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 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 a 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 ordered Scrivener for Dummies.

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'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...

Monday, 31 August 2015


I saw a short story competition in late July that I really wanted to enter. It is a dragonfly tea competition, and will be judged by Jojo Moyes, who is a favourite author of mine. Best of all, it was free to enter.

I knew it would be a challenge - I didn't find the choices of given titles at all inspiring - but the summer stretched ahead and the closing date was today - the last day of August.

I took the titles to Guernsey as we visited my sister. I imagined carefree days of children running along beaches while I sat and scribbled. Instead, we walked, climbed, played tennis and football on the beach, bodyboarded on the beach and kept the kids up late. By the time we came home, the best I'd done was to have a germ of an idea.

Then we had a couple of weeks of squeezing things in - parties, going in to work, and late night planning sessions. Somehow the time to write evaporated like a summer puddle. At the very end, I took them to a playcentre and wrote a draft, longhand.  Last week we went camping with the kids' dad. I took my laptop, which I'd typed the draft onto. We were going to have some time at his parents', and I thought they would appreciate me stepping back, and giving them time with the grandkids. I thought he would be able to do the parenting (for once!) while I wrote.

But that didn't work out either. We ended up camping for an extra night. We ended up putting the kids to bed at 10, and falling into sleeping bags ourselves. There were difficult family moments to navigate; there were children who wanted and needed me constantly. There were people who talked to me whenever I sat down to write. I didn't sleep well, so I felt constantly tired and uncreative. Then my laptop stopped working, and I gave up.

Which left one weekend. I spent Saturday unpacking and ringfenced some time on Sunday, but then Mum phoned and needed me. So it has become a last-minute race to the post, today. We had some family commitments, but in between, I've edited. I don't know how good it is - I came very close to giving in, but in the end, I reasoned that if you give in, you never achieve. And maybe, just maybe, my story is better than I think. Well, I can dream, can't I?! So it has been sent. The deed is done, the deadline met, by a whisker. Now to catch up on the laundry...

Monday, 10 August 2015

Swanwick Summer School

Swanwick Writing School has been running for forty years - only a little longer than I have been aliv! - but this is the first year I've made it, and then it was for a pitiful amount of time.

Despite my best attempts to plan a brief escape from home as a day visitor to the School, mum ended up having a hospital appointment, and no-one else could fill in babysitting. Steve (ex-husband) came to look after the children in the morning, but arrived ten minutes before I wanted to arrive at Swanwick, which is half an hour's drive away. It was not the relaxing, stress-free start to the day I'd hoped for!

The welcome was warm, though, and people were friendly and helpful, even in the short visit I had. I thoroughly enjoyed the lectures, too, though they only whetted my appetite. I wish I could have stayed longer.

Sue Moorcroft gave a great talk on Romantic Fiction - she is so knowledgeable about her subject and gave lots of fascinating information, including about the Romantic Novelist's Association. I hadn't realised before that it is possible to attend talks and events run by the RNA even if you're not a member. It usually means an extra cost, but not a prohibitive one. Up-to-date information can be found on the RNA website. I have heard good things about them from many sources, and will be checking them out again now, instead of waiting for my next crack of the whip at joining their New Writers' Scheme.

So, while it was frustrating putting my own dreams on the back-burner, the kids come first, and I gained a lot of benefit from a short amount of time at Swanwick. Hope I can afford the time and money to attend next year...and that nothing will get in the way.

I wonder what I will have achieved towards my writing dreams by then? Watch this space...