Thursday, 11 August 2011

48 Ways To Get Your Manuscript Finished!

In honour of Sally Quillford’s 48th birthday we were asked to come up with blog posts based on the number 48, so I’ve written a list of 48 ideas to help you finish your manuscript. Some of these are serious others a bit silly and most depend on your character – take what works for you and try it. Happy writing.

1. Book slots in your diary for writing
2. Team up with another writer and encourage each other to complete.
3. Treat each chapter of a book as a short story (Thanks for author D.M. Harrison for this)
4. Get a publisher or agent interested in reading your work.
5. Focus all of your thoughts on your story. What you focus on tends to expand.
6. Set small, achievable goals, for example 1000 words a day.
7. Get someone to lock you in your study until you have finished.
8. Give up sleep.
9. Set your alarm for one hour earlier and write before breakfast.
10. Write in different venues to stimulate your creativity.
11. Do not allow yourself to have your favourite thing until you have finished. No chocolate for me then.
12. Use the #1k1hr on Twitter to team up with other writers.
13. Get a cleaner.
14. Get a gardener.
15. Tell yourself if you don’t write you have to clean the oven.
16. Buy a bag of small things you like, e.g. bath bombs, chocolate, new pen, etc. and reward yourself after every 5,000 words.
17. Divide the number of words you want to write by the days till your deadline and stick to the target.
18. Only allow yourself as many calories per day as words you write.
19. No social networking until the manuscript is finished.
20. No television until you are finished.
21. Divide your day into small slots using a kitchen timer – 20 minutes writing, followed by 20 minutes housework and so on.
22. Take research trips to stimulate your plot.
23. Go on long walks thinking about your plot.
24. Try periods of not allowing yourself to write at all, just allow yourself intensive thinking time until you are bursting to write.
25. Use spider diagrams to solve plot quandaries.
26. Write at the same time every day so that your brain expects you to write at that time.
27. Use a particular perfume to associate with each new piece of work to focus your brain.
28. Have a playlist of music tracks associated with your manuscript and play it each time you sit down to write.
29. If you get stuck have a shower – I always have loads of ideas when I am wet and have nothing to write on.
30. Treat all waiting time as writing time – dentist, doctors, school run, when friend getting coffee.
31. Multi-task – write when the family are watching a television programme you are not interested in.
32. Visualise your book on the bookshop shelves to encourage you.
33. Join an online writing group.
34. Do daily writing exercises to get in the writing mood.
35. Get a nanny.
36. Send you washing out to be cleaned.
37. Attend writing conferences for inspiration.
38. Fall in love with your hero.
39. Make sure you relate to your heroine.
40. Really want to know what happens at the end of your story.
41. Get an ironing lady.
42. Give up cleaning.
43. Produce an index card for each chapter and put the cards on a completed pile when finished.
44. Remember how to eat an elephant – a piece at a time!
45. Brainstorm plot twists with a friend or partner.
46. Have a progress chart or graph to monitor your output.
47. Get a dictaphone for car journeys.
48. JFDI – hubbie gave me this one, a company business term apparently - Just Fu**ing Do It!

If you have any other ideas please list them below. Happy birthday Sally Quillford.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Interview with Guest Author – Sue Johnson

Today I am pleased to have an interview with author Sue Johnson. I am particularly pleased to have Sue on my blog on the occasion of the launch of her debut novel, as I have been attending her writing courses for a couple of years now.
Fable’s Fortune is released by Indigo Dreams Publishing on 1 August and can be ordered from their website or from Amazon. It is described as a modern day fairytale.

Fable Mitchell is born under a roof of stars in a Kentish plum orchard, and her early childhood is spent in a house called ‘Starlight’ where she lives with her mother Jasmine and Gangan the Wise Woman. However, her life is not destined to remain like a fairytale. When she is ten, she is abducted by her estranged father Derek, now a vicar, and taken to live in his austere vicarage at Isbourne on the banks of the River Avon. Fable is unable to escape. When she is sixteen, she falls in love with Tobias Latimer but he dies in mysterious circumstances and Fable’s happiness is once again snatched away from her. She tries to rebuild her life and marries Tony Lucas because she thinks the omens are right. Fable soon realises he is abusive and controlling, but is trapped because she fears losing contact with her daughter. Nearing her 40th birthday, Fable hears Gangan the Wise Woman’s voice telling her to ‘be ready – magic happens.’ This is certainly true, but does Fable have the necessary courage to finally seize her chance of lasting happiness?

