Monday, 27 January 2014

Time To Reevaulate My Self-Control

It is that time of year again, Australia Day has passed and all the holiday glow has gone. Resolutions which seemed such a good idea when you are buoyed up with holiday energy suddenly seem a lot less realistic when faced with the realities of everyday life. 

In my own little world, I don't feel on a larger scale that my goals are unrealistic or too difficult, but on a day by day, 'what should I do with my spare half an hour?' basis I'm finding it hard to sit down and write, do my blogging and keep up my ROW80 duties (sorry everyone for missing you the last week and a half!). 

So, I wanted to look into one of the important factors in keeping any resolution or goal: self-control. I wanted to see what psychology had to say and if I could apply it to my situation now. And so I turned to a psychological paper that a friend recently sent to me that I think has a lot of interesting info and suggestions we could all be using for sticking with our resolutions.
(I did have a section on will-power and motivation in The Five Day Writer's Retreat that I recommend, but this is based on a different set of research.)
The article is by Baumeister, Roy F.; Bratslavsky, Ellen; Muraven, Mark; Tice, Dianne M., "Ego depletion: Is the active self a limited resource?",  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 74(5), May 1998, 1252-1265.
Basically the study collects the data from lots of previous experiments and discusss the implications. 
The experiments were looking at the phenomena known as 'ego depletion', that is impaired self-control. They looked at what happened when subjects were first asked to expend self-control (for example choosing to eat radishes instead of chocolate) before completing a different type of self control task (such as solving difficult anagram puzzles).

Why Do We Need Self Control?
According to the study, self control is needed to control impulses and stop us from gratifying immediate needs and desires, and ultimately leads to long-term achievements. Anything that is going to require effort or dedication over time is going to require self control. Also, a lack of self control leads to a number of significant behavioral and social problems including obesity, drug abuse, violent crime, gambling and personal debt, unplanned pregnancy, etc.
Basically, you really can't overestimate the importance and benefits of being able to control yourself. Even if we allow ourselves to let loose every now and again, it is our ability to get things done the rest of the time and overcome immediate urges that allows us to achieve what we want and be happy with what we have. 

How Does Self Control Work?
Now there are different theories as to how it all works. One group of theories see it as capacity-based, suggesting self-control is a limited commodity. Use it on one thing and you will have less to spend on something else. If you spend the day resisting the chocolate sitting on the bench you will find it harder to do other unrelated tasks that require self-control. 
One of these approaches is the strength model, which I rather like. It likens self-control to a muscle. Actions require strength and energy to be performed, and as muscles become tired after a while and cannot do as much so too self-control can be overworked and fatigued. The theory extends the metaphor to suggest that rest and proper recovery (taking on the necessary fuel) is how self-control is regenerated, just like muscles. An interesting thing about this model is that it suggests that regular training can increase your self-control capacity, just like muscle training makes you able to lift heavier weights for longer. 

However, one problem with this model is the place of motivation within self-control. There is strong evidence that increased motivation can help overcome the fatigue, and there are debates as to why. I'm not going to go into these debates, as I think the important aspect for me is to remember that increasing motivation can help when I've depleted my self-control resources. 

Where Does My Self Control Go?

Reading through the study I was struck by what they considered required self control. Some of the experiments used resisting tempting food, which I can totally understand. But some other experiments looked at suppressing emotions as an act of self-control. They had subjects watch an evocative movie while not being able to express their emotions, and found that this had a significant effect. This doesn't meant the suppressing emotions is bad, suppressing our anger so we don't punch people is something I fully support. But it is a drain on our reserves in the short term until we build up more strength. This reminded me that our rest and recovery needs to be somewhere we feel we can express ourselves freely.

Self control can be leaked out of us in lots of different ways. Even physical events such as a lack of food or a lack of sleep depletes the resources. Anyone who has gone shopping while hungry will know how difficult it is to resist temptation!

Where Does Self Control Come From?

