How To Finish a Project

So yesterday I was talking to a friend about the difficulty of finishing artistic endeavours. We’ve all been there. That rush you get with a new idea, the excitement of starting a fresh, new project… then it becomes work and you lose the enthusiasm for it. Or worse. You start to worry that no one will like it, that you’re a hack, that it’s not as good as you first thought. For me, it’s often a combination of both, and honestly, I didn’t even realise that the latter was a thing until very recently.

I was lucky. I’m bloody pig-headed when I want to be, and I have a fairly good work ethic. I don’t do anything in life half-arsed, and although that doesn’t always serve me well, when it comes to writing I’m very grateful to that part of my mentality.

Finishing The Redwood Rebel was probably the best thing I’ve ever done with my life. Doesn’t matter how I feel about it now, or how anyone else feels about it, either. I set out to write a book, and I did it. Now I know I can, there’s nothing to stop me from finishing another, and another, and to keep finishing books for as long as I want to be doing it.

But what’s the trick to getting there? Well, as always with advice from yours truly, I can’t give you a magical answer that will fix everything, but I can tell you what worked for me.

 

-Make a to-do list. It might sound silly, or maybe even obvious, but having a physical list of what you need to get done can help really channel your productivity. I keep two, personally. I write a daily list of things I’d like to get done, and then I have a long-term list, currently titled “The Plan VII”. Remember that nothing in life is ever solid, that plans change and you should adapt with them, but always keep your main goals in focus. Doesn’t matter how you get there in the end, does it? To-do lists are a good way to keep your sights on that finish line. Plus it’s so rewarding when you can cross off a task you set yourself!

-Surround yourself with inspiration. Music, art, books, people… whatever it is that makes you want to work, keep it prominent in your sphere. I always have some kind of inspiring quote as the wallpaper of my computer and my phone, I have specific playlists for when I’m working, films I’ll watch if I’m having a block, and people I go to for motivation. All through the sixth draft of TRR I would write “Stay The Course” on the back of my hand before I sat down to write. I also have a small statue of Athena on my desk with an incredibly judgemental expression, which helps if I stare off into space for too long. Find what drives you, and keep it close.

-Routine! Can’t even stress this one enough. Getting into a routine of work is so incredibly helpful, I promise you. Now a lot of us (myself included) have other things going on around us that keep us from having a specific time we can sit down to work on our craft, so when I say “routine” I want you to know I don’t mean in the traditional sense. I have a preferred time and place to write, but The Real World™ doesn’t give a bag of crabsticks about this and will go along with or without me. Instead, I have a routine for myself before I sit down to work, whenever that happens. For me it’s usually a change of clothes, washing my face, making a drink, putting on music, opening my files, scrolling through social media for half an hour (it’s an important part of the process, okay), then it’s writing o’clock. It works for me, but find what works for you, and stick to it.

-Set aside a work space. My productivity increased a huge amount once I got a proper desk, as opposed to just lolloping about wherever. Like the routine thing, it clicks your mind into the right gear to get your nose to the grindstone. I’m working with very limited space these days, but I do the best I can with what I have. Sometimes it doesn’t work, so I get up and go to find somewhere quiet to work, and that helps, too. I feel like physically going somewhere with the express intention to write makes me actually knuckle down and do it once I get there. Even if the only real reason is because it takes me a solid forty-five minutes to walk anywhere interesting from where I live!

-Remember why you’re doing this. Do you know why you’re doing this? I bet you do, even if you’ve never really vocalised it. It could be any reason at all; I shan’t speculate. We all have our reasons and it can be vastly different from person to person. Whatever your reason is, though, hold it close with both hands. Keep it front and centre at all times, on the good days, and on the bad days, too. Be kind to yourself, and remember that no one can be always working -nor should they- but keep that reason for working in the first place like a little beacon in your mind. Don’t give up. Please, don’t ever give up. It’s hard to follow your dreams, but it’s the best way any of us can spend our lives. Trust in yourself, trust in your projects, and if you can’t do that, trust in me when I say that I believe in you, and I know that you can do this. You just have to keep trying.

Updates and Gratitude

So I finally have a couple of days away from The Day Job, and I can get some real work done! Yay!

I’m slowly working my way through editing The Royal Sentinel chapter by chapter, (the prologue and chapter one can be read on Wattpad, and chapter two will be up on Friday!) but I’m a fair way ahead of myself and I have time, so I might only do a wee bit of that today.

Thank you so, so much to everyone who has helped get the word out about it, and The Redwood Rebel, too! It’s been a huge gamble for me to put it out for free, if only because that’s a solid six years of work for me sitting there, you know? Every single vote, comment, and share means the whole world to me, and will make a massive difference to my writing resume when I’m ready to submit other work to publication. I really do appreciate it so much!

