Light at the end of the tunnel (list alert)

We’ve had a very busy time towards the end of 2014 with loads and loads going on. Things are starting to settle a bit now, and we’re achieving much of what we set out to do at the start of the year. We’re also coming to terms with things out of our control and getting into a routine with those.

I had a deadline on Friday for an 80,000-word editing job, and I had a deadline yesterday for a 78,000-word editing job. Those 2 jobs alone took up a lot of time¬†in the past week and a half, and I also did snagging on another, shorter job about to go to print. I finished both of those jobs on time, although I was working until gone 10pm last night. The poet, bless him, made tea and supper while I worked. ūüôā

Now I have 3 new, shorter jobs waiting to be started, and another snagger waiting to go to print this week. I’m also getting a corker of a writing itch.

The time has come for me to give my daily work schedule a massive kick up the bum. It has been working, but with the prospect of an extra hour a day, with the poet working closer to home and not leaving the house until 8:30am, which is too late – really – for me to go back to bed, that’s an extra 5 hours per week. I’d love to fill it with writing time.

4 seasonsI use several books on writing when I’m limbering up. And I do limber up. Yes, I do have tons and tons of ideas, but I like to do idea-generating exercises too so that they’re not too stale. (I don’t do writing exercises for exercise sake, if they’re unlikely to lead to something marketable, they’re not really worth the time and effort to me.)

The book I took on holiday to Dent with us this year was Four Seasons of Creative Writing by Bryan Cohen. July was Camp NaNo and I tried to write something every day, even if it was a limbering-up exercise.

With the help of this book I came back with first drafts and outlines of several short stories. It was the middle of July but I was using prompts for January as, at the time, that’s what the fiction editors were looking for.

So, this coming year, I’m going to continue to dip into this book when I want to, and I’m going to develop those stories I started in July but was distracted from by earning a living and life. They’ll go off on their rounds, but they’ll also be pegged for Twee Tales Too¬†and beyond …

One of my New Year resolutions is to find an alternative to using Amazon – I have my reasons. Therefore,¬†the link for this one you can find here. (It’s still free.)

If you have any tips for my rejigged working day, then do let me know below. Things I tend to include, value added or not, are:

  • editing
  • proofreading
  • job hunting
  • writing short material (fillers, readers’ letters, articles, short stories)
  • writing long material (novels, books, anthologies)
  • blog posts
  • admin (filing, invoicing, trips to post office, etc)
  • daily competions (I’ve won more than ¬£3,500 in cash as well as numerous prizes)
  • personal appointments (dentist, hair, doctor, etc)

Thank you for participating.

Boot camp (major list alert)

P1030806Ever since the poet went off to Scotland to work, just over two weeks ago, this pile of work has been sitting on a table in the living room waiting for me to go through it.

The binder consists of several ebook and worksheet pdfs:

  • 5 in 10: Create Five Short Stories in Ten Weeks by Devon Ellington
  • How to Write Flash Fiction that Doesn’t Suck: Learn to tell a complete story in 500 words by Holly Lisle
  • worksheets for The Kaizen Plan for Organized Authors by Lynn Johnston
  • The Confident Freelancer by Lori Widmer and Devon Ellington
  • 7 Steps to Beating Page-One Rejections by Holly Lisle
  • Introduction to Plotting:¬†Professional¬†Plot Outline Mini-Course¬†by Holly Lisle
  • 30 Tips for 30 Days: Kick Start Your Novel and Get Out of Your Own Way by Devon Ellington
  • worksheets for¬†The 30 Day Novel Success Journal: Overcome Procrastination, Figure Out What Happens Next and Get Your Novel Written by Lynn Johnston (don’t ya just love those snappy titles?)
  • worksheets for¬†The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing: A 16-step program guaranteed to take you from idea to completed manuscript by Evan Marshall
  • 2 more easy-way-to write books that may actually go straight in the recycle bin.

