Monday, 31 January 2011


Plaintive email from a blog follower the other day. (The bit she quotes from me is from a post I did about dialogue). She says:

Please help me get my head around this hugely difficult problem. I’m copying your example of awful dialogue below:

“Gosh, Sally, I hardly recognized you. You used to have dark hair with a fringe and now it’s a blonde bob. Did I tell you I recently saw Samantha, your younger daughter, the one who went round Australia? Lovely girl. She’s married now, of course, and they have a baby on the way.” Bleurgh.

Okay, fair enough. However, I’m now studying a creative writing unit with Oxford Uni and we have been asked to read James Joyce’s The Dead. I couldn’t believe how dreadful it was. There were great tracts of dialogue, 95% of which was pointless and frustrating to the point of me wanting to murder the author/lecturer etc!

As a side issue, not helped by the dialogue issue, just when there was a hint that something interesting might happen, it didn’t. Right, so personal preference for literature and what constitutes a good read aside, how did this story get published! The story seems to contain all your dialogue no-nos. I’m so confused.
 Well, two things:
  1. I can't stand James Joyce. Can't read it.  find it twaddle. That's my personal opinion. Luckily, I don't have to write an essay on it.
  2. However, I don't think Joyce makes the dialogue error that I was highlighting above.
Let me explain the dialogue error that I was talking about. It wasn't that it was boring and trite - both of which things it was. The point was that the author was using false dialogue to fill in bits of back-plot. False in the sense that there's no way on earth that character would have said those things. Think about it. She would not say to Sally, "Samantha, your younger daughter," because Sally knows fine that her own daughter is called Samantha and went to Australia. No, this is the author telling us those facts and it's Just Not OK.


Joyce on the other hand...

Luckily, I've run far, far away and am not here to deal with the flak from all the Joyce fans amongst you. Come on, then, DEFEND HIM! (Dan, surely, you can leap to his defence?)

I'm off!

Thursday, 27 January 2011


I'm writing this last week - if you know what I mean. I'm scheduling it to go out on Thursday, which will be the day after one award ceremony and the day before another. So, I'm going to be a tad stressed. And no, I haven't a clue whether I've won either or not, but I always prefer to assume not, because clearly the chances are that I haven't. [Edited to add: very very annoyingly, I had to pull out of yesterday's on doc's orders after straining my voice. Can't risk long-term damage. And you will see why there's a pic of my red boots here in a minute...]

But I thought I'd like to share some thoughts about awards. I'm going to make some points which may surprise you.
  1. Some awards are publisher-entered; others are generated purely by librarians or other committees.
  2. Publishers do not always enter all eligible books. Therefore a shortlist is not necessarily drawn from all eligible books. And therefore may not include all the "best" books available. Publishers tend to enter books they most want to promote, especially if, as often, they are limited to number of entries. A big publisher may have too many eligible books; a small publisher may not have the budget to enter for expensive awards, as some are.
  3. The shortlisting committees have ideas about which books they'd like on the list, for very good reasons to do with promoting reading. Again, they may not be about which books they think are "best" but which books would be best for this award list. This is GOOD because it creates variety and range. So, some awards for children's books will consist of a shortlist of quite varied books, some easy ones, some harder ones. Some awards aim at easier books; others have a more "literary" feel.
  4. The whole thing is stressful for most authors involved. Lovely, lovely, lovely to be shortlisted but still full of angsty feelings.
  5. Some awards are then voted by public vote. Some by loads of kids voting, who may or may not have read all the books - which is entirely understandable. And some by a committee of adults, sometimes with some kids along with them.
  6. A sequel is very much less likely to appear on a shortlist at all.
  7. Some publishers do more to promote authors on shortlists than others, for all sorts of understandable reasons. Some shortlists encourage publishers and authors to promote the book on the shortlist, so as to generate sales and interest, while others discourage it, so as to keep it fair. Each approach has merits.
  8. An award ceremony is a whirlwind of stress if you are me. I feel self-conscious, worried, bleurgh, flattered, proud to be there, refusing to believe I could have won, all keyed up, getting the face ready to look happy when I don't win, really looking forward to it being over, but also loving the adrenaline and meeting the readers.
  9. Usually, we have to talk about the book for a few minutes to hundreds of kids, which is something we do all the time but NOT in this situation. We have to find something different to say. 
  10. I haven't a flipping idea what I'm going to say for this week's two ceremonies. [Edited to add: I wrote something for yesterday's so the compere could read it for me. And I sent a photo of my red boots to stand in for me - see pic above. I think they'll do a better job than I would, frankly. They should win.]
  11. Gah.
  12. Bleurgh.
  13. Please, please, lovely librarians and people, despite my stressiness, please keep shortlisting me and be kind to me when I arrive all gibbery and stuff. Bleurgh and meh.

