The Marathon, then the Sprint

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Last week, I had the fun experience of going on a blog tour. Of course, I didn’t take my own advice for it: I set out on the tour without having time to get everything written in advance of the day it was due online. This is, largely, because of my trip to Leap Castle on Tuesday. I didn’t sleep, and so when I sat down to write again, it was Wednesday night and I hadn’t slept. Such is life.

That tour was to mark the end of my Writing Olympics, with an event-by-event guide for others to do some of the same things I did. With the book out in the world, however, I needed something else to fill my time.

Let’s put my life into context. I took a week off to write Balor Reborn, including booking time off work. I had holiday hours owed to me, so it made sense to take them. The blog tour helped to pass another week of my life. However, I’m now faced with something else entirely: impending teaching practice. This isn’t, in itself, a bad thing. Nor are the lectures due to start in college afterwards. The problem with them is that they inhibit starting a longer project that I won’t have time to commit to.

With that, I’m going from a marathon of a project like a novella in a week to something new and exciting: flash fiction. What this means is that the sequel to Balor Reborn won’t be written for some time. I need to establish a schedule once college starts, and while I would, under normal circumstances, get that book written before lectures start, I have to prepare lessons for unknown age groups, while also working on a research paper.

Life is rather full, then, if I could only get myself focused.

I had planned to get to work at eight this morning. I didn’t bother myself getting out of bed until ten. Well, I suppose staying up to watch the closing ceremony of the Olympics had something to do with that. However, it’s a disruption I canny afford on a regular basis.

I have a lot of work to do, this month. An annoying amount of work. However, that’s why I’m writing flash fiction. I need to remain creative, and while I will be attempting some longer work in the month, I can’t focus on a novella. There’s too much work in the writing process. Flash fiction is new for me, though, and it’s letting me explore some of the stories that I want to tell but don’t know how to introduce. So far, the two stories I’ve written are suitable back stories to Modern Irish Myth books, while also serving as stand-alone pieces.

I need that. I need that sprint. The stories don’t last long, and I still get a rush from writing them. It’s not the same, but the idea of sticking to under one thousand words is so fresh to me that it’s exciting. I’m hoping to stockpile on them, to stick them up for Flash Friday every week for the foreseeable future. I figure it’ll be a fun way to write some Irish myth and ghost stories in a short space of time, that can be read by people in a short space of time.

So, best get sprinting.

What about you? Do you write flash fiction? Comment below and leave a link for me to read a story you wrote.

Preparations

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For those of you who don’t follow little old me on Twitter, or who haven’t ‘liked’ my page on Facebook, or ‘circled’ me on Google+, you probably haven’t heard what madness I’m up to next. See, I like to write. I’d like to think I’m a little bit good at it. Stories are kind of a big deal for me.

So, I decided to write one in a week. A novella, in fact. On camera, live-streamed to the whole Internet. And then I’m publishing it, at the end of that week. Yes, I’m serious. I’m actually going to write and publish a novella in a week. It probably seems a bit mad. But hey, I’m not here to tell you all about that project. Not directly. You can read the press release for that here: http://paulcarrollwriter.com/balor-reborn-press-release/

What I want to talk about is the preparation stage of this project.

Let me be honest here: I don’t keep my room very tidy. I try to, but then I buy something (like a dozen books) and suddenly nothing fits anymore. So, everything ends up on the floor, and my beanbags end up in the middle of the room, and generally you need to step widely over everything. It’s a good thing I haven’t been out (drinking) much lately, or I’d probably be dead having tripped over something coming into the room.

In preparation for this ‘writing a book on camera’ stunt, I actually cleaned my room. There is literally nothing but a pair of shoes I plan on putting away that’s remotely in the way between the door and the bed. And it’s not even like it matters so much, because the camera will be pointing in such a way that no one will see any of that part of my room.

However, I’m a good little boy and I did it. My room is tidy. To make it even better, I got myself a new desk chair. It’s still in its box, because my dad wants to make sure it’s actually put together properly, instead of me falling and dying on camera in front of the whole Internet. Even if the fall didn’t kill me, I think I’d be the first person to literally die of embarrassment, whether it’s physiologically impossible or not!

So, that was another thing done. With the press release last Friday, that was Thing #3. I think I’m doing quite well. My parents are now making sure I have a kettle in the room, and an icebox for the milk, some water and my packed lunch. (Yes, I’m actually going to eat a meal-a-day on camera. The though frightens me, but not as much as losing the entire audience while I eat a sandwich.)

