Horace – A Working Title!

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It’s been a little while since I posted on this blog. I’ve had a break from my writing since my last self-published memoir – Discovering My Suomi Roots. Guess what? I’m itching to get started with another writing project!

Some time ago I started a fiction work but never finished it. I think the thought of a writing project approaching novel length scared me off somewhat. After all, previously I had only written short stories. And so that led me to embark on a “step by step” approach and build up my word count for my writing projects. Hence the three self-published titles I completed over the last 18 months.

So now it’s time to clean the dust off that old manuscript. I have a few ideas to change it slightly and maybe write it from a different viewpoint to the original partly finished draft.

What’s subject matter? Briefly it’s about a man called Horace who has just retired but whose retirement plans are turned upside down. It’s not a quasi-memoir, but I guess I can relate to some aspects of it having retired almost five years ago. The title? Well I haven’t figured that out at the moment but for now we’ll just use the working title of Horace.

Like my other projects I have set myself an initial timescale for completion of the first draft. Hopefully I can achieve this by the end of November this year. With the editing process I should be looking at a finished work sometime during H2 next year (2018). That’s the plan anyway!

I’ll endeavour to post some regular updates to this blog updating my progress. Wish me luck!

 

Discovering My Suomi Roots

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My new memoir is now available in eBook and printed formats from Amazon. The UK and US direct links have been added to the side bar of this blog.

Discovering My Suomi Roots

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It’s been a little while since my last post all those weeks ago. Christmas has come and gone and we are now into a brand new year. I’ve been kept busy with some family time, writing and walking the excesses off from the festive period!

So what about the writing? I finished my first revision process and now have “Discovering My Suomi Roots” on my kindle for final editing. I find this process helps me get a feel for how the book might look and read in eBook format.

Usually I correct any grammatical and punctuation issues at this stage. I also tweak any awkwardly structured sentences or paragraphs as I read through. There are a couple of the later chapters which I am not fully comfortable with. I’ll take the opportunity to review these and rewrite as necessary, but nothing major.

It’s another short memoir, but over twice the length “Timmy” turned out to be. After final editing I have a couple of readers lined up to help with any last minute tweaks but otherwise it should be just about there.

So what exactly is this memoir about? I’m not sure I’ve gone into any detail explaining this apart from some small references to the content here and there, either in the “Timmy” memoir or my blogs.

I don’t want to say too much or I’ll spoil one or two twists and surprises I have in the book. Briefly it’s about discovering my Finnish roots later in life in a very unexpected way. I take a look back on my childhood years, touching upon my relationship with my family, and the story follows the roots thread throughout my life up to the present day. Hopefully you will have got a flavour for what’s in store.

I set myself the deadline of the first quarter of this year and fully expect to be on schedule to have released it or certainly have it available for preorder by the end of March. It will be available through Amazon in both eBook and printed format. I have in mind also to bundle it up with “Living With Timmy” and release that version at the same time.

That’s it for now!

First Revision Completed … Almost!

All set up and ready to go!

I am nearing the end of the first revision of Discovering My Suomi Roots. It has taken almost six weeks with some distractions along the way. I have found this process satisfying as I have something to work with, unlike the first draft stage, where all you have is a blank sheet of paper or computer screen!

So how has this stage in the process gone? Not bad at all. Briefly :

  • Some of the initial drafting was good and detailed – I kept much of the content,  adding bits here and there. Some content I deleted entirely. Other areas of the drafting were “bare bones”and I spent most of my time here redrafting.
  • The structure of this particular memoir is starting to come together. Whilst there is some necessary plotting deviation, hopefully it is all held together by a common thread.  At least I hope that is what the reader will find!
  • The number of chapters have increased as I have remodelled the structure of the draft so that each chapter flows logically into the next.
  • I had chapter headings in the initial draft more as a point of reference for me. I have revised and renamed most of these to fit in with the finalised chapter content.
  • I have done a small amount of obvious punctuation and grammar fault-finding although most of this I will pick up in the final revision stages.

Finally, I need to complete this process over the next couple of weeks and then leave it until the New Year to pick it up again for a third revision. This allows me to take a fresh look at the writing and hopefully assists before loading onto a kindle for a final polish of the work from me.

Afterwards I have some readers lined up to give me their thoughts and honest opinions before preparation for release which I hope will be in the first quarter of 2017 … a little later than anticipated but hopefully better for it.

Stepping Out With an Activity Tracker

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It is important to stay active, more so as you get older. Aside from the health benefits it increases and broadens your quality of life. It also enables you to keep on doing the things you have a passion for, even in later years. Maybe even try something new?

So how active should you be? Well, NHS guidelines recommend that you should do 10000 steps per day. In reality the average daily number is probably nearer 3000/4000 for most people. They also recommend undertaking at least 150 active minutes during the course of a week. Active minutes can be achieved through brisk walking as well as through other aerobic exercises.

I always thought activity trackers were for joggers and young people. I could not be more wrong! I purchased and started using one about a year ago when I was in my early sixties. Why, you may ask? I was overweight and unfit – a combination of not being active enough and a sweet tooth!

Over the initial six month period I lost over two stone in weight and four inches on my waistline firmly placing me back into the normal weight category for my height. It made a massive difference to my feeling of wellbeing and confidence levels. The only drawback is I have had to buy a new wardrobe of clothes!

I found my activity tracker and the supporting software application easy to use and understand. For me it was a lifestyle changer. So how are they so effective?

