Rebuilding Writerly Confidence

Kangaroo hopping
attrib Kangaroo. Nothing to do with post, just nice to look at.  And thinking of all Australian wildlife during the current bush fires.

After being such a misery guts in my last two posts, I can report that I’m  hanging in here.

Since Christmas I have subbed six pieces, of which three were subbed this weekend.  I have also written two blog posts on here (one for Insecure Writers Support Group day) and a further post for the Association of Christian Writers More Than Writers blog, all about blog hops (IWSG is one, of course).  Click on More Than Writers tomorrow (Monday, 13 January) to read it.  My shortest effort this weekend is probably the most important: a Twitter pitch for my novel, which I will post on Wednesday (15 January), as part of the IWSG novel Twitter pitch.

I had to do all that subbing, Dear Reader, to convince myself that I was still a writer.  And – der der – the big news is that one of my flash fiction pieces, ‘An Important Call’, has been accepted by CafeLit and will appear on Thursday, 16 January – after 4pm, I’m told.  So chuffed, very chuffed, by that.  It’s short.  It’s funny.  Do take a look.

I am also attempting to follow some of my other new year resolutions.  I have placed a moratorium on all seconds at mealtimes, although I did slip up yesterday when we had takeaway curry (my favourite!).  I’m also attempting to take exercise every day, even if it’s just a 30 minute walk around our village.  My husband, who usually organises slightly longer walks, has a bad cold at the moment, but when he is better we will walk for longer, and my friend Julie – who walks further still – has just returned from holiday.  Once a week I am also doing Pilates, which makes my body feel better generally, and especially – let’s get back to writing – my shoulders and neck, which become very stiff from being at the computer.

So hope everyone has a good week.  I have my eyes on deadlines for next week and all through January.  During the first week of February, I will be marking 900 IT exam questions over the course of eight days – a writer has to live,

What Started Me Off Writing

Insecure Writers Support GInsecure Writers Support Group logoInsecure Writers’ Support Group day comes around again.  This month our topic is: what started us off on our writing journey?  Was it a particular book, movie, story or series?  Or a person, like a teacher?  Did we know suddenly that we wanted to be a writer?

As a child,  I loved books and reading.  I enjoyed going to the library, the smell of well-thumbed books, and the quietness.  My favourite author – by far – was Enid Blyton, who wrote 762 books for children – but not enough for me, so I started composing stories in my head when I was nine or ten.  Blyton’s  school stories were my favourites, so I made up extra adventures for the Mallory Towers and St Clare’s characters – fan fiction, if you like.  In the first year of senior school, a lazy English teacher tasked us to write a novel, in an 80-page quarto-sized exercise book.  Most of my class colleagues didn’t know where to start but I did and, barring one or two breaks to do things like getting married and having children and a job where I had to work twenty-four seven, I haven’t stopped since.

From late primary school, it came upon me gradually that writing and being an author was what I really wanted to do  ‘when I grow up’.  I presumed I would indeed become a writer, with publishers queuing up for my honeyed words.  Yeah right!  I have had a few pieces published, fiction and non-fiction, but not – alas – hit the big time.  Yet.

Girl on trapese.
Attrib kissclipart.

Occasionally, I wonder what I would do with my life if I didn’t write.  If you’ve read my previous post, you will see I’m struggling.  I still am struggling, although several bloggers (including our own Ninja Captain Alex Cavanaugh) have been very supportive.   My current status is ‘hanging in there’.


Not a New Me

Fat pheasant
This pheasant has nothing to do with this post. I’m including it to cheer myself up.

New Year, new me?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.

Last week I made my new year resolutions:

  1. Write more.
  2. Sub more short stories.
  3. Sub The Novel.
  4. Read more serious books.
  5. Read writing magazines.
  6. Eat less.
  7. Exercise more.
  8. Get out into garden and grow more vegetables
  9. Redo church website.

Over the Christmas/New Year period I have subbed a few short stories, but a string of rejections just before Christmas haven’t done much for my confidence.   They say you should always read a publication before subbing to it, but, time after time, I have found that I cannot do this because many destinations publish only printed or electronic anthologies which you have to buy.  Many of them are not expensive ($3 up to about $12) but no writer can afford to make a purchase for every market they are considering subbing to.  Some more detailed submission guidelines and a few sample stories would be very helpful.  I have taken out subscriptions for some of the more likely ones, and, for the others, I am unashamedly taking a punt.

