Archive | September 2012

October Already? Another ROW80 Round Begins!

I can’t beleive it’s October tomorrow, although looking at the weather it’s believable. I just don’t understand where the first nine months of the year have gone. Seriously it feels like it should be May or something. They say time goes quicker as you get older, I can’t imagine it getting any quicker than this (although I’d like this week to go really quickly please – more about that later).

Tomorrow being the first Monday of October, means A Round of Words in 80 Days begins again. Another 80 days to set goals, and be accountable to soemthing. Unlike NaNo, you can set your own goals, and change them as and when you want. I can’t remember when I started taking part in ROW80, I’m tempted to say 2 years ago, but it can’t be. I know I’ve definitely been doing it more than a year. I’ve just looked back – I started in Round 2 of 2011. So this will be my 7th round.

I can’t say I’ve achieved massive things in that time, but I’m 99.99% sure I’ve done way more than I would have done without it. Which is why I’d doing it again. This time I’m determind to have no rubbish check-ins. I want to hit my goals every time.

I’m using a weightloss app for my phone called Noom. It suggests setting my exercise goals weekly, because then I’ll know what I have planned for the week, so am more likly to make my goals. I tried that for writing in the last few weeks of the last round of ROW80, and it seemed to work pretty well, so I’m going to try that again.

I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to have only writing, or writing and exercise, or writing, exercise and eating goals. I guess I’ll have to decide by the end of this blog!

Right, goals (fine, I’m deciding now). I’ve got a really busy week this week. It’s my last week in my job, before I finish Thursday, and have a wedding on Friday, then start my new job the following Monday. It means I’ve a ton of work to finish this week (I’ve got to do some tonight, did some yesterday, and can guarantee I’m going to do some evenings this week), so I could do without the added work of this. Still, I’m going to have goals, and I’m going to make them!

Writing: Write 100 words 3 days. It’s not a lot, but I am going to be so busy, I think it’s is doable. Hopefully I’ll manage more, but if not, this is my minimum.

Blogging: 2 Check-in/catch up blogs. I want to do more,  I’m so behind in book reviews for my reading challenges, but I don’t think this is the week to worry about that. If I get more that great, if not, agian this is my minimum.

Exercise: Walk either to or from the tube to work 3 times. 2 exercise classes or runs. I’m hoping to go spinning on Tuesday, but if the class is already booked, I’ll come home and go running. I’ll also go running on Sunday.

Eating: be good! I know that’s a rubbish goal, it’s not measurable or anything, but it’s going to have to do, because I haven’t decided if I’m going to count calories, or do Slimming World, or something else.

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The End = Kiss of Death For Writing

Hi! Remember me? You may have seen me here before, a week or so ago (maybe two, I daren’t look) . I blogged about how I’d written the last words of my novel (I think I did, I may have only tweeted it). I said I had to go back and write more to fill in gaps in the middle, but that at least I’d got to the end.

Do you want to guess how many words I’ve written since then? Actually, I’ve written 1,000. But that was last Thursday. I’ve written nothing since.

Worse than that though, I’ve just realised it’s Thursday, which means it’s One Thousand Thursday. Awww. That means I’m going to have to write 1,000 words tonight. Last week I wrote 1,000 words from a random prompt. I feel like I should go back to the novel, fill in the middle. The problem is, I can’t remember what is in the middle, so I’m not really sure what I have to fill in.

As I’m writing this, I’ve been thinking about which scene I could write, and I’ve decided. It does mean that the last scene I wrote needs to change, but that’s hardly a surprise is it. Now there’s an awesome bit of multi-taking.

I’ll tell you what I have been getting good at since I stopped writing (and blogging, but I’ve not even got to that!) – exercise. Or good-ish anyway. Today I had planned to go running, but I left work late so it would have been dark when I was running. Running in the dark doesn’t really appeal to me. Even though I can run in really public areas. It’s why I like the gym in winter. When I can make myself go.

So I missed today, but, on Tuesday, I went, to my very first, ever, spinning class. Apparently I’d agreed to it when drunk. Actually no, I’d insisted my friend took me to her class when I was drunk. I had no idea until she text me on Monday asking if I was still up for it. I nearly died when I read it.