There is good evidence to suggest that people who keep track of what they do can improve their health. Tracking this data encourages people to follow a healthier diet, exercise more and sleep better. Activity trackers make the tracking easier and give feedback in real time and tell us the areas to improve.

Monitoring alone, however, is not enough as enthusiasm can wain after the initial period. The addition of fitness goals assist in keeping your interest focused, particularly as these goals can be revised and further goals set. The goals add a competitive edge to the process which also helps with motivation. The activity tracker can monitor both activity and sleep patterns, suggesting goals and offering encouragement alerts to the user. This helps set easily manageable health changes to your daily routine which might include going for a walk in the afternoon or encouraging a longer sleep duration. This goal setting will continue until you reach your desired level of fitness and then you simply maintain that activity level.

Enthusiasm and motivation are key factors but activity trackers also encourage social support. How do they do this? Most activity trackers will let you share your progress with private and public groups. Aside from monitoring each others progress, this adds a competitive edge. Further encouragement can be promoted through setting and taking part in group activity challenges over specific periods. This provides added interest and impetus for the user especially when friends and family are involved.

Aside from helping with your personal fitness they can also help you lose weight as they did in my case. They give you an indication of calories you have burned on a day-by-day basis and will calculate a personal calorie intake level for a weight loss program.

The health benefits are immense from adopting a more active lifestyle. It is good for heart health, keeps your blood pressure under control and increases your energy levels. This lifestyle change can also motivate you to embrace new activities and challenges that previously you would not have considered.

So can you afford not to step out?

For more information why not check out Get Fitter, Get Leaner, Get An Activity Tracker!

Available at Amazon.co.uk at a reduced price of £0.99p until 26 November!

First Draft Complete – Now The Real Work Begins!

Finally I finished the first draft of Discovering My Suomi Roots on time (by a couple of days!). Now the real work begins!

The first draft I always find hard work. I’m more of a plotter than a pantser that’s for sure. But, despite all the  planning at the outset, I still find it hard working my way through to completion. Somehow I manage to plod along convincing myself it will all be worth it in the end.

My planned structure and content for a writing project always has to be flexible. As I am writing I find other detail I have overlooked for inclusion. Or ideas on how I might tell the story differently suddenly strike me. So there has to be some flex in your plan.

It is very tempting to look back and start rewriting parts of your writing that you know will have to be rewritten. Avoid this! Your focus needs to be aimed at completing the initial draft. Revision comes later!

Once completed, for me, the enjoyable part comes next. I find the revision process much easier. You have something tangible to work with even if you are working with a very rough first draft. My words and thoughts flow easier. I am much more relaxed as the story starts to come to life and take shape.

But without that first draft there can be no revision process!

 

 

 

Writing That First Draft

This is a major learning year for me. Up to the end of last year I had written a few short stories and non-fiction articles. Most of those being assignments for a creative writing course I was studying.

In 2016 I was determined to turn my hand to some larger writing projects and learn a little more about the craft of self-publishing. To date I have released a couple of short works – a personal memoir and a non-fiction title, both about 15000 words each. Not long writing projects by any means, but a big step for me.

Over the last couple of weeks I have begun my next writing project in earnest and I am 13000+ words into it – less than half way. When I started writing I read an awful lot of blogs and articles on the subject. I have tried to pick out advice and tips that work for me to help me along the way.

Here’s what I’ve learned to date about writing the first draft :

The Right Environment

Firstly you need to find the right personal environment to write. No matter what you are writing you need somewhere that suits you. I have learned that everybody is different and has different preferences. Personally, I like to take myself off into a quiet study room, when I am writing at home. No music, just peace and quiet. This helps me gather my thoughts. Either early morning or early evening is when I tend to do my writing, setting an hour or two aside to focus on it.

Planning

I’m a planner. I like to be organised and have structure. Even with a structure I can still be flexible with my writing but at least it gives me the comfort of a framework to work within.

I use Scrivener for my writing but you can use any writing software that you are familiar and comfortable with. I plan out the chapter structure using the cork board option within the program. Once I have completed that process I then plan out the content for individual chapters making notes on the subject matter I want to include. These are easily accessible and to hand within the Project file as is any research I have done.

You should have a basic idea on how long the writing project is likely to be in terms of word count. This is something you don’t necessarily have to stick to unless of course you are writing an article or story to specific word count guidelines. It will however give you an approximate guide of what you should be aiming for. If you have set yourself a timescale for completing your first draft you can then quite easily work out a daily word count target.

Set yourself a daily word count and stick to it. Any deviations should be exceptional. This certainly helps keep me on track to progress and finish the project once I have started.

With everything set up I am then ready to write.

Writing

Write until you finish the first draft. Do not look back on your work with the intent of revising any of it until you have finished. Doing so is fatal, as I have found. It just gives you an excuse to slowdown or stop the whole process of finishing your work.

Your ideas on individual chapter content might alter as you progress your writing. Rather than make any drastic amendments immediately I always wait until I finish the first draft. If need be I make any necessary notes to myself in the manuscript itself. I can always cut and paste chunks of text later into other chapters as part of the revision process.

Usually if I look back on what I have written I see a lot of obvious amendments I need to make. These may be areas where I could have used more or better dialogue, use of cliches, too much useage of particular words or phrases, etc. I leave any amendments until the second revision.

After The First Draft

Once I have finished the first draft that’s when the real work begins for me. Shaping and finalising the writing into a completed work. How many revisions does it need? I need to be happy that it’s as good as I can make it so I don’t set myself a revision maximum. However there has to be a limitation to the number of revisions you undertake to bring it up to an acceptable standard.

I have found writing to be a continual learning experience.