Writing inspiration for March

Monthly inspiration blog series - March 2016So, it’s the beginning of April. When the hell did that happen?

I have been very lax, this March, posted hardly anything. My only excuse (I’ll let you decide whether it’s a good one or not) is that I have been writing. Quite a lot, actually; 54,700 more words on Abriny’s draft (more if you count the lost words from the tiny bit of editing I allow myself mid-draft). It’s like NaNoWriMo all over again.

Actually, it is NaNoWriMo all over again, because April is Camp NaNoWriMo. Like last November’s NaNo, it’s the first time I’ve signed up, but that’s a whole other post. I’ve got a target for another 50,000 words this month but I’ll try and fit a bit more reliable blogging around it.

So, without any further waffling, here are some snippets of the inspiration behind my March wordcount – I hope they give you a boost like mine.

Music

Instead of a Spotify discovery or something picked from someone else’s playlist, my top soundtrack this month is one I found from actually watching a film. I know, right? When did I find the time to do that?

I cheated. I’ve been sneakily persuading my kids to watch the animated films I like, instead of Frozen for the fifteen-millionth time or whatever Nickelodean spin-off is flavour of the month. So, from How to Train Your Dragon:

I actually love the whole soundtrack to this film, and I’ve saved half of it on various playlists. But this one, Test Drive, is my favourite. It’s epic and uplifting and glorious and when it came on during the film when Hiccup and Toothless make their first real flight together, I knew I had to go hunt it down.

You may recall last month’s raving about the Throne of Glass books, and particularly no. 2, Crown of Midnight. Well, it so happens that Sarah J Maas posted her playlist for CoM on Spotify this month (cue over-excited fangirl screaming) and I found this:

And finally some non-soundtrack music by Fall Out Boy, which I stumbled across completely by accident.

Books

I’ve been making use of my library’s eBook system. Well, trying to. Irritatingly enough, a lot of things I particularly want to read they don’t seem to have *pouts unattractively*. But, I did manage to get The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. If anything I enjoyed them better than her original The Mortal Instruments series, which is what the current Shadowhunters TV series is based on.

The Infernal Devices
The Infernal Devices books by Cassandra Clare

TID is set almost 100 years earlier, in London. As usual with Cassandra Clare, the romance is beautiful, so well written, and somehow the different era seems to suit it perfectly, making it a sweeping backdrop to the demon-killing action. And if you have been enjoying Shadowhunters, you’ll find a few familiar characters popping up…

Pinterest

I use Pinterest to storyboard. It’s been a bit of a quieter month in March – and a lot of the Pins I have found are not for Abriny but for later books in the series or completely unrelated ideas. This one, though, is for a specific scene I haven’t got to yet:

 

As always, if you come across anything inspiring (especially music – I’m always collecting new tracks) please share in the comments.

When the characters take over

When characters take over blogI’m sure I’m not the only author this happens to. You’re getting along nicely with your WIP, progressing from one plot point to another, by way of some juicy conflicts. Then all of sudden, the words flowing onto the page are not what you expected. Your character grabbed the plot in both hands and ran in a totally different direction with it. Or took one look at what was coming and turned themselves into a living(ish) embodiment of writer’s block.

Uh-huh. You must be crazy; there’s no way I’d do that.

giphy (2)

Yeah. In any other walk of life, we’d be quietly ushered away to see a specialist. But for an author, the voices in our head sometimes just… take over.

What do I do?

There are several options, and I’ve tried most of them at some point:

  1. Cry. And/or beat your head repeatedly against a convenient flat surface.
  2. Force the characters to do what you want. You created them, dammit; they will succumb to your will no matter how much they plead it’s out of character. Write anything from a couple of paragraphs to several pages of stilted, awkward story until you realise this isn’t going to work.
  3. Realise this is not necessarily a bad thing, and roll with it.

Embrace the character who takes over

This may seem a little counter-intuitive, but bear with me.