Born in Kent, Sue Johnson, has had a variety of jobs during her working life including training administrator, vicar’s secretary, cinema usherette and at one time ran her own patchwork quilt-making business. She is now a writer, artist and musician and most of her work is inspired by the stunning Worcestershire countryside where she currently lives. She is a Writers’ News Home Study Tutor and runs writing courses.

Short stories written by Sue have appeared in Woman, My Weekly, Woman’s Weekly, Chat, Take a Break and People’s Friend. She is published as a poet; including a joint collection with her partner Bob Woodroofe entitled ‘Tales of Trees’.

I asked Sue a few questions about herself and the book.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Even before I could write, I used to tell stories to my dolls and teddies. I can vividly remember ‘that’ lesson at school when they ask you what you want to be when you grow up and I said I wanted to write stories and draw pictures. The teacher said: “I don’t think that’s a proper job do you dear? – you’d better write about being a nurse.” (I had an aunt who was a medical secretary). I must have done a good job because she put the story on the wall – but I can remember feeling cheated.

Fortunately, the next teacher was a lot more encouraging and she used to leave me writing stories a mile long while the other children went off and did other things.

What was the inspiration for Fable’s Fortune?

‘Fable’s Fortune’ began life as a piece of autobiography – 85,000 words of it! I’d just gone through a divorce and I wrote the first draft (back in 1998) as a form of therapy. I then went back to college and didn’t touch it for a long time – but by then the characters had grown and developed inside my head and had moved a long way from their origins. The magic and fantasy/storytelling elements crept in more and more with each redrafting.

I know there is an interesting story behind the naming of your character. Would you share it with us?

Fable was originally called Rose – which is half of my middle name. Then when I reached draft four or five of the book she suddenly started saying she wanted a different name. I looked in every book I could think of for inspiration but none came. In the end I decided to ask my guides/angels/fate to sort the problem. I put on my jacket (it was winter time) and walked into Pershore intending to buy a coffee in the first cafĂ© I came to – and then listen out for the first woman’s name I heard. (This is something that has worked for me in the past). Two elderly women came in – complete with fur coats and wicker shopping baskets. “Of course, my daughter Fable…” began one of them as they sat down. I finished my coffee and raced home!

What would be your best tip for newbie writers?

Three things – because things always go in threes in fairytales:

Don’t be discouraged by negative criticism.

Learn to trust your own judgement and stick with a piece of work if you like it.

Don’t be put off by rejection. We all get them. Keep going until you’re successful.

Finally, could you tell us something about your new release ‘Fable’s Fortune’?

When the email from Indigo Dreams popped into my inbox last October saying that they wanted to publish my book, I was so sure it was going to be another rejection that I didn’t open the email until I’d sorted out details of the next publisher on my list.

When I finally opened the email I let out such a loud yell and leapt up in the air that the friends I had staying with me raced up the stairs thinking I’d injured myself!

Extracts from the book can be read on my Author Page on the Indigo Dreams website:

Copies can be ordered from any bookshop, Amazon, Indigo Dreams or Central Books.

I’m also really excited that ‘Fable’s Fortune’ has been selected to go to the Book Fair in Frankfurt in October. (Wish I was going with it!)

Here is an extract from Chapter Nine:

          Gangan opened the front door letting in a chilly blast of frosty air and a skitter of dry leaves. Jasmine wasn’t there.

          A brick struck the corner of the house and ricocheted off into a blackened clump of dahlias in the garden next door. I gazed into the darkness, suddenly noticing the semi-circle of women standing in the road outside our house. Mrs Cameron was the first in line with Marge Henderson next to her. None of them were dressed for a fight and must’ve been frozen in their pinafores and thin shoes.

          Gangan took no notice of the women. She peered into the gloom shouting for Jasmine.

          “Murderer,” shouted Marge Henderson throwing a half-brick that fell short of our gate, skidding along the icy road.

          The women stepped forward, moving unsteadily on the ice before being scattered like skittles as a black Morris Oxford turned into our street, headlights blazing.

Copies of the book are available from most bookshops, from the publisher’s website, from the distributors Central Books – and
from Amazon.

I wish Sue every success with ‘Fable’s Fortune’. For those of you local to Pershore, Worcestershire, Sue is signing books at Number 8 Community Arts Centre, Pershore on Saturday 6th August from 2.30 p.m. Also on Friday 19th August at 2.30 I am doing a talk in Pershore Library on ‘A Novel’s Journey.’ Admission is free and includes afternoon tea.

Find Sue on Facebook and Twitter @SueJohnson9. Her blog is The Writers Toolkit.