To facilitate 5, I downloaded an electronic copy of a well-known British magazine for authors.   Am I alone in finding writing magazines depressing?  The message I always get from them is that

  • no editor or publisher wants to read unsolicited manuscripts
  • none publisher is interested in any genre you might feel able to write
  • all of them want to publish works which might start off a series and  automatically write off (sorry about pun) any authors above retirement age because they assume said authors will die before their second book.

You know, twice over the last week, I have seriously considered stopping writing altogether.  Would my time be more profitably spent doing more exercise (7), growing vegetables (8) and redoing the church website (9)?

Happy Christmas… And a Better New Year

One of my pet hates is television programmes, magazine articles, or blog posts which start or end with ‘Happy Christmas’.   So inane.  But, over the last year I have been surprised (and flattered) when people I know face-to-face (or have known in the past) tell me they follow this blog, and people I don’t know find this blog on WordPress, follow and comment.   So a heartfelt happy Christmas to all of you, and thank you for allowing me to share with you my ups and downs, and my various musings.

Hope 2020 will be good for you.  A friend has just written that 2020 will always have the connotation perfect vision to her, so next year may we all have exactly that.

2019 has been a shitty year for me, in every respect, so it’s got to get better. The most recent disaster has been our road and garden flooding on Friday, also our septic tank, which meant we couldn’t use our loos, and we’re expecting more rain tomorrow.  The last twelve months have also ended with a string of rejections for my short stories, including those which I thought stood a decent chance, and the one I spent a whole day re-writing a week or two ago.   The first couple of times I was so cool and professional, shrugged my shoulders and resolved to send the stories off elsewhere.  On receiving the last rejection, this evening, for the story I’d spent a day rewriting, however, I sank deep deep down into depression.  Everything was WRONG!  It was a good thing I was alone in the house at the time I read the rejection email as anyone crossing my path would have withered under my white angry glares and bitter sarcasm.  The ezine which rejected me (sorry… my story) offered free feedback.  It has taken me several hours to gather up the courage to click their free feedback link.  Soon, I will pick myself up and make some more submissions.

I am now comforting myself with a cup of tea and a log fire.  In a moment, I’m going to read some cosy crime.  Happy Christmas, again.

My Writer Self

Insecure Writers Support Group logoFirst Wednesday of the month and Insecure Writers’ Support Group day.

I wrote about my insecurity in spades in my last post a few days ago, so let’s move on to the optional question, about my future writer self.   Weeelll… since you mention it, my future writer self will have…

  • My own study, with a window overlooking my garden and the Essex countryside and a big wooden desk with drawers.
  • A desktop computer with two screens, so I can check what I’m writing in the current chapter with what I’ve said in a previous one.
  • Also a laptop, so I can have an occasional change of scene from the desktop.
  • … And an iPad Pro with a magnetic keyboard and a sim slot for 5G.
  • …And an iPhone, of course.
  • ..A business internet connection which works fast, even in the countreeee.
  • …And several landlines, on a shelf above my desk, different colours, one  each for publishers, agents, press and, of course, friends and family.
  • …And a sat nav inbuilt into the car, one that doesn’t fall off the windscreen at junctions.
  • …A business Dropbox account.
  • …A physiotherapist calling in every evening to massage my neck and shoulders.
  • …Lots of tea and coffee.
  • …A fruit bowl.

Oh, am I not answering the question properly?  Ahem.  My writer self?  How does it feel or look?  No, I really am not there yet, or living any sort of dream.  What do I need to improve or change?   I need to…

  • Change my writing habits, so that I can write more words and more often.  I need to rearrange my life to create opportunities to write.  I am working on it… by doing less paid work.  I also take my iPad to work these days and attempt to write in the canteen when I can.
  • Improve my sub rate.  I need to sub The Novel in particular.
  • Improve my concentration and stamina, that is, stop myself becoming distracted, by emails, social media and anything other than my writing.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

I Want to Be a Mouse

Merry Christmas Everyone. Association of Christian Writers Advent Anthology

How good are you at promotion?  Are you able to ‘sell’ your published writing?    Me, I’m hopeless at it.  I’m ashamed to say that very few of my real friends know I write at all.  In church, we sometimes sing a children’s song, “I want to be a sheep, baa, baa, baa, baa‘.  Me, I want to be a mouse.

