How to Motivate Yourself (with Bribery)

My steampunk novel is currently in the hands of Serious Professionals (GULP!), which means I can either twiddle my thumbs to stubs waiting anxiously, or distract myself by writing something else.  I choose distraction.

It’s been a while since I worked on a first draft of a book, and while it’s super good fun when everything flows beautifully, it’s awful when nothing flows, and I feel like I’m hacking at my characters with an icepick, screaming ‘PLEASE DO WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO!’ like an exasperated mother.  I try to write every day, but this weekend felt like pulling teeth.

Today, however, I did over 2,000 words.  Not a world record by any stretch, but far more than I’ve managed for the last three days.

How did I manage it?


In important interviews, I like to say that I’m very self-motivated.  This is, technically, true.  However, what it ultimately translates to is ‘I’m very good at bribing myself to do things I don’t really want to.’

At school, I used to turn on my Gamecube and fire up Twilight Princess, and then do my coursework to the background noise of the pause menu.  If I finished a page, I could play for ten minutes.  All my coursework got done on time, and Twilight Princess was the first Zelda game I ever completed.  At uni, I binged through Community by allowing myself  one episode for every twenty minutes of essay writing I completed.

And now?  Now I use friendship bracelets.

It’s got to be a cool hobby if Mr. Obama does it.

Those little plaited threads are weirdly addictive.  I feel like everyone else learned to do them in the playground at school – or at summer camp, if you’re American – but I only picked up the hobby this year, and I can’t seem to stop.  I have a friendship bracelet for every outfit, in every colour.

This just goes to show, you can motivate yourself to do anything – even write 2,000 words when it feels like banging your head against a wall – if you have something to bribe yourself with.

So How’s That Novel Coming Along?

I recently finished the seventh (seventh!) draft of my steampunk book.

cat falls over.gif

Yeah, a kitten lying down and falling off the pavement pretty much sums up my feelings on that.  I loved writing that book and I’m loathe to let go of my precious characters … but when your entire day’s editing consists of adding a semi-colon, then removing it, then adding it back, then cutting it out again, you know it’s time to stop.

So now it’s time for the scary part: hoping Actual Professionals like my writing.  After months of furious editing, it’s pretty weird to just sit back and twiddle my thumbs, waiting for a response.  And by weird I mean agonising.


So instead of twiddling my thumbs, I’ve started planning my next book.  And man I forgot how tough planning is.  At this stage, I suddenly understand all those people who write by the seat of their pants – the urge to just go and fix all the problems later is about as tempting as an open box of Thorntons left unattended in an empty kitchen.  You shouldn’t.  You know you’ll regret it later.  But oh god I’ll just have one, no one will miss it.

The point of this post, essentially, is me asking for strength.  Or rather, patience.  The patience to wait nicely while wonderful, clever professionals decide what to do with my novel.  The patience to actually plan out my next novel properly, so I don’t have to do seven drafts again.  Wish me luck!

Christmas Time is Busy, Who Knew?

It’s one of those ironies of life that, after making a post apologising for a week without updates, I immediately go another ten days without updates.  Oops.

My frantic editing came to a close, and my steampunk novel is now in the hands of good, reliable friends who can point out all the typos, run-on sentences and plot holes I completely missed.

Handing your writing over to other people is simultaneously exciting and horrible.  My writing is my baby, and sometimes I just want to cradle it to my chest and show no one, ever, because they might not like it and then I’d cry.  You’d think four years of workshopping at uni would beat that feeling out of me, but instead it just installed this angry voice in my head that shouts at me if I start getting too precious.  “You want it to be the best writing you can do right?  Right?  Don’t you?  Then hand it over, you wuss!

I hope everyone is looking at this next week to Christmas with an air of relaxed confidence, because your Christmas shopping is all done and your turkey is ordered and your family somehow got the decorations up without breaking anything.

But realistically?  Good luck running around screaming trying to get everything ready.  It may look like I’m sleeping off six months editing on the sofa, but don’t be fooled.  I’m with you.  Spiritually.

No Updates for a Week? HOW DARE!

My blog’s been a little quiet this last week, but in my defence, I’ve been working super hard on my novel.  Technically, I’m always working hard on my novel, but recently it’s been more of a ‘literally don’t do anything except work and write for six days straight’.

The reason for this is that I’m closing in on an ending, and also on my birthday and Christmas – two events I’d rather not spend bent over my laptop, frantically editing.

In fact, I ought to be editing now.  Back to work!

Bizarre Things Abandoned in the Library

Even excluding the antics of the Phantom Fish Flinger (who, I’m sorry to say, continues to mysteriously terrorise our library), we get a lot of odd things left behind in the library service.  Detritus like glasses cases and the odd iPhone charger are pretty run-of-the-mill, but many weirder things have been abandoned in the various libraries where I work.  Here’s a list of the truest oddballs.

  • An empty bottle of pinot grigio
  • A pair of black unisex corduroy trousers, 38″ waist
  • half empty bottle of rosé
  • An incredibly detailed filigree silver bookmark
  • Jelly babies, assorted and scattered through the children’s section
  • An empty bottle of whisky (you may be starting to see a pattern emerging here)
  • A butter knife
  • A Mars bar (not unusual in and of itself, but they were attempting to use it as a bookmark at the time)
  • A mostly empty bottle of straight vodka (I’m amazed we didn’t find a dead body next to it)
  • So many umbrellas
  • One left shoe

I’m pretty scatterbrained myself, and known for putting stuff down and forgetting where the heck it was.  But even I’ve never managed to lose my own trousers, or a shoe, or overwhelming evidence of severe alcoholism.

Let me know if you get anything as weird (or weirder!) than this.  Or, even better, if you’ve managed to abandon a pair of trousers in a public place.

I am a Master of Writing

Or, more specifically, a Master of Arts in Writing for Children.  I returned from Amsterdam in the middle of this week (which was excellent, by the way–so many bikes and museums and bagels for breakfast, mmm …), and then went to Winchester for my graduation ceremony.


Man I love those silly hats.

My last graduation two years ago (BA Creative Writing) was strange, because it didn’t feel like my time at uni was really over.  Immediately after the ceremony, I walked up the hill and into my MA evening class.  This time graduating felt strange because my time at uni feels like it was over long ago.  My last class was in April 2015, well over a year ago.

Regardless, I had a wonderful time, managed not to fall over as I walked across the stage, shook hands with Alan Titchmarsh, and spent the day bouncing around in a floaty bubble of giddiness.

After a week off, I’m back to editing my book today, back to work in the library on Monday, and my regularly scheduled blogging will continue uninterrupted as of now.  Well.  Semi-regular.  Sort of.  When I remember.