Monday, 24 January 2011


I believe that if you can say yes to all of these, you give yourself more chance of being published. Unfortunately, I can't guarantee that doing all of them will get you published, because that depends on what you have written, how well you have written it and whether a publisher believes he can make a success of it. And magic fairy dust.

[This is an updated version of an old post, something I'm going to do every now and then because this blog has become so big that it can be hard for you to find what you need. Which is one reason why I wrote Write to be Published. On which subject, do head over and join the FB page and have a chance to win a crabbit bag!]

So, here's my checklist for being accepted by a publisher, in no particular order:
  1. Are you up-to-date with what's being published in your genre? Are you a fan of the genre? Can you name, easily, six authors whose books you admire in your genre? I don't know why I said six - I was tempted to say ten, but that seemed a bit tough and seven is not my favourite number. Nine would seem a bit weird. And I could have said eight - in fact, I will. Eight, then.
  2. Are you writing something at the moment? You should be. And if you've finished something and you're waiting for people to get back to you, you should be writing something else. Writers write and usually get better as they go. (Though, for some interesting reasons, once you're published a few times, this may not happen...)
  3. Have you got lots of ideas in you? Train your mind to catch and play with ideas. But learn to discard the ones that won't work.
  4. Are you taking steps to discover all the rules about submitting to publishers / agents? Follow  submission guidelines - they are there for a reason.
  5. Are you perfectly professional in your working life? Do you always do what you say you're going to do when you say you're going to do it? (And I do mean in your professional life - I'm not bothered whether you do the ironing when you say you're going to. In fact, if you do the ironing when you say you're going to, you've got too much time on your hands - get writing, for goodness' sake!)
  6. Are you beginning to network by joining forums or groups (on or off-line), using Twitter, perhaps blogging or at least commenting on other blogs? Not everyone wants to be in a writers' group or something where you have to share your work (and there's no need - I certainly didn't) but if you join an organisation or sensible webgroup/forum for writers, you will learn a great deal and make valuable contacts. And that you do need. Many people cringe at the word networking - so call it something else then, but still DO it. It's not creepy and crawly unless you are creepy and crawly. Just be friendly, open and sensible.
  7. Are you doing writing other than your core WIP? For example, do you blog? Or submit articles or stories to magazines. All writing is good practice and you never know where it might lead.
  8. Are you avoiding all the mistakes in the article on Common Mistakes of Unpublished Writers?
  9. Are you trying to learn about your craft, trying to improve?
  10. Are you open to constructive criticism from an expert? Obtaining and reacting to professional feedback is very important, especially if you've been rejected a few times already.
  11. Do you feel gutted and miserable and everything else unpleasant when you are rejected again? If not, you probably don't want publication enough.
  12. Do you ooze green poison when you read in the papers of some idiot's 6-figure debut contract? If not, you probably don't want publication enough.
  13. If offered the choice between a month on a paradisical island, all expenses paid, travelling 1st class, with silently gliding masseuses attending to every knot in your shoulders, bringing you iced mango whenever you feel like it, and an offer to publish your novel, would you choose publication? If not ...

