Monthly Archives: December 2012

Merry Christmas

Whatever your creed and for whatever reason you set aside this day I hope that for all of you that it is full of family, friends, fun and food and every other good thing. Thank you for giving me the gift of having you in my life – Merry Christmas!

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”

 

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Wednesday Writers: Thoraiya Dyer

While I was wandering the floor of the dealer’s area at Worldcon (and it was massive – I could have spent more money on books and paraphernalia than I spent on alcohol and that is saying something) I was handed a brochure for what looked like any writer’s dream – a cruise of the Bahamas that doubled as an ongoing writer’s workshop with some of the big names in the field. Anyone who knows me has probably realised I am big fan of anything to do with boats so I was immediately in love with the idea. It didn’t hurt that the brochure was filled with short stories by the instructors and demonstrated their eligibility to be teaching writing in the most definitive of manners.

Sadly, it was not to be, but the concept is amazing! So, I was extremely intrigued – and jealous – to hear that Thoraiya had gone on the cruise and immediately asked her if she wanted to write about it for the Wednesday Writers segment. I was hoping that I might get it sometime next year, but by the next day I had something in my inbox! But, that is Thoraiya – she does not muck around. I first met her at my first con as a writer – the Natcon in Perth where she won the Ditmar for Best New Talent. I haven’t been around long enough to know if the Ditmars are like the various sporting clubs I have been involved in, where winning Best New Talent usually dooms you to either fading into obscurity or under achieving in the following year. If so, Thoraiya has certainly bucked that trend, as she has continued to establish herself as one of Australia’s best with increasing international recognition of her incredible talent.

Despite her achievements, Thoraiya remains one of the kindest and most humble people you can imagine. Her first thought when invited to the Aussie Snapshot, for example,  was to ensure that others she felt were deserving of notice were being included. So, it’s hard to hate her too much for getting to go on this amazing cruise! This is the last Wednesday Writer for the year, so as the segment sails off into the sunset of 2012 please enjoy (and envy) Thoraiya’s account of her adventure!

Cruisers of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Colombian Emeralds

Workshops for SFF writers come in all shapes and sizes, from two-hour sessions at a local convention to the formidable six-week boot camp of Clarion. As the author of ‘The Company Articles of Edward Teach,’ though, how could I resist Arc Manor’s inaugural Sail to Success  workshop, an intense week of writing and publishing knowledge-bombardment aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean?

Earlier in the year, fellow Aussie writer Cat Sparks went to Key West to get critiqued by her idol, The Atwood, and chow down on Key Lime Pie. I got very excited at the thought of going to the Bahamas to get critiqued by one of my idols, Nancy Kress, and then washing away the potential pain of my ineptitude with conch fritters and rum cake, long before it became a financial possibility (thank you, amazing, supportive husband!)

And there was no pain, but I dragged my new friends across Freeport and Nassau in search of conch, anyway (thank you Eva, Jeff, Gama and Francesca!)

We boarded the ship in Miami on a Monday afternoon, and classes started that evening with the retreating city lights still glittering on the western horizon. Norwegian Sky was scheduled to visit three of the Bahamas’ seven hundred islands, but our timetables had us in the Hawaiian-themed conference rooms every morning at 8am, and not finishing until 11pm. The sea-caves of New Providence, the Garden of the Groves in Freeport and the white, palm-speckled sands of Great Stirrup Cay as seen from parasailing altitude, I experienced only in my imagination, so on the one hand I approve of the fact that Arc Manor is considering a longer cruise for next year’s workshop.

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On the other hand, I’m glad *not* to have skipped any classes. In 2008 at the Brisvegas Writer’s Festival, Kevin J Anderson and Rebecca Moesta advised a crowd of eager hopefuls to always consider the source; that is, only take writing advice from people you actually want to be like.

I considered the sources aboard the Norwegian Sky to be exemplary. Do I want to write like Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress? Have Rebecca’s business smarts and Kevin’s productivity? Hone a sharp editing mind like Toni Weisskopf’s? Be able to perfectly match fiction with markets like Eleanor Wood? Maintain Jack Skillingstead’s humility and common sense, pay homage like Paul Cook to the writers that came before me, and bubble up with creativity and enthusiasm like Francesca Myman and Shahid Mahmud?

