4 December 2016


This isn't a review site. Usually. Today I'm making an exception.

I like watching TV and I like watching films. I rejoice at the freedom the internet has granted me to watch more or less whatever I want more or less whenever I want to.
There's also the ability to use a ten minute rule without the inconvenience of wasting money or having no alternative. If I'm not captivated within that time, I simply find something else to watch.

I suspect this technique is fairly widespread and applied not only to the visual arts but also to books. We writers need to take lessons from films and television to learn the art of grabbing attention and holding it.

The first item I want to tell you about is a film called Rurouni Kenshin.

I do like kung fu movies, I'm a big fan of Bruce Lee and Kurosawa's Seven Samurai is one of my favourite films. Rurouni Kenshin achieves the almost impossible by bringing a general atmosphere of compassion and gentleness to a story that is essentially a series of fights, some of them quite bloody. The leading character plays a big part in this by being remarkably attractive. He brings to mind Tripitaka from the Monkey TV series. If you remember him you'll know what I mean.
There are two more films in the series, I recommend all three. At least give them the ten minute test.

The second offering I have for you is In the Night Garden. This is something I have been watching in the company of my 2 year old grandson. It's what lets him know it's time for bed. As soon as Derek Jacobi says someone's not in bed he looks guiltily at the screen and heads for the stairs.

I started off being mildly irritated by the whole thing but now it seems to have invaded my subconscious to the extent that it can surface at any time and I start singing the Iggle Piggle song. The facet that the Ninky Nonk can be small (as in the background of the picture) at one instant then big enough to accomodate the entire cast the next doesn't bother me any more. We're all in a dream and reality is only a single facet of that illusion.

These are two very different examples of how to captivate an audience. The brutal opening sequence to Rurouni Kenshin contrasts starkly with the character who emerges into the light. His struggle with inner demons makes for compulsive viewing. At any moment, his peaceful intent may crumble and then he'd be lost forever.
In the Night Garden celebrates the comfort of repetition and familiarity. Nothing much happens. Exactly what your mind needs to slow down and be ready for rest. The entire programme is formulaic to the extent that you can always tell how far you are from the end and, of course, bed time. It's very weird, but good weird.
There's a lot to be learned from films and TV that works. I ask myself what makes me feel connected with the characters and how the author has managed this process. I also need to know what keeps my interest until the end, has me on the edge of my seat.

Next week, I may review Timmy Time and Deadpool. On the other hand, I probably won't.

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26 November 2016


As Stephen King will tell you, writers rarely ask each other where they get their inspiration from because we don't know. The more we think about it, the weirder it becomes, so we tend to take it for granted that the ideas will flow.
Some of us find inspiration comes more easily than others. There's this horrible thing called writers' block that gets in the way some times.
I'm very fortunate to have worked with the brilliant and insightful Barbara Turner-Vessalago for many years now. She has taught me the process that I use whenever I write. It doesn't matter what I'm writing, this really works for me.
Most of the time, I'm writing a novel. I used to think that a novel was an enormous almost never-ending task. I was often so daunted by the immensity of it I would feel like giving up. Then I learned that any piece of writing has to be written one word at a time. One word isn't so difficult to do. The next one comes even easier than the first and I'm away.
My starting point is almost always a place into which I parachute my characters and allow them to have a good look around. Then I see what happens and write it down.
Barbara's writing process is called Freefall and I heartily recommend it to you. I have found that most books on writing craft only become useful when I've more or less finished what I'm writing and am looking for technical assistance to make it work. Freefall is so wonderful because it gets me going. Starts me off. I lower my self into a time and place, sniff the air, listen to the rustling of the wind in the trees, narrow my eyes against the setting sun and...
I think you've got the picture.
Until recently, the only access to Barbara has been through her workshops in Canada, Australia and two per year in the UK. I'm lucky in that I've managed to attend at least one a year since 2007. Now, she has published two books on Freefall. Get them. You will find them useful and inspiring.



At the moment, I have the fourth Jenny Parker novel away for copy edit. The two Tyrant fantasy novels are sitting in a proverbial drawer maturing and my SF novel, Voyager, has just reached the 30,000 word hump which means it's now got a life of its own and all I have to do is watch what happens and write it down. So I've taken a couple of weeks out to write a radio play. This is really good fun and a complete change to my usual form. As a prelude, I attended an inspirational one-day course presented by a radio producer called Polly Thomas. If I like what I produce, I'm going to actually submit the script to the BBC, who sent me the only rejection letter of my career in 1972.
Wish me luck.

