Monday, 31 December 2012

Here's to the Next Year!

It's been a while since I last posted an entry on here but the good news is that I've actually been writing my novel in recent weeks. I know! A girl who blogs and tweets about writing a novel, actually writing part of her novel - shocking, right?

2012 has been a great year for me - in my personal life and in my writing. First of all I got engaged to the most amazing man ever and we booked a date for our wedding (whoop whoop, can't wait to be a bridezilla!) which has undoubtedly been the best part of the year. I've pretty much spent my whole life waiting to get married so it's not surprising that I've already got the date, venue, bridesmaid dresses, invitations, cake and music sorted already (if I were writing a thesis or a research article this is where I would reference back to my earlier blog where I discuss my fondness for daydreaming).

In terms of my writing, 2012 has been a real step forward too. For the first time ever I actually told people about my book (apart from close friends, family and (eek!) fiance who have been hearing about if for years and are probably sick to death of hearing about it now). My blog has been surprisingly successful and a good motivator too - at least if I'm not writing my novel I'm writing about writing it on here. You know what I mean... right?

For the first time ever people are asking about my book when I see them (right after I've finished boring them with details of centrepieces and bouquets). What's even nicer is that there seems to be a genuine interest from people in how I'm getting on with it and that's such a lovely feeling. The comments on my blog, tweets and follows from hundreds of people and the lovely comments and likes on my Facebook blog links all motivate me to keep writing - even when it's really hard. And it's often really hard.

In all honesty and joking aside, nothing gives me greater pleasure (except wedding dress shopping) than when I'm writing and the words are flowing. When my fingers can't keep up with my brain. When I'm looking at the blank Microsoft Word pages ahead with excitement rather than dread. When I'm out and I jot down ideas on a piece of paper or my iPhone. That's what being a writer feels like and even though I don't write full time, I'm starting to finally classify myself officially as a writer more so than anything else.

I was invited to be a guest speaker at a local readers group to discuss my blog, my novel and writing in general. Not to sound too colloquial here but that was seriously cool. When I'm writing I feel confident in myself and (I really hope this doesn't come across as conceited or arrogant) I feel like I'm good at it. In other areas of my life, I don't feel as confident. But when I spoke to the group about my writing and my love of words and books, I felt confident and happy with the words coming out of my mouth. I hope I gave the group some small bit of insight or interest in writing because their comments, praise and discussion about my work was invaluable in motivating me and I hope they know that!

I also attended a writing weekend down in Tipperary with proper, accomplished writers who have been doing this a lot longer than me. The feedback and response I got was amazing and I remember driving back up the N7 feeling excited about writing. A spark was ignited again.

So overall, 2012 has been a really good year. And that's pretty surprising because it really didn't start out that great. So hopefully, 2013 will be just as good. Obviously the wedding next year goes without saying (hmmm, maybe I should set up a separate wedding blog about that...) but if I can maintain my writing and keep challenging myself to commit to it - maybe (just maybe!) I can get a (deep breath...) first draft finished!

I was talking about this with Andrew (the other half) yesterday and how much I would love to be a full time writer. I was rambling on (I do that a lot) about how if my book/s was/were successful enough that I could do it fulltime. Then of course I rambled on about how unlikely that would ever be to happen. Andrew looked at me and said "All it takes is one good idea, Sinead".

One good idea. That got me excited. I like the idea for my book. It is a good idea. So let's see where it takes me in 2013.

Thanks for all the support and taking the time to read this. Like I say to everyone who takes an interest in my writing "I'll remember you when I'm famous!" (I can't promise it but I'll try!)

:)

Monday, 29 October 2012

It's a Man's World...

I have gender issues.

In my book, not in real life. But you have to admit that that line got your attention, right?  No don't worry, I'm pretty secure in my own femininity in real life, it's when I'm writing that my gender issues have started to show up.

