Friday, 31 January 2014

Pieces of a Writer

Writers think differently. Not just differently, but on a deeper level, about pretty much everything.

That probably sounds very smug to non-writers, but it's the truth. How else do you think all that stuff that comes out of our collective heads gets in there in the first place? Of course it also has its downsides; writers tend to be more prone to depression too (probably because thinking on a deeper level about terrible stuff makes you feel a deeper level of terrible.)

Most writers know all this already, not least because they talk, write, blog and maybe even tweet about it. Tell a fellow writer you know the misery of depression, and the response will usually be sympathetic rather than the long sigh and eye-rolling of many who've never been In The Sad Club. All of which means that it's become okay - at least among writers - to talk about it openly. And we do.

But how many of us are willing to talk about the Crazy Stuff?

What 'crazy stuff?' Well, y'know that first sentence up there - "Writers think differently?" I mean that Crazy Stuff. The stuff that makes us write, the stuff that makes us judge everything we write (and, by association, ourselves) way more harshly than even Simon Cowell in a bad mood, and the stuff that makes us carry on writing anyway. What's going on under the bonnet, in that kooky engine-brain? Not many people talk about that.

Maybe we kid ourselves that 'all' writers have this crazy stuff going on in their heads, and because it's so universal there's 'no need' to actually come out and say it. Or maybe the opposite is true... maybe we're all so scared this stuff is genuine crazy that we're afraid to say it, in case what we get in response is a sea of uncomprehending looks and people backing away slowly with nervous laughs. Maybe more of us should 'fess up to our Inner Crazy...

Allow me to step forward as a guinea pig then. Not a real one obviously - I'm not quite that crazy - but I'm in the mood to start the ball rolling, so let's do this. Allow me to take you on a tour of... the Inside of My Head!

Okay, let's start with the biggie. From a writing point of view, I am not one person. I am three people - three very different people. Yes, you did read that right. I will now introduce you to them...

I'll start with Miss Narcissist. You probably won't like her very much - and that's okay, because she can be hard to like a lot of the time. The clue is in the name, as I'm sure you already guessed. Miss Narcissist doesn't do any of my writing - because in her head she's already been there, done that, got the Booker Prize. Miss Narcissist is me on some kind of fast-forwarded alternate-reality; as far as she's concerned she's already a world-famous and fantastic writer, admired and read by everyone. Oh sure, there's probably stuff she could still learn about writing... but most of it, she already knows. This novel she's currently writing might be the first she's even got to Draft Two stage, but it's an undiscovered bloody masterpiece that the whole world has been crying out for, and it's going to sell so many copies she'll be able to buy a tropical island and still have change for a private jet...

Miss Narcissist is a raving idiot, and an arrogant one at that. If I ever decided to wear her skin for my public persona, I'm pretty sure there'd soon be a long queue of people wanting to punch me in the face - which is precisely why I keep her on permanent house arrest inside my head. And also why I need someone to balance her out, so meet...

Grinch. If you thought Miss Narcissist was obnoxious, you aint seen nothing yet. Grinch is in a permanent bad mood, witheringly sarcastic and damn near impossible to impress because he hates everything about me (which, by definition, also includes him... well, I never said he was a genius, did I?) Grinch's favourite pastime is metaphorically grabbing Miss Narcissist by her knicker elastic and giving her the wedgie of her life at regular intervals - and after he's finished with her, he comes for me.

He places me in a different alternate reality - one that keeps looping like Groundhog Day. In that, I am the crappiest, suckiest writer on the planet, who's always going to be terrible and never going to get any better no matter how hard I try because I had no talent to start with, and I'm just deluding myself that I ever had any... He's like an abusive writer-parent who wishes his offspring came with a receipt, so he could take her back to the shop and exchange her for something better. Or at least get his money back.

