Spring? What Spring?

iwsg300Spring?  No spring here, but time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

Spring is not a good time for writing.  There are too many distractions, the lure of sunshine, warm weather and the great outside.  As I sit at my computer, I see the weeds rising up through the window and, eventually, feel compelled to ‘do something about the garden’ or, on seeing cobwebs, spring cleaning.

Two weeks ago, we had a short, premature burst of summer, but winter has resumed at full blast.  I started writing this post on the last day of April, wearing my thick winter trousers and two t-shirts and a jumper.  Outside, a gale was howling and rain coming down in buckets.  That evening, we lit a log fire.  Aah!  That’s writing weather.

Over the winter I have made slow progress on The Novel, but at least I’ve made some progress.  When I start writing – anything – I’m very excited, quite certain that this must surely be a great work of literature, even though there may be… just one or two things to be ironed out.  Unfortunately, though, the more I write and edit my novel, the more insecure I become about it, the more glitches I can see, even though I’ve fixed many, many inconsistencies, plot-holes and character holes.   The story itself and the characters seemed great, until I started writing.  I could never compare myself and my writing to Michelangelo (the sculptor, not the Mutant Hero Turtle) but I love the quote below (thanks to Brainy Quote).

michelangelo1

 

 

 

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Writing Life Cloudy and Filled with Rain? What then?

Tomorrow is the first Wednesday of the month and Insecure Writers’ Support Group day, where we members bring out all the insecurities we have been trying to suppress since the first Wednesday of last month.  Forgive me for being early;  I’ve got a moment now, so I’m getting on with it.

This month we are asked what we do to keep writing when our writing life is cloudy and filled with rain.

  • If I’m trying to write a piece and it’s just not working, I don’t keep writing.  I stop.  I go and do something else.  When I want to sort out a knotty plot hole or dialogue which won’t go right, I do a job in the house – and after a while fresh perspectives pop into my mind.  Even making a cup of tea or even going to the loo helps.
  • If the cloudiness and rain is due to lack of time… I don’t know.  The obvious thing would be to give up other activities so as to make more time for writing – but what?  Give up work and starve?  Many writers have.  Stop spending time with family?  Most writers get pretty grumpy when they are trying to write and husbands/wives/children insist of talking to them or, worse, want them to do things.  What is it?…  Oh.  You’ve made me a cup of tea.  Er… thanks.
  • If I’m getting rejections… well, of course, I’m totally professional, set the rejection aside and sub elsewhere immediately.  Yeah, right.  If I’m getting a lot of rejections, or more than I anticipate, yes, my life is indeed filled with rain and I do become depressed.  One way I deal with it is to comfort write, that is, write the piece I enjoy most, probably my novel.
  • Some authors write best when they’re in the throes of depression.  Some even write themselves out of depression.  If my (real) life becomes cloudy and filled with rain, I can’t write at all.

Celebrating Reaching Writing Goals

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, so it’s Insecure Writers Support Group day, where we writers write about those things which undermine our confidence as writers.

This month we’re asked to write about how we celebrate when we achieve a writing goal or finish a story.  This is a difficult one for we novelists.  It’s not unusual for a novel to take ten years to write (will be much longer in my case).   I have completed novels before, a long time ago, but I was writing them in my own time and in my own way and, although I went through the motions of submitting them to publishers, I didn’t  realistically expect anyone else to read them.  I’m very self-conscious about my writing.  The idea of publicising a book I’ve written is just mind-bogglingly appalling.

Last January, at the Association of Christian Writers retreat, we were each of us asked to talk about our wip.  I was determined to keep it cool, along the lines of ‘Nothing much’, but,  maybe,  I said too little because, when somebody asked me a question, something burst inside me.  Annie Try, our wonderful chair, had to stop me speaking, because otherwise everybody would’ve missed their coffee break.  I followed them to the coffee servery, shaking.  I felt like I’d been stripped naked amongst them.  But, afterwards, several people came up to me and said they would be happy to do a preliminary read.  I haven’t given it to any of them yet, because the novel’s still not finished, but I’m very grateful for all the offers.  It’s taken me some time to realise that being able to take myself out of my writing closet and talk about my novel has been my greatest success so far.