But I knew it was a good idea so I went along with it.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve heard anything about spinning classes, but they’re supposed to be really, REALLY hard. People crawl away because they’re so hard. I’ve never been to a class, thinking it would be incredibly hard.

3 minutes into the class I was wishing it was over. It was a 45 minute class. 3 minutes in. 3. The next 17 minutes were hell. Then it got a bit easier. Or I started missing bits out. Either way. I walked away. Just. I was expecting massive pain on Wednesday, but I had none (except from sitting on the stupid seat – that hurt, still hurts!). So I expected the pain to come today. Still nothing.

Now, I wouldn’t usually be upset that I’m not in pain. But I am. They say ‘No pain, no gain’ for a reason. Now I feel like I didn’t work hard enough. I’m pretty sure I would have thrown up if I’d have worked any harder though. I felt close at the end.

What have I learnt from this experience? Apparently nothing, because I’ve looked up classes at my gym, and am going to book myself in for Monday or Tuesday. Yes, I think I’m mad.

So back to writing, or moving on to blogging I guess. I’ve been so bad. I can’t look at when I last blogged. But I know it was a Loooooooong time ago. I really enjoy blogging so I need to get back into it. I also need to catch up on some book reviews.

I’m not reading too much at the moment either. I’m a bit apathetic about the novel I’m reading at the moment, so it’s not making me really want to read. It’s ok, but it’s not brilliant. Which is strange because my step Mum recommended it to me, and usually I like what she likes.

Right, enough of this. I need to go write 1,000 words. And then I need an early night, because I’ve got an early start in the morning. Sigh. Least it’s Friday, and even better, I’ve got a half day tomorrow. Woo hoo!

End of Week Round Up

I must say, although I’m not writing everyday, I’m doing really well. But then I would say that as I’ve just written 1,828 words Yes in 1 go, in 1 day, in an hour and a bit, ish.

Lets look at that again – 1,828. Wow!

Unfortunately, although I’ve just done this many words, I haven’t smashed my weekly goal like I would have liked – mainly because my weekly goal isn’t a weekly goal, it’s a daily goal, and I’ve not been writing daily.

So, lets see how I’ve done this week, on writing and other goals:

Writing: Write 100 words Mon – Wed and Fri – Sun
Achieved:
Monday – 354
Tuesday – 167
Wednesday – None
Thursday (One Thousand Thursday) – 1,001
Friday – None
Saturday – None
Sunday – 1,828

So, I’m not writing everyday, but when I’m wriitng, I’m really writing. I can’t knock myself when I’m doing so well. I’ll just try for every day this week. Imagine if I could write 1,000 words a day this week…

Exercise: Gym once, walk 11km.
Achieved:
I didn’t go to the gym, but I went for a run on Tuesday night. It was a really good run, so I’m totally counting that as a tick.
Walked 14.5km. 

Brilliant. I’m very happy with that. Especially because as soon as I’ve finished this, I’m going to go for a run. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and say this is a pattern, but it’s definitely a good start.

Blogging: 2 Check-in blogs, 1 book review blog, 1 other blog.
Achieved:
This is my second ROW80 Check-in
I posted a review of Marian Keyes’ The Mystery of Mercy Close on Tuesday
I posted a blog on Monday about the event I’d been to with SJ Watson and Rachel Joyce AND one yesterday about my progress on the reading challenges I’m doing this year. 

Tick, tick, tick.

That’s what I call a good week. I’m so happy. Having such a successful week under my belt is a massive motivation for me. I don’t want to do badly this week, I want to build on the success of this week. You know what? I totally can, and I totally will.

My goals for this week then:

Writing: 100 words Mon – Wed, 1,000 words Thursday, 200 words Fri – Sun. Yes, I’m upping the goal Fri – Sun. Why not, I can do it.

Exercise: gym or run twice, walk 15km. Well, I managed 14.5km this week, so why not 15 next? Why not indeed.

Blogging: Same as last week completely: 2 Check-in blogs, 1 book review and 1 other blog.

