Happy New Year! Goals instead of Resolutions Anyone?

Big Ben’s bongs say goodbye to 2013 (Picture: AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL)

Big Ben’s bongs say goodbye to 2013 (Picture: AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL)

I hope the year has been kind to you already, wherever you are in the world.

Lots of people make New Years Resolutions at this time of year and you often find, on UK newspaper websites anyway, articles on fitness regimes or “proceed with caution” stories about resolutions gone bad. I never make resolutions as I struggle dreadfully to keep them so why bother make them?It might sound negative or defeatist but that’s just my attitude. Maybe I could learn something from Virgin boss, Richard BransonWhere are you going in 2014?

This year has been the first year I have  found myself without any deadlines, term/semester start dates or anything. It feels weird and, in that respect, I guess I should make up my own goals, rather than resolutions, and try to find a way to make them rigid so I have to stick to them. For me, the goals will have to be centred around the novella that was my dissertation for university and possibly even this blog. They are the only things that I really have any control over.

I can’t control the job market or job creation. Job hunting is the only other thing I have available to me to do that has to be done. It is such a soul-destroying trudge I find that I will need something else to focus on that will keep me from stressing and going insane.

So what are some possible goals for me to focus on?

1) Try to post on this blog at least once a week. Even if it’s just a little something that will keep this blog alive and kicking, it will at least be something for me to do that will rebuild my soul a little. It could also help me find a job by doing articles and reviews.

2) Rewrite, edit and try to find a reliable beta reader to get my novella turned around into something that is of novel length and, hopefully, publishable. The deadline I have tried to impose on myself to force me to work on it is September of this year, 2014. In September, I hopefully will be working on my summary, checking the up to date submission policies of literary agents and agencies to start sending it off.

3) Keep up to date and listen to the Welcome to Night Vale podcast when the new episode is released. Since I have subscribed to it on my iTunes, that should be a case of opening iTunes and letting it download the latest episodes instead of having to catch up and listen to half a dozen episodes all at once to keep up.

4) Keep in touch with friends. I have done a dreadful job so far trying to keep in contact with friends from high school and sixth form so I should at least attempt to keep up with friends from university and other places. Not too easy since I do not like FaceBook (due to stuff from sixth form) and everyone seems to be on there and no one seems to like e-mailing or using sites like Google+.

5.i) This and the next one are related, that’s why I am doing them in two parts. Find ways to network with people and keep in contact with them. This could easily help me find the elusive job that has been out of my reach so far.

5.ii) Keep an ear open and an eye out for any opportunities that arise at the National Trust to get wider and more varied experience. In particular, if a writing opportunity comes up, enquire and, if offered, grab it with both hands.

Not sure about any others but hopefully, these will help me keep sane and keep busy whilst trying to find a job. Well, that’s the theory anyway should I keep to them.

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35 Things to Do Besides Write (Which Will Improve Your Writing)

Excellent list that reminds me at least that sometimes, focusing on writing too much can be a bad thing and that you need to get out into the world and explore it.

 

Don't be "a writer."

Writers write, sure, but you can’t be writing all the time.  Take a break once in a while!

Here are a bunch of things you can do instead that will have you coming back to your desk reinvigorated and full of ideas.

  1. Read a book you love.  Pay attention to what makes you love it. Is it the author’s word choice? The suspense?  The rhythm?
  2. Read something you’ve never read before: new author, new genre, whatever.
  3. Play with a child (or a bunch of children)yerin park sled

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Camp NaNoWriMo

Since Camp starts a week today, I figured I would post about it, explain what it is for anyone not familiar with it and talk about my personal experiences with the events.

Camp NaNoWriMo, for the uninitiated, is the summer version of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November. Consisting of two sessions every year since 2011, the aim is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. Since it started, the sessions have moved often.

In 2011, the first ever Camp started. The sessions that year were July then August back to back. Some people, including myself, did both sessions. I decided to do the event because I had heard about it before whilst in high school and college (that’s UK college, 16-18) but had been too intimidated. After finishing my first year of my writing degree, I decided to give it a go, feeling more confident and wanting to test my skills and see how far I had come.

I finished July with 50,067. Not bad considering I missed a few days near the end of the month to attend a few local events, including the Great Yorkshire Show. However, I failed August due to various reasons. I felt a lack of planning as well as the turn around being a but too quick contributed greatly. I also had a voluntary job with my local libraries service and couldn’t quite juggle the demands of writing 50K words for the second month going on top of working.

