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12 Books in 12 Months

writing books and blogging about it

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mslexia

Are You A Sexist Reader? #IWD2017

When you pick up a book, do you think about the gender of the author?

Continue reading “Are You A Sexist Reader? #IWD2017”

The Make Time To Write At Any Cost Diaries (day 2)

This week I am making a concerted effort to find and protect my writing time, because life has gotten on top of me recently and all I’ve really done is make a couple of Vines. This is day two…

7.56am haul myself out of bed, late again. Tomorrow I will put my phone on the other side of the room so I can’t hit snooze.

7.58am Realise I am going to have to make a decision between coffee and removing the onion smell (if you’re not sure what I’m talking about, read yesterday’s post). Fall to knees screaming ‘noooooo!’ Choose to shower because I work in an open plan office and don’t particularly want everyone in it to spend the day sniffing the air going ‘what is that?’

8.20am wrangle with some hair related angst. When exactly are you too old to do your hair in two plaits? It is a worry.  There again, I have the stylistic tendencies of a 9 year old girl in most other respects – I probably shouldn’t fight it.

8.30am read a tweet on my way out of the door claiming that Sarah Waters redrafts things up to 34 times before sending to an agent or publisher. Nobody should live at that speed. Seriously, I’ll be dead by the time I’ve done that many redrafts.

6pm get home. Open post, drink some water, consider going for a jog.

6.40pm head out for a jog.  Just call me Haruki Murakami.

8pm congratulate self on not dying. Open up my shiny new copy of Mslexia for some ‘sit down and write’ inspiration.

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8.15pm my brother comes round for a visit (and to collect a phone charger. Multitasking). We catch up over some minstrels.

9.25pm brother heads home. I sit and finish drafting an application for a mentoring project. This involves 20 minutes of editing fiction! Result!

10.55pm write a blog post about how incredibly well I’m doing. 20 minutes in one day!  With momentum like this, who needs writing retreats…

Time for Reflection

“How do you feel, now that it’s nearly over?”

Fraudulent, I think, but I don’t say that.  I smile sheepishly and go with something vague like “oh, I haven’t really got that far yet… Ask me in January.”

Eagle-eyed readers might have noticed that it’s January now, so I suppose I’ll have a go at answering that question from the perspective of four days hindsight.

I still feel a little bit fraudulent.

Continue reading “Time for Reflection”

A Reading

Yesterday was the busiest I’ve ever had on the 12 books blog, which is lovely, so I hope people liked it enough to come back.  If you are visiting for the first time and would like to know what on earth is going on, you can read a quick overview on IdeasTap or a slightly longer evaluation of the journey so far on Mslexia.

Meanwhile here is a reading from book seven, which you may remember is aimed at kids and is about a grumpy wizard called Snooky Jim, a slightly batty cat lady called Amelia Trousers, and a young lad called Chris who is well brung up and usually eats his greens.  I wrote this yesterday and have just done one take, so it’s literally just me reading off a bit of paper.  But it’s pretty short, so that’s a bonus…  And anyway if you don’t like it you can’t be mean cause it’s my birthday, so there.

Got An Agent Yet?

As regular readers are hopefully aware, I am trying to write a book every month with a vague future aim of publication and possible literary stardom.

One question I am asked on an occasional basis (by two people, but they have asked multiple times so I deem it pertinent) is “HAVE YOU GOT AN AGENT YET?”

The answer to this is no, and I can tell you for why.

Continue reading “Got An Agent Yet?”

Half Way There

Hello Dear Readers.

This is the last day of book six, so naturally I’ve been frantically catching up using my breaks at work and all of this evening to boot.  Except of course I haven’t, because I am knackered.  I was reading Caitlin Moran’s new book in my break at work (very funny so far), and when I got home I ate some biscuits and watched Hollyoaks.  Hollyoaks!  Not even the news, or a re-run of Friends, or anything else remotely watchable!  I am clearly a feeble wreck of a woman, in need of about sixteen hours of sleep.

To that end, I am about to retire.  (To bed, obviously.  I can’t retire from work til I’m about 70, or haven’t you been keeping abreast of the strikes?  I don’t blame you, it’s something to do with Michael Gove wanting kids to learn history in chronological order.  Except that isn’t what it’s about at all.  But he does think that.).   However, before I go, I feel the urge to sate your insatiable thirst for knowledge about how it’s all going.  So, CLICK HERE to read the last of my guest posts for Mslexia Magazine, in which I evaluate the project thus far and cunningly explain it to new readers at the same time.

Thank you, and good night.

Not-Quite-Half-Way Evaluation

Last night at around 11.15pm I decided that it was time to call it quits on book five and get myself some sleep.  I battered out a few paragraphs to remind myself what I wanted the last couple of chapters to entail, and set about organising my packed lunch for work.  Tuna salad, for those who are nosey about such things…

The word count stands at 30323, and I think it’ll end end up around 36,000 by the time the first draft is finished.  This means that overall this year, I’ve written 165,585 words of fiction across 151 days.  That averages out at 1096.6 words per day, although there have been days when I haven’t written anything at all, and a few when I’ve done 10k in one go.  Averages, dear reader, are relative.

Continue reading “Not-Quite-Half-Way Evaluation”

Q&A with Ian Collings

This week I’m chatting to Shropshire based writer Ian Collings, who tweets as @ibc4 and blogs at Take One Step Back.  I’ve split this email into a Q&A format.

Which part of the writing process (condensed as it is into such a short period) do you find the hardest?  The editing? Re-writing? 