As seen from my most recent blog post I've always written  (cringeworthy) books from a very young age and my main characters were always women. I was very rigid in following that whole "write what you know" rule. So much so that my main character always had brown hair and brown eyes with a shy and sweet persona... sounds familiar! All my sub characters were women too. In fact I don't think there were any men featured in any of my early works. I think I was far too preoccupied with the idea of even speaking to my boys in my early teens to even consider getting into their minds.

Fast forward 10 years and things have changed dramatically. I no longer write what I know. My current book circles around life after death (of which I have no experience) and my main character is a man (of which I definitely have no experience!). Yet when I first thought up my plot, it was a given that my main character would be a man; there was never the slightest possibility of writing it as a woman.

First of all, I've found that men are easier to write - lets call a spade a spade and admit that they're a simpler creature than women. They don't analyse, obsess and bitch like women do (well at least not to the extent as women). And I don't mean to offend any of my sisters out there with the following generalising, sweeping statement but it essentially boils down to this: women think, men do. And my book is a thriller, therefore I need a do-er. And David is, fortunately, a do-er. Easy choice!

I really hope I'm not exiled from the female community after writing that paragraph...

Secondly, in terms of marketing and potential publishing (ha!) I really can't think of a successful thriller with a female as the lead. Seriously, I'm not joking now, I genuinely can't think of a blockbuster style book with a female lead. Sure chick lit books are filled with strong female characters but my book isn't chick lit. I hope that it will appeal to a wide audience - regardless of gender, age and heritage.

Two blockbusters from the last century - Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and both have male leads. Two other recent successes include the Hunger Games and the Dragon Tattoo series. Admittedly, both of these series have women as their main characters but both are accompanied by men in the lead roles.

Case in point, I recently asked my other half if he would still read my novel if I wrote David as a woman. There was a long pause (during which the cogs in his brain whirred) and he eventually responded saying "I don't think I've ever read a book with a female lead". May I add that this is a man who is rarely without a book in his hands.

It reminds me of JK Rowling and EL James' situations; both hugely successful writers, both writing under initials, both women. They have both admitted to using initials because they felt that writing openly as women could potentially hinder the reception and subsequent sales of their works.

Personally, I feel that there's something quite sad about the need for women to do that even though I'll be honest in that I've certainly considered writing under my initials, or even a pseudonym.

But then consider the incredible success that these women have achieved, regardless of their gender. I suppose it just goes to show that talent crosses all boundaries - gender, age, heritage, culture. If you have it, you have it. But there may be something to be said for writing under a pseudonym and keeping your gender a secret from your readers. At least until they've bought the book!

So in the meantime, I'll continue to conform with my gender stereotypes by writing my book with a man in the lead role and maybe consider coming up with a pseudonym... Now that could be a nice creative outlet for me... :)

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Blast from the Past!

My life flashed before my eyes this weekend. It was a humbling experience.

Ok, not my full life, my literary life. So it was, of course, pretty brief. And cringeworthy.

I was in my parents' house, reluctantly clearing out the final bits and bobs from a bedroom that I haven't slept in for over 18 months. I use the word "reluctantly" because my mother has been pleading with me to to do it for exactly 18 months, so I finally relented. There was only so much time that could be lapsed before I could stop blaming my sinuses/telling her I thought I'd left the oven on at home/telling her I was "soooooo tired".

I was going through the last remaining storage container, weeding through old tax certificates, letters from friends while I was in Irish college and old birthday cards (seriously, what are you supposed to do with all that stuff after a few years?!), feeling fairly certain that there was nothing of any sentiment left in the box. Until I hit gold.

At the very bottom of the container I found a few copies, covered in dust. I assumed they were copies from primary school with doodles and essays written in them. Following a severe sneezing fit (and a subsequent break to find some tissues for my nose and eyes) I returned to my treasure chest and like a dramatic movie sign (think Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones) I blew the dust off the covers and discovered.... these:


No, your eyes do not deceive you - these are the actual, original manuscripts of the books that I wrote when I was in primary and secondary school. The (amazingly creative) titles of my books were "Summer Camp", "Going to Greece", "The Island", "The Ghost of Kingdrel Boarding School" and "The Keeper of the Keys".

