What Would Make Me Quit Writing?

First Wednesday of the month and Insecure Writers Support Group day. This month our optional question is ‘What would make me quit writing’? Well, now, at this moment, not a lot! For me, writing hurts.

Writing is no longer writing in the sense that Jane Austen and Charles Dickens wrote. They produced manuscripts and some poor printer put it into print, picking out individual rubber letters from his tray. To the relief of all printers since the late 1970s, we now produce, not manuscripts but typescripts, generated on a computer. There lies my problem. My shoulders ache badly whenever I use my desktop computer and my neck aches whenever I use my laptop. I wake every morning with a headache and, if I’m lucky, it eases off mid-morning. Yes, I’ve seen doctors, and physiotherapists, and chiropractors, and osteopaths and massage therapists – and everything else. I’ve been given pills (for migraines which I don’t have) and they provided no relief at all – funny that! I do Pilates twice a week, which keeps me supple and probably helps the headaches and other aches a little.

I’ve brought it all on to myself. All my own fault. That’s how I often find myself thinking. If I were to stop using my computers, I would probably feel a lot better. But this would mean I’d have to stop writing. I have tried voice activated software many times, but the apps aren’t good with British voices and the technique is different, more like a boss dictating a letter. So I keep on going, attempting to type on the computer, in short bursts and with even more assistive technology support, but with everything aching and hurting, my creativity tends to dry up.

Dear Reader who reads my blog avidly, you’ve heard all this before – but the IWSG people did ask!

Reviewing, Flash Fiction and Other Things

I haven’t been posting on this blog much, have I? But I have been busy, resurrecting my reading blog, Dear Reader and working on it. Lots of new posts there! I am continuing to review for Gill James’s Dream Team, mostly reviewing single author collections published by her. (Gill James is the editor of CafeLit, where I have had some success in placing short stories and flash, but she also publishes from her own publishing houses.)

I have also signed up for Lori’s Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. I am down to review two books so far: Murder at Sea Captain’s Inn by Melissa Bourbon on 30 July and On Skein of Death by Allie Pleiter on 9 August, I keep receiving requests to review more but, as a newcomer to Great Escapes, I’m pacing myself. Lori specialises in Cosy Crime, one of my favourite genres, so I’m really looking forward to reading these books.

I have also started seriously investigating self-publishing. There is a lot to learn, a lot to read and a lot to take on board. I shall do it. I believe I have written a reasonable novel, but I suspect its setting is not sufficiently topical for the days we live in for a traditional publisher. I am laying my soul bare here, Dear Reader.

I have also joined the ACW (Association of Christian Writers) Flash Fiction Group (on Zoom). Flash is something which has always interested me and I have placed several flash stories in the past. Allison Symes (Flash writer extraordinaire and author of two flash collections) gave a presentation and set us a couple writing exercises: to write a first line for a flash story and to plan it using her template. Of course, writing something whilst in a writers’ group is always challenging but nothing like as hard as attempting to write up one of my flash stories afterwards. Why is writing something short so difficult? I will continue it… shortly.

Well, I must stop now. It’s almost 10 o’clock and typing on my iPad is probably going to do my headaches no good at all. Good night and happy writing.

Shelving First Draft Before Editing

First Wednesday of the month and Insecure Writers’ Support Group day. If you’re a writer, even if you feel very secure, please do join us.

This month we’re asked to consider how long we might shelve our first drafts before reading and redrafting?  Is this dependent on our writing experience and number of stories/books under your belt?

The amount of editing a writer carries out is a barometer of his/her confidence.  Successful authors rattle off two or three books per year, leaving (I suppose) little time for editing by the author, although the publisher may do a lot.  Writers of short and flash fiction, who have a high expectation of their pieces being accepted, knock off stories before breakfast and press the submit button on their computers with toast and marmalade still on their fingers.  A writer friend wrote a competition entry on the night of its deadline and was still beavering away past ten o’clock, eleven o’clock…  She eventually submitted at about five to midnight and she won.  True story!

