A week of ups and downs

It’s been a week of ups and downs this week, and a very busy one as a result. But there’s some good news in here too. Some very good news.

The week started well with me cracking on with another big editing job. It was actually due in the previous day, Sunday. But I warned the “handler” at the publisher that it might be a few days over as I had some last minute queries. I promised her that the author would have it back by the end of Wednesday, or Thursday at the latest.

On Tuesday I had technological gremlins. First of all my desktop, when I switched it on, went into an automatic repair … Uh? I didn’t even know it was broken! But this auto-repair went into loop and I had to over-ride it in the end to try and boot it up in safe mode.

But it wouldn’t let me boot up in safe mode either. And after that also went into loop, I over-rode it again and decided to restore to an earlier date. Of course, my heart dropped at that as I thought there was bound to be a load of critical data now lost (that I’d have to retrieve from backup), and I thought I’d have to reload all of my preferences and software, etc.

The restore date was actually 1am on Monday 17 July … and I hadn’t done any work on the pc at all on Monday. So this was very good news. The system restore took some time, but we got there in the end.

I settled down to some work, and then took the Kindle Fire into the conservatory to work in there … and the Kindle Fire also went into loop, trying to collect emails from my Yahoo account.

In the end I had to ask Kindle to call me and log a call. I spent half an hour with the lady there who had to pass me to someone else in the end as it was a fix she couldn’t do … and when the someone else came on, it turned out there was a known issue on the Kindle email app! And nothing to do with my Kindle or my Yahoo at all.

So we removed the Kindle email app and installed the Yahoo Mail app instead – and all is working well again.

I lost a lot of time on Tuesday, and I was already behind on that editing job … so I worked overtime on Tuesday evening.

And when I came to switch off for the day, I found that Word had lost ALL of my edits, despite having auto-backup and saving at the end of each page!

Meanwhile, last Thursday I’d dropped a book proposal in to the publishers I edit for. It was a history of a very big confectionery company … and I included samples. The samples went down so well that the commissioning person there shared it on Facebook, giving me full marks for making it stand out! (I’d been dropping this book proposal in for three weeks, but we kept on eating the samples … so this time I went straight from the supermarket …)

At 6:23am on Wednesday, an email came in from the commissioning person … with a formal contract offer! Wahey!  And had I not been so busy trying to catch up with the editing job, Wednesday might have passed in a very smug cloud of contentment.

The rest of Wednesday morning went by in a whirl as emails – and the contract – bounced back and forth. And I asked if lovely-already-boss could be my handler, as we’ve sort of worked together for almost as long as he’s been there and definitely as long as I’ve been working for them.

Wednesday afternoon I needed to pull myself together and crack on with that edit and redo everything that had been lost the day before … I also had some proofs in by now that also needed to be back by Friday. [Gulp!]

At 9am on Thursday the phone rang … and I didn’t come off the phone again until midday. I was still in my dressing gown, and I hadn’t even had a cup of tea let alone any breakfast. It was all very important personal stuff, but DIDN’T THEY KNOW I HAD DEADLINES?!

By the time we finished, I had something to eat and then battened down the hatches. I had to finish the edit, and I had to finish the proofreading too. AND I had a contract to read and sign.

I did it, though. By the time the poet had cooked us beans on toast for tea and was ready to go to band practice, I’d done all three jobs: I’d finished the edit and sent it back to the author; I’d checked the proofs and packaged them for the handler; and I’d read, altered, initialled and signed the contract and packaged that up to go back too.

Then I dropped the poet off at band practice, did the weekly shopping, collected him again, and hand-delivered the proofreading and the book contract. Phew!

I’m taking today off!

How has your week been?

I found my writing mojo

This time last week I was feeling a bit annoyed with myself. I’d not done any proper work for a few weeks. So I pulled up my socks and gave myself a kick up the bum.

Tasks and chores around the house are taking longer and longer. What used to be allocated an odd ten minutes here and there is now taking the entire morning – and mornings are my own writing sessions.

So the first thing I did was re-allocate just two hours each day to this. It’s not good enough, though, and I’m thinking of going back to ten-minute bursts as I finish a story or an outline or a thousand words or a chapter or something.

The next job of the week was to update the diary, something I usually do on a Thursday, including this two-hour housework session – but it’s still encroaching on my working day, something that wouldn’t happen if I went *out* to work – I’d have to do it all of an evening instead, so this really, really needs revisiting.

