What’s that whooshing sound?

As Douglas Adams once said: “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

Well, I love deadlines too, for their motivational power. I have eleventy billion things to get done between now and the end of the year, so no whooshing sounds allowed. Writing down my goals helps me get my procrastinating butt into gear, so here are the big ones:

  1. October: Finish drafting Moonborn. Plan the revision of the second Fairytale Curse book and decide on its title. Incorporate beta readers’ feedback into Twiceborn Endgame.
  2. November: Nanowrimo time, yay! Draft a new novel. Incorporate editor’s feedback into Twiceborn Endgame, publish it and organise promo. Liaise with the cover designer for the second Fairytale Curse book.
  3. December: Collapse in a heap once Nano’s over. Revise Moonborn. Possibly even publish it, but most likely Christmas madness will intervene.

To help keep myself accountable, I’m joining in the final Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life. That will encourage me to blog more than once a month, too.

Lots to do, and we’re running out of year! All the usual end-of-year things will start soon, including Baby Duck’s graduation from primary school. I can’t believe my baby will be in high school next year! It will be the end of an era for our family, with no one left in primary school. Next year will also be Drama Duck’s last year in high school, so more big adventures are on the horizon.

And some kind soul pointed out to me on the weekend that it’s only nine weeks until Christmas. Aargh!

A Round of Words in 80 Days: Goal-setting

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. There are four rounds each year. You set your own goals for each 80-day period, announce them on your blog, then track your progress. Your goals can be anything writing-related, as long as they are measurable.

And why do we like writing challenges? Apart from the fun of hanging with other writers who are also beating their words into submission? Because of the Big A: Accountability.

No, it shouldn’t make any difference, and yet, somehow it does. Whatever works, I say. Anything that helps me achieve my goals. And what are those goals?

So glad you asked! This round of ROW80 started on 5th January, and finishes on 26th March. As it happens that fits very neatly into my most immediate goal, which I’ve already been working on: get The Twiceborn Queen published!

The first draft is written, and the revision all planned. Last week I started working my way through the revision. So, by the end of March, I need to:

  • finish first revision, which includes going through the whole manuscript, writing new scenes and revising existing ones, fixing all the big problems;
  • finish second revision, which goes through the manuscript again, focusing on smaller issues, like smoothing out prose, making the voice consistent, adding setting details (which I always forget) and checking facts;
  • finish third revision, which goes through the manuscript again focusing on more sentence-level detail, checking for typos, overused words, repetitions, rewording ugly bits;
  • send to beta readers. While it’s away, fret, write a 1000-word short story, begin planning revision of another novel, fret some more;
  • when it comes back from beta readers, do another pass through manuscript, making suggested changes where applicable;
  • send to editor 1st March;
  • when it comes back, go through editor’s changes, accepting and rejecting as appropriate and rewriting;
  • one more read-through (on the kindle this time) checking for typos, then send to formatter;
  • finally, when the formatter’s finished, upload to Amazon!

Gosh, I feel overwhelmed just thinking of getting through all that. I have to remember it’s like eating an elephant. You do it one bite at a time.

Four scenes done so far out of 33 in the first revision. Yum yum. Love the taste of elephant.

And the word for the year is …


Need to do more of that this year! The house is bulging with unfinished projects. UFO (UnFinished Object) sightings in every room. I don’t know how the poor Carnivore stands it. He’s so neat and ordered himself, and I’m so … not. Unfinished books, unfinished quilts, remnants of crazes past, my stuff is everywhere. No room is safe, not even his study, poor man. He really does love me.

He never complains, but it must bug him. It bugs me and it’s my stuff! And now it’s the new year, ’tis the season for decluttering. New beginnings and all that. So I’m determined to finish more things this year.

Last year – it feels so weird to say last year, can’t believe it’s 2011 already! – last year I finished very little. A grand total of one short story on the writing front, which is currently out on submission. Huge effort, I know. Did some revision work and of course started a new novel for Nano, but now it goes on the pile with the other unfinished first drafts. So not exactly a stellar year writing-wise.

In quilting the picture’s not much better. I only finished one actual quilt.

True, it’s a lovely one, just kind of lonely! I almost completed another, but had to admit defeat when it was about 95% done and my sewing machine started playing up. It was for a friend’s new baby, so at the last minute I threw together a blanket of polar fleece squares for him instead:

Hopefully soon I’ll find the time and patience to figure out what went wrong and get his real quilt done.