The last piece of preparation has been in running competitions. I’m giving away a copy of the book every day through my website. It’s fun, but it means checking in every few hours to make sure there are actually entries. I do enjoy reading them, though.

Want to enter? Please? You can see the list of them here. I’ve no idea when you’ll see this, but the current competition will be specified! http://paulcarrollwriter.com/balor/

So, four things, not counting everything my parents are doing for me. I’ve also already prepared the plan for the book – the only thing I’m allowed with me! The only other thing to do is to try organise a blog tour for post-publication, and excuse myself in advance if I don’t get to write a post next Monday. I’ll be busy, don’t you know!

A Busy Writer

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Have you ever stopped and looked at your life? I don’t mean literally. I mean, looking at everything that you do, everything that happens in your life, the things you can control and the things you can’t. I do it a lot, especially when I can’t sleep, and I wonder about my life.

When my head’s in the game, I’m what I call a busy writer. Usually, I’m  too busy. This is a result of me taking on too many projects all at once, which usually results in a project overload. At the moment, I’ve got a few things going on:

1. I blog here, for a start. Okay, so I tend to miss my posts because of a bad memory, but this is one of the things I do every single week. I won’t even count the weekend job for this.

2. I maintain my own blog and website. Both need regular updating, and when things in my life don’t quite go according to plan, neither gets very much attention.

3. I’m writing a non-fiction book. I’ve only revealed details of it to a few select people, but it’s going to become quite time consuming once I get my head down and write.

4. I have a research paper to write for college. The actual writing isn’t a problem. It’s all the parts before it that are causing me some major delays. As in, I haven’t touched it all summer.

5. I have fictional works to write. Time consuming, and I’ve lost all motivation to do much of late. Once I get back into the game – and it’s all a mindset thing – I’ll be flying through them. Well, not literally. My laptop wouldn’t like that.

6. Learning. I made it quite clear on my blog that I like to learn. This month, I’m supposed to start cooking. So far, nothing, but I do have a fancy new cook book and blog. I just need to get the ingredients and the time to make something. Then I can officially say I’ve started.

I’m sure there’s more, but I can’t think of anything right now. My point, though, is that when I’m actually in the right frame of mind, managing all these projects and tasks is actually possible. Sure, it involves jumping around from place to place, but seeing the end results really helps to keep up the motivation. When you take on a lot of work, be sure to plan your time to be sure you use it all accordingly. If you’re out of work or school, plan your day in such a way that you’re working from X-Y am/pm, and actually do the work.

Does that seem too hard?

It’s not, if you really care about what you’re doing. This doesn’t just apply to writing, of course, but my limited experience with other hobbies or businesses does hinder the examples I can give you. Just remind yourself that you have something important to do, and set that time in your day-planner to actually do it.

Me? I actually remembered to post this week. Now I need to find something else to do while you get your day planned and get some work done! Make the most of this and every day, and you’ll surprise yourself with how productive you can be!

Rants, boots, and comfort shopping

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Why do we always treat ourselves, buying something special, to make us feel better?

I just ordered some New Rock boots. Oh dear.

Those who know me and my fashion and music tastes may be surprised to know I don’t yet own a pair of New Rocks. If you’re not sure what they are, think of big, black, shiny, sexy über boots with shiny silver buckles and sometimes devil faces or coloured highlights. They are stompy, tough, not-for-any-old-barn-dancing, expensive footwear. Custom models are available, and could set you back a fair pretty penny. I’ve gone for something a bit more basic, at £85.99 (including the £12.99 FedEx fee. That’s a big Blimey! in itself).

I shall post photos on my own blog found here and on my Twitter when they arrive some time next week. I’m just a little excited.

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Why buy new boots? Well, for one thing, my old boots have been letting in water. Whereas my work boots are decent, 3-figure composite-toe-plated safety Magnum Elite CT boots by Magnum Hi-Tec, my normal day-to-day boots have recently been a cheap pair from a shop in town. I own three pairs of Converse, so far this has been as stylish as I get. Time to upgrade a little.

Also, it’s a comfort buy. Work at the DDJ* has been pretty rough recently. Until now, our company has remained fairly untouched by the recession, even posting overall profits this year. However, shareholders have to be kept happy, and takings are down, so changes are being made, pressure is being applied at all levels of management, and those of us at the bottom of the food chain are left picking up the pieces, as always. Hopefully things will improve, but at the moment there are an awful lot of disheartened workers. Thankfully, I’m in a position not to be too badly affected, but it does become a strain when your co-workers are constantly down-trodden and mopey. It’s very hard to motivate people, even harder when customers are of the mistaken belief that they should get things cheaper (or even free) for the slightest inconvenience or complaint.