And then there's me in the middle - the actual writer. Kind of like Boxer the horse in 'Animal Farm,' just keeping my head down and hoping that working harder is the solution to it all. Most of the time I let the other two duke it out on either side of my brain while I just carry on writing - but occasionally they get me down. Miss Narcissist never talks directly to me, but just hearing her prattle on is embarrassing enough. Grinch, on the other hand, likes nothing better than to tell me personally what's on his mind...

MISS NARCISSIST: Hmmm... I'll probably have to renew my passport ready for interviews on American TV when my book comes out...
GRINCH: Why are you even bothering? This sucks! A five-year-old could write better stuff than this!
ME: Well then I'm going to keep on writing it until I can make it better...
GRINCH: You'll never get better - some people got it and some people haven't. You haven't, you've never had it and you're never gonna get it!
MISS NARCISSIST: Yeah, they said that to J.K. Rowling too... and Tolkien...
ME: Miss Narcissist thinks I'm getting better...
GRINCH: She's an idiot! You're both idiots! And you both suck!

Yeah... a visit inside my brain can be like the worst dinner party in the history of forever sometimes.

But even though they both drive me mad... I also need them. Miss Narcissist's ridiculous fantasy life keeps me going when writing is a struggle and I lose the will to stick with a project, while Grinch stops me getting complacent and phoning it in when it's all flowing just a little too easily to be true. It'd be nice if they weren't such godawful people, of course... but like they say, you can choose your friends but you can't choose your family - and the demons in your head choose you.

Maybe you've read all of this and thought "Yeah, I get it - this is just how it is for me too!" In which case you now know you're not alone. That's got to be good, hasn't it? Alternatively, if all of this has left you baffled and thinking I'm a grade one nutcase... well, at least you can show it to your loved ones and say "There, see - you could be living with THAT instead! Never complain about me again!"

Which is also good - admittedly not so much for me, but hey - I don't mind spreading a little sunshine while I contemplate my fractured mental state...

Thursday, 23 January 2014

When Statistics Tell You Your Firstborn Will Be Ugly

Don't worry - I'm talking novels here, not beloved children.

Y'see, I've been reading the wise words of many different authors this week, and detected something of a theme going on. Lots of them have talked about how hard it is to become a published author, and that it takes long years of slog and learning at the coalface before you finally get that big break. Writing novels for a living should never be considered a ticket to easy street, they say; even with the advent of e-publishing, it's by no means a get-rich-quick scheme. It's hard, slow, backbreaking work, and you've gotta be in it for the long haul to even have a sniff at winning it...

All of which I... kind of already knew. I read those words nodding my head in agreement and not feeling at all like my dreams had been stomped on. The fact that I'm now forty-mumble (and due to be forty-mumble-and-another-year in about a month from now) is proof enough that I was never destined to be an 'overnight success,' and I've reached the point where I'm reasonably cool with the idea that I'm more of a tortoise than a hare.

But then came the twist in the tale; many of these authors also went on to say that they didn't get the first novel they ever wrote published at all. For many it was their third, fourth or fifth book that became their 'debut' - for some it was more like their eighth or tenth. In short, the general consensus among a wide circle of writers across all the genres was that first novels were simply never good enough to publish; it just didn't happen in the Real World.

Of course I'd heard that said before too - but only once or twice, by a couple of authors I'd never heard of at the time anyway. And that was way before I made a serious, focused commitment to writing novels myself (as opposed to the multitude of half-assed, un-focused attempts in between writing scripts and lyrics that peppered my writing history up until that point.) But now here were enough voices to transform these words from a minority viewpoint into... an actual, measurable statistic.

A statistic that clearly indicates my current work-in-progress, The Renegades, is destined to end up consigned to the Writer's Bottom Drawer of Shame without ever being seen or read by anyone except the publishers and agents who reject it. Yeah, y'know - that novel that's already taken me nearly two years to write, and will probably take me another two years to edit and polish to a standard I'm happy with.


That's how to pee on someone's parade.