Facepalm.

To be honest it feels a bit like when I find an old photo of myself as a teenager with a massive fuzzy barnet and eyebrows that would put Groucho Marx to shame (trust me, there are tonnes of those photos around; my mother refused to throw those out). I see photos like that and think "Oh my god, did I actually look like that??" Except now I'm thinking "Did I actually write that??" Yes, I'm afraid I did.

Such was my confidence at being a bone fide author, it seems that I even took on the role of Executive Illustrator and Cover Designer, although by the time I hit "Keeper of the Keys" I had obviously figured out how to use Microsoft Word, especially the Clip Art function. That must have been such a proud day.

It's funny though because I remember writing those books at around 9 or 10 years of age and really, genuinely believing that I was going to be a successful writer when I grew up. In fact, I figured that I had a head start on everyone else because I had these novels already penned by the time I left primary school.

If only it was that simple...

Another interesting fact about my early books is the fact that I finished all of them. Ok, so they were only school copy books (A5 size) with 88 pages in them (and a lot of self penned illustrations within these 88 pages) but I finished them all. How the hell did I have the motivation to do that at 10 years of age?! I can barely finish a sentence of my novel right now, let alone the whole book. Where did I lose that ability along the way?

Maybe it's working full time in a stressful job that's added to it? Maybe it's the daily commute (ok, I know I go on about my commute a lot in my blogs but it really is hard some days!). Or maybe my cynicism has just morphed significantly during my transition into adulthood from a healthy dose of it to a toxic measure. I think we've found a winner.

I think if I went back to my 10 year old self and told her that in 14 years time she would be a social worker with very little time for writing, she'd probably start to cry (although I cried at the drop of a hat at 10 so it wouldn't be that surprising. In fact, that's probably one thing that hasn't changed since I was 10).

But in reality, it's not such a bad thing. I like my job (I definitely can't say that it's unfulfilling or not challenging) but at the same time, it was a pleasure to be sitting in my old bedroom, and transported back to my old, naive view of the writing world. Just because life doesn't turn out the way you'd hoped, it doesn't make it any less sweet. But at the same time, it felt nice to rediscover just how important writing is, and always has been, to me.  Just in case I needed to be reminded.

But overall, I think the most important thing I've learned from this experience is to leave the illustrations to the professionals. Even with my discovery of clip art.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Forget about failure

I had an epiphany this past weekend as I walked desolately out of Croke Park Stadium (the headquarters of Gaelic Football in Ireland) with a strained voicebox, tear streaked cheeks and a very heavy heart. I had just endured an agonising game of football watching my home county (Kildare) suffer a heartbreaking defeat by 13 points to a superior Cork team.

For those of you planning on clicking away once the word football has been mentioned, I promise this post is still about writing, just bear with me!

A sea of white jerseys engulfed me as we marched out the gates of the Cusack Stand, the routine, expletive-laden post match dissection being the only conversation emerging from our lips. We all had our say as to what went wrong, who played badly, who let the side down and where we could go from here. But that familiar sense of hopelessness and despair hung ominously between us in the air, like the stench of a stale beer fart at 3am in a nightclub; the one that no one wants to claim ownership of.

The majority of my 24 years on this planet has been spent cheering on Kildare (my home county) in the All Ireland Gaelic football championship, a championship that they have not won since 1928 so as you can imagine I've experienced a vast amount of heartbreak, disappointment, desolation, tears and anger. My father and my father's father have also experienced these feelings of dejection as have most of the people who live within Kildare. Yet we continue to cheer them on in our droves, year after year, success or failure.