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14 November 2016

How the universe works

Ever wondered what makes everything the way it is? As far as I can make out there's just one fundamental law that governs everything, it's called the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This states simply that the entropy of any system always increases.

So there you have it. That's all you really need to know to understand how the universe works.

I could stop writing now but I won't. It may be that one or two of you would like an illustration of what the Second Law means.

OK, here goes. If you put a drop of ink in a pool of water, the ink will spread out until the pool is a very light shade of blue. That's the Second Law in action. It may seem innocuous and a bit obvious but it really does have huge significance. Let's take another example. Drop a sugar cube into a cup of hot coffee. The sugar cube disappears because the sugar dissolves. No big deal, you might say. But, consider this. NO MATTER HOW LONG YOU WAIT THE SUGAR CUBE ISN'T COMING BACK.

The diffusion and the dissolving are not reversible. That's entropy for you.

Another word for entropy is chaos. The world we live in moves inevitably from order into chaos. There's nothing we can do about it. The Law is the Law.

It may be that we experience time the way we do because of entropy. Without entropy, time could go either way. It wouldn't matter if it went backwards or forwards. The drop of ink coalescing in the midst of clean water would be just as likely a state as any other. But it's not. The way I see it, the Second Law ensures that time only moves forwards for us, never back. Which is a pity because I've just sent my two main characters in the SF novel I'm writing back to 1977. I'm struggling to come up with an alternative theory that circumvents the Second Law. Any help would be appreciated.

So, if the universe is a cup of coffee and we are grains of sugar, we know what's going to happen to all of us at some time. We'll dissolve away, lose our individuality and become part of the coffee.

The least we can do is to make the universe a tiny bit sweeter.

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9 November 2016


It's November and time for the horribly named Nanowrimo which provides encouragement for writers to get down and write like hell for a month. 50,000 words is the target and it takes daily dedication in order to achieve it.
I've often referred to the desirability of a daily writing habit and how writing just a little bit every day can accumulate into a major work like a novel. I write about an hour or so most days, sometimes much more but rarely much less. This gives me an output approaching Nanowrimo proportions most months of the year.
As you can see from the banner, I entered Nanowrimo in 2014. I did this specifically to write the fourth Jenny Parker thriller when I'd already committed myself to a fantasy trilogy and a SF novel. It wasn't going to get done otherwise.
The reason for telling you this is twofold. First, if you need an excuse to write every day, a word count objective can be helpful. Secondly, I want to describe what happened to my script after Nanowrimo.
The first draft of Exit Strategy, as it has become titled, was actually 90,000 words and was written during October, November and December 2014. I then put it in a virtual drawer and carried on with my fantasy novels. In the middle of 2015, I went back to it and tidied it up so that I could send it to my editor. She did her work and issued me with her usual very detailed and perceptive structural edit. This provided the basis of a rewrite, which I completed in May 2016 and called the second draft. This went back to my editor and she provided another detailed report which was used to create a third draft which I sent her in September 2016. This third draft, notably, included a new beginning, a new ending and several injections of pace into the middle. It also changed much of the plot. In other words, draft three was a very different novel to draft one. A much better one in fact.
Draft three was submitted to my editor and she marked up all the areas that needed attention in order to maintain consistency. Draft four was produced a couple of days ago and has now gone back to my editor for a line edit. Up to now, all the editing has concentrated on plot and structure. Now I've established what I'm writing about, we can start working on how it's been written. The line edit will smooth over the words so that my readers can enjoy the story without being constantly dragged out of it by clunky expressions.
I expect the line edit to be done by the end of this year. Then I'll have to go through it and make the changes necessary before the final process, proofreading, is done. Proofreading clears up glitches, typos, formatting inconsistencies and that kind of thing. Once that's done, Exit Strategy can be published.
In summary, I finished 'writing' Exit Strategy at the end of 2014 and expect it to be published in early 2017.
Many people do Nanowrimo and self publish immediately. If I had done that, you'd be getting something quite awful, virtually unreadable and certainly not worth your time.
After two more years of work, Exit Strategy will be the best it can be. And I can be proud of that.