Trust me, if you’re shopping, remember you are not always right. People who work in shops, especially large, specialty stores like mine, are well trained to know what they are talking about. You want to try re-wiring your house without being a qualified electrician? Fine, go ahead. Don’t come crying to me when your house burns down. Want to plumb in your new toilet but don’t know your U-bend from your elbow? I ain’t mopping up the water. Want to knock through a retaining wall? Fit a new gas fire? Unblock your bathtub with high power drain blaster? Yeah, your funeral, and I won’t be attending. Oh, and if you say to me you’d get better service elsewhere, don’t mind me if I roll about laughing. You won’t. No other company in our field gives the level of training to its staff, or service to its customers, like the one I work for. We’re market leaders (in a buggered market, yes, but leaders nonetheless) for a reason.

End rant. Sorry.

So yeah, my new boots are a comfort buy. Sosumi.

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Which leads me to ask what are your comfort buys? What have you splashed out on when you really should be tightening your belt? What impulsive spending did you rack up on eBay for? Useful things like regular clothes or footwear? Or less useful, like party clothes or trinkets, etc?

(Also, my New iPad purchase last month doesn’t count as an impulse or comfort buy. Since I started selling kitchens, I started saving up out of my pay especially to buy it. Last month was when I finally reached my target for the spec I wanted.)

Answers in the comments below. Best ones may get a sweetie, worst ones get fed to Reggie.

* = Dreaded Day Job, the job which many writers must have that pays actual cashy money with which to keep roof over head and food in belly. Not always writing related. I sell kitchens. Stop sniggering at the back there.

The Den and Me

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Let’s make this short and sweet: this group was what made being a writer worth it in the early days. I was sixteen, only starting out, not that confident in what I could do, and nowhere near ready to really attempt writing all the time, for a living, or for any other reason.

What happened? I set up the Den back in the days when Bebo was cool and the Books section had just kicked off. I wanted us to be the place for writers to go to discuss their books. Unfortunately, Bebo sucked as a model, so a writer joined me in the running of the group and set up a forum. That forum became the centre for everything to happen in the Den. We had dozens of topics running at once, and we were really getting to know one another.

That was when someone suggested we do a book. An actual, for-sale, book. And we did. Five people volunteered to edit, with one taking the role as lead editor. Someone designed a cover, we all spread the word around, and within a year and a half of the group first appearing online, we had a book and we were connected to a charity in Yorkshire. I was seventeen years old, going into my final year in school, and from there things kicked off.

It was in the months that followed that I wrote the novel that stands out for me, Meet Sam. It’s not Fantasy or Science Fiction. It’s completely different to everything I’ve ever written. Friends who read it laughed out loud. That helped. That really did. It was written to be funny and light hearted, while hopefully engaging people with the life of the titular character. It was fun to write, and I did it in a month – my first attempt at NaNoWriMo.

When I joined Twitter in the March following, I was brave enough to declare in my username and bio that I was a writer. To this day, I still have that username and I openly tell people how many books I’ve written. If I hadn’t started this group, I wouldn’t have had that confidence. I reckon it was those little things about my Twitter profile that really got me a following.

Now, I have a writing job on an online magazine, I have a website, I’ve released an ebook and I’m set to release more this year. I’ve continued to meet new writers, and I feel I can actually engage in conversation with them.

And that’s the point of this post: I didn’t get all that confidence in being a writer from setting up the group. I got it from being part of the group. I learned to talk to other writers about the craft, and I’ve learned a lot from so many different people I couldn’t tell you how I know what I know. It’s the one bit of advice I would pass to new writers beyond “Just keep writing”. With a writing group behind you, you can engage with the people who have been at it longer than you, learn more about the craft and build up some confidence.

And who knows, if you join this group, you might even have a story in our next anthology.

I’ve made some real friends here, and I invite you to do the same. And in case you’re wondering if it really helps: it’s seven minutes to midnight as I write this sentence, having forgotten I had to write today. We’re just back to writing the blog, and look – now I’ve written something for the day. Admittedly this has been a rushed job, but at the end of the day this is what’s important, actually writing something.

What can you take from this post, then? Three things:

  1. Join a writing group. It’ll help. It really will. Join this one, even. We’re still looking for bloggers. Email me at literaryden @ gmail.com Simple as that.
  2. Write every day. It helps you to get into a good practice. Keep a blog on specific days is especially useful, because it forces you to write to a deadline.
  3. Everyone starts off small, but it’s possible to do things you didn’t think likely. Just write.

Happy writing, and I’ll see you next Monday. Maybe next time I’ll give myself more than eight minutes to write.

