My starter motor

 

Writers block copy

Those of you who are regular followers of my blog may have noticed a paucity of posts over recent weeks. I could say it’s because I’ve been focussing on my latest book, and while this is partly true, it’s not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I’m still awaiting feedback from one of my beta readers for the last instalment of the Transcendence Trilogy before I can crack on with the next round of edits. While it’s frustrating is some respects I also completely understand the amount of time and commitment it takes to give quality feedback. Also, a part of me is happy to put off finishing the Transcendence Trilogy. It’s been a part of my life for over three years and while I know how the story ends, I’m not yet ready to hand my characters over to the world. I’m like a parent adjusting a child’s hair and correcting imaginary issues with their collar before they go into class for their first-day at school. I don’t want to let go. In the meantime I’m in the process of getting the cover developed as well as writing the promotional blurb ready for launch, but this hasn’t taken up all my time. I’ve also developed the outline of the book I plan to write next, which I’m very excited about, but this too has been finished for a while.

Then there is the fact I’m currently living on a building site. As a typical optimist I thought having a major extension to my house built would have little impact on my writing.

I was wrong.

It’s fair to say I’ve been distracted. It’s hard to write when the drilling downstairs is so loud that vibrations send your keyboard skittering across your desk. Then there are the times when I’d prefer not to be at my desk at all. While I appreciate the reassurances from my builders, I’d rather not be sat above a wall that’s being removed until somebody else proves there are enough acrow props in the right place to support my weight. Then there are the bills to pay, the daily conversations around progress, the ongoing worry about whether when the unusually warm weather will change to winter’s bite. And let’s not forget the ever-present dust.

Yet even though I’ve been distracted, if I’m totally honest the real reason you haven’t heard anything for a while is because that monster procrastination has sunk its teeth into me. With all the disruption I’ve lost the writing habit and found other things to fill the gap. Most of what I’ve already mentioned are excuses on why I can’t write, and in the classic self-hating way I know they’re just that, excuses, but have carried on wasting my time regardless.

I was asked the other day how an aspiring writer can move on to become a writer. The person in question said they’d loads of ideas for stories that they’d developed for years and had always wanted to write. How had I turned that into actually writing a book. I talked a bit about how some writers were plotters and some pantsers, I talked about the three-act structure, about developing your characters and knowing the world they live in. I talked about motivations and overcoming challenges to meet goals. But at the end I gave the blunt truth. The difference between aspiring writers and writers is that writers put in the work and aspiring writers don’t. It’s all about bum on seat time.

Exactly what I’ve not been doing.

So this post is my starter motor, the push I need to get me back into the writing habit so I can finish my novel and start another. It is the first step on the next stage of my journey, the slight glance I need to fall back in love. Wish me luck!

 

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

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Overcoming Procrastination

procrastination 1

 

I’ve listed these before but a little reminder never hurts.

Here are my 10 top tips to overcome procrastination (warning: some of these are less serious than others).

1 Stop reading blogs

I know, I shouldn’t have put this one first, but if this is the only tip you read and you act upon it, my job here is done

2 Turn off the internet

A more extreme version of the above, but if point 1 doesn’t help, point 2 will. You don’t need the internet to write. If you need to look something up, just write ‘look this up’ in your manuscript and carry on. It’s words on the page that are important, not accuracy at this point.

3 Set yourself a writing time and ensure all chores are completed beforehand

The only time you’ll ever find yourself driven by the desire to clean a toilet is when you’re struggling with your WIP. Make sure your chores are done before your scheduled writing time, or even better, get somebody else to do them for you.

4 Give yourself an even more important job to do

Procrastination is the art of doing something less important than the task you should be doing. The best way to overcome this is to give yourself an even more important task, then procrastinate over that by writing.

5 Buy yourself a pay-as-you-go dumb phone

It seems extreme but for many of you it’s not your computer but your cell phone that is the major procrastination enabler. You can buy very cheap dumb phones on a pay-as-you-go contract nowadays. Get one and leave your smart phone locked in a drawer for the next few weeks. Your word count will rocket!

6 Form an anti-procrastination group

Join up with fellow writers and put alerts on each other’s social media feeds. Whenever you receive an alert, send back a message saying “drop everything and write”.

7 Skip to a more exciting scene

Most of us write in the order each scene will appear in the book but it doesn’t have to be this way. If you are stuck on a scene, leave it and move on to one that’s more interesting to write. It will help keep the word count up and allow your brain to ruminate over the difficult scene until it works out a way forward.

8 Look back to where you were a week ago

Part of the reason for procrastination is a feeling you aren’t achieving anything. If this is the case, look back to where you were a week ago (or even two).  You’ll be amazed how much more you’ve achieved than you realised. If you have the ability to achieve what you have, you know you can do it all again.

9 A few words are better than no words

That daily word count goal can be both motivating and demotivating. It’s great when you get ahead of the curve but as soon as you drop behind the pressure ratchets up. Every word you put on the page is one closer to your goal, so keep adding words, no matter how few, and you’ll be amazed how quickly they add up.

10 Remember Hemingway

One of the biggest reasons we procrastinate as writers is because we believe what we have written is no good. This is normal, especially with first drafts. So remember what Hemingway said: “the first draft of anything is shit.” If it applies to Hemingway, it applies to you.

 

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

10 ways to overcome NaNoWriMo procrastination

tomorrow

It’s just over the halfway point for those masochists lucky souls taking part in NaNoWriMo and while some participants are reeling off thousands of words a day, many of you (I say you because why are you reading this otherwise?) have hit a wall. Your initial enthusiasm has diminished, you’ve started to question whether the once incredible idea you had has any merit and you are left wondering why you ever bothered starting in the first place. But you’ve committed to the damn thing and you want to finish, so each day you turn on your computer ready to work. Then it hits. Something catches your eye and the next thing you know it’s midnight and all you’ve done is watch giggling babies on YouTube.