Sunday, 23 January 2011


Following my post the other day entitled Bugger Technical Problems, I'm pleased to announce that my new website is now back up. And I'd like to say two things, first about the new website and second about the technical genius of my webmaster who fixed me up, when the problems were NOT his fault. (Or mine.)

So, the new website. For years, I had a website designed and hosted by the wonderful Wordpool people. They had created it so that I could easily change any text whenever I wanted, without using html, but if I needed something more structural or technical done, I got them to do it for a very modest fee. But recently, I wanted a whole new design, starting from scratch and I wanted it to be wordpress-based so that I could properly manage it myself. So I went to Steve at Wordpool again. I showed him how I'd created my own websites for Write to be Published and Pen2Publication and asked if he could make me something gloriously better. He pretty much said, "You did those - you can do this. You don't need me." Well, I think I did need him because I couldn't do it nearly as prettily and cleverly as he could have, but I decided to go ahead, mainly because of course it would be much cheaper, but I did ask Steve to be on hand to deal with the technical stuff with transferring my new site to the old URL. And this is what I have come up with SO FAR - it's got all its content but I'm going to fancify it over the following months. Any comments?

But mostly I want to mention the wonder that is Steve of Wordpool. (And his wife and business partner, Diana.) I've been a client of theirs for years and years. Steve did my very first website, for The Child Literacy Centre (now put to sleep) and at least two incarnations of my author one. He is incredibly patient with my inability to understand the jargon of what goes on in html, will work through a weekend to sort a technical issue, and without him I could not have dealt with the ridiculous complication of moving my new site from the free wordpress blog to the original / com domains, and sort all the email pointing etc despite much jumbled and well-meaning but incoherent help from the hosting company.

So, if any of you authors want a web designer par excellence, with a very necessary sense of humour, do contact And remember, the somewhat plainish design of my new site is not his fault - he'd have done it much more gloriously. But it works, thanks to him. And that's the main thing.

Thursday, 20 January 2011


Damn. On the day that I'm supposed to be involved in an event about author promotion, what happens? First I lose my voice and then my whole bloody author website decides to vanish. Yes, I have a clever webmaster sorting it out but it's going to take some time, even though he is so obliging that he works silly hours. GRRRR.

Meanwhile, should anyone want to find my new author website it is at a temporary address:

This also affects my emails. If you want to email me, please use for normal stuff or for event stuff.

Is it wine o'clock yet????????


This is the title of an event I'm involved in today. The event is organised by the Association of Scottish Literary Agents for their clients and I'm chairing a panel of three authors with a wide range of published work and a variety of promotional methods to propel their books and careers to success. I have specifically been asked to add my own experience and comments, rather than simply chairing.

(Edited to add; unfortunately, illness forced me to pull out, but all my detailed notes went to Kathryn Ross, who stood in for me, so I think it happened more or less like this. I'm asking the other participants to add some comments below later. Do come back!) 

Since you won't be there, I thought I'd outline what we're going to talk about. You can start to think yourselves what strategies you could use to promote your careers, both before and after publication. And one thing's for sure: none of us can or should attempt to do ALL of these things. The key to having a successful career AND maintaining sanity, is to select those things that will work for you and which, above all, will allow you to keep writing. That's what I lost sight of last year: that writing must come first. I'm delighted to be able to tell you that so far this year I've been utterly brilliant at putting the writing first, despite a silly schedule of events 'n' stuff. I deserve a pretty major reward, frankly. It's in the fridge.

A quick plug for my fellow panellists:  Barry Hutchison, Janet Paisley and Sara Sheridan. Go see their websites to see what they do and please follow Barry (@barryhutchison ) and Sara (@SaraSheridan) on Twitter. I'll be asking Janet about her very sensible reasons for not using Twitter! And do follow our hashtag #ASLAAuthorDay.

