Blog

From ‘Zero’ to ‘Hero’ in Two Days

Hello, all you lovely people, and thanks for reading. Why am I so excited?

I have set the date for my debut novel to be sent to an editor!

By Sunday 13th May, the manuscript will have started to stitch together in (somewhat) the right places. I’ll send it out into the world, to be marked through with red pen, on most lines, on every page.

That’s next-level terrifying, but we’ll get there. I promise.

The reason I have a date with the editor? I pumped out half a draft of editing (that’s 21 chapters) in two days.

Yep – in two days. I broke my brain and both retinas, but there you go.  I nudged the floodgates open and rode that tide of inspiration, or denial, or stubbornness. Probably that last one.

I heaved into my chair on Saturday morning, knowing I was two weeks behind. I pulled out on Sunday two whole weeks ahead. And now, the fifth draft of my debut novel sits gleaming in a folder on my computer.

When you’re lagging by two weeks, it doesn’t seem possible. I’m here to encourage you to shoot high. It is possible. I used to hate deadlines, but now they’re my best weapon. I love to dust them off, just to gloat at the universe; “Hey you, universe! Yes, you. This is something I can control. So there.”

You know what I’m talking about, right? No? Then don’t be a goose. Figure out what you’d like to achieve, then set yourself a deadline. This is my number one trick for getting words on paper and massaging them into something legible. The pressure of time.

So, buckle up. I invite you to travel the home stretch with me, your head lolling out the passenger side window as we rumble down that highway. Let’s see where this outlandish route takes us.

Hopefully, not hurtling over a cliff at 100km per hour. Nah, that won’t happen. Or will it? *cues next month’s update*

Yours in creativity,

Jackie

Ps: Feeling inspired? Excited? Have a burning question for a nearly-published debut novelist? Join the ride and sign up at the top of this page. Take that, Facebook algorithm! Email rules.

Keeping it Real

Please excuse me while I take some time out, to talk about this thing called writing, and this thing called life.

A few people have been following my publishing journey, which has been fantastic (massive shout out to anyone who’s read, liked or shared this blog. I am truly humbled).

However, some of these readers have assumed I’m doing well, based on my newsletter updates and blog posts.

I realise I’m posting only the rosy, only the good. Most of us are guilty of this, and I’m only human. After all, who feels like writing a blog post when life is shitty?

And writing – like everything else in life – means ecstatic times, and tough times, and times when I’d like to un-publish this blog and live my remaining days as a hermit in a cave in the pristine forests of Tasmania. Yes, that would be nice.

So I’d like to keep it real. Sometimes we forget to post the whole picture, the authentic journey, and I don’t want to mislead anyone. Life is not a series of happy snaps on social media.

This writing gig is hard. I mean, it’s really, really hard. If it were easy, everyone would have a fantasy series about boy wizards under their belt and would post a witty blog post every single day.

Does that happen in real life? Nope.

So while I may post that I’ve hit another milestone, or surpassed another deadline, most of that is only possible because I’m at my desk, bum in chair, chiselling out page after page, even if I don’t feel like it.

Case in point; I’m currently sitting at my dining room table (aka writing desk) typing furiously until my fingers cramp. On a Saturday night. I’m a real hoot.

So, is it all worth it? Absolutely. But just because I’m not whingeing, doesn’t mean life’s not sometimes a struggle.

There are days where I feel like the little ant in the picture above (look closely, he’s tiny), and I’m carrying a pile of stuff way heavier than my body.

Because whatever you’re into in life, if it’s something you have to work hard at, chances are it’s important to you. We’re all battling in our own ways, balancing busy lives, and only posting the rosy moments. Just know, that’s not the whole story, so let’s keep it real!

Yours in creativity,

Jackie

Ps: To hear behind-the-scenes shenanigans I don’t share on my site, or to keep informed on all the latest blog posts, please sign up at the very top of this page. More goodies to be released soon!

30 Miraculous Mornings

If you’ve been following my blog posts, you’ll know that I challenged myself to wake up early every day for the previous 30 days, and write (as well as meditate, read and exercise, amongst other things).

I have a day job, so writing in the mornings makes total sense. I’ve been wishing for this routine for years but have always struggled to get up. I’d set several alarms, some of them in other rooms; even one alarm that required completing a maths puzzle before it shut off.

And I still went back to bed.

Now that I think about it, forcing myself to complete a maths puzzle just so I could start my day was entirely the wrong approach. No wonder I hated mornings!

I’ve got to be straight up, these past 30 days have not been consecutive, there’s been the odd wobble. But, this morning marked my 30th day of The Miracle Morning, and I feel fantastic.

