Space and Time: the right writing environment

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If you’ve clicked onto this expecting a sci-fi related post, apologies. I don’t mean that kind of space and time. This post is all finding the right place in which to right.

The ‘right’ place is clearly not universal for all writers. Daphne du Maurier famously did lots of her writing in a hut at the bottom of the garden, and Roald Dahl also had a writing hut which has now been reconstructed at The Roald Dahl museum in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. Huts look really cute when you peer inside, and all it sounds very romantic, but unless they’re well insulated, they’re blooming cold in the winter, roasting hot in the summer, and full of insects and damp. Granted, there are huts and huts (a well built chalet-style construction is probably fab to work in, but your average garden shed, not so much), and a hut is better than nothing – especially if it’s the only place you can get peace and privacy.

Which brings me to the next sort of writer – the sort which likes to work in a café. I know this is pretty popular – possibly because this was the method so famously (and successfully) employed by J K Rowling in her early days. Since there is long history of creative-types scribbling away in coffee shops, I’m not disputing that it must work for many writers, but it wouldn’t do for me. Supporters of this method maintain that the hum of background noise helps them concentrate, or that they need to physically go somewhere in order to write, because sitting at home they’ll just get distracted. For me, nothing could be further from the truth. The thought of sitting, exposed, at a table in a busy café, with people all around me, squeezing by with their shopping bags, babies crying, clattering crockery and all that whooshing and wheezing from the barista coffee machines… Ugh, just the thought makes me shudder! Don’t get me wrong, I like the odd trip to a coffee shop while I’m out shopping, but it definitely wouldn’t work for me in a creative way. Or at least, not unless I was in one of those (infrequent) mad frenzies when you just can’t stop writing – and if that was the case, the location wouldn’t make any difference. (I’ve written standing up in a packed train carriage when I’ve absolutely had to get something down on paper.)

I’ve already written about my writing room here (am amused to note how tidy it was back then for the photographs – suffice to say it is rather less so as I write this). From this you’ll know how much I value having the luxury of a proper space in which to write. And having a comfortable working environment does help with productivity. (Father Christmas even brought me a new writing chair so I’m properly comfortable when I write – I can tell this is the case as I no longer fidget when writing for several hours!)

Of course, there’s no point having the space, if you don’t also have the time. In order to achieve any of my 2018 goals, I’ve been concentrating on making the time. This has meant religiously ‘going to my room’ every weekday evening, and getting on with writing for an hour or two (from Mon-Thurs – I’ve been giving myself Friday night off!), and trying to get a bit more in at the weekend if I’m not up to my planned word count, or if I have another project I want to work on. So far, using routine and discipline to create this habit is working well (rather like a less intensive Nanowrimo approach). I’ll let you know if I keep it up long enough to complete the current project.

Actually, going back to the sci-fi thing, a writing room is a little like the TARDIS. It’s clearly only the size of a room, but once inside, as you write, it expands in limitless directions and you can travel anywhere in space and time – to the far reaches of your imagination. If I was a Doctor Who fan, this is what the door to my writing room would look like:

If you have an amazing writing space, or have a great tip for manufacturing that precious commodity, time, then please tell us about it in the comments below. 😉

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Character Names – sources of inspiration

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I’m at that delicious beginning part of the writing process – when ideas are coming thick and fast, and the characters are lining up ready to take their turn in the next scene. So far it’s been deceptively easy, and while I know from experience that this is unlikely to last, I’m enjoying it while it does.

One of the exciting parts of starting a new project is naming the characters. This is such an important aspect of fiction and it’s so easy to cause yourself problems if you get it wrong. Similar sounding names, names that don’t fit the era or social status of your characters, or names that just don’t quite feel right to you can cause confusion and spoil the feel of your story.

So where do you get inspiration for names? Well, with first names, I have a couple of books designed for helping parents choose names for their offspring. These are quite good because they give a little background about the origins and meanings of each name which can be useful in choosing something appropriate.

Another incredibly useful source is the interactive graph compiled by The Office of National Statistics. This uses census data to track the popularity of first names over the last 110 years. It tracks the top 100 names from each year, so if you type a name into the box above the graph, it will display a line showing that name’s popularity over the whole period. The graph is also excellent for exploring ideas for a specific era. Say you happen to have a character who was born in 1920, but you’re not quite sure what kind of names were around at this time. You can hover over the imaginary line for 1920 and suggested names will appear. So if you want a very obviously popular name for the era, you hover near the top of the graph, for a less obvious name, hover near the bottom. Every time you move your mouse, you’ll find some more names, and can build up a feel for what is appropriate for that era.