Because the writing process is condensed into such a short period with this project, editing and re-writing don’t actually get a look in.  Not yet, anyway.  The plan was to leave all the drafts for a minimum of 3 months before going back to look over them, but so far I haven’t had the time to go back and start editing any.  The hardest part of the writing process with this is therefore the purely practical aspect of fitting in writing time – when I sit down and do it, it’s a race against time to get the words out there so I just write and write, even if some of it’s nonsense.  These first drafts are littered with asides like “she said, by way of exposition,” which all add to the word count!  But generally speaking I think editing and re-writing are much harder work.

Secondly, have you ever wanted to ‘throw in the towel’ and walk away from  twelve books in twelve months?  Or, rather just concentrate on one through to publication there and then?
So far I haven’t wanted to walk away from the project at any point, although I’ve had to let go of the notion that I’ll make the 50k word count every time.  I think because I haven’t given myself the opportunity to get bored of it or even to get stuck by overthinking (there’s no time to think, after all!) that’s made it quite easy to keep going.  If I was reading back over it all the time I’d probably feel a crushing sense of doom about how much work there is still left to do on all of them, but the no-editing rule means I can just go yeah, I’ve written most of a book, go me! Now onto the next one!
How have other writers supported you? Have any derided your ‘project’?
Nobody has derided the project, although Debbie Taylor (Editor of Mslexia and author of The Fourth Queen) was a bit disbelieving when I told her about it at first.  She tends to write for a maximum of about a fortnight before having to take a break from it.  I haven’t really talked to a lot of authors about it yet though, although my intention is to do a series of author interviews on how they approach writing for book 13 (the one where I write about writing 12 books in 12 months).  Ian Rankin wished me luck on Twitter at the very beginning, which was kind of him, and I know from an interview I read with him that he drafted the first Rebus book in about a month – the difference there being that he didn’t then do the next 11 in quick succession, I guess!

I’ve had a lot of support from other people though, especially on Twitter.  The general consensus seems to be that it’s a slightly mad thing to do, but in a good way!

And finally, for today only, if you could take the credit for writing any book from the last hundred years, which would it be? Which of your current works in progress most resemble it?
The book I’d like to take credit for writing… brilliant question.  A difficult one, as well – there are lots.  I think maybe The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusack, because it was so clever and well written and made me cry – which is really rare, actually.  None of my books resemble it in the slightest, though!

Inspiration

A second email from Elaine of Dreams and Whispers fame.

Next I would like to find out a bit more about your inspiration for the twelve books – did you already have ideas before you started, or are you taking it book by book and seeing what develops for each one? As you write, do you find that most of your theme/plot/character ideas are coming from things you encounter in life, people you meet, your imagination, or somewhere else?

I had a few ideas before starting, many of which are laid out on the ‘Get Involved‘ page and in the Facebook photo album.  I went into it with the hope that members of the public would challenge me by giving me different suggestions to incorporate as I went along, giving the project a more interactive feel but also forcing me to plan things so that I’d include all their ideas.

As it happens, I think a lot of people find it intimidating to have me say ‘just suggest anything at all’.  For instance with book 2, where I got suggestions from staff at The Byre Theatre in St Andrews, basically everything I got was anecdotal stuff about working in a theatre.  Nobody seemed interested in motive, murder weapon, or red herrings, and I ended up going on Twitter when I’d already started writing to ask people to suggest names for characters I’d just invented.  This meant that the book developed much more out of my own brain than I think I expected.

At the other extreme, with the Western story I got a very in depth story suggestion from someone, but I ended up not using it because it would have required an awful lot of historical research on my part – the suggester obviously knew quite a bit of the history of the west and had some very specific ideas, which frankly I felt a bit dodgy about using!  So hopefully he will write it himself one day!  It helped me though, because when I read it I realised that a traditional story like that was the exact opposite of what I wanted to do, and came up with what I think was quite a strong idea to work from.

For paranormal romance I think the only suggestion I got was a name and occupation for the central character.  I used the name, Jennifer, but changed the occupation very slightly.  I hadn’t planned for it to be paranormal to begin with, and was hoping to do quite a bittersweet story.  I changed my mind to challenge myself – I’ve never quite got the appeal of paranormal romance and have slagged it off a bit, so I thought why not put my money where my mouth is and see if I can do any better.  With all that dithering, though, it probably wouldn’t have made a difference if people had suggested things or not – I had a definite, but at the same time very woolly, plan!

This month is fantasy, and I’ve had a couple of pretty good suggestions for that – clearly it’s a genre that readers of this blog can relate to!  But even then they’re basically character suggestions, so it’ll be me that thinks of the plot, dialogue, narrative and so on.  That sounds like a complaint – it isn’t!  I love making things up – this would be a very strange project to be doing if I didn’t.

I am definitely taking it book by book.  I have to, really.  So far there hasn’t been time to plan any further ahead than that, and in most cases I’ve not even written an outline till I’ve got about 20k in.

None of my characters are directly based on anyone real, but there are elements of dialogue and characterisation which do draw a lot from encounters I’ve had or exchanges I’ve heard in real life.  The first line of my first book, for instance, was, “Nah mate, that’s lies!” because it was something I heard every single day from the kids that came in to my place of work.  For some reason most of my settings have been Scotland so far as well, although that was quite unintentional.

Having said that, I don’t think there’s a huge amount of point in ‘writing what I know’ verbatim.  I recently read an interview with Susan Hill in Mslexia Magazine where she pointed out that the whole point of reading fiction was to escape from the mundanity of every day life, so of course you should write everything from the imagination.  Who really cares about a character who is trying to make it as a freelance journalist whilst also writing fiction and occasionally arguing with her boyfriend about whose go it is to do the dishes?!  But occasionally real stuff bleeds through – hopefully funny, insightful or interesting things, though!

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