Tag Archives: work

Brave moves

Phil: According to the BBC, last week 10 years since the great financial crash. Banks were hastily thrown vast amounts of money, a few bankers lost their jobs and everyone prepared for financial Armageddon.

A couple of months earlier, I had thrown in my job with plans to travel and write and generally eat through a big chunk of my savings, treating myself to the gap year I’d missed out on because I didn’t go to university. Not that I’d have been brave enough to take that year of course, but I’d got old enough to think I might be ready for it 25 years later.

All this came back to me as I read  Take a Look at Me Now by Miranda Dickinson.

The story concerns Nell who loses her job as a planning officer and instead of plunging into the local jobs market, decides to take off to visit her cousin in San Francisco for a couple of months with her redundancy money.  She has a dream of running an American style diner in the UK and as luck would have it, ends up meeting a diner owner in the US who shows her the ropes.

Along the way, there is a dalliance with a hunky, grey-eyed artist and generally, a good time is had by all. So good in fact, that you have to get 2/3rds of the way through the book before there is any jeopardy. Redundancy aside, her life goes swimmingly the moment her feet hit US soil with a succession of happy coincidences. As a travel promotion for the city, it’s great, and you can tell the author fell in love with the place.

As with any chick-lit, all ends happily, especially for the publishers who surely have a potential sequel being written since the story couldn’t have ended in a better place for this.

To be honest, it’s light, pleasant reading. Undemanding and perfect for a sun lounger.

My biggest complaint is the cover, which has all the hallmarks of a designer keen to go to the pub. The story is set where? Well, put the Golden Gate bridge on. It’s about a youngish woman? Where’s that CD full of unconvincing clipart? Job done – let’s go.

Having said this, my own story also enjoyed a few happy coincidences. Jumping into the world of temporary jobs, I ended up working with Candice and when the place closed down, we found ourselves with lots of time and no work so started writing a book. Which became a series. And a lasting friendship.

Now if only we could get someone to sign up to turn them into a major feature film, this really would read like a book…

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What does a being a writer actually mean?

Phil: A few weekends ago, Candice and I attended the Writing West Midlands  National Writers Conference – get us going big-time!

There’s lots to blog about, but the event started with a keynote speech from Illustrator Shoo Raynor which tied in very nicely to the first session I was booked to take part in – Sustaining a Creative Career.

I kid myself that writing about trains and editing a modelmaking magazine means my “career” (this makes it sound like I planned it and didn’t just luck out) can be described as creative. I guess that is because you can’t really call it “useful” in the same way doctors, policemen, firemen, farmers, workers making Tunnocks teacakes etc. are.

As writers, or at least aspiring writers, the challenge is to earn enough money by your trade to survive. Years ago, you’d do this by sending your latest manuscript to your publisher and they would send back a big pile of cash. Sadly, as Shoo explained in his speech, since the demise of the net book agreement, this doesn’t really work. You might get some money, but by the time everyone else has taken their cut, you’ll be reduced to the own brand beans aisle of Tesco for tea.

No, the modern author, or creative, has to have a number of strings to their bow.

Those taking the session I attended wrote, taught, mentored, ran sessions for other writers and any number of related jobs to make ends meet. This isn’t seen as such a bad thing – it provides a variety of experiences which can build the writers experience, feeding back into the work. If you reside in an ivory tower, can you write anything other than how it feels to be in splendid isolation? Rapunzel has been written and it pretty much covers all the tower-based hero genre.

Shoo is the sort of proper, published writer that we all aspire to be, but his output goes beyond traditionally published books into self-publishing and using YouTube tutorials to provide another income stream. It’s fascinating stuff, and I strongly suggest that you sit back and enjoy his half-hour long speech.  Ignore the slightly odd camera viewpoint, but remember that he recorded and posted this on-line himself. Another of those tasks that writers have to find time to become skilled in.

Turns out, being a writer isn’t just about writing.

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Are holidays worth all the bother?

SuitcasePhil: Meeting up a week or so ago, team NolanParker didn’t get down to discussing our writing, instead we caught up on each others holiday stories. Both of us had been away and were keen to fill the other in on the details of our time away.

Holidays are one of those areas where we have completely opposite views. Candice loves them and usually has the next trip booked up the moment her plane lands.

Me, I’m not so sure.

Don’t get me wrong – I had a great time away in Canada. I saw loads of fantastic things, took lots of photos, met many interesting people.

It’s just that the run-up involved loads of pressure to make sure all my work was done. On my return, there was lots of catching up to do. My plans to write the trip up (it was part work, part holiday) on the Bank Holiday Monday fell apart through a combination of jet-lag and a full inbox. Tuesday dawned and the guys in the office returned, and the phone calls started. Work on the article actually started at Wednesday lunchtime.

Since then, I’ve been chasing my tail and only now, a fortnight later, feel I’m where I’d like to be. I was only away for 10 days!

And that means I’ve done no book writing for nearly a month. Arghhh!