The pile also consists of 2 shorthand notebooks, 2 Pukka A5 notebooks, an A4 notebook and a pencil tin. I do love my pencil tins.

Aside from this pile, I also have books on the Kindle that I’m currently reading:

  • The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell
  • Writing Non-Fiction That Sells by Jackie Sherman
  • Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris

Now, as I said, this pile has been glaring at me from a coffee table in the living room for the best part of 3 weeks. And last night I finally settled down to sort it all out.

My notebooks usually consist of the following:

  • a shorthand notebook for ideas and outlines
  • a shorthand notebook for draft 1s
  • an A4 notebook for draft 2s

I also have a see-through brightly coloured polypropylene folder (see picture) containing several A4 see-through brightly coloured plastic wallets, each containing a draft 3 awaiting proofing.

After last night I now have:

  • 1 Pukka A5 notebook for ideas, notes, exercises, market information, WIP schedule
  • 1 Pukka A5 notebook for outlines
  • 1 shorthand notebook for draft 1s
  • 1 A4 notebook for draft 2s
  • 1 bright pink see-through polypropylene folder containing several bright yellow A4 see-through plastic wallets

Welcome to my own personal writer’s boot camp.

After last night, the main binder has gone back onto the bookshelf. When I’ve caught up with all the stuff I’ve already started, it’ll come back down again and I’ll go back to the beginning. Meanwhile, though …

I sorted through all of my notebooks filled with outlines and 1st drafts, discarded a few that really aren’t working, and came up with a brand new WIP schedule.

I shared a copy of my WIP schedule with blog readers before, and a few went slightly green at the gills at the thought of it, and at the seeming rigidity of it all. This WIP schedule is, in fact, written in pencil, which means it can be rubbed out if it isn’t working or if something comes in that’s more important. The order isn’t cast in stone either. If I need to get a January-related story to a short story market in the next few days, for example, then that comes to the top of the priority list.

Here’s what the first page of that WIP schedule now looks like, showing one project from start to finish:

O The Complete Angler SS

#1 Peters and Lee F

#2 Breaking the Ice SS (the 1st Stevie Tarot tale)

#3 My Operation RTE

E My 1970s Holiday Memories RTE

O Aren’t Men Daft RL

#1 The Complete Angler SS

#2 Peters and Lee F

#3 Breaking the Ice SS

E My Operation RTE

O Don’t Break a Leg SS

#1 Aren’t Men Daft RL

#2 The Complete Angler SS

 #3 Peters and Lee F

E Breaking the Ice SS

O Dancing on Ice SS

#1 Don’t Break a Leg SS

#2 Aren’t Men Daft RL

#3 The Complete Angler SS

E Peters and Lee F

O Shaking the Tree SS (a sequel to The Spirit of the Wind)

#1 Dancing on Ice SS

#2 Don’t Break a Leg SS

#3 Aren’t Men Daft RL

E The Complete Angler SS

(KEY: O = Outline; #1 = draft 1; #2 = draft 2; #3 = draft 3; E = Edit; SS = Short Story; F = Filler; RL = Reader’s Letter; RTE = Reader’s True Experience; WIP = Work In Progress)

I tick them off, or colour them with colour-coded highlighter pens, as I do them. Many of these projects were started off during my Camp NaNo in July.

For those of you still with us, this is how it always used to work before when I was prolific. I like the variety of working on something fresh, and I like to leave something bubbling away in the background while I work on something else. For me, the hardest parts are the outline stage and first draft. The rest comes really easy to me.

Aside from this short writing WIP, I also edit and proofread books and novels for clients. This is my bread-and-butter work, or what I now call the day job. I also have a couple of books of my own on the go.

Using this system for the short writing WIP means that once the 4th drafts have gone off on their merry ways, I have so many projects “out there” and so many more “in production” that a single rejection, or even a few at once, doesn’t faze me.