29 October 2016

An Encounter with Jenny Parker

I always get caught out by flight times. 8 am sounds like a reasonable time to fly but it's not. They say I have to be here two hours before, it takes an hour to drive and I need at least half an hour to shower and get ready. Counting back brings getting out of bed time to 4.30. Half past FOUR!
It's hardly worth going to bed.
Add in the stress of travelling, of tossing and turning in bed worrying about the trip, being scared that the alarm won't go off or the motorway will be closed.
They say to get here two hours before flight time and I always obey. There's an automatic response built into my emotional make up that gets very scared at the prospect of being even a few minutes shy of the deadline. As usual, though, I'm through security and waiting in the departure lounge wishing I'd used the 90 minutes I have to wait here for extra sleep. Six am would have been a much more civilised time to roll myself out of bed.
I sit on the hard seat wondering if my dignity would allow me to lie down and have a nap like many others have opted for. It won't. No surprise there.
A lady comes over and sits next to me. This is doubly disconcerting as there are lots of empty places where she could be in splendid isolation, as I hoped to be. She also looks a bit familiar, as if I should know who she is. I think hard but I can't pick her out from the checkout assistants and CBeebies presenters that spring to mind.
'You don't recognise me do you?' She says unhelpfully.
'Erm, it's early, I'm still half asleep.'
'That's no excuse,' she says, 'I'm Jenny Parker and you've written four books about me.'
'You can't be,' I say.
'Because I'm a fictional character?'
'Because I'm the product of your imagination?'
'That's right.'
'So where does you imagination get its ideas?'
'I really have no idea. Thoughts just pop into my head and I write them down. Sometimes I don't even know what I've written until I read it back.'
Jenny smiles but it's not a warm kind of smile, more of a long-suffering kind. 'What makes you think that you're any more real than I am?'
That's a good question and not one that is easy to answer even for someone fully in possession of their faculties. 'I'm a writer, you're a character. You depend on me for your existence.'
'If I didn't exist then you'd have nothing to write. Then where would you be?'
I begin to think about the consequences of her turning up in the flesh. What if my so-called imagination is just recording something that's actually happening? I'm always telling people that my characters, especially Jenny, never seem to do what I intend. That they seem to have a will of their own. I can't help feeling responsible for the extremely hard time she's been having, though. 'Maybe I should write something good about you. Give you a nice easy life from here on in. Would that help?'
'It's a bit late for that now,' she says.
'What about I change the ending of the latest book?'
'That would only confuse matters. Why not just let things be as they are for a change? Leave me to get on with my life without all the dramatisation.'
She stands up, 'that's my flight,' she says. 'I don't want to miss it.' Then she merges into the crowd and disappears through Gate 27.
'You won't,' I say. I imagine she's going to London to negotiate a rather important deal involving Russian Oligarchs and the Italian Mafia. I do hope she keeps her wits about her.

15 October 2016


Sometimes I get asked why my protagonist, Jenny Parker, is an accountant when most thrillers are written about members of the police force or private detectives. My answer is simple. The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

This legislation has changed the whole dynamic of criminal activity. Previously, the job of a criminal was to rake in as much cash as possible while avoiding the police and the taxman. After 2002, the business became a whole lot more complex. No longer were the bruiser, the enforcer and the hitman the arch-criminal's most important ally. A new regime evolved in the criminal fraternity. The accountant came to the fore. Without one, organised crime syndicates were lost. Having huge piles of cash became a liability rather than an asset. Converting ill-gotten gains into legitimate money that could actually be spent was the new priority.

I also believe that any plot that can be resolved using violence leaves a lot to be desired. Who's got the biggest muscles or largest calibre weapon doesn't do it for me. Jenny has to survive in a world of danger with only her wits and determination. Nor does she have the safety net of an institution like the police force.

So that's why Jenny is an accountant.

There's a fourth Jenny Parker novel, Exit Strategy, that is scheduled to be published in December 2016. Although I say it myself, it's the best one yet. I invite you to catch up with the others while you're waiting.

I enjoyed reading this particular review of Due Diligence because it reflects the way that the money laundering regulations affect every one of us.

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing Read5 Jun. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Due Diligence (Jenny Parker Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
I couldn't put this down. So glad I wasn't reading this on a bus or train because at times I was near to crying in frustration at the cruel fates suffered by the protagonist Jenny. I could easily empathise with the "Kick me when I'm down" life she is experiencing. May say more about me than the book! Minor, occasional suspension of belief (see other reviews) is a small price to pay for a thoroughly absorbing novel, which after all is a work of fiction to entertain, not a treatise on money laundering.

