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New Years Resolution: FINISH Writing Your Book!!

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Ahhh…finishing that novel. Is it one of your New Years Resolutions?

Is it one that daunts you? Scares you?

What is it about finishing  a book that freaks us writers out so much?

I asked some of my writing friends what their biggest challenge was when it came to this. The top response explained an apprehension about how the whole book would be pulled together, all it’s ideas and events, into a tidy conclusion.

Also, a finished product meant it was time for the manuscript to be seen by the outside world, and would be vulnerable to critical eyes and opinions.

But if you really want to bite the bullet this year and commit to finishing your book, you need a plan of action, and a willingness to see that plan through. Here are three tips to help you finish your book:

Planning

Ideally, you’ll have an outline of your writing project before you commence the writing phase, but if not it is certainly not too late to implement one. A Plot Planning Sheet can be very helpful for this, and you can download one right here: http://bit.ly/2BSIXXA

Part of the purpose of the Plot Planning Sheet is to sketch out the Beginning, Middle and End of your book. If you are using this tool at the start of the writing process, you can create a basic outline of each of these parts of the story, and add more detail as you go along. If you are implementing this tool in the middle of the writing process, it will help give you clarity on what you have worked on so far. At least you’ll have a general idea of how you’ll wrap up your book, and that will become clearer to you as you go along.

Deciding On The Type of Ending

The biggest lesson I have learned whilst working on both short stories and novels is that the ending doesn’t have to be good and happy. It does, however, need to be conclusive and satisfactory. 
Think of the film, Saw, for example (if you have had the stomach to watch it!)
Or The Sixth Sense.
Or 90s drama/romances like The Virgin Suicides or American Beauty.
These films certainly don’t have a ‘happy’ ending, but the details of the story come together in the end. Seeing all the detail link up is satisfactory and conclusive, however tragic.

Commit!

That’s right, commit to the end! To do so you are going to have to face the fear and take responsibility for finishing that darn book. And the good news is, it’s not up to you to have a perfect book at this stage! Do your best as the writer, and then seek the help of a trusted friend, relative, writers group member or professional editor to help you refine your story, which will include crafting the perfect ending!

By the way, the journey doesn’t stop here. You have the second and maybe third drafts to complete, so the sooner you finish the first, the better!

If mulling over your manuscript gives you joy and satisfaction, by all means ignore what I’ve suggested in this post. I personally love the opportunity that rewrites provide to relive my story, to spend even more time with the characters and the events that shape the experiences o the book. But if you really want to finish your manuscript, and especially if you have a vision to publish it, you’re going to have to get tough on yourself!

TRUST in yourself as the writer and the story you have created. Someone out there needs to read what you have to say!

I hope you have found the information in this post helpful. To ensure you never miss any of my writing and publishing tips, make sure you SUBSCRIBE to receive notifications of my posts!

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Click HERE to view and purchase my books, which are available WORLDWIDE on Amazon in paperback and ebook!

 

Patreon is a membership platform where you can contribute to creative projects and get really cool rewards in return. Click HERE to see how you can be a part of my exclusive Patreon community!

 

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Three Tips For Saving For Travel on a Minimum Wage

Yes, you CAN do it!

It’s not all about how much you can save each week, it’s a matter of how you go about delegating it each payday.

World travel has been a major goal of mine, but not too long ago I felt like I would be able to achieve it. Working an average thirty hours a week at $19.10 an hour, there wasn’t much room to put away for savings, and what I could put away seemed to be sapped up by some bill or expense sooner or later. It was proving impossible to save a large chunk of money toward my goal, and not only this, I was also developing feelings of unworthiness toward world travel. I was starting to think that because I didn’t have a job that paid very well, that I didn’t deserve to travel the world. But I simply couldn’t accept that. I had to make it work. I couldn’t live with myself otherwise.

Through talking with a few friends about their travel experiences, I began to realise that I could look at my savings plan in a whole different way. Around the same time I was thinking seriously about a trip to Ireland to research for my first crime novel. I had made a list of all the elements of the trip, from accommodation to transport to food, and while this helped me to work out how much the trip would cost, it also presented an opportunity for a savings checklist.