But take me, on the other hand?  Well… A short story or flash, or a non-fiction article, I will put away for a few days after completing the actual writing, or longer if life gets in the way.  Going back to a story after a spell of ‘life’ inevitably gives a writer a different perspective, with lots of new bright ideas.  Sometimes I wonder if these truly improve the piece.  The longer the interval, the more revision!

The Novel, however, I composed between leaving one teaching post and taking up another.  I made jolly sure I finished it on the morning before I met my new line manager in the afternoon to discuss my timetable.  Inevitably, the poor thing got left for a while as I got into my new job.  Of course, there have been not one edit, but several, each some time apart.  You go on editing and editing, fitting it (as you suppose) to each publisher to whom you submit in turn. 

…And you wonder that I’m an insecure writer?

Responses to Writing You Don’t Expect

Greetings, Insecure Writers and many apologies for the enormous heading. I’m working on it. I’m working on it.

Congratulations to all who have been published over the last month or so. Sadly, that is not me – hence my insecurity – but I have been knee-deep in doing other things, including refurbishing this blog and my book blog, Dear Reader. Oh, that heading. I will have to do something about it soon.

This month our optional question is: has any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn’t expect? If so, did it surprise you?

My answer is yes and yes. Sometimes it’s my fault for writing something misleading in the text, but there is a huge difference between a careless mistake and deliberately not including too much detail so that the reader has to work some things out for himself/herself. Many times I read a story and at the end wonder what it’s all about, but, when I go back through it a second time, I pick up hooks and nuances which bring it all together. Literary writers who make readers work hard in this way must be prepared for said readers to understand their work differently, or plain get it wrong.

I like to share new pieces with my writing groups, online and face-to-face, and, although one doesn’t – and shouldn’t – expect unqualified praise all the time, the quality of feedback one receives… let us say… varies.

In one of my stories, an English girl student abroad makes friends with a male English ghost. They connected because they were English and homesick, but so many people giving feedback assumed that the two would fall in love and wouldn’t/couldn’t accept a platonic male-female friendship.

The worst bit of feedback I received though was on The Novel, which is set in the 1980s. I had been sending chapters of it to my online writing group for several months and the response of one particular writer was becoming increasingly peevish. ‘Marya is too much like an adult,’ she wrote. ‘All teenagers are concerned about these days is friends and Facebook.’ Yeah, right, Facebook in the 1980s! However, this lady did signpost me to the point that Marya didn’t have any friends, and I built that into the storyline.

Blog(s) Make-Over

What does a writer do when his/her writing project ends? I finished incorporating my editor’s edits into The Novel about a fortnight ago and, although I was keen to finish, completing the job left in an empty void. Of course, The Novel project isn’t complete at all because I haven’t yet found a publisher for this great work of literature, but I have reached a natural pause, where I’m awaiting my lovely editor’s further advice.

So, what next? I carried out substantial work on the Association of Christian Writers’ website (always ongoing), made Star Wars curtains for my grandson’s bedroom (see left) and then turned my attention to refurbishing this Write On blog and my book blog, Dear Reader. You will note here the pale green background, which I really like, and the stream photo in the header. I like this too, but wish I could extend it across the whole page. You will probably also have been knocked back by the font size of the post heading. Apologies but I cannot make it any smaller. I have spent hours looking at WordPress themes – free ones, of course, because I’m such a tight so-and-so – and in the end I had to weigh the attractive green background against other deficiencies. I might have changed it next time you come around.

The refurb will be done bit-by-bit. I’m also looking at categories and tagging, watching what other bloggers are doing and engaging with them. I am very grateful to those book bloggers who responded to my requests for advice, despite knowing me only virtually. Most bloggers are coy about their views but I’m not. I want more, for both Write On and Dear Reader.

