Sunday, 10 January 2021

Latent Processing


Latent processing was something I have always done when writing, but often felt guilty for doing it. As if I wasn't writing properly. It wasn't until I knew Imogen Cooper that she made me realise how important the latent process is. 

Latent processing is the time you spend thinking about your manuscript. It happens during the writing and editing process. It is an important part of it.. These photos were taken this morning on a walk. I have a new story I am working on and it has been going well, but then I felt a little stuck. I knew where I wanted it to go, however, I wasn't one hundred per cent sure how I was going to get there. I needed time away from it. The story takes part during midwinter and wandering through the countryside near my house, I was able to think how my characters would feel/think seeing a countryside covered in a hoarfrost. As you can see some of the left over seedheads look magical when covered in frost. It was foggy alright, but it gave me clarity. The next elements of the story started to fall in to place. 

Latent processing can happen at any time. It often works really well when you are doing something mindless like ironing, in the shower, driving, gardening or going for a walk. 

When you have written a full manuscript, it is important to put it away for a few weeks (I know most of us only managed a few days!). Inevitably even when we are not working on it, it is there at the back of our minds. Thoughts ticking away. Ideas flowing. 

I find it particularly important because I write cold , edit hot. What this means is I get the basic story down first, so I know there is a working structure. The editing process is where I add in all the colour, the details. I build the story up. It is a bit like doing embroidery. The basic story is the black outline and editing is where you fill in all the colour in order to make it a whole living picture. The details lift the narrative off the page. 

Latent processing can happen even before you start writing. It is as you mull over an idea, deciding whether it might 'have legs.' Whether it is something you want to actually write. I have many ideas that never get beyond this point. When a story idea does stick, the latent processing becomes really exciting as you start thinking about characters and settings. Building the narrative world in your head. 

When you reach the editing process, latent processing is still useful. You may have plot holes that need dealing with. The process is fabulous at filling holes or making you realise that your characters need bringing to life a bit more and how. 

As I said at the beginning, I used to feel guilty about doing latent processing. Wallowing in my writing. Now, though, I see it as a vital part of the process and relish it. I no longer feel the need to justify my processes to anyone, as I have a greater sense of what works for me. You will find your own way. Good luck with it all. 

I saw this video earlier this week. I confess it made me smile and the sentiments seemed appropriate in the world we are currently living in.

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Endings and beginnings

 I am writing this on the 30th December. I know there will be a lot of blog posts out there reflecting on the past year and looking to the future. At this point, I need to be upfront and confess, I have a real issue with New Year's Eve and all the expectations. That moment when everyone believes that at one minute past midnight all the problems and concerns of the previous year are suddenly going to disappear. We are then disappointed when they don't, so we start the year feeling let down. To compound my mistrust of this time of the year, today is the anniversary of my father's death. It might be twenty-four years, but I miss him. I would still like to talk to him, to ask his advice, to show him how my children have grown up and to introduce him to his great-grandchildren. Also to thank him. He stepped up when it was needed and I am not sure I ever really thanked him properly. 

At the beginning of  2020 I had fair view plans, as did we all, but the world had different ideas for us. I have not achieved many of those plans because the world thought it would throw a pandemic into the mix. However, I have learnt a few more unexpected skills  this year, who knew I could Zoom, do Microsoft Teams, teach online, create videos and develop websites plus write another book. Apparently, you can teach an old dog new tricks...

Family zooms become a thing

I am not celebrating the departure of 2020, I am happy for it to disappear in a whimper. Neither will I be welcoming the arrival of 2021. I do not trust massive grand plans anymore. I will live in the moment and see where it takes me. I will enjoy my family and friends. Hopefully, with the new vaccines, this might mean we get to see each other at some point. Who knew what a difference a hug could make and how much we would miss them?

US Cover

I am also hoping that in 2021US version of Flight will still be published in March, but we all know publication dates can be pushed at any time. 

2021 will be what it will be. Enjoy it, be kind. Live in the moment and hopefully there will be plenty of joyous times. Just remember though, we got through 2020, we can do this. And thank you for being there for the ride that was 2020. 