The days I’ve beaten the snooze button have felt pretty miraculous. I’ve started the day on my terms, connected with my values and spent at least half an hour writing and editing my debut novel. I’m further along than I otherwise would have been.

I even caught myself singing on the walk to the train station. Me – the worst morning person I knew – singing that I was out of bed and alive, taking in the morning air.

I’ll have to stop or this will sound like a sermon, but seriously, go grab yourself a copy of Hal’s book, especially if you’re a writer or someone who wants to find more time in their day for themselves.

Did anyone join me for the ride? Be sure to let me know!

Yours in creativity,

Jackie

Ps: If you’d like to receive alerts whenever I publish new blogs, or to hear tasty behind-the-scenes shenanigans I don’t share on my site, please sign up at the very top of this page. More goodies to be released soon!

My New Year’s Resolution (Better Late than Never)

I wasn’t going to bother with a post about new year’s resolutions. It’s easy to be distracted by fireworks and the heady champagne of signalling in a new year. You believe in the possibility of doing all the things you’re supposed to do, so you enthusiastically make plans to lose weight or drink less or run a marathon.

But then you don’t do those things. Your pendulum might even swing the opposite way as you rebel against these resolutions.

Personally, I was battling jet lag on New Year’s Day and struggling to get back into a normal sleeping pattern, much less think about tangible goals I’d later renege on.

Then January went on its merry way, and here it is, almost February. So why post about New Year’s Resolutions now?

Well I intend to go one better – rather than sticking with a goal for a few days, and then aborting all progress (isn’t that how all new year’s resolutions go), I wanted to focus on something with a chance of becoming a life-long habit.

I wanted to get up early, every day, to write.

I’d been battling with this for years, have tried and abandoned beating the ‘snooze’ button on more occasions than I’ll admit in print. In fact, I was hard pressed to get to work on time, let alone wake up earlier than I absolutely had to.

So, when I came across a book called The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod – which promised to get absolutely anyone out of bed at 5am, every day, as enthusiastically as a kid on Christmas morning – I couldn’t resist.

In the tradition of posting goals here on my blog, so that I’m accountable and follow through, I am committed to getting up early each day, for the next 30 days, to write before work or weekend activities begin. You’ve kept me accountable before, so here’s hoping it works again!

By the way, check out Hal’s book, it’s touted as the book to change your life (for success in all areas), and it’s become a global phenomenon.

And if you feel like being an early riser with me for the next 30 days, I’ll help keep you accountable! Your goal may not be to write; you may wish to turn up on time for work, or eat a healthy breakfast, or complete a little exercise to start the day. Your goals are your own – drop me an email at info@jackiemccarthy.com to let me know how you’re faring!

Yours in creativity,

Jackie

Take a Break with Me

It’s been a while between posts, but I’ve been relaxing over the holiday season and been lucky enough to take a trip to Thailand for Christmas. I am feeling energised and rested. And, happily, these are all ingredients that help creativity.

It’s not until we stop that we realise the treadmill we’ve been on – work, home, study, family, friends, repeat. And it wasn’t until I slowed the pace right down that I realised just how intense the last couple of years have been. And this is because I hadn’t actually relaxed in a couple of years.

In 2016 I juggled a screenwriting course at AFTRS (the Australian Film, Television and Radio School) with full-time work. I was well out of my comfort zone and rushing to hand in assignments and – gasp – present pitches and a host of other things that filled me with heart-attack-inducing fear. It was exciting, and pushed me to places I didn’t think possible, but relaxing it was not.

Last year I was busy writing around my full-time job. I ploughed through two screenplays and then, on a whim, started another course – this time self-publishing a novel. So, new goals were set, the writing goals spreadsheet was on overdrive and I finished the 2nd Draft of what will be my debut novel.

I gave myself permission to take some time off, complete the Christmas shopping, gather the things I’d need for my holiday and catch up with people for the last time in 2017.

And then the magic really happened – I had nine whole days out of Sydney and it took half of those to slip into holiday mode. At first I ticked off a few sightseeing highlights in Bangkok, and then settled into a slower pace once we hit Khao Lak (north of Phuket). I felt absolutely humbled for the opportunity to see this stunning part of the world and share it with the wonderfully hospitable and ever-smiling locals.

I’ve been in slow-mo ever since. I thought I had relaxation before, but I didn’t. This was on another level – I felt at peace. My biggest worry was whether to take my book and sit by the pool or the beach!