I’m inviting you to take another look at Dear Reader. (See how I’m dropping hints by giving you the link twice?) So far I’ve written four reviews of four books and, of course, review-writing is very good for all writers. They say we should read but we can’t just run our eyes along the text, follow the story and decide whether we liked the book or not. We need to go in deeper, not in a sort of literary criticism/English literature degree sort of way, but to look at how the writer used words, storyline and character-development. We writers are not supposed to use adverbs, but so many published writers do, even contemporary ones. Was the plot tidy, with everything resolved? If not, was this due to writer’s carelessness or getting bogged down (as I nearly did in The Novel – only nearly though), or a deliberate literary device? How did they describe the way characters looked and spoke? How did they describe what characters’ faces and bodies, clothes and attitudes and the setting? For me, there is always much to learn here – I’m a get-on-with-the-story writer – and, when I’m reading, I have to make myself go back and read descriptions. And what about tone? Pretty difficult to pin down, isn’t it, but we have to try. Of course, reviewers don’t include all this in their reviews, but to write an effective review, you need to be aware of these things. Reviewing is writers’ mental Pilates, and good for us.

A Risk-Taker? Me?

First Wednesday of the month and Insecure Writers’ Support Group day. I forgot last month. How can I show my face again? I really wish there was some way in which I could align the text to the top of this WordPress block. It annoys me every time I start writing a blog post. Anybody any ideas?

I haven’t got much to report, except that I’m continuing to incorporate my editor’s edits into The Novel. It’s taking a long time and, as I’m realising, the slower you go, the more likely you are to pick up unforced errors.

In the meantime, I have relaunched my reading blog, Dear Reader, and reviewed The Victorians by A N Wilson. My previous post on Dear Reader was written in June 2018. As our question for this month of April is about risk-taking, I can tell you that I took a risk in this post by severely criticising an established author. Read it and you will see. I don’t think he’ll be publishing quotes from my review on his flyleaf.

Now, Insecure Writers, I need your support and advice, please: does anyone have any hints or advice for promoting a book/reading blog, please? Are there any book review blogging networks or blog-hops which I should get into? I know that some book bloggers attain mouth-watering high numbers of hits but mine wasn’t doing so in 2018 and I’ve no reason to believe it will now, unless I do something about it.

In general, I am not a risk taker. I’m a insecure writer, am I not? I normally write from first person pov because it works for me. I have however written one piece with an unreliable narrator, the Lorry Drivers’ Book Club, currently on FictionJunkies.

In the current climate, writers are not encouraged to take risks, in form or in content. As I rapidly discovered when I talked to other writers, there are things we just don’t do, darling – use adverbs, for instance, or anything other than ‘said’ or ‘says’ when writing dialogue. ‘Show don’t tell’. Every piece of fiction must have a story arc, following a defined trajectory. I am currently reading a book by an early twentieth century author who broke every one of these rules and I’m relishing it. I think I will take a few risks in my next piece with adverbs and ‘he shouted’ and ‘she exclaimed’ and a bit of telling.

Time to Write?

I don’t have any time to write, but, when I look at what I’m doing when I’m not writing, it seems that I don’t have any time to do those activities either. I suspect that I’m attempting to do too many different activities. Writing-life balance? I don’t have any. There’s also those procrastinating and time-wasting activities, like watching the family of ducks in our garden.

Writing-wise, I am still… still, still, still… editing… editing… editing The Novel, taking in my editor’s feedback. I was going to enter it for a competition last week but, last weekend, I decided against this as, when I looked at the market again, I didn’t like the look of it, even though it was recommended by Writing Magazine. It was as well I made this decision as I would never have finished the editing process in time and I felt better when I had removed the pressure off myself. Now, in my Bullet Journal I set myself the goal of ‘Making progress on Novel’ every day but I don’t enjoy editing. I’d much rather be writing new and fresh stuff.

Today I haven’t touched The Novel, because I’ve written a review of The Victorians by A N Wilson on my Dear Reader blog. This is first post on there for almost three years. I stopped posting because nobody was reading and now I’ve dissed a famous and well-regarded author, which makes me feel a little nervous.

