Tag Archives: submission process

A Matter of Opinion

Monday is creaking itself into position once again, and another chain of days is about to start careering down the slippery slope we call a ‘week’. I hope you had a restful weekend and you’re primed and ready for it.

Good woman, Barbara. Image: funkmysoul.gr

Good woman, Barbara.
Image: funkmysoul.gr

This past weekend was full of bad news. I’m trying not to even think about some of the news stories that made me sad, or angry, over the last few days – and there were many. I’m not ignoring the fact that things happened in the world which made my red mist descend, and which upset me greatly, but this blog post is all about the positive. Right? Right.

So, let’s not talk about the sad stuff. Not today.

In the spirit of focusing on the non-enraging, one of the more interesting stories over the weekend centred on the kerfuffle surrounding ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling‘, a book which was published to no great acclaim in April. Purporting to be the debut novel of a former soldier and military policeman named Robert Galbraith, the book was receiving good reviews, but had not sold in any huge numbers – reports vary between 500 and 1,500 copies sold – but those who had read it, by all accounts, liked it. Robert Galbraith, the mysterious author, had admitted to writing under a pseudonym to, I suppose, protect his former colleagues and avoid any sort of security issues surrounding his foray into crime writing, but that was far from being the biggest secret Mr. Galbraith was sitting on.

Over the weekend, ‘Mr Galbraith’ was unmasked. Not an ex-military police officer, nor even a man, ‘Galbraith’ is, in fact, J.K. Rowling.

The most interesting thing about the whole situation, I think, is the fact that the manuscript of ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ was, apparently, submitted to at least one publisher (under its pseudonym, of course), and was turned down as being ‘not marketable’; it didn’t stand out from the crowd enough, apparently. It wasn’t head and shoulders above any of the other promising submissions received, and so it wasn’t picked up. I have great respect for the editor of the publishing company who turned the book down purely on its merits, and who is now brave enough to admit it, and to give her reasons for her decision; she could have tried to wash her hands of responsibility, or pretend the decision to turn the book down was a tortuous one. She could have fawned all over J.K. Rowling. She could (horror of horrors!) have apologised for her decision. Instead, she simply explained how she felt the book was solid, decent, well written – but nothing amazing.

I thought this was remarkable. Not only because the editor in question is a brave and principled person, but because it made me feel a whole lot better about the rejections I get which are worded along much the same lines: ‘Thank you for your submission; your work is perfectly fine, but just not marketable in the current publishing climate’, or ‘Your work is not suitable for us – but our opinion is not exhaustive, so don’t give up.’ Whatever your opinion of ‘Harry Potter’ is – whether you believe the books are good, or not – it’s beyond question that J.K. Rowling is the publishing sensation of our time. Anything with her name on it is a foregone conclusion, in terms of publication. It turned out that ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ was eventually published by an imprint of the publisher who handled her book ‘The Casual Vacancy’ last year, but it seems that she submitted it to other publishers, just like any debut author – but found, apparently, little success. The book has received very positive feedback from readers, so it’s not necessarily that her work was not good; it just wasn’t good enough for a publisher to take a punt on it, particularly in the crowded crime/detective fiction market.

Image: en.wikipedia.org

Image: en.wikipedia.org

This news story has given me a lot to think about, and no mistake. The first conclusion one could draw would be this: what’s the point of anyone trying to get a book published, as an unknown debut author, if a writer with the ability of J.K. Rowling can’t get picked up? Well – yes and no. That’s an insidious and dangerous way to think; it erodes hope and chips away at the future, and should be avoided. There are always exceptions; there are always chances worth jumping at. You’ve got to have faith in your own work, and keep on going with the submissions even if there seems to be no light on the horizon. Rowling herself was turned down by twelve publishers before she placed ‘Harry Potter’ with Bloomsbury. It can happen. People get published every day. They can’t all be world-defining geniuses. Sometimes, a submission will be good enough – not the best submission in the history of writing, but good enough for a particular agent or publisher, and that’s all you need.

So, instead of being disheartened by the saga of ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ (in hindsight, rather an apt title), I’m choosing to be encouraged by it. A submission is never going to hit the mark with everyone who reads it; not every publisher is going to like, or even tolerate, some of the work you produce – and that’s not a personal thing, despite how hard it can be to separate yourself from your creative work. It doesn’t mean that if you get knocked back by two, or five, or ten agents or publishers, that you should give up the search – there will, hopefully, be an appreciative ear out there for what you’re writing, and what a shame it would be to give up before you find it.