While I'm hardly knocking on the door of my local nursing home just yet, I aint no spring chicken either. What if I finish The Renegades, fail to get it published and then promptly die before I can start on the next one? What if inspiration deserts me forever after writing the Renegades, because that's the only book that was in me all along? What if a global apocalypse of some kind hits, transforming the world as we know it into a dystopian nightmare where novels have no use except as kindling for campfires in the rubble of civilization, and novel-writers are hunted down and eaten by starving illiterates... well, okay, that last one probably won't happen, but you know what I mean...

Whenever the going's got tough on The Renegades, one thing I've been telling myself in order to keep making me attach bum to chair and fingers to keyboard is that this novel will be worth completing, and that the more care and attention I lavish on it, the better it will turn out to be in the end. Now, if the words of all these writers are true, I'm supposed to accept that, no matter what I do and how hard I work on it, it will nonetheless be irredeemably unpublishable. And that's before I've even finished it. It's tempting then, isn't it, to ask that fatal question: is it even worth carrying on with it when it's - apparently - a steaming pile of puppy-poo?

I've thought about that question long and hard over the last couple of days. And the conclusion I've reached is: yes, it bloody well is.

For starters, I made a commitment to this novel. Without wanting to sound like a total fruitcake (but probably failing - I can live with that...) now that I've created these characters and put them in this messed-up situation, I kind of owe them the chance to live their way through it and tell their story - if not to Joe Public, then at least to me.

Secondly, a large part of writing this novel has been taken up with learning how to write this novel; I've always been the kind of person who learns by trying, cocking it up and then trying again, rather than just obediently absorbing instructions. This one's already taught me so much, and I'm convinced it's not done with me yet. If I don't finish the coursework, I don't graduate. And I want to graduate.

But even if that wasn't enough to convince me, here's the jam in the doughnut: even if I were to abandon this novel... I'd soon be starting on another one. And then that one would become my new 'first novel' - to be inevitably rejected and unpublished... If publishing a novel is what I want to do (and it is) there's no way of getting out of writing a first novel - any more than I could get out of cutting my first tooth or taking my first steps as a baby. Like cutting my first tooth, it's probably going to hurt - and like taking those first steps, I'm probably going to faceplant a few times. Maybe a lot of times. But if I'd given up on learning to walk I'd be a forty-mumble-year-old lying on her belly on the carpet right now. And that'd be kind of embarrassing.

For all I know, I may never earn the right to call myself a Published Novelist. But as long as I keep on trying I can call myself a writer. And that will always feel good.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Little Bits of Happy a Writer 'Needs'

Writers can be a funny bunch.

 They love their vocation with a passion when it's working well, to the point of wanting to do it to the exclusion of... pretty much everything else, really. However, when it's not working at all, every second of doing the thing they once loved so much becomes a kind of slow, cruel torture - an exercise in futility that brings nothing but self-loathing and despair. So they... keep on doing it anyway, because not doing it is, somehow, even worse...

But there's another side to many writers that perhaps only the loved ones of writers are aware of. Because many writers have what might be described as 'quirks.' 'Fetishes,' if you like. No - not those kind of fetishes.... well okay, maybe, but that's not my business and I'm not planning to 'out' anyone here, so deep breaths, relax, etc. No, I'm talking about seemingly innocuous, everyday things that writers like. I mean, really like. A lot. Things that probably promote little more than a 'meh' from non-writers, but fill a writer's heart with sweet, fizzy joy.

I used to think it was just me being a bit geeky - but after discussions with other writers it soon became clear that these little sources of happy were shared by many of us. So here, without further ado and all that, are just a few of the Writer's Secret Little Fetishes. How many can you put a tick next to?


* - Pens!
Pens are things of beauty. That slender shape, their weight in your hand, the pretty rainbow of colours and designs they come in... a writer can never - NEVER - have 'too many pens.' The concept simply doesn't exist. This applies even if you hardly ever use pens anymore. These days, around 95% of my 'writing' is actually typingtapping away at some keyboard or other. Typing is faster - and, if I make a mistake, correcting it is easy, takes mere seconds and leaves no trace of the original error behind.