IWSG: What Do I Love About Historical Fiction Genre?

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We IWSG-ers are asked, this month, about what we love about the genre we write in most often.  I write modern-historical, what some publishers would call contemporary, stories set in 1970s and 1980s.  According to the Historical Novel Society, a proper historical novel ‘must have been written at least fifty years after the events described’.
You’re expecting me to say the research is the thing I love most, aren’t you, Dear Reader?  But you’d be wrong.  As a history student (a long time ago), I spend three years with my bum on a seat in various libraries around Manchester, researching.  I would often find myself sitting next to one or more of my history honours colleagues, most frequently, next to Anne, who is now a professor of medieval history.  In those days, libraries were supposed to be silent, but we used to chat and giggle… about boys mostly.  So, nowadays, I do my initial research impatiently, wanting to get on with writing the story, and then further research, as required, as I go along.
What I really love about historical fiction is immersing myself in another era.  I love the challenge of writing about people who don’t have all the mod cons we have, how they communicated without computers, for instance.  My lot had telephones… some of the time, when their telecommunications weren’t cut off for political reasons.   I like using contemporary language, referring to contemporary issues and, especially, pop music.  I suppose there is an element of nostalgia in it… which brings me on to another point.  What I have found is that, in writing modern historical, I need a lot of background information about how ordinary people lived their lives.  This is more necessary for me in my modern historical sub-genre than for writers in the proper historical genre, because there are people still alive who lived that life and who would know if I get it wrong.  What I really would like is a library of personal reminisces, written by those people.  Couldn’t we writers write one?
The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day, when we post on our own blogs, about our doubts and the fears, which we may (or may not) have conquered, our struggles and triumphs.  We also give support and encouragement to each other.

Schedule for Writing and Publishing?

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The day has come… for the Insecure Writers Support Group.  This month, we are asked what sort of schedule we have in place for writing and publishing.  I sort of alluded to this in my previous post (about New Year Resolutions).  My biggest issue at the moment is that I’m teaching and doing other (paid) jobs, also I’m Competitions Manager for the Association of Christian Writers and involved in leading services and preaching at church.  Contrary to what everybody believes about teachers (‘You get your long holidays, don’t you?’ Snigger, snigger, snigger.  Btw, we don’t.  Not in the adult sector), we work very hard, preparing lessons and doing all the paperwork required by management.  Moreover, although I enjoy my role in the ACW enormously, it does take up a lot of my time, as does what I do in church.  So…. a very crowded life, even though I retired, once, from full-time teaching, and this year I’ve got to think about what has to go.  (Put it another way, what I can afford to go.)

Photo of your blogger.
Me, in author pose.

Last month, I did myself an Author Photo – using the selfie tool on my iPhone (see right).

My schedule so far (not necessarily in this order) is pretty ropey:

  1. Edit The Novel whenever I get a spare moment.
  2. On completion of 1, consider structure of The Novel and re-edit.
  3. Write article on rejection for Christian Writer (already pitched).
  4. Read books in later historical genres.
  5. Read and review books published by Instant Apostle (because I’m in their Facebook group and who knows… they might be interested.)
  6. On completion of 1 and 2, seek an editor (probably seeking advice of someone in ACW).
  7. By 1 November 2018, be in a position to start Nano with a new book!

… And I think that’s enough to be going on with. However ropey my schedule seems to you, Dear Reader, I certainly won’t get around to doing anything more.

IWSG: Regrets, Completions, What Worked and Didn’t Work

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This is going to have to be a very short post, given that it’s already eleven pm, and I’m knackered.  I’m writing to the IWSG prompts.