Of course, if every person to whom you submit your work says something along the lines of: ‘In our opinion, a novel about interstellar time-travelling leprechauns written in rhyming couplets which can, due to the fact you’ve written it in disappearing ink, only be read on the first Tuesday of every month in full moonlight is not exactly the most market-friendly thing; perhaps you should consider submitting something else, or reworking this entirely,’ then maybe it’s time to start thinking: it’s not them. It’s me.

Until then, keep the faith.

In Love with Life

It’s almost the end of May, everybody. In a few short days, this month will be entirely used up and cast aside in favour of June, and I’ll have to make good on my promise to myself that my book – my ‘Eldritch’ – will be ready to start the process of finding an agent.

That’s the problem with making promises to yourself, isn’t it? You’ve got to keep them.

I’m not saying that ‘Eldritch’ isn’t ready. It’s sitting here beside me, in a satisfyingly thick bundle of paper; I’ve read it over and over again. I’ve tweaked it, and fixed it, and pulled sentences apart, and unmixed my metaphors, and checked for continuity errors, and taken out some of the millions of commas that seem to grow, unchecked, in everything I write. But, somehow, it just doesn’t seem good enough, still.

Image: moma.org

Image: moma.org

I just wish I looked as glamorous as this when going through a crisis of confidence. Actually, I look a bit more like Kathy Bates in ‘Misery’. But anyway.

On top of working slowly through The Novel, I’ve also spent the past week writing short stories. I’m trying to work through my list of submission deadlines – lots of competitions are looming, and I want to push myself to enter as many of them as I possibly can. It’s been a while since I made a big submission, and I’ve got to keep this ball rolling as long as I possibly can. However, there is a problem.

None of the short pieces I’ve written have made my personal grade. I’ve worked very hard on them, and I’ve sweated over them, and I’ve chosen words with extreme care, moved paragraphs around, deleted half the story and started again from scratch, changed titles, changed characters, changed everything that can be changed, and… I still don’t like either of the two major pieces of work I’ve completed over the last few days. Hackneyed, cloying, clichéd, boring – this is how they seem, to me. I just know they’ll never be good enough.

The first piece I wrote was a story about a little girl who, confused by something which is happening in her home life, takes out her rage and fear on another girl, a child at school, who innocently involves herself in the first child’s life. The story follows the two girls as they grow older, and shows us how, at one point, the second child has a chance to help the first, but chooses not to because of the pain she still suffers as a result of the first child’s bullying actions when they were younger. I’m not sure why this story didn’t work. It should work. I wanted it to. For a while after I’d written it I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not, which is unusual for me; normally, I’m visceral about these things, and I know straight away how I feel about a written piece. But for this one, I wasn’t sure. I wanted to like it, but it didn’t turn out the way I’d seen it in my head, perhaps.

The second piece was about a shy young man and his forceful, abrasive mother, and their strained relationship. For reasons the boy doesn’t understand at first, his mother’s angry sorrow is focused on a particular place near their home. It’s a place she asks her son not to go to, but it also happens to be a popular meeting point for parties, and so – inevitably – the day comes when the young man betrays his mother’s trust, and attends a party in this strange place, sacred to his mother. When the mother discovers her son has broken his promise to her, she is extremely angry, and in her subsequent breakdown the reason for her dislike of the place becomes clear to the boy at the same time as the reader.

Again, a story I really wanted to like. But it just doesn’t work.

Because of all this, I’ve probably been feeling a bit defeated over the past few days. My energy levels are a bit depleted, maybe, and my brain seems stuck in first gear. I needed some inspiration, some encouragement. I needed a reminder of what I’m doing here, and why I’m doing it.

And, yesterday evening, I found it.

I’m not sure if you’ll have heard of a poet named Dorothy Molloy Carpenter. Sadly, Ms. Molloy Carpenter passed away almost a decade ago, just before her first book of poetry was published (two further volumes were also published posthumously). During her time of illness, when she was facing into treatment for the disease that claimed her life, she wrote a prayer of sorts, called her ‘Credo’. This prayer was printed on a card that was distributed at her memorial service, which happened to be held at the University in which I used to work. Many years ago, someone gave me their copy of this card, and I’ve held on to it ever since; somehow, last night, I happened to read it again just when I needed to. I want to quote a little bit from the beginning of the prayer, if you’ll indulge me:

The one essential thing is for my voice to ring out in the cosmos and to use, to this end, every available second. Everything else must serve this. This is being in love with life.