While it can throw a bit of a spanner in the works, and probably will take a bit of thinking to resolve, the fact your character is playing fast and loose with your story plan is actually a good thing.

Because it means they’re a well-developed character. They have a personality, with flaws and strengths and goals and dreams. If there’s something in your original idea which simply doesn’t work for the personality you have developed, trying to write it regardless will not work for your story (hence option 2). It will come off as unbelievable, or poorly thought out. In fact, out of character. You may have heard that all good stories should be character-driven; it may not be 100% true, as characters and plot depend on each other to make a decent story (and yes, there are always exceptions). But even in a book where plot is given greater importance, consistent and believable characterisation is only going to improve the end product.

So, when your story’s events don’t work with the character and they twist out of shape as a result, well, that’s character-driven writing happening right there on your page. Instead of beating yourself up about it, congratulate yourself!

giphy (3)

Which is all very well, but still leaves you with a yawning gap between what you intended to happen in the story and what is now going on.

How to bridge the gap

Now, a lot of this will depend on how much detail you had the story plotted in. I’m a bit of an obsessive planner; for Abriny I had a detailed scene-by-scene spreadsheet to keep track of what all the characters were doing and how the various plot lines tied together. I say “had” because it’s been getting progressively more useless for the last 60,000 words or so, since the characters became the driving force. The choices they make, actions they take, even what comes out of their mouths, make sense for them in the situations I’ve put them in, but doesn’t always match up with what I planned all those months ago before I really got to know them.

So it does leave me floundering a bit. If I’d not had such a detailed plan to begin with, I might have been able to follow where the characters took me without nearly so much panic, head-scratching and re-thinking. Of course, as any pantser will tell you, seeing where the writing takes you does lead to more extensive rewriting and revision, but its a perfectly valid way of coming up with a story.

But I have a plan. I know what needs to happen to get the story where it needs to go. And now I have to find a different way of getting there. It’s still not necessarily a bad thing, but it will require a bit of flexibility. The perfectionist in me is still working on that.

But this is what I have come up with so far:

  • I’ve broken down my overall plot outline into very brief chapter summaries. Literally, one or two lines, to fit onto the little notecards on Scrivener’s corkboard. These may not correlate to the chapters in the finished product, but they break the story down into episodes linked by the stage of the story. For example, one chapter might be about setting things in motion for an impending disaster, the next about the disaster unfolding, and the next about the characters struggling with its consequences.
  • Then, as I come to each chapter in turn, I do the same for each scene, based on what has happened in the last few scenes for each character. These outlines are a little more detailed. And to come up with them, I often need to resort to pen and paper and my favourite question “what if” until I’ve come up with something which flows logically from the previous action, and still advances the plot in broadly the right direction.
  • I also plot out each scene in a little more detail just before I write it. That’s more to do with productivity and not losing sight of the conflict – I have a tendency to waffle when I don’t have a clear scene goal – but again if something unexpected happened in the previous scene it helps me to focus on the consequences.

I’ve seen this referred to as “headlights planning” – like driving at night, you can see just as far as the car’s headlights, and that’s far enough to keep going. So far it’s working out pretty well for me. Letting the characters have their heads is also turning out better than I could have hoped – just like real people, they rarely come up with the right answer, so their little bouts of free will are if anything, upping the tension and stakes of the story, and making their own lives all the more difficult.

And don’t we all love making things difficult for our darlings?

If you’re a writer, tell me in the comments about times when your characters have done something unexpected – and whether it turned out good or bad. And if you’re a reader – what do you think when you find a character acting in a way you don’t think they would, for the sake of the story? Is it enough to make you put the book down?

Writing inspiration for February

Writing inspiration for February 2016

Writing inspiration for February 2016I actually meant to write this at the end of January, but what with health and family issues, it didn’t happen. So, not a neat New Year’s start to this monthly series of posts, but better late than never. Right?