Hope everyone else’s week has gone as well, and that next week rocks for you!

2012 Reading Challenges Catch Up

I’m just going through the lists of novels I’ve read for my 3 reading challenges this year. On some I’m doing well, others not so well.

I’m doing three reading challenges this year – Book Chick City’s Mystery and Suspense Challenge, Roof Beam Reader’s TBR Pile Challenge, and Chick Lit Plus’ Chick Lit Reading Challenge.

I’ve been doing the Mystery and Suspense Challenge for years now, I believe this is the third year in a row. I love it. And you know what? I’ve finished it this year already*. Well, I’ve finished the reading, I just need to write a couple of reviews now. When I say a couple… I mean 6. Yes, I’ve read 12* books, and reviewed 6. Shocking. I’m going to try to write a book review every week going forward, so I should catch up before the end of the year – I hope. Maybe for the next couple of weeks I’ll post two reviews a week. Sigh, next year I’ll get better at reviews!

*Just found out I’ve actually read 13 – well over! Awesome. Only that means I’ve got another to review. Oh dear.

When I heard about The TBR Pile Challenge (To Be Read) I KNEW I had to do it – had to. With over 50 unread books on my shelf, it would be a massive push to get through them, even if it would only be 12 of them (14 max, because there are two alternatives). My plan was to read one a month (as is always my plan with challenges with 12 books in 12 months). It started well, better than well. By the end of January I’d read two.

I didn’t read any in February, one in March and so it went. We’re now halfway through the 9th month, so I should have read at least 8. I haven’t. I’ve read 6. And reviewed 4. That’s actually not too bad. I’ve just finished my last book, so I’ll start one for this challenge today. That means by the end of the 9th month, I will have read 7. Not great, but not a bad position. Leaves me three months to read five books. Two months actually, because I don’t read in November (NaNo!). Ok, not great at all, but not terrible.

My final challenge was the one I thought I’d do the best in – the Chick Lit Challenge. Usually that’s what I read the most of. Or that’s what I think I read the most of. Actually in 2011 I read 10 chick lit books, but 11 thrillers. Pretty even. Considering I’ve now completed the Mystery and Suspense Challenge, you’d think I’d almost be done with this one, wouldn’t you?

I’m not. I’m exactly where I should be at this time of year – I’ve read 9 (I won’t mention that 2 were read this month!). Reviewing isn’t going too well on this – I’ve only done 5. Ah. Ok, so 9 to catch up on, 3 to read and review. Not bad. I’m quite happy with this.

Some of the TBR books I have left to read, are also chick lit books (woop, nicely chosen there Helen!). Two of them. That means that I have 7 books left to read this year. I can definitely read one more, possibly two this month. I’ve got lots of train journeys coming up and a few free weekends, so it should be fine. I’m not worried. Not yet anyway.

I was going to just finish this now, but I think it’s probably good to have a list of the books I’ve read, and the challenges they relate to. So here goes:

Mystery & Suspense Challenge:

Snapshot by Craig Robertson
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest by Steig Larrson
After The Snow by SD Crockett
Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Green
The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall
The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards
About Last Night by Adele Parks
Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay
SaleFalls by Jodi Piccoult
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes
The Last Juror by John Grisham

The Chick Lit Challenge:

Bewteen A Mother and Her Child by Elizabeth Noble
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
About Last Night by Adele Parks
The Patchwork Marriage by Jane Green
After the Party by Lisa Jewell
The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes
The Single Girl’s To Do List by Lindsey Kelk
The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes
All That Glitters by Ilana Fox

The TBR Challenge:

Petit Anglais by Catherine Sanderson
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Steig Larrson
Salem Falls by Jodi Piccoult
After The Party by Lisa Jewell
The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes
The Last Juror by John Grisham

Look At Me Go

What a difference this week is to last week. I’m positively flying through my goals this week. Lets look at them, and how I’m doing:

Exercise (weekly goal): 1x visit gym, walk 11km. 

To Wednesday: I’ve not been to the gym, but I went running yesterday – that’s just as good for me, especially as I did really well – ran 12 1/2 minutes in total (run/walk/run/walk), which is 2 minutes more than last time. It’s not great, but considering it’s only the second time I’ve been running in about 6 months, I’m well happy with it. So far I’ve walked just under 8km. Not bad going for day 3/7.