Speaking of “other work”, that’s mostly what today is going to be for, and most of tomorrow, too! Down From The Tower is going very slowly, but it is going, and that’s what counts. I feel like I’m in a good place right now, and it’s not a particularly big project, but I would really like to pick up the pace.

I have been thinking about jumping in with Camp NaNoWriMo next month, but the pressure of word-counting doesn’t always go well for me. Plus it’s my birthday smack in the middle, and I have stock take at work the week after (Uuuuurgh….) but then again, the great thing about Camp is that I can set a lower goal than standard NaNoWriMo, soooo…?

I dunno. I’ll give it some thought. I do really need to find a way to kick myself up the arse and get working again. Once the first draft of DFTT is done, I’ll get on the first draft of The Redwood War book three, so I do really need to get a shufty on.

In the meantime (sorry to bang on) if you haven’t already, please consider voting for The Redwood Rebel and The Royal Sentinel on Wattpad? Even if you’ve already read book one before now, just please take a few minutes to scroll through the chapters and click the vote button! It’s not like AO3 where you can only leave one kudos per story, you can vote for every single chapter. Comments are great, too, but I understand that you may not have the time or the inclination. Voting is super quick and easy, though, and it makes a massive difference and boosts the story up the recommended reading list, thus making it more likely for new readers to find it!

Many thanks!

The Royal Sentinel: Prologue

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‘Fifteen is my final offer.’

Naomi looked at the street vendor, keeping her face carefully neutral as they tried to stare each other down. She hadn’t missed the way his eyes had lit up when she had first put her bow and quiver down on his counter with the intention to sell, and she wasn’t about to let it go for fifteen, either.

Her ship had docked in Asuya after the long voyage across from Ffion, and she needed money to support herself for a few days. The bow and arrows were the least likely of her possessions she would need again, and she had already traded the few sets of clothes she’d had for warmer Tsumetese clothing. Thankfully, despite one of the last surviving members of Ffion’s royal family, the Redwoods, Naomi knew how to barter.

‘The bow alone is worth twenty,’ she said flatly. ‘I’ll take thirty for the lot, or nothing.’

‘Thirty?’ the vendor scoffed, throwing his hands up in a dramatic fashion that almost made her smile. ‘Are you trying to rob me? Twenty-five, and that’s final.’

‘Done,’ she held her hand out to shake, and the bargain was struck. Twenty-five was fair, and it would cover her expenses for a few days. Granted, it would be one of the less reputable inns, but she had slept rougher in her time.

‘You selling anything else?’ the vendor asked, and she looked sharply back at him, unsure of his implication. When she saw he was giving the beautiful sword at her hip the eye, Naomi relaxed again.

‘The sword isn’t for sale.’ she told him firmly, tucking the small pouch of coin into the breast of her warm wrap-over top.

As she did so, her fingers brushed against the dagger secreted out of sight there, and she hesitated. It wasn’t hers, not really. She had borrowed it months ago in the forests of Ffion from King Arun, to bleed poison from a dart wound she’d taken protecting him and had never really gotten around to returning it. Just thinking about their parting of ways made her blood boil.

It was her hope she would never see the cussing man again as long as she lived, and so returning it was unlikely, but somehow she felt wrong selling it. In the privacy of her own mind, she dryly observed that any man who could be so horribly possessive over another person was likely ten times worse for inanimate objects. For a brief moment she wondered how he was doing, if he had made a full recovery after their brutal battle with the reanimated corpse of the harpy, Genevieve…

The smallest brush of something in the back of her mind, not even a whisper of movement, made her start so violently that the street vendor jumped as well. Naomi might have been annoyed with herself at the slip, had she not been so disturbed by the sensation. It had been so light, she almost wondered if she had imagined it, but clutched the woven charm that hung about her neck tightly, searching for any indication that her shields had been broken.

She found nothing. Relieved beyond measure, Naomi sighed heavily and glanced at the vendor, now watching her warily.

‘Pleasure doing business with you,’ she nodded to him, and walked away to find lodging for the night.

Read More on Wattpad

Update: The Redwood War

There are different kinds of currency in the world, and as much as I’d love to have some of the traditional stuff, after a lot of thought I’ve decided I’m going to place value elsewhere and not go with the Patreon idea.

Now I know that there’s a culture amongst writers and artists where what I’m about to do is seen as a sort of betrayal. I know that we should be paid for our work, and that we should insist on it and stick together, but I feel like the circumstances I’m in give me a bit of leeway.

The Redwood Rebel did not sell.

I worked on it for three years, paid for it to be professionally edited and given beautiful cover art. I ran promotions and competitions and did interviews on other author’s websites, I did monthly adverts on Facebook and Goodreads. I networked until I was blue in the face. I promoted the heck out of it, or as best I could as a self-published author, and the only time I ever saw any traction? When I ran free kindle copy weekends.