But that doesn't mean I don't love pens. I do. Love. Pens. Desire pens. Covet pens like a miser covets his secret stash of gold bullion... to the point where I can be... *squirms*... slightly possessive of the ones I call 'mine.' I have a husband I love dearly, but he 'borrows' pens and then treats them as if they're just... things to write with, goddammit! As in, once 'borrowed,' he not only doesn't return them but (and I advise you to sit down at this point if you're of a delicate disposition) he doesn't retract the nib/put the cap back on when he's finished writing with them. So they dry up. And DIE!!!

When the pen in question is one of a pack of five from Poundland ('cos even cheap pens are lovely) this is annoying. But when it's a Special Pen - one you picked out individually from a sea of pens in a proper pen shop because you just saw it and liked it... well, every writer knows a small puppy cries every time a Special Pen dries up.

So yeah, if I see my poor husband hovering around my pen tub with a certain look on his face I do have this tendency to get my Gollum on now. "Nooooo.... you can't have the preciousssss! I bought you some pens last week - use your owwwwnnnn!!" And many of my writer friends have assured me they feel the same way. Which makes it not crazy at all.

* - Notepads and notebooks!
That's as in the old-fashioned, paper-filled ones - not the computer-y things.

As with pens, the same rules apply; it is utterly beyond the concept of reality to have 'too many' notebooks and notepads. The reason is simple. Sometimes even writers who write mostly on computers like to go places where computers aren't and scribble down ideas and brain dumps, and the good old notebook and pen is still the idea combo for that. But 'story ideas' are completely different from 'notes on a current work-in-progress,' and both of those are nowhere near the same as a 'writing journal' - which is not to be confused with 'morning pages'... So of course you can't just stick all those things in one book, together - no, that's just insanity! You need separate books, for each separate type of scribbling... preferably with nice patterns or soothing pictures on the cover, that reflect the different natures of the writing inside.. Oh yes, the endless variety of pretty covers - some so special and beautiful they deserve to have you devise a new type of writing altogether, just for them...

This is why I have shelves full of pretty notebooks; my local fire station could justifiably class my house as a hazard zone. Most of those notebooks have no more than the first three pages filled - some are still as blank as the day I bought them (possibly years ago now - hell, I don't even remember.) But they're there, looking gorgeous and waiting for their moment in the sun. It may come for them, one day. But if it doesn't... it's no biggie. They don't have to prove themselves to me - they had me at "that'll be four pounds ninety-nine, please..."

* - Writing 'how-to' books!
Here's a social experiment; leave a random book about the craft of writing on a table somewhere and see how many writers can resist picking it up and looking through it. The answer is highly likely to be none. It doesn't even need to cover a writing genre they're interested in - chances are they'll still, at the very least, read the blurb on the back. I personally have never had any desire to write romance novels and probably never will. So if I saw a book called 'How to Write Romance Novels' would I give it a go? Hell yeah! A writer wrote this book - and I'm a writer too! That practically makes us siblings!

Besides, if the first best thing in the world for a writer to be doing is writing, the second-best thing is reading about writing. We're insatiably curious about how others do it, especially if they've done it well enough to gain a ton of respect - okay, and/or money - in the process. Writing is lonely sometimes. We need the odd reminder we're not the only nutcases doing this crazy thing.

* - Specifically 'Writing-Friendly' Sustenance!
Everyone - even non-writer types - has their little foodie/drinkie vices; the special treats they indulge in when they need a little emotional TLC. But many writers have at least one special type of comfort sustenance that they will swear, with hand on their heart, helps them to write. Some regard it as an essential requirement for the process, insisting that without it they cannot write at all; others will turn to it when they feel blocked or that their work has become stale, like a tried-and-trusted home remedy. Coffee seems to be a popular one (specifically good-quality, 'proper' coffee - none of that instant muck, apparently.) Hemingway would probably have said 'alcohol.' Mine is chocolate.

