Friday, 5 February 2016

Novel competition

Good Housekeeping is running a novel writing competition at the moment, with a closing date of 31st March.
Entrants must be unpublished and never have had an agent. You need to send in a full synopsis, 5,000 words of your novel, which must be crime/thriller or women's fiction, a 100-word mini biography and a completed entry form from the magazine.
First prize is a book deal, though there are also runner-up prizes, so this is one well worth entering if you fit the entry criteria and have a novel ready to go!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Getting on track

To my own surprise, the times I've planned to write this week, I actually have! I only procrastinated for about half an hour on day one, and then I've been rewriting and editing and tweaking to my heart's content.

I did cheat a little; I followed a lesser view-point character, and I've already completed her voice, from start to finish of the novel. It does mean I feel fairly confident (for second draft purposes!) that her voice is consistent and I've not had her repeat information and so on. I got rid of a few of my authorial tics as well, though they might have passed as hers!

It's given me the appetite and courage to go back to the start and begin the heavy editing...

I've heard many writers say they love the editing process, but it is heavy work for me, and not something I look forward to.

However, I have plans...I was successful at applying to the Romantic Novelist Association's New Writers' Scheme, which is open every January. The fee covers a reading of my manuscript, which is far more reasonable than using a critique service. (Although it has made me anxious about whether there is enough romance in my novel to fit the criteria. Always afraid of failing one way or another..!) So I've set myself a deadline for finishing this edit, and may even fit in time to produce draft three before I send it for reading. I'm sure this will help to keep me 'on task' through the weeks ahead.

It's to be hoped so, for my imagination is sparking hot at the moment. I seem to see 'What if?'s everywhere, and some may be worth pursuing. Some are probably not worth the paper I've scribbled them on. But I'm keen to explore some of them this year, too - perhaps in short stories - but I can't focus on them until my novel is 'done'.

I'm also trying to organise my life so that I can join a writing morning in a nearby town in a couple of weeks. A writer has booked a hall and offered for other writers to join her there, either just to write, or to have someone to talk things over with as they write. I can make good use of either option, and I'm looking forward to it. I just need to sort my child-care to free me up for a couple of hours.

I'm sure things like setting myself a deadline and planning to attend writing events are crucial to keeping me on track with my writing goals for this year. What helps you to focus?


Friday, 27 November 2015

Thinking of Scrivener?

Bronchitis, compulsively early Christmas preparation, upcoming birthdays, work on the house, divorce proceedings... sometimes you can't find time for yourself however hard you try. But half an hour a week is better than nothing!
I've been working on editing one voice throughout my current work in progress. It's a teenage voice (because it's not that long since I was a teenager...it should just have been a fun nostalgic stroll...ha!) and quite distinctive from my own. So I'm editing her sections as a single  narrative. I know they contain the information I need, but I want that consistency of expression and tone, so I'm going to get her polished first! It also feels like a manageable way to start the mammoth editing task.
Because I've used Scrivener, it's also easy to work this way. I'm very much a beginner when it comes to Scrivener - this is the first project I've done using it, and my steam-powered laptop doesn't always make it easy, especially since it's as prone to viruses as my kids are. However, I've just read this fabulous post for Scrivener beginners, and hope it might help you, too, if you fancy trying Scrivener out! (There is a free 30-day trial of Scrivener if you want to take it for a test drive.) I enjoyed this blog post so much that I've ordered Scrivener for Dummies...soon I, too, will be expert!

Friday, 23 October 2015

The Long Way Round

I've been 'trying' to lose weight for over a year now, with varied success, although I am still a stone lighter than when I began. However, I'm going through a definite phase of putting pounds on, then losing them again, without much real movement. The one thing I know for sure is: I'm not giving up. And one day, I'll have the determination to take some real strides in the right direction again. Perhaps this shows as much perseverance as someone who loses weight every week until they hit their target...it's just that the level of my perseverance varies and wavers from week to week. My long-term goal doesn't change though, and I keep working towards it, however discouraged I am by myself, and however dogged I am by the spectre of failure.

My writing is exactly the same. I laid my manuscript down, now, months ago, and I've been utterly terrified of taking it up again. I've procrastinated, and used distraction techniques, and sometimes I've even been genuinely unable to make time, or had my plans to do writing classes thwarted.

But today I picked it up again, and realised that my goal hasn't changed - I'm just on the scenic route to completion. It's not the most accomplished or professional route, but you know what? I'm also holding down a very demanding part-time job, and raising four kids on my own, so I'm not going to beat myself up about it. And the other thing is - I remembered today just how much I enjoy it. I was having a bad day; feeling angry and tumultuous about several things that I thought were disastrous. Spending an hour writing turned my whole day around, and made me feel so upbeat.

A bit of a happy ending to the day, if you ask me.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Desperately seeking other writers

Writing can be a lonely job, apparently. (I'm still at the point in mothering where it's hard to use the toilet without company, so it doesn't bother me, yet...) 

I want to meet more writers, though, and commit more to my writing - it's so easy to let your dreams slide when you're trying to juggle so many high-priority things that your own stuff feels a bit like selfishness. 

I've signed up to some creative writing classes which are being held locally, and which fit into my week perfectly, while Chickpea is at playgroup. I really had no excuse. I start tomorrow, so I've painted my nails in preparation (an important part of feeling confident enough to face a room full of strangers). I've also dug out my Swanwick Summer School notebook, to make me look like I'm taking my writing seriously, and a pen with a lovely smooth flow. 

I'm feeling a little nervous - only a little - and quite excited at the possibilities. It's another of those little moves outside my comfort zone that I keep trying to make, and which are generally quite rewarding even when they give me a knotted stomach. What if everyone else is incredibly talented? What if they all think I'm rubbish? What if the course isn't what I expect? What if it's just a displacement activity that takes me away from the real graft of editing and polishing my work-in-progress?

Worst of all though - what if I don't have to walk into a room full of strangers? What if I'm the only one who is free in our little village and its locality at 1pm on a Thursday afternoon in October? How awkward! And my nails would be wasted...

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Foggy night

Today is short-listing day. Every time my phone has pinged, I've checked my inbox, with unrealistic optimism. But now it's late, and I've got to accept I'm not getting an email.

I'd love to know how close I got - whether I was literally only long-listed because I avoided common faux-pas, or whether someone actually liked my story. When you get a silent rejection, the questions go unanswered.

I'm already brushing myself off though. Perseverence is my word of the day. Just because I didn't get through this time doesn't mean I won't, eventually.

(I just wish I could get more help finding some street signs, so that I'd feel a bit less like I'm trying to navigate through a foggy night with my satnav down.)

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Flying high

In the midst of a difficult day last Friday, I opened an email in my inbox without noticing who it was from until it popped open with the wonderful news that I've been longlisted in the most recent competition I entered, the Dragonfly Tea short story competition.

It was like a shot of adrenalin; I flew high all day. It's hard to know exactly how big a compliment it is, and the short-listing won't be complete until the end of next week. I allowed myself to start to dream, though...if I could be short-listed, it would make my year.

See how afraid of disappointment I am? How lacking in confidence in my own skills? I think it would be ridiculous to aim for winning. I'm content to settle for short-listing! Perhaps it's time to make my expectations a bit higher and push myself a bit harder! Fear gives us lead boots, and I'm trying to unlace mine so I can leave them behind.

Fingers crossed...