I've divided the discussion into two topics: Income Streams and Promotion. The ultimate aim of both is to create a successful career in which we sell enough books to be allowed to keep being published. Can't argue with that. (And if you can, don't, OK?)

Here are some things I'll be bossing encouraging them to talk about.

Janet will talk about diversifying away from our core writing and how to find opportunities in other fields, such as screen-writing or radio. I'm going to ask her about other ways of earning, such as tutoring and workshops, festivals etc. And I'll be especially interested in how she would advise newer writers to acquire those opportunities especially if they don't want to (or can't) use social networking methods.

Sara writes across many genres, adult and younger, and also writes for print journals, as well as being involved in such things as museum projects. I'll ask her about strategy vs opportunism in her career, and hope she'll give lots of practical examples of how to manage this.

I'll ask Barry to talk about the particular opportunities for a children's writer in terms of earning through events and teaching. Barry also has some other income streams from collaborative writing and series writing under other names. How can we do this too, I'll be asking?

And I'll add something myself about earning through doing critiquing for other writers and show how my blog led to a book deal and the Pen2Publication consultancy.

I'll get Janet to talk about how she promotes herself and her work without using twitter, blogging, Facebook etc. Janet's career began with her first publication in 1979, but what advice would she have for writers now if they prefer to limit use of the on-line world? I'm expecting her to mention the various organisations that help writers, though the next panel also covers that.

Barry will have some really interesting stuff to tell us about his very strategic (it seems to me) marketing for Invisible Fiends. I hope to find out how much of this was publisher-generated. If you read his blog, you'll find a very interesting story about how he got started - the Curse of the Bog Women really should have made it to the screen! He'll be talking about things which authors for all ages can do, but I'll also want him to outline specific points for children's authors.

Sara has to promote herself as an adult writer and a picture book writer. She says that more than half her promotion plan will be off-line, but she's also a self-confessed Twitter evangelist, so I'll be interested to hear how she plans what she's doing, given that she is two different authors that would seem to have no connection.

Then I'll add something about how my YA books and my Write to be Published marketing will be completely separate. I'll say why and how.

Then we'll talk briefly about:
  • Opportunites for marketing collaboration with other authors
  • Twitter
  • Blogging
  • Facebook / LinkedIn
  • Ebooks - are we exploiting those opportunities?
  • Fear of public speaking - suggestions
  • Selling more books - how far will we go?

But I'm going to sound a note of caution. We must not forget that we are writers. Yes, we do have to engage with all this stuff but we must rule it and not let it rule us. We must not panic or be overwhelmed. We must also not forget that it is our publishers who should be doing this, too, and but we can look at ways to help our publishers understand how they could use us better.

Then it will be over to the audience for Q&A. Finally, I'm going to ask each of the panellists to say either something they feel hasn't been said or something that they are looking to improve in their own "booklife." What do they feel they could do more? Or less...

Would you like the chance to talk about author promotion and marketing in much more detail? And for me to help you with your own publication plan? Then why not check out Prepare for Publication, my Write to be Published event in April? You will be part of a small group so there will be plenty of chance for specific attention. I plan to reveal the secrets of working with your publisher - or without, if they are less than forthcoming. I've done a vast range of promotional things for my books, including setting a world record for separate school events in one day, and I have discovered many things that work and some that don't... So, come and join me: April 4th, in Edinburgh, luxury hotel, goody bag, small group, refreshments, wine, chocolate - a chance not to be missed! I will be mentioning it today properly for the first time and I know that the agents there will be recommending it to many of their authors, so, don't delay. And if you can't come but you know any author with a book out this year (or next, or any time), do send them my way.

Thursday, 13 January 2011


The other day, Catdownunder blogged about her distress at being told by a publisher that her age (dunno, don' care),  location (Adelaide), and the fact that for various reasons she would not be able to do much publicity, meant that she should forget the idea of being published. Several of us, myself included, waded in indignantly, although there were one or two commenters agreeing with the publisher.