And then I managed some writing! I wrote the blog post and I did my think/query/write/submit work. Plus I updated my Trello T-card system.

On Tuesday I managed some creative writing course work and I wrote another blog post.

Wednesday was my best day last week (Monday and Tuesday I had appointments, one outside the house and one inside the house), and I typed up the final draft of quite a long short story (for me), coming in at just over 3,400 words. That’s going to need a bit of trimming before it goes off to my targeted market.

I also wrote three more blog posts on Wednesday, including one scheduled for Thursday and one for Friday.

And then I knuckled down to try and clear an editing job. It’s not a particularly hard editing job, it’s just a bit … dull, and I keep getting distracted. I’ll be continuing with this one this week as I really need to get the invoice out the door. But I might print off the next one and maybe alternate the two.

Jobs this week include finishing the current edit and starting a new one, and I have one to proof due in by the end of the week too. I still need to write my book proposal, before they forget about me. And I’d like to do a bit more on the short material, so that I have something out there hopefully earning its keep.

What are you up to this week?

52 books in 52 weeks: The Literary Agent’s Guide to Writing a Non-Fiction Book Proposal

I set myself the goal of reading and reviewing 52 writing guides over the year. Here is book 18.

The Literary Agent’s Guide to Writing a Non-Fiction Book Proposal by Andy Ross does exactly what it says on the cover.

An American book, written by an American literary agent for the American market means that it’s very thorough, and possibly goes a little more deeply than our UK markets require. Nevertheless, I like to start with the way the Americans do it because, well, they do it so well.

The author is an agent and a former bookseller. He ran his own book shop for 30 years and started his literary agency in 2008. Therefore it’s odds-on he knows what he’s talking about.

There are no exercises, just good, honest advice. I devoured the book in just under 2 hours. Contents include things like:

  • the query letter
  • finding an agent
  • what is platform
  • the mind of the acquisition editor
  • what happens when I get an advance?
  • the structure of the book proposal

… and many others.

The sections I found particularly useful were the elements of the book deal and a word about the advance.

My only niggle was that the contents in the Kindle version aren’t hot-linked to the individual chapters. But apart from that, this is a very useful book for anyone who wants to know why we need to write book proposals in the first place, and a good recap on how to write one for those of us who already have in the past.

The Literary Agent’s Guide to Writing a Non-Fiction Book Proposal is available in paperback for £8.25 ($8.95) and on Kindle for £2.92 ($3.72). It’s also available on Smashwords.

52 books in 52 weeks: Blogging just for Writers

I set myself the goal of reading and reviewing 52 writing guides over the year. Here is book 17.

When I started blogging, the only people who I knew that blogged were writers. I wasn’t aware of any other kind of blog – or even vlog, as seems to be the rage by now.

I recently read an article that said writers who blog shouldn’t be blogging for other writers but for their readers. I didn’t really understand what that meant as my readers have always been mostly other writers. The author didn’t go on to elaborate, leaving me completely in the dark.

And so I picked up Blogging just for Writers by Frances Caballo in the hope that she might enlighten me.  But she made the exact same vague comment, and I started to feel very thick.

The book is very, very short. It took me just over 20 minutes to read it. And I have to say I didn’t learn a single thing. It failed to deliver on the reason I bought it in the first place and then didn’t tell me a thing I didn’t already know other than present me with a list of things I’d never even heard of. In fact, had I not read it to the end, I would have asked Kindle for a refund.

For a start, the book opens telling me to be as gutsy as Nora Ephron. Now, forgive me, but who on earth is or was Nora Ephron? This is like referring to a film that the reader has never seen. Then it goes on to list loads and loads of apps and add-ons to enhance your blog that I haven’t even seen.

For example (and I even just checked), not one of my blog platforms offers me “blog glue”, “disqus”, “optinskin” or even a “hello bar”. If these things are known as something else on various different blogging platforms, then we need the alternatives too.

I don’t believe I live in a bubble, and this book left me with too many things to scuttle away and research later when, really, it should have given me the information in the first place.

The prose prompts are quite good in that they offer, well, prompts to write to. But apart from that, this book was a waste of time for me.

Blogging just for Writers is only available on Kindle for £2.36 ($3.07).

July throwaways

At the start of the week I did my usual think/query/write submit and I chose three topics to write articles on and three topics to write short stories around.

