Friday, 8 November 2019

Work In Progress

As ever I started off the year with good intentions and I made some initial progress writing and submitting a couple of short stories. Then I turned my attention to my current novel in progress. I had rejoined the Romantic Novelist’s Association New Writer’s Scheme, and my aim was to edit a mostly complete first draft into something I was happy to submit for feedback. 

Unfortunately this took a lot longer than I had anticipated. There was a lot to rewrite and some holes in the plot which needed some serious rethinking and which involved large amounts of writing from scratch. The novel is set in my home town, Chester, but takes place during the first few years of World War II. It follows the story of two sisters as they reach adulthood, struggling against the backdrop of war and the difficult relationship they have with each other.

By the time I had completed it, it was early August. I was happy with what I had done but was equally as happy to send it off and start work on something fresh. As it was close to the RNA deadline I anticipated a long wait for the feedback but this wasn’t a problem as I felt I needed some space from it. To my surprise the feedback came back only a week later. Not sure if this was a good sign or a bad sign, I nervously opened the document. Unfortunately, I think it was a bad sign. I’ve submitted a few novels though the NWS and always found the feedback to be detailed as well as constructive. Sadly, I found the feedback this time to be rather harsh. I’m not saying it was wrong, although there were some points I didn’t agree with, but I can honestly say I was devastated by how flawed she thought the novel was, both regarding character and plot, bearing in mind how much time and effort I had already put into it. I metaphorically put both the novel and the feedback away in a drawer until such a time when I can view it with more objectivity. When I do look at it again I’m sure I will be able to gain more from the feedback but at the time it just floored me.  At the same time the short stories I had sent off earlier in the year were also rejected.

Maybe at this point a saner person would have decided to give up writing altogether but maybe I’m not sane. Instead I went back to my short stories, editing earlier ones and starting to write some new ones. I’ve also started to write a memoir on what it was like to have a brain haemorrhage and the effort it has taken to overcome it. I’m not sure the latter is something I will submit for publication or even self-publish but at the moment its something I feel the need to write. In order to get something down on paper I signed up for NaNoWriMo and so far it is working well for me. Eight days in and I’ve written 12,000 words.

As well as all this I dug out feedback from the NWS on a previous year. The feedback on this novel was much more positive and offered detailed suggestions on how to improve it. Its given me the inspiration to do some work on this too and so at the moment I’m feeling very positive.  Long may it continue.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Time Flies!

As you get older there is a common feeling that time passes by more quickly. Well, it must be true because it seems like only yesterday that we were celebrating Christmas and forming New Year’s resolutions and now its November. Very scary!

As ever this year has been a busy one and I’m afraid most of it has distracted me from my writing.

Last year was dogged with my own health issues and whilst some of these will be ongoing for the rest of my life, this year more problems were added to the mix in the form of my husband’s health.

My husband is self-employed, often working six days a week and he’s alien to the concept of his own ill-health. But in June of this year everything changed and he ended up having two hospital stays over the summer and various appointments both with his doctor and the hospital to find out what is wrong with him. We still haven’t got to the bottom what caused his illness but at least the medication allows him to live a normal life, albeit slower than he has been used to. 

I’ve also changed my job which has caused some upheaval but which hopefully will give me a bit more time for writing. One of my biggest struggles is developing a consistent routine for it in what is already an overcrowded life. In many ways time isn’t the issue – we all have the same twenty-four hours in the day after all. The problem I need to overcome is my attitude to prioritising writing in my life and placing it further up the list in importance. Easier said than done but I’m working really had to improve my mindset. Having a long term illness I struggle with fatigue, especially after a day’s work, so I don’t find it very productive to try and write in the evenings. My aim now is to carve out some time in the mornings before work, when my brain (hopefully) is at its freshest.

The other thing I need to do is find some focus. Rather than flitting from project to project I need to complete one at a time. Then maybe I will see some progress. So I’ve formulated a plan and this time I intend to stick to it.  Wish me luck. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

A New Year

Last year was one of my least productive writing years but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. It was a very traumatic year to live through, and to be honest, I’m just pleased that I made it!

Sometimes life comes along and pulls the rug out from under your feet. But you can’t do anything about that except get on with it when it happens.

But there are some things you can control in life and I’m determined that 2019 is going to be positive with regard to the things I can control. Number 1 on that list is how much writing I do throughout the year.

With a busy life and an illness which brings with it a lot of fatigue, I often find it difficult, not only to find the time to write but the energy.