If I don’t have any editing or proofreading in, at least I still have plenty of other work to be getting on with. I just need much of it to be “out there” earning its keep.

Bag 2If I’m out fishing with the poet, the current WIP goes into a writing bag. Here’s one I prepared earlier, which includes an old diary and a purple polypropylene see-through folder that contains a novel, Catch the Rainbow I think is in this one. (I do¬†love¬†my polypropylene folders …)

Regular readers will have seen this picture before. It’s a different pencil tin (I do love¬†my pencil tins …), and the black conference folder usually holds editing or proofreading.

So, with such a big to-do list just for the short writing WIP, I’d best crack on.

How do you work?

Sunday 13 July 2014 – Sedbergh to Bowness

First thing this morning I caught up on 3 days’ worth of Camp NaNo. I started the blog travel journal for our holiday and decided to add everything else written this month. I’ve been doing a lot of editing and proofreading work, which hasn’t left a lot of time or energy for anything else, so as there haven’t been that many other things (mostly due to the editing work), I’m adding them to Camp NaNo. I caught up with 2 days by doing that, and more than 2,000 words.

We had a disturbed night. it was very warm. We were worried about the cats and the poet managed to come down with tonsillitis. We’d bought the cats a new hooded litter tray but as they’d not used it at home yet we didn’t think they’d find it in a strange place. So, for now, I’ve taken the hood off and am delighted to say that both cats did actually find it during the night. I was up at 5am, though, to check.

The dog was a bit barky, but stayed in his basket most of the night. He only jumped on the bed twice, and jumped down again straight away. The cottage owners don’t like animals on the beds, so we like to keep him to his basket. We also brought pet blankets with us to protect the furniture.

It was warm despite the rain because the wood burner stove feeds the central heating as well as the hot water.

And what we thought was initially a sore throat woke the poet several times during the night with a raging fever. When I had a look, one of his tonsils had a septic blob on it and the other was quite swollen. Still, he said if he was going to be poorly anywhere he’d rather be poorly here.

He’s not too bad, however. We both managed a 3-course breakfast (cereal, toast and fruit) before going for a drive. They’d forecast showers too, so we decided to stock up on provisions.

The first place we went to was Sedbergh, just over the border in Cumbria.¬†My blog buddy Diane had mentioned that Sedbergh might be a book town. Well, it isn’t quite Hay on Wye, but there were a few book shops. We bought a new 2015 road atlas for ¬£4.99, reduced from ¬£10.99, and an ice cream each. My old atlas was dated 2004 and I’ve been nagging for a new one for ages, and here it is.

Then we went to the Spar to get a few groceries and some throat lozenges, and then we drove through Kendal to Windermere. We parked up at Windermere but halfway down the hill to the lake we decided to go back for the car, not because we’re idle, but because the parking was only for one hour and we were going to be longer than an hour.

So we went back to the car and drove into Bowness where we dropped on lucky with the car park, and we walked down to the lake via a hat shop up hill first. We both have sun hats, but with the panic over Holly, we forgot to put them in. So we bought a new hat each in Bowness and ate prawn sandwiches and carrot cake on the lawn overlooking the lake. Rufus had a great time rolling in the grass before eventually joining us reclining on the lawn.

When the grass felt too damp we headed back to the car and then back to the cottage for tea – and rest for the poet who was starting to wilt. He rallied, though, built the fire and made us some savoury mince, which we had with basamati rice. Then we settled down in front of the World Cup final before tuning in to another film.

We took quite a few pictures today, in Sedbergh, in Windermere and in Bowness. And, of course, of our new hats.

Sedbergh. (Picture: Diane Parkin)
Sedbergh. (Picture: Diane Parkin)
Day 01 005
Sedbergh. (Picture: Diane Parkin)
Sedbergh. (Picture: Diane Parkin)
Sedbergh. (Picture: Diane Parkin)
Day 01 012
Rufus and Ian locked up. (Picture: Diane Parkin)
Day 02 005
A bustling Bowness. (Picture: Diane Parkin)
Day 02 003
Modelling my new hat, in Bowness. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Day 02 008
Road train, Bowness. (Picture: Diane Parkin)
Day 02 004
Modelling his new hat, in Bowness. (Picture: Diane Parkin)
Day 02 010
Our view from our picnic, in Bowness. (Picture: Diane Parkin)

Enjoy!