Here are some throwaway ideas that I won’t be using this time (remember to double-check them first):

Nov 2017

  • 7 November 2017 is Diwali
  • 21 November is the Prophet’s birthday
  • 29 November was the national day of Yugoslavia
  • 30 November 1667 (350 years ago) Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin

Dec 2017

  • 7 December 1817 (200 years ago) Captain Bligh died in London
  • 8 December is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception
  • 10 December grouse shooting ends
  • 17 December is Sow Day

Jan 2018

  • 3 January 1958 (60 years ago) Edmund Hillary reached the South Pole
  • 4 January 1958 (60 years ago) Sputnik 1 disintegrated
  • 8 January 1918 (100 years ago) recruiting began for the WRNS
  • 25 January is Burns Night

Feb 2018

  • 6 February 1918 (100 years ago) women first permitted to vote in elections (1st general election they could vote in was on 14 December 1918)
  • 6 February 1958 (60 years ago) Man Utd plane crashed in Munich
  • 13 February 1958 (60 years ago) Dame Christabel Pankhurst died in California
  • 13 February is Maha Shivaratri

If you’re very quick you may be able to query article ideas for November and December, or you may come up with some short stories that can be pegged to these dates. For January and February, we all have a little longer.

Here are some quick tips:

  • What similarities are there between Bonfire Night and Diwali? Are there other similar festivals around the world at the same time?
  • Jonathan Swift’s Dublin. Less famous Swift works.
  • Captain Bligh’s London. Captain Bligh’s Plymouth (if that’s where he was born).
  • What on earth is Sow Day?
  • A history of the WRNS. How does it compare now to 100 years ago?
  • Christabel Pankhurst’s Manchester. What did she do after the suffrage movement in the UK?

Don’t forget to let me know if you use any, and let me know how you go on with them.

Good luck!

Getting organised: Trello

Yesterday I realised I’d not done any writing in almost two weeks – not ANY writing at all …

… well, I lied. I *did* actually write the structure for a book proposal on 29 June, complete with outline ideas for a further 14 potential non-fiction books.

Obviously, I’m not going to be able to write 15 new non-fiction books any time soon. And many of the ideas may be rejected anyway. But I can do the book proposal for book one and include two books on the same broad topic as the three-book-option.  If the publisher likes all three, then he’ll give me the go ahead. If he only likes one or two, he’ll come up with suggestions for book(s) two and three himself.

And, of course, he could just hate the first proposal and it’ll be back to the drawing board. It’s good to know, though, that there are already 12 more waiting in the sidelines.

But it’s a start, and that’s the main thing.

Getting organised
After tidying up my diary and sorting out my workload yesterday, I did two more things:

  1. I updated my online T-card system
  2. I started a new think/query/write/submit

Because I’m very behind on the think/query/write/submit system, I’m coming up with ideas for all four: Feb 18/Jan 18/Dec 17/Nov 17.

Fave short story market is already looking for stories for October and November. I have one November short story that’s already doing the rounds. But if I can come up with new short stories very quickly that would be suitable for November publication, or if I can slant one I’m already working on to October or November (or December), then I’m halfway there.

For everything else, I have to start again from scratch.

Trello
And that brings me on to my online T-card system.

Because I *do* juggle so many different ideas and projects at a time (I get bored and need the variety), I tasked the poet with finding me some kind of online project management system.

The first one he came up with was a Gantt-type chart. I tried it, but it was too big and complicated for what I needed. Then I asked him to find some kind of T-card system instead. And he found Trello.

Does anyone remember using T-cards? I’ve used them in loads of jobs and find them very useful.

I use the free version, but there is a premium version too. This is what my main Trello board looks like:

The picture’s a bit small, but you might be able to see that I can “star” or “favourite” however many boards I want to. And I can share the boards with other people, or they can share their boards with me. Then I can copy T-cards from one board to another.

I’d like to be able to update just one card and it automatically update all other copies elsewhere. I don’t know yet if Trello does that or if it’s in the premium version. But if it does, then that would also be very useful for me.

I have a board for each of my editing and proofreading clients, I have a board for my own books, I have a board for my short material, and I have a master board for all the books I’m working on. This master board used to include short material too, but it just went on and on and on for ever…

Here is my own book board:

As you can see, there are a few books on there. The cut-off column to the right is books still in planning stages.

I choose to change the background colour of each of my boards. I can also colour-code the labels and I have a key to remind me. These coloured labels show me at a glance how far I’ve progressed for each project.

