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hard to get started some mornings

I scared myself recently by adding up all the words I need to write to even halfway reach my writing goals this summer. It's a big number. And just to make life difficult for myself, I can't seem to get started on any of them.

Not quite true, but it feels that way. One of the things I've committed to is an online workshop run by the British Science Fiction Association called 'Orbiter' which means I'm supposed to give four other novelists 15,000 words of my work in progress every two months for critique. I say 'supposed' because I missed the last slot and I'm 22 days late with this round's. It shouldn't be that difficult - it's a fully outlined novel, I'm only 3,000 words or so shy of what I need to send and everyone in the group is friendly and helpful, but there's always something else which needs doing. Today is tricky tax and insurance issues, plus a book to read (for a book group), an evening out (to discuss the book), a cat to feed, washing to be done etc etc etc.

Actually I think the problem is that the book's been hanging around too long and I'm not focused on it enough. It started as a fantasy short story which was all set up and no resolution. Along the way it became a science fiction novel outline with the original fantasy story shoehorned into the middle which I then exposed to various people who know what they're talking about who generally said encouraging things and... and then I started doing other stuff. All my writing energy went into a course I signed up to at Brunel University in West London and the novel limped along. I find I work best in bursts, which is hard when your story needs to be 80,000 words or so long. I've done NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) a couple of times and that helped. First time around I wrote 50,045 words of a crime novel (50,000 is the target figure for 'winning' Nanowrimo. You have to write that in one month between 1st and 30th November). Three and a half years on that novel (or more accurately, part of a novel) still stands at 50,045 words. Second time around I managed a complete draft of 75,000 words and from time to time I go back over it to tweak and edit. The point here is that I didn't stop so I got the words out - and if something caused me to break (like the first novel) then I found it difficult to dive back in. And with the current novel - The Sixth Mirror - it's been all breaks.

One other thing that's going to distract me this summer is attending Odyssey in June which I'm looking forward to hugely. Six weeks of blood and sweat all devoted to becoming a much better writer. Last year I spent three weeks in Kansas at a SF novel writing workshop run by the astounding Kij Johnson where I met some amazing people who really inspired me. Kij, by the way, has just won her third (consecutive) Nebula award for her excellent novella The Man Who Bridged The Mist, I worry that gives me high expectations about Odyssey, but judging by what other people say about it, and what they go on to publish, I think it'll be just fine. Besides, my friend Kevin McNeil, who I first met at Kij's workshop, will be there too and that's going to mean great critiques and beer as well.

And the other big thing for this summer? 20-40,000 words of another as yet not started novel, plus an accompanying essay, to get me over the line on my Brunel Creative Writing masters course. Brunel have been great so far - I've been in workshops with Fay Weldon, Will Self and Celia Brayfield and I get to work on my novel with Booker longlisted author Matt Thorne. But I'm stuck here too (this has not been a decisive year). Do I go with the genre novel I've outlined (which might end up looking like a pale Philip K Dick imitation) or challenge myself by going mainstream? Whatever I choose, I need to get on with it.

And yes, I should be writing The Sixth Mirror instead of doing this blog entry. Maybe after a cup of tea,