Sunday, 27 March 2011

Perils of adulthood

Not much by way of blogging recently... It has been a horribly busy week because of things like work, house hunting, car trouble and toothache (fillings don't last forever and need replaced - who knew?!?!).

In a week like this all you can do is find things to make you smile. At which point I introduce a blog called... *drum roll* ... Hyperbole and a Half. If you haven't read it yet, do yourself a favour and check out this post, on how being an adult is a never-ending and occasionally soul-destroying job (pic from here). I have never read anything so agonisingly truthful. On the upside, you may well laugh until you're sick. I also recommend this one.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Happy Belated St. Pat's!

I would have written this yesterday but I was out making the most of my day off! A very pleasant day - spent some time with my dad in the morning, then visited friends in the afternoon and finally out for a lovely meal and some drinks in Portstewart.

There was a bit of a session going in the bar - lots of musicians playing together - and at one stage the band was largely made up of kids! Really talented! They also did some Irish dancing and got a great round of applause from everyone there. Great atmosphere and great crowd.

Anyway it was a lovely St Pat's - all the more lovely because I didn't have to get up for work this morning!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Getting from notebook to novel - #3

3. Keep breathing – and sleeping and eating and exercising… Balance is the key!

You are officially writing a book. Well done you. You rock! And now that you’re a writer you’re just too damn busy to eat, sleep or clean the house. You go to bed late, head buzzing, and lie staring at the ceiling while your mind plays with characters and dialogue and plot twists… You become insular and a little bit obsessive. Other people become irritating, unless they are an enthusiastic sounding board for your latest ideas.

For a week or two this degree of narcissism is probably okay, unless you are skipping work or feeding your kids a diet of chips and chocolate. I’m lucky enough to have married an angel who takes it all in his stride (and let’s face it, he has his own periods of working like a lunatic on various projects). But sooner or later writing has to fit around ‘real life’ and that can be the challenging bit.

Last summer was when I broke the back of writing The Watchers. I was off work for weeks. I got up in the mornings and pockled around, did some writing and then headed to the beach for a walk. I got to the stage where I did less walking than sitting in the car with a travel mug and a big notebook, scribbling down ideas and muttering to myself. Then back home for more writing and cackling at my own cleverness.

It was exciting at the time but looking back it wasn’t all plain sailing. I was on that borderline between stress and excitement which can be very inspirational but starts to get unhealthy after a couple of weeks. My stomach was upset and I couldn’t sleep (both unusual). To be honest, I felt possessed. The night before we went on a cruise (yes, a cruise!) I screamed at the Murph that I could finish the book if it wasn’t for this bloody holiday…!

Maybe a first book is always like that – it’s the fear of losing the idea, the tension. For book 2 I would like to do things differently because by December I had a fully revised manuscript and an agent – but I had also eaten tonnes of rubbish, gained a stone in weight and wrecked my neck and shoulders by sitting on the computer for hours at a time.

So, in the end, writing has to be like every other job – you need to pace yourself. One writer I know, an award winning Sci-Fi author writes a steady two pages a day and has completed more than a dozen books while still working full-time. Another took several years to write a fantastic debut novel. Writing fits round life – but life is important too! Balance is the key.

• Eat properly, sleep properly, exercise. Writing intensely can be exhilarating but also exhausting. No one realises this unless they’ve written for several hours a day, day in day out.
• Give yourself breaks, especially if you’re juggling writing with a job and family life.
• Don’t spend too long on the computer / hunched over a notebook. You WILL give yourself problems. Check your workspace is set up properly. I recommend Pilates for improving general posture, strength and flexibility.
• Find people who understand – more on this next post.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Currently reading...

Heard some good reviews of this book and it just arrived this morning. Having just read the first couple of chapters I think it's going to be an enjoyable read. It certainly hooks you from the beginning and has elements of a good thriller and literary fiction.

Going to get a pot of tea on and tuck my feet up on the sofa... Today was supposed to be for taking photos at the beach but the bitter cold and driving rain have given me the perfect excuse for a reading morning!


Looking at this picture gave me a shock. This is from Hachinohe in Aomori province, Japan. I lived here back in 99/00 working as an English teacher.

Earthquakes are always a possibility but the Japanese are so used to them that their buildings are designed to cope. The real fear there for coastal dwellers has always been tsunamis. I had never really heard of them before going to Japan but just before leaving I read a pretty terrifying book about them. As soon as I found out I was going to a coastal city I started trying to suss out how close I lived to the sea! Usually I like being near beaches etc. but in Japan it didn't seem like such a good idea.

There were no major earthqukes in my time there, just tremors. The really freaky thing was seeing how panic-stricken the Japanese people were while this one was happening. They are so used to earthquakes and just take them in their stride. They knew this was something different.

I really hope as today wears on we start to hear more encouraging news for the people of Japan - that the casualty list is shorter than feared, the damage less extensive, the grieving fewer in number. The whole world is thinking about them.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Getting from notebook to novel - #2

2. Develop your stamina – writing is an endurance sport. It's a marathon, not a sprint!

Some people are lucky enough to be naturally self-disciplined. They are the kind of people who will make the time to sit down and write every single day, regardless of what else is going on in their life. Are you one of those people? Congratulations! If so, you have one of the key characteristics of a real writer, not a talker-writer.

For most of us it can be a struggle at times. On the good days, words pour onto the page in a tidal wave. Enjoy those days but don’t expect them. EVERYONE can write on those days. Writers who get to the end keep writing, even on the days when their brain has turned to jam and they feel like hurling the PC through the window and dancing on its shattered carcass.

A book I really recommend is Stephen King’s On Writing. He really describes the long road to hitting the big time. He wrote for years with modest success and kept his rejection slips on a spike. His attitude is: read a lot and write a lot. Anyone can have a great idea for a book. Only one in a thousand will turn it into something.

Writers don't just talk about writing. They don't say they would love to write but... They put down their book, switch off the TV, stay home instead of hitting the pub yet again, skip their aerobics class once a week and log the hell out of Facebook!

Lots of people say they want to write a book. I said it for years. Here's what I learned - I just didn't want it enough. We all have busy lives with thousands of distractions and interesting things we can do with our time. Writing involves sacrifice. When you want it badly enough you will make the time. It will be painful at times. Accept that.

Write, even when you don’t feel like it. It can help to set a time limit – "I will write for the next 15 mins flat out." Even if all you are writing is “This sucks!” over and over again you are writing. You are training yourself to sit at the keyboard and make words appear, instead of doing one of a hundred different things.

Writers write!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Currently reading...

...'Salem's Lot by Stephen King. After all those tame, swoony vampires it's back to the old school with this one! Proper creepy, predatory, vicious vampires - I'm loving it!

Any other good scary vampire books anyone can recommend?

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