Monday, February 27, 2006

Fear of Success

My new PC is finally up and running and ready for 'work' (it only took about 16 hours). I managed to polish up the Postcards manuscript and print it out for a final re-read last night. I already have a list of agents to send it to, gathered during the last round of submissions. I never sent the mss to them because it was coming back from the ones I did send it out to with alarming speed.

This prompted a re-read followed by the painful admission that the manuscript just wasn't good enough. It was funny, but it wasn't hilarious. It's probably still not piss-your-pants funny, but it is better.

So now I hesitate? Why? Fear of failure? No, I'm used to people telling me my work is shit. What I think I'm afraid of is someone actually liking it and taking it on and perhaps, gulp, selling it. I really don't know how I would deal with that.

It's supposed to be the dream, the ultimate goal, and it is that, but it also means a lot of work and more deadlines. All things I'm ready for, I think, but it will mean a change.

I've been a pre-published writer for so long I've become comfortable with the idea. My writing schedule is established and is, frankly, not very strenuous. If I do 'break in' I will have to devote a LOT more hours to writing than I do now, and the free and easy way in which I write will be replaced with deadlines and contract obligations.

Again, I believe I am ready for that but, if and when it does happen, my life is going to be a lot different than it is now.

Fortunately, I don't think I have a lot to worry about right now.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Now What?

I finished the rewrite of Postcards From Across the Pond yesterday. I didn't mean to. I was happily editing along, comfortable with my routine of getting on the bus, pulling out the AlphaSmart Dana and trying to make one or two of my humorous out-of-my-element articles funny, or at least more humorous. There was a vague notion that, once this process finished it would be back to searching for agents and writing queries but I didn't really believe it would happen.

Then the words 'The End' came in sight. They didn't need editing, so I turned off the Dana and thought, "Now What?"

I guess it's time to start gathering agent addresses again. This task was supposed to be done in parallel with the editing but, as I said, I really didn't expect to finish, at least not so soon. And what about the bus? What do I do there? Maybe I can actually work on the novel. I tried that on the bus and it didn't work out very well but perhaps after all that practice with Postcards . . . it will work out.

But for now, a polish for Postcards . . . and it's back into the wild.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Writing Tools

I just bought a new computer. My current PC is five years old and slower than Jade Goodie trying to think of, well, anything. But I digress. What struck me was the difference in buying this new computer as opposed to PC purchases of the past.

The machine I eventually bought was a cheap, low-end Dell with as few bells and whistles as I could manage. In the past I always bought high-end computers to handle systems programming and heavy graphics. These days, however, I'm only interested in writing and wanted a computer that could handle word processing. Anything more would not only be a waste of money but a potential distraction.

In fact, I really don't do any writing on my computer. I use that for editing and managing my web site (and, of course, downloading porn). For putting one word next to another, I use an AlphaSmart. I first bought one when I was living in the States. They are brilliant, dead easy to use and practically indestructible. Don't let the fact that I managed to ruin mine put you off (it involved a sticky key, a can of WD-40 and the fact that I am still in need of adult supervision), you can throw them in a back pack and take them camping or to the sea shore or mountain climbing in Peru. They get 700 hours on three AA batteries and hold about 100 pages of text without having to off-load.

When I decided to begin taking my writing seriously, I ordered another AlphaSmart. Over the next two years I wrote my novel, dozens of articles and the Postcards . . . manuscript, all during the morning commute to my office.

Now that I am in rewrite mode, I bought a Dana, the next step up from the AlphaSmart. It's a bit more fiddly and gets about a tenth of the battery life (only 70 hours, compared to 7 minutes on a laptop) but it's still rugged and easy to use.

Both the AS and the Dana are instant on, and I like that. Press a button and it blinks on, not only to the document you were working on but to the very same place you left off. I consider them indispensable for my writing, as I rarely have the luxury of writing at home and I much prefer to write when and where the opportunity arises.

I didn't mean to turn this into an ad for AlphaSmart, it was supposed to be a discussion about writing tools and how, for a writer, less is usually more. So, I guess my point is, if you're thinking of buying a computer for writing, buy a cheap one, and use the money you save to buy an AlphaSmart.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Laying Bricks

I was just over at JA Konrath's blog and his most recent post was about advancing your career. He likened it to a marathon, and I think that's as good an analogy as any.