It's all in our minds of course; as far as I know there is no scientific evidence that favourite treats have any specific effect - chemical or otherwise - on the creative synapses in our brains. Whatever. Science Schmience - pass me those Magic Stars, I've got a cranky chapter of my work-in-progress to write...

* - Their Special 'Writing Place!'
I left this one 'til last because it's the most important. Virginia Woolfe famously talked of having 'a room of one's own' for writing. Which is lovely if you've got a spare room going begging... but not all of us are lucky enough to have that. What almost every writer who's serious about their work does have though, is some kind of designated space where they always go to do their writing; be it a permanent fixture like a desk wedged in a corner of a room, a specific comfy chair that's universally acknowledged by the whole household to be 'the writing chair,' or a kitchen table that's commandeered part-time whenever it's... not being a kitchen table. It's the Special Writing Place we call our own. And boy, do we call it our own...

Like cats, writers can be territorial. Even with a part-time writing space like a kitchen table. We have no problem with it being a kitchen table when we're doing things other than writing... but when we are in residence - it is NO LONGER A KITCHEN TABLE, y'hear?  Seriously. So here's the deal - and listen up, because this is important. All the time our Special Writing Place is being our Special Writing Place, you DO NOT put your stuff in or on it. Not even temporarily. You don't take or even move any of the stuff we've placed in our Special Writing Place - not even if it's on fire, just call us. And you definitely, definitely do not hover over us doing that face that means "when are you going to be finished here?" Take it as read that The Hovering Thing will never be welcome in our Special Writing Place. Remember these simple tips and we will have no need to snarl at your approach like a feral animal anymore. You're welcome.


These endearing little quirks of ours were never intended to be a thorn in the side of our loved ones, and we like to think most of them aren't that troublesome. But living with a writer is never going to be a run-of-the-mill experience... and at least we're not out robbing banks or something, hey?

Well - not in real life, anyway...

Friday, 10 January 2014

Fun Ways To Say "In Your FACE!!" To Stalled Story Syndrome.

Writer's Block is like a unicorn, as I believe I said in this post from way back when.

If you believe it exists it makes you cry bitter tears, smash your head repeatedly on the nearest flat surface and fear your writing life is over until you can rid yourself of the cursed affliction. If, however, you don't, it makes you roar denial like a Baskerville Hound in the face of anyone who says the phrase in your presence - while your brain whirs like helicopter blades trying to come up with an alternative explanation that doesn't sound like you're just saying 'I can't be arsed anymore...'

(Possibly. The above may be slight exaggerations of real life - sorry, that's just what my brain does...)

In cases of General Writer's Block (That Doesn't/Does Exist), where writing anything feels like an impossible task, there are gazillions of resources to trawl through; on the web alone there are entire sites dedicated to writing prompts in the form of random ideas and phrases, images - you name it. There's a way out, they tell you. Mostly because, in that situation, you haven't yet gone into anything.

But what if you're already working on something - an actual, specific project - and now it's been hit by the bad brain-voodoo? You switch to something else for a while, like all the advice says - and your writing mojo comes back, and as the words come pouring out once more you cry "Yaayy! I'm cured of this Writer's Block (That Did/Didn't Exist) - now I can go back to my original project and kick its butt!" Only to find... you're back to being stuck again. The creeping fear sinks in. This aint just lack of inspiration or creative stagnation; this is Stalled Story Syndrome.

Are you wondering why I've brought this up? Pfffft, nah, of course you're not, if you've read any of this blog in the past  - you'll already have guessed. Yep, 'The Renegades' and I recently suffered from a bad bout of Stalled Story Syndrome. As I've said in the past, short stories, stage plays and lyrics have mostly been my bag up until now; this is the first full-length novel I've written. It's one hell of a learning curve for me, and I've been making devoted use of whatever advice I can get my hands on regarding the novel-writing process from Those Who Know. And Those Who Know say that a stalled story is a sign that something's wrong with it somewhere. So... if I want to get this novel to publishable quality (and I do) I've got to put it right. Pronto.

