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12 Books in 12 Months

writing books and blogging about it

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temping

Pulling Out One’s Finger

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Strange wicker owl thingy says SORT YOUR LIFE OUT.

Not you personally, me. I’ve been in limbo since the end of August – I didn’t have a break after the fringe madness, just went straight back to full time temping, waiting for a reprieve that I recently discovered isn’t going to come.

So I spoke to the wicker owl thingy and it told me to stop whinging and get on with it. Some people, it pointed out, in a voice suspiciously like my sister’s, have no legs – and they get on with things just fine. It is time to sort out the flat (which is a tip), schedule some blog posts, get some scran* in and finish editing some of these freakin’ books. What’s more, it’s time to do it all flexibly, around the edges of life and without a set routine, because the perfect part time job is clearly not forthcoming and I’m likely going to temp till I die, sometimes full time and sometimes not. I must therefore be flexible, like some sort of female google CEO. I’ve started by writing this post on my phone moments before leaving the house.

Happy Monday to you all. I am off to work.

*scran means food, non-Scottish readers

Intermission

My life isn’t all about testing new methods of reading, oh no. I have a day job as well, and sometimes I get to forgo my lunch break there in order to attend glitzy media events as part of my freelance journalism career.

I say sometimes, but I actually mean this one time – last Tuesday, as a matter of fact.  The event in question was the official announcement of the shortlisted authors up for the Scottish Children’s Book Awards, organised by the Scottish Book Trust and held at the Scottish Storytelling Centre – which is conveniently just up the road from my current temp job.

The Scottish Book Trust are rather wonderful, I have to say.  They get children in every school across Scotland to vote in these awards, and two of the judges who whittled down the long list to the short were school kids themselves.  Precocious ones, at that – I salute you, Lorna and Daniel, for some spectacularly verbose speechifying.  I can only hope I was that erudite at thirteen (I wasn’t).

Oh, and I have to draw attention to the fact that the other judge, Duncan Wright, was voted school librarian of the year 2010.  I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a thing when I was in school, but I love the idea.  I wonder if you can nominate librarians after the fact?  Mine is retired now, but still fabulous.  I shall have to look into that.  School librarian lifetime achievement award in the post for S. Webb…

Anyway, the Scottish Book Trust do all sorts of amazing bits and pieces to get kids reading and to support Scottish authors; so having worked with kids and currently being a writer I feel totally justified in waxing sycophantic about them.  Back in my past life as a library person I was an ambassador for their Bookstart Rhymetime sessions (now called Bookbug), which means I have an extensive repertoire of nursery rhymes available to sing at a moment’s notice, not to mention some pretty sweet moves.  This is clearly one of the best life skills I have, although I still have questions about Peter Rabbit’s curly whiskers.*

I went along to this on behalf of The Edinburgh Reporter, and you can read my article about it here.  It borrows a bit from the press release because as I had to go back to work I couldn’t really hang about getting interviews.  As I said before, the world of freelance journalism is tres glamorous.  But with any luck 12 books will make me a literary star and one day freelance-temps will be re-writing press releases about how I was nominated for this award.

Better go do some writing, then…

*animals like rabbits have whiskers to help them measure spaces so they never get stuck – surely a curly whisker is no use for that?

My Daily Routine (or lack thereof)

In my ongoing quest to integrate You The Public more fully in the 12 Books process, this week I am answering questions from Elaine, who takes lovely photos and blogs over at Dreams and Whispers.

Elaine writes:

Firstly, I would like to know how you manage to fit so much writing into your daily routine! Do you find you can write better at certain times of the day, or do you stay up late to catch up with it? Do you need a quiet space and clean desk, or can you type amongst noise and chaos?

To be honest, I don’t always fit writing into my routine!

When I did that first book for NaNoWriMo last year I was working in Dalkeith and living in the New Town, which meant I was commuting an hour either way every day.  All I needed to do then was write on my phone when I was on the bus, so most days I found I’d reach my daily word count before I even got home.  It was mega easy to keep on top of it then because it was just part of my routine.

In January, the legendary time that 12 Books began, I was off work all the time because I was house sitting for my parents for two weeks and my temp agency didn’t have any work that only lasted the fortnight I was available.  This meant that theoretically I had all the time I could possibly need to get into a routine, but in actual fact days went by where I didn’t write anything – although I was researching a lot (that first book, Caligula’s Blog, involved quite a lot of reading of history books on account of the fact I didn’t know a huge amount about Caligula).   There were a few days where I sat and did massive chunks of around 5k at a time to make up for it.

February was not a lot better in terms of routine, because my temp agency didn’t have anything for me till nearly the end of the month.  However there were days I didn’t do much because I was a bit depressed – I really hate being unemployed, not least because it means you have to live on cheese sandwiches or other similarly cheap foodstuffs, but also because being unemployed in a grey Edinburgh February in the coldest flat known to man… Well, it wasn’t conducive to 100% creativity.  On the days I did write, though, I was doing vast swathes – I think the most I did in one day was about 7k.  Which is a lot to do in one go and I dread to think what I’ll make of it when I go back to edit.

