Monday, 25 January 2010

Dodging The Doubt

Self doubt, I think, is one of the hardest things a wannabe writer has to live with. The questions which buzz around my brain a lot are, “Am I any good?” or “Will I ever be any good?”

I suppose the only way we can tell is by getting our work “out there”. Sometimes even that doesn’t help though, especially when the rejections keep flooding back in.

I am yet to find myself at a stage where I have a novel good enough to send out to potential agents. So far I have completed first drafts of two novels. The first will probably never see the light of day and languishes on a bookshelf in a folder. It is, I think, a poor first attempt but maybe one day I’ll dig it out again and see whether it has any glimmer of potential. The second, I was part way through a first edit when I lost my way and was then side-tracked by the thought of writing something completely new during November and the challenge of completing the 50,000 words with NaNoWriMo.

At the moment I am concentrating book 3. Since the end of November I have completed another 15,000 words and am hoping to reach 100,000 by the end of March, that’s if I pull my finger out anyway. Then I will break away from it, try to finish the first edit of book 2 and then return to edit book 3. Well that’s the plan.

Over the years (and I do mean years) I have been trying to test my talent, or lack of it, with short stories. And herein is where rejection lies. In fact so many of my stories have been rejected that whenever an A4 envelope comes bouncing back through my letter box I refuse to take it personally. I simply open it up, look at the standard rejection slip, sigh, re-read the story, edit, print and send it somewhere else. And then after four or five rejections I put it in a folder, alongside novel number one, and chalk it up to experience.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. I have been on several courses and have received some very positive feedback. I know (or at least I think I do) where my strengths and my weaknesses lie and am determined to work on both. And then last year, one story which I had dusted off and sent out for the third time, actually came highly commended in a Writer’s Forum competition and was published in the Weekly News. Proof positive that not making the grade first time round isn’t an indication of whether something is any good. So maybe I do have some talent after all.

I’ve tried a couple of writer’s circles in my area in an effort to get some outside feedback but neither have worked out for me and there I’ve drawn a blank. So I need to find some way of testing the water without publication and without paying out a fortune on critique services.

I was hoping to join the Romantic Novelists Association, New Writers Scheme, and have a novel critiqued that way. Sadly though, I missed the boat for this year and now the scheme is full. Maybe next year I’ll be a bit more on the ball/

In the meantime though I’ve taken the plunge and signed up for a correspondence course with the Writer’s Bureau on Novel and Short Story Writing. Watch this space to see how I get on.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Tracks and Trains

The other day I watched a film I had recorded a few weeks ago called Under The Tuscan Sun. The film is adapted from a book written by Frances Mayes and stars Diane Lane. It’s a film I’ve seen before and is a lovely feel-good film – especially seeing sunny Italy as opposed to the miserable weather here at the moment.

The film is about a just-divorced writer who buys a villa in Tuscany on a whim, hoping it will be the start of a change for the better in her life. What Frances really wants to do is to meet her soul-mate, fall in love and to fill her new home with people and laughter.

But she despairs of ever meeting Mr Right and during a conversation is told a story about a train track which was built to link Austria and Venice. The track was built through mountains even though, as yet, no train existed which could scale such heights. Eventually though, such a train came about and the tracks were put to good use.

And in the end, Frances does get her wish even though it is not entirely in ways she expected.

The film reminded me of a time in my life when I too was despairing of ever finding Mr Right. Most of my friends were marrying and having babies and I thought I was going end up a lonely old spinster with only my cat for company. At the time I was also living in shared – rented accommodation and was longing for a place of my own and some stability.

Then one day I made a decision. If I was going to end up a spinster, I was going to do it on my own terms. So I took another job, saved up and bought my own house and shoved all thoughts of finding Mr Right to the far recesses of my mind. And do you know? Before I even moved into that house, I met the man who would later become my husband.

And that is how I’m going to look at my writing this year. I need to forget about the big dream for the time being and start building those tracks, section by section. Then maybe one day, my train will come along, just as the man did.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Luxuriating In Indulgence

If someone asked me what I want to achieve most in my life, my answer would be to be able to make a living from writing. That is of course an ideal. I would be more than happy to make part of my living from writing. Just so long as I had a few days each week where I could sit down at my computer and say, my job today is to write; this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

As it stands, my writing is classed as a hobby, or an indulgence. Bringing up a family and working produces so many demands on my time, that often I feel I can only allow myself the indulgence to write when everything else has been done. And of course everything else is never done!

Of course this is wrong. How am I ever going to achieve my ideal if I don’t occasionally put my writing to the top of the list? I keep telling myself this. I keep telling my family too that I deserve to have an hour or even half an hour a day to myself to do this. And my family do listen – or at least my husband does. That could be down to the fact that he likes to play golf so doesn’t really have a leg to stand on, but he is supportive. My worst enemy is often myself. At least I know I’m inventive, because I’m always inventing excuses not to put my bum on that chair and attach my fingers to the keyboard.

So my plan for an hour a day at least gives me a small sense of satisfaction, even if my ideal is to be able to loose myself in a project rather than having to fit it around everything else in small bursts. Now I just need to stick to it.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

New Year Focus

Although I haven’t been blogging much, or writing much come to that, I have been doing a lot of thinking.

At the end of one year and the beginning of another most people reflect on the past and the future but I think writers do so even more. And I suppose because we are not just saying goodbye to a year but a whole decade reflection is even more poignant.

In my personal life, the last ten years seen the greatest change to my circumstances. I was married in 2000 and now have two sons aged 8 and 6. I also moved house and now live in a village on the outskirts of a city, where the sense of community gives me a wonderful sense of belonging. So yes, on that score my achievements have been great.

Not so great on the writing front, although it’s not for want of trying. I have written plenty over the last ten years but have only had one small success in that a short story of my was published last year. After years and years of trying that one success though had me dancing on the ceiling and it did take me a while to come down. I’ve also written the first draft of two novels and half of another one.

What are my goals for 2010? Well I suppose consolidation is the key. My writing efforts have always been a bit sporadic. I’ll get into a routine and then life gets in the way and that’s it for a while. This year I’ve set myself a goal of doing something writing orientated for at least 1 hour a day. So far I’m managed this, but as I’m doing quite a bit of historical research for my latest effort, most of this has been reading rather than actually making any written progress. I think I need to break this down a bit, so that at least at the end of each week I’m seeing some more words on the page.

Also this year I want to finish the first draft of the novel I started for NaNoWriMo, complete a first edit of my previous novel, and try and write some more short stories. And I want to master the art of blogging. At the moment all I can do is post a blog. I don’t know how to do links, or add photos, or add anything else to my blog so any tips will be much appreciated. Or does anyone know of an idiot’s guide book to blogging - and I do mean one which does what it says on the tin, and is self-explanatory for a complete novice like myself?

Just quite how I’m going to achieve all that I’ve set myself I haven’t quite worked out yet. But I’ll get there. In the end. Hopefully.