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Monday, 18 July 2011

The Dreaded (Or Is It?) To – Do List


Life is busy these days, so I now compile my ‘To – Do’ list on a weekly basis. I’m no expert but I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned since I got into the habit. 

·         Spend half an hour each week compiling the list.  It will save you hours in the long term, and don’t overlook anything. Include all those mundane tasks which need doing as well as your writing related stuff. I’m talking about sorting the re-cycling, ringing the opticians, feeding the fish, or whatever. You’ll get a feeling of achievement every time you cross a task off your list.

·         Eat that frog. You know what this means? If you can tackle the worst task first, it’s out of the way. The tasks that will nag away at the back of your mind causing you to feel guilty because you’ve not done them. Best to get them out of the way as soon as you can.

·         The big one.  I plan in the really big writing task as I need to be in the right frame of mind, I need to complete these tasks undisturbed. This isn’t procrastination; it’s calculated planning so that I get the best environment in which to write.

·         Multitasking. This really depends on the individual; I often do two or three things at once. Perhaps listening to an audio book whilst ironing or cooking, or I’ll mind map a chapter whilst waiting to pick my teenagers up.

·         Do plan in time for you. This is essential. Personally, I need to take time out to do some of the other stuff I enjoy in life, like reading, visiting the Jacuzzi at my local spa or going out for a walk in the fresh air.

I don’t dread my to – do list, I get a real sense of achievement at the end of the week when I look back over my list, and see how much I’ve managed to cross off. I dread reviewing the previous week, and realising I haven’t got very much writing done! This way you get to see exactly what you've done!

Inevitably, there will be tasks left over, and its best to try and bump these up your list to a higher priority the following week, otherwise they’ll bug the hell out of you. I’m off to do that right now.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Can Anyone Hear Me?

I’ve been down here for a while now, at the bottom of this deep, dark well. Fumbling around, shouting and screaming without anyone hearing my cries. Okay, you’re wondering if I’ve gone mad, or perhaps I’m writing an opening very badly.

Wrong on both counts, I’m talking about being a ‘Panster’. A what - you say? A panster, someone, who writes by the seat of their pants, without any planning or forethought of where they are going, I imagine some of you know exactly what I’m referring to here.

It’s served me well in the past. After all, there is nothing more exciting than going on a journey of discovery with your characters, is there? Except, I seem to have fallen down a well. I’ve lost my way, the plot is becoming clumsy, and some characters are doing their own thing, which I might not have minded in a different story. However, in this novel, where it’s hard enough to hold lots of information in my head as it is, I really don’t want secondary characters taking over the show. I might let them have their own novel later.

The solution, because there has to be one, doesn’t there? I mean I need to get out of this well, and get back to civilization. Which in my case, is regularly writing and getting the first draft completed. So the solution which has been burning at the back of my brain while I’ve been shuffling around in the dark, is to make an outline.

There, I’ve said it now, that dirty word us pansters hate to hear. Outline. You know what I’m talking about don’t you? Some of you are brilliant at it, you make a plan. A who, what, where, when and why, plan. And then off you go and write it all out. So, how am I going to get out of the well?

Well, I just did. I cried, and I shouted, before I realized there was someone already at the top, who threw me down a rope, it was another writer. In fact, several were there. They pulled me up, tugging on the rope; they hauled me over the side. Offering advice on how to get out of this mess.

I’m amazed at how generous you’ve all been. I opened my mouth, on Twitter, and hollered. You heard and I learnt I wasn’t alone. Lots of you admitted you’ve come up against the same issues and feelings of frustration.

I visited your blogs for advice, and you took the time to reply to me. Tweets passed back and forth, and I spoke with a buddy and he listened.

 Thank you all.

And if anyone else out there can tell me how they outline – all ideas are most welcome. So come on, how do you do it then?   

Friday, 1 July 2011

Alt.Fiction 25th June 2011

Last Saturday I attended Alt.Fiction at the Quad in Derby, a fabulous genre fiction festival where writers and readers mingle and socialise. Where there is a great feeling of old friends coming together, and new friends about to be made. Its simply for everyone, and anyone interested in reading or writing science fiction, fantasy or horror.

This year, was my third, and Alt.Fiction's fifth festival, a two day event for the first time, having previously run just on the Saturday. Unfortunately, I could only make the one day but, I made the most of my time.

After arriving, and catching up with friends from The Speculators, the group for speculative fiction writers in and around Leicester, I set off to my first panel of the day. The Digital Revolution, with Lee Harris, Damien G Walter, Helen Marshall and Cheryl Morgan. I gleaned much, Cheryl made some good points on the formatting issues surrounding ebooks which I hadn't realised before. I was also heartened to hear Damien say he thought the novella was making a comeback. I learnt a lot. A good start.

The next panel particularly appealed, people who know me well, also know I love horror, and anything dark, so The Infamous Horror Panel was right up my street. Sarah Pinborough, Mark Morris, Conrad Williams and Adam Neville entertained. Each spoke a little on how they handle the craft, and the differences between horror and dark fiction were briefly explored.

With so many different choices on the schedule, it was difficult to choose not to attend some of the podcasts, in favour of a couple of very good workshops. Kim Lakin-Smith ran a thought provoking session on creating a good strong character. She set us to work after a short talk, and I was amazed at the writing produced in what seemed like only a few minutes.

Later, I stuck my toe in the water with Colin Harvey's workshop, Settings for Science Fiction. I worked hard, and am happy to say produced a short piece of writing which I'd like to develop further.

I paid a visit to the book sales room, and walked out with several purchases, including latest editions of the Interzone and Black Static magazines, and another couple of new reads to keep me entertained. I feel its really important to support the magazines.

Another panel followed, and for me the most informative and entertaining of the day, the Scriptwriting Panel with Mark Chadbourn, Robert Shearman, Paul Finch, Jonathan L Howard and Stephen Volk. Highly amusing, I felt the guys were very funny, whilst able to tell it, how it is, regarding the difficulties of breaking into this very lucrative and interesting market.

I only managed to get along to one podcast, Tie-In Fiction and Shared Worlds, with Pat Kelleher, Dan Abnett, Guy Adams and Guy Haley. More comedians, and I do mean that in the nicest possible way. Chaired by Adele Wearing who started the informative blogzine Un-Bound site, and if you don't know it, I urge you to take a look. The podcast entertained and informed, and those I missed will be available later to hear again.

The whole event was well organised by Alex Davis and his team of volunteers. They all deserve a huge pat on the back. There is so much more I could say about Alt.Fiction, but this blog post is long enough, and anyway, you guys you should go and find out for yourselves next year. Its fun!