I said I’d let you know what was happening with my novel work-in-progress. Well, I still haven’t come up with a decent title for it, although it currently lives in a folder in my hard drive entitled ‘Guardian’. This was my first idea for a title (I won’t say why – this is a strictly spoiler-free post ;)), but ever since then I haven’t been able to look at it without thinking of the English broadsheet newspaper which my parents buy every week. I now think of it almost like a code word for my novel.

Hah! My novel has code words.

Since my last post on the subject (the previous post in this blog, in fact – proving that I am consistent in my subjects, if not in regularity of updating), I have written every day. This is immensely satisfying, not only because I’m finally creating good writing habits and sticking to them, but because it proves that the writing techniques I learned last year during NaNoWriMo were not just flashes in the pan of inspiration: what I learned back then has stuck with me over a whole year, and I am applying it to my writing outside the NaNo zone.

Which means – *drum roll* – that I may actually have it in me to finish a novel this time around. Touch wood.

In between feverish bouts of writing, which average at around 1,000-2,000 new words not-all-in-one-go per day, I have found several ways of distracting myself from the task – opportunities to break off and do something else for five minutes. Or several hours. This is admittedly dangerous – if I find the perfect distraction, who knows when I might get back to writing the actual novel? But since I’ve managed to pull myself back from each of these distractions in turn, I think I can safely say that I’m not in danger of abandoning my story just yet. Still, to give them their due, here’s what I’ve been doing in between writing (on top of the obvious things like making unnecessary cups of tea or coffee) …

Checking Twitter. A lot. This actually comes under the guise of ‘helpful distractions from writing’.  Twitter has led me to many great discoveries on the internet, from photographers to travel blogs to the latest film and television news. Inspiray-hay-shon!! The last week or so has seen my Twittexplorations focus on the publishing world. I’ve started following the updates of agents, publishers, consultants, editors and other writers. It’s giving me new and very useful insight into the world of publishing: all the information I gather here can be filed away for when I, you know, think about getting my own book published one day.

In the ‘downright useless distractions from writing’ category, Café World has to be the winner. A Flash game promoted and distributed through Facebook, it has quickly become something of an addiction. As a cafe owner, you build up your cafe from humble beginnings, cooking dishes, hiring a waitress, adding new tables, chairs, stoves and increasingly fancy decor, levelling up to unlock bonus dishes and customisations and … well. It’s pointless, mindless, and fun. Moving on …

My bustling Café in cyberspace. Be warned, readers, be warned!
My bustling Café in cyberspace. Highly distracting, writers be warned!

Constructing increasingly elaborate Excel spreadsheets detailing my daily word and chapter progress. The good thing about this slightly helpful distraction is that you can use it to kid yourself that you’re actually doing work on your novel. In fact though, it’s been very useful for me as I want to keep an eye on how much I’m writing per day and the length of each chapter. Since I’m saving each one in a separate file, I can use Excel to automatically update the total length of my novel once I enter the word count of an individual chapter. Clever, eh?

Job hunting is the premium distraction from writing and in fact, as it’s something of a priority in my life right now, it would be more proper to say that writing is a distraction from job hunting. I’ve sent off my CV to dozens of employers and agencies, spent hours traipsing through town looking for upcoming Christmas vacancies and so far received very little in return for it all. But that’s the nature of it, I’m told. I’ll just have to persist. I have some reason to be hopeful, with the Christmas season approaching and many shops in town taking on new staff. All I want is to be able to buy Christmas presents this year. Well, and maybe a new outfit. I may have tried on a pair of shoes in New Look yesterday while I went on my rounds – but I didn’t actually buy them.

The last distraction from writing which comes to mind is reading. This is an essential distraction, as far as I’m concerned. Think of writing like fire. Now think of the fire triangle. Oxygen, heat and fuel. In the writing triangle, in place of fuel, let’s put inspiration. In place of heat, discipline. In place of oxygen – air, breathing space, room to grow – reading would be my third. Reading is a hobby that any serious writer cannot afford not to have. Reading is a way to relax from the creative intensity of writing. Reading transports us to different places, times, people and emotions. Reading allows us to make our own choices about the kind of writing we enjoy and appreciate, and thus the kind of writing that we ourselves aspire to. Reading books, articles or essays in the genre that we write in informs us of the type of material that sells to publishers – it’s a way of assessing the current market.

In short, reading is brilliant and fantastic and great and everybody should do it, okay?

I like to think I’ve achieved a healthy balance lately, between writing and distractions. Now that the NaNoWriMo website is open for registrations again, I look forward to seeing what comes of this year’s labours. For one thing, I’ll have the added challenge of having to write a new novel with one already on the go. If I can finish NaNoWriMo with one and a half or, if I’m really lucky, two healthy novel drafts, I’ll very probably be the happiest woman alive.

Watch this space.