30 September 2012


The clocks went forward this weekend for Daylight Savings, and while it has officially been spring for a few weeks it does feel like it now. Right on cue the weather put on a stunning weekend, and the local beach and ice cream shops have been busy. 

In Auckland we enjoy a temperate climate, and so the variation between the seasons isn’t so great. Most of the trees are green all year, and some plants that only flower in summer in colder climates manage to bloom for most of the year, but it is still good to see the spring flowers making their entrance.

I recall walking through a short stretch of woods to school and enjoying the bluebells that gave the wood its name. In Cyprus there would be a short rainy season at the beginning of the year, and what was usually dry desert-like expanses would turn into fields of glorious yellow flowers overnight. In Wales, daffodils are a national emblem and during Spring they bloom in every available space. It is a glorious time of year.

I’ve been busy plotting and writing, and enjoying feeling of progress, even if it isn’t especially noticeable in word count (an amount of murdering my darlings has been taking place). 

A friend and I were discussing the impetus of deadlines the other day, most especially those created for no other reason than a date. As we celebrate Christmas during the summer, the schools are closed for the long summer break and families take additional leave from work.  With so many people away that means work projects don’t really take-off until February, and then speed up through the year. November and early December are usually frantic, and so by the time Christmas comes everyone is glad to have some time off. It is understandable as people want to finish projects before the summer break, and start something new when they return. 

Even though the New Year is just a date, it is also quite an impetus for finishing things off and starting something new. In that light I’d like to think my current WIP would be finished by that time – whether it’s manageable I’m not sure, but I’m working on it.

24 September 2012

When Things Get Bad

Last week was one of ‘those’ weeks. The car was playing up and had to go into the garage for some work. My laptop had a meltdown and ultimately had to be rebuilt, quite a major when it’s my livelihood. There were a couple of other things, but you get the picture. 

I kept telling myself that in the scheme of things it could be much worse, no deadly diseases had reared their heads, and sometimes life throws these things at you to remind you how good you’ve got it.

It also got me thinking about the characters in Lies of the Dead (my current WIP). I’m throwing lots of problems their way, but mostly they are to do with the main conflict. Life doesn’t work like that. We don’t live in a vacuum, and major traumas happen along with the smaller problems in our lives. At the moment my main character Tom has lots of serious problems to solve because of the main conflict, but his everyday life is going along smoothly, and characters there aren't causing him problems. Hah, things are about to change Tom!

While our characters may be going through some major crisis or trauma, it won’t be the only thing on their mind. They will also be thinking about the problems they had before that started. They still have their work deadlines, burst pipe and broken down car. The main conflict may be uppermost in their mind, but so will the argument with their partner/child/neighbour/work colleague, the unpaid bills, and the undesirable boyfriend their daughter has just taken up with.

Oh yes, let’s make it really bad.

17 September 2012

Losing Your Way

How long to write a book - A couple of months ago I had a look through my word count stats for Driftwood and Lives Interrupted, and thought back to when I wrote them. What made the difference between the parts that hung around for ages, and the parts that flowed?

A plan and some goals, not to mention a deadline. However, I'm sure the deadline wouldn't have been met without the plan and goals.

I looked at my stats because I've had a partially written first draft of another novel hanging around for a couple of years. To be honest I'd lost my way. I knew the destination, but not how to get there, and I thought the idea was good to keep going rather than file away. 

I had a limited amount of time to work on it before a new work project started, and I was determined to finish this first draft.

So a plan and some goals were needed.

My first problem was the block of what happens in the second half. My daughter read what I had so far and then we brainstormed. She came up with ideas that were way more leftfield than I'd come up with. Things that didn't work for what I knew of the characters, BUT the important thing with brainstorming is not to reject ideas without looking closely at them. I reined in some of those ideas, just a little, and in taking them in different directions I had my breakthrough. Still not a complete journey, but I was on my way.

Step two of the plan involved outlining those ideas, and moving around what I already had to slot in the new scenes, and in doing that more ideas came. Phew!

