We headed away last weekend to Albany for my birthday. The weather was divine, the town was picturesque and the walk on the beach and up to the ANZAC monument was breathtaking. We came home feeling refreshed and vibrant.

A handy tip I picked up from Heather Sellers’s Chapter after Chapter ensured that my writing didn’t get neglected while I way away. Chapter 19 is entitled Taking Baby Along: how to travel with a book-in-progress. Sellers recommends that a writer prepares for their trip by making a to-do list of things they can work on while travelling. The reason behind this is that if a writer goes too long without thinking about the book, it will be difficult to get back into the mindset on their return. It may not be possible to come up with new material while away on holiday or travelling, but a writer can keep the book alive by working for short sessions on some of the tasks on the to-do list. A session might be a 15-minute warm up followed by 15 minutes on the task chosen for the day.

This was my to-do list for Greenwood Manor while I was away in Albany:

  • Write the beginning of the scene where Katherine meets Mr Bosworth on the bridge in the park
  • Write the backstory for the ghost
  • Brainstorm a list of 10 things Dr Sterling might say to Katherine after seeing her on the bridge with Mr Bosworth
  • Come up with a list of possible chapter titles for the first chapter

I was away for three days so I made up a list of four tasks. That way I could pick and choose which ones to do.

And the exercise worked! I had no problem getting back into writer mode the day after we got back and sat down to write the whole scene with Katherine and Mr Bosworth on the bridge. The following day I wrote the whole scene with Dr Sterling and Katherine and what he said to her. Yesterday, I wrote the ghost’s backstory in her own words and, because the ghost has a very definite voice of her own now, it may become a scene in its own right.

Chapter after Chapter is a fantastic little treasure of a book. Understanding the craft of writing is important, but equally important is maintaining the mindset and the holding on to the motivation to sit down every day and keep the book alive when you can’t engage in your normal writing routine.

It’s a bit late – five months into the year – but these are my writing goals for 2009:

  • Finish and edit short story (no title as yet) by 31st May
  • Start edit of When Worlds Collide 1st June
  • Finish first draft of Greenwood Manor by 30th June
  • Finish editing When Worlds Collide by 31st July
  • Start edit of Greenwood Manor 1st August
  • Call Down Lightning* for GothNoWriMo project on 1st August
  • Call Down Lightning* for NaNoWriMo project on 1st September
  • Finish editing Greenwood Manor 30th September
  • 20,000 wordcount goal for 2009 GothNo, deadline 31st October
  • 50,000 wordcount goal for 2009 NaNo, deadline 30th November
  • Write three more short stories by 31st December
  • Research publishing houses and markets for short stories, novellas, novels

*Calling Down Lightning is a technique I learned in Holly Lisle’s “How to Think Sideways” course. Doing this should see me ready to work through the GothNo and NaNo writing marathons, though I haven’t a clue yet what the projects will be about.

Greenwood Manor is moving along nicely but I have put it on hold for a moment, because, in the middle of researching a couple of ideas for one particular scene, I had a breakthrough on where I’d left my short story. I quickly wrote up a LUC (Law of Unexpected Consequences^) worksheet for the short story and worked out how it moved forward from that point onwards.

This short story is turning into a novella, I fear. However, once I know where the story is going and have written it through in its entirety, I just may be able to prune it back to the essential elements and make it the length I had thought it would be when I started.

I have done some research on publishing houses and markets. One useful link is this one, Ralan.com. Listings for anthologies, semi & pro markets, and paying markets.

Today’s Sunday and I’ll get back to the writing tomorrow. The weekend is all about spending time with family and that’s my focus for today!

^Another technique from Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways writing course

I’ve already reviewed this on my What I’m Reading blog, and what I’d like to write about here is the UK cover art for the book. I love it!

Jon Sullivan is the artist and you can find his website here. You’ll find the full cover art here and see details/closeups.

What I like about the cover art is that there’s so much happening in it. The characters from the book are there, of course: Clodagh and Cathal, Becan and the creature in the dog mask. There’s so much detail that the images could easily be used as a writing prompt. Who could these characters be (besides the characters in the book)? What is happening to them? Why? What’s behind that tree? Where does that river go?