Every voice is needed for the full harmony.

Well.

There you have it. Use every available second. Sing your song. Make your contribution. Say your piece. Write your story. Be in love with life.

Image: insehee.egloos.com

Image: insehee.egloos.com

Happy Thursday. Use it as well as you can, and remember that the world needs every scrap of positivity, every drop of happiness, and every flicker of love that it can get. We can’t all save the world from terror, but we can all do our best to add to the communal store of joy. Let’s all do what we can.

 

 

Word-Babies

So, I got the news the other day that another story of mine has managed to find a home in an online literary magazine. I was, of course, gladdened at the news.

There may even have been a bit of this kind of thing going on:

Wahoo! Image: catherinepowen.com

Wahoo!
Image: catherinepowen.com

Strangely, though, this time around, getting the good news felt even more satisfying than ‘normal’ (it still feels strange to think of my life as a place where I know how it feels to be published – so bear with me!) It was as if I wasn’t just pleased that a story of mine was being published, but also that this particular story was being given a chance to go out into the world and (hopefully) be read. All the stories I’ve written mean something to me, of course, and I only submit the ones I really liked to write and which I feel have some merit as a readable piece, but this one… well. This one’s special.

The story is, I think, even more a part of me than any of the others. It has a basis in medieval romance, it features some of my favourite legendary characters – revivified and made my own, of course – and it allowed me, when writing it, not only to express myself through language but also to display some of what is closest to my heart. I think this story is far more than just 1500 words of text which I have written and drafted and redrafted and formed into something that holds water as a story; it’s me, in textual form. Writing it was instinctual, almost obvious – as soon as I got the spark of the idea behind this story, the words lined up obediently in my mind, waiting their turn to settle onto the page. Of course, I then had to hone and redraft and re-read and redraft some more, but essentially the story has stayed the same. Writing this story truly was one of those magical moments you read about, when you feel like all you’re doing is taking dictation from somewhere ‘else’, and the words are coming to you from a very deep place.

I know, for sure, that not all my story writing experiences will be this profound. That’s why this one stands out so much, and was so memorable.

At the same time, I wonder if it’s a bad thing to be so emotionally attached to a piece of work. If, for instance, this story had not met with editorial favour, and had been rejected out of hand, and had been scornfully thrown back in my face (not that this sort of thing really happens – everyone I’ve had a rejection from has been very nice, even apologetic, about it!), would it have been an emotional disaster for me? Would I have felt, even more keenly than usual, that it was me, and not my story, which was being rejected?

Writing is, of course, a very emotional and personal business. Everything you write, to a greater or lesser extent, is a manifestation of who you are. The story may not be based on your life – in fact, sometimes, it’s better to avoid autobiography at all costs! – but the writing of it, the images you choose, the settings, the time periods, the connections between your characters, the relationship dynamics, and so much more, all reveal a little about you, how you think, how you feel, and how you see the world. In that sense, then, all stories are ‘word-babies’ – precious, treasured and rare. But is it healthier to see them strictly as pieces of work, in the same way that a block-layer would view a wall he’s just built or an architect a building she’s designed? You do your work to the best of your ability, until you’re proud to stand over it and call it yours; you submit it wherever it’s going; you leave it behind you and move on to the next project, clear-minded and full of enthusiasm. You don’t send everything out on submission with your heart in your mouth, terrified that it’ll be rejected, and that it won’t find a home anywhere, and that people will think you’re ridiculous for even having written it. If every writer worked like that, nobody would submit anything, and we’d all be in hospital with nervous exhaustion.

I just can't do it, Herbert! I can't have another haiku rejected! Image: criterion.com

I just can’t do it, Herbert! I can’t have another haiku rejected!
Image: criterion.com

So, I’m proud of all my stories, and all of them reflect an aspect of me, whether it’s a fear I have, or a dark imagining, or a childhood memory twisted into something that never was. All of them, I hope, also express something about the world – they have a larger comment to make on society or humanity or whatever it might be. This recently accepted story, though, my real and true ‘word-baby’, says more about me than it does about the world. It’s more my affectionate farewell to characters I’ve loved all my life than it is a larger cultural statement, and it’s probably closer to my heart than is healthy or advisable. I’m very glad it was accepted for publication, then, both from a health and a craft point of view; I hope, even if it had been rejected, though, that I’d have been able to pick myself up and start again with it. I hope I’ve learned enough, even at this stage on my writing journey, to know that a piece of work which means so much to me is worth fighting for.