A lot of my inspiration I find because others have shared, whether that’s music, images or their own writing. So in a way, I’m trying to return the favour. Enjoy!

Music

I can’t write without music. I am also rubbish at finding new music. Spotify has become my new best friend. More to the point, authors who make their own playlists public on Spotify are my literary version of avenging angels. I’ve found an extraordinary amount of new, inspiring tracks this way.

I tend towards the seriously dramatic in my writing soundtracks. Since this is the inaugural post in my inspiration series, I can’t pass over Two Steps From Hell, even though they’re not exactly a new discovery this month. I’m not sure I can pick a favourite, since they probably make up over half of my Playlist of Epicness and in fact anything they have ever written fits the bill. So I will go with this:

It’s called Heart of Courage and if you think you’ve heard it before, you probably have. It’s been used in adverts, on TV sports coverage, all over the place. I first found Two Steps From Hell because I heard this track during the snooker World Championship (yes, my hobbies are that glamourous) and had to go look it up. Since it quickly got me hooked on them, it seemed a good choice for this month’s inspiration.

And here’s a track I’m just a teensy bit obsessed with at the moment, Anumati by E.S. Posthumus. This one actually is a new discovery:

And for something completely different, a little teaser for Abriny. Something I Need by One Republic sums up a particular relationship from the book so absolutely perfectly I almost cried:

I’m not denying the video’s a bit wierd, though!

Books

I’m spoilt for choice here. I got a good haul of books this Christmas, plus I’ve been re-reading some of my favourites. For this first post, I’ll go with the re-reads; the book/series which really rekindled my enthusiasm for writing after a long, long time of tinkering around the edges, and gave me the kick up the backside to get on with my current project.

The series is Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas. It’s young adult fantasy, four books and a collection of novellas published so far with another two to come, and it is AMAZING. So amazing that if I was to try and explain how good it is, this post would run to novel-length itself.

If I had to go for one book out of the series, it would be the second, Crown of Midnight. I tend to turn into a gibbering, hyperventilating wreck when I try to tell people why they need to read it. Whatever you want, this book has it: Action! Intrigue! Kick-ass heroine! Romance – oh my God the romance! Magic! Cliffhangers! Did I mention the romance?

You see? Gibbering wreck. Just GO READ IT. Now.

Pinterest

I use Pinterest to storyboard and I collect a fair amount of new images every month. Here’s my favourite from January – a bit more abstract than most I Pin, but a perfect visualisation of what one of my characters is going through and the mood I’m trying to create for her scenes.

And one from February:

I just love this one; it’s got the exact feel I want for Abriny, down to the run-down-ness of a city struggling through its fifth month of siege.

 

So, I hope some of that has given you a burst of your own inspiration. Look out for the next instalment at the end of March. And if you come across anything inspiring (especially music – I’m always collecting new tracks) let me know in the comments.

Why you should take part in Pitchapalooza with NaNoWriMo

Why enter Pitchapalooza
Image courtesy of NaNoWriMo

Another NaNoWriMo related post for you this week. Pitchapalooza is a regular fixture of the NaNo calendar, part of the Now What? months.

If you’ve never done NaNo or you’re a newbie like me, right now you’re probably scratching your head and thinking pitch-a-what?

Allow me to explain. Pitchapalooza is part lottery, part competition, giving you 250 words to pitch your novel to industry experts The Book Doctors.  Trust me, until you’ve tried to summarise a 100,000 word epic fantasy novel in 250 words, you don’t appreciate how tight a target that is!

So, several thousand aspiring writers submit their pitches by the end of February. 25 are drawn at random (the lottery bit) and then judged (the competition bit). And the prize is an introduction to a suitable agent – cue over-excited squealing and uncoordinated dancing round the room.

Why should you enter Pitchapalooza?