Another thing that the study found was that there appears to be what they call a 'global self-control resource'. The effects of ego-depletion are felt across all different types of tasks, which suggests that there aren't separate stores for resisting food and ignoring the siren call of procrastination. Use it up and its gone, regardless of what you are trying to do. This really points to the need to prioritise, because you've only got so much to dole out. If you try to lose weight, go to the gym everyday, write your novel in a month, and be nice to that annoying next door neighbour all at the same time you are going to run out of your reserves very quickly. 

What Does The Study Conclude? 

The purpose of this particular study was to see if there was evidence in previous experiments to support the capacity-based hypothesis. Can self-control really be considered a limited commodity?
So what is the overall conclusion? 

'Results revealed a significant effect of ego depletion on self-control task performance. Significant effect sizes were found for ego depletion on effort, perceived difficulty, negative affect, subjective fatigue, and blood glucose levels'. (Abstract)
It is interesting that there were subjective consequences (tasks felt harder) but also objective ones as well (blood glucose levels, keeping in mind that glucose is what keeps the brain happy and fed.)  You need to realize that it's not all in your mind, using up your will power does make it actually harder to complete further tasks.
They also found that the expectation of further acts of self control made the effects even more noticeable. It's interesting to note that it wasn't the further acts themselves, just the expectation that these would happen. I totally relate to this. At the gym I can get myself through if I say 'just one more round, just need to finish this and you're done'. But if I know I'm not even halfway through, I completely fall apart.
But it's not all doom and gloom. They found that motivational incentives, training on self-control tasks, and 'glucose supplementation' (love that, basically - eat sugar, in the short term) resulted in better self control after the ego depletion.

So what have I taken away from all this?  
First of all, I need to prioritise my self-control. At the moment I have limited stores, and I need to decide where I want it to go. With my new job I now have the added stress of quite a lot of emotional suppression, in that I've gone from living alone to being surrounded by 170 teenage girls who will irritate and pester me even when I'm not on duty. (As much as I love them all, regardless of who it is, other people require you to control yourself more than being by yourself).
Second, I need to actively plan my days off to maximize my recovery. I need to keep properly fueled, allow myself emotional release and to indulge in some temptations. A good comedy at the cinema with a bag of maltesers by myself where I can laugh out loud without worry about anyone else should do the trick :D
Third, I want to look at areas in my life I can reduce self-control leakages. How can I make the rest of my life easier so I don't waste this precious commodity? In the past this has meant getting a cleaning lady. One of the benefits of my new job is actually the reduction of annoyances in other areas. I am hoping that once I settle into the new job having my bills paid, my food cooked for me, and not having to travel to work will reduce a lot of my stress. But there are always extra little areas I can work on, even silly little things like getting a second set of sheets so I don't have to worry about trying to wash and dry them all in one day.
Fourth, I need to train my self control up over time instead of trying to do everything all at once. Small and steady increments is the way to go. In exercise they say that you should only increase your loading (weight/duration/speed whatever) by 10% at a time, never more than that.

So, New Goals:
I'm going to reduce the expectation down for the next few weeks, and just try to do a little bit of writing everyday to build up my self-control strength without overreaching, and only go to the gym 3 times a week (instead of feeling bad that I haven't made it 5 times).
I have been doing the 5/2 diet, which I really love, but right now writing and settling in is a much greater priority than losing weight. So I'm going to leave that until after my birthday in March.

I'm also going to make sure that I eat a healthy breakfast every morning so I'm fueled and ready for the day (much easier now that fresh cut up fruit, yogurt, and eggs appears before me from 7-8am!)

For the past week and a half (since I've been in Brisbane), I have got some things done. I've written up the cover letter and part of the proposal for 'A Little Bit Of Leaven' to send to agents, as well as continuing to edit it and am now half way through. 

I also started formatting 'The Nice Guy's Guide To Online Dating Profiles' for print on demand, to be finished this week.