It’s easy to let one day slip by without writing and then another, and before you know it, time has slipped by and you are out of the habit.

So this year I’m determined to start off with good habits even if it’s just a few minutes each day. To help me do that I have written a specific list of immediate tasks so that when I do sit down to write I know exactly what it is I want to achieve from each writing session. Even if I don’t have the time or energy to do much, the hardest part is actually beginning and by having a plan, I'm hoping that this will make it easier to get that bum on seat and fingers on the keyboard. What I’ve also started to do is write a list of everything I achieve each day so that at the end of each week or month I have physical evidence of what I have achieved which will hopefully spur me on to do more.

So here’s a question. What do you do to keep yourself motivated and keep on writing?

The month has certainly got off to a good start with an email from The People’s Friend to say that a story of mine which was accepted last year will be published on 26thJanuary, so I’m really looking forward to seeing that, and, fingers crossed, many more throughout the year.

So here’s to 2019 and may it be the best writing year ever – for everyone. Good luck, best wishes and happy writing. 

Friday, 16 November 2018

Getting My Mojo Back

So far 2018 hasn’t been the most productive year of my writing life.  There have been many other things to deal with and for the large part I have been concentrating on my recovery from my illness in February, which has taken longer than expected.  But in September I received the news that my brain has healed well and I don’t have to have any more surgery which, quite frankly, I was dreading.  My Rheumatoid Arthritis unfortunately still isn’t under control and I’m having to trial different medication, but that I can deal with. I’m still here and for that I am truly grateful.

Both illnesses cause me to experience fatigue so after a day in work, it is often difficult to summon up the energy to write but I’m trying to slot little bits of writing in whenever I can and by trying to do a little bit each day, even if it is only a little bit, I can finally feel my writing mojo returning. 

I’ve only managed to submit two stories this year, hardly likely to earn my fortune, but I’m delighted to say that both of them have been accepted by The People’s Friend.

The first one, Working It Out, is in this week’s edition of The Friend.

I was overjoyed last week to receive an email asking me to be the online Writer of the Week.

Seeing my story in print is still something of a novelty to me and thoroughly exhilarating. I’m not sure when the next one will be published, but I can’t wait. It’s certainly given me a much needed push to write more.

So a big thank you to The People’s Friend for helping me to get my mojo back, and hopefully there will be many more published stories to come.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Out of the Loop

Last year I started out with every determination that 2017 would be my most productive writing year yet. Sadly it turned out to be the worst. My only two writing achievements were that I managed to edit a book I had written and submitted it to the RNA New Writers Scheme, and I attended my first ever RNA event - an afternoon tea in York which was thoroughly enjoyable and truly inspirational.

But throughout 2017 on top of normal work and family responsibilities, I was plagued by illness, both my own and that of family members. In June after lots of tests, I found out that I was suffering from a form of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Not only does this affect the joints, but the immune system as a whole, and it meant that I was constantly tired as my body was fighting infections which didn't exist. Being diagnosed was a bit of a life changer. On the one hand I was pleased that I finally knew what was wrong with me, but on the other I was faced with taking heavy duty medication for the rest of my life. It took a while for the medication to start to work and sometimes I was just so exhausted that I would come home from work and go to bed. Hence the writing took a bit of back seat.

Then, on 20th December, after a long and debilitating illness my mother-in-law passed away. It was sad to lose her so close to Christmas but she had been suffering for such a long time, in fact we had all been on high alert since early November, thinking every day could be her last. But 2017 hadn't done with me yet. The next day my Mum went into hospital to have knee replacement surgery and on the same day my Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He had been a little unwell but none of us were prepared for that, or the fact that his health deteriorated very quickly and he too died, only ten days later on 30th December.

So at the beginning of 2018 instead of reviewing my goals for the previous year and planning for the next, I was organising funerals and overwhelmed in grief.  The funerals took place in January, both within a week of each other. Funerals are funny things, a juxtaposition of sadness and happiness. We celebrated both their lives with friends and family and had the satisfaction of doing both them proud even though our hearts were breaking. 

And then came the time of getting used to life without them. Some days would be fine and at others I could burst out crying at the drop of the hat. I guess that's just the grieving process, but I suppose one good thing was that both my husband and I were grieving at the same time and if anything it brought us closer together. 

The suddenness of Dad's death made me realise more than ever that this life is not a dress rehearsal. I had signed up to RNA New Writers scheme in January to give myself a deadline so I decided to crack on with my novel, work on my ambitions and make my Dad proud. And so February began with us all getting used to our new normal.