Yes, yes, yes. And if you answered yes, too, then next year’s cruise may be for you.

Now I’m back in Australia with not just one professionally dissected piece of writing, but two – the opening of my *other* novel-in-progress having been slapped into shape by Toni. I also return with a new critique circle of fellow students, our unbreakable bonds forged by the shared pain of Norwegian Sky’s PA system, with the loathed and feared Game Master extolling, day and night, the virtues of bingo, limbo and the detection of fake Colombian emeralds.

Although our time in the Bahamas was limited, there were snatches of it I’ll never forget. Brown pelicans and blue-within-blue Caribbean water. Children holding hands to walk home from school, traffic jams, decrepit, fenced buildings and a lone, wandering dog. Bleachers set up by the side of the road, all ready for Junkanoo. The best grilled snapper I’ve ever tasted, with plantains on the side. Sea-grapes growing in coral grit and the gleam of a gold doubloon on the sea-bed, yellow fish-schools spiralled around it.

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I’m sure a Bahamian story idea is waiting to pounce on me when I least expect it. In the meantime, I have a story in December’s Clarkesworld and my Twelfth Planet is coming out early next year. Life is good! Now excuse me while I go eat my rum cake (I had to throw out two pairs of dirty socks and all my toiletries to fit souvenirs in my luggage, bwahaha) and if you want to find out which member of our party ended up eating a conch penis, you’ll just have to keep an eye on Locus :-)

Thoraiya Dyer’s work has appeared in Apex magazine, Cosmos, Nature and Redstone SF. Her fantasy story, “Fruit of the Pipal Tree,” was the winner of the 2011 Aurealis Award in its category. An original collection of her short fiction, “Asymmetry,” will be published in 2013 as part of Twelfth Planet Press’ Twelve Planets Series. You can find her website here.

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‘A cup o’ tea and a slice of cake!’

I am a big fan of the Kasterborous Doctor Who site, it’s my first stop for news on our favourite Time Lord. I was excited to see that Christian had launched a sister site, Cult Britannia, that caters to many of the other British TV shows that shaped my childhood and still hold a special place in my heart.

One of those shows was Worzel Gummidge, and you can read all about Jon Pertwee’s other role in my article here. Enjoy! :-)

There is an air of childlike simplicity to most of the scarecrows, and in none is this more apparent than Worzel and Aunt Sally. But, it is not simply the sweet innocence that some people think is all there is to children, there is a degree of petulance and desire to have their own way. Worzel will quite often throw a tantrum or sulk when thwarted, behaviour that will be familiar to anyone who has to deal with toddlers. Despite this, there is no real malice to Worzel and it is hard not to feel sorry for him as he tries to make sense of concepts like mathematics or fashion. Aunt Sally, however, is actually quite a terrible person, shallow and vain and incredibly greedy. She is obsessed with class, decrying those around her as common while behaving in the most uncouth manner imaginable. She is constantly using Worzel’s devotion to her to manipulate him, but every so often we will see that he does actually matter to her, just often enough to make us have hope for them both.

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Wednesday Writers: Thom Brannan

My first steps into writing and my obsessive zombie apocalypse reading jag happened around the same time, and during my online wandering in search of things to feed both appetites I stumbled across the Permuted Press message boards. Not only did I find a ready source of some of the best horror books I’ve read, I also discovered a wonderful community of writers. There were people at every level, from people taking their first steps to well established authors who had a number of novels. I was made extremely welcome, and it has been of huge help to me on my writing journey.

One of the guys who made it such a great place to hang out was Thom Brannan. As part of my involvement with the critique groups there I have been fortunate enough to read and critique a heap of his short stories and novels and to be honest I am both disgusted by and in awe of his prolific output of quality writing – the man is a  machine. But, Thom is also incredibly supportive of other writers and always willing to provide assistance and feedback. So, it seems rather apt to have him post on working with others – he is definitely a team player!

COLLABORATION FOR FUN AND PROFIT?

Jumping right into it, because I hate preamble… today: looking at my resume, I would not have seemed the ideal person to finish Z.A. Recht’s Survivors, the final book in his Morningstar series. Up until that point, I’d written some crime and some sci-fi, and maybe a little bit of horror. I’d also edited some horror, too. But nothing in my CV screamed out “zombies!” Nonetheless, Jacob Kier at Permuted knew what kind of a fan I was of the Morningstar books, and that I had a talent.