And the Winner is…

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Well, it’s been a long time coming, but we finally have a winner of our very first Summer of Writing. Eleven writers submitted eighteen pieces of prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction, light and heavy material, all in the good spirit of writing for the sake of writing, because we’re entirely without funds to give a prize, however much we wanted to. What we can give, though, is an experience, some encouragement, some competition and an interview.

I won’t claim to have loved everything that was written. Heck, I can’t remember them all too clearly. But I know when I loved pieces, and I know nothing was bad. It was just, when faced with the other pieces, they didn’t meet the judge’s mark. I was the judge. It was my mark. Personal opinion, and all that jazz. I hope that the writers will consider the publication of their work in the Literary Den magazine, which will go ahead if I can muster up the troops to helping organise it into something wonderful. Regardless, I want to thank the writers for all their hard work and the wonderful pieces they submitted.

This is the part where the title takes on some significance. So… as they say in the award shows, ‘And the winner is…’

Jay Star!

Jay topped the board twice (sharing first in one situation) and came second on another occasion, and even in silence for the other two challenges came out on top. In the very close position of second was Trevor Seery, whose volunteer work at festivals kept him from the Internet. In third was Conor Pender, who might have stood a chance at first place if he’d come back after the third challenge.

All the work I read from these writers and the others was so diverse that sometimes it felt cruel to award one writer more points than another. However, the decision has been made. When you see me next, or possibly the time after that, I’ll be interviewing Jay Star on writing and life and getting feedback on Summer of Writing.

Now, as I am all worn out I’ll leave it at that. Thank you, again, to all the writers who made this contest something to remember.

Mise le meas,
Paul.

Bloggy Blog

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I don’t really have much to say. I’ve had a strange couple of weeks. I helped a friend study for his English exams, which means I had to read James Joyce. I went to Westmeath, from which the same friend said I might not come back (thankfully, I did.) I went on a road trip with the same friend the Friday after that. I did some reading. I did a bit of writing. I’ve been thinking, a lot.

The thinking is dangerous. Sometimes when I think too much, my mind wanders to dark places. So I did what I always do when there’s something on my mind: I did some research. To stop myself looking for Bad Things, I looked up college fees for mature students – the same friend who did the exams and said I might not come back from Westmeath and who I was on a road trip with (with Miley Cyrus, too!) is a mature student. So I looked up that. It was better than doing nothing, or worse – doing something stupid.

I started writing a super hero novel. It’s sort of a parody, but with some twists. The characters are very serious. They have wonderful weird names that I won’t be revealing here, but they’re not typical heroes or villains. For a start, the protagonist’s hair is on fire.

I read James Joyce, and some Terry Pratchett, a book on writing and a poetry book. It was, on the whole, very enjoyable.

Then, on Wednesday 25th August, Esther Earl – a nerdfighter – passed on. She was sixteen years old. She had cancer. I didn’t know her. I didn’t watch her videos or follow her on Twitter. I’d seen her once in a John Green video. He’d mentioned her another time. Then she was gone, and I was shocked and upset and it made me feel incredibly stupid for thinking my life was bad.

I worked. The bookshop is mundane. Sometimes it’s easy to let your mind wander. It’s not pleasant if it goes to dark places. There’s nowhere to hide and get over a brief moment of despair.

I went to the cinema. I saw The Expendables. As regards plot and characters and dialogue, it’s rubbish. I went for the explosions (and it was a friend’s birthday.) The fight scenes were also very impressive. We laughed at the broken bones and the ridiculous styles of violence. Laughing is easy when you’re in the dark. It sort of just happens. For the time you’re in the cinema, you can laugh, even if you’re upset. It’s an escape from the other types of darkness in your life.

I had a fight with the road trip friend, the studying friend, the mature student friend. We got through it, largely by him saying things about himself that I disagreed with. He might have known that I would. Or he was just being entirely honest. It doesn’t matter, we’re over it, now. Though it does also raise the issue of sorting him out. Miley says he needs a PA. I think I’m the closest thing to one he’ll get. But I’m not his PA, I’m his friend. He helps me through dark times, so I’m going to see about fixing all the stupid little things in his life that I can’t discuss and that he won’t.

I’ve got some time next week to do some reading… specifically I have to read the rest of the entries for Summer of Writing 2010. It’s been a fun summer, in that regard. In a couple of weeks, I’ll announce the winner here. Two weeks after that, there will be an interview with him/her.

Right, that’s it. I’m done. I’m tired and I have a few more reviews to write for my own blog.

Best wishes,
Paul.

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