2.  What worked for me this year?  I worked, at the day-job.  Hence, very little writing done.  Today, I discovered I have a learning observation on Monday, so I’ve spent literally all day writing a lesson plan and presentation.

3.  What do I hope to achieve next year, in terms of writing and publishing?  Some more stories placed.  Well, let’s be brutally frank.  Stories can’t be placed unless they’re submitted.  Let’s make that more stories submitted.

4.  Special skills I’m interested in?  Improved social media skills.  I fear my posts are dead boring.  And I really must get into Twitter.  (However many times have I said that to myself?)

Cup of tea
My favourite cup.

5.  Personal life?  Yes, I do have one of those.  I have a lovely family.  I have friends who I love seeing.  I have a church who need my time and attendance too; I’ve just taken up preaching.  I need to strike a balance between all these things.

  1. What do I want to complete?  Some pieces of writing.

…I’m having a cup of tea and a biscuit, then I’m going to bed.

Nano – It’s Good for Insecurity, But I’m not Attempting It

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No, I’m not doing Nano this year.  Don’t even mention Nano to me.  I’m exhausted.  My stomach is out-of-order and has been, on and off, since Sunday.  Then there’s the four-letter word – WORK.  I’ve just got enough time to write my Insecure Writers’ Support Group post.

You see, Ofsted came to my college at the beginning of this week.  (Non-Brits, you’re so lucky not to have Ofsted.)  In the UK, this organisation inspects schools, colleges, childminders and any other place where it can extend its remit.)  Accordingly, last weekend was spent rushing around preparing all the paperwork they were expected to want (and even some teaching materials) in case an inspector came into my classroom, something which – statistically – was unlikely to happen.  Except that it did, on Monday afternoon.  I was one of just three tutors to be visitated in my college site.

Two years ago, when I was in between teaching jobs, I did do Nano and I reached my 50,000 words.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, particularly the camaraderie online and being able to give myself the excuse to prioritise writing over everything else.  Seeing your word total rising and rising every day bolsters your confidence like nothing else, makes you feel like a proper writer, that that publishing contract is a mere detail.

However, although I finished in the Nano sense – and I have a certificate, and I earned a half-price version of Scrivener through it –  I didn’t reach the end of my novel’s storyline.  Also, later, I was told by a commissioning editor that publishers took adult novels in the region of 80,000 words plus.  I did, however, manage to reach the proper ‘end’ of my novel on the morning before I went for my induction at the college where I teach now (yes, the one with unwelcome visitors).

So, sadly, I will not be writing my next opus this month.  I will, however, continue to edit, and re-draft the 2015 novel.  Very best of luck, everybody who’s attempting Nano this year.

Accidental/Deliberate Use of Personal Information

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Wednesday is the day for the Insecure Writers’ Support Group.  I’m writing this post early because I’m about to go on holiday and my iPad is refusing to charge.  (I’m sure computer equipment has a mind of its own, as well as a memory.)

This month I have managed to carry out quite a bit of editing of The Novel, although I’m nowhere near the point of submitting, or even sending to a professional editor.  I wonder why it is we always feel more secure about our writing when we’re at this stage.  I wonder, wonder, wonder…

This month we’re asked if we have ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose.  Well, my main character in The Novel lives in a town very close to me, the town where I say I live when people ask, and where I worked for twenty years – although she’s there in the 1980s, when I wasn’t, which means I have to check that schools, hospitals, roads etc were in the same place then as now.

The real problem for me is that, if I’m not careful, all my characters tend, after a few chapters, to become me.  I’m on my guard against this more than I used to be, because I’m aware of the problem.  Someone once said to me that I should let my characters just develop on their own, and become who they become, but everything comes out of my imagination, doesn’t it?  Possible strategies for dealing with it (seeing as I’m a woman) might be to write about a male leading character – perhaps.

Looking forward to reading other writers’ posts, iPad permitting.