I had absolutely no plans to enter Pitchapalooza. Mainly due to the minor detail of the novel not being finished yet. But as the deadline crept nearer, the doubts started setting in. Was this too good an opportunity to pass up, even though the chances of getting into the final 25 must be pretty slim? If I want to make it as a published author, don’t I have to grab even slim chances with both hands? Certainly I’m not going to get anywhere by being a shy, retiring type who can’t face sharing any writing until it’s absolutely perfect.

Plus, I signed up to NaNoWriMo on a last minute whim (and with only half a plot), so why not this as well?

The deadline is 29 February. That’s right, next Monday. Well, who doesn’t like a challenge? I’ve drafted and re-drafted my 250 word pitch until it’s in a shape I’m broadly happy with. Now I’ve just got to polish it within an inch of it’s life so it’s ready to submit. Simple, right?

And this is why Pitchapalooza is worth entering, despite the long odds. It forces you to practice these skills, ones which will be essential if you want to move on to querying and publishing your work. It forces you to come up with a killer pitch and to really pare your story down to its essence. And perhaps easily overlooked but just as important, you’re putting yourself and your writing out there, learning to take risks with something that’s probably very personal to you – I know mine is to me.

But I don’t know how to write a pitch!

Me neither.

All joking aside, writing a pitch is a whole different skill set to writing a novel. With such a tight word limit, every word has to work hard as it possibly can. And there’s a precarious balance to find, between giving the reader a flavour your writing style, really selling the story, and making sure they know what’s happening while leaving them wanting more. The Book Doctors have given some tips on writing a pitch here (where you can also find the official information on the Pitchapalooza process).

More general, but very useful, is this podcast on query letters from Pub(lishing) Crawl. The pitch forms the main body and most important part of a query letter, the part that actually convinces (or not) an agent to request your manuscript. Amongst the advice in the podcast, they say your plot summary should be around 250 – 400 words. You might notice that’s not far off the Pitchapalooza word limit.

Good luck!

If you do decide to go ahead and enter the draw, then good luck! Let us know in the comments, and feel free to share any other experience you may have with pitching a novel.

And may the odds be ever in your favour. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

Writing a novel – How to get through the tough bits

Getting through the tough bits of your first draft

Getting through the tough bits of your first draftThere are times when writing is a joy. When the words come pouring out, the plot ticks along nicely, and the characters stay in character and almost write the thing for you.

There are also times (sometimes a lot of them) when writing is nothing at all like that. When it’s a struggle to find the next sentence to move the story along, let alone the whole next scene. When you wonder if you’re cut out for this whole business of authoring.

Perhaps the idea you had for what happens next no longer seems like something your character would do. Or your plot has veered in an unexpected direction and you actually have no idea what should or could happen next. Or you’ve come to a scene that you know needs to happen, but you just don’t want to write it.

In my opinion, dealing with the tough bits is the difference between wanting to be a writer and actually being one. If you want to finish a book, a short story, whatever it might be, you have to get through the tough bits.

Of course, knowing that doesn’t make it any easier! And while it might come down to BICHOK (Butt In Chair, Hands on Keyboard) at the end of the day, sometimes we all need a bit of extra help. So here are my tips on how to push through when the words just aren’t coming:

Magic cookies

This is a way to get around the scenes you know you have to write, but really don’t want to. Best of all, you do it by turning them into scenes you do want to write!

Both the term and the process have been shamelessly borrowed from Susan Dennard, so I’ll let her explain how magic cookies work.

I only discovered this a couple of months ago when I signed up for Susan’s Misfits and Daydreamers newsletter (seriously, you should do that!) but I’ve already used it a few times and it’s made so much difference!

Word sprints

A word sprint is a very simple but very effective trick. You set a timer – usually between 15 and 30 minutes – and try to get as many words down in that time as possible.

But Jamie, you say – isn’t that what we’re doing every time we write anyway? Well, yes, to a point, but having a deadline does focus the mind. The idea is that in order to meet the challenge, you have to stop thinking so much, and just write whatever comes into your head. Choosing the perfect word, deleting a line of dialogue that sounds a little clunky, and so on, all take a back seat to getting the next word out.

