Friday, 23 July 2010

Procrastination - The Root of a Writer's Evil

Why is it, when we say that we love writing, sometimes we would rather do anything other than actually get our bum on the seat, fingers on the keyboard and brain in gear?

Is it that we love the idea of writing more than writing itself? Is it that we love the finished product and the thought of, “I did that” but don’t always want to be bothered to actually put the hard graft in first?

Perhaps it’s a combination of the two, but for me there’s something else too and its called fear. Fear that the idea which sounds brilliant in my head isn’t going to come up to scratch when I put it down on paper. Fear that when it comes down it to I can’t actually get the right combination of words to make my story flow.

And so I procrastinate. I check my emails, I read blogs, I read writing magazines, I read other authors and I make lists. But I don’t actually write.

But not this week. This week I have written. And this week I have almost completed an assignment for a distance learning course am I doing (more about that next time) which has been getting the better of me for a while now. Next week, with a little more editing I will be able to send it off and that will feel like an achievement.

So why has this week been more productive than others? Have I had more time? Nope. I’ve had a million and one things to do this week and horror of horrors the kids have broken up from school and I’m having to sort out child care alongside work and home etc, etc.

No, the reason I’ve got my act together this week is down to three fellow bloggers who I want to publically thank here.

And the winners are:

Jayne over at Novice Novelist. I’ve been following Jayne for a long time now and I was delighted to hear that she has finished her novel and is sending off into the big wide world. Well done Jayne. It’s thanks to hard work, determination and a refusal to listen to the inner Doubting Thomas that Jayne has got this far. And so I’m inspired. Yes, I need to get back to that novel, keep putting the words down and then, spend however long it takes to edit it. It won’t be easy and I know I might fall by the wayside from time to time, but because Jayne has done it, I’m determined that I will get there too. So a big thanks to you.

Inspiring blogger number 2 is India Grey who blogged a huge dollop of inspiration to me this week. Sometimes the thought of actually sitting down and starting work is too immense, hence the procrastination. India suggested in this blog to tackle the work 250 words at a time – and do you know it does work. Because 250 words is quick and achievable and most of all is not scary. So I’ve been sitting down to dash of my 250 words and before I know it they have become, 500 then a thousand and then I have finished the piece I have been putting off for so long. So thank you too India.

And finally, cue drum roll, the third inspirational blogger is Stewart Ferris. This is a blog I read about in a writing magazine. Stewart has blogged about his editing process and although I have read this after the event, I feel I’ve really learnt something. But what has really inspired me this week is this post in which Stewart says that he likes to achieve something towards his future every day, be that his writing, doing up this house, or learning something new. And so I have been following Stewart’s example and making sure that every day I’m investing in my writing future. And do you know what – it makes me feel good that every day I have achieved something. So thank you Stewart – along with the others, you’ve made my week.

And on this inspirational note – tell me – what inspires you

And by the way, this is the first time I've ever done links so if they work,it will be a miracle.

Sunday, 18 July 2010


I went to two parties last night - my nephew's 18th at an Indian restaurant and a friend's birthday at her house.

I can't remember what time I staggered back and I do mean staggered - two steps forward and one step back.

I was woken this morning by my husband's alarm going off at 7am - he's playing golf - and then his friend coming to collect him and ringing the doorbell, waking up the children.

My head is pounding. No pounding isn't the right word. It feels if I move it too quickly it might actually fall off. That's if I don't hack it off myself with a blunt knife. I swear I'll never drink again.

Until the next time.

Happy Sunday everyone.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

And Finally ....

So, three down, one to go. This last book I read on the plane home and then continued, sporadically after my return and is: The Kissing Gates by Mackenzie Ford.

This story is set during WWI and starts at the Christmas Day armistice when both sides had an unofficial ceasefire.

It describes how two officers from opposing sides of the war reacted to each other when they met. The German officer, Wilhelm, lived in England before the war and fell in love with an English girl but then was called up to fight for England’s enemy.