Holidays are best, for me, in retrospect. I seem to need a few days for my brain to process what I’ve done, filing things away in my memory. When I’m back in the “real world” is when I can enjoy where I’ve been. That’s not to say I’m not happy wherever I am, I just seem to be happier to be back to normal.

As I write this, I know it sounds crazy. Or maybe not. Does anyone else sometimes wonder why we rush to go away and then come back saying “I need a holiday to get over the holiday”?

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A change is as good as a rest

Phil: I mentioned last week that I have a new job. My flight away from being  “The Man from IT” is pretty much complete with a landing into “Jobs that will make Candice roll her eyes.” territory.

In addition to my existing writing work, I’m now editor of two magazines. No, not Vogue (ther loss) but Engineering in Miniature and Garden Rail.

Officially, I started just over a week ago with the first issues under my control appearing in August. My life now revolves around flatplans and other people’s words. To me, the subjects are fascinating and the people who take part in these hobbies, generally, interesting individuals and groups. Some of the later can even be relied on to supply good cake when I pay a visit!

All of this would seem a million miles away from the world of humorous fiction with a hint of chick-lit.

I can’t argue with that – there won’t be a huge amount of cross-over between the two audiences. That’s what makes it all so much fun.

Sitting with the Nolan discussing plots fires up a very different part of my brain. Our ideas aren’t constrained in any way, other than a desire for a little realism so the reader doesn’t have to suspend disbelief too much. An hour of plotting and I come away refreshed in a way that others have to get massaged with ungents to achieve. I’d certainly recommend stepping out of the real world occasionally either read or better still write, a book.

Anyway, I’ve managed to become even nerdier than when we first met. Unbelievable I know, but true.

If all this wasn’t bad enough, I have to cover a model bus event during the weekend, that’s the anorak quotient turned up a long way even for me! On the train there though, I’ll be pondering the lives of Kate, Dave, Gareth, Kelvin and Tracey. Well, we are already having serious ideas for our third book…

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Work where you want to

 

Phil: We are hard at work writing Kate vs the Navy and are grabbing any chance we get to put a few words onto the page.

Last weekend I was on a stand at a model boat show and knowing it would be reasonably quiet on the Sunday, took my laptop along. Fitting on the corner of our stand, appropriately enough, I was working while surrounded by miniature waterborne military craft. It helped too as Candice had left me some ship describing to do and from where I sat, I could see a model of the very vessel I was writing about. Very handy indeed!

 

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Oh for the time to be so prolific

novellist

Phil: Being in need of something to read on a train journey recently, my original choice having turned out to be desperately dull, I dropped into a charity shop and picked up “Poirot’s Early Cases” to keep my little grey cells amused.

Inside the front cover is a shocking list of Agatha Christie’s other novels. It fills a page.

A quick check of Wikipedia reveals she wrote 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections and 6 romances. 86 books in around 60 years.

Oh to have the time to be so productive.

As Candice has mentioned, we’re both really busy with work at the moment and this has seriously dented any plans at getting our second book knocked into shape. I’d love to get back to it but at the moment it’s not paying any bills and so must sit on the back burner for a while.

I wonder if being free to write all day is such a good thing though?

Famously, for Christie, it wasn’t. She suffered from overwork churning out her massively popular novels. Her fans wanted more and she did her best to keep them happy.

Perhaps it takes a little “real” work to keep the writing ideas flowing?

Our books are set in a world that I hope is recognisable to our readers. If we could spend all day lounging around writing, would we churn out the literary equivalent of those albums produced by bands about being rich and famous once they are able to divorce themselves from the reality that first inspired their music?

Mind you, I wouldn’t mind the chance to find out.

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Getting some work done

8th AprilPhil: After last weeks blog post, when I was being admonished for not having written much book recently, Candice and I met up for lunchtime cake. I was a little worried that she was going to go all Clarkson on my ass, but no.

Instead, we sat down and talked about some of the plot points that needed to be resolved. Thanks to the excellent cake in front of us, I didn’t get shouted at at all.

My excuse was simple – I was busy. Now normally this would get the grumpy, “Well, I’m juggling the management of a baby, husband, cat and I’m training for a half marathon” response, but this time I used the cunning trick of finding similarities in the way we work to defuse this.

My work isn’t governed by time taken as much as projects knocked off. On a whiteboard beside my computer is a list of deadlines. Below each of these is a list of projects to be completed by then. The thing is, we both work better with deadlines, so I knew I’d receive a sympathetic hearing.

My next deadline was April 8th and I’d worked out that if I pulled my finger out that week, I could clear the jobs nearly two weeks early. That’s a goal worth working for. There was a little time spare for the gym or a cakey lunch each day but basically, I was on a mission.

And I did it.

Which meant that last Saturday morning I was waiting outside the local library with my laptop, drinks, Smarties and thanks to a farmers market, a small piece of chocolate brownie. A few hours later, 3,500 words were added to the story and the results e-mailed over to La Nolan for her consideration.

Best of all, while writing, I’d worked out the final shape of a plot feature we’d talked about over cake. It’s one of our set piece funny moments and this one is shaping up to be very funny indeed.

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