This comes into its own in NaNoWriMo season, when Twitter, the NaNo forums and any writers’ social media group you care to mention are packed full of people ready to compare sprint wordcounts to give them the impetus to meet the daily wordcount requirements. But you can make it work for you all year round, especially if you’ve got writing buddies or an encouraging friend. Or just a crazy competitive streak; I’ve had some pretty good sessions simply trying to beat my own personal best.

If you need a little more of a push, there are programs like Write Or Die which take the pressure of a word sprint to a whole new level, punishing you if you stop typing for too long with flashing screens, unpleasant noises and even randomly deleting words. You can even adjust the settings and goals to make it realistic – or as challenging as you like – for your own typing and thinking speed.

Bribes

Otherwise known as rewards, but hey, let’s call a spade a spade.

I’ve been known to bribe myself with anything from turning off RescueTime so I can aimlessly browse the Internet for half an hour, to a bar of chocolate to a new notebook and pen (hey, I am a writer!), if I meet an immediate writing goal. It could be reaching my daily wordcount or slogging through a scene that’s been troubling me for a while.

Notebooks in Paperchase Tottenham Court Road
My idea of heaven

Of course, this only works if you’ve got the willpower to hold out and not just give yourself the reward anyway. After all, that chocolate bar probably looks like exactly what you need to deal with the frustration of writing that’s not going so well…

Take a break

If all else fails – give yourself permission to come back later. Make some notes about what should be happening, then do something completely different. Take a walk, do some gardening, call a friend for tea and a chat. Sometimes it helps to leave the problem scene stewing for a while and go write a scene that wants to be written. Then at least you’ll be back in a writing frame of mind.

Come back with a fresh pair of eyes a few days later and your notes (combined with any of the tips above) should get you going.

 

If these tips helped you out of a sticky spot – or if you’ve got other ideas for getting through the tough bits – please share in the comments!

NaNoWriMo: How to start revising your novel in the Now What? Months

How to start revising your novelDid you do NaNoWriMo last November? I hope you took a well deserved break in December. Or if, like me, you decided to press on with actually finishing the draft, you at least relaxed the pace a little. But whether through the madness of November or not, if you’ve got a first draft that somehow doesn’t look much like the masterpiece you were imagining, you’ll understand why NaNoWriMo refers to January and February as the “Now What?” months.

The Now What? months are dedicated to revision and editing, with a sprinkling of publishing advice for those who decide they want to really see if this thing will fly.

A disclaimer!

I’m not actually revising my NaNo novel yet. As I mentioned in my post on a newbie’s experience of NaNoWriMo, although I ‘won’ in terms of wordcount, I finished November well short of a completed first draft. And I’m still going; at 111,000 words and counting, the novel has turned into a sprawling beast, but I’m sticking to my resolution to finish drafting before I start editing it.

What I do have, is a lot of experience with awful first drafts, and a lot of time spent procrastinating on writing blogs and websites searching for ways to deal with them.

The first step of novel revision

The first step is astonishingly simple, one you can manage with both hands behind your back, even if you’ve never tried to edit a novel before and the very idea terrifies you. I promise.

The first step is to read through your manuscript from beginning to end. A lot of authors like to print out in hardcopy to do this, but if you’re wedded to your eReader by all means stay on screen.

Resist the temptation to get stuck right in correcting every bit of sloppy wording or inconsistency you come across. Simply take stock of what you’ve actually got. I find it useful to take some brief notes, in the margins or in a separate notebook, about which scenes work and which don’t, if a section is boring me, or any bright ideas I have while reading. You might want to break out the highlighters for a spot of colour-coding.