OLL quickly decided that back to back events were probably not the right way to go about it, especially when people around the world in various time zones struggled with validating for July in some parts whilst a new session was starting in other areas of the world.

The following year, 2012, the sessions were June and August. This worked out better and it provided a break for the staff at OLL to sort out the website whilst participants around the world could validate without issues due to time zones, set up their novels and prepare for the next session much easier with a months break.

Again, I did both sessions. I finished June with a respectable total of 50,003 words, having continued the novel I had started in July. Another years study (and planning over the year) seemed to have helped. Whereas I managed to do 3 years worth of story time in 50,067, I only managed 3 months in a similar amount. I took this as a sign that I had improved as writer and I had learned more. Also, trying to avoid the Olympics and having cut down my hours at the library did help and encouraged me to get writing done.

I spent July reading No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty (Review here: https://sleepybookdragon.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/book-review-no-plot-no-problem-a-low-stress-high-velocity-guide-to-writing-a-novel-in-30-days-by-chris-baty/) and planning for August. I had been buoyed by my success in June and decided to go back to the story I had attempted for August the previous year and failed. Planning was essential as the story took place in Winchester, Virginia so, as a Brit who had never gone to the States, I had to talk to some of my friends who lived in Virginia to help me figure out various issues, including immigration.

The planning proved a little too thorough as I had to find 5,000 more words to hit 50,000 words before midnight on August 31st. Still, it was an enjoyable experience and gave me an insight into how I could do the various little bits of research required whilst still writing. I would say it was a learning experience which would help in the next academic year.

This year, 2013, OLL changed the sessions again to April and July. This was probably done to account for the fact that they had wound up Script Frenzy due to declining participation numbers. This is supported by the fact that this year, OLL have created a genre for scripts this year of all kind. short story collections as well as being able to officially rebel (working or editing a pre-existing project) and allows participants to create their own word count goals.

I was not initially going to do April since I was working on my dissertation for university which was due in a couple of days prior to the session starting and preparing and researching for the last two essays I needed to do which had high word counts to match the high level of research required. However, I felt I needed a little something else to do as just a private creative venture as a de-stress. So I set myself a 10,000 word target using the new word count feature, figuring that if I failed to hit it, I failed. I wasn’t exactly trying.

As luck would have it, I did manage, somehow, to do the 10K and get my university work done. It was fun and a nice little distraction for me, especially as I wasn’t trying.

The next session, starting on Monday, 1st July 2013, at 00:00:01 will be the sixth since it’s inception and only the second to include the new content. Whilst the changes are great fun and I can understand why there was a session in April, I feel there was too much of a gap between April and July and it has made some participants, like myself, a bit restless and fed up of waiting for a new session. This is possibly the only thing I would recommend to OLL to change for next year.

So there you have it. The history of both the Camp NaNoWriMo event and my own history.

I am looking forward to this next session, hoping to edit and double the size of my dissertation (which was a novella) and I am aiming to finish on July 25th, when Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch comes out. This also means that I may neglect this blog a little, unless I put my word counts up everyday as a way of motivating me. We’ll see but for now, I need to finish writing my new outline… I’ve been meaning to do it since end of May!

Book Review: No Plot? No Problem! A Low Stress, High Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty

Long title, I know. With the July session of Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) just around the corner, I thought I would review this. Also, I need to post something on here this week and I was meaning to review this last week. Sorry!

No Plot? No Problem is your guide through the preparation, the process and the aftermath of doing NaNoWriMo (commonly known as NaNo), written by founder Chris Baty.

Including an introduction to the month and a history of how NaNo started, the book helps potential participants to work out what to write, planning and plotting, how to find time to write and getting the right equipment for the event before moving on to other issues connected to the event: telling (or not telling) friends, family and work colleagues about your endeavour, ensuring you complete the challenge plus eating and drinking right during the event.

The book also includes pep talks for each week of the event, which are recommended to be read at the start of each week along with the pep talks sent to your NaNo Mail on the website(s), a letter of congratulations, regardless of how well you have done, and a chapter on editing and getting published.

