Monday, 28 December 2015

What have I done this year?

After the build up to Christmas and the day itself, my family and I are having a few days at home together. It's all very relaxed and with no real plans to keep to. Late nights, family games and good company. My husband and children are taking advantage of the lack of routine to have lie-ins so I'm usually first up, enjoying the quiet with my morning coffee. It gives me time to think and reflect on the year that's almost over. It's been generally a good one, in some ways quite magical, and definitely a year I want to remember.

Back in January, I posted my 2015 reading list and my goals for the year. I didn't do very well with the reading list, only completing three of the fifteen (even worse than in 2014). I must read more next year. I did better with my goals. I revised and polished my novel and began the search for an agent. I returned to the partial first draft of my second novel which now requires a massive rethink because of changes to the first novel. Due to the amount of time spent on my novel, I didn't get around to writing two more plays for Murdering The Text but I did start on a plan for one of them.

In February, I received back Brian Keaney's assessment of my novel. This set me on the track for revising Shadowbinder. I would thoroughly recommend Brian and the Writer's Workshop to anyone seeking advice on their writing.

March saw my first book review of the year of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I also shared a trailer review for Kelly Hashway's novel, The Darkness Within and talked about the sad news of the death of one of my favourite writers, Terry Pratchett.

In April, I took part in Camp NanoWrimo and although I didn't reach my writing target of 30,000 words, I wasn't far off at just under 25,000 words. I also found a new place to write and draw inspiration from which just happened to be a coffee shop. Who'd have guessed?

May was a month of working on my novel in earnest as I set myself the target of finishing the redraft by the summer.
In June, I made the decision to take a break from blogging to concentrate completely on reworking my novel. The break continued throughout July until I finally posted back on here in August.

That month, I also made some changes to my blogging routine and posted a new 7 ways article on how I cope with my anxiety.

In September, I reviewed The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern which I had read on holiday in August.

As part of the Chester Literature Festival in October, I met with agent Carrie Kania to discuss the first fifty pages of my novel. Her advice was informative and encouraging, and I came away feeling very optimistic.

In November, having completed and polished my novel, I submitted it to three literary agents. I also posted a new 7 Ways article on motivation.

December went by in a whirl of waiting for agent responses, preparing for Christmas and taxi-ing my children to various events. To date, I have received two no's from the three literary agents I submitted my novel to. The first came back with helpful and encouraging feedback though so I'm not downhearted.

Personally, 2015 has been a year of improvement and change, all of it welcome. Both my children are now at high school (which brings all kinds of new and varied challenges). We've moved house. I have my first ever study (no more hogging the dining table or sharing a computer desk). Life is good and looking better. I can't wait for 2016 to arrive.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Merry Christmas

Just a quick post to wish you all the best for Christmas. May the day bring you all that you wish for, and if that isn't possible (I doubt I'll get that unicorn this year - darn) then I hope you have the kind of day that you need. 

Corny I know, but this is from the soundtrack of 
one of my favourite Christmas films.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

My Christmas List

Have you made a Christmas list this year or are you just hoping that your family know you well enough to buy the right gifts for you? I've probably left this list a little late to be of any use to my family but just in case...

Firstly, I'd like a peaceful Christmas Day. Not peaceful as in alone, or with the family tied to their beds, but peaceful in that there are no cross words or bad feelings, towards anyone, just good cheer and lots of laughter.

Secondly, for my family to remember that when I'm tidying away the torn-off wrapping paper and fussing over some aspect of the food, I'm not being a kill-joy. I'm simply attempting to quieten my anxiety and keep on top of things. I'm enjoying myself, really I am, even if I'm frowning.

Thirdly, wouldn't it be wonderful to have a day without war, or murder, or cruelty? This is a long shot, and incredibly naive. Still, fingers crossed for that one.

I'd like a day without pain. I'm still suffering with my injured shoulder. It's nothing serious but the constant pain is beginning to get me down. Maybe the day itself will distract me enough to not notice it for twenty four hours.

Of course, one of the best Christmas gifts would be to have a literary agent for my novel by Christmas. Two of the three I submitted my manuscript to in November, have said no, but with some wonderful and encouraging feedback. Fingers crossed for the third one.