Reading wise I'm continuing with Anna Karenina and loving it. It's actually in two volumes, so to reduce my stress I've decided to count that as two books :D (It doesn't count as cheating when its a self imposed challenge). I finished the first volume within the time frame, so hope to finish it as a whole soon. 

Finally, have found out that I don't have a weekend off near my birthday to fly down to Melbourne and do the book launch of After The Winter, so I'm putting that off until early April when school holidays starts. More on that later.

You might also have noticed in my page on Synopses that I've added the first chapters of some of the more polished drafts just for your enjoyment. Would love to hear your feedback!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Arrived Safely With A Lesson From Anna Karenina

Australian country roads, they say 110km/h, but it's up to the cows if you'll be allowed to do that.

This cow took quite a fancy to my car, and gave him a nibble to make sure he wasn't tasty.

I have safely arrived in Brisbane, two days and 1,600kms later. Thank you everyone for your well wishes and prayers. And no, my little car did not break down or even splutter during the entire trip (compare with last trip a month ago when his engine started smoking before dying.) I'll move into my new digs tomorrow night, and will see how it all goes from there.

Also, I just want to take this chance to do a big shout out to my wonderful Dad for taking the time to drive up with me. I really appreciated it! (You can find him at

Anyway, back to the writing news. First of all, I'm very excited to have been interviewed by Jaideep Khanduja on his blog Pebble In The Still Waters. If you don't know how I got the nickname 'Buffy' from Elizabeth here is your chance, as well as other interesting facts about me.

Second, as to my ROW 80 goals, I got less than I had hoped done, but more than nothing, so counting that as a win.

I started editing the sequel to my brother's book, and am just over 1/5 of the way through. I also have started planning a book launch party for my 1920's romance for March, and I've been working with an artist on the design of the cover for it. I also set up a Goodreads giveaway that will close on the 10th of Feb to mark the (hopeful) release of the paperback version of The Nice Guy's Guide To Online Dating Profiles. 

However, I have not done any new writing, and haven't started editing any of my own work that needs doing. But I think I've had pretty good excuses.

Next week I start my induction for my new job, as well as trying to set up all the things that need doing when you move (such as getting my license changed over, my car registered, etc.) So I'm giving myself permission now not to get stressed about trying to do everything.

The final goal I had was to read a book every 1.5 weeks. By this count, on the 21st of Jan I need to finish Anna Karenina. This was one goal that I did manage to get a bit done on while driving (obviously not while I was driving, that would just be dangerous).

Anna Karenina is a beautiful book and I highly recommend people read it, if only for Tolstoy's insight into people and their motivations. So on one hand I am greatly enjoying the experience of reading it. However, on the other hand I have this niggling feeling that I need to get it finished or else I will be behind in the challenge. This feeling then makes me feel overwhelmed because it is a huge book and often it feels like I'm not getting anywhere. Normally this would not worry me, I would just read it and not care. But now that I have a deadline it is like a stone around my neck weighing me down.

This feeling is increased because I have it about a number of projects. First it was packing everything. I felt like I kept packing and packing, but there was always more stuff, and there was no way I could get it all done. Then there is the editing of Dave's book, which I had wanted to get done by the time I left. It was about a week's worth of work, and each day that went by that I only did an hour or so, the large and large the task became. There are also my own drafts that I want to get out in the next two months. I need to redraft them, edit them, get them edited, format them, get ready to launch them, etc.

So during my drive it was as if Anna Karenina represented my life. It was something I enjoyed, but also felt a strong sense of hopelessness about, that the task was just never ending.

And then I had a minor epiphany:

If I kept reading, there was no way I couldn't finish it. 

I felt like there was no way that I could finish the task, but the truth was that there was no way I couldn't! If I kept reading, no matter what happened, I would eventually finish the book, nothing could stop that except me not reading. The book was not getting longer, or more difficult.

So it is with writing. If you keep working at it, there is no way that you cannot finish it. You are doomed to success if you just keep going.