I’d like to be able to move short card-sections to beneath existing columns. At the moment each new list starts a new column so there’s wasted space beneath shorter sections. Again, that may be possible, but I haven’t found it yet.

Here is my short material board:

This has ALL of my short material on – short stories, articles, RTEs (reader’s true experience), fillers, reader’s letters, etc. At every stage of production. The “in progress” section goes below the screen area, but you can scroll down to view them all.

Again, the labels are colour coded.

Even the cards themselves can be edited to suit. You can add pictures, comments, details such as targeted word-count, target market, target fee, actual fee, and a to-do list, which I really, really like. You can also attach files…

Here is a close-up of a T-card for a short story that’s currently with a market:

(They’ve asked for a slight re-write, so I need to crack on with that this week.)

I’m not using it to its full capability, but this is enough for me. I can tell at a glance how far along in the production process it is.

The beauty of Trello, for me, is that I can access it and update it from anywhere online, even via the mobile phone. So as I’m in the habit of packing a notepad and pen and writing something wherever I end up, I can easily update how far along I am. I can see which of my short pieces is next on the to-do list (and I’ve probably taken a previous draft or any notes with me), and I can mark off whichever task or chore I’ve done.

If you fancy giving Trello a go, it’s free and you can do so by following this link. Let me know if you do and how you get along with it.

Do you have any online organisation tools you like to use?

Disgraceful!

My work output just lately has been absolutely atrocious.

I just this second updated my word-count spreadsheet for July, and I had to spend some time first putting in a series of zeroes for June!

I’ve not written a word since 22 June. This is disgraceful! Especially when I have so many ongoing and new projects bustling for attention.

I wouldn’t mind, but it isn’t even as if I don’t have anything to pay for. I have a new car to pay for, for a start! And yes, it really is yellow! I’m very, very happy with it.

They made us feel very special at the dealership when we went to collect the cars. Even they said they don’t often hand over two cars. We were both given a key ring and a tin of car sweets each.

I wondered where my car was, but it was beneath a sheet that was ceremoniously whipped away to reveal my lovely little new motor. The poet’s car was outside.

So now we have these two new cars to pay for, we need to pull our horns in and I need to get earning. I do have editing work in, and there are proofreading jobs on the way too. But my resolution for July is to write something every day, even if it is just a blog post – it’s all exercise.

What have you been up to while I’ve been AWOL?

(There’s 243 words to start me off …)

Having a splurge

I seem to be having a mid-week writing splurge – and long may it last.

I’ve been very busy editing a heavy book, but I finished it and sent the queries back to the author. It did take longer than I thought it would, though. I’d hoped it would take around a week and it took the best part of two weeks. I was so determined to finish it that I worked until 10pm on Monday night.

It’s done now, though, so I have a free conscience.

On Tuesday I wrote a blog post for Baggins Bottom, then I checked through the revisions on an earlier book I’d edited, and Tuesday evening we nipped out and delivered that to the publisher by hand. I also started the next edit for the same publisher, and continued with that into yesterday.

Last night we prepared the two cars for going back to the showroom. I’m over the moon about my new car as we were able to stretch to a larger deposit on the Zetec after all and bring it to within the cost of the Studio. Things will still be incredibly tight, but I’m very excited – I’ve been waiting for this car since 2011, remember.

Anyway, we cleared out all the rubbish that needed to go straight in the bin, all the stuff we want to go into the new cars, and all the stuff we want to go back into the house. At the end of it, in the current heatwave, we both needed a nice relaxing bath each.

I had my bath first, and while he had his, I hauled out my notebook computer, opened up Scrivener, sat on the bed and started to make character and setting notes for The Fool, which is the first Stevie Tarot novel. I wrote over 1,000 words in all.

Today, I’m taking a break from editing and shifting some of my own stuff instead. I’ve already done an hour of creative writing study, which is my writing exercise every day now. I’ve done one blog post too plus, of course, there’s this one currently underway.

I also wrote draft 1 of a short story, and then I’m writing draft 2 of a different story.

If all goes well, I’ll try and write 500 words of the cat-rom too. But I’m packing up a little earlier today as the poet has band practice, before that we’re nipping in to see his mum, and then while he’s with the band I’ll be doing the week’s shopping.

Tomorrow we pick up our new cars. I’m so excited!