I would like to say I took to the task as a dog to cold mac and cheese, but that would be a lie. (Only if your dog is like my dog, though.) It worried me. It pained me. For the first couple of weeks, it fucking paralyzed me. Looking back now at the thread on the MSS forums where I was tracking progress, I can read through the false bravado to the scared me, and I can also see where it changed from false bravado to the real thing. Every week on Sunday (ish) I was posting snippets of the chapter I was working on, and never said whether it was Z’s work or my own. There was a lot of very enthusiastic feedback the whole time, and especially after I had posted one of my own bits, which bolstered me greatly.

After that, I fairly raced through the manuscript, jumping giddily when I found real-world things to shore up the things I was writing about, or when I found a new place in the timeline for one of Z’s discarded scenes. Everything just kind of clicked, after that.

(That’s not to say the third book in the trilogy has been universally accepted. Hah! Au contraire. Since July of 2012 I’ve read a lot of venom and vitriol about the book, my writing, and me in particular. It’s okay, though. I’m a big boy, with skin tempered by eleven years in the submarine service and seven years in the offshore drilling industry. You’ll have to work extra hard to offend me.)

This brings me to the actual collaboration portion of this… blog. Thing. Whatever. Finishing Survivors wasn’t a collaboration, but Pavlov’s Dogs was.

D.L. Snell was looking for a writing partner for his werewolves/zombies project, and Jacob thought of me for that, as well. Working on that novel with Snell was a whole other world from Survivors. I had more than just notes to work on, and much more license to change things. The point of collaboration, it has since become clear to me, is to embrace all that stuff you didn’t think of, precisely because you didn’t think of it. Amirite?!

The best thing about collaboration, to me, is that synergy that happens between writing partners that are truly sympatico. Snell is very methodical and precise. I am very tangential. He outlines extensively, and I usually maybe have an idea of where things are going to go. He thinks about character motivations and progression, and I think less about that and more about how they’re going to react to the outlandish situation. All of that mashed together worked out much better than either of us hoped, and I think it was because we covered each other’s weaknesses, not to mention how much the manuscript shone where our strengths overlapped.

Other collaborations were just as fun, if not as lengthy. I wrote a time-travel story with Rob Pegler for the up-and-coming Times of Trouble. Rob and I have long surfed the same brain wave. When I was writing about mercenary werewolves and my character trapped in a building with them, he was writing about his protagonists being trapped in a building with wereants. I think, right now, we’re both using the same mythological character as the nexus of bad things in our on-going stories. We arrive at these destinations on our own, and it’s always a pleasant surprise when we find out about the different ways we’re using the same idea. So, working with him on something where we could both focus our similarities was rewarding, and I think the readers will agree… whenever the anthology is out.

If I have a point here, I think it’s this: don’t be afraid to share ideas and work with people on them. Sometimes the story will get away from you and follow a path you’d not intended for it. Let the story grow between the two of you, and once it’s done, prune it down if you have to for wordcount considerations. Let it happen. It’ll work for you, or it won’t, but if you don’t try it with several people, you’ll never know.

Give it a shot.

Thom Brannan (est. 1976, Chicago, Illinois) is an American author from Austin, Texas. He’s a former submariner and nuclear field worker, now working on an overseas offshore installation. He is married and has one boy, one baby girl, one dog, and one turtle.

He is the co-editor (with John Sunseri) of the first two volumes of the Cthulhu Unbound anthology series. He co-authored Survivors, the final book in Z.A. Recht’s Morningstar Saga after the original author’s passing. His first solo novel, Lords of Night, was released by Permuted Press in October of 2012.

Thom edited the Permuted Press edition of Anthony Giangregorio’s Dead End and Travis Adkins’ After Twilight: Walking With the Dead, as well as performing copy-editing work for HorrorBound Online Magazine’s Return of the Raven and Fear of the Dark anthologies.

Dark Tomorrow dot Net features his serial fiction, mosty set in the Cthulhu Mythos.