When it comes to inspiration for surnames, back in the day I used the phone book, but I haven’t seen one of those for a while (and now I think about it, using the phone book might create a slight regional bias depending on where you live – which could be useful or not, depending on the nature of your fiction). Now, I use a Dictionary of Surnames which I found in a cut price book shop several years ago. Again it gives origins and meanings which is interesting, but mostly prevents me falling back on lame-sounding surnames from my own imagination (which is poor in this respect!) which make the characters feel obviously like characters, not real people.

If I’m really stuck for a name in the middle of a story and I don’t want to interrupt the flow, sometimes I just pop in “XXX” and use the find-and-replace-all function later when I’ve chosen something appropriate. On occasions this has worked better for me than picking a not-quite-appropriate name and attempting to replace that later as by then I am thinking of the character as this original name, and it may even have affected how I feel about them or how they develop in the story.

If you have any brilliant suggestions for the way you go about naming characters, or suggestions for other good “name” websites, please pop them in the comments below – but I’d definitely recommend having a look at the ONS graph when you’re deciding on names for your next project.

Writing Resolutions for 2018 (and a bit of self-congratulation for 2017!)

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So this is it! The last post of 2017! The final day of the year to look back on the most important aspects of 2017, and look forward to 2018.

You could be forgiven for thinking I’ve been a bit negative in my previous posts – no, I didn’t achieve much on my 2017 aims list – but it always important to celebrate the positives. So often you can forget where you started out, or the things you have achieved because you are busy feeling disappointed about the stuff you didn’t do. In this spirit of celebration, here are the things I’m chuffed about for 2017 (both writing-related and not):

  1. Finally took the plunge and, in March, bought a beautiful new horse. After a year without an equine companion (and after losing my old horse after 15 years together), it’s been fab to start building a relationship with this gorgeous boy.
  2. Had some quality time with my Dad – to celebrate his 90th birthday, we spent the best part of a whole week together, and talked about some really good stuff. Funny how you can suddenly feel you know someone properly for the first time, even though you’ve known them forever!
  3. Was on the short story judging panel for the Hysteria UK writing competition. I learned so much during this process, and highly recommend it if you want to understand more about short story submissions. You can read my judge’s interview here.
  4. Wrote and published my first non-fiction eBook Short Story Competitions: A Writer’s Guide to Success. Writing non-fiction was really interesting – I’ve written fiction for years but, apart from a few articles, this was a new discipline for me. It’s pretty nerve-wracking sending a non-fiction book out into the world (lots of “What do I know?” self-doubt!) but I wanted to share what I’d learned as both an entrant and as a judge. Hope if you have ‘story competitions’ on your New Year’s Resolution list (particularly if you’ve not tried entering any before) you’ll be able to learn from some of my mistakes!
  5. After concentrating more on my social media presence over the year, I’ve experienced a 20% increase in Blog followers, a 30% increase in Twitter followers, and a 40% increase in Facebook followers – which is really rewarding. Thank you to all of you!
  6. Finally set up my mailing list! This has been on my “Things to do” list for years, but was one of those things I kept putting off (but was really straightforward!). It’s really in its infancy, but I have plans to explore content and free giveaways in the new year. If you haven’t joined already, please do.
  7. And lastly, for the first time ever, I had fan mail! Readers (who I didn’t know personally) took the time and trouble to contact me to tell me they had enjoyed my stories. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated this – it gave me a real buzz.

Right, so that’s me done with feeling smug about this year. Onto 2018! When it came to setting this years goals, I had an epiphany. I’d intended to buy two diaries – one for writing related goals, and one for my horse-riding related plans. Standing in the shop, I couldn’t find anything appropriate – and then I found this great diary which has a corresponding page of notes for each week. And then I thought, of course! I need everything together, because that’s where I’ve been going wrong. One day I’ve got my writing head on, and the next I’ve got my horsey head on, and I can’t maintain both separately. So, my new diary (and thus my new goals) are for the whole of life, not separate chunks. (And the cover is cool too!)

The notes pages mean I can always keep all my ideas for that week in view, so I don’t overlook stuff (which has been a problem this year). And there’s a little zipped pouch at the back for bits and pieces which you night need.