52 books in 52 weeks: How to Write a Book from Outline to Finish Line

I set myself the goal of reading and reviewing 52 writing guides over the year. Here is book 16.

I bought How to Write a Book From Outline to Finish Line: 10 simple ways to outline your nonfiction book by Shelley Hitz because I wanted to refresh my memory on writing a book proposal.

What I should have looked for was a book on writing book proposals rather than a book on outlines, as it wasn’t really what I was looking for – not the author’s fault at all, but mine.

However, when I say “I bought” it, the book was actually FREE on Kindle, so I didn’t need to worry about returning it and asking for a refund. And, because I’d bothered to get it in the first place, I decided to read it from start to finish anyway, and it didn’t take long.

The book actually does do exactly what it says on the cover: It does suggest ten different ways to outline your book. These cover apps and packages such as Trello, Evernote, Scrivener, et al, and other more tried and tested systems, such as whiteboards and sticky notes. And then the chapters very quickly cover how the author uses these tools to outline her own books.

There then follows a chapter on writing the book itself, or how to start and then how to keep your bum on the seat, and then there’s a chapter on dictating the book, writing it yourself, or hiring a ghostwriter.

If you’re looking for tools and apps, etc, to help you brainstorm your next book, then this is a good place to start, and it’s free (at the moment). It’s a short, quick read written in an enthusiastic style.

How to Write a Book From Outline to Finish Line: 10 simple ways to outline your nonfiction book is available for free on Kindle, in the UK and in the US, and probably elsewhere in the world too – just copy and paste the title into the search and you’ll find your local copy.

Update

Once again I have been very busy and I’ve neglected both of my blogs. I’m waaaay behind on my 52 books in 52 weeks, but I *am* still reading them, I *am*still digesting them. And there’s another finished one I’m about ready to review too.

I’m trying to get a bit of cash in, though. There are a few things I’d like to clear and I’m looking at buying a new car – this is the new car I’ve been promising myself since 2011, when I was going to get a VW Golf (Rabbit), and then lost my editing job.

But I’m getting a Ford Ka instead.

Now, I’ve always steered clear of the Ka as it’s always been a bit … dinky. But when we went to look at a new car for the poet last week, we both gasped with shock when we saw the new Ka+. It’s MASSIVE. In fact, it’s more like the old Fiesta than the current Fiesta is, which is actually more like a Focus these days.

And the upshot is … one new car has become two new cars (he’s having another Focus). I’m not getting the top-of-the-range model that I wanted, though. Instead, for now, I’m getting the basic model as the finance is just a bit easier to manage – or that’s the plan at least. But it does mean we need a few more “readies”, and that means I need to do a bit more guaranteed paid work.

My dad’s coming to visit at the end of the month, and I’d like to take some time off with him. And I have to go into hospital for a very minor, routine, no-worry procedure – well, I don’t even *have* to go in, but I think I will. Plus we have holiday coming up too. And this all means time away from the desk, so time *at* the desk is now suddenly at a premium.

I do have three books in to edit and one to proofread, and those must take priority.

However, I’ve been trying to write something of my own every day. This has mostly been at least a Teach Yourself creative writing course I’m doing just to keep the writing muscle exercised. The target for this is an hour a day, and I even set a timer. The problem is, though, the exercises keep giving me lots of new ideas – so many ideas, so little time!

At best, I’ve also been pantsing a new novel. Well, I say “new”, but it is, in fact, a very old idea that keeps resurfacing. My target for this is 500 words per session.

On top of this, I’m planning a new novel too, and I have two NaNoWriMo projects (2015 and 2017) to edit/rewrite/polish.

And then! One of the books I’m editing gave me the glimmer of an idea for a book of my own, and then another, and then another. And then I got a glimmer for another set of three! This is what happens when I exercise that writing muscle. They keep on coming.

Anyway, I tentatively pitched the first series of three books to my favourite editing client to see if (a) they already have something in the pipeline, (b) they already have something on the topic(s), and (c) they’re interested in *me* subbing a full-blown book proposal …and they said No, No, and YES!

Because, like, I could always do with the work! But at least, at this stage, it’s a better chance of a paid writing gig.

With all of this, and with me squeezing in the odd short story or article pitch here and there, I’m hoping the cash will soon start to drift in.

So … that’s what I’ve been doing and what I’ll continue to do for some time to come. What have you been up to?

PS I think we need a new ideas masterclass, so watch out for one of those in the coming weeks as well.