Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

The skill of prevarication. And why aspiring writers are so important.

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

It really is incredible the lengths that I will go to not to write. My husband has just watched me come in from riding, which occupied two hours of my morning, make tea, tidy the kitchen, have a shower, dry my hair, choose my clothes, make coffee, impart gossip, discuss dinner and he then commented “You really will do anything not to write won’t you?”  And I think he might be right. And this isn’t because I’m lazy or ambiguous about writing – I adore doing it. I feel incredibly privileged to have the ability to do it, both in terms of skill and lifestyle, and I spend much of my time waiting to be able to do it. Enthusiasm and inspiration cannot be summoned at will and usually present themselves at very inconvenient times, school pick-up and so on. So after analysing his words (secretly of course, to his face I protested vehemently, pleading beds to be made, vacuuming, etc. – things he doesn’t understand and has no experience of so can’t argue with) I realised that it’s because I’m scared. Scared that when I try and nip back into the world I’ve created, which is becoming bigger and more detailed every minute of the day (and night, sometimes) that maybe this time it just won’t work. Perhaps I’ll be denied access. Perhaps the characters won’t come when I call them. Perhaps the story will be hiding from me. It’s a mixture of all of these things. I don’t know whether I will be ever become skilled enough to know that when I settle down to write it will, magically, happen. I suspect not. I’ve written about a variation on this theme before; confidence and lack of, etc. And I have also learned that the best way to proceed when you’re not really sure if it’s going to happen is just to start writing and keep ploughing on for a good few hundred words. It usually works. Sometimes it doesn’t and you have to erase the lot, but recognising good writing from bad is an essential part of being a writer. I appear to be capable of both extremes and I am definitely ruthless when I see something doesn’t work or doesn’t fit.

Another key factor in the success of my day to day writing is that I need to be absolutely focussed. Which is particularly hard for me because I am easily distracted and easily led. Twitter, facebook and my phone all provide constant sources of distraction, and all my friends know that I don’t work in the conventional sense so I’m usually available for coffee/lunch/general chat. Since the Autumn term started I am being quite dedicated though; the amount of time I spend being productive has increased dramatically, and the amount of time I spend gossiping has reduced dramatically. But the tea-making, showering, bed-making, etc. is all part of me preparing myself to write. I could just walk in the door and sit down and get on with it but then I know I’d be distracted by thoughts of tasks ahead and I wouldn’t be able to concentrate. The trick is to be really strict with yourself about which are the essential things and which can wait. And then stick to your decision.

Happily, my latest manuscript is going very well. Though I haven’t actually added anything new to it for a few days, I’ve been editing what I have written thoroughly, which is useful. It gives me a really good feel for the characters and allows me to build them up early. After a few vacillations (and tweets) I’ve stuck with the first person POV. I got concerned about 6,000 words in that I’d made the wrong decision so I backtracked slightly and wrote a section in the third person but that didn’t seem right either. Eventually I went with the first person POV, which is both the easiest and hardest decision because it requires bravery and confidence but also means that I do not have to do an entire 6,000 word re-write.

Another thing that has happened this week is that I introduced my mother to twitter! She’d been interested in the idea for ages but I think possibly age, lack of computer experience and generally not understanding the internet made it a difficult leap for her to take, though she writes a blog regularly (link to the left of this page) and wanted to introduce it to a wider audience. So I was very kind; I took her through twitter, found nice pictures for her background, etc. and showed her the ropes. I explained as best I could how it all works and found people I knew she would like for her to follow. Then I made the fatal error of trusting her to tweet on her own. She’s @JayneBithrey and I think to date she’s tweeted about four times. The last of which was about a week ago. This tells me that she doesn’t know what to tweet about, she needs to find the aspects of her character that she wants to bring to the fore via twitter and concentrate on those. I am convinced that once she gets into it, she will enjoy it. So if anyone has any advice for her then do tweet her. Please. I’m not convinced I can cope on my own.