Okay, I admit that for some it might be possible not to understand the natural flow of a story, so that you keep writing long after it should have climaxed and ended. But, barring this, all other writing tasks come to an end. We might feel that we could go over it once more, but at some point we get to the end of the manuscript and don't have to go right back to the beginning. The only thing that is required to reach this point is not to stop.

So I just wanted to tell you all: don't stop. 

Friday, 10 January 2014

An Introduction To Editing

Courtesy of Piotr Lewandowski at stock.xchng

I am saddened that most students are no longer taught the joys and the art of editing. I am not sure I was ever taught it at school, and it was only a personal mentor at university that tried to make me see the light.

Most university students hand in essays that have either never been edited, or have had a quick proof read which they believe to be the same thing.

And then I come to writers. I admit, I was the same at first. I do the writing, the editor does the editing. Makes sense, right?

Nein, Nein, Nein!
(studying German was one of my new year goals, thank you Duolingo for helping me). 

An editor is like a sports coach. They don't run the race for you, they just point out issues with your technique to help you get better. It is the writer's job, part of our training towards being masters, to edit our own work. It is only to overcome our own blind spots, and crush our egos into submission that an editor is for.

The practice of editing your own work is one of the best things you can do for your own writing. Trust me.

My brother handed me his last book and told me to edit it for him, write in the changes myself, and not bother him with it any more. So I did. Now I come to edit his second book and see the problem with this approach. 90% of the things I am now correcting he did again last time. If he had gone through and implemented the changes then, he would not have written them in again now.

This time I'm flatly refusing to re-write it for him. The first edit I'm going through doing no more than leaving comments for him to think about. It is the only way I will be able to break him of his bad habits. Picking out every overused adverb and finding a better way to describe the action is the writing lines on the board of being an author. It gives you a deep hatred of the problem, ensuring you never do it again.

However, as mentioned, most people have never been taught to edit, and get lost when handed back a manuscript and told to edit it. Often people think it is just a proof read.

So let me give you the basics of editing.

Editing is a three stage process. In some cases, some of these stages might be condensed together, but it is best to think of them individually. Each stage requires a different focus and different skills. Today I'm going to describe the different stages, and then in later posts discuss tactics for dragging your own work through each of them.

Stage 1: The Structural Edit

This is your big picture stuff. No one cares about typos at this stage. It is all about how well each sections leads from one to another, the pacing of the action, and whether it culminates in an appropriate climax at the right place.

As with essay writing, the order in which you tell the story is sometimes the most important part. A joke only works if the punchline comes at the end, a suspense only if the reader feels a build up of tension.

Structural editing is all about the art of leading the reader on. Learn to do this, and you will have readers, even if you never win any literary awards.

Stage 2: The Copy Edit

I like to think of this as a romance with language. It is not about how you've ordered the chapters, or about nit-picky points of grammar. Instead, it is looking at how you can best seduce the reader with appropriate points of language. It is the ripping out of clunky writing, scrapping off the cliches and worn metaphors, and buffing up the paragraphs and sentences to shine.

Each story should have its own voice, its own tone. The copy edit is where you make sure this is consistent and as clear as possible. It ranges from questioning whole styles of speech for a particular character, down to use of particular punctuation, all for the purpose of creating a more beautiful work.

If you can't tell, I'm a big fan of the copy edit. It is stretching your writing to the next level, looking at what you have written as objectively as possible and saying 'is that the best possible sentence I could come up with to express that idea?' And the more you do it, the better your writing will be next time around. Don't be led into cheap prostitution by 'easy writing', tired expressions that trip off your pen because they no longer have any meaning of their own.

Stage 3: The Proof Read

This is the final of the three edits. In an ideal world, we would all do the best possible edit we could, then have someone do a structural edit and give it back to us. We would then do the new best we could, and then have someone do a copy edit and give it back. Then we would do an even better edit and finally have someone do the proof read, which we would then go through and approve. Only after all that would we have confidence we were putting out our best work.