Writing: Write 100 Mon-Wed and Fri-Sun, Write 1,000 words Thu for One Thousand Thursday.

To Wednesday: I wrote 354 words on Monday and 167 words yesterday. I’ve not written today, but I will, even though I’m going out in a minute, I will. 

Blogging: 2x Check-ins for ROW80, 1x book review blog, 1 other blog.

To Wednesday: This is my first check in, I posted my review of Marian Keyes’ The Mystery of Mercy Close yesterday (highly recommend it, I loved it), and I posted my ‘other’ blog on Monday – having been to an SJ Watson and Rachel Joyce event

Totally Rocking my goals so far (and yes, Rocking did have to be capitalised, I’m Rocking them!). 

Tomorrow is One Thousand Thursday, my ‘invention’ (or whatever) to push myself (and hopefully you) to get a lot of words in the week. So far I’ve done really well, but with a slip up last week, of only 300+. This week I have to get back on it. I can’t encourage people to take part if I’m not doing it myself.

Plus, I’m at a good part in the novel. I’ve decided to carry on with where I’m going. I was telling my friend about it at the weekend, and I realised that the problem with it, isn’t really a problem. I think I was making it a problem, maybe as an excuse, but it can work this way. Definitely.

So there’s me. Lets hope I’m doing as well, and am as positive on Sunday when I next check-in for ROW80.

I’m doing well, how about you reader? Are you taking part in ROW80? If so how’s it going for you? If you’re not, what are you up to? I’d love to hear from you dear reader, know who you are and what you’re doing.

The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes Review

Helen Walsh doesn’t believe in fear – it’s just a thing invented by men to get all the money and good jobs – and yet she’s sinking. Her work as a Private Investigator has dried up, her flat has been repossessed and now some old demons have resurfaced.

Not least in the form of her charming but dodgy ex-boyfriend Jay Parker, who shows up with a missing persons case. Money is tight and Jay is awash with cash, so Helen is forced to take on the task of finding Wayne Diffney, the ‘Wacky One’ from boyband Laddz.

Things ended messily with Jay. And she’s never going back there. Besides she has a new boyfriend now, the very sexy detective Artie Devlin and it’s all going well. But the reappearance of Jay is stirring up all kinds of stuff she thought she’d left behind.

Playing by her own rules, Helen is drawn into a dark and glamorous world, where her worst enemy is her own head and where increasingly the only person she feels connected to is Wayne, a man she’s never even met.

I cannot explain how excited I’ve been for MONTHS since hearing Marian Keyes has a book coming out. I’ve read every book of hers since Watermelon came out – apparently in 1995, and I can honestly say I’ve loved every single one of them. I, therefore had very high hopes for The Mystery of Mercy Close.

As expected, Keyes delivered. Once I started the novel, I couldn’t put it down, even in it’s hardcover state which I usually hate (too awkward, too heavy etc). Yes, I loved this one too.

Helen Walsh is the fifth and final Walsh sister Keyes has written about: Watermelons was about Claire; Angels was about Margaret (I still think this is my favourite of all her novels); Rachel’s Holiday was, unsruprisingly, about Rachel; and Anybody Out There was about Anna. And now we have Helen. I love that she’s gone back and written about each sister in the family, in each one you get a sneek into at least one of the other sister’s life, which is brilliant, because it’s kind of like keeping up with old friends.

In The Mystery of Mercy Close, Helen is going through a really bad time. She’s not got any friends, and in some scenes you can tell why (just wait till she interviews the neighbours, it’s hilarous, and cringy at the same time), and yet I loved her, and was routing for her in every way.

The story itself was gripping, from the off I was intregued, and worried for Wayne and his whereabouts. Once things kicked off, I was worried about several things going on with Helen. And I was excited about her relationship with Artie, and his kids. There were so many other things I loved about it, every page, every sentence was brilliant, but I can’t write about them all. All I can say is that if you love Marian Keyes like I do, you will not be disappointed.