So what has all the hard work of drafting got you? All the blood, sweat and tears… alright, caffeine, cursing and tears? Well, in my experience there’s a few basic types of first draft:

The bowl of noodles. You have plots, sub-plots, timelines and character arcs going in any direction you care to mention. They cross and re-cross, tangle together and trip each other up. You’re sure there’s a coherent story in there somewhere, and every now and again you come across a nugget of brilliance. But it’s all just a confused mess, and you haven’t a clue where to start. This type of first draft is most common in pantsers, but plotters aren’t immune either.

The plate of soup. Yes, I said plate. Instead of being a self-contained bowl of deliciousness, your story has been allowed to spread well beyond its natural boundaries. The result is a plot that looks thin and uninteresting, no matter how good the original concept, and you may well find you’ve thrown a few unnecessary ingredients in there to try and compensate. I have a feeling this may be where mine is headed!

The bread and butter. On the face of it, this is a perfectly adequate story. Sure, it could be a bit neater, and maybe there’s a few holes or an unexpected dollop of jam on one corner. But all the bits you’d expect are there, in roughly the right places. Trouble is, it all looks a bit uninspiring. Dare we say it – bland. You find yourself eying up other plots jealously and wondering whether your idea was any good in the first place. You might end up here if you followed an outline to join up all the dots but maybe sacrificed a little bit of creativity in the process.

The half-and-half pizza. A NaNoWriMo special! Halfway through, you lost faith in your original idea, or had a flash of inspiration too good to ignore, and your story veered in a completely new direction (or two. Or three.). But with the tyranny of the daily wordcount looming over you, there was no way to start from scratch. So you ended up with a draft that looks like the literary equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster. This could happen to anyone!

frankenstein giphy

Fixing the first draft – how to get started

So, once you know what sort of problems you’re dealing with, what on earth are you going to do about them?

The good news is, whatever type of first draft you’ve ended up with, it can be fixed. If you’re a bowl of noodles drafter, you’ll be doing a lot more untangling and clarifying, compared to a bread and butter drafter who’s going to be adding detail and colour. But you can follow the same basic steps to help you approach the task and make it seem less daunting.

You’ll make several passes through the manuscript before you’re anywhere near finished with it, so don’t get bogged down trying to fix everything at once. On each pass, look at one or two specific elements. In general the advice is to start big and get more detailed with each pass. We’re not even going to be worrying about grammar and exact word choice until much later. So, with that in mind, we need to draw up a brief plan of action. I like to pin mine above my desk as a constant reminder of where I’m going.

So what does a plan of action look like?

Here’s a brief example, based on how I approach it:

  1. Plot, pacing and storyline. Where are the plot holes? Which sections are dragging and need to be cut or have the tension ramped up? Are the stakes high enough to keep a reader’s interest? Do I foreshadow important events and is the climax satisfying and convincing enough?
  2. Characterisation. Are character motivations and goals clear and believable? Do characters behave in consistent ways throughout the novel and develop as a result of the story events? Do they (especially viewpoint characters) have distinct voices?
  3. Consistency and details – I include research here where I need it. Does your wizard produce a spell in chapter 18 which he told you was impossible in chapter 3? Does your supposed only child suddenly start talking about a sister? How exactly does a nuclear reactor work? Have you got a character sprinting three miles with an urgent message a day after he fractured his ankle?

And so on, as many passes as you need to resolve your story issues.Your plan of action might be in a different order or focus on different elements, depending on what you’re working with. If you find yourself making major changes, you may even repeat a step or two. But you’ll have the end of the revision process in sight.

I’m not giving a detailed “how to” for each element here. Partly because this post is already long enough, and partly because there’s a wealth of revision advice already out there, including on the NaNoWriMo Now What? pages. I’d also recommend taking a look at their revision webinar with K.M. Weiland, James Scott Bell and Kami Garcia. When I get to the stage of revising my NaNo novel, I’ll share some further thoughts and examples with you.

Do you already have an action plan for revision? Do you find it tougher than writing the draft in the first place? Let me know in the comments!