You’ll be pleased to hear I’m not going to list all my goals (there’s 25 in all!) but suffice to say they revolve around quality of life – building a sustainable (reading, writing & horse-related!) lifestyle, and devoting time to loved ones.

To all those who’ve read and followed my blog this year, I’d like to say a big thank you – and may you all have a successful, happy and healthy 2018. x

Rubbish Writing Goals and How to Set Them: 10 things I learned from 2017!

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Cast your mind back to this time last year. Did you have a long list of writing aims and goals for 2017? Mine, written in a frenzy of optimism and energy, is pinned up on my noticeboard above my desk. The idea was that it would inspire me every time I sat down to write; that I would always have my goals in sight, and therefore in the forefront of my mind. What actually happened was that they became another thing to beat myself up about when I hadn’t achieved them. And now they are partially hidden by a postcard and a post-it note. I’d not looked at them for ages until today.

So, why didn’t these aims work as motivators? Here are some of the reasons:

  1. Aims you want to have achieved, not to achieve: some of the things on the list were those I knew I would feel good about once they were completed, but I didn’t have the drive to start off the process – they just seemed too daunting.
  2. Other People’s Aims: things I felt I ought to want to do (e.g. ‘complete a full length novel’ is on the list – but I’m primarily a short story writer, with several partially written rough draft of novels stuffed in my files. I didn’t actually want to write a novel in 2017, and really didn’t have the headspace for such a big project).
  3. Aims which don’t take into account the way you work: e.g. I write lots of short stories, but few of are suitable for the UK women’s magazine market. If I tried to sit down and write something specifically for say, The People’s Friend, the writing would feel contrived, and Shirley would reject it. The stories which get accepted are those you write from the heart because they need to be written. Yes, you need to have an awareness of market if you want to sell anything, but (for me, at least) the writing needs to come first.
  4. Aims which don’t take into account outside influences: achievement can be taken out of your hands by external issues. For instance, this year has seen some major editorial upheavals at Woman’s Weekly which has changed the relationship between writers and staff, caused uncertainty, and (in the short term at least) prevented submissions from anyone who hasn’t previously been published by them. No-one can predict the kinds of outside pressures which will affect your writing, but you need to be able to build in a sort of “assuming everything remains equal” clause into your aims if you aren’t going to get disheartened.
  5. A list which doesn’t allow for new aims: your aims list can become a negative if you stay focused on the original aims at the expense of new opportunities and new ideas. You need to be prepared to re-evaluate, and to allow some goals to fall by the wayside (without beating yourself up about it) because something new is of importance instead (e.g. this year I became involved in judging for the Hysteria UK writing competition, which was extremely rewarding – but this was a focus I’d not anticipated at the outset of the year).
  6. Leftover aims from previous years: you may recognise many of your aims as recurring ones! You didn’t complete them last year, so you’re going to stick them down on this year’s list too. That’s great, but you need to understand why you didn’t achieve them last year, and why things are going to be different this year. If nothing has changed, be prepared to put the same item on your 2019 list too!
  7. Aims which are too ambitious: it’s great to have aims which test you, and push you just a little out of your comfort zone, but if they are too difficult, they become demotivating. If writing is your one and only passion and you throw yourself into it 100% at the expense of all else in your life, that’s great. Your achievements will be commensurate with that level of dedication. On the other hand, if you have more than one interest, if you want to have meaningful and rewarding relationships with family and friends, then you need to be self-aware enough to know that this is the case and stop expecting yourself to have that ‘Olympic athlete’ level of dedication. It’s ok to be ‘not bad ‘at more than one thing!
  8. Aims which depend on completion of another aim: e.g. you can’t publish something you haven’t written. So now you’ve failed to complete two things!
  9. Aims which are outside of your control: we’ve all heard about making our goals “SMART” (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely – or some other similar definition – let’s not argue!). You need to set yourself a goal over which you can have some control (e.g. “Win a short story competition” might not be a great goal since you can’t control the other entries, but “Enter at least 10 short story competitions in 2018, ensuring I follow all the great advice in Jenny’s Short Story Competitions: A Writer’s Guide” might be a better one!).
  10. Aims which show no self-awareness: if you’ve decided you’re going to write 1,000 words a day in 2018, but you haven’t written more than a few hundred in the whole of 2017, then maybe you need to be more realistic in what you can expect from yourself, otherwise you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. If you know your demanding job/family commitments/love of soaps will leave you little time or energy for writing, then start small and build the writing habit.