And it’s Easter Day today. For forty days Husband and I were off alcohol but we did enjoy our glass of wine with our meal tonight. Happy Easter to you all… and cheers.

Keep on Blogging… And Editing

Must keep blogging weekly. Must not get into the habit of thinking one more week without posting doesn’t really matter. Even though this week’s been uneventful.

Over the latter part of last week, I was incorporating my editor’s edits into The Novel. It’s been a long time since I received her helpful feedback and I should have done this before now, but – in mitigation – I have been struggling with headaches, as you know, Dear Reader. I was getting along nicely with the editor’s edits during the latter part of January and February, but then I became involved in web development for the Association of Christian Writers website mega-time and work have started calling me in again.

It took quite an effort to re-open the novel file and the file on which I had set down what I needed to do. I was intending to do this all week. Then suddenly is was Thursday evening, I was cooking dinner and time was running out fast. So I took the laptop into the kitchen, set it up on the kitchen worktop and just looked at The Novel files for a few minutes, just to re-acquaint myself. The following afternoon, I was about to start work on it again and, although I was forestalled by a Major Computer Crisis, about which I ranted on Facebook, I was able to restart editing using the laptop again and I made quite a bit of progress. That quick orientation session on Thursday really helped.

Over the latter part of last week, I was incorporating my editor’s edits into The Novel. It’s been a long time since I received her helpful feedback and I should have done this before now, but – in mitigation – I have been struggling with headaches, as you know, Dear Reader. I was getting along nicely with the editor’s edits during the latter part of January and February, but then I became involved in web development for the Association of Christian Writers website mega-time and work started calling me in again. It took quite an effort to re-open the novel file and the file on which I had set down what I needed to do. I was intending to do this all week. Then suddenly is was Thursday evening, I was cooking dinner and time was running out fast. So I took the laptop into the kitchen, set it up on the kitchen worktop and just looked at The Novel files for a few minutes, just to re-acquaint myself. The following afternoon, I was about to start work on it again and, although I was forestalled by a Major Computer Crisis, about which I ranted on Facebook, I was able to restart editing using the laptop again and I made quite a bit of progress. That quick orientation session on Thursday really helped.

I’ve had to make time. I’ve been using spare half hours at work and other brief intervals which occur during the day, for example, before the online church service today, after the online service. A good writing friend advised me to do this two years ago and – hey, Janey – I’m doing it at last. One of my headache-avoiding rules is no computer after tea, but recently I have broken this rule. Here I am typing this after 9.30pm. The headaches are no worse and I am shifting stuff that needs to be done, not just The Novel but other matters as well. Once the Novel has hit the submitting road again, though, I will follow my rule again.

On Tuesday I posted on Facebook about my success with The Lorry Drivers’ Book Club on FictionJunkies and my article on reading during lockdown in Together. I’m a Brit and I grew up in the era when boasting was the biggest no-no, so I hesitated before doing this, but I’ve been overwhelmed by the congratulations and good wishes I’ve received. The next time I see someone else’s book or story posted on social media, I hope to be the first to say ‘well done’.

Over the last few Saturdays, I’ve been attending Association of Christian Writers events, variously, on self-publishing, historical fiction and children’s fiction. Self-publishing is something I’m toying with for a long time. I have had several historical short stories published and The Novel is historical fiction – or so I thought. How do you define historical fiction? The answer is that, although fifty years ago is the most frequent parameter, different organisations define it differently. The Novel, set during the Solidarity period in Poland in the 1980s, may be period fiction. I always learn something from ACW events, even when the subject is not something that is directly up my street. Even though I don’t write for children, one of the speakers at the writing for children event yesterday struck a chord with me when she spoke of the need to find ‘true north’ in plotlines. I won’t go into detail. Do I need to? I think the term speaks for itself.

So, onwards and upwards into next week. I need to have The Novel all in order and ready to enter a competition with a 31 March deadline.

A Little Progress

I know I haven’t been around much recently. Close readers of Write On will possibly recall that I was having a bad time with rejections, which is not good for confidence and makes for depressing blog posts. No change there, I’m afraid. However, two things I wrote before this bad spell, but which I knew would be slow coming, have finally arrived.