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Tales of the Shadowmen 9 Now Available

Tales of the Shadowmen is now available to purchase. With a great lineup of stories (even if I do say so myself), it is  guaranteed to be packed full of action and adventure! You can find it here.

TOC:
Matthew Baugh: Tournament of the Treasure starring Steve Costigan, Townsend Harper, The Black Coats.
Nicholas Boving: Wings of Fear starring Harry Dickson, Bulldog Drummond.
Robert Darvel: The Man With the Double Heart starring The Nyctalope.
Visions of the Nyctalope (illustrated portfolio)
Matthew Dennion: The Treasure of Everlasting Life starring Allan Quatermain, Dr. Miguelito Loveless, The Black Coats.
Win Scott Eckert: Violet’s Lament starring Sir Percy Blakeney’s daughter, Countess Nadine Carody, The Black Coats.
Martin Gately: Wolf at the Door of Time starring Doctor Omega, Moses Nebogipfel, The Nyctalope.
Travis Hiltz: What Lurks in Romney Marsh? starring Doctor Omega, Doctor Syn.
Paul Hugli: As Time Goes By… starring Doctor Omega, Rick Blaine.
Rick Lai: Gods of the Underworld starring The Black Coats, Vautrin, Doctor Lerne.
Jean-Marc Lofficier: Dad starring Glinda.
Nigel Malcolm: To Dust and Ashes, in its Heat Consuming starring Harry Dickson, Professor Quatermass.
David McDonald: Diplomatic Freeze starring Flashman’s son, The Nyctalope’s father, The People of the Pole.
Christofer Nigro: Death of a Dream starring The Phantom of the Opera, The Black Coats, The Domino Lady.
John Peel: The Benevolent Burglar starring Maigret, J.G. Reeder, The Saint.
Neil Penswick: The Conspiracy of Silence starring Fantômas.
Pete Rawlik: Professor Peaslee Plays Paris starring Pr. Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee, Hercule Flambeau, The Black Coats.
Joshua Reynolds: Nestor Burma Goes West starring Nestor Burma, Jim Anthony, Irma Vep.
Frank Schildiner: The True Cost of Doing Business starring Mr. Big, The Black Coats.
Bradley H. Sinor: The Silence starring Michel Ardan, Colonel Moran, John Carter.
Michel Stéphan: Vampire in the Fist starring Irma Vep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Edith Piaf liked to sing about la vie en rose, this volume of Tales of the Shadowmen, the first and only international anthology devoted to paying homage to the world’s most fantastic heroes and villains, is dedicated to la vie en noir, the darker side of life.

And what could be darker than the sinister brotherhood of criminals known as the Black Coats and their legendary treasure, a malignant self-aware entity that is the embodiment of greed and avarice?

You will also find gathered here stories about the evil Fantômas and the mysterious Yellow Shadow, the crafty Doctor Cornelius and the megalomaniacal Sun Koh, the ruthless Irma Vep and the frightful Bride of Frankenstein; in these pages, you will read tales of creatures and zombies, and things from otherworldly reals, and likely gasp at the most monstrous couple of parents ever imagined…

Wednesday Writers – Paul Collins

It would be nigh on impossible to overstate the influence that Paul Collins has had in the Australian Spec Fic community. As an author, whether on his own or in collaboration with some of the scene’s leading lights, he has produced a vast catalogue of writing and his incredible versatility can be seen in the way in which he has moved effortlessly across genres and age groups.

As an editor and publisher he has worked with the best names in the business, and given opportunities to some of the most exciting new voices emerging onto the scene. Through initiatives like his speaking agency he is also helping ensure that there will be a new generation of spec fic readers coming out of our schools. It is no wonder that he has been recognised with the Aussie awards that exist to celebrate those who have contributed above and beyond to creating a vibrant and exciting scene.

On a personal level I can attest to how welcoming he is to newcomers after I was found myself at a writers event where I quite literally knew no one. Paul quite kindly let me presume on our (at that time) very limited acquaintance and made sure I was included in conversations and introduced me to a heap of people, a generous gesture I was extremely grateful for.

It’s a real pleasure to welcome someone as knowledgeable as Paul to Wednesday Writers this week as he discusses the future of publishing.