I’ve not finalised my list for 2018 yet, but I’ve written lots of notes, and I know I’ll be putting considerably more thought into this year’s goals. I’ll let you know how this goes in my final blog for this year on New Year’s Eve. Until then, happy writing and happy goal-setting!

Cover Reveal – Short Story Competitions: A Writer’s Guide to Success

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I’m always over-optimistic about the amount of writing I’ll get done over the Christmas holidays. It seems glorious at the outset – a luxurious festive week stretching out before you. Granted, there’ll be visits to family and friends, and you know there’ll be a bit of over-indulgence, some time devoted to lounging in front of the telly, but surely there’ll be loads of time left over for writing, right?

So often, the answer is no, but this year, I’ve been making a concerted effort to use the time effectively getting my latest project finished – my first non-fiction eBook, Short Story Competitions: A Writer’s Guide to Success.

And of course, you guys have helped me by voting on your favourite cover design. Each of the three sample covers got plenty of votes (so a big thank you to Shar at Landofawes for creating all three). In the end though, one was ahead by a sizeable margin. I decided to make a few tweaks to this design, but you’ll recognise it as being not too dissimilar to the original. So this is the final cover design:

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The book has been released in time for New Year – so if perhaps you’ve been frustrated with your recent writing progress, or you’re just starting out and want 2018 to be the year you see success as a short story competition entrant, you might find the book a good place to start.

The book is available at Amazon here – and I’ll be posting about the book, and about New Year’s Resolutions, here on the blog, and also on my Facebook page over the remainder of the festive season. I hope you can join me for a celebratory glass of virtual bubbly over the next few days, to find out more about the book and get inspired for 2018! 😉

 

Support Networks for Writers

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For those of us in the Midlands, it’s been a week of proper winter weather – snow and freezing temperatures has made those everyday journeys suddenly ridiculously difficult. One evening in particular, we had a sudden heavy snowfall and, in the space of a few minutes, the roads went from perfectly passable to treacherous.

We happened to be out in the weather at the time, driving back home through the neighbouring village. Our old Volvo (with almost a quarter of a million miles on the clock!) is four wheel drive and did us proud, but we came across several stranded cars and others wheel-spinning on the ice. We ended up pulling over and helping push several vehicles to get them on their way. There was a real feeling of camaraderie as we, and other passers-by, joined in. It seemed particularly appropriate given the time of year – it being almost the season of goodwill!

It also made me think about support networks and goodwill in general. Us writers can be a little insular at times, but that’s not to say we don’t need (and value) the network of people around us who help us do what we do. Our families, who accept that often we will be busy scribbling alone, and who take an interest in what we do without perhaps really understanding why we bother doing it! Our friends, who take the time to read those dodgy first drafts and make useful comments, or who are quick to provide a hug when things are not going so well. And the wider writing community who are so ready to offer support and encouragement.

Put a post on Facebook about a problem you’re having with your writing and in no time there’ll be a string of comments from other writers telling you they’ve experienced something similar, or offering advice. If you post about a rejection, you’ll get commiserations. If you post about a writing success (however modest) you’ll soon be inundated with generous and humbling congratulatory messages.

So if you find yourself wheel-spinning on your writing journey, don’t worry – just shout, and someone will soon be along to give you a push. And if your writing road is looking pretty clear, don’t forget to pay it forward – in lots of little ways:

  1. tell someone if you like their novel/story/blog (it might be just the lift they need)
  2. tell lots of other people too!
  3. remember to leave a review (for all those people you can’t tell personally)
  4. retweet their tweets
  5. comment on or share their posts
  6. follow their blog or their author page

And most importantly, say thank you to all those who’ve done the same for you:

So, thank you, folks! I appreciate every little push! 🙂

Attracting the Reader’s Attention: Choosing the best eBook Cover Design

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For us British, anything related to self-promotion tends not to come naturally. We’re brought up in a culture where mentioning your achievements is only a step away from boasting – and we don’t approve of boasting, ho no! If you’re a writer, the chances are you’re at the quiet and shy end of the social spectrum, possibly a little insular, with perhaps a tendency towards self-doubt too. I’d put myself firmly in this category.