Wilhelm, tells the English officer, Hal, where his girlfriend lives and because he is unable to contact her himself asks Hal to take a photograph of him to show her that he still loves her.

Hal is later injured and is shipped back to England, never to return to the trenches. During his recovery he seeks out the English girl on behalf of Wilhelm. On meeting her though he falls in love with her and doesn’t actually carry out his task - a secret which blights their relationship for the rest of the time they are together.

I enjoyed this story on the whole but at times found it rather slow. The author included a lot of information about the times and it often seemed as though he was showing off his research rather than allowing his story to speak for itself. Certain things also kept repeating themselves and I thought the story could have been told much more succinctly.

Generally I felt that the book didn’t quite live up to its blurb which is a shame because the premise for the storyline was excellent.

What I enjoy most about holiday reading is that you can really get into a book, whereas at home I have to read during brief snatches of time. However, a train trip to York enabled me to start another book on my tbr pile. This book was Girl Friday by Jane Green.

For a light-hearted, entertaining read, you can’t get much better than Jane Green. In saying that though, I think that recently I have begun to read more like a writer than just a reader. That in itself is a double edged sword. It’s good because I think it will help to improve my own writing, but in doing so it does diminish the pure enjoyment element of reading as the little critic in my head keeps voicing its opinions.

This book is written in the present tense which I found a bit jarring at first but I got used to it as I read more of the book and stopped noticing it so much towards the end.

I indentified with the characters straight away and settled into the story quickly and couldn’t wait to find out what happened next, but then came the back story which I felt slowed it all down a bit.

This made me think. When do you introduce the back story and in what quantities?

In an ideal world, I think the back story should be drip fed in, in small quantities so that the reader hardly notices that its there. But this in itself is hard to do because we need to get to know the characters in order to empathise with them and we need to do this fairly early on in the story. However, if too much back story slows down the plot so much aren’t we in danger of losing the reader entirely?

I’m tempted to read this book again after a bit of a break so that I can identify whether my criticism is just because I was a first time reader anxious to find out what happened next.

Once I’d got over this hurdle though I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the story.

So, over to you, how do you fit in the back story without making the reader want to do a runner?

Monday, 5 July 2010

More Reviews

Now, I’m going to try and do better and blog a little more often, so here are reviews of the next two books I read on holiday.

The first is The Adulteress by Noelle Harrison

This book is about Nicholas, who after finding out that his wife has had an affair, impulsively moves from Dublin to rural Cavan to buy a ramshackle house which he intends to renovate. He soon finds out that the ghost of June Fanning inhabits the house. She wants to talk to him about the adulteress but in his present state of mind he doesn’t want to listen. Eventually he finds he has no choice and gradually develops a liking for his ghost and a desire to find out what happened to her.

June move
d to the house with her husband during the Blitz in London and the majority of this book is written from her viewpoint as it gradually tells the story of her life. It tells us how isolated she felt when she moved to the house due partly to her husband’s increasing remoteness once he returns to the home of his childhood. He refuses to let her in on the secrets of the past which are beginning to seep into the present day. Leaving her feeling unloved, and pregnant, he joins the RAF to fight in the war.

Longing for company, she meets a male neighbour, someone her husband does not want her to get to know and begins to unravel the secrets of the past. In doing so she gets closer to her neighbour and explores the possibility of adultery from her own point of view.

June’s story delves into her own childhood, growing up with a mother who was a serial adulterer and shows the effect of what this adultery had on the whole family.

The second viewpoint is Nicholas’. As he learns more about June’s story, he gradually comes to terms with
his wife’s betrayal, and begins to understand his own part in the breakdown of his marriage.

Another viewpoint appears periodically throughout the novel from an unknown adulteress as she describes her encounters with her lover. Who the adulteress actually is isn’t revealed until almost the end of the book.