Now, allowing for the fact that Cat probably paraphrased the guy slightly, so his actual words might have been a little less stark, was he right? Or was I right to say, very rudely, and for which I actually do apologise, that he was talking out of his arse?

The reason I said that was that, without seeing her writing, he is wrong to say that she should forget the idea of ever being published. If Cat really wants to be published and if she is good enough and if she goes about everything the right way and has written a wonderfully publishable (that's to say "sellable") story, there is no reason for her to forget the idea. It is her writing which will be the deciding factor. Not her age or location or her ability to promote. I'm not going to rehash the examples of people getting published at an older age; and promotion can be done from an armchair, or at least a desk, so that's a nonsense.

However, there is a very big however.

I regret to say that there is some truth in what the publisher said, in the sense that there are some reasons why age and inability to do active promotion will make publication harder. Certainly not impossible, and certainly not so much harder that someone should be told to give up, but harder. Statistically. And therefore, perhaps the guy was only trying to protect Cat from statistically more likely disappointment. But, statistically, most people of any age who approach publishers with an MS won't get published. Because most MSS are pure shite. Most MSS are so far from publishable that you'd really need to blindfold the monkeys before you put them in front of the type-writer. I'm not being horrible: I've seen this stuff. So maybe everyone should be told to give up, based on statistics.

So, what about the truth in what the publisher said to Cat? Because it's important and he wasn't talking completely out of his arse.

Part - most - of the problem is prejudice. But it's a prejudice that exists and we have to deal with it. Also, the prejudice is based on some realities:
  • Older people will tend, statistically, to have less of a career ahead of them
  • and be less able to be energetic in self-promotion (though NOT necessarily)
  • and be less marketable. Sorry. (Sometimes, however, they are more marketable, so a good publisher with a sensible marketing dept who really believe in the book will just have to use their imagination and skills. Marketable means sellable, remember, so we need to be able to inspire trust in the reader. Some older writers in some genres can do this even better than younger ones. But some can't. It comes down to many intangibles, chemistry if you like.)
However, no one, even prejudiced people, would say that all older writers are going to be less good at the promotion and have less of a career ahead of them than all younger writers. Therefore, it is not a brick wall that you face, more of an icy slope. It's just harder. So you have to work harder, be nicer, better, cleverer, more savvy. All of these things are possible at any age.

In short, therefore, if you are older, you have to be better. Just as many types of people in many professions have to try harder, be better, in order to overcome prejudice. Be a better writer and more savvy, more willing to be imaginative. And that's why the guy was mainly wrong to say what he said to Cat, because if her book is good enough and if she does all the right things to submit it and if she finds ways around the problems of not being able to do some types of promotion, there is no reason why she can't get her book published at 50, 60 or 70. Or 80. It just gets harder. And remember: most other professions are much harder or impossible to enter when we're older. As writers we're luckier in that sense.

Here are my tips if you're approaching publication on the wrong side of 50 (age pulled out of air):
  • Take extra care to keep up with what's being published in your genre NOW - don't fall back on what you were reading 20 years ago.
  • Don't tell your age until you need to. It does not need to be in your submission. If your style of writing in your letter reveals your age, then there's something dated about your style of writing and it is THAT which will stop you being published.
  • When you do tell your age - when the agent or publisher asks - accompany that information with several reasons why it won't be a barrier to promotion: you have connections with schools (if you're a kids' writer) or libraries and bookshops; you already do public-speaking; you have a platform already and know how to use it. Actually DO something that proves you'll be great at this.
  • Make sure you are digitally very connected. Use blogging, Twitter and/or Facebook. 
  • Make sure you understand everything that's going on in publishing: be an expert and sound like one.
  • If you are writing for children, make sure your writing voice has kept up with the times: I'd actually say that older (by which I mean perhaps 70 plus) writers and children's writing are the toughest combination. Eva Ibbotson is a rare example of someone who continued to stay fresh-voiced until her lamented death last year.
  • Just be better.
Oh, and Cat, you told me that Australian writers aren't known outside their own country. Not so! Two of my favourite children's writers are John Marsden - try Letters from the Inside - and Ian Bone - I adored The Song of an Innocent Bystander. And then there's the fabulously internationally successful Sonya Hartnett. Don't create barriers where there are none. And where they are, or where they are higher, just jump higher.

