3 Top Tips, Christina Hollis, inspiration, SMART goals, Success, Writing

Three Top Tips For Getting Started…

Power of words by Antonio Litterio/derivative work - InverseHypercube
By Antonio Litterio

…on any project…

THE BIG PICTURE – whatever you want to do, whether it’s write a book, start your own business, make money, learn to cook, or grow your own food, have one specific aim in mind. Then stick to it. Benjamin Franklin is supposed to have said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”. Label a folder (real or virtual) with the name of your project. Gather everything into it-notes, images, charts, infographics, the lot. Once you can find exactly what you’re looking for in seconds, it’ll save a lot of time time when inspiration (or desperation) strikes. 

ZOOM IN – Put a filing system in place the second you start collecting stuff for your project. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Separate files within one on-line folder will be fine. A plastic wallet with dividers will store your so-called “dead-tree derivatives” (that’s paperwork, to you and me). A DL size envelope within this system is perfect for keeping scrappy notes, receipts and parking slips safe. Incidentally, expand that idea to twelve envelopes, each one labelled with a different month, and you’re on the fast track to filing your annual tax return without tears. All you have to do is remember to transfer the relevant receipts from the car, your pockets or purse into the right envelope. But do that as soon as you get them. 
You know why.

FOCUS – Write down your big idea. Seeing it at the top of a blank sheet, or screen, will make it real. It’s smart to set goals, and the acronym S.M.A.R.T (used by George T.Doran, Paul J. Meyer and others) can help you reach that target. There are all sorts of alternative meanings for the initial letters, but they all come down to the same thing in the end. These are the headings I use when I’m planning a new piece of work:

SPECIFIC–this is what you want to achieve. It’s your dream. Spend some time working out exactly what it is you want to do. Be positive, and distill it into one sentence such as “I will write a book.” There’s no room for want here. Think positive.
MANAGEABLE–will you be able to do this in the time you have available, and with the facilities you have? If not, either set the alarm an hour earlier each morning and borrow what you need, or revise your objective–but think carefully before doing that because A is for… 
AMBITIOUS–Go for it! Aim for the stars – if you miss, the moon will break your fall. Find an inspirational quote and post it up where you’ll see it every day. Edmund Burke’s “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing” glares down at me all the time I’m writing.
REALISTIC–Ambition is indispensable, but there are limits. I come from a family of comfortably upholstered women. Much as I’d like to be a size eight, it’s never going to happen. Believe me. That’s why I modified my own aim, from “getting down to 130 pounds” to “following a calorie-controlled healthy eating plan and taking more exercise for one month.” I lost 5lb without ever feeling I was on a diet, so all I need now is the willpower to repeat…and repeat…and repeat…. as necessary!
TIMETABLED–deadlines, like the threat of execution, concentrate the mind wonderfully. Draw up a list of what you need to do, and work out how long it will take. Mark the finish date in every form of diary you have. Tell yourself it’s absolutely non-negotiable. Obviously there will be times when work has to take a back seat because of illness or accident, but personal disasters apart use every carrot-and-stick you can think of to motivate yourself and hit your deadline.

Christina Hollis, fiction, historical romance, Jewel Under Siege, Lady Rascal, Writing

Writing (and Rewriting) Romance As Ebooks…

Photo by Bertil Videt

I love putting my own spin on historical events by using them as the background to romance. At the beginning of my fiction-writing career, I wrote six books for Harlequin Mills and Boon’s Masquerade imprint under the pen name of Polly Forrester. These were originally only available in the UK so I’m currently working to introduce them to a wider audience by bringing them out as ebooks. Lady Rascal is already available and my next title, Jewel Under Siege, is due for release later this summer.