I'm very familiar with the concept of failure as a writer because it terrifies me to my very core. In fact I'll be honest, much of the reason that I struggle to write my novel is because after I write a sentence/paragraph/chapter that I'm happy with, my automatic response is "well it's never going to be published so why bother being happy with this? In fact why bother writing any more?" And before I know it, the laptop is powered off and I'm in the sitting room eating chocolate and guiltily watching episodes of ER, Sex and the City and Friends to the point that I'm miming entire chunks of dialogue along with the cast (although seeing as Carrie Bradshaw is a writer, SATC technically counts as writing practice... Right?)

It's a sad way to be because the fear of failure actually deters me from writing. I can fully picture myself having the completed manuscript of my book (whenever it's finished!) locked in a drawer in my desk because I'll be too terrified at the thoughts of rejection and failure to send it to an agent. Ah yes, the fear of rejection reared its ugly head in puberty and has decided to park itself there for the remainder of my life.

But I ultimately have to face up to the fact that failure is a big part of a writers life. Just like it is for a football team and their legion of loyal fans.

Charlie Chaplin said "it takes courage to make a fool of yourself".  I certainly don't consider those players as having made fools of themselves but the courage it takes to expose yourself and represent your county in front of a crowd of nearly 60,000 people with no room for mistakes is fully blown awe-inspiring, never mind courageous.

So how is it that these players can put their dignity, health and heart on the line in front of crowds of people every week in front of people who are just waiting to criticise their talent and point out their mistakes and yet here I am, terrified to send my (unfinished) novel to an agent at the fear of being laughed at by one little person hiding behind their desk (Jesus, I really hope no potential agents are reading this blog...). These footballers leave themselves wide open to critiquing en masse and even when they fail, they pick themselves up, regroup and move on to the next game.

It's been said that "A man's greatest glory doesn't consist in never falling, but in rising every time he falls". To be honest that quote (like so many other quotes that I feel I'm supposed to take inspiration from) never really appealed to me because I've always found it difficult to see the positive in negative situations. Yes, I'm an eternal glass half empty type.

But after this weekend's outing in Croke Park, something shifted for me. Why is failure something to be feared? If you can stare down the barrel of the gun, face failure full on, take the risk and make the leap of faith, you've already showed more courage than many people will in their lifetime. And if you've faced that much fear and uncertainty, why would there be a problem in brushing yourself off and rising up if you fall? And besides how can we truly savour and enjoy the long awaited feeling of success if we haven't experienced the very depths of failure?

Go for it, take the plunge, aim for that point, write that chapter, make that call. I wrote this blog after the match (and it's been over a month since my last blog post) because I felt inspired, a feeling that I hadn't felt in a while. And for the first time I don't care if no one reads it apart from me. I don't care if it's voted "Worst Blog Post in the History of Writing Ever". Well, actually, that might sting a little, but who cares - I did it, I wrote it and I pressed publish and made it public.

So with that in mind I'll hang up my white jersey until early next year when I'll wear it with pride supporting the lads again, rain or hail, success or failure because that's what life is about. And the minute I put the final full stop to the final sentence of my manuscript, you can bet that it'll be sent directly to a litany of agents and publishers. And if it doesn't get picked up, I'll persevere and persist and I'm making a promise to myself now to never give up on that.

Life is for taking chances. Who cares if we fail? At least if we have a goal, an aim, a higher place to aspire to, then the only way to go is up.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Magic Moments...

"For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn".

These are the six words that Ernest Hemingway reportedly considered his best work throughout his entire, illustrious career. Succint, emotional and hard hitting with a beginning, middle and end, all in just six simple words. Perfection!

I love that ability to get across so much in one short sentence. Straightaway, the reader is catapulted into a world of questions and endless possibilities. Was there a baby? Did it die? During pregnancy or after birth? Who bought the shoes? The possibilites, questions and dilemmas that are provoked by this statement are endless and for me, that itself is storytelling in its purest form.

Storytelling at it's best is simple and relatable. The biggest goal when writing (and I can only speak for myself here) is to make the reader care. And the way to do this is not to overcomplicate things.

