Saturday 28 September 2013

Peeping over the parapet

I've not been here for a while. Not because I don't like this blog any more, or my dear readers, but because I haven't had time. I know, you've heard all that before. But here's a little post on what you should and shouldn't have time for when things get tricky.

Things you can definitely ignore:
Dust bunnies and dead flies on the windowsill
Spam asking you to send free books to yet another worthy cause
Reading other people's blogs, including this one
All online groups of any kind, even the seemingly relevant writery ones
A few years ago, everyone was banging on about if you have a blog you have to blog every day, or at least every other day. Personally, I've never agreed with that. That model might apply if your blog is primarily a leisure-interest type of blog rather than a professional-skills type of blog. But I don't imagine there are readers out there checking every day to see if there's a new post n this blog. Most of my readers are writers and have better things to do. I think you should blog when you have something to say that's worth hearing and otherwise shut up and do something else.

But sometimes you can have things that should be said and still not have the time to say them properly. For various reasons, that's been the case here for the last few months. Not regular, run-of-the-mill, I-have-lots-of-work-and-a-family-to-care-for reasons, but compelling out-of-the-ordinary reasons. Something has to give way when time is short. As I already never watch TV, there was no opportunity to recoup a few hours a day in the way most people could if they needed to.

The one thing that can't slip is writing - at least, the writing that is already commissioned and has a deadline. The novel my agent wants but for which there is no contract is on a back burner so far back it's fallen down between the cooker and the wall. But blog posts - who will notice if there isn't one for a few weeks? No one pays me to write a blog. I write it because I like to engage with you lovely people out there and hear your views, and because feel strongly that those of us with some knowledge of how publishing works from the writer's side of the fence shoud help other writers by sharing.

We've all met people who say 'I'd write a book if I had the time.' Well, it's not their job to write books, so they can say that, just as I can say I'd grow more vegetables if I had the time. It would be nice, but it's not necessary - I can carry on buying vegetables from Waitrose. But if I don't keep on writing, I can't buy anything from Waitrose. So that's the thing that can't slip. If I were a surgeon, I wouldn't stop doing surgery because my child was ill, or I was having trouble with the builders, or the house was a real mess and could do with a thorough clean. So I'll lurk behind the parapet and do things that have to be done.

These are my parapet priorities:

1. Keep self and child alive - enough shopping and cooking, caring and cossetting to keep us functional and resaonably happy.
2. Meet writing deadlines. And do the writing to a high standard. Not only is it unprofessional to let standards slip, cutting corners is a false economy as the editor will just come back for changes later and be less likely to commission more books. I've worked for years and years to get this reputation and I'm not going to let it slide now.
3. Talk to editors - warning them there might be problems lets them make contingency plans. Actually, when times are difficult I try to get stuff in early - because I know I can't leave it until the last minute in case there's a crisis. I think my longest-standing editors know that if I'm delivering early, things are tricky.
4. Keep responding to enquiries and commissions. I'll need more books to write later and so the time that goes into lining up later work can't be skipped.
5. Commitments to other people - sys admining blogs I have agreed to sys admin, preparation for conferences I've agreed to speak at, turning up to things (according to how important my turning up is to anyone else, not to how much I want to go). Responding to email/messages comes into that category, too. If you don't have time to respond, at least set up a polite autoresponse - it takes seconds.
6. Facebook, blog, twitter, etc - I've not been on twitter more than a couple of times in three months. I don't think my absence from twitter will be noticed. I dip in and out of Facebook as it's my main way of keeping in touch with friends, but I've done nothing with my professional pages as they really don't matter. No one cares that much.

Perhaps that's the point. Regarding most publicity, no one cares (except you) whether you do your publicity/profiling stuff or not. A big book launch is an exception, but the day-to-day 'don't forget me' stuff - it can slide. You can pick it up later. Write a book rather than a blog post. Oh. On that note - I have a few books to write.

Back below the parapet...

Monday 9 September 2013

Vampires forever

I don't usually link from here to my posts on ABBA, but this one is less ABBAy than usual - my theory about vampires...

And it's a slight excuse for my absence. The real reason has been summer school and now builders. But soon. I'll write something soon.