This book is well written, easy to read and very informative. Whilst US and November-focused, all the information applies to everyone and works just as well for Camp sessions (April and July this year). The writing is fun and exciting and Baty is very encouraging and engaging in the event. I really enjoyed this book and since buying it. I have used this book for several sections and have found it invaluable each time. The pep talks are especially helpful and have been great for picking me up when I felt down in the second and third weeks. I have also taken Baty’s advice for healthy snack food.

The only criticisms I have are two-fold. The introduction is slow and somewhat boring, making it difficult to read and the last chapter on editing and submitting to agents is short but since it is aimed at guiding people through the event and not the actual process of editing, rewriting and submissions to agents and publishers, it is forgivable and there are other books out there that can help on this (see my review on Road to Somewhere by Robert Graham).

This book is good fun, well written and excellent companion any month-long novelling venture (not just in NaNo sessions). I have turned to this book for help and advice when needed and would highly recommend it.

 

Book Review: Hotel Babylon by Imogen Edwards-Jones & Annonymous

Okay, sorry for the lack of reviews and new content this week. I’ve had a few issues to deal with in real life.

Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to spend a night in a high-class hotel so what does happen in such establishments? What do the staff get up to behind the scenes when they are not dealing with guests? What debauchery, scams and drugs happens behind the scenes? Hotel Babylon answers those questions and more. Fictionalised to a certain extent to protect the guilty, Imogen and Anonymous (an insider in the hospitality sector) explore the workings of a hotel, cramming years of stories and anecdotes into one 24 hour period.

This book is great fun. Written from the first person, the reader watches everything from Anonymous’ point of view as he moves through his day and night working in a hotel. The stories are shocking, entertaining, funny and sometimes saddening. It also provides an insight to the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Some of the excesses are surprising and what the doorman does to keep the guests happy, from arranging tables at the most exclusive restaurants to hiring prostitutes for guests to, uh, get their rocks off, is shocking. However, it all amounts to a very entertaining read.

I believe it also gives a better insight into the world than most career information leaflets and books could ever give anyone who wants to work in hotels (especially high-end hotels) and for anyone who is just interested.

The only problem I have with this (and other books in the series) is that there seems to be an excess of swearing when some of it could be done without. Yes, adults swear but I feel there is just too much of it for there to be any real need for it. Maybe it’s because I am not used to the level of swearing used and maybe it’s because I am still learning about the world but I do know that there is an excess of it when it could really be avoided.

Despite the issue with swearing, this book is fascinating and interesting and gives a unique view on the world of hotels and hospitality and is great fun. Probably ironic but perfect material to read on holiday or in a hotel, this book provides the highs and lows of the industry, as well as the shocking and downright outrageous.

 

Book Review: Texts from Dog by October Jones

Since I have just reviewed 364 Days of Tedium, the Santa comic, I thought I would review this book which is in a similar vein and would possibly go together with the Santa book as a gift for someone.

Texts From Dog is similar to the Santa book in that it is an adult comic though it can be read by teens and even some of the texts and jokes could actually be shown to children. Having started a blog on Tumblr (and continuing on today), October Jones’s dog has a mobile phones, he is not afraid to use it and often texts his owner to reveal what he is up to, whether it is running around as BatDog and trying to defeat his nemesis CatCat (basically a cat but evil) or refusing to take a bath to protect the Fleatles. He also texts his owner with typical dog behaviour, like hearing his owner opening a bag of crisp and saying he is going to find him just to stare at him.

Unlike the Santa comic, there is no toilet humour but there are texts with sexual themes and some expletives but mostly, it is a laugh out loud look at what dogs would probably text their human owners, you know, if they ever did develop the ability to text. This book is much easier to read on the Kindle, unlike the Santa comic, mostly because the texts are shown as being on a touch smart phone screen and the only drawn pictures are those which would normally fill a page in a physical book, large and yet simplistic. Admittedly, I like this book far better than the Santa one, mostly due to the lack of toilet humour and I think the jokes are funnier and it is a better premise.  It’s audience is men and women, twelve years and above and the humour is more far ranging so giving it a larger appeal.

I have sat reading this book on the bus before and had to quickly stop as I found myself constantly bursting into giggles and having to hold down great big belly laughs at the jokes. I therefore don’t recommend reading this book in a public place, unless you don’t mind getting stared at for laughing out loud too much!

In saying that, I would recommend this book more than the Santa one due to it’s humour, the pictures and mostly because it is very much a laugh out loud, extremely enjoyable book.