The next part was familiar - a mixture of new writing, rewriting, and the delete key on parts that just didn't stack up or pull their weight.

I now have a draft and a plot that runs through from A-Z. A skeleton with meat on some of the bones.

When I find myself procrastinating over things it's usually because I don't have a plan and goals. I also find a deadline helps as well, even if it has to be self-imposed sometimes.

Writing is, and should be, a pleasure. Something I enjoy and look forward to. However, it becomes something entirely different when I don't see progress. If that's how you feel about it, then look at what your goal is and set some realistic stepping stones to reaching it. And this isn't just for writing either, it works for anything you want to achieve.

I think how I feel when I've been putting off a job I dislike and how it hangs over me, and then how good I feel once I've completed the it. 

14 September 2012

Time Goes By...

Little people view time very differently to taller people. 
'Are we nearly there yet? How long will it be?' 
'Half an hour.' 
'How long's half an hour?'

Another conversation.
'Can we get on the plane yet?' 
Once on the plane. 'When it's taking off?' 
Once in the air. 'When will we be there?' 
'An hour.' 
'How long's an hour?'   
And so it goes.

I'm mostly an organised person, and was born with, or acquired at a very early age, an aversion to being late for appointments, meetings, planes, trains or similar. I have no problem turning up late(ish) for informal social gatherings, though my husband has difficulty with even the possibility of lateness for anything *sigh.* 

Time is a very fluid substance - holidays fly by, a job you dislike doing takes ages. The little people think that December goes by soooo slowly, while adults feel the opposite.

Truth is we each have 24 hours in every day, minus the 6-8 hours we spend in bed. It's how we allocate and use our waking hours that makes the difference.

Years ago I used to teach a time management, clean desk/office course so I know all the talk, though that doesn't necessarily correlate to perfect actions. 

I wouldn't win a gold medal for procrastination, but I'd be a good contender for bronze. There are good days when productivity is high, and there are those, let's just call them, not so good days.

What's the difference between them? 

A plan and some goals. They can make the difference between activity and productivity.

10 September 2012


I took time over the weekend to enjoy the daffodils and freesias in the garden, and the magnolia in bloom nearby. Spring is a wonderful time of year, full of new life and unlimited possibilities. Auckland has a sub-tropical climate and mostly evergreen trees. In autumn the few trees that shed their leaves do so against a backdrop of green, but today I did spot a few trees nearby with new buds and some obligatory lambs in a field.

If I stop to think about the fact that it's September then the spring feeling does seem a little strange. After living so many years in the northern hemisphere it takes time to rearrange your year, and look forward to summer from December through to March.

I'm sure I'm not the only person who is affected by the weather outside my window. A clear blue sky and a warm sunny day makes me feel good, and it's harder to find that deeply buried well of enthusiasm on a cold, damp day.

When writing scene settings I make every effort not to sound like a weather forecast, but weather is a great mood setter, and don't forget your characters may be as affected by it as I am.

03 September 2012

Making Notes

In the last post I talked about giving readers context in our writing, but we need to give ourselves context as well.

Like most writers I always have a notebook with me for writing down ideas, snippets of conversation, or descriptions of things I see. At the time the scene is clear and I think I will always remember it, but unfortunately it doesn't always work that way. 

On my last two visits to the UK, and London in particular, I made copious notes for Lives Interrupted. The first trip occurred as I was planning the book, and the second while I was editing, so my notes were very specific to that book. In addition I wrote down other things I found interesting, but with no real idea of when, or if, they would come in useful. For these types of musings you need to note down clearly the important points, and the date and place could also be useful. A cryptic note will not be of much use four or five years down the track, I know because I've spent hours trying to recall what some of my own more cryptic comments meant. 

In contrast I also have some lovely descriptions and dialogue that act like a photograph in reminding me of the happenings of a day, or a person that I've seen, but never met.

I recently used a notebook entry in a short story. The original note was made about six years ago, so make the notes clear, and don't worry if it takes time before you find a use for them.