Writers’ Resolutions 2016

Happy New Year - Writers Resolutions 2016

Yes, it’s that time of year again, when we all start thinking about how we can do next year a bit better. The very talented Susan Dennard and Erin Bowman have asked writers to join them in making and sharing #WritersResolutions for 2016, so this is  my contribution. You can see their original posts here and here.

I’ve never been a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions; I’ve always suspected they just set you up for more failure. But this year the timing is quite apt. I’ve just quit my long term job in connection with a long-distance house move  (by UK standards – I suspect any Americans amongst you would view the 110 mile trip with a fair amount of derision). I’m currently working remotely, but as of 10 January I will no longer be gainfully employed. My contribution to our household budget will instead depend on my skill with a pen (alright, a keyboard, but you have to admit pen sounds better) and my ability to convince people to actually pay me for it.

So irrespective of the magic date of 1 January 2016, I was always going to have to sit down and think about my plans for the next year. And these are the resolutions I’ve come up with:

1. Enjoy the writing

It’s so easy to lose sight of why you’re doing something, when you’re actually in the midst of it.

I seem to spend half my time worrying about whether my writing is good enough, or progressing fast enough, or whether any of that is even going to make a difference if I don’t have a mailing list as long as the Nile and twenty gazillion Twitter followers. The other half can quickly get swallowed worrying about how little I add to the bank balance, or whether the Husband resents me having given up work for this.

But the thing is, I’m doing this because I love it. I love writing. I love plotting, and thinking up ever more cruel and devious torments for my characters (did I just say that aloud?) and I especially love giving them moments of joy to get them through it. I even love it when a character comes so completely to life, they grab the plot in both hands and twist it in a completely new direction. I may not love it at the point it happens, mind you; then I curse them and panic for at least an hour about how I’m going to get back on track.

And that’s what I mustn’t lose sight of. Sure, my end goal is publication and hopefully a reasonable income, but even if that never happened, I would still carry on writing because it’s who I am. So for 2016 I want to remember to enjoy the process as much as I possibly can.

2. Get the hang of this social media thing

I may have mentioned once or twice that I’m not particularly good with social media. You could call this an understatement. A slightly more honest version would be to say that I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing, don’t even know what half of them are, and am completely terrified of most of it.

But while there’s a whole range of opinions on exactly what and how much writers should be doing with social media, it’s fair to say there’s a consensus we should be doing something. So if 2015 was the year I bit the bullet, signed up for Twitter and Pinterest, and started this blog, 2016 needs to be the year I figure out how to get the best from them.

I have a suspicion that organisation and setting myself a proper schedule are going to be the key. Although I’ve also seen mention of odd things like plug-ins and Hootsuite (yes, I am slightly technologically challenged) that I should consider using to automate a lot of the process. Hmm – I might save that for the 2017 resolutions.

3. Look after my health

This seems to be a bit of a theme from the other #WritersResolutions posts. Writing is a pretty solitary gig, and lets be honest, we spend a lot of the day sat on our backsides in front of a screen, only our fingers getting any exercise.

I’m sure any one of us could list a number of health concerns and niggles, and in the scheme of things my particular problems could be a hell of a lot worse. But I know they will only deteriorate if I carry on as I am, and I’m already finding it hard to keep up with the kids. I don’t want to be the sort of mum who drives to the park and sits at the side watching them instead of enjoying the walk and joining in. So between back pain, arthritic knees, occasional bouts of depression and generally abysmal fitness, it’s pretty clear I need to do something about it.

I’m never going to be the one who signs up for a boot camp fitness regime or runs the London marathon, but I can make an effort to get out and active on a daily basis, even if it’s a simple walk to town to write in a cafe or park instead of on my sofa. I’ve been recommended yoga or pilates by my physiotherapist, and the only reason I haven’t got round to trying either is sheer laziness. So 2016 will be the year I remember to look after myself.

There you have it; my #WritersResolutions for 2016. All encouragement (and commiseration) is welcome in the comments, and why not join in with your own, by blog or Twitter or whatever.