Saturday 12 July 2014 – Hemsworth to Dent

Little man’s taking a breather while I post the holiday blog over the next few days. I carried on with Camp NaNo while I was away, so he’ll be back just as soon as I’ve caught up. This is the journal “what I wrote” while we were there.

The first day of our holiday was more eventful than we hoped it would be. We had a late start because we were taking the cats and wanted to drive straight there in one go. The cottage wouldn’t be available until 4pm, so that meant we didn’t have to leave before 1pm. I’d also had a very busy week and not had my usual pre-holiday errand day. Instead, once the poet arrived home from his work on Friday, off we went to do the shopping, deliver a birthday card and get something to eat.

Even though I had been busy all week, I’d still managed to clear all of the washing so we had plenty of clothes to choose from. Saturday morning, therefore, was mostly spent selecting and packing clothes. Plus, of course, our travel clothes. We also packed all of the food, cleaning things (house and personal) and goods required for 3 pets. The cats were allowed out for a couple of hours in the morning, but then they were contained on one floor to make sure they were present and correct …

… or so we thought.

The poet started to pack the car but we noticed we were a cat short. Holly. We searched the house but couldn’t find her … and then noticed that the back door was open. Wide open.

We called and whistled, but Holly wasn’t having any of it. So we decided to finish packing the car and then go looking for her if there was still no sign.

We finished packing the car and there was still no sign. So Ian went one way and I went the other.

In the car park I thought I could hear her miaowing, but I couldn’t see her. I climbed onto the wall to look over the fence just as Ian appeared on the other side, both of us calling and Holly miaowing loudly.

“Where is she?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied.

“Is that Holly?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Where is she?”

But I didn’t know.

“Is she over that way?” he asked, pointing at the houses behind me.

“I don’t think so,” I said, turning. “I think she’s in this part somewhere¬†‚ÄĒ”

And there she was, right behind me, rolling around in the dust, miaowing happily.

So I grabbed her and off we went, locking the house behind us and, ensuring all the animals were secure on the back seat of the car, we headed off … via Tesco. For Paracetamol, petrol, and air for the tyres. We’d gone about 10 minutes down the road beyond Tesco when Ian realised he’d forgotten something and he turned the car around and we went back home.

By 2pm we were finally on our way again, for a hopefully undisturbed journey …

But we had to stop … 3 times … for Holly …

Domino was brilliant. She curled up in her basket, didn’t make a single sound, fell asleep, and stayed there. For the entire trip. In fact, we did wonder once or twice if she was still alive.

Rufus was brilliant. He was on his best behaviour, happy to have the cats with us for a change, and happy to be going for a ride. And every time we did stop, he had a quick walk.

Holly was not brilliant. And she got car sick. She cried a bit and, when we let her out of the basket, she prowled a bit too. But in the end we had to keep her and her car sickness contained.

At 4:30pm we arrived at our lovely little cottage in Dent. The sun was still shining and all along the route we were reminded of the previous week’s cycle race, the Tour de France in Yorkshire, as we drove through several pretty towns and villages still decorated with bunting.

It took much less time to unpack the car than it had to pack it and once the cottage door was closed, the cats were allowed to explore.

Then Ian set to work making our tea. We had bacon, sausages, fried egg, mushrooms and bread, with fruit for pudding. He built the fire (it powers the hot water), we took the dog for a quick walk, and we settled down for an evening in front of the telly. The last time we were at the cottage, last August (2013), the television had 3 channels on it. This time we had 7. Luxury! So we watched some drivel and then a film at 9pm.