This means I’m mostly doing the social media equivalent of standing at the back of a busy room, raising my hand and giving a polite cough to get everyone’s attention. Sometimes no-one notices. Sometimes I don’t even have the courage to do it at all. Everyone carries on talking, and I just stand there thinking I probably should mention what I’m doing, but maybe it’s not the best time.

But now I really ought to tell you formally about my latest project. I’m writing a book. Just a little one you understand (so that you know I’m not boasting!). It’s my first non-fiction book: “Short Story Competitions: A Writer’s Guide”. I’ve aimed to incorporate all that I’ve learned from my own experiences as both entrant and judge – the idea being the reader will be able to learn from my mistakes rather than having to make so many of their own!

Alongside drafting the text for the book, I pondered the cover design for a long time. There’s no way I’d attempt to create my own eBook cover, but I sent a couple of ideas to Shar, my cover designer, and she mocked up three designs for me.

 

As I’m pretty rubbish at making decisions, I decided to consult family and friends, Facebook and the Twittersphere. The results were really interesting – each cover got lots of support, and there were also some good comments, discussions of the relative merits of each, and suggestions for improvements. Of course, with an eBook cover, you have to think about how the design will work both large scale and in thumb nail form when the reader is quickly scanning through the available options.

If you’ve not chosen a favourite yet, or you’d like to make a further suggestion about one or more of the designs, I’ve love to hear your comments. If you’d like to see the final cover design before the book is out, please click the link on the right hand side of the blog to join my new mailing list. (Oh, did I mention…. *whispers* I’ve got a new mailing list!) 😉

Writing Aims: Overambition and Underachievement!

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It’s December already! How did this happen? I swear it was late summer just a second ago… OK, so I have to face facts, it’s coming up to the end of the year, and I daren’t look at those “Aims for 2017” which I have pinned up on my noticeboard (they’ve been strategically hidden under a post-it note and a postcard, so I don’t have to continually beat myself up about not having achieved any of them…).

Of course, I’ll wait until the traditional ritual-shaming at the end of the month to blog in detail about this year’s failures, and to entertain you all with my next batch of unlikely ambitions for 2018. I will say though that realistic goal-setting has to be based on a suitable mix of self-knowledge and boundary-pushing. Yes, you need to push yourself to strive for that which is currently just beyond your reach, but you also have to take into account your need to turn up at the day job, or the necessity to spend time with your nearest and dearest or indeed, your desire to watch Strictly.

Writers are notoriously good at beating themselves up – either for crimes of procrastination and under-achievement, or though constant (unfavourable) comparison with others. We read lots of articles which attempt to shame us into better working/creative practices. And there is probably much truth in these (I don’t need to watch any more amusing cat or dog videos on Facebook – I know this!), but you have to extract the bits of advice that work for you.

This is why I was so amused to read Sophie Hannah’s latest blog post. As you may know, I’m a big Sophie Hannah fan, and I came across the article through following her on  Goodreads (but you can find it directly from her website here). In it, she goes through the most common advice available for authors, and gives her take on the wisdom contained therein.

It’s a refreshingly down to earth (and entertaining) article, and the strongest message which comes out of it is that you have to discover a working pattern which works for you, taking into account your responsibilities, internal body clock, levels of OCD etc. For this, you need self-knowledge.

I think this on a weekday when I am rushing (always rushing – always late no matter what time I get up!) to get ready for work. And I glance longingly at my writing desk wishing that instead of the day job, I could be spending my day here. But I know full well that on my non-working days, I will find it impossible to make it to my writing desk anywhere near the time I’d make it to my work office desk. Would I be any more productive if I didn’t have a day job? I’m really not that convinced!

There’s that old adage, “if you want something done, ask a busy person” and I’m pretty sure it’s true. When you’re busy, you can shoehorn in an extra task. On a lazy day, leaving the sofa to make a cuppa can seem too onerous.

So, I shall leave beating myself up until the end of the month. In the meantime, I’ll do as much as I can. As much as I can fit in around the rest of life. Probably not any of the things on my “Aims for 2017” list – but perhaps instead achieving some things I’d not anticipated. I’ll tell you more about that in my next post. 😉

 

Platforms for Publishing your ebook: To Select or Go Wide

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In my last blog post about smartphones I mentioned I was now hooked on podcasts – in particular I’ve been listening to The Creative Penn, The Book Marketing Show, and the Smart Author podcast. Listening to a writing-related podcast at the same time as doing everyday chores is great because at least I feel like I’m learning something new about the indie-author world, and making a positive impact on my own writing, even when I’m not able to be at my desk. It’s also really inspiring to listen to the experiences of other writers – especially those who’ve had lots of false starts or disappointments in their careers, but have ultimately been very successful.

