I was reminded again this year of the Jólabókaflóð: Iceland’s Christmas Book Flood. Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country, and new books are typically published only during the Christmas season. The frenzy is called Jólabókaflóð, which directly translates as Christmas Book Flood.
Apparently, in Iceland books are exchanged on Christmas Eve, and you spend the rest of the night reading. (Already I am liking the sound of this.) Then people generally take their books to bed along with some chocolate. (Now I’m taken completely. My Christmas Eve normally involves last minute wrapping and food preparation and a longing to be in bed about four hours earlier than I can make.)
This year hasn’t been a great year for me for books. Beware the Falling Avocados is still in a stage of editing. My novel is largely non-existent. My reading habits have slackened, partly because I’ve had to go to work on the day I used to go to a reading group. I’m ashamed of my failings. And yet? Yet I love books. I relish a really good novel that I can lose myself in. The image of a roaring log fire, a cosy chair, a large mug of tea, an endless supply of biscuits and/or chocolate and a big book glued to my hand remains a perfect dream.
Is there any reason it can’t happen? All the family like books, though we usually find a screen to hide behind instead. We have a wood-burning stove (and even a few logs to put in it). We also have chairs, just in case you were concerned that the dream might fall flat (!) there. There is never a dearth of chocolate or biscuits. Never.
So my Christmas Book Flood will start with shopping for some extra gifts (books!) and switching off the internet. The children will hate me and I’ll feel frustrated at my inability to receive Christmas greetings on Facebook; but a few gallons of hot chocolate, no restraints on the biscuit tin and lighting the fire in the living room should do the trick.
To everyone, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Fuelled by tea and biscuits…
The last couple of tea-break posts have concentrated on tea, which (as is universally acknowledged) is indubitably best with a biscuit.
But what type of biscuit?
I like chocolate (of course), but that’s no good for dunking.
For this you need a simple digestive or, better still, a ginger nut.
To fill a gap I’d recommend an oaty biscuit, like a hobnob.
And if you are being healthy (ahem!) try a cranberry and orange cookie.
Of course, little beats a piece of shortbread: simple, unadulterated … or topped with caramel and chocolate.
Which returns me to the starting point: chocolate.
100th blog post in 100 words.
Am I excited? Scared? Yes to both! In just over three weeks time I will be giving a talk at the Ilkley Literature Festival about self-publication. In preparation I thought I’d share some of the tips I’ve learnt in order to get my book published. I start at the beginning, with a rainbow of suggestions about writing.
There are some simple rules to self-publication. This is the first:
If you are going to get a book published, before you do anything else you must WRITE IT!
No-one else can do this for you, and it can be both solitary and a long, hard slog. Over the years I have received a lot of good advice – more than I have obeyed ahem! – and here’s a sample.
- Set aside some time, ideally daily, when you write. Not admin, or social media, or surfing the internet, or research: write.
- Set a manageable target. If you are never going to find the time to write 3000 words in a day, don’t set that as your target! When I started my first book I drifted for months and I wasn’t sure I would ever finish it. Then a friend stepped in, encouraging me to set a target of 500 words a day. In practice, I set a 1000 word target, but held a conscience-clear satisfaction if I’d achieved 500 words.
- If motivation is your problem, set a smaller target for a smaller reward. I find that the promise of a mug of tea and a chocolate biscuit if I write consistently for half an hour, or just get to the end of the page, can do wonders for my concentration!
- Ignore the phone. Switch off the email. Close down all other applications on the computer. This time is for writing only: the world is unlikely to grind to a halt for the few hours/minutes that you have set aside. (Obviously, if you cut yourself off completely for a fortnight you might miss out on some important news. But if no-one broke down the door to tell you, perhaps even that wasn’t overly important?)
- Tell others that you are working. Your friends and family will begin to learn that they can’t contact you at specific writing times. Let writing be your job, which you wouldn’t expect ‘social’ events to interrupt.
- Have some time off. The brain needs to be stimulated, not just drained. Take the dog for a walk, go for a run, do cartwheels round the back yard: whatever it is that gives you some down-time, so you can return refreshed.
- Concentrate on writing, not editing. It is easy to go back over things again and again, tweaking all that you do, such that at the end of your writing time you have not achieved much (possibly not reaching your target word count, see (2)). There is a time for writing, and a time for editing. And the editing tips are for another blog post…
I wish I’d adhered to these like glue from Day 1 but (as my mother might have said), “Do as I say, not as I do…” If I were better at self-discipline than eating chocolate perhaps I’d have another four books published by now!
What are your tips for writing a book?