However I do accept that twitter isn’t always the easiest thing to understand, and this has been well-demonstrated already this week (as it is most weeks, to be honest) by the flare-ups I have seen between aspiring writers and established agents/publishers. Quite often someone who blogs regularly, or is working on a novel, will come to twitter and see it as an excellent way to promote their work. Which it can be. But it is not a platform for formal submission. Unfortunately a lot of these individuals don’t realise that so they don’t go about it correctly. Instead of following the right people for information and opinions, and building up their own, like-minded, follower list they simply bombard agents and publishers with an identical tweet which will read something like: “PLEASE RT!!!! I am trying to get published, I am a person with X career who loves writing, my blog is” (don’t google that by the way, I can’t be held responsible for what might appear). Anyway, this makes the rest of us almost literally cringe; it’s a horribly lazy, very blatant way to ask for attention and it simply will not work. In fact, it will actually work against you, which is what a few of the agents/publishers point out – and sometimes in a very sharp manner. And I do have to question this, I’m afraid. I understand that these individuals already established in the publishing industry want to use twitter much like the rest of us do without being constantly targeted for submission, but if you are on there in your professional capacity then you need to accept that aspiring writers will target you. It seems to some like an excellent, direct method of communication to some powerful people. Irresistible – and annoying. But, just occasionally, I do wonder whether the agents/publishers might give the annoying people the benefit of the doubt about knowledge of twitter etiquette and just ignore them. No response is the easiest and quickest way to show people doing it wrongly the error of their ways. And those who may have the same idea. A sharp, pointed, negative response will be perceived as ‘horrible’ by people who won’t understand what they’ve done wrong and could potentially discourage them from approaching agents/publishers in the future. And let’s face it – if they don’t the world could lose out on some pretty good writers. All of the world’s most treasured authors were nothing more than people with an idea once. Skill and tenacity is what projected them above others. Aspiring writers are an important part of the publishing industry’s future, and sometimes I think the established professionals would do well to remember that.

Now I have a confession: I may have written an entire blog post – but the only reason I started doing this was as prevarication so I could put off being brave enough to climb back into my manuscript, as per the opening paragraph of this blog. However, the time has now come. It stands at 10,275 words and my aim is to get that to at least 12,000 words today.

After lunch.


“All she thinks of is sex. You can’t get her away from a penis.”

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

I think my brain may explode. I’ve had to retreat away from the rest of my family to write this because I cannot cope with dinner being prepared (husband), Grease being watched (eldest daughter) and Bob the Builder being ‘read’ to me (youngest daughter, who can’t read) whilst I write this, I NEED to concentrate, I’m too easily distracted today. Plus my house is a mess and I don’t want to look at it any more. I’m hoping by the time I go back out there my husband will have cleared up, sorted the washing out, tidied, vacuumed, done my ironing, bathed the girls, checked their uniform is available for tomorrow and made dinner. Ha bloody ha.

There’s just three more sleeps to go until my launch party and I am so fiendishly excited that it’s perfectly possible I won’t sleep a wink between now and then. And if I didn’t then I stand a chance of completing all the things that I need to before Launch Party Day. Unbelievably, I still lack a complete list of everyone who is coming. This is only important so that I know numbers. And this is only important so that there’s enough wine available. I also need a two hour long playlist full of suitable background music. This will be frustrating because I don’t really do background music, if I’m playing music it’s so that I can listen to it. I’m currently thinking that I might be playing a lot of the Lucinda Belle Orchestra; she is my newest favourite artist. Happily though, my outfit is sorted. I have fears that my dress is too short, but if it is then it’s just going to have to be. My heels are acceptably high without being vertiginous and that’s really all there is to it. My youngest daughter has decided upon a pink dress and cardboard crown for the party, and my eldest daughter has declared that she will wear jeans. I have declared that she will not. I’m so looking forward to seeing everyone there! As I wrote on Facebook, it does feel a lot like preparing for my wedding day in terms of logistics/preparations/guests. But I hope it isn’t like my wedding day because a) I was very drunk that day and b) I didn’t get to talk to everyone who came, which is my aim for Wednesday.