When we were packing up my house, we stumbled across my old SLR camera, a Pentax MZ50 AF with 2 lenses. I’d already tried, and failed, to sell it, but the poet asked if we could keep it as he’d like to give it a go. We emptied it of any film and changed the batteries, but it took us ages to stumble upon some new film that hadn’t already expired. We did find some, though, and the Pentax came with us to Dent so he could have a practise.

The camera came out with us on our local walk as it doesn’t matter if they don’t come out. We still had the digital cameras as backup. The pop-up flash already isn’t popping up and I think the camera may have winding-on issues, but time will tell and we shall see soon enough.

A light drizzle as we walked the dog had turned into a downpour by bedtime, and so ended our first day in Paradise.

Here are a few pictures for today’s post:

Beautiful Dentdale (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Beautiful Dentdale (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Dent on a rainy evening. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Dent on a rainy evening. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
The village of Dent. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
The village of Dent. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Meadow pipit in Dentdale. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Meadow pipit in Dentdale. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Holly hiding. (Picture: Diane Parkin)
Holly hiding. (Picture: Diane Parkin)

Enjoy!

Camp NaNo Day 7

We had another great weekend.

I was working overtime on Friday when the poet arrived home from helping a work colleague move house, but he was early enough for us to nip out if we wanted to. So we popped to one of our local working men’s clubs and watched another new band to the pair of us.

Saturday was a busy day. I did some more work, then we went to collect the poet’s mother and visited his daughter in her first home. Son #2 was there too and we sat in the garden chatting and drinking squash, enjoying the sunshine.

He had a gig Saturday night, so we had to go early and get ready for that. He headed off in time to set up, but I caught the train later so the animals¬†weren’t on their own for too long. On the way back we collected my car and we went straight to bed as we had another busy day on Sunday.

Sunday was Day 2 of the Tour de France in Yorkshire, and we drove over to Hade’s Edge where we parked at a friend’s house. Some places were charging ¬£5, ¬£10 and even ¬£15 (apx $8, $17 and $25) just for parking, because the roads into Holmfirth were closed. Then it was a nice, downhill walk into the town.

We were lucky with the weather. It didn’t start to rain until we arrived home. Rufus was quite well-behaved, considering the crowds. He was a little warm, a little excited, a little tetchy, but he didn’t bark very much and we were very proud of him. I was quite proud of myself too at the end of it, because I managed the walk back up the hill, pulled along by the dog a bit, and I detest walking up big hills.

The race was due in Holmfirth at 2:30pm. Then it was 2.40pm. I think it was about 2:45pm by the time they got there, and we felt very proud and privileged to have been part of the 2.5 million visitors to the race over the weekend, apparently the world’s largest sporting event and¬†free of charge.

Here are a few photographs from our visit:

P1030609
This police officer probably received the best cheer he’d ever had. (Pic: Diane Parkin)
P1030624
Here they come … (Pic: Diane Parkin)
P1030627
The Tour de France, Yorkshire, 6 July 2014 (Pic: Diane Parkin)
P1030629
There they go … (Pic: Diane Parkin)
P1030613
My favourite picture of the day. ‚ô• (Pic: Diane Parkin)

I didn’t manage to do Camp NaNo for Friday until Saturday morning, and I did it sat up in bed while the poet made and fetched me a bacon sandwich. I can’t remember the last time I had breakfast in bed, let alone made for me. That was a nice treat.

Saturday evening, after he’d gone to his gig, I settled down for an hour and I managed Camp NaNo for Saturday. So I did none on Friday, two on Saturday and, erm, none on Sunday. So today’s will be yesterday’s and, if I get chance, I’ll do today’s as well.

I’ll update little man as I go along.

This week I have a lot of work to get through before we start our holiday on Saturday. I have 3 books to do – 2 editing, 1 proofreading – as well as Camp NaNo and prep for the holiday, and will probably be on overtime.