I made a table runner:

and a couple of stuffed toys:

A pouch for my sister’s Kindle:

some aprons:

and a bag that still needs some finishing touches but hey, I’m calling it done (getting desperate here!):

But boy, if I showed you pictures of all the things I started this year, my computer would explode. I went into a bit of a frenzy towards the end of the year. As Mum’s life got sadder and greyer I bought brighter and brighter fabrics. Playing with their beautiful colours cheered me up for a while. The credit card is still reeling and the cupboards are groaning, but it helped me, and I’ll have some gorgeous things to show you when they’re finished.

Which brings me back to that word again. Finish. Hmmm. I’ve always had trouble with that one! So I’m not going to be silly and promise not to start anything new until I’ve finished all the old projects. I know myself too well for that! Instead I think I’ll try to finish one sewing project a month, and get at least two of my three unfinished first drafts done before Nano rolls round again. I keep seeing these opportunities for unpublished manuscripts, and I don’t have one that’s polished enough to send anywhere. That has to change.

So, another busy year ahead. How about you? What are your plans and goals?

“Should” is a dirty word

Yesterday was my blog’s first birthday. Way to go, little fella! Can’t believe you made it!

When I told the ducklings it was my blog’s birthday, Baby Duck asked, “What’s a blob’s birthday, Mama?” He couldn’t understand why his sisters cracked up. That child is just made of cute.

I hesitated for a long time before starting this blog. I was afraid that I’d lose interest and it would go the way of so many – initial posts full of enthusiasm, gradually petering out into silence. But I cleverly got around that problem by being a slack poster from the beginning. Such forethought!

I wondered if I could think of enough things to write about. Fortunately I have the ducklings to help there – they provide plenty of inspiration with their funny ways.

I used to be a mad keen scrapbooker. For a few years there our lives were obsessively documented. The ducklings couldn’t sneeze without me shoving a camera in their face to capture the moment forever. These days I’ve gone back to quilting and writing, but at least if scrapbooking gains the ascendancy again I’ll have plenty of readymade journalling from the ducklings’ bloggy exploits.

Not that those exploits have been comprehensively covered by any means. I remember one of my goals at the beginning of the year was to blog twice a week, and that certainly hasn’t happened. No one could accuse me of being a speed demon.

I’d like to blog more. I feel I should blog more, though it’s just something I do for fun. Why do I feel like that? Life seems full of worthwhile things that it should be easy to fit in, like brush your teeth for three minutes, exercise at least 20 minutes every day, wipe down the shower and sink after your morning shower so it’s not such a big job later. Yet if you added up all these “just a few minutes” activities you’d need about 40 hours in every day. And so we all seem to run around, perpetually behind where we think we should be up to, doomed to feeling like slackers forever.

I set some writing goals in January. Assessing my progress so far, I can see it’s a bit of a mixed bag. I haven’t gone back to the revision of Man Bites Dog, and I certainly haven’t completed the first draft of Dragonheart. I have written more short stories and even submitted two. Yes, a whole two. Please try to contain your excitement.

I was also hoping to establish a daily writing routine. It wasn’t going too badly till personal things reared up and threw my concentration into disarray. Still struggling with that one, but hoping for improvement soon.

Note that I cleverly didn’t include “participate in Nano 2009” as a goal. Much as I love Nano, I’m starting to think another Nano this year might be a bad idea. I can see a classic “non-finishing” pattern emerging: Nano 2007, start first draft of Man Bites Dog, but don’t have time to revise and complete before – Nano 2008, start first draft of Dragonheart, but don’t have time to revise and complete before – Nano 2009, start first draft etc, etc. You get the picture.

I blame my three-second attention span. My life is filled to bursting with unfinished projects, and it drives me nuts. Three seconds? Who am I kidding? That’s waaaay too generous.

One of my non-writing goals was to declutter the house, but I think first I need to declutter myself. All this incompleteness is weighing me down. I wish I could get a working attention span. Would anyone care to swap? Mine’s quite cute, so tiny and decorative. I need a big honking industrial-strength model to get through all the stuff I’ve left hanging over the years.

In recent years I’ve even had trouble finishing reading books, let alone writing them. There’s been a pile of half-read books on my coffee table for over a year, often as many as a dozen books high, all with bookmarks shoved into them. One had been there so long that when I removed the bookmark I discovered it had changed colour. The part inside the book was still dark green, but the part sticking out had been bleached by the sun for so long the shade was half its former strength.

For months I’d looked at that stack of books, thought, Nah, don’t feel like reading any of those, and gone and started another one. Sometimes I finished them. Often they just joined the growing pile. When the guilt got too much, or the pile threatened to topple over, I might finish one, but it never made much difference. The pile had almost achieved sentience, it had been there so long.

