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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

On the Best Part of the Slope

Another quick check-in to say, I am over halfway through the first draft of my debut novel, on the downward slope, and I couldn’t be happier.

Throughout it all (so far), I’ve had some interesting challenges.

For the last few months, I’ve woken to my neighbour’s rooster at 3am each morning. I’m here to dispel the myth that roosters rise with the sun. Oh no, they rise much earlier, and they don’t go back to sleep! Instead, they remind you at regular intervals that they are up, and awake, and you should be too. Sure, I like fresh eggs as much as the next person. But I live in a quiet residential suburb. I did not sign up for Old MacDonald’s Farm outside my bedroom window.

That’s not all. I’ve attempted writing sessions with a particularly troublesome dog yapping below my writing desk. I’ve had the highs of an 18-day writing streak, only to miss a single day and feel like giving up. This chronic non-morning person (me) has risen early before work, sometimes while it’s still dark, always to the dulcet tones of my neighbour’s rooster, to add to the word count before work. I am regularly chained to the keyboard on Saturday nights while the rest of the world is at play. I’ve spent my lunch hours reading, writing and learning from other authors on the same journey.

I’ve even had my blasted (I mean, wonderfully intriguing) characters speak to me, demanding to be someone else – as in, a whole different person – when we’re already halfway through the novel!

As the first half of the book recedes into re-writing problems for ‘future me,’ I’ve decided to keep going, to write my characters as they are now, and accept them for who they’re turning out to be. The number one rule at the moment is; don’t edit, just keep moving forward. And through it all, I have to keep reminding myself, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I will get there. I will finish this rough draft.

And that’s about as far ahead as I can think right now. Barring an outbreak of creative fatigue (or the next binge-worthy series on Netflix), I’m still shooting for my deadline. Thank you for being along for the ride!

I’ll continue to post as things progress, so, see you again next time. Oh, and if anyone would like to start a tradition of Christmas Rooster at the in-laws, let me know. I might be able to hook you up.

Yours in creativity,

Jackie

A Third Down

Hello from my dining room table, aka my writing desk. I thought I’d post a quick update as I’ve reached a milestone this week – I’ve completed just over one third of my rough draft (I am 16 chapters into what is looking to be around a 35-40 chapter novel).

My highly suspect wave of momentum doesn’t seem to be dissipating anytime soon, and I may even beat my self-imposed deadline, to finish the rough draft on Saturday 19th November.

This writing gig hasn’t been without its blips. Last night my three supporting characters (from ‘magazines past’) took me on a plot diversion I hadn’t anticipated. The result – my plan is completely thrown out and I’ve had to rethink carefully-plotted sequences. Hopefully, the characters concerned will earn their place more firmly in the novel, to justify these turns of events. They know who they are.

It’s been an enjoyable ride so far, and I can’t wait to see how the novel progresses, and whether or not my characters behave as they should. At this rate, I can’t promise anything, but that’s all part of the fun.

Be sure to check out my Facebook page and hit me up on twitter if you’d like to stay in touch; I post and tweet from time to time. Simply head on over to my ‘contact’ page.

Yours in creativity,

Jackie

And so it begins…

If you had asked me three months ago, what I’d be doing today, I would not have told you that I would be writing a novel.

But here we are; I’ve finished mind-mapping, developing the main characters and outlining the book. Not only that, but I’m three chapters into my rough draft and seem to be riding an unusual (and highly suspect) wave of momentum! I only hope the next few weeks are just as productive.

My self-imposed deadline to finish the rough draft is Saturday 19th November.

I’ll post as regularly as I can with updates on my progress as well as launch dates for your calendar. Be sure to check out my Facebook page and hit me up on twitter if you’d like to stay in touch, I’d love to hear from you!

Yours in creativity,

Jackie