Anyway, the bottom line is: writers write. Keep writing until you don't want to or you can't. Regard that publisher's comment not as a barrier but a challenge.

    Monday, 10 January 2011


    Yes, the Crabbit Old Bat is two years old today, or at least her blogging incarnation is. I suppose this means I'm entitled to some toddler tantrums. Actually, I do fancy going into a shoe-shop and lying on the floor, screaming and waving my arms and legs in the air.

    A year ago today, I wrote a post which attracted 194 comments. (Do go read, as I would change nothing I said there.) We had a blog party, which enabled you all to plug your own blogs. We will do that again but I'd like to add something a little different. Also, this evening I'm doing a talk to the Edinburgh Writers' Club, which consists of aspiring and published writers. So, how about we combine the two?

    So, in the comments section, I invite you to do two things:
    1. Plug your blog or website or book in NO MORE THAN TWENTY WORDS. If you use more than that you will go to the Crabbit Old Bat's doghouse. Your URL counts as one word.
    2. Give ONE favourite piece of writing advice. It can be your own advice or it can be something you've heard someone else say. It can even, if you really want to butter me up, be something you've heard me say. It can be aimed at anyone from the beginner to the multi-published.
    I'll start you off with my piece of advice, which is my own:

    If you’re not good enough, work hard; if you’re good enough, work harder. By which I mean: we're never as good as we could be; writing is not supposed to be easy; and if you really want to succeed you must learn how much has to be done and want to do it better and better and better. And the more you learn, the more you realise that this writing thing is worth doing as well as possible.

    And a <20 word plug for my blog? If you don't want the truth about writing and publishing, the Crabbit Old Bat says bugger off.

    Happy birthday, blog, and happy reading to all of you!

    Tuesday, 4 January 2011


    Are you bogged down with research for your book? Don't be. When I was looking for amusing and pointful videos clips for your holiday gifts, I came across one about research. It's not a brilliant presentation, but the guy (I can't find his name) does make two good points. You don't have to watch it because I'll make the points below.

    These are the two important points:

    1. The idea of writing the book first (or at least the first draft) and then doing the research later is not as stupid as it seems. It is what I do, so how could it be stupid? With Mondays are Red I did no research on synaesthesia until just before publication, when I realised I'd have to give talks about it. That's a bit extreme but I have done first drafts of most of my other books without much, or any, research. Even historical novels. Yes, I might do some research earlier but only for the broad points such as dates and main events, not details.

    Of course, it does depend very much on the book. But for many books, even most books, it's perfectly possible to get the story down after minimum research. And the point that the guy in the video and I want to make is that too many writers attach so much importance to the research that it actually stops them writing the book.

    Let me also point out, lest you think I favour books that are light on detail, that the level of research I sometimes do, certainly for historical novels (of which I've written three) is intense and immense. I need to know how buildings were made, how clothes were woven, the material of every cup and plate, even if I never actually describe or mention them. But I don't need to know it all for the first draft. I dip and skim and am magpie-like at that stage. Later, I fill in the gaps and enrich everything.

    You can also research as you go. That way, you'll only research what you need and not waste time. I'm halfway through a novel at the moment and have decided on a new scene that requires some research and a trip to London; I know I can't do that trip till later in January, so I'm just noting what I need to know or check, but writing the scene anyway. Actually, what I'm doing is "writing past the scene", sketching out the action so that I can move ahead and fill it in later. What I can't do is leave a huge blank for it: I need to know what the characters do during that scene, even if there are details I don't know.