Monday, 21 December 2020

Books are magic


A few of my books
I love books. You might say that is a bit obvious as I write them. However, I loved books long before I wrote them. Books have played a huge part of my life. I love the feel of them and the smell of a new book whether a paperback or a glorious and luxurious coffee-table book. Books give you places to escape to. They can prove solace, they can inspire, or heal. They can amuse and challenge you. Books have got me through some very difficult times. Giving me somewhere I to get lost in. They have taken me to places I could only dream of going. Books give us a chance to work out who we are, and just as importantly, who ware not. A chance to walk in someone else's shoes. Books are full of magic. Not the obvious kind but the invisible kind that weaves itself into your soul, making a difference. 

Loving books means I love wandering around bookshops. Full of all that temptation. Not just best sellers that flash at you on a screen, but all sorts of books that you can stumble across.  A chance to flick through them. Feel those covers, read the first (maybe last) pages. To have an unexpected book grab your attention. And, yes I know, often to have those stationery needs met while you are there. Who knows a writer who isn't a stationery nerd and doesn't always need a new pen or notepad? 

Walking around a bookshop can be soothing and inspiring. It takes you away from the chaos outside

P&G Wells

This photograph was taken at my book launch. A magical night at P&G Wells. Where all my dreams came true. This is an incredible shop. Please visit if you get a chance. 

Libraries like bookshops are full of hope and places to escape to, whether a school library or a public library. That certain hush that wraps itself around you like a comforting blanket as you walk into there. The giggles of Rhyme Time echoing around, small children, eyes all aglow as they listen, enthralled to stories being told by librarians. Libraries are all full of dreams and opportunities that some may feel are beyond them until they walk through the library doors. When they do, they sometimes realise anything is possible. if you believe and dream big. Having the courage that you can find in the books you read. It may be a dream to feel safe in those four walls or to be someone who makes a difference to the people or world around you, or just to have a book of their own. No dream is too small or too big. Libraries are built on dreams and hope.

Booksellers and librarians themselves are a special breed. They are kind, knowledgeable and so enthusiastic. If in doubt, ask a bookseller or librarian. They will undoubtedly have suggestions that will solve your problem. They guide children towards books that'll inspire them. They try to listen to everyone's woes before plucking a book from a shelf that might offer a solution. In the past year, they have also had to learn to be adaptable at the drop of a hat as circumstances constantly change. Having to become unexpected experts in technology. Providing services they never anticipated, but all done with a smile and a love of books. 

They take the time to talk to someone who may not speak to anyone else for the rest of the week. There is a moment for a child who finds the library or bookshop is a place of safety. No judgement is ever made. Just a listening ear. Books are full of empathy and so are the people involved with them. They create their own bit of magic and for that, I would like to say thank you. 

Magical memories

There is nothing more magical than sharing a book with a child. It is an opportunity to build such wonderful memories. Books are definitely magic. 

PS I have not forgotten the writers and illustrators or the publishers - you are all magical too!

Happy Christmas everyone. I know it is difficult but let's look towards the future. I am writing this on the Winter Solstice. The shortest day. Light is coming. We can do this. Stay Safe everyone. In the Bleak Midwinter was my mother's favourite - so this is for her.

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Slow growth is the way to go

Being an author!
 As I am sure you are all aware as well as being an author I am a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Winchester. Over the summer, I did a lot of research and upskilling because I knew I needed to be able to help my third-year students prepare in the best possible way for what was likely to be a difficult job market thanks to our friend COVID. I wanted to help them stand out effectively and for the right reasons as well as realise what options would be available to them.

Little did I release this would prove so useful for me as an author too. I attended various business symposiums, career webinars and joined some groups. I followed a variety of people on social media that you wouldn't necessarily normally associate with my life as either an academic or being a writer. They were in fact more associated with my previous life, pre academia and pre writer. I learnt so much from them. 