A year or so ago, a story of mine was published in the Association of Christian Writers Advent Anthology ‘Merry Christmas Everyone‘.  The well-organised – and used-to-being-published  – contributors to this book bought their copies at author prices and sold them at book signings, events where they were speaking etc.  Although I can be very well organised, I am not famous enough for book-signings, the only occasions I get to do public-speaking are when I deliver sermons in church (no, no, not appropriate at all)  and I couldn’t conjure up in my mind any other opportunities to publicise it.  So, Dear Reader,  ‘Merry Christmas Everyone‘ languished at the bottom of my wardrobe, along with our ‘reserve’ Christmas and birthday presents and cards.

…Until this evening.  At church we’re holding a week-long Christmas Tree Festival.  (Yes, I’m giving you the link.  If you live on the Essex/Suffolk border, I would love to meet you.)  It occurred to me – after the Christmas Tree Festival had started, of course – that I might… just possibly… sell some of the ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ books along with all the Christmas candles and the raffle.  I spoke to the vicar.  I spoke to the church member who ran the shop.

So it came to pass… that I took my copies of the ‘Merry Christmas Everyone‘ books to church for the Advent Carol Service in the evening.  As I was setting them out on one of the two church grand pianos (don’t go there!), I actually SOLD ONE.  All proceeds are going to the church.  (Church needs the money more than I do.  And that’s saying something!)  But, Dear Reader, all through the Advent Service I felt, as it were, exposed, as if the whole congregation could see my shabby off-white underwear

.  They think I’m normal, but actually… don’t say it too loud… I’m a WRITER.

NanoWriMo Writer Stuck

Christian Krohg - Tired - Google Art ProjectThe idea behind NaNoWriMo, I suppose, is to give oneself a writerly jolt and get on with The Novel, but I was generating so much rubbish that I reached the start-again phase very fast.  I have never written anything without having to go back and start it again phase.  Struggling to work up my word count, I was at my computer during the Ten O’Clock News, during the weather forecast at the end of the News… just a little bit more… and oh, whoops, it’s eleven o’clock.  When I went to bed, I found myself restless and generally too wired to sleep.  (For years, I have followed a ‘sleep hygiene’ routine of reading for at least an hour before turning in.)

I did spend quite a lot of time planning this novel, setting down on a database everything I knew about each character, where they lived, worked and went to school, but I have to admit there were many occasions when it wasn’t clear to me what characters looked like or what their mannerisms might be.  Everybody’s hair turned out to be brown and their eyes grey.  It was only after I started to write the chapters that I started to understand what characters really looked like, also the places where scenes took place.  Of course, what I should have done was to have updated my database as I was writing, but how could I do that and keep the flow of my story going?

I had attempted to write a chapter plan but failed miserably.  I have always found writing chapter or plot plans impossible.  In fact, I could feel myself stressing up as I tried.

So, I have written down lots of ideas, on a sort of textual moodboard in my notebook.  The voice was wrong:  I have written ‘flippant’ as a keyword for my main character.  I have also managed to jot down content for the first few chapters.

Meanwhile I’ve visited my daughter and family, my son is visiting us and this afternoon I made two Christmas cakes and a massive bowl of mincemeat, as well as family meals.  Cooking provides instant gratification.  However, I have had a writerly jolt and, although I have two solid days of work ahead of me on Monday and Tuesday,. Christmas is coming and I haven’t bought a single card or present yet,  I will get on with it.  Among my tasks ahead,  I have to submit two short stories which are hanging around and to find further destinations for The (2015) Novel.

You will be fed up, Dear Reader, with me going on about NaNoWriMo, so I won’t anymore.

Not Very Good at NaNoWriMo

Well, Dear Reader, here I am on 2512 words on Day 10 of NaNoWriMo.  Not good going, is it?  But I have been writing.  Oh yes, Dear Reader.  Since 1 November, I have written:

  • Agenda for Parochial Church Council
  • Pew News (weekly church bulletin)
  • Association of Christian Writers eNews
  • Blog post on the strangest thing I’ve ever Googled (see previous post) for Insecure Writers Support Group
  • Minutes for Parochial Church Council

And coming up next week:

  • More Pew News
  • Blog post for Association of Christian Writers More Than Writers blog.

