Watch Me is the second in Angela Clarke’s Social Media Murders series (the first was Follow Me) and was published last Thursday by Avon Books. If you haven’t read the first one, don’t worry as this can easily be read as a standalone. Follow Me focussed on a race against time to catch a murderer leaving clues on Twitter. In Watch Me, the criminal is using Snapchat as a means of communication. The two main characters are friends DS Nasreen Cudmore and journalist Freddie Venton and I really enjoyed finding out a bit more about their background in this book. They have 24 hours to find teenage student Lottie before she may be killed. Lottie just happens to be the sister of one of the other police officers who works with Nas. The countdown in the title of the short chapters made this a very fast-paced story. Following Nas and Freddie over this fraught 24 hours as they tried desperately to find Lottie made for a gripping and tense read.
Angela Clarke is joining me today with a terrific guest piece about New Year writing resolutions and don’t miss a very special two book giveaway at the end of the post.
New Year Writing Resolutions: It’s All About Time
‘The long unmeasured pulse of time moves everything. There is nothing hidden that it cannot bring to light, nothing once known that may not become unknown. Nothing is impossible.’ Sophocles
This January have you resolved to achieve a writing goal? Whether you’re planning on starting, finishing, or redrafting a book, blog, script, or other creative project, it’s all about time; how to find it, and how to use it.
It’s easy at any stage of your writing career to prioritise other things, whether it’s the day job, emptying the dishwasher, socialising, or even grabbing an extra hour in bed. We lead busy lives with barely time to draw breathe. Plenty of new writers curse their to-do list, saying things like: ‘if I didn’t have to go to work, I’d have time to write.’ Yet people might be surprised to learn that many writers work as well as write. From 1917- 1925, T S Eliot worked for Lloyds bank, Monday to Friday, and one Saturday every month, with only two weeks’ holiday in the year. During that period, he wrote many of his most well-known works, including The Waste Land. In 1925 Eliot joined Faber and Faber on their editorial team, and worked there for the rest of his life, continuing to write and publish great works in his spare time.
But writers with other jobs and other lives aren’t just found in the past. Whether full time or part time, roughly half of the published writers I know still have a day job. And that’s writers who bring out a book a year. Sometimes this is because of financial constraints (if you want to write because you think it’ll make you rich, I suggest you look into investment banking, or panning for gold). But for many published writers, continuing at their day job proves preferable to the dream of full time writing.
Helen FitzGerald, author of the fantastic thriller Viral, explains what happened when she handed in her notice on her day job to write full time: ‘I became the mad woman in the attic. It was all about me, me, me. I need routine and colleagues and other people’s stories.’ Similarly, Brian McGilloway, author of cracking crime novel Preserve the Dead, says: ‘I struggled with the time and the silence – I found myself far more efficient when I was fitting writing into a 90 minute gap in my day.’ And SJI Holliday, author of gripping The Damsel Fly, sums it up: ‘I really thought by being a full time writer I would get so much more done and really enjoy it, but the reality was that I missed the feeling of being valued on a daily basis in a job I am trained to do and am good at.’ Like FitzGerald and McGilloway, Holliday returned to her day job, saying: ‘It’s much easier to manage time when there are people expecting things from you daily, not just after several months when you send them a book. When I left my day job, I felt like I had lost my identity, and now I’ve got it back.’
FitzGerald, McGilloway, Holliday, and others have found they are more productive when they have other work to do. Perversely, when they have less time to write they achieve more. There’s nothing like a deadline for prompting single-mindedness. Having only a short period of time when you must write, whether it’s half hour in the morning before work, or one day of the weekend, is often more fruitful than endless hours within which you could write. Reframe your thinking. Writing is not about wishing you had more time, it’s about utilising the time you have.
Writing a book can be psychologically daunting. A blank page to any writer is scary. You have so many words to find. So many more to get down. Perhaps making dinner will help you think, or answering a few emails will make you feel like you’re achieving things, or ironing the kids school uniform will get your to-do list off your mind so you can concentrate? Stop. You have found time to write, so write. Set yourself a target, whether it’s minutes writing or a word count to hit. Many writers I know use ‘sprints’, myself included. I set a timer on my phone, say 30 minutes, and write as much as I can until the alarm sounds. After that, I’ll allow muck around on Facebook, pop to the shops, do some filing, have a nap, whatever. More often than not, the alarm sounds and I keep writing.
Starting is the thing that is daunting. Starting is the thing that messes with your head. But starting is the small change you can make to achieve your goal this year. Break your target down into bitesize chunks. You don’t have to write a whole book, you just have to write for thirty minutes. Thirty minutes each day and you’ll soon find your word count rising. If you get down seven hundred words in each session, within one hundred and seven days you’ll have seventy-five thousand words. That’s a whole novel in three and a half months. If your new year’s resolution is to write a novel this year, you could have the first draft done by April. Less than a third of the way into the year. Suddenly writing a book doesn’t seem so overwhelming, and all from just thirty minutes per day.
If you have more time, scale up accordingly. I often set my alarm for 90 minutes of work, followed by 30 minutes of rest. In my rest time I take a bath, I cook lunch, I mess about on Facebook, I paint, whatever I want that isn’t work. On the flip side, I stay focussed in my ninety-minute work sessions. It’s a cunning trick: to give yourself a deadline. For me, it works brilliantly. I achieve loads and I still feel like I’ve had a moment to myself. Do that four times over and you’ve done six solidly productive hours in a nine to five work day.
I found this method of timed 90 minute working sessions online*, and it works for me. There are countless other strategies out there to try. But I tend to find most people respond to routine and deadlines, so give yourself both. If possible, write first thing in the morning – this means you get it done before the rest of the day can run away with itself. And set yourself a target, whether time or word count per writing day. Just that small change will soon add up.
You can find time, and you can use time to your advantage. As Sophocles said, nothing is impossible. Go nail your new year’s resolution.
(*Link for above credit: http://www.success.com/article/how-to-get-more-done-in-less-time)
Now for the giveaway
Today you have the chance to win not only a copy of Watch Me but also a copy of Jenny Blackhurst’s Before I Let You In. Here’s a little about that book.
‘Karen is supposed to be the one who fixes things. She takes care of her patients and her friends, it’s who she’s always been. So when her new patient Jessica Hamilton knows more about her and her friends than she should Karen is determined that she will protect them at all costs. But how do you know who the enemy is if you have no idea who you have let in?’
This is a UK only giveaway and your prize will be sent directly from the publishers. To enter, click on the Rafflecopter link below and follow the instructions there. You can enter the giveaway until midnight on Wednesday 18th January and a random winner will be selected and announced within 24 hours.