Beta Reading Group call out

I am looking for 4-6 fantasy readers/writers to read my current manuscript. It will be ready to go out by mid August.

You must be a fantasy reader or writer, constructive and clear and able to respond within six weeks of receiving the manuscript. If you think this is you please email me (email address on my contact page).

All my friends are having babies

My baby
My baby

It has been one of those weeks where it seems that all of my friends are having babies. And it has caused a little jealousy monster to rear its head. Not that my baby isn’t gorgeous (pictured – although now 8 she thinks she is all grown up) or that I really want another. But it is that strange case of wanting what others have, just because they have it.

When I was younger (and married) I wanted a whole tribe of children but things did not work out that way. And now that it is just the two of us I’m quite happy with the life we have and it would have been a lot different if it were me and four kids…

Sometimes I look at family units and wonder what it would be like. Just as I look at those beautiful novels in the bookshop window and wonder what it would be like if it were my book there, my name in large letters for all to see, someone saying, “Oh, the next Makalani is out, I must read that!”

I would like to think that I am older and wiser now. I know that wishing alone will not bring me what I want. My books aren’t in the shop windows and my handsome prince has not ridden up to support me through my writing life by ferrying the kids around in the minibus and doing all the cooking.

Sometimes we need to dream a little. If we didn’t where would the stories come from? Where would the goals come from? But dreaming is not enough to get us there.

So instead of allowing my dreams to get me down, I use them.

To write the family life I think I might have wanted. Write as the author I want to be and continue to do that until I can see my name on the cover of a novel, or two, or series…

My actions are dream powered, are yours?

The Heart of the Family

Image courtesy of Louise Docker via Wikimedia Commons
Image courtesy of Louise Docker via Wikimedia Commons

My new schedule already appears to be out the window…but it’s not for lack of trying.

On Friday (the 13th of all days) my uncle received a new heart. At least a second hand heart that replaced the pump powered one he had.

He has been waiting a long time for this and on Friday the excitement level was high. Then we slowly realised that this was not going to be the quick fix we had dreamed of and that the road to recovery was going to be long, assuming all went well on Friday.

Needless to say it has been a very long few days since. In fact, Friday seems like years ago, and he is not based locally so we couldn’t all be there. And I’m an over-thinker so I must have played out every possible scenario (twice) between phone calls.

It is a waiting game now…and so far it looks good. So while I wait I might try to loss myself in an alternate world of my own making…

Mid-Year Goal Check

 

Image courtesy of Pauline Eccles via Wikimedia Commons (originally published geography.org.uk 2009)
Image courtesy of Pauline Eccles via Wikimedia Commons (originally published geography.org.uk 2009)

As we approach the shortest day of the year (or the longest for those lucky folk experiencing warm weather) it is a reminder that the year is racing past. We might be at the half way mark, but are we half way to our goals for the year?

There is a lot I had on my list of goals for the year, but at the moment I’m trying to be a little less goal focused. Not because I don’t want to achieve but because I was killing myself with the guilt of not achieving, or meeting deadlines and plans and goals.

It might be time to revisit that list of goals: to check that the right path is being followed, they are your goals and not someone else’s, and not a list so long that it cannot possibly be achieved in a year.

My goals changed very early on this year as I decided this was the year to focus on making writing my life, not just writing around my life.

I have already reached one goal – to complete my Master of Arts (Creative Writing). It was hard work but worth every moment and I’ll be displaying my testamur prominently when it arrives.

I have refocused on my fantasy novel. I wanted to get the first draft of my next novel underway but I knew that it wouldn’t happen. It is no good starting the next one when I haven’t finished this one. I have been spending some time planning so it will be easier when I do start drafting.

I have created a website and started my blog, which is still a work in progress and I’m learning all the time. My initial plan was to blog once a week and there have been times when this was a bit difficult. After some reading and refocusing I have decided to try to write more frequently, so far increasing my posts to two a week.

I worry that I’m not reading enough but I’m reading more non-fiction this year. I’m certainly on my way to reaching my quota, just not by fiction. It was what I needed this year to help me on my way.

And I’m working hard at the gym, trying to eat well and slowly moving towards my goal weight. Like anything it is a matter of putting my all into it. That doesn’t mean all my time; I can’t be at the gym 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. But I can ensure I am fully focused when I am there. And I take that commitment into my writing, ensuring that when I sit down to write my writing has my full focus.

I recently sat at the kitchen island typing away knowing that there was a large, and very hairy, huntsman spider watching my every move from the pantry door behind me. As scared as I was I knew the writing was more important and focusing on that I forgot the spider was even there until someone else got up and found it. They then very kindly helped it outside for me. There was a time when that would have put me off completely and I would have gone back to bed. But knowing I can deal with such big distractions makes it easier to deal with the little ones.

In my review of my 2014 goals I haven’t tweaked that much.

Refocusing my goals has helped refocus me. I know I’m on the right path. I know what I will achieve this year and where that will lead me next year.

As the solstice approaches do you find yourself half way down the 2014 goal track? Or have you wandered from the path? Refocusing your goals might be just what you need to continue your journey.

Short Stories

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I mentioned last time that I was playing with the idea of pulling a collection of short stories together.