    I should also point out that one of the great things about research is that it can throw up new ideas and inspiration. So, I wouldn't want to knock that. However, if you take that view too strongly, you'll keep researching for ever because you think that in the next thing you read you MIGHT come across a wonderful story. No. Stop. Write.

    2. I also hugely agree with the guy's tip about putting an asterisk at a bit where you need to do research later, and then carrying on with the first draft. That is something I learnt recently. (Or, better than an asterisk, a bit of yellow highlighting or a comment box.) Then, you don't lose the flow and can easily find the bits later and deal with them.

    That is one change I made to my writing process last year and I urge you to try it. It helps switch off the internal editor and just get the damned first draft down.

    So, stop researching. Now. Write the book. Finish the research later.

    Sunday, 2 January 2011

    GIFT NO 18: Ready for work?

    Today I have announced is the last day of the holidays at Crabbit Towers. So, are you ready to start work? Just to be sure, watch this video for your last inspirational message before term starts.

    CAUTION: please don't watch if you have heart problems. Or take your medication first or whatever you need to do.

    Click here.

    Saturday, 1 January 2011


    Resolutions, anyone? Pah. I foolishly wrote mine down last year and helpfully lost them until last week, when I found them, read them and was dismayed. I'd failed with all of them, failed so miserably that frankly I didn't even remember trying.

    You want to know what they were?
    1. Put writing at the top of my work priorities.
    2. Exercise and relax every day.
    Utterly bloody pathetic. The first was too vague. The second too unlikely. And I had no strategies in place to try to keep them. Mind you, I'm not alone. Listen to this news report from a year ago:

    Thing is, 2010 was a rubbish year for me for some reasons I never told you about, and some I did. Somehow, I have to take 2011 by the scruff of its neck and shake it into submission. And for that, we don't need resolutions: we need strategies. Because resolutions fail when they aren't accompanied by strategies.

    I will tell you my strategies. They different from resolutions, because they are the means to an end, not the end.
    1. Because I respond well to word-count targets, I have set staged word-count targets for my WIP. I have a deadline (self-imposed, but that's never been a problem for me) and the targets will enable me to meet it. This strategy will probably work because I know this is the sort of thing that generally does work for me. It might not for everyone.
    2. Because I have already over-filled my diary with speaking engagements till the summer, I will now reject all speaking invitations for any week which is currently "free", so that it remains free for writing. If anyone wants me to speak, it has to fit in one of the weeks where I'm already too busy to focus on writing. (Clearly, there may be exceptionally unmissable invitations, but they will have to be exceptional.)
    3. Because I have somewhat high blood pressure, which was diagnosed in 2010, exercise and relaxation are now crucial and are not optional. However, to tell myself to "exercise and relax every day" does not work, because it becomes like a task, goes to the bottom of the list of tasks and becomes a task for which I never find time. However, there is a strategy that might help:
      I need to remember, consciously, that writing and exercising are not options but essentials and they must be done first in the day, not put on a list of tasks. They are not tasks: they are life. So, tasks become separate things, to be done LATER in the day. The knowledge that not doing exercise will make me ill and might shorten my life must be sufficient incentive.
    4. Also, walking, which is great exercise, is my best way of thinking and plotting. So, I will walk in the mornings, to help me write. I will walk as though my life depends on it. Because it might.
    By the way, after writing this, I found a sensible video about how to keep a resolution. (Genuinely sensible, not ironically so, or downright hilarious, as my Christmas videos were.) I particularly liked the bit at the end about rewarding yourself with a pair of shoes!

    Which reminds me:
    5. Buy more shoes. Now, there's a strategy that will work!

    I have a huge amount to look forward to this year - Wasted is on five award shortlists, Deathwatch is on one, and Wasted is nominated for the Carnegie. 2010 was a piece of crap for lots of people and for many worse reasons than my relatively trivial crapness. If it was crap for you, I wish you a very very much better 2011. Take it by the scruff of the neck and whip it into shape. Work hard, write hard, have good strategies in place and together we can beat the Forces of Crap. Go us!