And so I've read tons of advice from a myriad different sources on how to hunt down the flaws and deal with them. There's the CSI Approach to it; analysing clues, revisiting the scenes and performing forensic examinations and anlysing the evidence. All very thorough - but kind of... dull. And then there are some more creative approaches. Being the person that is me, I decided to try out some of the latter (and they'd work just as well for short stories, I would imagine.) So, in the spirit of sharing, here are some of the ones that are not only huge fun - but seem to have helped:

1 - Go to a language translating website (Google Translate is pretty good.) Copy and paste in a chunk of text from your work, and then translate it into another language (it works best if you can pick a language where their syntax and grammar usage is quite different from English; Chinese and Japanese work well for this, as does German.) Copy and paste the translated text over your original English text and then translate it again into another language - and then copy and paste that translation over the previous one to translate it back into English again. With any luck, there will be parts where your original words had been interpreted in an entirely different way - and that may inspire you to think of new directions for your story to go in.

2 - A lot of writing advice recommends 'interviewing' your characters to get to know them - but what about doing it in the style of one of those 'tell-all magazines?' (A British example might be 'Hello' or 'Heat' magazine - for the US, something like 'National Enquirer.') Write an article as if it's your character giving a front-page 'exclusive interview' where she 'opens her heart' and tells her side of the story regarding some key plot point that's causing a problem. Then maybe switch and do the same thing for another character - perhaps with a very different perspective on the same event. They may 'reveal' new things about themselves, other characters or events that you may not have known or thought about before. Things that could take your story in a whole new direction - or at the very least show up where 'your' version of events might be flawed.

3 - Imagine your story is going to be turned into a movie or tv programme - and that you have the absolute cherry-pick of the showbiz world with regard to casting. Find pictures of the actors you would cast to play your characters and collect them together; if you're feeling really creative, maybe even mock-up a movie poster complete with titles and blurb (So what if it looks like The Photoshop Screw-up from Hell? After all, no-one else has to see it.) Putting real faces you can actually see to your characters can not only bring them to life in your mind, but also help with defining their roles in the story. (For example, you probably wouldn't choose action-hero-type Vin Diesel to play your painfully shy and withdrawn male librarian character - just like you wouldn't have vulnerable-neurotic-type Nicole Kidman play the knockabout comedy Fat Friend of the leading lady.)

4 - Take a point in your story where there are a series of events occurring that don't seem to be working for some reason  - maybe a scene, or even a whole chapter. Go to any one of these events, and rewrite it so that the opposite thing happens instead. For example, if your male lead dumps his girlfriend have him ask her to move in with him instead. Obviously this will mean having to change the girlfriend's choice of reactions, from being upset or not upset about being dumped to agreeing to move in with your male lead or turning him down. Or is there a third option? What else could she do? What would be the most ridiculous response she could have?  Then try the next event, applying the same principles. Yes, it may look like you've suddenly upended a barrel of WTF? into your story. Or... it may be a lightbulb illuminating that dark corner with the 'something' hiding in it that you didn't see before...

Obviously I can't promise that any of these tactics will magically 'fix' a story, or cure it of Stalled Story Syndrome once and for all. Heck, I'm no expert - I'm still learning all this stuff as well. But I know what it's like to be eyeball-deep in your writing and worrying that, instead of just being immersed, you might actually be drowning. Writing can be a lonely ol' business sometimes - and feeling like it's not coming together quite so easily anymore feels worse when it seems like you're the only one going through it.

You're not, of course - every writer goes through it, even the famous and revered ones. There are lots of different tricks, tips and strategies to get past it - but it seems you can basically boil them all down to one little mantra; as Dory from Finding Nemo says "Just keep swim-ming, swim-ming, swim-ming..."

