Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Summer solstice

My ancestors would have no doubt rejoiced and spent today skipping merrily around a field before drinking some dodgy crushed-buttercup beverage. They would probably have regretted it the next day, but would have licked a toad believing that was the latest remedy to cure buttercup hangovers. I know my people.

I’d rather like to be skipping around a field but it’s a work day. Skipping is most definitely frowned upon within the office, although I was caught dancing in the ladies bathroom. I’m always a little out of sync with the corporate world. Some days it shows more than others.

I haven’t actually stepped out of the office today. I have looked at the natural world from the window (the sky, the clouds, a tree) and watched a discarded plastic bag sail beyond the buildings. It’s not much of a homage to nature, is it?

But still, here I am, sharing a story, enjoying your fellowship. Our hearth may be virtual but the symbolism is the same. The solstice is all about creativity, about story-telling and companionship. It is a day for giving thanks and making provisions for the season to come. So if you are hoarding stories like a squirrel, today is the day to check your stores!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Those Rejection Blues

One of my short stories didn’t make it in a competition recently, and all it seems to take is one teensy weeny rejection for me to think everything I write is utter crap. Writing is such a strange thing – there are no laurels on which to rest; you are only as good as the last thing you wrote, and if that was rejected then forget past success – everything in the entire world is rubbish.

Rejection reverts me into my sulky teenage self – I want to paint the walls black and listen to Pink Floyd.

When I’m in this mood, I am desperate for distractions. I tweet; I youtube old music videos; I research into the tiniest thing; I read. And then when I have nothing written, it is not ‘my’ fault that I didn’t write – it was the distractions what did it! They are to blame, those pesky shiny things just a click away, not me. It’s funny how the subconscious works.

The worst thing about rejection is how everything crashes down, the fragile house of cards that I seem to construct around each story, and then reality whacks me in the face with a soggy slipper. Everything in my life suddenly seems crystal clear, and not in a good way. It paves the way for the inner critic, the Aunt Aggie’s of the world, and hands them a free license and a mega-phone. For a few days I listen in stupefied silence – yes, I can’t write; no, I don’t know what I’m doing with my life; yes, I agree that’s rubbish; no, I don’t have a clue how I’m going to change things. The inner critic will take this chance to have a pop about everything – not just my writing, but the way I look, what I wear – it’s a sort of horribly gleeful internal scourging that is as painful as it sounds.

But then I’ll wake up and look at the world outside the window, the sun and the trees, and think, oh well. That was yesterday. Today is brand new. Anything can happen. And so my first card will be erected, and then another and another, and eventually I’ll have a new house of cards, and a new bit of writing.

Remind me next time to use superglue!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Any previous, guv’nor?

On my blog profile I had put that I was working on my first novel while ‘ignoring the previous three hiding in disgrace under the bed.’ But this was, in fact, wrong. I just didn’t realise it.

Part of my learning process of writing a novel has been appreciating just what such an undertaking actually means. I had a serious think about my fiction writing the other day, and this is the grand tally over the years:
  • One complete adult novel - 2007 onwards
  • Three complete short stories currently ‘out in the field’- 2010 onwards
  • Three adult ideas that each only made it as far as three chapters, with not even a chapter plan between them. - 2002 - 2006
  • Two complete illustrated children’s picture books (one too short) - 1997 - 2000
  • One first draft of a finished mid-grade children’s novel (although also short in actual word-count, I think) - 1990 - 1991
  • Umpteen fun and false starts in all sizes and guises. - 1982 onwards

So really the current novel is the first – the first that I have planned, plotted, sweated, slaved and whooshed its way to creation and back again. (I did work bloody hard on the children’s picture book stories though.)

I’m grateful to all the other ideas as they have each helped me get this far, but I am deluding myself to think that any were actual finished novels – not in the grand novelly scheme of things.

So this is an interesting thought to have, and I’ll only whisper it once in case it gives me indigestion.

This current novel might not be the first one that gets published. It could be the practice novel for the better one I have yet to write.

Of course, I will cry buckets if that happens. I will declaim life is not fair; I will stare tragically into space ‘at all times’, and I will adopt a pathetic sigh. But thinking about it, as much as I love and adore this novel, it is unusual for a ‘first’ novel to get published. And as much as I hope my novel may be an exception, it may not, to be honest with you.

I’m not at this stage giving up on it. In fact, I am about to give it the best chance of its life.

*cue dramatic pause*

*cue annoying change of subject*

Funnily enough, there is something rather liberating about thinking that the next novel – the one that takes all these lessons and graduates with a PHD - could be the idea that makes it. But maybe that's because I'm close to sending this one off again (end of June, I am thinking) and the thought of it makes me feel slightly sick.

Perhaps we need to adapt that old saying – 'every day and in every way our writing is getting better and better.' Say it with me!

Do you have any full-length novels hiding away in a drawer?

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Exciting Thing! (Revisited)

My second blog post is up on the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook website!

For those that don’t know, the Yearbook is like the industry bible – full of advice and contact details – and I’ve been buying a copy since I was sixteen. My blog post muses upon 'Pantsers and Plotters' and explains which method I use when writing.

(Edit: My third blog post is also up today! I called it 'Music While You Work' but it has been renamed 'What music do you write to?', which explains the post much better. Hope you enjoy!)

It would be absolutely wonderful if you could leave me a comment over there – I’ll reply to all. Come and say hi!

Here is the link to the Pantsers and Plotters post (and picture of me – yikes!)

Here is the link to the What music do you write to? post

Hooray - happy sunny Thursday to you! Have a picture of my cat Abigail laying claim to a tissue box. That one paw means business.

Edit: Thank you to everyone who left a comment! Much appreciated.