I started out by getting a quote for my flights, and ended up paying just short of $1,500 return to Dublin with Etihad Airways. I used a travel agent, and put my flights on lay-by for just $100. I paid a little off each fortnight, and was not restricted to a specific amount, just whatever I could afford. Sometimes it was $50, sometimes $100, sometimes only $20. I would advise to book flights as early as possible so you give yourself plenty of time to pay them off.
Alongside this, I also tried to put aside a little into my savings account for my trip expenses and spending money. It took me six months to pay off my flights, just in time for the cut off date (the condition of putting the flights on lay-by was that I had paid them off two months prior to my departure date).

Here is a breakdown of my list of expenses/savings targets:

  • Flights
  • Accommodation (broken down to each location for multi-stop trips)
  • Airport Transfers
  • Daily Costs (transport/food/activities)
  • Spending Money

I then broke those expenses down to days where I could, e.g. accommodation and daily expenses. For example, I planned to stay in Dublin for three days, so I wrote the list this way:

  • Dublin Accommodation: $215 ($43 per night x 3)

Each fortnight I took out my list and looked at what I could afford to put money toward. If I put money toward the above expense, sometimes I’d put aside only $43, or sometimes $86, or even the whole amount if I could afford it (rarely). Alongside the listed expense, I would keep a tally of how many times I’d contributed to that listed item, and take great delight in crossing the item out when it was completed!

Part of the frustration of trying to save earlier was that my money would disappear into an expense or bill sooner or later. In my savings plan, where I could, I paid off an expense for the trip along the way. For example, if I had put enough money aside for my three-day stay in Dublin, I would then book that accommodation straight away, so as to secure not only the accommodation but the money I needed for it.

So in summary, here are my three tips for saving for international travel on a minimum wage:

  • Lay-by flights where possible
  • Break down your costs into a list
  • Break the list down again into daily expenses where possible

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Travel is NOT just for the ‘lucky few’. You CAN make it happen, no matter what stage of life you are at, and no matter what your circumstances! It’s just about how you go about your savings plan!

To read more about my recent book research trip to Ireland, click HERE

To read the first chapter of my Irish crime novel for FREE, click HERE

To learn more about my other books, click HERE 

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Dundrum: My Last Three Days in Ireland

On Sunday morning I woke at my AirBnB accommodation in Dundrum, a suburban area seven kilometers outside of Dublin city. I was relieved when the hot water system worked, and revelled in the cleansing sensation.

I didn’t have much planned for my three-day stay in Dundrum but to relax prior to the journey home, but I did have one last small piece of research to complete. The reason I had chosen the area of Dundrum for my final stay of the trip was because it was the location of the Central Mental Hospital.

The hospital began in 1850 as Central Criminal Lunatic Asylum for Ireland and was the first secure hospital in Europe. This was an early move of an ideological initiative throughout Britain and its colonies which included the building of the infamous Broadmoor Hospital in England. The site was originally chosen to be soothing to mental health patients and was intentionally not linked to any particular prison service to maintain distinction between criminality and illness.

The facility is operational, so of course I was not going to be able to go inside the grounds, but I could definitely scope out the exterior and take photographs for my research. In fact, I had a view of one of the buildings through the window of my room at Catriona’s house.

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The hospital was a seven minute walk from Catriona’s house. The surrounding area was quiet and peaceful, a contrast to the nature of the facility so close by. Central Mental Hospital made it’s eerie presence known by the imposing 18 foot high wall that seemed to emerge from behind the leafy greenery of the trees and bushes. A huge locked gate hid the 35 acres the made up the grounds.

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Holding 140 patients, two-thirds are there by order of the Minister for Justice, some on murder charges and others on lesser criminal charges. Patients were transferred from Mountjoy Jail to Dundrum when found guilty and certified as mentally disturbed, or when they were certified unfit to plead. The remaining one-third of patients are sent by order of the Minister for Health and are known as ‘207 patients’, usually ending up in Dundrum from another mental institution following assault charges.