(Have you tried to open a bank account recently? I couldn't open an account to pay in a cheque from the Inland Revenue because it was in my old married name after I had reverted to my maiden name following my divorce. I'd tried paying it in to an existing bank account but they returned it saying I had told them I was the only resident in my property when actually there were two people - yep, me -married name, and me -maiden name. Caught by the money laundering rules for £1500 from the tax man! You couldn't make this up.)

Anyway, this novel is entertaining, absorbing, gets your sense of injustice working overtime and is just a very good read.

photo credit: Bank of England Fan of £50 notes via photopin (license)

29 September 2016

Being Precious

If the world were perfect, this is what I'd look out upon from my writing desk.

In reality, it's more like this:

Waiting for things to become perfect before I write would mean waiting forever. The myth of that perfect time and place being out there is one that we writers often delude ourselves with. I know, because I do it all the time. In reality its just another way of putting off getting down to work. Because writing is hard work and none of us like hard work, do we?

I used to think that I couldn't possibly write anything meaningful until I was older. The age at which I would suddenly blossom into the next Vonnegut or Banks was always unspecified. My best option was to wait until I got there and then start writing otherwise what I wrote was bound to be rubbish.

I was, of course, deluding myself. Don't make the same mistake. Nor should you ever feel that life has passed you by and that starting now will be too late. These are only excuses for not writing so don't be taken in.

We are writers. We have to write in order to live our lives the way we are meant to. It doesn't matter one jot whether we are critically acclaimed or even read and enjoyed. These are bonuses that few of us are blessed with. What matters is that feeling we get when we've written something.

Off you go. Get writing. Don't let me distract you.

photo credit: Sunset via photopin (license)

photo credit: 'Rainy Streets', United States, New York, New York City, East Village via photopin (license)

22 September 2016


In 1703 a scientist called Stahl put forward a theory that combustion involved a substance called phlogiston.  Wood, for example, was  a combination of ash and phlogiston. When it burnt the phlogiston was released and the ash left behind. Metals could be made by taking a metal compound and adding phlogiston. Soot, or carbon, was almost pure phlogiston, which explains why heating it with a metal oxide yields the pure metal.
Phlogiston remained the dominant theory of combustion until the 1780s when Lavoisier demonstrated the existence of oxygen.
Why am I telling you this?
Well, phlogiston is a stupid theory when viewed from a position of 'superior' knowledge. Yet it was accepted as scientific truth for decades. What I'm wondering is how many of the things that scientists hold dear today are equally insane. Most of them, probably.
Yet, almost every idea is met with the rebuttal that it hasn't been scientifically proven. Like phlogiston.
Get my drift?
I'm currently researching the life and work of Richard Feynman, an intellect on a par with the likes of Einstein, for my SF novel, Voyager. Feynman makes the point that science can only ever demonstrate what is wrong and can never be relied on if it decides that something is right. Even if observations and experimentation confirm a theory (or a guess, as he prefers) future refinement may easily demonstrate that it's wrong. Like Phlogiston.
So, when they tell you that Homeopathy or energetic healing or Tai Chi or Yoga or healthy eating haven't been scientifically proved to be beneficial then breath a sigh of relief. Make your own personal observations. Make up your own mind. Remind yourself of science's limitations and track record.

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6 July 2016


Ever since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer I've been meaning to write a blog about my experience. I've hesitated so far because of fear. It's that feeling that keeping quiet about something is safer. If I say I'm feeling great or doing well, this might change just because I've said it. Unvoiced fears are somehow less potent.
So I'll take a deep breath and have a go but please forgive me if I chicken out and bury this draft in the same place as all the others I've started during the last year and a half.

I suppose I'd had the cancer for a couple of years before diagnosis. I'd allowed the pain to increase to the level where I had to admit there was something wrong and needed to have myself looked at. Otherwise, I'd have continued in denial and continued to blame the discomfort on bruising or piles. I'd been needing painkillers in order to sleep for at least a year before I went for a prostate examination. Even then, although my psa level was 6, I demanded a recount before allowing my doctor to refer me to a specialist.

The specialist sent me for an MRI scan and a bone scan. The MRI scan showed I had prostate cancer which had spread locally and into my lymphatic system. He also insisted on performing a brutal biopsy on my extremely sensitive prostate so that he could give me a Gleason score of 4+3. I didn't see the need for this after the scan but my specialist said that he couldn't treat me if I refused to have the procedure carried out. With hindsight, I should have told him where to shove his instrument. I was peeing blood for a week just so he could write some numbers down on his form. But, hey ho, hindsight isn't granted us until well after the event.