So I’ve been writing away, as well as doing ordinary life, just the right sort of writing.  Or is it?  I’m struggling to pen my novel about women football fans.  I believe that all publishers think they want authentic, and this is (would be) so authentic it’s squeaky, but it isn’t jelling at the moment, not at all, but I’m processing all these other documents which people actually need and are going to read.  Other people I speak to say they can’t do these sorts of documents.  I can because I’ve honed my writing skills in fiction.  Thought for the day or what?

One thing I have achieved this week is the correct use of CamelCase capitals in NaNoWriMo.  So my week hasn’t been entirely wasted.  I’ve also discovered that all Nano participants, whatever their word count, are awarded 20% off a copy of Scrivener.  Do you recommend Scrivener, Dear Reader?

Strangest Thing Ever Googled?

Insecure Writers Support Group logoFirst Wednesday of the month and Insecure Writers Support Group day.  This week the optional question is ‘What is the strangest thing you’ve ever Googled when researching a story?’  but I will write about how research makes me feel insecure as a writer.

You think you know the subject you’re writing about but when you start to put fingers to keyboard what you know is not enough.  Suddenly you find you need to know… this… and that… and when did that actually happen?  And what happened exactly?  I’ve just finished writing and editing The Novel, which is about Poland in the Solidarity period.  I thought I knew a lot about Solidarity, and indeed I did, but not the right things.  I had to keep checking back to my resources all the time I was writing.  Also I should have carried out more research about Poland in general terms.

For that book I had to research Polish forenames and surnames – repeatedly – and that is not really very strange.  I had to research Polish gestures and body language, and swear words.  I had to make myself aware of the degree of Polish swear words, what was really bad, what people said all the time (gowno – shit) and what you might expect your maiden aunt to say in a moment of exasperation (‘Cholera‘).  Now I’m writing about football, and I find I’m constantly looking up calendars for the years in which action took place.  (I’m not looking up the football top flight.  Farrington City FC is in League Two, Dear Reader.)  I spent a lot of time looking up calendars for 1980 and 1981 when writing about Solidarity too.  Is that strange enough?

However what makes this writer feel very insecure is those authors who research every aspect of their (fiction) book with a toothcomb, who visit locations the other side of the globe which feature only minutely in their story.  One author I read about researched weather in specific years in the middle ages.  Would we have known if she’d got the weather wrong, Dear Reader?  Whoops!  Is that heresy?  Such writers as these scare me death!

Computer showing blank screen, just Chapter 1.
Computer showing blank screen, just Chapter 1.

Right now, I’m supposed to be doing NaNoWriMo.  I’ve subjected myself to the Nano torment.  I’m bluecity on the NaNoWriMo website.  Do ‘buddy’ me… and wish me luck.  At the moment I’m struggling to find the time to write.


Must Dash… NanoWriMo

Cat Sitting In Front of Blank Computer
(c) Wikimedia Commons

Well, Dear Reader, I’ve started on The Next Novel for NanoWriMo.  Not on Friday (1 November) when I theoretically should have done, because we were still entertaining the grandchildren. I started writing on my iPad on the train to Stratford (London) yesterday morning, and continued on the way back, for a longer stretch, helpfully facilitated by Greater Anglia Railways, by way of a late train which in turn caused me to miss my connection and to need to ask my husband to meet me.  By the time I had arrived home yesterday, I had achieved 1300 words, and after adding more at home later in the evening I reached 2000.  I should have been on 4000.

Writing late at night, or indeed using the computer at all, always disrupts my sleep.  Nano be blowed, I should’ve put my computer away, because I failed to sleep until 3am last night and by mid-afternoon today, after going to church and doing domestic chores, I was on my hands and knees with exhaustion.  I’m afraid to say that so far today (9.30pm) I’ve added only a few words, DR.  I have added a few because I’ve done the thing you’re not supposed to do in Nano, that is, I’ve gone back on what I wrote yesterday and edited.  I’ve been editing my previous Nano for 3 years and I’ve no intention – this time – of producing a draft which requires so much work, even if I don’t reach my 50,000 deadline by 30 November.

The Next Novel is about football by the way, about people supporting football, not playing it, women supporting it in particular.  I think it’s an interesting scenario and I hope I can make it work.

So onwards and upwards, towards the next thousand words.  I’m invigilating exams throughout the coming week.