A fellow lover of words provided me with a beautiful quote by Harlan Coban in a comment after my previous blog entry: "It's a corny cliche but anything can stimulate an idea. The hard part is recognising which ideas will work and developing that idea into a story".

That quote sums up writing for me. In fact, that quote just sums up me in general. If you've read my previous entries you'll know that I'm a chronic daydreamer and I take great joy in trying to see the extraordinary moments and endless possibilities in many ordinary day to day moments.

For example: I commute to work. It's dull, it's frustrating and it's costly but it has to be done. I drive a 50 mile round trip on a daily basis, most of which is on a motorway and there is quite often collisions and subsequent tailbacks. Sometimes when I eventually crawl past the accident in the hard shoulder I'll see the people standing outside their cars on mobile phones, maybe talking to Gardai (Irish police) or being attended to by paramedics and I think to myself "I wonder where they were due to go today?" 

Maybe the guy on his mobile was on his last chance in work, slept it out and was speeding to make up for lost time and hit the barrier. Now he's calling into work trying to explain to his irate boss that he was in an accident but the boss has heard him cry sheep too many times.

Or the guy talking to the Gardai, maybe he had a few pints last night out celebrating his wife's pregnancy. Now he's being breathalysed, arrested and at risk of losing his job and his licence.

Or the woman being tended to by paramedics, maybe she was racing home from her lover's house before her husband arrived home from work to try and prevent him from finding out her naughty secret.

I know what you're thinking: with all these scenarios floating around in my head while driving at high speed, how the hell have I never caused a crash? That is certainly one of life's great mysteries...

Anyway the point of this blog is to try and convey that every moment, no matter how seemingly dull and tedious, always has the potential for a rich story. I find that life becomes a bit more interesting if you look at it from a questioning stance. I mean, life would be pretty boring if we took things at face value.

Ask yourself these questions: Is that a ghost rattling the pipes at night? Is the man in the car behind me following me and if so, why? Is my family really my family or is it all just a cover up? Are two of my work colleagues having an illicit affair? Is that flashing light in the sky a UFO?

And the mother of all questions, the question that triggered the idea for my novel: Is there life after death? And if there is, do some of us know more about it than we let on? Who knows!

Because the way I see it, if you can see the extraordinary in the ordinary and truly show your readers the magic that's possible in their own lives, you can (hopefully) make them really care about the story you want to tell.

So if you can take one thing from reading this blog it would be to open your eyes a little bit more to the realm of possibilties that surround you on a daily basis, hour by hour, minute by minute. Never forget how fascinating the people you converse with (or even just walk by) are - you'll never get to know what it's like to walk a day in their shoes. But just imagine if you could...

Of course, don't question everything around you all the time... Take a break from it every now and again, no need to get obsessed with it! You don't want to risk your mental health... I don't want to be held accountable for that! :)

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Word Search

"He yanked the steel knobs of the tap and frantically scrubbed his blood-stained hands under the gush of cold water."

This is the first line of my novel. This is the big one, the opener, the selling point, the seductive temptress just waiting to lure an excitable and curious potential reader with a bit of cash in their pocket towards the till with a copy of my beautiful book lodged firmly in their hand. This line is the first glimpse of my pride and joy that said potential reader will see while flicking through the paperback section in their local bookshop (maybe even the bestseller section, imagine that?! No - stop daydreaming Sinead!) 

This line, in all it's glory, has taken three and a half years to write and yes folks, I'm STILL not happy with it! Don't panic either - I have written four chapters and the prologue of my book, not just this one line. I'm not a complete hopeless case!