This novel kills two birds with one stone (not including the enjoyment of actually reading) – it’s chick lit, so fits into the Chick Lit Reading Challenge, and there’s a mystery in it, so it fits in with the Mystery and Suspense Reading Challenge.

SJ Watson and Rachel Joyce at Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival

The problem with following so many people on Twitter, is that sometimes I don’t hear about cool things until it’s too late. Last week I heard about something cool, luckily in time – The Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival. Awesome.

So I looked through the program, and saw a few things that interested me, and then I saw SJ Watson (author of one of my favourite books of the year ‘Before I Go To Sleep’) and I knew I had to go to that. Not only was it him talking, it was also Rachel Joyce (author of ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry,’ which I’ve not read, but is on my TBR list), and the title of their event was ‘What Makes a Successful Debut Novel a Global Winner.’

I was under no illusions that I would go there and get the secret to hgetting a global, or even national winning novel – I’ve been to enough author talks to know there isn’t a magic formula – but I knew I had to go. And luckily for me there were still tickets, and also luckily for me, I could take the day off work to go (it was 2pm, so I debated just taking the afternoon off, but not going to work on a Monday morning was way too appealing). I got a ticket, and looked forward to it ever since.

As normal at this kind of thing, both authors read pieces from their novels. Obviously I’ve read Before I Go To Sleep, so knew the opening scene he read. It was awesome though, hearing it read, by the author. I’ve not read The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, but like I said, it’s on my TBR list, and hearing it read out by the author has pushed it higher on the list.

After the readings Alison Barrows from Transworld (both of their publishers) asked them questions, and then the audience asked them questions. Obviously being a budding writer, some questions were more relevent and interesting to me.

Both attended the Faber Academy, which funnily enough I was reading about last week. It’s like a school for authors, and because of going, both met their agent there. I’m thinking it’s like The Brits School for singers – it seems all new singers come from there! It’s something I’d love to do, but it’s slightly more expensive than I can justify at the moment. Ah well, lots of people still get published without going there.

I’m reading my notes from the event now, and cringing at the bad writing, why didn’t I try to make it more legible?

Watson and Joyce are very similar with their writing processes. For instance, neither plot before they write (I know this doesn’t work for me, surprisingly, I have to have a plot, very unlike me!), and both really explore the character and really get the character, before the story takes shape. Again, I’m different, in that I think of the story, and then the characters. I know from reading countless other things, my ways of these aren’t bad – they’re just different.

SJ Watson said something that I thought was brilliant. ‘I thing the biggest reason people don’t get published is their book isn’t good enough.’ It sounds stupid to be so enthralled with that comment, but he’s totally right. If your book IS good enough, and you put the work in, the chances are you’ll get published.

Which leads me nicely to the next thing they (both) said. Before trying to get an agent/publisher you really need to make the story as good as it can be. Go over and over it until you can’t make it any better. This is something that worries me, because I’m scared I’ll get bored of the novel and think, you know what, that’s good enough, and start sub-ing it to agents, knowing if I spent longer on it I’d get it better. That’s me, I’ll get bored of going over and over it. Hopefully not, and hopefully writing this down will make me consider this later down the line (you know, when the book is finished, and I’m part way through editing or think I’ve got it ‘good enough.’ In fact, I might write it out as a quote and stick it up somewhere (oh the boyfriend will love me for that!).

The last thing I’m going to mention that they said, is that you really, really need to try to get an agent/editor. They said people think that one will just come to them, or they’ll find one easily, they said it’s a lot of work, and has to be worked and worked on.

After all this, unfortunately the alloted hour was up, the questions stopped and we had to say goodbye. Or nearly.

Both Joyce and Watson were hanging around to sign books. As I don’t have The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, and really can’t afford to buy it this week, I couldn’t ask Joyce to sign mine, but I could ask Watson, and did. I had a little chat with him, which was nice, and he signed my copy of Before I Go To Sleep. YAY! A signed copy of it, not just signed, but written to me.

I had a great afternoon (even if it was just an hour), and came home all inspired to write. In fact, I wrote 354 words when I got home. If only I could have an event like this every week!