I realise not everyone is as lucky as I am, with the opportunities that I have. And I also am not going to take the experience for granted, I’ll try and stay in the slow-mo lane for quite a while longer. Because, I’ve found a new approach to my writing – one that doesn’t involve feeling bad for having an ‘off’ day. I need more ‘off’ days. Time to chill out, unplug, pick up a book and worry about nothing. Because you have nowhere to be, and nothing to do.

Try it. Go put your toes in the sand, or hike up a mountain, or do anything you can to be in nature. Even if all you can manage is an hour in a city park. Trust me, if you can slow down, and just relax, everything’s going to be all right.

Yours in creativity,

Jackie

Encouragement for my Writing Friends

Hi there, fellow writers! I reached a milestone today, ahead of schedule (again) and wanted to share some inspiration with you, because it’s tough to write a novel (or any kind of book, for that matter).

Today marks the final words of my 3rd Draft, well ahead of my self-imposed deadline of 19th Dec. This draft, and the draft before it, took just 20 days each to write, and I am ecstatic with my progress.

The key for any writer, I believe, is setting your own timeline, whether or not you have to. It feels amazing to meet, or even better, beat those deadlines! It brings a sense of accomplishment and that little fluttery sensation in your chest that lets you know you’re alive. And that’s what writing should be about, right?

I also wanted to share this post, as progress can be full of ups and downs; just last week, I was deep in a funk, avoiding my novel, my confidence at an all-time low. I wanted to un-publish this blog and give up altogether!

The reason? I was slipping further and further behind in my writing goals, and I didn’t think I’d finish by the 19th Dec. Plus I thought the novel was no good and I was down on writing, full stop.

But…this week I picked myself up, cleared my schedule and just went for it. I cancelled all social activities over the weekend and powered through, because it was important to finish by the date I’d set on this blog. I didn’t want to disappoint my wonderful readers, so thanks again for being my rock!

I guess the moral of the story is, set yourself some deadlines, then go beat them. Allow yourself time to wallow in a little self-pity, but pick yourself back up again. I promise you, it’s worth it.

Best of luck with your writing and I hope this helps!

Yours in creativity,

Jackie

Another Draft in 20 Days!

I thought I’d check in, because I had aimed to finish the rough draft of my debut novel today.

Turns out I beat this deadline by quite a few weeks (I finished back on 26th Oct), and today I reached my next milestone – I finished the 2nd draft – and it’s taken just 20 days!

Sure, there are plenty more drafts to go, but this fills me with a keen sense of achievement.

To put this into perspective, I have written two other (unpublished) novels. The first; I finished one draft, and never went back. This is a good thing – it’s a painful ode to my adolescence that I don’t want to share with the world. Plus, it’s terrible.

The second novel made it to the 3rd draft, which took 3 years! And I grew so sick of the novel that it remains unfinished.

Fast-forward to today. I’m on track to have the 3rd draft of my debut novel finished by the 19th Dec. You heard it here first – and committing to that date will help keep me on track. That means editing 8 chapters of my novel each week, something I thought impossible in the past.

There are a couple of differences to how I write now, versus how I wrote in the past (the 3 years to 3rd draft, painful past). I’m happy to share some of those with you.

Firstly, I’m setting myself small, achievable goals each week. And, most weeks, I’m at least meeting those goals – if not beating them. I’m a big nerd and keep a spreadsheet logging all the time I spend writing, and I give myself a gold star (literally) when I meet each goal. Pretty soon those gold stars add up to a whole lot of happy. Plus, I’ve been open about my deadlines on this blog, and you’ve helped keep me accountable. So thank you!

Secondly, I’ve been plugging away at an online self-publishing course, which has pushed me beyond where I thought I could be. The community there is amazing and I’ve picked up a heap of golden nuggets. If you’re interested to hear more, click here.

But, most importantly, I’ve given myself permission to suck, and just kept moving forward regardless. Because, how fabulous will it feel when I’ve finished the final edit? Hit ‘publish?’ Held a copy of the book in my sweaty little hands? None of those things will happen if I keep starting over.

I hope you’re setting yourself small, achievable goals too, and forging ahead with whatever makes you happy.

Yours in Creativity,

Jackie

The Burning Question

I’ve been asked one question since finishing the rough draft of my novel.

The question is, “how did you do it?”

Sounds like a reasonable question, right – how do you write a novel? You might have wanted to ask this yourself. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first, I have a question for you.

What do all of these people do for a living; a surgeon, a carpenter and a chef?

Well, the surgeon operates to remove the patient’s tonsils. A carpenter saws, hammers and sands, creating a cabinet. A chef stir fries veggies and noodles in a wok, to produces a delicious Pad Thai.

Simple enough – but there’s much mystery surrounding the act of writing novels. Nobody really knows what we actually do, how we fill our days.