It is almost impossible to catch all the typos in one edit, sometimes even two. Some argue that typos don't really matter. It is getting content out, and fast, that makes the difference. And to a certain extent I agree with them. You can hold onto a manuscript too long, polishing it until even the gleams appear to be smudges, so you forever stay in a loop of adjusting your adjustments. However, if you are a writer, compared to someone who just happens to write, then there must be some pride in our work.

Now I know I probably have a lot of typos in this blog. That I accept for being able to get the information out relatively quickly. But I also don't ask people to pay for it. Just as I wouldn't pay for a dress that still had threads sticking out because they couldn't be bothered to cut them off, I think books should, to the best of human ability, be polished. They should be complete and ready to go. If I want quick disposable content, then I will go to the internet, to a blog or website. But when I purchase a book, I expect more.

You might not agree with me, that's fine. I'm happy knowing that I'm working towards being a master in my field. As every sports person analyses their last race or training session to look for just that little bit that will make them better, faster, I am learning to go over my own writing and see how I can do it better next time.

I have to admit it's darn hard at the moment when also trying to write a whole lot of new drafts, as well as editing other people's work, but who doesn't like a challenge?

In that vein, lets look at my ROW 80 goals so far.

First of all, I forgot to add to my four goals from Monday that I've also got a reading goal: to read every book on my shelf that I've never read before. When I moved I put them all into their own box, and am now picking one out ever week and a half (there are about 35 I believe) and seeing how I go. So far I started and finished My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin before 2014, and then finished My Career Goes Bung just two days into the year. I am now reading Anna Karenina, but not sure I'll be able to get through all that in 1.5 weeks while trying to move states and start a new job. So might come back to that one and do one of the lighter reads next.

Since Monday I have done none of my own writing. I have, however, sorted through all my paperwork, made and kept the various appointments I needed to sort out before leaving, caught up with my close group of friends, send out the Goodread Giveaway books for my aunt, arrange some giveaways for my father's book, and started editing my brother's second book. I hope to have the initial structural edit done by Tuesday, before I leave. (I'm also combining a little bit of copy editing, pointing out mistakes he falls into again and again, so next edit I can take it even further.)

Also, I've been listening to the podcast: The Creative Penn, by thriller author and speaker Joanna Penn. Highly recommended, as she has really interesting interviews and realistic advice for authors, or creative entrepreneurs as she calls us :D

I've also decided I need some deadlines for my work. So, to keep myself on track:
1. I'm releasing the second Five Day Writer book on Monday Feb 17th: The Five Day Writer's Bootcamp. I've finished the first draft, and just need to get in and do some serious editing. I'll be arranging pre-release copies for people who want to review it, and will run a pre-launch giveaway on Goodreads. So look foward to that.

2. I'm releasing After the Winter, my 1920's romance, for Monday the 10th of March, my birthday. I'll be having a launch party Sunday the 9th in Melbourne (and maybe one up in Brisbane if I have the interest). I'm thinking a 1920's garden party, with paperback copies of the book available. If you are interested in an invite, let me know. Also, will be doing pre-release review copies and a giveaway.

So that's it from me. Live large!

Oh, and by the way, if you need help with editing and don't know where to go, I have a number of brilliant editors on tap, just waiting to help you out. Give me a buzz at

Monday, 6 January 2014

Round of Words in 80 Days: Round 1 2014 - Are You Ready To Rumble?
For those who have been following me for a while, you'll know that last year I discovered ROW80 - Round of Words in 80 days, and became a sponsor for the challenge.

It is a writing challenge that runs across the year in four rounds, inspiring you to set adaptable writing goals. As a sponsor, it's my role to write one inspirational piece per round, as well as visit other members' blogs each week to offer encouragement and support. It's a pretty sweet deal as I get handed a list of inspirational writers and get told to go and read their blogs. It is a great community and I love being part of it.

However, for the last round I was absent. I took a break, largely because I didn't know what I was doing, about life and everything else. And I missed it.