Jessica Bendien

I attended a symposium for business women run by Emma Gosling, which had a variety of talks. Some of which were not useful but some were. I was checking out anything that was related to employability or presentation related that I could use for the students. Through the symposium, I won a one to one session with Jessica Bendien who runs Bang Talent but also Finding Fame courses. Don't be mislead by the title of the courses. It is not about being a celebrity. It is about becoming 'a go-to person' in your area and raising your profile.  It is easy to be sceptical about this and I am the world's worst cynic, but I learnt more in an hour with Jess than I have for a long time. She really made me stop and think about how I saw myself, what I wanted to achieve then how I was going to do it. 

Vix Meldrew
Glow & Grow
It has made me more conscious of my social media and how I use it. I am well aware that social media can have a negative impact on my mental health. I cam across Vix Meldrew with Glow & Grow on Instagram. Again it is aimed at business people. I have not joined the group (yet - I might soon but with school visits down so much finances are very tight). But I do follow them on Instagram and the information posted is very useful. I save a lot of their posts to remind me how I should be using social media. I am far more strategic about my social media engagement than I was before. I have a better understanding of it from both Jess and Vix. I also have found Alice Benham who is an advocate for slow growth, which anyone who is an author, is really going to empathise with. Nothing about being an author is fast. Everything we do is about the long game. It is not a race.

Now I can almost hear the shouting at this blog post. 'I am a writer, not a business person.' 'I don't need this.' And that is fine, you don't have to do it. This is just a way I have found of looking at my writing career and dealing with some of the issues I have faced following COVID, which I thought I might share. I have been lucky and always gained a lot of knowledge from people like Candy Gourlay who have always shared their author experiences including social media best practices. The links I have shared here just add a further dimension to it. For me, I became aware that I had a brand. There was Vanessa Harbour, author, and I needed to decide how to get that brand out there and what image I wanted to create so that people would be interested in my books and in me as an author with the knowledge I have. I needed to think about consistency and strategy. I confess I have not got this right yet and it is still a work in progress, but then I am working on the idea of slow growth. I intend to be here for the long run. What I do know is that I am open to ideas and seeing how  I can make my brand one that is recognisable, reliable and one that you would think of automatically. Yes, I am an author, but I need to remember not to be closed-minded when I think about how I am promoting myself. Anything is possible.

The Internet is a great resource and it is here to stay. Let's make the most of it. 

Enjoy Michael Kiwanuka's Light

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Flight is a bestseller!

Flight is a number one bestseller! Thanks to Books Council for Wales Flight was announced the number one selling children's book in Wales for July. First Wales, next the world. If you look at the picture there are a huge number of Firefly books in that list which lifted my heart enormously, proving what a fabulous publisher I am with and highlighting their ability to back great books. 

I confess, it took a little while for me to spot that Flight was number one. I looked at all the other books and then at the top and thought 'That looks like Flight.' I had to do a double-take. It was the best feeling ever. Knowing that people are buying and reading Flight. After all, that is why I write books in the hope that people read and enjoy them.

Wins like this might seem small in the big scheme of things and they are strictly speaking but when you are a writer sat on your own they are huge!

I know I said I was going to write posts based on #writingishard. I am afraid the pandemic won with that. I did not get COVID, for which I am very grateful. But general living and getting through each day became my priority. I am sure we all felt the same. The writing is hard became true and I focused on finishing my novel and my university work. I needed to live in the moment and appreciate what was around me. 

I focused on walks through the woods. Listening to the cacophony of sound as the wind moved through the trees. The echo of the children's laugher that bounced from tree to tree. Always soothing yet inspiring as we moved through the trees. Trees always focus in my stories. For me, the walks were research too...or that's what I kept telling myself. 

We know it has been strange times and we all have had to adapt to what everyone has called 'new norm'. We spend our lives online talking to our colleagues, family and friends. We have a whole new vocabulary. Zooming, talking on Teams, hybrid teaching, blended teaching - are they the same. Who knows. We walk around with masks around, yet no one complains 'You can only see their eyes!' anymore. Strange that isn't it?'

I will endeavour to be back more often. Remember to be resilient. We can do this. Live in the moment and, by the way, in case you forgot, I am a best selling author!!!

