Monday, 30 September 2013

NaNoWriMo

What another post? So soon?

It occurs to me that it is October tomorrow. That means we only have 85 days until Christmas. But aside from the fact that This Time Next Year would make a great stocking filler for any woman you know of a certain age i.e. any age but probably over 40ish, it also means that NaNoWriMo is approaching fast.

I've been aware of NaNoWriMo for several years and for ages, in spite of the fact that I knew what it was about, thought the No in it stood for November. Well, it could, couldn't it? But it actually stands for National Novel Writing Month as you will probably know if you're a writer reading this. Unless you're like me. 

Last year I participated in it for the first time and it was brilliant! And hard work.

The pluses:
If you stick with it and write fairly religiously you can come up with 50,000 words in one month and that's about half or more of an average novel;
um, I'm sure there must be some more pluses ...

Okay let's look at the negatives while I'm thinking:
it's the month before December i.e. when Christmas preparations are beginning in earnest (even if it's only shopping for a new party dress), and it's not a good time to be putting aside minutes/hours a day to be creative;
it can feel like writing to demand and that doesn't suit everyone (although as Dan Poynter said, If you wait for inspiration to write you're not a writer you're a waiter);
it's the month of my birthday and grand-daughter's birthday, which necessarily take large chunks of weekend to celebrate (that may not be relevant to you of course but I include it to take account of the fact that you will all have lives going on that may include significant events - and, because as Husband points out, I do like to tell people it's my birthday).

Back with the pluses, it's an incentive. Do you ever lack that? I know I do. Procrastination is one of my best friends, along with fear of failure and, inevitably, laziness. Having said that, when I commit to something I like to see it through, diets excepted of course. When I was sixteen I gave up sugar in my tea for Lent and I've never taken it since. So signing up for the program is the incentive I need to write regularly. To write to demand in fact. But if I want to be or to call myself a writer then writing to demand is what I should be doing.

And I make the time by not playing solitaire on the computer, not checking my Facebook page very 5 minutes, not hoovering (oops, didn't mean to mention that), not doing any one of the numerous time-wasting activities in which I normally indulge. And, yes, it can sometimes feel like a hardship but it's only for 30 days and at the end you get a huge chunk of novel. Must be worth doing.





Not quite a best seller ... yet

So I wrote a novel.

An aside: don't tell people you're writing a novel or they'll query its progress on every meeting and it gets boring shrugging and saying, 'Not a lot.' For you and for them. Alternatively, do tell people you're writing a novel so they can spur you on. (Which is sometimes known as nagging in our house.)

Another aside: I wrote about 300 words for this post, decided I was boring myself and if I'm boring myself - even allowing for the fact that I have a low boredom threshold - I must surely be boring any potential readers so deleted it.

When my novel received more rejections than there are applicants for Britain's Got Talent I metaphorically stuffed the manuscript in a drawer and forgot about it. 

Cue time-speeded-up music.
(I am omitting all the painful details - about how I cried and hoped and held my breath and cried some more - at this point because this blog isn't about me but about writing; all I want to do at this moment is establish my credentials for writing yet another 'helpful writing advice' blog.)

 Finally - because, really, why not? - I took the road more travelled and self-published. (Future article)

Great reviews, invitations to speak at ladies' groups, and lots of 'I loved your book so much I've lent it to my friends,' encouraged me to believe that maybe my writing wasn't as bad as I tended to think on my blackest days but still left me with sales only in the hundreds.

And now I've depressed myself. (A survey has found, and it has been well documented previously, that writers tend to suffer from depression. No surprises there.) (Future article.) And now I'm wondering just how this qualifies me to write a writing-focused blog. 

Maybe because my plan is to be honest, to tell you how it is for me but also how I want it to be for me and how I'm planning on achieving that whether it be publishing a best-seller or just dealing with the latest rejection.

I realise - and this lack of marketing nous is probably why sales are low - that I haven't even mentioned the title of my novel. Let's put that right.

This Time Next Year is available from Amazon in both paperback and kindle formats.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Who says?

So you're probably wondering what qualification I have to substantiate my previous words - if the explanation itself isn't enough.

Well, I have an MA in Creative Writing but frankly that qualification is probably worth about as much as the paper on which it's written. For two years I spent an afternoon a week listening to proper writers talking about, well, all sorts of writery things. Occasionally I even did a bit of writing and to prove I'd learned something I had to present a portfolio of my work before I was granted the right to put the letters MA after my name.

I learned about narrative voice. I learned to end a sentence with the bit you want the reader to remember (rather than burying it in the middle somewhere). I learned that I shouldn't build up dramatic tension only to destroy it with a joke - a failing of mine. I also learned that you didn't have to be a wonderful writer in order to teach a class of writers.

I sound ungrateful; I'm not. It was fun. Expensive fun but at least now I have an MA in Creative Writing I don't feel I can justify going on any more writing evening classes. (Future article) At least not without feeling guilty. 

So I have a paper qualification but have I been published?

Yes, I have. And I've even been paid for it. (Future article)

I began by writing articles for magazines, largely Christian ones, and newspapers. That led to me - and my daughter - being approached and asked to write one and then two and then three books. we were living the dream.

In my case that dream floated along a little further and a ghost-written autobiography about a New York cop, for heaven's sake, took me to Hodder and the Big Apple.

Alongside all this non-fiction I was writing short stories, I failed to find the secret to breaking into the magazine story market, although I was a runner-up in Writing magazine's (Future article) annual ghost story competition, but found a home in Cambrensis, the magazine for Welsh writers, sadly now defunct, and was fortunate to have stories included in anthologies published by Honno and Parthian.  (Future article)

But I still didn't feel like a writer. Let's face it, the only thing that would make me feel like a writer would be a novel of mine reaching the top of the Sunday times best seller list. And for that to happen I'd have to write a novel.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Why the title of the blog?

Because I'm not another wannabe writer. And you shouldn't be either.

If I write, I'm a writer. I may never be paid for it, very few people might ever read what I've written, but if I've created it, selected the words - and chosen the order in which they will appear - and written them with intent, whether I'm using a pencil or a keyboard, then I'm a writer. 

So why is it so hard to say?

Because, I suggest, the term writer says Jane Austen, Shakespeare, JK Rowling (whatever you think of her the Harry Potter stories are great yarns), even Barbara Cartland. People whose names are synonymous with published books. They're books that have been read by thousands if not millions, and they're authors who actually make money from their craft.

If anyone asks me what I do I say I'm an administrator, which is true. My day job or rather my two days a week job involves answering the telephone, filing documents, writing letters, paying bills and occasionally fixing boilers. (Or not but that's another story.) When I'm introduced to someone by well-meaning family and friends with the words, 'She's a writer,' I cringe because I know that I'll be asked what I've had published. In other words how far up the fame ladder am I. And the answer is, 'I've been teetering between second and third step for longer than I care to recall.'

That shouldn't matter. But it does. Which is why I've chosen this title for this blog. To remind myself and you that we are writers. No wannabe about it.