But now I'm back, better than ever!

So, I need to set some goals for this Round!

In less than a fortnight I'm going to be starting full time work again, in a new state and city, with an unusual shift roster. I have absolutely no idea how well or poorly I'm going to adapt to the change in climate (Brisbane is tropical, compared to frozen little Melbourne), the new work routine, and the new setting. Which is why I love this challenge, because it accepts that I might have to change my goals as life hurls its abuse and generosity at me.

Having said that, the basics of my writing goals should stay the same:

1. write new drafts, starting with a season of Romance writing (exciting, no?)
2. edit already written drafts and get them published (yah!)
3. work with clients: editing, publishing and promoting their books (having finished one round, they are all writing sequels!)
4. keep building my online presence (mainly blogging and facebook at the moment).

So, the plan is to do something towards each of these five days per week, with writing new drafts the most important goal.

Yup, it's a lot of work, and a bit overwhelming, but as the internet marketers say, it's all about the hustle. I've tried giving up my day job, and that didn't help me at all to get more done. And I'm never going to be in a better position to make it as a writer than now. So, tally ho!

And I'm a firm believer that dreaming big is the best way to go. It is easier to achieve outrageous goals than just mediumly difficult goals, because mediumly difficult goals usually aren't worth the effort, while ridiculous goals fill you with joy just thinking that they might be achieved. Think about it.

Anyone else got ridiculous goals? 

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Welcome to 2014! Changes, Writing Schedules and Reading Challenges

New Year 2014
Courtesy of bykst at stock.xchng
 Happy New Year everyone. 2014 is going to be a great year for writing, mine and yours. I'm going to continue bringing you advice and great suggestions on what not to do to become a prolific writer, so the least you can do is continue to write.

2014 is bringing in a lot of changes for me. My big bit of news is that I've accepted a full time job. In Brisbane. I start on the 20th, so am moving cities and climates. I'm heading to the tropics to grow fat on mangoes. 

After making such a thing of leaving my job in June to follow my dreams, I thought I should give you a bit of insight into why I'm throwing myself back into the world of work.

When I started writing and blogging, I listened to podcasts about people who had lost their job, or given it up, and used it to make writing and blogging work for them. They said it was one of the best things that ever happened to them. So while I was struggling away working all day, then trying to write and blog morning and night, I grumbled that if I could give up my job, suddenly I would make it too.

So at the end of June 2013 I took the leap. I was prepared to do everything necessary to make this work. I was prepared to give up my apartment, giveaway all my possessions, and go nomadic to reduce my costs.

And it was definitely the right decision at the time. I was burnt out and exhausted. Trying to do a job that involved sitting at a computer all day thinking while spending all my free time sitting at a computer thinking was not working.

The thing I forgot is that I'm completely hopeless without routines. If you want something done, give it to a busy person. Since quitting my job, I have got less writing and blogging done, let my websites fall apart, and loss the help of my virtual assistant who I let off as I would have the time to do her tasks myself, but not the money.

I had given myself until the end of the year to make it work. But two things became clear as that date approached. 1. I wasn't going to make it. 2. I didn't want to stop.

And then this job appeared.

I am going to be working at an Anglican girls' school as a boarding house supervisor. My day starts at 3pm and goes through to 11pm, and my role is to supervise the girls with their afternoon activities, dinner, study time (also providing academic support, reading essay drafts etc., which will be great, as long as they don't need help with calculus) and then see them to bed. As part of my package, I can have permanent accommodation, meals during term time, and all my bills paid. My own little room with en suite, all at no extra cost.

So, just to get this straight, I'm getting a full time wage, but with school holidays, my own little study room, and I don't have to do anything before 3pm so can get a few hours of writing done each day? I get to work in a role that is constantly moving and building relationships, rather than sitting at a desk all day? In a very structured environment that encourages studying, reading and writing? And I get great inspiration to write my own St. Trinians style boarding house book?