I’ve changed my name on Twitter by the way. If you follow me already you’ll have seen, but for those who don’t/haven’t, I have gone from @SH_Writes to @SoVerySarah. It isn’t an ideal time to change my name but I was getting uncomfortable about broadcasting the fact that I’m a writer. There’s a lot of negativity on Twitter towards people who ruthlessly self-promote and I was worried that I would fall into that category simply by virtue of advertising the fact that I write. I don’t want people to think I’m tweeting at them just because they are fellow authors or agents or publishers. If I do ‘talk’ to someone it’s because I find them interesting or funny. There’s a girl on there for example, @emilyniawatson, who nearly makes me cry with laughter sometimes. Her sense of humour is so dry. But anyway, I thought being SoVerySarah suited me better because I am SoVerySarah, and so I shall keep that name.

After I posted my blog on Friday a couple of exciting things happened. The first was that my book got a mention on one of our local but big-ish radio stations, Wave 105, courtesy of the very lovely Simon Clark. Unfortunately he managed to time his mention as I was out doing a school run so I missed it. Bad Sarah. Then later that evening as I was approx. one bottle of champagne down he messaged me to say that I was also in the Hampshire Chronicle Arts Supplement, which again, I had managed to miss. Bad Sarah. Luckily Simon said he would keep a copy for me – goodness only knows what he thinks of me and my appalling disorganisation…..I’ll find out on Wednesday because he’s coming to the launch party.

Speaking of Launch Party Day, I have inadvertently made the day a whole lot more stressful for myself by agreeing to give a talk in assembly at the girls’ school on genetic abnormalities, ahead of Jeans for Genes Day. It is something that I’ve done before and something that I think is very important in terms of making genetic abnormalities less of a remote concept for children and helping them understand why it’s so important to raise money on Jeans for Genes Day. However – I think I may have been a bit hasty in agreeing to do it on the morning of my book launch when I will be bouncing off the walls with excitement and nerves and general anticipation. Mind you, I suppose if I’m going to bounce off walls an assembly hall is possibly the best place to do it. So do think of me at 8:30am on Wednesday 29th, I will have to be dressed, focussed and thoroughly prepared to give a talk to a hall full of 8-13 year olds. Tricky. Although, thanks  – as ever –  to Steph (who I must mention on at least a weekly basis) for her assistance in finding ways to explain genes and their function to children. She’s coming to the launch party by the way, if anyone is interested in seeing exactly who it is I’m always talking about.

And last, but not least, I’m not an Independent reader, but Julia Budworth’s words about Rachel Johnson (sister of the gorgeous Boris) in today’s edition had me literally howling with laughter. HOWLING. Her line “….All she thinks of is sex. You can’t get her away from a penis….” was one of the funniest things I’ve read this year, hence the title of my blog. Brutal in her honesty, Mrs Budworth made it very clear exactly what she thinks about the editor of The Lady. And that is that she is not one. See here for the full article: Well worth a read.

My husband’s just come in by the way, looking peculiarly stressed, but he has informed me that he’s cleared up, sorted the washing out, tidied, vacuumed, done my ironing, bathed the girls, checked their uniform is available for tomorrow and made dinner. Result.


So people listen to me apparently!

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Sarah Haynes is pleased to announce the arrival of her brand new laptop! Oh yes. No more putting up with my inebriated computer:  unexplained overheating/shutting down apropos of nothing every two minutes/the screen freezing/untold amounts of faults necessitating the immediate shutdown of Google Chrome and the consequent loss of important work (not to mention the loss of important Facebook conversations). I woke up on Tuesday morning and, as is my wont,  thought – right, enough is enough. I cannot work like this. I cannot be a highly successful author with such a ridiculous piece of machinery. My husband disagreed and saw no real problem with the situation; in fact I would go so far as to say that he didn’t listen to a word I said.  So I had no choice but to ignore him and buy a new one and I LOVE IT!! There will be lots of writing and emailing and Twitter-ing and Facebook-ing and Skype-ing going on with it. It’s an HP one and a sort of burgundy colour. I wanted a pink one but it was about £300 more and the proverbial foot went down.  Pretty hard.  Anyway so that’s quite exciting in itself, but what is more exciting is that I have organised my first ever, ever, ever book-signing!! After the raw excitement of receiving my books and then business cards, the excitement for book-signing went off the scale to a level that my brain didn’t recognise and I felt sort of……numb. Like it isn’t true and won’t really be happening to me. That said actually, I’m not sure that a great deal will be happening to me. As a completely unknown debut author I don’t imagine that people will be flocking in their droves to visit me. But just in case you live near me and fancy coming along, it’s at Waterstones in Fareham on Saturday 16th October. All day. And I would love to see you. So do come along and witness me doing my first ever day’s work! Shamefully that is not an exaggeration.

