How to Never Get Anything Done

Ten minutes from now, you will know how to successfully avoid getting anything done, thanks to master communicator, Owen Fitzpatrick.

Owen is the author of ‘The Charismatic Edge’, which outlines the keys to becoming a confident, compelling and captivating communicator.

I bought his first book, ‘Not Enough Hours’ and, having watched this video, I have the urge to read it again, with a different shade of highlighter pen.

Happy Procrastinating!


Whatever Happened to NaNoWriMo 2010?

*Hangs head in shame*

Um, Daisy Court didn’t actually happen for NaNoWriMo 2010. Word count = Zero, for four consecutive years. I quietly set the ‘Daisy Court’ knitting blog to ‘Private’ and hoped it would quietly go away.

In 2014, I had to decide what to do with Daisy Court. I loved the name, and still had the Dot Com domain. The choice was whether to delete every post and start again, or leave them there as a stark reminder of the perils of procrastination.

After even more procrastination, I made the decision to set the Daisy Court blog to ‘Public’ again, and to keep the blog posts. After all, who’s ever going to notice that years have passed since the last post.



Essential writing tools for aspiring authors

Since cavedwellers daubed finger paints on the walls right up to today’s speech-to-text software, humans have always searched for the best way to write down their stories.

Yes, there are many oral traditions of stories handed down verbally through the generations, but humanity has reluctantly been aware that memory is not always the most reliable method of storage.

As someone who has written in the 20th and 21st centuries (ye gods that makes me sound old!) I have tried and discarded many tools.  Here are my favourite two:

1.  Pen and paper.
Seriously.  Through dozens of computer crashes and backup failures over the years, only paper has proved its worth.

I laughed when I discovered a dusty pile of floppy discs that hold the fading digital memories of manuscripts past one day.   Ever tried opening an out of date word processing file on a floppy disc?  No, I couldn’t be bothered either.  But I have a filing cabinet full of cuttings, notes on scraps of paper and printouts of draft manuscripts.  A treasure trove that I pillage regularly.

2.  A Portable Netbook.
Yes, one of those miniature laptops with limited memory, no disc drive and totally useless for gaming.

Way back in the 1990s, I had a top of the range Gateway 2000 (remember them – cowhide logo?), that cost me two grand.  It was the size of a small side table and rumbled like an eighteen-wheel truck and took hours to connect to dial-up internet.

However, it crashed more often than a teenage DUI, and the backup was an unreliable tape in Taumat format.

Nowadays, I have a tiny little Compaq Mini 110 WiFi netbook.  The Cloud takes care of all my backup needs (to be extra-sure, e-mail yourself the latest draft on Gmail).  It cost me than 10% of my old Gateway, and it fits comfortably on my lap, whether I’m in bed, on the sofa or in the garden.

So next time you’re thinking of upgrading your computer, think twice about getting the biggest, flashiest model out there and consider a humble, portable netbook.  Oh, and a notebook and pen!


PS Yes, I’m sure that writing blog posts about writing tools is an acceptable form of procrastination for NaNoWriMo!

Seriously counting down to NaNoWriMo 2010 – 4 tips for success

With less than two days to the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2010, it’s time to get serious with the preparations.  (Seriously.  No, really – seriously.)

Here are my top four Serious Tips to improve your chances of success.  I used them when writing my 60,000 historical biography Petticoat Rebellion: The Anna Parnell Story, and they really work:

Emotional Preparation

Like Olympic athletes about to run a 26-mile marathon, writers must be in top emotional health.  Now is not the time for ‘What if I get a pebble in my shoe?’, or ‘If I over-hydrate will I have to go to the bathroom?’  No, athletes are picturing themselves sailing across the finish line, with the crowd cheering and cameras flashing.

Successful athletes see the ending before the beginning.  So should you.  Picture yourself at your keyboard, clicking the ‘Upload’ button on your last 1,000 words, with the ‘Congratulations!  You’ve won!’ message appearing.

How good does that feel?

Remember that feeling when you get to the half-way point and there’s another 13 miles (or 25,000 words to go).  You can do it!

Wordcount Preparation

Just as athletes know exactly where they are in the race (just look at any racetrack or arena – they’re covered in distance markings), you too should know exactly where you are at any time.

For me, this means setting up the wordcount spreadsheet, with chapter headings, word targets per chapter and pages-per-day calculations.  If you write 500 words in Chapter 3, add 500 to that part of your spreadsheet and calculate the balance.

For every 500 words you write, that’s 1% of your book finished.  A percentage countdown is really motivating – one day, I wrote 3,000 words of Petticoat Rebellion, which was 5%.

Like the outstanding balance on your credit card, those little numbers quickly add up.  It’s easier to finish a project when you know that you’re EXACTLY 35% there.  One third down, two thirds to go.  You can do it!

Writing all over the place

This means two different, but related things – you can write anywhere, and you can write anything.

Ideas will come to you in all sorts of strange locations – in the bath, on the bus or in a boring meeting at work.  Capture those ideas straight away.  It doesn’t have to be entire sentences or paragraphs – you can jot ideas on scraps of paper or the Memo app on your phone – anywhere. (Just don’t accidentally add them the the minutes of the office meeting!)  Then bring ‘em home and flesh ‘em out in your manuscript.  Job done.

Fiction is usually structured with a beginning, a middle and an end – but not necessarily in that order.  You don’t have to write them in that order either.

Sometimes you’ll write the story in chronological order, but I find it really helpful to jump around in your story and write different parts at different times.

Think of it like a giant jigsaw – you add one piece at a time in various places that look right, and eventually all the pieces start to make sense and it all comes together.  Yes, occasionally something won’t fit, so you take it out and put it to one side, and eventually it will fit pefectly somewhere else.