So, what do you reckon? Will I get anything from my list? What about you? What's on your list this year?

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Something Useful for 2015 - Exercise No. 17

Have you seen this Christmas advert yet?

An elderly gentleman finds that the only way to bring his family together at Christmas is to fake his own death. This German advert has reduced most people I know to tears, including me.

Many families only come together to celebrate weddings or commiserate the loss of a loved one. For me, Christmas was the main time each year when my own family gathered in one place - aunts, uncles, cousins, friends who meant as much to us as family too - and it was these gatherings that often created the stories my family would tell and re-tell.

What Christmas tales did your family create from the yearly gatherings? Happy? Sad? Comical? All of those together?  Let me know.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Photo Inspiration for December

Early one morning last week, while my family remained warm in the house before school and work, I ventured outside to leave the bins for the refuse collection. It was hardly a romantic or glamorous start to the the day but when I looked up, I saw this.

In the midst of the lightening sky, a crescent moon and a star (or is it the space station?) sat shining alone together. It was one of those skies that made me pause (and obviously take a photo).

What does this sky inspire you to write about? New beginnings? Peace? Partnership? Let me know.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Choice Words for December

One of the questions I asked myself when plotting my novel, Shadowbinder, was how I could make things hell for my protagonist? And then, how could I make it worse? The next question I asked myself was how could I make the story's outcome matter to him?

Writer K M Weiland discusses this same topic in her article, When Your Story Stakes Aren't High Enough. Have a read.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

It's that season again

Christmas trees are going up in people's homes (they've been up in the shops since the beginning of November). Black Friday and Cyber Monday saw a record spend by the British public. Bets are being placed on whether we'll have snow on the big day.

In the run up to Christmas, I think we all go a bit doolally in our quest for the perfect festive celebration. That isn't necessarily a bad thing but it can certainly cause as many arguments as it does rewards.

When I first started writing the 7 Ways articles, I posted one on how to survive the run up to Christmas. I think that 7 ways to keep your sanity in the festive season is still as pertinent today as it was back then. Go on, slap a snowman.

A major part of the preparations in the run up to Christmas is buying presents. Throughout the year, I make a note of all the things that my children mention they would like so I have a shopping list by the time I get to November. My husband is more difficult. This year I told him, "Tell me what you want for Christmas or I'll buy you a load of tat that you won't want". Strangely, it worked and his presents are now waiting to be wrapped. What about me - the writerly one? I'm probably the most difficult of all to buy for. If you have the same problems with a writer friend or family member, then my article 7 ways to give to your writer friends at Christmas might prove helpful. Have a look.

I'm off now to begin the present wrapping saga. I may be some time.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

What I'm Doing This Month - December

December this year finds me in a very festive mood and for once, I'm rather organised. I finished my Christmas present shopping in November. That's never happened before. I have Christmas cards ready to be written and wrapping paper at hand. We're not quite sure where the Christmas tree is going to go in our new house but that's only a minor blip on the festive horizon.

I'm still unpacking boxes with the target of having it all finished by mid month, and delighting in re-discovering all kind of gems that I'd packed away during probably the move before last.

I have a new desk for my first ever study. I'm sitting at it now as I type. This will probably be the last room I'll sort out but I'm all kinds of giddy to have all of my things together, unpacked and in view.

So what of my writing for December?


After sending off my novel to three agents mid November, I'm waiting for a response. One got back to me almost immediately to say they were looking forward to reading my 'intriguing' novel and would contact me before Christmas. I could send myself mad wondering what the responses will be but I've decided to put the novel to bed for now.

In the meantime

I'm working on my next murder mystery play. I have a title, a setting and scenario, a murder victim and the beginnings of a cast. I'll let you know how that goes in the new year.

The next novel

Working on the final draft of Shadowbinder, I changed quite a lot of the original storyline, details about certain unseen characters and the future of the antagonist. This means that the second novel has to begin on a completely different footing to what I had originally planned. I started to write novel number two during last year's NanoWrimo so I have several chapters already under my belt (around 30,000 words) and thankfully I'll still be able to use the majority of that. First though, I have to finish my murder mystery script.

Have a wonderful December.