Now I’m not saying that people didn’t enjoy it when they read it. I’ve had some bad reviews, and I’d be lying if I said they didn’t still sting a bit, but I know the majority of readers liked it. I get asked about the sequel much more frequently than I get hate mail, and that means the world to me, honestly.

What I am saying, however, is that I can’t afford to do all that again. I’m not exaggerating when I say I lost a lot of my own money publishing book one, and I genuinely can’t do that again. It’s unfortunate, but that’s just the reality of the situation.

That said, I do understand that a monthly subscription for The Royal Sentinel isn’t feasible for most people, and that at least a third of responses I had to the idea felt that I was being unfair. I would never want that, not for anything in the world. I may not be a successful author in traditional terms, but as far as supportive and dedicated readers go? Well. I am incredibly proud and happy.

The currency I choose is your good faith and enjoyment in my work. That’s why I’ve decided to post The Redwood War series to Wattpad as free content. As of right now I’m uploading a chapter a day of The Redwood Rebel, in an attempt to get some interest from possible new readers, and when that’s done I’ll start to share chapters of The Royal Sentinel, either weekly or fortnightly.

All I’d request in exchange is that you take the time to like and comment, and to share it about to anyone you think might be interested, so that when I finally write something I feel is worth another attempt at traditional publishing, I can confidently add to my resume: “I am the author of a fairly well-received web series”.

Thank you.

Patreon?

I’ve been trying to think of what to do with The Redwood War series. I want to finish it, but mostly because I’m pig-headed about not leaving things half done.

So here’s the question: If I set up a Patreon account, how many of you would be up for supporting my work?

Right now I’m thinking I could give book one as a free epub file for signing up, then update the next three books a chapter at a time -possibly monthly or fortnightly, I haven’t decided- and as each book ends, send them out as a completed epub file.

I’d like to just post it for free, but honestly? I’m broke ^^” I’m just not in a position to work for free right now, as much as I wish I could. Book 1 cost me a heck of a lot to self-publish, and I was in a much better financial situation then than I am right now.

I hope that sounds fair, but I’d really like to hear what you guys think?

Book Review: “Uprooted” by Naomi Novik

 

Title: Uprooted

Author: Naomi Novik

Genre: High Fantasy

Rating: ****

 

This is one of those books that’s been on my radar for a while, but for some reason it kept getting pushed down my TBR pile. Having finally gotten to it, I seriously regret the hold up.

I grew up on old, Germanic fairy-tales, courtesy of my Grandma who lived near Hamelin for almost twenty years. She put me to bed with myths and legends of The Black Forest, and the stories of the Brothers Grimm, and not the nice, cutesy versions, either. I found the echoes of those stories throughout Uprooted, worked artfully through the plot, the language, and the characters, and I fell in love.

The premise was one that felt familiar to me as a lover of both folklore and fantasy novels; a plain, village girl who lives on the outskirts of an enchanted and dangerous forest faces an enforced selection day by the local lord to live for ten years in his service. Everyone expects the lord to choose the beautiful, clever, and multi-talented best friend of said girl, but, shockingly, he does not. He takes the awkward, plain girl instead.

It doesn’t sound exciting at all when you say it that way, but trust me, that’s only chapter one, and from there onwards Naomi Novik turns all preconceptions of the plot on their head. The story is dark and woven with magic and mystery, and it kept me guessing throughout. Nothing was how I expected it to be once I got past the safety of that first chapter, and it utterly thrilled me.

For example, the main character, Agnieszka, begins the book being clumsy, messy, and afraid. What I liked most about her progression through the story was that rather than changing these aspects about her until she became more like her best friend, Kasia, she harnesses her flaws in a positive manner instead. By the end of the book she is still clumsy, messy, and afraid, but she embraces these parts of herself and becomes strong in all the very best ways.

Kasia herself was a wonderful side-character who defied my own expectations of what her role in the story would be. It would have been unrealistic to expect that there would be no jealousy between the two girls, given the situation they grew up in together and how it all ended. I was pleased when that jealousy was addressed as something completely natural, and that their relationship only strengthened from the experience.

I had half expected it to be a romance, but was pleasantly surprised to find that while there was a definite sub-plot, that was all. The dynamic between Agnieszka and Sarkan was interesting and I didn’t dislike it, but I was much more invested in the relationship between her and Kasia. I felt like the love between them was so genuine, it was a shame that the romantic subplot wasn’t theirs. Honestly I was disappointed by the missed opportunity, but perhaps that’s just me.

Aside from that, the book was perfect. The pace was quick, the plot gripping, the characters enchanting, and the language beautiful. I’ll definitely be looking up more work by this author.