The Future of Publishing

Is publishing an ailing industry or just a changing industry? I suspect the latter, due solely to technology leaping ahead exponentially. And of course products other than books are also suffering. We live in a world of built-in obsolescence, fast turn-over and ever-changing rules and regulations. I suspect the younger generation will cope with it all just nicely – it’s we older folk who will miss the ‘old’ ways. My generation lived through the halcyon days when things were a lot simpler and predictable. We didn’t throw something out when it broke down, we simply went to the corner shop and the guy there fixed it and it would last another decade. My Sharp TV is thirty years old and still copes with all of today’s technology. It’s just augmented: a switch board has been added to take all the plug-ins for DVD, CDs, Foxtel, etc. And now that analogue is becoming obsolete I just need to spend $80 on a set box and voila! my old TV – never broken down in thirty years! –is suddenly digital. When I spoke to a guy at Tandy he suggested I move on to a flat screen TV. I told him I would if he could guarantee it would give me thirty years of service. Of course, this tale of woe is obsolete in itself, because my tech-happy partner has gone out and bought a SmartTV and my beautiful Sharp is stuck in a cabinet on the verandah. I’d love to pass it on to someone who will get enjoyment from it but alas, I can’t even give it away.

What has all this got to do with books, you ask? Well, it has everything to do with books. People are discarding old tech for new tech. Print books are being passed over for e-books. Some schools are now proudly boasting they’re print free. Personally, I think this will have disastrous ramifications for an entire generation of kids. Sure as anything they won’t be readers.

All this isn’t to say print books are dead. Far from it. I’ll see out my time in the industry doing okay. But I do see them becoming something like the relics vinyl records have become. Hands up all those who still have their vinyl collections? See? That’s why I kept on to my old Sharp. I bet most people can’t even play their records anymore – those needles are hard to find now, too.

But back to the publishing industry. Amazon seems to be considered a major threat, although I’m not sure why. Sure, they’re promoting e-books, but they also sell print books. I’d be covering both bases if I were them, too. Another more serious threat is illiteracy. See my note re schools becoming digital. Yet another problem is the proliferation of games and other distractions competing for eyeshare. In my day, a wagon train set or soldier figurines at Xmas made me the happiest kid around. And when money was tight, I made my own go-cart and would race down the hill on the street and think all my Christmases had come at once. Alas, such simple pleasures are long gone. Perhaps one of the biggest threats to the print book is the idea that everything readable should be for free: millions of blogs, and not just by unknowns, but your favourite writers are into them, too; facebook and other social media; emails – not so long ago you’d write three letters in a day max and feel as though you had writer’s cramp. Today I write ten to fifteen emails before lunch; websites, ‘free’ content on the Net including episodes of TV shows you missed because you were elsewhere or doing something else and a plethora of other distractions. Another problem is that with e-books gaining ground, bricks and mortar shops are closing. Rents are going up and sales are going down, and it’s the booksellers that will lose this fight. With no distribution outlets, the print book truly will be confined to the relic pile.

On this note, we’re seeing publishers merging and cutting back on superfluous staff. Either the staff work twice as hard or the publishers publish fewer books. The Penguin/Random House merger is the latest catastrophe here. We’ll see less competition so less remuneration for authors (already surely the lowest paid workers in the Western world). Where will publishers get their A-list authors from if not via the ‘discoveries’ in the slush pile? Easy. They’ll be feverishly looking at which books soar on the net. Take for example 50 Shades of Grey. Any books self-published, either POD or ebook, that looks like a best-seller, print publishers will snap them up. Too easy to predict, really. You read it here first :-).

All of this will lead to something else. The slack being taken up by small presses. And even we won’t be immune from the majors snapping up the authors that we ‘discover’. With BookScan publishers can see what’s moving in print format. Offer a small press enough money and they’ll assign rights in a second. And if not, the publisher will contact the author direct and you can bet anything you like the author will dump the small press in a flash to land a healthy deal with a major publisher.

Because books are so easy to print these days (PODs, do-it-yourself at Lulu, smashwords etc), we’re also competing with foreign books being translated to English. On top of this, books may never be out of print again, so even new books are competing with titles published decades ago that once upon a time would be relegated to secondhand stores. Perhaps needless to say, with more books being published, fewer copies per title will sell. A survey was done a while ago and the result was that the average sales of a book these days are less than 100 copies. Clearly only self-publishers can make this work. Traditional publishers need to sell a minimum of 1000 copies just to break even.