AND I am very pleased that have agreed to review Things He Never Knew. I love the website, their reviews are honest and straightforward and provide good parameters by which to judge a book – she says with some trepidation……I just hope they like mine. But that’s part of the appeal of the site; honest reviews.  But just in case my excitement levels were dropping off, this bit of news served to perk them right up again. Honestly, Christmas is going to seem such a let-down after all of this.

So – I was going to write about my characters this time and how I create them. Having given it a lot of thought,  the answer is that I don’t really. I decide on a basic plan, for example, I am going to have a 2.4 family, the father will be called William, the mother Mary and the children will be Daisy and Michael and I will have an idea of how William, Mary, Daisy and Michael are going to interact and why. I then sketch out the rest of the plot, pretty thinly as I tend to find it twists and turns as I write it, and then I get going. I am very, very bad at planning individual chapters. I wish I weren’t because it would make my job a lot easier but I’m always too impatient to throw myself into the actual writing. So I do. And then William and Mary and whoever will come to life as I write. Just like Enid Blyton described, I watch my characters and listen to them. I don’t decide what words they’re going to say, I just write down what they do say. This often leads to me being surprised at what’s happening, and if it’s too absurd then I will change it, or if I find they’re going off in the wrong direction, like wayward children. I can’t have William and Mary misbehaving. Obviously at some subconscious level I am deciding what my characters will do, and this is where outside influence comes in. I will often hear things that anger/amuse/outrage/fascinate me and these get stored away for me to use on specific occasions. For example, in my new manuscript there’s a line where a parent is describing the terrible conditions of rooms at their child’s school and she says “Oh goodness – they’re practically third world!” which a friend of mine did actually say to me and I’m  pretty sure she doesn’t mind me repeating it (never mind publishing it…) and which I then filed for future use and created a scene where I could use it because it amused and interested me so much, for lots of different reasons. That’s an easy example. More difficult to pinpoint are the smaller elements that I draw in, as I said in my previous post, the colour of someone’s hair, little mannerisms, modes of speech, those sorts of things that make a person who they are. I must have quite a collection in my mind now and I suppose I just pluck a few out at random and try them for size on my characters. There’s no doubt though that they make themselves, I just help shape them.  And then clothe them, because that’s important.

I’m not much of a psychic but I do foresee that my life is going to get very, very busy over the next two weeks and beyond. Actually, that reminds me, I have three different web ‘areas’ for want of a better word ( and I’m sure there is one); here, my website and my facebook author page and information is liberally sprinkled over all three. Yet I’ve noticed that people ask me the same question time and time again, and that’s “When is the book being released?” This both amuses and confuses me; it’s a fairly major detail but obviously one that people just don’t take on board. Interesting. Anyway, so back to being busy – and I really will be. I already have a litany of tasks mapped out to be achieved and not enough days in which to do them. This could be interesting. However I always make time for the truly important things, which should come as a relief to some. And I tell you what, having a laptop that I don’t have to keep re-starting and giving little breaks to should make a world of difference.  Honestly, it was like taking an elderly relative out for a stroll and stopping to have little rests and cups of tea to make sure that they don’t keel over completely. And watching with a keen eye to prevent any unorthodox behaviour. But no more, my newborn laptop is working brilliantly, if confusingly (I am not clever with computers) and on that note I’m off to check progress on my facebook fan page (135 last time I checked) and twitter (100 followers!), so just think – assuming some overlap there are still in all probability over 200 people willing to listen to what I have to say on a regular basis. I must email my husband and tell him immediately.