And then in the middle of February without any warning whatsoever I suffered a brain haemorrhage. At first I though it was a really bad and sudden headache.  I took some paracetamol and went to bed. Thankfully I woke up the next day but was in agony and phoned 111 ending up in an ambulance and on my way to A&E. One CT scan later and I was transferred by another ambulance to Walton Hospital a hospital which specialises in neurology. It turned out I had an aneurism which had burst and which could have killed me. Scary stuff. But the hospital were brilliant and after surgery I spent 10 days in hospital. That was 8 weeks ago and although the road to recovery seems to have gone on forever, life is getting back to normal. I'm still only working part time and from home (DVLA haven't signed me off to drive again yet) and I still get very tired, but compared to how I was, or how I could have been, I am so lucky.

So I'm getting back to writing again, but this time with a little more focus. Life is what you make it and I intend to make the most of mine!

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Here I Go!

I’ve been a member of the RNA New Writer’s scheme a few times now and have found the critique service invaluable.  I’ve always wanted to attend one of the many events which are held throughout the year but so far the dates have always clashed with other commitments.

However, this year I seized the opportunity of attending an afternoon tea party in York on 30 September. I love afternoon tea, to be greeted with a glass of prosecco won’t be a hardship, and am especially looking forward to hearing the guest speaker, Milly Johnson.

I booked this ages ago yet I can hardly believe that next Saturday I will be getting on the train to attend the event. I could drive myself by car and it would be a much shorter journey, but to be honest I don’t want to pass up the opportunity of reading and writing time on the train.  After the stresses and strains of the last few months it will be really nice to have some me time and most importantly to be surrounded by fellow writers.

Of course I won’t know any one there but I’ve heard that RNA members are a friendly bunch, so if you see a women looking a bit lost, please do come and say hello.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Autumn Days

Autumn always brings mixed feelings for me.  On the one hand it’s a season of inspiration.  The start of a new academic year and the time to learn something new or at least be a bit more studious. The season of opportunity where you can reassess your goals for the year and start again.  And there’s the peace and quiet of the kids being back at school after weeks of lolling on the sofa playing on the x-box or watching incredibly stupid American sit-coms - the kids not me, I've worked through the whole thing) and the chance to get back into a routine. 

And as for my goals for the year – well they definitely need a kick up the you-know-where. I started off the year full of plans and determination but they soon fell by the wayside as you can tell from the lack of blog posts.

I’d decided to try using a bullet journal to help get myself organised. My friend introduced me to the concept and said you could buy them ready made, but after some research on You Tube, I decided that a plain ruled notebook would do just as well.  At the back of the book I split my goals for the year up into different parts of my life – home / work / writing and wrote down everything I wanted to achieve for the year.

Then at the front of the book I headed up the pages into months.  On the front of the page for January I wrote my goals for that month and on the other drew a calendar for the month and added in all appointments and events I needed to attend. The pages after then were filled with tasks that I wanted to achieve each day.

It worked in that it focussed my mind on what I needed to do each day  / month and it was handy to have the essentials for the entire month on one page (no more rushing around buying birthday cards and presents at the last minute because I’d forgotten!) but it turned out rather depressing to find several items being carried over from day to day and month to month because I just couldn’t find the time.  I still use it to a certain extent but like most of my resolutions, it seems to have petered out.

It’s been a challenging year family-wise, lots of illnesses and challenges to deal with, some short term but others longer term and more significant and for a while now I have struggling with my own health which impacts on my ability to find the motivation and energy to write.  In June I finally received a diagnosis, and whilst it was a relief to find out what is wrong with me (nothing life-threatening, thankfully) it does mean that I have had to make some adjustments to my life and will be on medication for the rest of it.

On the plus side so far I have survived all those challenges and in the midst of it managed to complete a submission for the RNA New Writers Scheme (not the one I intended but that’s another story) but something I have been working on for a while and am really pleased with.

So, with all that out of the way, its time to reassess my goals and make the most of the rest of my writing year.

The not so plus side of autumn is that is signifies the end of summer, the end of light (if not heat if most of this summer was anything to go by).  Cold, dark days lie in wait.  But I’m going to look on the bright side, batten down the hatches, snuggle up, and try and achieve some of those remaining writing goals for the year.  And hopefully I’ll be blogging a bit more too!

What are your goals for the rest of the year?

Work In Progress

As ever I started off the year with good intentions and I made some initial progress writing and submitting a couple of short stories. Then...