I knew I didn’t want to read them, but I couldn’t bring myself to give up and put them away. They were unfinished projects, clogging my mental to-do list, depressing me every time I saw them. Just one more thing I knew I should do.

I know a mother’s work is never done. Jobs waiting to be done everywhere you look is pretty normal in most people’s lives, I guess. But how silly is it to let your leisure activities become a burden of guilt, to see the books you read, supposedly for enjoyment, as a chore hanging over your head?

So I finally took my attention span aside and gave it a good talking to, woman to woman.

“Admit it,” I said, “you are never going to finish reading those books.”

“I might,” it whined, giving me those big puppy-dog eyes. “At one stage I really wanted to read them, and you never know when that feeling might come back. Could be any millenium now.”

“Don’t give me that crap. Look at this one – the bookmark has changed colour, it’s been there so long! And what about this one? You can’t even remember what the book is about any more. You’d have to go back and start at the beginning anyway!”

“But I really enjoyed the first one in that trilogy. I’m sure I’ll get into again if I just … Hey, look over there!”

“What? Over where?”

“There! Look – new! Shiny!”

And that was about it for my attention span. But I refused to admit defeat. Time to bite the bullet, turn over a new leaf, take the first step on the long road to Organised Me. Or at least Slightly Less Maddening Me. Time to wean myself away from should.

So I did it. I took all the bookmarks out of those books. Oh, the pain! Then I lumped those suckers downstairs and banished them to the bookshelves, never to be guilted over again. And it was ridiculous, what a feeling of release such a tiny act gave me.

So, we’re trying, me and the teeny tiny attention span. Trying to let go of so many shoulds, to make more time for the ones that really matter. Trying to make easier goals. My new writing goal is to write only 500 words a day on school days, instead of 1,000. Yeah, I should be able to write 1,000 words in a day, but so often I don’t and then I feel all hopeless and disappointed with myself. So time to be kinder and more understanding of the teeny tiny attention span.

I doubt we will ever metamorphose into a frequent blogger, the attention span and I, but then, I’ve decided that “should” is a dirty word. And I never thought I’d be wishing you happy birthday, dear blog, so you never know.

Many happy returns.


Whew! Lucky I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions. Those babies would have been smashed already. Have I been exercising? Eating less rubbish? Writing every day? Updating my blog twice a week? Only if today is Opposites Day.

Not that I’ve been completely unproductive. I’ve sewn a few bags lately, including a tote bag for Demon Duck’s teacher that we both liked so much we were sad to part with it.

I also finished a more sedate handbag for myself. I’m wearing a lot of blues and browns lately so it goes nicely.

I’ve got stuck into the decluttering and have already thrown out a stack of scrapbooking magazines about four foot high. I’m still working my way through another stack almost as big. This job is part of the reclamation of the rumpus room as a usable space and not just a junk storage area, which has been hanging over my head for ages. It feels great to see the floor reappearing from under the piles!

A curious side effect of the sorting process is that is makes me want to scrap again – or at least mess around with paints and patterned paper, which I haven’t done in nearly two years. I dug out my old art journal and did a couple of pages, which was a lot of fun. This is one of them.

So no New Year’s resolutions, because I know I’ll break them. But goals – I can do that. Generally I aim too high and miss, but at least I get further than I would otherwise. Last year I wanted to finish two first drafts, Man Bites Dog and Starfire. I only managed Man Bites Dog, but I wouldn’t have done even that without something to aim for. I also wrote 50,000 words on a new novel, Dragonheart, plus started revisions on Man Bites Dog.

Another goal was to start submitting short stories for publication. I only submitted two, which wasn’t as many as I’d planned, but one got a very encouraging rejection and the other got published, so that went pretty well too.

Writing goals for this year are:

* finish revising Man Bites Dog
* complete first draft of Dragonheart
* write and submit more short stories
* establish a routine of writing daily (at least on school days!).

Other goals include:

* keep up with the monthly art journal challenges at Blue Bazaar
* declutter and get organised
* have more fun!
* and I’m not even going to mention the whole exercise-and-diet thing.

The “have more fun” goal started well. On New Year’s Day we had afternoon tea with the neighbours that turned into dinner and a movie as well. Less successful (from my point of view at least) was an excursion to Jenolan Caves a few days later. But I’ll tell you about that next time I post on my new bi-weekly*-but-it’s-not-a-New-Year’s-Resolution schedule.

Happy New Year to all!

*I just looked up “biweekly” in the dictionary because I was having a vague moment about whether it means “twice a week” or “once every two weeks”. According to my dictionary it means both. Both?? They’re two completely different things! It’s an outrage!! What kind of sloppy good-for-nothing word is that?