And rest assured that, somewhere out there, there's a ton of your writer-kin who know exactly how you feel.

Friday, 3 January 2014

2014: Year Of The Getting Stuff Done

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking this post is is going to completely contradict my previous post (The Following are Not New Year's Resolutions.)

I've strived and contrived to come up with a way in which it doesn't - and in my head I came quite close to achieving that. In fact, I could actually say I was successful - if I add the words 'sort of' into the sentence. You see, while I still cling to my heebee-jeebee reversal-of-fortune theory regarding my own track record with New Year's Resolutions, there's another part of me that feels I need to show some sort of commitment to sorting out my shizzle for Life After 2013.

Chuck Wendig created an excellent list of 'writing resolutions for 2014 and beyond' in his terribleminds blog, which I have printed out and put somewhere I can easily read it and feel suitably ass-kicked whenever I am in need (but discreet enough so that my seven-year-old son won't read it - sorry Chuck, but I can't deal with 'those kinds of questions' and feel motivated to write.) This is one way round my dilemma; he wrote the resolutions and I am just agreeing wholeheartedly and shamelessly following them, so it's not the same as me making them... that cancels out the voodoo, doesn't it? Anyway, whether I liked it or not, the arbitrary switch-flip from 2013 to 2014 did make me take a long hard look at myself and decide I needed licking into shape - at the very least in a writerly sense.

When you're raising a kid and running a home there's always stuff to do, of course, so when I finally get my precious hours of 'free' time I need to make the most of them. And when those hours are just two I need to work smarter within that time. Which means NO DISTRACTIONS.

This is particularly hard when those free time hours end up coinciding with my son being home from school and playing Minecraft on Daddy's computer. My computer, where I do my writing, is less than five feet away - and seven-year-old boys do not play computer games quietly. They shout and cheer, and point their fingers at the screen in a gun-shape and go "pewpewpewpewpewwww!!" at the top of their lungs, and bounce up and down making 'swoosh' noises and screaming about 'the Force' being with them as your screen wobbles precariously on your desk. (They also randomly yell "Aw yeeaaah, Dude!" and other meaningless statements in ComputerGeekese, a language which has been specially designed to annoy the hell out of anyone over the age of thirty unless they're still a virgin and living in their mum's house in the basement bedroom.)

In those circumstances, concentrating on anything is pretty much impossible. Moving one of us to another room isn't an option; there just isn't the space in our house, and besides, he sometimes likes to watch Minecraft videos on YouTube. As anyone who has ever seen The Internet before knows, not even the strictest of Parental Control functions can stop a small child seeing something 'unsuitable' on YouTube - and while I don't go as far as sitting beside him and watching his every move, I prefer to keep at least half an eye and ear open while he's surfing the web. Which means the only solution is to make sure my free hours fall outside of the time my son's going to play computer games. And that means planning all of my life better, not just my writing time.

So I need to revise my original writing contract somewhat; I've learned it's not enough to simply say 'I will write for two hours a day...' I need to make sure they're the best two hours I'm likely to get. Which means doing all my other stuff in a different order to make that happen; organising my housework and childcaring shizzle as well as my writing shizzle. Bleaugh, if they're not the words of a disorganised woman I don't know what are. I will never be the Perfect Housewife; I struggle to hit 'adequate' most of the time. I'm told that's a Writer Thing - I hope that's true, because god knows I need some sort of excuse.

Anyway, I've decided 2014 is the Year of The Getting Stuff Done. No piddling about; walk the walk and keep my eye on the prize on the horizon (rather than just the horizon, which is probably where I've been going wrong in the past. Nice to know it's there and all that - but it's even better to have an actual reason to be heading for it other than 'it'll be great when I get there.')

And of course any hints and advice from those who been there, done that and possibly got the t-shirt stuffed in a wardrobe somewhere would be greatly appreciated ;)