I'd guess that I have re-written this line about 20 times and I'll probably have changed it again before the night is out. Every time I look at it I see something I could change, be it a grammar alteration or even an insertion of dialogue. It's quite annoying because I basically can't open up my novel without seeing that first line and sitting there for five minutes wondering how I should change it. And even when I leave it and continue writing the rest of the book, my mind always wanders back to that first line with a niggling feeling that reminds me that if my first line sucks, then no one will stick around and wait for me to prove how amazingly brilliant and creative the rest of the story is (Because my story is amazingly brilliant and creative, I promise. You'll stay around to find that out, won't you??).

The funny thing is that I don't ever see the need to change many other lines in the book. Normally when I'm on a roll with the writing I'll just write reams of stuff -  straight from the murky depths of my brain to the page without much editing in between. I hate editing paragraphs and chapters that I've already written so I usually tend to avoid it! But for some reason that elusive first line refuses to give me peace and like an addict, I eventually succumb to the cravings and get my fix...

My problem therefore is clearly a problem that I never thought I would have: I'm a perfectionist. Well, I'm a perfectionist when it comes to the first line of my book. Not so much after that. In fact, I'm not much of a perfectionist in any other area of my life. I've never been competitive: I never got the best exam results in class (my results were good - just not top of the class!). The boyfriend and I moved in together last year and it has taken us 18 months to get the front of the house completed. Because neither of us are perfectionists. We're both "Meh" people who graduated with honours from the school of "If it ain't broke don't fix it". Well maybe not honours, but I'm pretty sure we passed anyway...


Anyway, the point is that I don't understand why this one line constantly torments and bothers me. Every time I see that first line, it's almost like it's taunting - ridiculing me! Burning a hole in the screen of my lovely (new!) netbook! Sometimes it even puts me off writing, because I'll open up Microsoft Word, open up my novel document and spend so long staring furiously at that first line that I end up convinced that no one in the world will want to read the rest of my book after reading a first line like that. My God, I'm a perfectionist and neurotic. I'm finding a lot of things out about myself through this blog!

And then I wondered (I'm feeling very Carrie Bradsdhaw-esque write now, asking rhetorical questions aloud at my screen, as I tap away at the keyboard, mug of tea in my free hand!) if I will ever be happy with this line. Have I given it too much importance - maybe more than it's worth? The reality is that I cannot see myself ever having a "Eureka" moment with my first line (as I did with David in my last post!) and this unsettles me greatly. But should I be spending so much time on this line or should I just cut my losses, accept the line and the possibility that some day I'll be happy with it, move on with the rest of the book and pray that any potential agents/editors don't spend as long studying it as I have?

Is any writer ever really 100% happy with their finished (or unfinished) manuscript? Maybe the first line for me is similar to a sort of Achilles Tendon problem - it seems to be a weakness for me and maybe it'll never be amazing but if I can compensate with other areas, then on a whole it's not so bad. Maybe it's just about accepting the uncertain and imperfect nature of writing, taking a leap of faith and trusting myself (and my first line!).


On that note, I think I'm going to make more tea, take a deep breath, open up my novel on the netbook and start typing. And I will try my absolute hardest not to stare too much at that first line - but I can't make any promises!!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Face Off

I know my main character better than I know anyone else. Better than I know myself. I shouldn't really sound so self satisfied about that, I mean he is a figment of my imagination, of course i should know everything about him; I made him!

David is 6 foot tall, with dark brown hair, slim build. He has a small scar above his lip (very Harry Potter!) from a nasty fall on the football field 15 years ago in school - he plays in midfield and captains his local club. He loves crisps, pasta and pizza and hates eggs. He's a primary school teacher, in a long term relationship, has a bit of ego, enjoys pints with the lads and sunny days. And he's quite good looking.

Now listen closely, here's the problem: I don't atually know what David looks like. For three years, David's face has been a blur. A handsome blur.

It has taken me three long years to visualise his face because i could never imagine a face good enough for him! I've read several books about how to write a novel (another way of procrastinating and putting off the acual writing!) and one book advises that prospective writers should cut out clippings of a particular model/actor/singer and post them all over their desk/ writing space so that they continually visualise their character as that person. Trust me this is much easier said than done. I've watched films, looked at ads, pored over magazines and I never, ever saw my David.