One of the topics I’ve been thinking about as a result of this is whether or not I should continue to stay in KDP Select, and thus stick exclusively with Amazon for my eBooks, or whether I should consider striking out to Kobo, B&N Nook, Apple iBooks, etc.

There’s no doubting that Amazon is currently the major player in the eBook market, and it’s difficult to imagine a future in which this is not the case. As a newbie to self-publishing last year, it seemed entirely sensible to trial my initial ebook upload through KDP, and having done that, it also seemed sensible to maximise my potential readers by clicking to join KDP Select. Now though, with a couple of ebooks under my belt, I’m considering my longer term strategy.

The ebooks I’ve published to date, The Camel in the Garden and Beyond Words are both short story collections, but I’m currently working on a non-fiction project. One of the reasons I’d like to consider cross-platform publishing for this project is to enable it to be borrowed via public libraries (though applications such as OverDrive). I’m also coming around to the view that the all-eggs-in-one-basket approach may not be sensible in the long run – especially when the basket it owned by such a huge, powerful organisation. In order for us as indie-authors to have choice in the way we self-publish, alternative platforms have to exist – and in order for them to exist, they need authors and customers.

So at the moment, I am exploring Smashwords and Draft2Digital and learning as much as I can about opportunities to publish across multiple platforms. I’d be really interested to hear any other self-published authors’ experiences of and opinions on either staying with KDP Select, or using a multi-platform approach. And if you’ve come out of KDP Select in order to “go wide”, please comment below to let us know how you go on.

 

Smart Phones for Smart Writers

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One of the great conundrums of the modern age is that despite all the technology which has been developed, and despite all the labour-saving devices we have in our homes, we appear to have less and less time. How can this be?

Well of course, we still have exactly the same amount of time as we’ve always had. Those 24 hours won’t grow or shrink. It’s what you do with them that counts. So, yes you can get up at ridiculous-o’clock to squeeze in a few more useful hours. You can multi-task up to a point. You can choose to stop doing certain tasks to devote the time to something more important (see Kath McGurl’s Give Up Ironing book for more ideas on this approach!). And you can stop getting distracted.

I’m not a big TV fan – and you’ll absolutely never hear the words “box set” pass my lips in the context of losing a whole weekend watching 400 episodes of some show or other. (I am the person who can’t take part in office discussions about Game of Thrones etc.) But I am totally addicted to the internet, particularly because of my smart phone. I love YouTube videos which help me improve the way I ride my horse. I can lose hours googling random facts, or watching amusing or tear-jerking videos on Facebook. I’m also plagued by a kazillion emails (many from all the great writing-related websites I’ve signed up to). And I think this is the route of the time problem we all face. Whether smart-phone-related or not, there is simply too much information out there for our brains to process. So, I’ve decided I need to be more selective.

Before I had a smart phone, I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. People had managed perfectly well for centuries without such a gadget. It was just a silly fad. Now? It’s an integral part of pretty well every aspect of my life. Its alarm gets me up in the morning, and the sleep app tells me how long and how well I’ve slept the night before (last night was amazing – 8h 4mins – almost a record!). My running podcast takes me through my morning’s run, and the health app monitors my steps/distance travelled. On my way to and from work, I listen to a writing (or sometimes horse riding) related podcast – at the moment, I’m checking out the backlist of The Creative Penn which is amazingly informative about the indie author world – and also very entertaining.

This week is National Short Story week, and my smart phone has been invaluable in helping me advertise my two short story ebooks The Camel in the Garden and Beyond Words, which have been on special offer. Using my phone has enabled me to access Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, post photos and links, join in discussions, to post and comment on this blog and, of course, keep track of downloads – at any time, not just when I’m at home at my writing desk.

But I need to get better at sifting online information, saving the important bits (such as story competition info) and managing it in a way which means I won’t overlook it later.

If you have any top tips on the way you manage this process, please share them in the comments below.  I will be eternally grateful!

And if you’re the sort of really organised person who has arranged their life so efficiently that you have an afternoon free for a spot of reading, Beyond Words is still half-price for the remainder of this weekend. 🙂