In March and April I had the luxury of being in the same job the whole time, and I’ll be in the same one for May and June too. The wonders of temping.  This means I work 4 days a week and have 3 off.  However, because my workplace is within walking distance of my house (about 1.5 miles), I don’t have commuting time to write, and depending on how busy we are it can take quite a lot out of you so that when you get in at night you don’t particularly want to hunch over Word on your own in the bedroom.

What I try to do is write during my breaks – the time everyone else in the office goes on Facebook! – and on Mondays and weekends, pending social engagements and what have you. But because I do a lot of other stuff too (writing for various websites being the main thing) I’ve found that admin Monday and random times at the weekend isn’t really enough, so today I’ve sat down and planned out my time in as detailed a way as I can manage, with the specific aim of incorporating both writing and reading time every day.  I doubt whether I’ll stick to it religiously, but I’ll try!

I sometimes have a dedicated workspace, but it’s our spare room and currently my sister is staying in it.  Over the past month or two I’ve just worked wherever I can – often sitting cross legged on the bed which is doing my back no favours, or at the kitchen table which is better but opens me up to the distraction of chatting to housemates about the latest developments on Judge Judy.  (In case you’re interested, there are no new developments on Judge Judy – it’s the same every single time.)

It’s definitely easier to get stuff done in a quiet, dedicated area, but if that’s not possible I find that even going along to a coffee shop can help me get stuff done –  particularly if you resist the temptation to ask for the wifi password!  I am pretty adept at tuning out noise and chaos, but it’s harder when writing fiction.  I can edit an interview together or draw a picture in front of the telly; sometimes I can tune it out enough to do blog posts and job applications; and other times I can even tune it out enough to read a book, but I can’t write fiction like that at all.  Stories definitely require me to curb my multi-processing ways to an extent.  I can zone out the hubub of background conversation in a coffee shop, but not the laughter track on Friends.  Not sure why.

In terms of best time of day to write, I’d be inclined to say I work better either first thing in the morning or last thing at night… but I do have the odd burst of afternoon brilliance ;p  When I wake up on a weekend at 8.30am or some such annoyingly respectable time, I’ll quite often bash out 2000 words or so and then faff about for basically the rest of the day.  Well, not faff exactly, but I’ll do blog posts and set up interviews for sites I volunteer for, and I’ll go on Twitter and read links to tips for authors or weary articles about the current state of publishing; or do other writing related things that are relevant but could realistically wait till later.

Then during the week, when I come in from work I’ll be tired and find myself doing lots of other boring domestic stuff and suddenly at 9.30 I’ll be ready to do an article or some novelling and I’ll carry on with it till midnight.  Then I’ll be grumpy cause I won’t get enough sleep.  Oops.

Still, only 8 months to go!

Confession

You may have guessed from the comparative blog silence that book 3 has been going pretty slowly.

I am currently out of the house at my temp job between 7.30 and 5.30 Tuesday-Friday, which gives me evenings, weekends and Mondays for this and other stuff.  Unfortunately I am juggling a bit more of the other stuff than usual at the moment.

For instance,  I said to STV Local “sure, I’ll profile all 21 bands involved in the Sick Kids Charity CD I wrote about for you” – which means setting up interviews with 21 bands, and trying to ask them all slightly different questions so that all the articles don’t wind up being the same. This means quite a bit of prep, and of course it takes time to write these things up.

I had another article commissioned by IdeasTap too, but the interviewee is very busy and hasn’t had time to answer my second round of questions – so essentially I can only file when there’s a gap in her schedule, which almost certainly won’t coincide with gaps in mine.

I’m also supposed to be setting up weekly Ten Tracks blogposts, which will hopefully get done today, and likewise I think I’m overdue a Mslexia update (although the onus is on me – there’s no set pattern agreed for those).  I’m also awaiting the answers from an email interview for an article for The Edinburgh Reporter, and need to send out some more for a different article I’d intended to have done for this week.

I’ve blown off several social events to give myself writing time, but it hasn’t been enough.  I think that logically, sleep now has to go!

Today being Monday 21st, if I was sticking in any way to the 2k daily word target I should be on 42, 000 words – barely any to go before 50k.  As it is, my word count is 8, 519.

If I can bash out 3,771 words a day between now and the end of the month it’ll be fine – theoretically that should only take a couple of hours because I know what I’m doing with the story and when I’m in the zone I type pretty fast.  But where to find those daily 2-3 hours?  In evenings this week I have at least 3 face to face interviews to do, which means travelling to various bits of Edinburgh, so maybe I can get some done on the bus – depending how much interview prep I’ve managed to get through already.  And I can do some in my lunch breaks, I guess.

I’ve also got to go to a gig on Thursday, because most of the bands I need to catch up with will be there; and a cocktail party on Friday because several people I blew off last weekend will be there and I can’t do it again.  The point of this project is universal adulation, not pissing off all my friends and acquaintances…

So anyway, I’m finding it a bit hard to get book-writing time shoehorned into my schedule just now (and don’t even get me started on reading time, because it makes me feel sad), but I’m going to schedule a few #WIP type posts from the meagre amount I do have for this week so that I don’t leave you hanging.  Next weekend I think there’s going to have to be a night of writing dangerously.

Also, if anyone has any thoughts on how to pre-empt the intevitable RSI that my writing lifestyle is surely going to cause before the end of 2011, do leave a comment!

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