I've read about directors who have sat at casting calls for their films with dozens, if not hundreds, of actors reciting lines in front of them. Then all of a sudden, a young man will walk into the room and the director will freeze. He might be a new actor, maybe he's just a random guy providing moral support to his struggling actor friend.  Or maybe he's the janitor. But who cares, becuase the director spots him and straight away, it's like love at first sight: There's my main character.

Call me idealistic but I've waited for this moment for years with the hope that I would spot my David in a film, magazine, maybe even in the local supermarket! But no luck. I saw some faces that maybe, could be David but they were never good enough and they left my brain as quick as they entered. Like the eternal single gal looking for true love, I wasn't going to settle, I had to find Mr Right (face).

Then late last year, it happened. I found him; I found my David. It was love at first sight and I've never looked back.

I laid my eyes upon him in the most romantic of settings: a Kings of Leon video. Pyro is one of my favourite songs to write to, there's something inspirational/haunting about it...

Anyway, my David is basically the "good guy" in the video who walks into the bar, orders a drink and gets the c**p kicked out of him. Don't worry, I won't subject him to that kind of assault in my book. Well, we'll see...



Isn't he perfect? Minus the bruising and probable internal bleeding.

So I have no idea who this mystery man is (if anyone knows, please enlighten me as i would like to send him a thank you card!) but it doesn't matter because having an actual face for my David makes it so much more enjoyable to write. And if I find it enjoyable to write, I hope that'll make it more enjoyable to read for you guys!

Now excuse me while I go plaster photos of this lovely guy all over my laptop and desk.  Let's hope the boyfriend doesn't get jealous! ;)

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Daydream Believer

I have an addiction: It's taking over my life, it's preventing me from fulfilling my dreams and I can't escape from it.

My name is Sinead and I'm a daydreamer.

Don't get me wrong; daydreaming can be the most wonderful pastime in the world and I genuinely mean that. Getting lost inside your head with you as the boss, dreaming up the most vivid scenarios and settings is such an amazing experience and one that i regularly set time aside for. Yes seriously! Daydreaming can spice up the daily toil of commuting and it gives me a bit of relief from the dreary reality of the 9 to 5. Of course as we all know, for every action there is an equal an opposite reaction, and I have been known to miss my turn off on the motorway as a result of my "head in clouds syndrome". Woopsie.

The problem is that hours, days, even weeks of my life have been dedicated to my most favourite of all hobbies: the evil temptress that is daydreaming.

Let me put it this way - I first thought up the idea of my novel in December 2008. I'll never forget that feeling - it was literally like a bolt out of the blue, a shiver of excitement down my spine. I had just handed in an assignment on Mental Health in my final year of college and suddenly an idea popped into my head about life after death, the idea of "heaven" and what it means to die (I'm not going into all that now, I can't give away everything yet, we barely know each other!) and i literally scribbled ideas down until a few hours later I had a perfectly formed idea for a novel in my head. Beginning, middle, end, character profiles, setting, themes etc...

Fast forward, present day: May 2012. Have I finished my novel? Nope. Have i written a partial draft? Nah. Have i even written enough of the basic few chapters to send to potential agents? Pffft - hell no!

So in three and a half years, what have i done? Well, I've daydreamed, that's what I've done. I've imagined the feeling of putting that last full stop after the end word in the final paragraph. I've dreamed about a literary agent frantically ringing me telling me that she can't possibly refuse me, that my novel is THAT good. I've spent quite a lot of time deciding who will play my characters in the motion picture production and I've carefully considered who could produce and direct the film (I'm hoping that I can tempt Clint Eastwood out of retirement to direct it. Once Clint is in, I reckon Steven Spielberg is a shoe in for executive producer). And yes, I've practiced gracefully and tearfully accepting my Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, while wearing a floor length designer gown, the cameras watching my boyfriend proudly embracing me before i embark for the stage.