You are not alone. This happens to all writers, NaNo or no NaNo. To help, here are my 10 top tips to overcome procrastination (warning: some of these are less serious than others).

1 Stop reading blogs

I know, I shouldn’t have put this one first, but if this is the only tip you read and you act upon it, my job here is done

2 Turn off the internet

A more extreme version of the above, but if point 1 doesn’t help, point 2 will. You don’t need the internet to write. If you need to look something up, just write ‘look this up’ in your manuscript and carry on. It’s words on the page that are important, not accuracy at this point.

3 Set yourself a writing time and ensure all chores are completed beforehand

The only time you’ll ever find yourself driven by the desire to clean a toilet is when you’re struggling with your WIP. Make sure your chores are done before your scheduled writing time, or even better, get somebody else to do them for you.

4 Give yourself an even more important job to do

Procrastination is the art of doing something less important than the task you should be doing. The best way to overcome this is to give yourself an even more important task, then procrastinate over that by writing.

5 Buy yourself a pay-as-you-go dumb phone

It seems extreme but for many of you it’s not your computer but your cell phone that is the major procrastination enabler. You can buy very cheap dumb phones on a pay-as-you-go contract nowadays. Get one and leave your smart phone locked in a drawer for the next few weeks. Your word count will rocket!

6 Form an anti-procrastination group

Join up with fellow NaNoWriMo writers and put alerts on each other’s social media feeds. Whenever you receive an alert, send back a message saying “drop everything and write”.

7 Skip to a more exciting scene

Most of us write in the order each scene will appear in the book but it doesn’t have to be this way. If you are stuck on a scene, leave it and move on to one that’s more interesting to write. It will help keep the word count up and allow your brain to ruminate over the difficult scene until it works out a way forward.

8 Look back to where you were a week ago

Part of the reason for procrastination is a feeling you aren’t achieving anything. If this is the case, look back to where you were a week ago (or even two).  You’ll be amazed how much more you’ve achieved than you realised. If you have the ability to achieve what you have, you know you can do it all again.

9 A few words are better than no words

That daily word count goal can be both motivating and demotivating. It’s great when you get ahead of the curve but as soon as you drop behind the pressure ratchets up. If this is the case for you, think back to the reason you are taking part in NaNoWriMo. It’s not to hit 50,000 words (although that would be great). It’s to write a first draft. Every word you put on the page is one closer to this goal. So keep adding words, no matter how few, and you’ll be amazed how quickly they add up.

10 Remember Hemingway

One of the biggest reasons we procrastinate as writers is because we believe what we have written is no good. This is normal, especially with first drafts. So remember what Hemingway said: “the first draft of anything is shit.” If it applies to Hemingway, it applies to you.

Now stop reading and get back to your writing!

Still here? If you are, do you have any other hints and tips to help your fellow writers overcome the urge to procrastinate? I’d love to hear from you.

Stop, start, stutter, repeat: My attempts at starting book two

When creating goes wrong (picture source: http://pajamadiaries.com)

When creating goes wrong (picture source: http://pajamadiaries.com)

I had an idea for a new book. This was back in September while I was in the final phase of editing book one. It was a great idea (in my own humble opinion), one that I’d never seen before and one that I was sure would resonate with a large audience. It was a very different idea from the book I was about to complete but that didn’t matter. The concept was excellent. I’d even written an opening chapter which was guaranteed to draw people in. I needed to research a number of areas but that was fine. All I needed to do was finish book one and I would get right onto it.

By November I’d finished book one and sent queries to a number of agents in the hope of representation. I was too late to take part in NaNoWriMo with my new idea as I hadn’t started my research, but I wasn’t worried. There was under no time pressure. Because it was a contemporary novel I wanted to get the detail right, and as a thriller I felt that it was better to make sure the key plot points were clear before starting. To help my research I’d arranged to interview people who were involved in the area I wanted to write about, and I researched my key locations online with a plan to visit them in person before Christmas. All was going well. The concept still excited me.

By the beginning of January I had decided I’d been procrastinating for too long. I hadn’t had a chance to run any interviews, or visit the locations as planned, but I wanted, no needed to start. Over the Christmas period I had received two rejections of my first book and  silence from the other agents. I knew that this was part of writing, but I was feeling fed up, so my plan to kick myself out of a rut was to start something new. The problem was, my enthusiasm for the project had died. It was still a great concept, it was still something that was current, important, and with a large potential audience. It’s just that I had lost something on the way. The initial spark that is so important when starting a new project had gone. I struggled for a few days, writing a few hundred words here and there, but I struggled to get into the heads of the characters. It was a miserable feeling. I was a failure.

Then the other night, while I was lying in bed worrying about my writing, worrying about why nobody was interested in my book and generally feeling like giving up, I had the idea for a character. It was a vague outline but I immediately picked up the notebook I keep beside my bed and scribbled furiously. I hadn’t any idea of what the story might be, but I knew how the character thought, what their conflict was and why it made them so compelling. It was the first time I’d felt this enthused about writing for months. So I took the  decision to park my initial idea for book 2, put to one side the research I had completed, and write about this character instead. It wasn’t that I’d  given up with the original idea, it’s just that I decided to wait until the enthusiasm returns so I can do the story justice.

Today I sat at my computer and wrote for four hours straight. I wrote around two thousand words, all about this new character. Sadly they were two hundred words at a time, as I repeatedly started writing the story, stopped, decided it wasn’t good enough, deleted everything and started again. And again. And again. By the end of today I have exactly no words written but a lot of excitement. Well, you can’t have everything. I’ll try again tomorrow.