Usually I would describe myself as a writer of longer stories – novel length. I struggled with the short story feeling it wasn’t enough words to tell the whole story. I couldn’t really see the story as finished after several thousand words. The characters lived on, their stories continued and evolved. How could I stop writing?

For my recent Masters course most of my assessment was by short story. This was a huge learning curve for me. No matter what I thought was best for the characters or the story, I needed to work out how to confine the narrative within the confines of the short story. The university setting offered great support for this learning with the feedback from tutorial groups and tutors.

At the end of the course I have a small pile of reasonable stories that I would like to do something with – but what?

I submitted one (yes, only one) to a fantasy magazine but the readers found it too ambiguous. From my recent reading about self-publishing I now have more confidence in appealing to an audience. I quite enjoy a little ambiguity in my reading, I’m sure there are other such readers out there too.

Each story is quite different ranging across various forms of fantasy and science fiction. I am in the process of editing each one and writing another – that is part treat because it seems like forever since I got to draft some fresh fiction.

This is a real push for me to get some writing out there. It is challenging my self-confidence. I’m also looking at self-publishing the collection which is another challenge. This push into self-publishing is partly to see if I am right about my audience and to see if I can self-publish or whether I want to.

It is worth challenging yourself and pushing your boundaries because you never know what you may learn from the experience or what you may be able to achieve. I have discovered that short stories are worth the time and hopefully that I can tell a story in fewer words. What could you do to push your boundaries?

What have you done to really challenge yourself? What did you learn from that?

 

Image – Reading a book from Flikr – by ckaroli

Story Magic

magic-wand

I have been drafting a short story – just little bits when I can. The idea is that it will be one of the stories for a collection I’m playing with.

I seem to have spent so long editing and planning that I had forgotten how a story can unfold across the page. I have talked about trialling some planning/outlining for my next novel but I’m deliberately pantsing this one. It might be a bit disjointed and there are times when I worry about what should come next.

Knowing that I will need to rewrite parts, or most, of it hasn’t slowed the writing at all. The first four of five paragraphs will disappear without a thought. I used them as my introduction, to expand and explore the main character as an exercise in getting to know them and not required for the story. Really it was just a place to start, to get the words flowing and see where it went. And I have had some nice surprises along the way, even though I’m only a few pages in.

Sometimes I wonder why I’m doing all this…trying to write. Whether I am any good at it; whether I will ever be able to sell any of it or make some form of living from it. Then there are moments, like when I’m surprised by the words that flow across the page and I am reminded of the joy of writing.

And that is something to hold on to.

Allow yourself a little of the joy to keep you going when it seems a bit hard. Writing can be hard work. When it feels too hard I try to remember that I started writing because of the magic of the first draft. Where is your magic?

Taking Action on Your Goals

220px-Kepler_track_alpine_ridgeline

I have been focused on taking action on my writing goals over the last few weeks. Researching and exploring the reasons we don’t act on our goals. In particular I’ve been trying to determine why my own action taking cycles.

I am a planner.

Hang on, I hear you say, no she’s not, she’s a pantser. Yes, in my writing I am but otherwise I really love my lists and calendars and mindmaps and goals.

I think it is important to set our goals (in ink) and plan our time and set deadlines for ourselves.

This is not enough. To reach our goals we need to take action – to follow through with the plans and work through the lists.

Sometimes it can be hard to take action even for something we really want.

This inability to take action can be due to a number of reasons:

  • Energy levels
  • Motivation/inspiration
  • Fear
  • They are not the right goals
  • lost sight of goals
  • too many goals
  • Distraction
  • Lack of commitment
  • Failing to plan

 

Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading about how to move through these issues/problems to take action on my writing goals and write more.

I don’t want to be productivity focused – I know I can write more, I want to write more – so how do I do it?

Energy management – Knowing when you work best and working to that cycle. I have discussed this in greater detail here. Remember not to beat yourself up when your energy levels are low.

Fear – Whether it be fear of failure or fear of success or something in between, fear can be so overwhelming it can slow or halt all action.

Motivation – Are you working towards what you really want or what you think you want?

Too much or too little – Are you trying to achieve too much and just don’t have the time. Focus on what is most important to you first. Overwhelming yourself with too many goals will only stop you achieving.

Distractions – Understand what distracts you from taking action and find ways to reduce or remove those distractions.

I know that if I check my email before I do any writing of a morning then I can quite happily fill my whole writing time with reading emails and following up on links to articles and Facebook and so on.

Aware of this I don’t allow myself to even think about email or blogs until after dinner, or sometimes during lunch time at work. Even if I want to check for something, as soon as it is open I know my hour is lost.

 

Finding the tools to help you

  • Everyone is different – I have said this before when looking for tools for your toolbox; see what others are doing and what works for them and then take from them what will work for you.
  • Don’t be afraid to mix it up – take tools from various areas
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment – try something new and if it doesn’t work for you walk away, or change it to suit yourself.

 

This isn’t a complete list

There is far more that I could go into. And action taking is different for everyone. Some of you will find it easy to sit down and do what is needed; others will struggle even though you know taking action will get you closer to what you want.

Can it be that easy?  What does it take to be able to action your goals?

 

Image courtesy of Wiki commons