When my specialist announced the scan results he called them 'disappointing'. He said I had a particularly aggressive cancer and that it had already spread. This meant that removing my prostate would not get rid of the cancer. I think this was the disappointing bit for him because this was essentially what he did for a living. I asked him what I could do to reduce the spread of the cancer, whether there was anything special I should eat or avoid eating. He screwed up his face in deep thought and announced that he'd heard that cooked tomatoes were good. I was put on three monthly hormone injections.

This was the beginning of my cancer experience. Once I'd absorbed the news and spent some days in fearful panic, I decided to ask for some help away from the mainstream medical system. The stuff I read on the cancer charity and NHS websites was very depressing and warned against doing anything other than things instructed by your doctor. Changing diet was bad, for example, because this could interfere with medication.

I consulted an Ayurvedic doctor. He was absolutely brilliant and provided me with a huge boost to my morale and infused me with hope. He advised me to meditate twice a day, take some supplements and gave me a reading list. Things started to look up.

I started to work with a naturopath who advised me about my diet. I cut out dairy, meat, gluten, fruit, sugar, alcohol, caffeine. I ate a larger proportion of green vegetables together with seeds and nuts supplemented with oily fish.

After six months on this regime, I had another scan. My cancer had retreated and was no longer in my lymphatic system or neighbouring organs. This, of course, was good news. My specialist put this down to the effect of the hormone treatment.

Now, a year later, I'm feeling better than I've done for years. The diet has become a natural part of my life and I genuinely don't feel deprived. I can actually eat or drink anything I want. I just choose to do what I'm doing in order to give my body the best chance I can to heal.

Everyone is different. I've been fortunate that I've had wonderful support and what I'm doing seems to be working. Not everyone can be a lucky as I am. There is, however, a purpose to everything I do. It's to put as little strain on my immune system as possible so that it can start to heal my cancer. If I distract it by making it have to clean up toxins I introduce through bad food or other forms of stress, it won't get the same opportunity. That's it really. There are no absolutes involved only gentleness and kindness to myself.

I don't believe that my cancer can be cured by medicine or radiotherapy or surgery because it's something that my own body has created in response to stress. Only by relieving this stress can I hope to reverse the process. That's why I only eat organic food, drink only reverse-osmosis filtered water and try to keep my mind and body as relaxed as possible.

So far, so good. But wasn't that what the man who jumped off the Empire State building thought as he fell past the twenty fifth floor?

photo credit: Big MRI via photopin (license)

2 May 2016

BT Phone Home

Here is a letter that I'm sending to Libby Barr, Managing Director, Sales and Services at BT.

Dear Libby,

I received your letter of the 25th April with a great deal of hilarity followed by deep concern for the state of your business. They probably aren't telling you just how bad your customer service is, so I'll do it for them. I'm sure that it's something you'll want to get a grip of before you get the blame.

By way of background, I used to be a BT customer. You supplied my telephone and broadband until I managed to extricate myself from your clutches and the circular nature of your customer services. You'd keep me on hold for half an hour then tell me I had to talk to someone else. I'd wait on hold then be passed on yet again. Always, though, you ended up by telling me that the first person I spoke to was the appropriate one. Then I'd go round and round the merry-go-round until I curled up into a fetal ball and wept in desperation. I was glad to get out and join Sky who have the most wonderful customer service. I ring a number in Dunfermline and a pleasant Scot deals with whatever query I might have. Wonderful.

You might be wondering how I ever even considered trying BT again. So am I, if I'm honest. However, your gaudy adverts for superfast broadband at very reasonable prices turned my head. I went on to your website and started to choose a package that suited me. An online chat box opened and a very helpful man called Ajay talked me through the process. I asked  questions and he gave all the information I needed. Among the things he confirmed was the retention of my present phone number. You might want to make a note of this as it crops up later on.

Ajay even sent me a link to the customised package that suited me best. Broadband, phone and TV. I accessed the link and started to put in the details required. I got onto page two before I was denied any further progress. Your website crashed at the address stage. By this time Ajay was gone and I was tired.

The following day, I tried again. This time the website threw a wobbler as soon as I put in my phone number. I tried once more but it was obvious that it was impossible to order anything from BT on line so I used the telephone. I ordered the package I wanted but was denied the £100 voucher promised on line. Still, I breathed a sigh of relief and felt a small glow of triumph.