The medical staff at Dundrum consists of three psychiatrists. The two doctors look after 36 murderers, 50 remand patients, and 54 ‘207’ patients. Of the total of 140 patients, 112 are men.

The remainder of my exploration of the area of Dundrum was much more light hearted. I continued along Dundrum Road, with the Dublin Mountains towering over the area in the near distance. I made it all the way down past the Dundrum Luas Bridge and spotted Saint Nahi’s Church on the other side, a quaint stone building with a lush green cemetery sprawling down the hill behind. I decided to take a walk through the grounds.

Built in the 18th Century, the current church is still in use by the local Church of Ireland community and is one of two churches in the Parish of Taney (historically encompassing the whole area around Dundrum). It is built on the site of an early Irish monastery founded by Saint Nahi. St. Nahi’s stands on the grounds of the original monastery, having been refurbished several times, most recently in 1910, after a period when it was in use as the local boys’ national school.

After my wander around the grounds of St. Nahi’s, I headed back to Catriona’s place. I used the next two days to rest and catch up on my blogging, and on Monday afternoon prepared to fly back to Brisbane early on Tuesday.

A Final Note

I wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has been following my journey to Ireland through this blog for the past three and a half weeks. This trip has been more than a travel destination ticked off the list; it has been a writing goal achieved. In 2014 I decided to start work on my first crime novel, and it soon became apparent to me that I couldn’t just go off my memories from my first trip to the Emerald Isle in 2012. I would need to undertake another trip to create a realistic setting for this book. Three years later, I have completed that goal.

I undertook this trip with no financial assistance from any arts funding bodies or crowd funding platforms.  This trip was a challenge not only practically but also emotionally. Like I said in my very first blog post for this trip, when I finally made the decision to undertake this journey, I became engaged soon after, and had wedding plans to consider. After several discussions with close family and friends, I talked to Greg about taking this trip. It was a big ask, as we would be delaying our wedding, but I simply had to get this trip done before committing my time, energy and finances to our nuptials.

In the process of prioritising this trip, I feel I grew so much as a person. I stood up for what I believed in and what I really wanted, even when I knew it would challenge my relationship. And it certainly did, but what Greg and I have is so strong, and it survived my trip to Ireland, just as I knew it would. Now I am home and ready to start an exciting new book, and to plan a beautiful wedding to the man of my dreams. I hope one day to be able to take him to Ireland to show him what I have experienced there.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to encourage everybody who is reading this that your travel dreams are not out of your reach. I work part time on average thirty hours a week earning $19.10 an hour without penalty rates. What took me so long to get to the stage of believing in my ability to take this trip is that I thought because of my lack of formal education, and subsequent average income, that I did not deserve to undertake world travel. Not only did I think I didn’t deserve it, but I couldn’t see how I would be able to afford it even if I tried., Any money I saved was quickly sucked out by living expenses. What I had to do was save for my trip in increments, and I plan to write a blog post specifically on how I did this. First I lay-byed my flights, and broke it down my anticipated expenses into categories, e.g. accommodation, food, travel etc. Each fortnight when I was paid I put whatever money I could aside and ticked off each item as I went along. I worked as much as I possibly could, saying no to days off and early finishes when offered. I went without luxuries and leisure activities.

I do consider myself to be in a fortunate position; for example, I don’t have any health concerns that keep me from travelling. But it does still irk me when people say that travel if for a ‘lucky few’. If money is your only concern, travel is within your reach. If you really want it, you will make it work. You will make sacrifices, you will go without. You will find the motivation to get there. If you don’t earn a lot of money, save in increments and pay things off as you go along instead of trying to save up a bulk amount.

You are in control of your destiny; the position you are in is the result of your own decisions. I would have never imagined that the timid little girl I was at school, who was too shy to even talk to anyone or ask for help, would be brave enough to travel across the world alone, and to some of the most remote places in Ireland. I hope that by following this blog, I have inspired you to not only take on your writing or travel goals, but any goals that you desire.

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