Yes, I am praising God. I cannot think of any way that this role could be better, and it means that I get to continue writing with no financial worries. Exciting, no?

What sort of writer do you think you are? Better with structure or without it? How can you optimise 2014 for your writing needs?

So, my writing schedule for 2014. 

I'm going to continue doing first drafts, and hope to turn some of them into publishable material during the school holidays. But this year I've decided to try grouping the drafts, so that I work within the same genre for a term, hopefully allowing me to develop a strong and more authentic voice for each genre.

So far, the plan looks like this:

Term 1: Romance.
I have one regency romance I started years ago which I want to give a go, Charlotte Dryden.
Then I'm going to spend two months on a contemporary romantic serial. It's going to work like a TV season, with individual episodes released every two weeks (short novellas of about 15,000 words), which have an overarching plotline that gets resolved within the six episodes to make a season/book.
It sounds like an exciting structure, and will help me to keep getting stuff out, but will have to see if it all works out. If it does, I might try a second season, or I might move onto a new romance draft.

Term 2: Non-fiction.
I'm turning back to the rest of the Five Day Writer's series. I have published the first book, and finished the first draft of the second book. While I'm working on my romances, I hope to be able to edit this draft and get it published probably in the holidays. So I'll start this term writing Book 3 - The Drafting Affair, then Book 4 - The Editing Mystery, Book 5 - Online Presence Spellbook, and finally Book 6 - Publishing and Promotion Challenge. If I have time, will think of another non-fiction I want to write.

Term 3: Ancient Near Eastern Fantasy
As an Old Testament/Archaeology scholar, I have wanted to write a middle-grade fantasy series based in an Ancient Near Eastern type world for ages. I'm going to start off with a series of shorter adventure stories for boys, based in a world very similar to Ancient Israel a few generations after King David, but where the north and the south never split. These are not going to be a serial, in that they won't be that connected, but more like the Famous Five, or Secret Seven books. It will have the same characters but new adventures each time. Not quite sure how many there will be, so leaving room that I might work on something else if I only get plots for one or two.

Term 4: Australian fiction.
This is a new idea, I don't really have much developed yet, but I've been reading 'My Brilliant Career', and want to write a series of adventures set in Australia. They will be light reading, but aimed at adults, not children. More than that, I cannot yet say.

So that's the general structure of my year. Right now I'm still plodding away finish the theology book, which keeps getting bigger and bigger. It was meant to be 35-40,000 and right now is just sitting on 55,000. It has also taken a lot of rearranging, and struggling with concepts. I apologise it has taken so long to write, but am very happy with the end result. I have been saying this for quite a while, but eventually it has to come true: I think I'm almost finished. I'm definitely in the last part, and want to try and finish it tomorrow. It will be a good start to the New Year to have the complete draft of that book.

I should also mention that I'm starting my reading challenge.

When I moved out of my apartment, I took every book off my bookshelf that I had never actually read and put them in their own box. There are about 32 books, and I'm setting the goal to read all of them by the end of the year. I reserve the right not to finish anything that I decide is too boring or pointless to read, but will attempt all 32.

Part of the reason is to stop having books on my shelf I can't answer questions about, but also the challenge will keep me inspired and refreshed while I write. When I get really busy, I tend to see reading as too self-indulgent, that I should be doing 'work' instead. But I just need to keep reminding myself that as a writer, reading is my work! 

I'm a little ahead as I started 'My Brilliant Career' just a few days ago, and finished it yesterday and have moved onto 'My Career Goes Bung'. But there is more than enough reading to be done. And I'm sure a few new books will turn up during the year which I will just have to read. 

So, that's it from me for the moment.

If you want to be the first to receive a review copy of any books I bring out this year, sign up to the mailing list on the left sidebar. I promise I won't try to sell you anything, just offer free copies of books in exchange for honest reviews.

Don't forget you still have one more day to enter the New Years Book Giveaway.

What's on your reading list for the year?