I particularly like the fact that Cathal (on the back cover) looks believable: a strong determined warrior who isn’t simply a good-looking face and an attractive physique. Thank heavens!! πŸ™‚

Right, that’s it. I’m off to gaze a bit more at this cover…

Chapter After Chapter: Discover the Dedication & Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams This is a real gem of a book!

Sellers look at a writer’s life in this book, not at the craft of writing or the technical side of writing.

The chapters include the following bits of wisdom:

  • Writers are not people who have ideas for books: writer’s write.
  • Writers do not have hectic social lives, flitting from one engagement to another: they can manage about one extracurricular activity and the rest of their time belongs to their writing.
  • Writers do not write “one book”: they will write many, many books, and a lot of them will be hidden under the bed because they’re not good enough for publishing. Yet these unpublished works are just as important, because they have taught the writer something about the craft.

Reading this book is like filling my lungs with oxygen and relaxing the tension in my shoulders. As she says in the introduction, writing a book is like plunging off the high dive, and “I’d like to give you the gentlest push. I’d like to nudge you towards the deep end. I’d like to hold your hand on the way down, and grin at you underwater, and make sure you are pointed to the swim ladder, and laugh with you when you come up for air, and say in unison with you, ‘Let’s do it again!'”

This is a book I will read right through and dip into whenever I need to remember what being a writer is all about.

J.K. Rowling, author of the best-selling Harry Potter book series, delivers her Commencement Address, β€œThe Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination,” at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association

You can read her speech here.

Achievable goals, the lessons she’s learned from hardship, failure and heartbreak (“failure meant a stripping away of the inessential”), and the importance of imagination in our lives.

A wonderful, amusing, moving, poignant and sincere speech.

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.

Having watched Diana Gabaldon’s video and come across an inspirational quote that I wrote down (but can’t remember where I got it from), I decided to put together a small laminated card and sit it on my desk so that it’s the first thing I see when I sit down to write.

This is the front:

And this is the back (based on the two promises Diana Gabaldon made herself before she sat down to write):

Yup, my muse is watching me!

Because of the Gabaldon video, I have changed the way I work. I am now working on a short story, my gothnowrimo novel, and shortly I hope to get started on the editing of my nano novel. The more I have to work on, the more writing I will get done, because when one piece comes to a halt (as it inevitably does) I have something else to turn to. One piece in particular might grab my attention and enthusiasm, and may even trigger ideas in another piece I’m working on.

This system seems to be working for me because I’ve been working practically every day on both the short story and on Greenwood Manor. That’s a good feeling!

For anyone looking for some inspiration, here’s an article entitled “Choose Your Muse” from the Romance Divas Website.

I have ordered a special limited edition of the Twilight DVD. I should have it sometime towards the end of April.

It’ll be interesting to see how the film compares to the books. I thoroughly enjoyed the books, and I purposely didn’t go to see the film in the cinema until I’d read all four, because I didn’t want to take the chance that watching the film would mar my enjoyment of the books I’d yet to read. Watching a film often undoes the pictures you create in your own head while reading the book.

For instance, from what I’ve seen from the trailers, the atmosphere seems to be a lot more gothic than the atmosphere created in the book. Bella seems to be more distant and unsmiling than I’d imagined – remember, I haven’t seen the film yet, just watched the trailers – and Edward doesn’t fit in with the image of him that I’d created. I was thinking of someone like Luke Mably in The Prince and I. The Prince’s character (also called Edward, would you believe) seemed more in keeping with a young man who lived at the beginning of the twentieth century – his good old-fashioned chivalrousness for example, and that lovely accent. (Bella remarked, in the book, that the way Edward spoke and his vocabulary were reminiscent of an earlier era.)


Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how Robert Pattinson interpreted the part of Edward Cullen and Kristen Stewart the part of Bella.

I’m also quite looking forward to seeing how Catherine Hardwicke (the Director) transferred her vision of the book into film.