According to Bowker which is an authority on all things bookish, over three million books were published last year and only ten percent were from traditional publishers. The rest were from print-on-demand and vanity press. Apparently there’s a book printed somewhere in the US every ten minutes. Include the world in that statistic and you’d realise you’re pushing something uphill to get noticed Out There.

None of this looks too good for the authors, either. There’s going to be a cross-subsidisation going on like never before. Right now unless you’re either a best-seller or very prolific, there’s no way you can make a living at writing. For many years I worked as a bouncer in hotels to support my bookshops which in turn supported my writing. Right now I’m publishing and running a speakers’ agency to support my writing – although to be honest, I think the writing and agency are supporting the publishing! Regardless, there’s cross-subsidisation going on.

So in summary, the only thing to suffer is the traditional print book. There’s always going to be people writing and wanting to take a shot at becoming ‘famous’. Only now more than ever will be that cross-subsidisation I mentioned and less chance of making writing anything other than a lifestyle career.

Paul Collins’s 140+ books for young people include series such as The Jelindel Chronicles, The Earthborn Wars, The Quentaris Chronicles and The World of Grrym in collaboration with Danny Willis. His latest series is The Maximus Black Files. Mole Hunt and Dyson’s Drop are in the shops now. The trailers are available here: Trailer 1 and Trailer 2 He is also the author of over 140 short stories. Paul is the publisher at Ford Street Publishing and runs Creative Net Speakers’ Agency.

Paul has been the recipient of the A Bertram Chandler, Aurealis, William Atheling and Peter McNamara awards and has been shortlisted for many others including the Speech Pathology, Mary Grant Bruce, Ditmar and Chronos awards.

Visit him at www.paulcollins.com.au

 

 

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Weighing your words

Some of you may know, after being unfortunate enough to have to have sat through my conversations on the subject, a while back I lost about 20kg. It was a very interesting experience, not without its struggles as I battled my natural inclinations towards laziness and gluttony. While I have taken a few backward steps I am very much back on the fitness trail and working hard.

While writers and exercise may not seem the most natural combination, it’s interesting that some of the lessons I learned during the massive lifestyle change I underwent when I started trying to get fit, and many of the things I found helped or hindered me, could just as easily be applied to my writing.

You need to set yourself measurable, and realistic, goals

When I first started trying to get fit, I had some unrealistic expectations about how much weight I could lose a week or that I could go from doing very little to suddenly running a marathon. A few months of the new regime disabused me of that and I started setting more realistic goals, more about the things I could control such as how many exercise sessions I would do in a week, rather than uncontrollable likes specific weight loss amounts.

It’s the same with my writing. I can’t really control how many sales I make or awards I win, all I can do is set goals of how many words I want to write in a given week or specific markets that I want to target. Those are the goals that I can set for myself, that don’t depend on other people. If I fall short there is no one else to blame but myself.

Track your stats

The biggest factor in my weight loss was almost obsessive calorie counting. I tracked what I ate and how many calories that added up to, and I tracked how many calories I burnt with exercise. It was a simple equation, if I burnt more calories than I took in, I would lose weight. I also tracked what I was doing in regards to exercise, how many hours a week, how many kilometres I ran or weights I lifted. That way I could plan to get better.

With my writing I do something similar. I track how many words I write and how many submissions I am making. This allows me to keep track of how I am going. Am I making progress? Am I letting my writing slide? It is a hugely beneficial practice. I am not a naturally organised person so I do struggle at times, but there are lots of tools out there to help (forgive the plus, but here is a great word count tracking tool that I helped design).

You need to measure your progress

There is only one way to know if you are getting anywhere and that is to track your progress. I would weigh myself every week at the same time, so I could see how I compared to previous weeks. I would see if I was running further and faster, whether I felt fitter. As long as there was a general improvement I was happy.

It’s the same with my writing. Am I writing more words, or sending out more submissions? I keep track of acceptances and rejections, and keep an eye whether I am moving up the ladder of markets. That way I can see that, yes, I am making progress.