I told you I can dream!

You see, this is the crux of my problem: thinking about all that is so much more fun than actually parking my ass at the desk, powering up the laptop and writing, writing, writing. Writing through the blanks and persevering at it. But no matter how productive (or unproductive) my writing session is, I get an itch to daydream.

Daydream is the double edged sword - it provides me with passion and that bolt out of the blue inspiration that i earlier mentioned, but at the same time it draws me away from the actual craft and practice of writing. My relationship with daydreaming can be summed up by the U2 song "With or Without You." Cheers Bono. Actually, maybe Bono could provide the soundtrack to the movie version of my book.... No Sinead, stop it!!

So anyway, this blog is my antidote, for want of a better word! I'm hoping that by publicising my attempts at writing a novel (or lack thereof!) I'll actually have to write and forget about daydreaming, as hard as that may be. So I need you guys to spur me on, pressure me into completing it and nag me for procrastinating!

But I'm still allowed to daydream on my commutes... That's when daydreaming is my saviour. I just need to start remembering when to exit the motorway. If i can conquer that I know I'm a step closer to beating this terrible affliction.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

What if?

I've always wanted to be a writer - not just any old writer - a full blown novelist. No newspaper articles, no weekly coulmns - no I aimed high. I wanted the glossy paperback at the number 1 section in Easons. The esteemed, respected and awed novelist. Jet setting, premiere attending, award winning, designer gown wearing...  Get the picture?

I recently came across my Confirmation scrapbook which I had filled in when I was a sweet and naive 12 year old (actually not much has changed in terms of the naivety and sweetness - just a touch more healthy cynicism now). I glanced through the hopes and dreams section of the scrapbook where I had etched out the deepest desires of  my 12 year old heart: "I want to be an author, like Marita Conlon McKenna" (who was my absolute idol and writing muse at the time but i've had many more loves since then - I don't believe in monogamy when it comes to authors - soz Marita!).

I was one of the those children that always entered the "Write a book" competitions in school - it was an early introduction to rejection and heartbreak as I never won. Not once. In fact, my 5th class teacher used to hand out awards for "Best Writer" and "Best Spelling" every Friday and I never won those either. I remember coming home to my mam with tear streaked cheeks wailing that the dyslexic boy had won best writer and I hadn't while my parents tried to reassure me that I didnt need certificates to tell me how good I was. Hmmm, yeah right, not so easy to swallow when you're 11 years old, about a foot taller than the tallest boy in the class with a unibrow to foot. As if life wasnt fair enough already, I was destined to be the next VanGogh or Picasso - not appreciated in my own time. The horror!

The love of writing and the dream of being the next Dickens never waned though and it stayed with me from childhood through puberty and into young adulthood. I had toyed with the idea of studying journalism or English literature in college but my unwavering need for financial stability led me into social work (that decision and my subsequent career is a whole other days writing!)

College filled me with inspiration - social work is a tough profession (it still is, 3 years post qualificaiton) and escapism is vital in order to survive with your sanity intact (well maybe not intact). I witnessed children dying in ICU, carried out home visits in some of the roughest flats in Dublin's inner city seeing horrific child abuse cases and watched as people's lives fell apart with mental illness.

Jesus i paint a bleak picture! I love my job, I really do, but as you can see if you don't escape into your own world from time to time, it's hard to manage and survive.That's why my books are a break from reality, they're not too serious, gritty or hard hitting. They're a break from life and they mainly centre around my favourite tag line, the question that opens so many amazing, imaginative opportunities: "What if....?"

So I decided to write this blog to document my journey as i attempt my greatest feat so far - finishing my first novel. I'll update regularly and sure, it won't always be pretty, it won't always be easy but stick with me and we'll see how far we get.

Oh and don't worry, you can all come to the film premiere when my as yet unpublished manuscript is made into a motion picture! Dare to dream!!