The next day I received my confirmatory email. It contained a new telephone number, not the one I had been told I could keep. I rang customer services and (eventually) a man said I couldn't have my old number. He did helpfully suggest that I cancel the phone element of the package and just keep the broadband and free TV. I agreed to this and he promised to send an email confirming the changes to my order.

No email arrived and so I rang again the following day. After holding for several minutes and being passed from one department to another a lady said that I had no order at all. The whole thing had been cancelled. I breathed a sigh of relief as by now the last organisation I wanted to entrust my broadband service with was BT.

I tried Virgin and it took less than five minutes to get the package I wanted. However, when I told Sky I was changing they offered me a free service for a year so I took that instead.

So all's well that ends well, or so I thought. The letter received today, signed by you, provides further proof if needed that BT Customer Service is sadly deficient. I quote:

One of our customers has told us they're moving to your address and want to take over the phone service on 10 May 2016.

No, Libby, they're not. Let me assure you of that.

Good luck sorting out the mess.

D J Harrison

I'll let you know if I get a reply. Don't hold your breath.

18 April 2016

EU Referendum

On June 23rd we're invited to vote yes or no to the following question:

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

We had a Scottish Referendum in 2014 to decide whether or not the Scots should remain part of the United Kingdom. They voted to remain. Now, I'm willing to wager that the vast majority of Scots want to remain part of the EU and this fact weighed heavily in their decision to stay in the UK. This highlights one of the problems with referenda as a means of deciding things. When something as big as EU membership changes won't the Scots demand a re-run?

This is what I think:

The people who decide to hold a referendum  think they already know the result. Otherwise they wouldn't be having one. The government wouldn't be holding one if they thought we'd vote to leave.

The purpose of the referendum is to get rid of the issue once and for all rather than have it constantly colouring every governmental decision. All the anti-EU campaigners can then be fobbed off with 'the people have decided' argument.

In other countries when such a referendum hasn't yielded the required result they've kept on having them until they get the result they want. Then stop. That's what we'll do in the unlikely event that we vote to leave. The government will 'renegotiate terms' and try again.

The EU wouldn't survive in its present form without the UK. Many of the more recent members rely heavily on UK trade and free passage of workers. The EU wouldn't be all that attractive for them if we left.

Most people fear change of any kind. Even if they don't particularly like the EU, lots of people will be wary of opting out in case something bad happens.

So, we're staying in.

Even if we vote to leave, we'll be asked to reconsider and vote again until we give the right answer.

Nothing much to get excited about, then. Unless you're Scottish. Pro-independence Scots might consider voting for the UK to leave so that they can have another go at independence. That might send shivers through Whitehall as the Scottish vote is expected to be heavily in favour of remaining.

photo credit: Europäische Flagge via photopin (license)

4 March 2016

Plodding along

Sometimes its all you can do, plod along. Rapid progress is always nice but rarely achievable. Doing big things in one fell swoop is generally impossible and is very daunting. Like writing a story. Whether its a novel or a short story there's little prospect of doing everything required at one sitting.
So, best not to try.
Many times I've heard the refrain 'I'll write my book when I'm [insert here a set of conditions that might never happen].' Nobody has the time to write. There's always something that needs doing. That's why a writing habit is so important. Writing every day, even if it's only a few words, is the best gift you can give yourself.
The arithmetic involved is compelling. I can write about a thousand words in an hour. So, if I wrote for twenty minutes a day I would have 121,000 words a year. A fat fantasy novel or two skinny crime thrillers! Twenty minutes a day!
I'm sorry to bang on about this but if you can't grant yourself twenty minutes to do what makes you feel good then you're not having a good day.
So I'm telling you to write every day.
I'm also suggesting that if you don't manage to write then don't feel bad about it. Be kind to yourself. But remember that writing is actually being kinder to yourself than forgiving yourself for not writing.
Then there's another thing. Write for yourself. Don't worry about readers in general or a reader in particular. In my experience, if you don't have fun writing it then nobody is ever going to have fun reading it. Equally, if your guts aren't churning with emotion as you put down the words chances are that it will leave most readers cold.
The publishing bit has been dealt with in numerous previous posts (as has this advice). Don't worry about markets or genres or what you think might grab the eye of a literary agent. By the time you've competed your story, the market will have changed anyway.
Do seek help in improving your writing. Join a writers group, find someone to mentor you, don't take any notice of the effusive praise lavished on your work by your friends and family.
That's my heartfelt advice.
It works for me.

Image courtesy of Freeimages.co.uk