There is always a reason not to exercise, or to write

Whenever I thought about going to the gym or going for a run, there was always a reason not to. I was tired, I was unwell, I’d had a hard day at work, there was something else I had to get done, I was sore, it was raining outside. And so on. There was always an excuse not to exercise. The same with eating, there was always a reason why today was okay to over indulge.

The same thing happens with my writing. There is always something else I could be doing. There is always another link to click in Wikipedia, another funny video of a cat in sunglasses to watch, another Twitter conversation be had. But, if writing is important to you, if you are serious about it, you will find the time to do it.

Getting started is the hard part

I can’t even begin to count how many times I have sat around knowing I should be going to the gym or heading out for run, putting it off as long as I can, only to find that once I got started it really wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. It was that initial need to find the motivation that I struggled with, not that actual doing.

For me, it is the same with writing. I can spend literally hours getting started on that first sentence, but once I get going I never have any trouble going on. And there is the same feeling of achievement at the end, whether it is completing a session at the gym or hitting “save” on a short story, knowing that you pushed through that initial roadblock – or the feeling of disappointment in yourself if you failed to get motivated enough to start.

Being accountable to others will help keep you on track

Looking back, the most successful and ongoing exercises habits I have made have been ones where other people are involved. Whether it is running with a partner, working with a personal trainer or even playing basketball, I find that having other people around makes me step up. When I am running by myself it is much easier to slow down because no one sees that, while when running with a partner means that I want to look good. Pride is a great motivator! And when i play cricket I don’t want to be the weak link in the team, so I push myself to do better each game.

With my writing, I have a group of people who I tell what markets I am planning on subbing to, so when I don’t I know that I will have explain why I didn’t. It means that I can’t just decide I can’t be bothered to do so. I’ve also been fortunate enough to gain a great mentor through the AHWA who I don’t want to let down. And, I am a member of a few writers groups, people who get to see my writing and I don’t want to be submitting pieces of a substandard quality to them. All these things make me try even harder than I would on my own.

Surround yourself with others on the same journey

As I got serious about getting fit I discovered that there were other people around me, and at work, who were doing the same thing. We were able to talk about the high and lows of the journey, give each other tips and just generally encourage one another to keep persevering. They spoke the same language, of calorie burns and carbs and, most importantly, I could talk to them without boring them silly. Talking with them left me more motivated to keep going on.

It’s the same with writing. All my friends are very supportive of my writing, but I avoid going on about it too much (honestly, I try!) because they aren’t on the same journey and I don’t want to bore them. I love being around other writers, people who speak the same language and understand the highs and lows and the struggles and striving that go into writing. I can get tips on how to do better and talk about the things do and don’t work. And, I go away refreshed and motivated to keep on achieving.

When you do fall short it isn’t the end of the world

It is easy to get discouraged when you are trying to lose weight or get fit. When you do your weekly weigh in and the scale goes up, or when you go way over your calorie limit for the day it can be rather depressing. And, if I don’t exercise for too long or slack off when I do, I can get down on myself. But, really in the scheme of things it isn’t that big a deal. There is always a chance to do better next time.

It’s the same with my writing. When I miss a deadline, or get a rejection, or have a story ripped to shreds by my writers group of course there is a little bit of feeling sorry for myself. But, I try and shrug it off and move on as soon as I can, resolving to learn from experience and not make the same mistakes as I did last time. I know that if I keep learning I will keep getting better.

In the end, you have to be doing it for yourself, and for the right reasons

When I was on my fitness kick I realised that I had to be doing it for myself. Not for what other people thought, or to compete with others. There was always going to be someone fitter or faster or with washboard abs. If other people were the measure of my success I was always going to fall short. Instead I set my own goals. I wanted to be able to wear all the clothes that were sitting in my wardrobe feeding moths. I wanted to be able to get through a game of basketball without feeling like I was going to die. I was doing it for my sake, not for others.

It’s the same with my writing. I can’t use other people as my goal posts, there will be other writers who make more sales than me, or less. I can’t make editors or publishers buy my stories, and I can’t pin my hopes on awards. All I can do is make sure that I am making the most of what ability I have, that I keep producing words and that everything I send out I am proud of. I know if I keep doing that, then I will feel good about my writing. Everything else that happens will be a bonus.