Jewel under Siege is set in Constantinople, at the time of the Crusades. Elena is a young widow who finds herself in an impossible situation when tough warrior Emil literally falls into her life. He is an enemy who has nothing but contempt for her people, but the lure of the forbidden means Elena and Emil are soon attracted to each other despite all the dangers.
Revisiting my earlier fiction means I can add a few little touches to the text. At the moment I’m taking the chance to make Elena and Emil’s romance sizzle still more under the Turkish sun. How do you like your historical romances – hot or homely?
You can keep up with the progress of Jewel Under Siege towards publication by subscribing to my newsletter. Just send an email to me at christinahollis@hotmail.co.uk with the word “Subscribe” in the subject line.

3 Top Tips, Christina Hollis, Writing

If You Want To Write…

Page URL: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASandro_Botticelli_-_Madonna_del_Magnificat.jpg
by Sandro Botticelli
…just do it. Anyone can put pencil to paper or finger to keyboard, but it helps to have a few personal qualities before you start.
  1. LOVE – of words, and of reading. Playing with language and seeing how others create characters, mood and atmosphere will help you develop your own style. It isn’t the number of words you write each day, or the length  of them but the feeling you put into your work. If your writing comes from the heart, the chances are you’ll speak directly to the hearts and minds of your readers.
  2. COMMITMENT – anyone can call themselves a writer, but only when you actually complete the story that’s been begging to be told will you feel you’ve earned the title.  Always start with a fixed end in mind, whether it’s entering a short story competition, or writing a book. Don’t let anything distract you from your goal. Write every day, and get a first draft down as fast as you can. Then go back over it again and again, improving your work every time.
  3. PATIENCE – once your work is as good as you can make it, put it away and start on something new.  After a month, go back to your first piece and re-read it aloud to yourself. If you’re aiming for publication, when the re-writes are finished, give your manuscript to a trusted friend who reads the type of work you’ve written. Accept their constructive criticism as part of the learning progress – it all helps to please your eventual audience. 
The Easter holidays are a traditional time to make a fresh start – what are you going to be working on this week?
baptisms, Christina Hollis, Church, Easter

Happy Easter!

I hope you’re having a lovely day, and that you can spend it exactly as you like (with plenty of treats on hand, of course).

My Easter Day wish is for good weather. There are two baptisms taking place during our big morning service, so the village church is going to be packed. I can predict it will be wonderful – it always is, as we’ve got a great team working behind the scenes as well as behind the altar – but today will be extra special. There’ll be a sea of new faces, and we’ll all have a terrific morning.

Have a happy and peaceful Easter.

Christina Hollis, Creative Writing, figs, garden planning, honey, Jack Canfield, motivational books, Success Principles

New Year, Fresh Start

It’s taken me ages to write this first sentence. All my get-up-and-go got up and went just after Christmas. The fun and games are just a memory, and the next holidays aren’t even a glimmer on the horizon.  The weather isn’t helping – it’s cold, dull and dreary outside. We had some snow overnight, but that soon turned to rain and has now disappeared completely. It wasn’t anything like as pretty as the photo you can see here!

Getting motivated on this murky Monday morning is proving really hard. I’ve dug out my trusty  Success Principles book by Jack Canfield for inspiration. Putting the things I need to do today in order of urgency has helped me focus and it was good displacement activity, if nothing else! I’ve also swapped my usual grey hat and black jeans for a ridiculous red cap, mulberry shirt and scarlet baggies as a gesture – though what the cat and hens will think of it is anybody’s guess.

 Getting out of the office and writing in the greenhouse will give me a new perspective on things, though until the new heater arrives it’s hardly a tropical paradise. Despite that, the sight of all the plants waiting to burst into life makes me anticipate strawberries and cream, fresh figs and maybe even some bunches of grapes. There might be honey from our bees this year, too – I didn’t harvest any at all in 2012. The terrible weather put so much pressure on them I didn’t want to stress them any further.  Luckily we’ve still got a few jars of honey left from the 2011 harvest. Honey has a long life-span, but in the great tradition of positive thinking I’m planning for bumper crops of it, and everything else as well this year. 

What’s your favourite remedy for the mid-winter blues? I’d love to hear it – and there’ll be a little prize  for a comment picked at random!