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.
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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.

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.

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.

 

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.

What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started writing?

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First Wednesday of the month and time for the Insecure Writers’ Support Group.

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that I need to have contact with other writers.  For years I hid myself away in my spare bedroom, writing to my own specifications and user requirements.   When I ‘came out’, by posting my work on an online writing site, I was gobsmacked by the sort of feedback I received, some of it obvious stuff and other things that had never occurred to me.  You see, I’ve never studied literature or taken the MA in creative writing, so there were enormous gaps in my skills and knowledge, which I am gradually filling with support from my fellow writers through:

  • online writing sites
  • writing groups (some online and some face-to-face)
  • subbing my work
  • entering writing competitions
  • blogging
  • reading writing magazines and online articles
  •  being with members of the (British) Association of Christian Writers.

I’m still no expert but I’m sure I know a great deal more about the craft of writing and the way the publishing industry works than when I was tapping away in my spare bedroom.  It’s taking me a very long time to get where I want to be, where I thought I was.   I want to finish my novel and get it published.  It’s a long haul.  It always was a long haul but it no longer seems impossible.

Insecure Writers Support Group – I’m A New Member

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I’m definitely an insecure writer.  You name me a -living – writer who isn’t.

Last month, I joined the Insecure Writers Support Group.  I’ve been reading Patsy Collins IWSG posts for years and I really don’t know why I didn’t get round to this before .

We IWSG members are asked to post on our blogs on the first Wednesday of every month, about our doubts, the fears we have conquered, our struggles and triumphs, offering words of encouragement for fellow-writers who might be struggling.  We also visit others in the group – hence the Twitter handle and hashtag in the tags to this blog post.

The biggest fear I have conquered this month is a very practical one:  how to travel from my home, deep in the Essex countryside, to the ACW Writers Retreat in the depths of the Yorkshire countryside.  Neither I, nor my ancient Ford Ka, could face the 250 mile drive.  Then, in the middle of May, my wonderful friend, Fiona, from Leeds offered me a lift from Leeds to the retreat house.  (Thank you so much, Fiona.)   I therefore booked a train from Peterborough to Leeds, but the plan to do the two-hour drive from home to Peterborough and to park my ancient banger at Peterborough station for two nights was starting to appear more and more expensive and less and less workable. However, today, my husband announced that he is visiting a musician friend in Bury St Edmunds on the day I’m travelling.  So he’s driving me to Bury (an hour’s drive, in his much better car), from where I can catch a connecting train to Peterborough.    The ACW Retreat’s a week on Friday, 16 June.  Next month, I’ll tell you how it went.  For the first time since booking it, I’m really looking forward to it.

This month we IWSG-ers are also asked Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?   My answer is Yes, twice.  First, a long time ago, when I rattled off a very hurried novel, in the space of six months, and entered it for a national and very prestigious prize.  When the typed manuscript plopped back on my doormat after less than a week, on my husband’s birthday, I howled, but now I’m so pleased it got rejected, because, when I think about what I wrote and how I wrote it, I squirm.   The second occasion was when I wrote about a local holiday club, where I was helping.  When my article published in the local rag, about one sentence of mine was used and the rest, which the staff writer supplied, was inaccurate and misleading.  The holiday club leader had to apologise to the other helpers.

What got me back?  After the passage of quite a bit of time,  the stories that kept going round and round in my bed, and needed to be put into words.  One of the deals I have made with myself in the last few years is that I will never quit again.