 

Insecure Writers’ Support Group – Surprising Myself

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Tomorrow is Insecure Writers’ Support Group day, but I’m writing this early because tomorrow (Wednesday) I’m travelling to London, to the Albert Hall, to hear/see the Proms.  They’re playing Shostakovitch’s Symphony number 11.  Very exciting.

The summer has not been a good time for writing.  Not enough time.  Too many other things to do, nice things like a holiday to Ireland – and Proms.  Now the evenings are drawing in and the light in the mornings, shining brightly through our windows only last week, has suddenly become dull, and I’m switching on the lights before making breakfast.  The summer is over.  Like many, I think of the year as beginning in September, because that’s when the academic year begins.

I have got very cross with myself for not doing any writing during the summer, especially as I’m not teaching.  It’s been very difficult gathering up the threads of my novel every time when writing sessions are so far apart.  However, I surprised myself last week by doing just that and carrying out some really useful editing.  Note to self:  must stop wanting to alter (improve?) the action in the beginning chapters.

View of Himilayas from Shimla, India.
View of Himilayas from Shimla, India.

Last February, I truly surprised myself by writing a poem, in common metre (6, 8, 6,8) for reading aloud, to pre-school children, all about dinosaurs.  I’ve always convinced myself that I can’t do children’s and I can’t do poetry.  Given the topic The Sea by my writing group, I scribbled the lines of my poem whilst on holiday in Shimla (in the very north of India), on those tiny scraps of notepaper provided in hotel bedrooms, singing to myself Amazing Grace (which, according to Wikipedia, is in common metre).  There, Sudbury Writing Group, I did it for you.

Pet Peeves In Reading, Writing and Editing

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Today is the first Wednesday of the month, and it’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group day!  We are asked to write about our pet peeves in reading, writing and editing, so please allow me to have a really good moan.

Peeve 1 – Reading

I review – more or less – everything I read on my Dear Reader blog and it peeves me that no one reads my reviews.  It’s not as if no-one reads book reviews online because many other book reviewers blogs do attract interest, so, in an open and non-peevish way, I’m asking you, my fellow bloggers, what could be improved?  (This Dear Reader blog text here is a link, if you wouldn’t mind checking it out.)

Peeve 2 – Writing

No time.  (The really helpful and supportive Facebook friends who read the Facebook post generated by my last post on this blog will have heard all this before.).  The last time I did any proper writing, that is, of my novel, was on a train to Newcastle and back, on 8 July.  In the meantime, I’ve been working, seeing friends and looking after family.  Moreover, on Sunday, one-and-only-husband and I go on holiday to Ireland for ten days.  I love to see my friends and family, because, as I’ve said before, I’m not all writer, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  It’s just that there aren’t enough hours in the day.  Another blogger (not known to me personally) has given up her day-job, but she, unlike me, is an established womag writer.   Dare I take the plunge?  No.  Could I partly take the plunge?  I’m plucking up courage.

Peeve 3 – Writing and Editing

Author's Cat Sitting by BookcaseMy cat is old, very timid and very loving.  She likes to sit on my knee, between me and the computer.   Actually, she prefers to stand on my knee between me and my computer, so I find myself stretching my arms around her head (one end) and tail (other end) to reach the keyboard and looking over her back to see the screen.  This is distracting when writing.  It also makes editing more difficult, because she sits on the touchpad; my computer is surprising responsive to her paws and bottom, highlighting and deleting whole passages at whim (her whim).

Generally, I am feeling very insecure about my writing at the moment.  A few weeks ago, I saw a flyer for the Mslexia novel comp; the deadline is in mid-September and, if shortlisted, I would have to have the whole thing completed by mid-November.  When I was on a roll, writing on trains to and from Newcastle, this sounded just about do-able, but, now, I know, it’s not.  Ditto, any possibility that I might do Nano again.  At this moment, I feel that The Novel and I are becoming shipwrecked.