Doing it Your Way

So, who said writing was all about the creative flow of ideas?  Structure, dudes, structure – that’s the key to Getting it Done, and only you know what works best for you.

Plan ahead, picture your goal, don’t over-think it, and just start running at your own pace when you hear the starting whistle on Monday morning 1st November.

See you at the finish line!


7 Steps to Prepare for NaNoWriMo 2010

After a busy afternoon watching NaNoWriMo videos on YouTube and downloading ‘How To Write’ e-books and playing with different software programs, I realised it’s time to prepare in earnest.

But before I share my 7 Steps Prep Plan, here’s my fave NaNoWriMo YouTube video from ITalkToSnakes, which you can buy on iTunes.


Top advice there from someone who’s clearly lived the insanity!

Back to Prep Plans – you might think of preparation in terms of pens, paper, laptop, index cards, setting your voicemail to ‘Call me back in December’ but no, I’m talking about something far more important than preparing your tools.

I’m talking about removing all the obstacles and distractions that will tempt you way from achieving your 50,000-word target.  Things like eating, sleeping, talking to people, the everydayness of life that just swallows your time.  This is time to be ruthless – preferably not with other people – be ruthless with yourself!

Here’s my own (lighthearted) NaNoWriMo Prep Plan:

1.  Laundry – decide what to wear for November, and make sure that everything is clean by the end of October.  This will ensure that you (a) you won’t spend the first week searching for your matching socks or wrestling with Mount Washmore and (b) you won’t smell (too much) by the end of the month.

2.  Food – stock up on quick-to-prepare food and ingredients, because regular mealtimes will vanish as you plunge deep into your novel.  Plan ahead for those evenings when your children/partner/spouse start whimpering because you forgot about dinner.  Or, better still, use this week to teach them how to prepare simple meals themselves.

3.  Social Life – what social life?!  If your best friend was training to climb Everest, you’d understand if he/she couldn’t make it to brunch/lunch/classes.  NaNoWriMo is no different.  This is YOUR everest.

4. Sleep – yes, you can Pre-Sleep to build up your Zzzzs in advance.  (I’ll include a link to a brilliant pre-sleeping article that I found online later…can’t find it right now.)  Sleep now, because you know that when inspiration strikes, you could find yourself at the keyboard at 3am when the heating is off, your fingers turning purple with the cold and your alarm set for 6am.

5.  Television – set up your Top 10 TV shows to record for the entire month, so you can watch them later (during your Post-Novel Slobfest).

6. Housework and Yardwork – Bribe your housemates to do a big clean-up before the end of October, or burn off your build-up of creative energy by doing it yourself.  Inside, focus on deep-cleaning the bathroom & kitchen, putting clutter back where it belongs and making sure the windows and floors are clean.The leaves will have stopped falling, and the grass will stop growing, so you won’t have to worry about your yard again until Spring.  As for the inside of the house, luckily the days in the Northern Hemisphere will be getting shorter, so after your big clean-up, the dirt won’t show so much.  Result!

7.  Exercise – no, pacing up and down trying to figure out what to write doesn’t count.  Grab your coat and boots, and head out for a 30-minute walk instead.  It clears you head and gives you space to think. It’s also an opportunity to stock up on groceries (see item 2 above).

Well, that’s my NaNoWriMo Prep Plan.  Is there anything I forgot?  What’s in YOUR Prep Plan?




Searching for your muse…in a shoebox!

The tension is mounting as thousands of writers around the world count down the days to the first day of November.

Monday week marks NaNoWriMo 2010, when over 5,000 writers [update 24 October – over 80,000 writers!] around the world aim to write 50,000 words each during November.  That’s a quarter of a BILLION words.  Staggering.

I signed up to the challenge, half-thinking that if 5,000 other people can do it, then so can I.  After all, I thought, how hard can it be to summon one’s muse…?

But it wasn’t that simple.

After a week of thinking, jotting down ideas and looking around for inspiration without success, I was about to give up.  In my office, coffee in one hand and pencil in the other, I spotted an old cardboard shoebox on a shelf.  It was full of half-written scraps of paper that I’d tossed in there years ago.

EUREKA!  There, nestling among the backs of envelopes and faded coffee receipts, was a spiral notebook, and in this notebook were all the discarded ideas and jottings from earlier drafts of various screenplays.

‘Kill your darlings,’ they said in college. ‘Take out anything that you particularly like from your stories, and toss it away.’

Yes, I took it out, but no, I didn’t toss it away.  As I looked at all the discarded notes I realised that sometimes what looks like an unpolished nugget is exactly that.  Scenes that don’t fit in but reveal character.  Plotlines that go nowhere here but might be the perfect twist to an otherwise dead end in another story.

Hold onto these nuggets.  Yes, kill your darlings, but please gently lay them to rest (a nice shoebox will do) and remember that like in Sleeping Beauty, all it takes is a little magic to bring them back to life again.

With the right tools and some careful polishing, these little gems can really sparkle.  (And hey, remember it’s cool to recycle!)

Where do you find your inspiration?


Introducing Daisy Court

Welcome to Daisy Court, charming 1970s housing experiment on the edge of Dublin City, and home to the Donnelly family.

Daisy Court is also the working title of my new novel, which I’m writing as part of NaNoWriMo, also known as National Novel Writing Month 2010!

By the end of November 2010, I will have written the first draft of Daisy Court.  This isn’t about producing perfect pose (pardon the alliteration!), but is about finishing a project which has been lurking in the ‘unfinished projects’ drawer since 2001.

Yes, almost a decade.

If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to write a novel, please join me during November.  I could really use the company!

Yours in slightly panicked expectation that this will all go horribly wrong,