And I love this my McFly 'Those were the days'


Thursday, 23 April 2020

#Writingishard9 - procrastination

A deadline looms and you know you should be writing or doing edits but you suddenly find this insatiable desire to...




Garden...anything but do the thing you are supposed to do.

Social media is checked more frequently. You end up disappearing down a Twitter rabbit hole.

Get lost in Tik Tok (does anyone really understand that?)

Watch TED talks, Facebook Lives, check Instagram in case you've missed anything.

Update your website including recording those videos you've been promising yourself for ages.

Anything...but write or do those edits. You watch the clock, knowing the deadline is getting closer. But look there's a cobweb, you better get rid of it first. It'll only irritate you while you work.

Now you need a drink and something to eat. Perhaps you better have a wee before you sit down to
write so you can focus....oh what's that on daytime tv that looks interesting. It won't matter if you watch just for a's research...

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock tick tock.

It's too late to start them today. Start them first thing tomorrow. You'll have a clear head then.

And repeat

A deadline looms and you know you should be writing or doing edits but you suddenly find this insatiable desire to...

The world according to procrastination

Thursday, 9 April 2020

#writingishard8 Anxious times

I am partly revisiting something that I have spoken about previously, but I felt it was important to do so again. I am going to talk about the pressures currently being faced. Damian Barr wrote an interesting article about this and also a fellow author had posted a status about the pressures he was feeling on Facebook the other day and these inspired me to explore the issue again.

It is very easy to feel daunted at the moment. There are all these online workouts, dance classes, choirs to name but a few. People are shouting about everything they are doing. Authors are producing incredible activities for their readers. This, in particular, was something the fellow author was talking about. They felt so pressurised to produce resources. They are not the only person I have spoken to that has felt anxious and overwhelmed by perceived expectations.

It was at this point I want to say to people, take a step back. Take a breath and think things through. I want to remind everyone of Matt Haig’s wise words from Notes on a Nervous Planet, which I know I have said to you before, but am going to say again:

How to be Happy

Do not compare yourself to other people
Do not compare yourself to other people
Do not compare yourself to other people
Do not compare yourself to other people
Do not compare yourself to other people
Do not compare yourself to other people
Do not compare yourself to other people

At the moment it is really important that you do what you can do and what makes you feel happy and comfortable. If this means not producing lots of videos, then don’t do it. You will find other ways to create resources. Life is hard enough without adding to the pressures.

Catherine Johnson
Don’t feel you’ve got to learn something new or do all the workouts. I tried them, but I walk with crutches and can’t kneel, it becomes incredibly frustrating when your body won’t behave, and everyone is lecturing you on what you should and shouldn’t do. Do what you can and what makes you feel good. Catherine Johnson has made me smile so much; she is posting videos of her dancing to songs she loves on social media. Philippa Francis post shorts videos of the sea near where she lives when she goes for a walk also on social media. The sound of the sea is glorious. They are both wonderful for making you feel good and I am sure both make Catherine and Philippa smile when they film them.

I am also aware the pressure for the aspiring writer, who have spent years working on their novel only to see articles about how those who have always thought of writing a novel will now have the time to write it as if you can suddenly knock out an award-winning novel in a few weeks. Don’t despair, remember you are way ahead of them. You’ve been honing your craft, polishing your manuscript
All about the rewriting

until it is in a fit state for submission. Hopefully, yours will be the golden nugget shinning out among a pile of rushed manuscripts thrown together during the lockdown and submitted before their time. Be patient and get it to be the best it can possibly be before submission. Focus on honing that writing craft. Remember writing is a muscle, the more you do it the stronger it gets. Writing is all about the rewriting. Do you want any more clich├ęd phrases thrown at you to encourage you?! Just remember you can do this. It is your journey, not anyone else’s.

The same applies to lockdown. What you do at this time is for you to decide. Do what makes you happy – if it is standing in the garden listening to the birds singing as I did yesterday, then do it. If it is producing incredible resources because you are a whizz with IT then go for it. This is your life, don’t let anyone tell you how to live it. Me? You'll find me getting lost in World War Two with two of my favourite characters, Kizzy and Jakob, writing a sequel.