie McCullough Talks and Writes - Her writing motivation and chirpiness is inspiring. 

Gemma Noon for The Literary Project - there are some great author interviews. A big recommendation. 

Emily over at I make believe when I do my make-up nice for her writing productive and cute poems. They brighten up my day. 

Sara over at A Salted for some of the best short stories on the web and also fab new blog layout. 

Check out all of these blogs and also the ones on the sidebar too! 

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Word Count Wednesday

A quick post as I am in the middle of a highly constructive writing session

I am currently at 78,00-ish words for the first draft of my novel. I can see the end and its two and a half chapters away. I have done some sums. If I write at least 250 words every day then I could be finished by Christmas Eve. Exciting stuff.

Now, I need to make sure I don't get too excited and stop writing all together.

A more constructive blog post coming soon. One about Kreativ award, one with a Q&A and one about something else.