My article on reading during Lockdown is in the March edition of Together magazine. An enormous thank you to all who took part in my survey and provided me with my ammunition. Together is the magazine by Christian Resources Together, for Christian booksellers and publishers. It would infringe copyright for me to give a link to my report article here, but if you take Together – or if you are a member of Association of Christian Writers and have received your .PDF copy – it’s towards the back.

In addition, my story ‘The Lorry Drivers’ Book Club’ is now in Fiction Junkies. (Fiction Junkies is the successor to PennyShorts, which may ring some bells with some of you.) I am in august company: Helen Yendall (whose blog I follow), Christopher Fielden (who provides invaluable services to writers in the form of directories of ‘calls to submissions’ and competitions) and Catherine Edmunds (who I used to know from Writers’ Dock days). Members of Sudbury Writing Group may remember ‘Lorry Drivers’ Book Club’ as one of our monthly prompts before Lockdown. I wasn’t the only writer who wrote to it and I wonder if members of our group have had any luck with submissions written to this title.

Meanwhile I’ve been doing a lot of web development, mainly for Association of Christian Writers’ website, making curtains for my daughter and, in between, attempting to incorporate editor’s comments on The Novel. Although I entered a short story comp with Silver Apples yesterday, I haven’t been submitting many pieces recently. The acknowledgment I received from Silver Apples today more or less summed up how I’m feeling at the moment:

Thank you for entering our short story competition… We know how hard it can be to take another chance on a piece of work that has been turned down from somewhere else. Thank you for trusting us with it.

In addition, I’ve attended two Zoom events organised by the ACW, one on self-publishing and the second on writing historical fiction. Next week, I’ll be at a third, on writing for children. ACW has always held events, face-to-face events in venues, up until last year, but holding them on Zoom has made it so much easier for people to be join in these activities. I’m also attempting to do a bit more reading, widening my knowledge of the markets where I would like to submit. I don’t see the point of adopting a scattergun approach to submissions.

Talking of reading, I’m thinking of re-opening my reading blog, Dear Reader. Would you read it?

Friends in Blogosphere?

First Wednesday of the month and Insecure Writers’ Support Group. This month we are writing about special friendships made in blogosphere.

The three people who comment most often on my blog are friends from the Association of Christian Writers who I have met face-to-face. I believe they follow me because they know me the person – which is probably not what those who set this task want to hear. Another very loyal commenter on my posts is Alex Cavanaugh, our Ninja.

My friends from school, who I meet from time to time at school reunions, tell me they know what I’m doing because they read my blog, but they rarely comment. Of course, it works both ways. They have a window into my life and I in theirs, and the other bloggers I read. Sometimes I surprise people by what I happen to know.

Blogging is more than just a sharing of the happenings of the week. It can be a unique and intimate process, depending on how ‘confidential’ (the Jane Austen meaning) we bloggers choose to be. It is one of the few electronic things we do which does not reflect what previous generations used to do using pen and paper. You might have written letters but they would have been addressed to a specific person known to you, and at best read by two or three. In blogging, you put it out there and hope someone will pick it up. To be more frank than is probably good for me, my blog doesn’t attract an awful lot of traffic. I believe that many whose blogs do receive interest know more people in real life.

However, I have enjoyed getting to know a few other bloggers who I haven’t met face-to-face and probably never will. One of them has stopped writing and now sells art products online – what a valuable friend to have when you need to source a birthday or Christmas present! Another, a writer, has listened to my wails about not getting published, been very supportive in many ways, including putting me in contact with an editor. Others are book bloggers, whose taste coincides with mine, and are always good for a recommendation for what to read next.

But the question is supposed to be optional. The literary world seems to be heaping rejections upon my head and I’m struggling to get my head around edits to The Novel so that it looks more professional, not like something written by a newly (oops!). My name is Rosemary and I am an insecure writer.

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