The main thrust of his post was, "what have you done today to advance your career?" That is the central question, isn't it? If you have a goal, any goal, every thing you do should be aimed at bringing you closer to it. Unfortunately, publishing a novel isn't the only goal I have, so my activities are not always as focused as they might be, especially when the realities of life get in the way.

Still, I managed to lay a few more bricks in this wall I am building.

Monday I worked on my novel. The opening of chapter four again. I have been a that thing for weeks and still can't get it right. Then, on the bus, I worked on Postcards . . . until my Dana shut down for no particular reason.

Tuesday I was on the road, but still managed a solid hour on Postcards . . . as well as some work on my next web post.

Wednesday, still on the road, I was up at 6 AM but an emergency at the office kept me busy until 9:30. After the meeting with the client I drove 5 hours and arrived home at 8 PM. I didn't write. Call me a wimp.

Thursday I drove to the office early to get some writing done before the day began but my day started the second I walked in the door. I took the bus home, however, so I managed a little time with my writing.

Today is Friday. Five days, 15 hours potential, 2.5 actual, so far.

I guess it's time to take another whack at chapter 4.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Another Chance

A new week, another chance to move my manuscripts ahead, or another chance to slack off.

I've been stuck on this one scene in my novel for about three weeks and I just wish I could get through it so I could being editing the rest of the book. I don't know why this section is taking so long but I am beginning to panic, thnking the entire book is going to go this slowly.

That being the case, I should finish sometime around 2056.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Virtual Community

Should writers bother with writing groups?

I've read conflicting views on the subject. Some successful writers have called them a waste of time and others say they would never have been published without them.

I lean toward the 'waste of time' argument.

Writers write. And all the while they are sitting in a circle congratulating each other on how good their writing is, they aren't producing any writing. All they are doing is contributing to a mutual admiration society.

But that's just my opinion.

I joined a writer's group once. It was painful. There were quite a few members; they were all enthusiastic but many of them plowed their energy into self-publishing and winning awards and talking about what they had 'published' and what awards they had won. The evening couldn't end soon enough. I never went back.

So what's a writer to do? I think the new technology favors us. Blogging, and being part of a blogging community is, in my opinion, as valuable as being in a writer's group. More so.

In the time I have been lurking about and sampling the blogs of writer's both published and unpublished (let's call them prepublished--yeah, I like that, I'm a prepublished author!) I have gleaned valuable advice and insight on both the craft of writing and the business of becoming and staying published.

The other thing I've noticed is, unlike an actual writing group, this virtual community interacts by writing. How perfect is that? I get to start the day reading a few writing-specific pep-talks and priming my own pump by composing a quick post.

That shifts me into writing mode quicker than listening to Mary read a poem about her petunias.

Real Life

Everyone's busy, but if you want to be a writer you need to make time to write. That's a fact.

My own writing schedule is fairly ambitious: up at 5 AM, check blogs, post, start working on my novel rewrite by 6 AM. Knock off at 6:45 AM and catch the bus to the office. Work on my 'Postcards . . .' manuscript from 7 AM until 8 AM. On the return trip, I have another hour to tidy up whatever I was working on in the morning, compose an article for the web site or just read. Still, on a good day (allowing for some slippage), that's two and a half hours of quality writing time, or 12 1/2 hours per work week.

So how many hours did I clock over the past seven days? Three and one quarter hours.

How did I become such a slacker?

Every day seems to provide an excuse, an emergency or (in one case) dead batteries with no backups (doh!) that conspire to keep me from writing. But that's just bollocks! If I want to finish the novel and the manuscript, I have to work on them. End of story.

The only good news is, my output for this year is more than last year, and that was more than the year before (I don't slack off all the time) and each day provides a new opportunity to hit the mark.

But not today, I've got a report due, and I need to e-mail some friends and . . .

Friday, February 03, 2006


Another day, another writing session spent tinkering with the blog. At least I'm still moving forward with the Postcards . . . manuscript. The editing for that, because it's accomplished one article at a time, doesn't seem quite as daunting as editing my novel.
Also, I've started a new article for my web site, so that helps me feel more like a writer than an editor. Last year I did nothing but sling words on paper, now, with two complete manuscripts, I'm doing nothing but shuffling words around. I don't feel like a writer, more like an editor.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Tidy up

I've spent the time I was supposed to be writing tidying up the blog. Now I remember why I got rid of the prototype.

Hopefully, the links and style will now satisfy me and I'll be able to simply post and get on with life (i.e. writing).