Is it because we writers seemingly conjure stories, characters and situations out of thin air, using nothing but our imagination? That is seems more like witchcraft and less like real work?

Humans communicate prolifically every day. But for some reason, writing a book is a mystical, other-worldly thing to most people.

So, how does a writer write a book?

I hate to break it to you. It doesn’t involve voodoo, or wizards, or even pulling a genie out of a hat (I know I’m mixing metaphors here, but it seems to fit the absurdity of people’s perceptions of this profession called ‘writing’).

There’s a pretty simple answer.

Writers write.

And it’s such an obvious fact, that people don’t believe you when you say it. They just don’t get it. Surely there must be more to it?

OK so there is more to writing novels than just the act of writing itself. There’s research and characterisation and plotting and embedding themes and ensuring consistency of voice and crafting dialogue and…

You get it. Just like building or creating anything from scratch, there’s a recipe to it, and I’m over-simplifying.

But in the end, how this gets done – how any writing gets done – is by pressing keys on a keyboard, or scribbling in the margins of a notebook, or dictating to a typing monkey (now where can I get me one of those).

Surgeons slice and dice. A carpenter builds wooden things. A chef creates culinary delights.

And, writers write.

And this is exactly how I wrote the rough draft of my novel; by putting one word in front of the other. There you go, mystery solved!

What’s your burning question of the day about writing in general, or novels in particular? Maybe I can answer it for you in the next blog post.

Yours in creativity,

Jackie

Walk This Way

So I’m really not feeling it this week. I’m struggling to flex those editing muscles, and every part of me wants to throw this thing away (this ‘thing’ being the rough draft of my Debut Novel).

I’m told it’s normal. I’m told that the feeling will disappear, by the, I don’t know, umpteenth editing pass. But, what to do until then?

It’s worth noting that writing novels consists of a series of early mornings, and lunchtimes, and late nights. It’s an hour grabbed here, 20 minutes snuck in there. It involves plodding along, creating something over time. Layers upon layers.

If we delude ourselves that it’s a straight, clear shot to the bullseye – without accounting for the gusting wind, or the cramping in our fingers, or the shifting landscape beneath our feet – well it would make the next part near impossible. We’d think writing (and editing) is easy, and be intensely disappointed when it’s not.

If writing were easy, every wonderful person on the planet would attempt to write a novel. Oh yeah, it’s National Novel Writing Month. So every wonderful person on the planet is attempting to write a novel (go for it, NaNoWriMo-ers! Word).

My antidote of the day is setting small, achievable deadlines. Now that I’ve beaten my self-imposed deadline for the rough draft, I’m yet to figure out just how long the editing phase will be.

So for now, a quick recalibration. This week I pledge to put in a solid 7 hours’ worth of editing/rewriting. I’m going to push that button, and walk when the green man says so.

For anyone else also struggling this week, whether or not you’re in the throes of NaNoWriMo, set yourself an achievable goal, and keep going. Walk this way, I’ll be right there with you.

Yours in creativity,

Jackie

Rough Draft Finished!

Well it’s official – as of tonight, I have typed “The End” on the rough draft of my debut novel!

I am 70,000-ish words down, and it’s now time to sit back and relax…until the rewrites begin.

If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know that I had a more conservative deadline in mind, of 19th November. Which I’ve beaten by 3 ½ weeks. I’m surprised and elated. I may have a polished draft out sooner than I had hoped.

I’m now looking at 35 chapters of rough-hewn copy, and I do mean rough. I’ve motored through, with the aim of finishing, rather than perfecting each sentence. I’ve resisted the urge to edit along the way, because it’s easier to re-write something you already have, rather than craft something from scratch. Did someone wise say ‘all writing is re-writing?’ In which case, the real work lies ahead.

Part of the reason for the early finish, is that I’ve kept myself accountable on this blog. It’s difficult to go back on a commitment made in print. I felt like I couldn’t let people down. So thank you for reading and keeping me honest! You could be brave and try this yourself. What would you like to commit to? Post it in the comments below. It doesn’t have to be writing-related. You could commit to a spring clean, or resisting the urge to binge-watch Stranger Things when it’s released in 20 hours’ time (although I’m not sure why you’d want to resist 10 hours of most excellent 80’s nostalgia).

There’s still a long way to go, but I’m already setting myself up for what happens afterwards (not to give too much away, but it will involve publishing on Amazon in the not-too-distant future). There’s still a tonne of work to be done, so I don’t have a hard deadline as yet, but stay tuned.

How does it feel to finish the rough draft? Honestly, I’m exhausted, I’ll let you know after a week’s worth of solid sleep!

Yours in creativity,

Jackie