I found this book interesting as it explored the reasons why people are driven to be unfaithful and the effect of their actions on all who are involved in their lives. I did feel, however that at times it became bogged down by the back story and I would have liked to have seen the story developed more in the present from Nicholas’ point of view.

On a positive note though, it is beautifully written and the description is so atmospheric, you really do feel as you are there. Noelle Harrison’s style reminded my a little of Joanne Harris, whose books I enjoy. I think I will look out for this author again to see what else she has written.

The next book was What To Do When Someone Dies By Nicci French

I saw this novel on the bookshelves after reading a feature in June’s Writers Forum on the authors. Nicci Gerrard and husband Sean French write together as the bestselling thriller writer Nicci French. What intrigued me most in the article was that they actually write separately – Sean in the garden shed and Nicci in the attic. They email sections back to each other in a relay race style. I wondered after reading this article whether I would be able to distinguish any “seams” in the writing. I obviously greatly underestimated these superb writers as from the moment I read the first page I was hooked and if I hadn’t already known, I would never have guessed that this book was written by more than one author.

The book is a fast paced thriller. The main character Ellie Faulkner is immensely likeable and you can’t help but feel for her as on the first page she is visited by two police officers who tell her that her husband has been killed in a car crash. As if that isn’t bad enough she is also told that the body of an unknown woman has been found with him.

Whilst her friends are prepared to accept, seemingly easily, that Greg was unfaithful, Ellie cannot accept it at all.

The author(s) provide enough clues for us not to believe that Ellie is totally irrational in her belief in her husband as she embarks on a dangerous quest to find out what was really going on in his life.

This book is definitely a page turner and it was the best book I read on my holiday. I will definitely be looking out for more.

More later in the week.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Holiday Reading

It's been a while since my last post I know and I did promise a post the next day, slaps own wrist, but life sometimes has a habit of getting in the way, especially now. Ever since I got back from holiday I don't seem to have stopped running either at home or at work and I'm desperately trying to carve out writing time on top of all that.

The holiday seems like a long time ago but it was a much needed break and helped me get my head round the news that my current job will be ending at the end of the next academic year. Now I'm trying to look on the positive - a year is more than most people have in job expectancy and it could be the era of change for the best. So I want to spend the next year saving as much money as I can, writing as much as I can and trying to find some freelance options, writing or otherwise, so that I can organise my life a bit better around childcare. You never know it might be a much needed opportunity to kick start a new career (fingers crossed).

I digress, what I was going to blog about was reading. One of the things I look forward to in a beach holiday is all that lovely reading time. Picking the books I'm going to take with me probably takes me longer than packing my clothes, because its a difficult choice from my ever increasing tbr pile.

Now, I'm going to tell you a little bit about my choice of books and if the technology works this will be complete with pictures. If not I may be asking for advice. So here goes.

The first book I read was Barbara Taylor-Bradford's Being Elizabeth.

I grew up reading The Woman of Substance series and dreamed of being as successful as Elizabeth Harte, so I’ve always had a soft spot for this author.

This book was a present for Christmas so has been on my TBR pile for a while now. The story is about Elizabeth Turner, a young woman who inherits a dynasty from the Deravenal family and is one of a series.

Barbara Taylor-Bradford paints the settings with her usual carefully detailed brushstrokes, and I enjoyed reading about the lifestyle of the rich, however, I was largely disappointed by this book. I must admit I didn’t really like the main character very much. Everyone else in the book revered her, thought she was brilliant business woman and was deserving of her success but I felt that this was down to both her inheritance and the people around her rather than from anything she had succeeded for herself and as such I found her character unconvincing.

I did, though, read the author’s note at the back of the book and was intrigued to find that the author had based the story on the life of Elizabeth I but had set it in the present day. I’m a big fan of Tudor history so I enjoyed seeing how she had replicated history in modern times and this was probably the biggest incentive for me to keep reading.

Next time, I'll tell you about some of my other reading.

Have a good weekend everyone.