What do you think? Should writing be about creating ‘work’, from which you can easily emotionally detach, or do you find that your writing is more a part of you, from which you hate to be parted? Or a bit of both, or neither? Do tell.

It’s the End of the Week as We Know It…

…and I feel (largely) fine!

This is despite the fact that – of course – my hubris has caught up with me again.

Ah, yes... she's coming! I, Hubris, will throw this pie in her big silly face and show her who's in charge around here! Image: wordswewomenwrite.wordpress.com

Ah, yes… she’s coming! I, Hubris, will throw this pie in her big silly face and show her who’s in charge around here!
Image: wordswewomenwrite.wordpress.com

I was supposed to start the querying process by the end of this week. You might remember I said so, in black and white, right here on this very blog. Putting things in writing here is sort of like creating a contract with myself, a means of shaming myself into doing stuff in a timely fashion. If I write it here, I have to follow through with it.

It works well, a lot of the time.

Not, however, when the book I want to query is undercooked, as ‘Eldritch’ definitely was – and, perhaps, still is. Although, I really hope not.

I’ve spent this week working through the book again, reading carefully, editing (6, 500 words fell beneath my ruthless blade!), fixing problems, keeping an eye out for things like ‘jumpy’ scenes – in other words, when reading something makes you feel like you’re listening to a CD skipping* – and something I tend to do a lot, I’ve noticed: writing unrealistic reactions.

What I mean by ‘writing unrealistic reactions’, of course, is having a character go completely nuts with rage when it’s, actually, a vast overreaction to the situation at that time, or say something which is logically unconnected to what’s gone before, or seem too calm when another character drops a bombshell of bad news on their head, or whatever it might be. I can’t really explain why I did this so often during the course of the book, particularly near the end, without even realising it; on this, most recent read-through, all these ‘clanging’ moments jumped out at me like samba dancers wearing neon headdresses, but up to this point I’d entirely missed them.

I think, somehow, it might go back to an age-old conflict in the world of fiction-writing: plot vs. character.

Take that, you bounder! Image: nancylauzon.com

Take that, you bounder!
Image: nancylauzon.com

I’ve a feeling what happened was this, or something like it. On the first few drafts, I was too busy getting the plot of ‘Eldritch’ out onto the page, unravelled, exposed, explained, resolved and told to focus sufficiently on keeping my characters consistent. This, of course, is a silly, silly thing to do. A book should rest on the shoulders of its characters. They should drive it, they should shape and mould it, their reactions should be true to their personalities (because, yes, even fictional people have personalities!); in short, a collection of things happening is a story; characters living through that story makes a plot. But, at all times, a writer must be mindful that their characters are the focus. People don’t (generally) act wildly ‘out of character’, unless they have an excellent reason – so, why would it be different for a fictional person?

If this is forgotten, what we have are wooden-seeming characters, who move about jerkily like Thunderbird puppets, waiting for a string to be pulled before they can take any action. If we have prioritised story over character, then it’s natural that reactions will be unbelievable and ‘unreal’, unnatural, and clunky. And, of course, this is not something which will go unnoticed by a reader. It will scream out from the page, and make a reader very unhappy indeed, and may even lead to them (gasp) not finishing the book. That, of course, is a nightmare scenario. I know, as a reader myself, that what I look for in a story more than anything else is characters so real I feel I can reach into my book and touch them, characters with whom I can imagine having a conversation (or a beer, depending on the book), characters who are fully rounded, fully realised and true to themselves, and who act at all times in accordance with their personalities and the circumstances in which they find themselves. So, it upsets me that as a writer, I should fall into the trap of prioritising plot over people.

The only good thing in this situation is, of course, that I’ve spotted my mistakes now, and not three weeks after I’d started querying the manuscript. I also know that the draft of ‘Eldritch’ currently saved on my various computer files and disks is a better version of the book than that which existed two weeks, even one week, ago; after it’s settled for a few days in my mind, I’ll go back to it again and make sure it still holds water. It’s by no means a perfect book, but I dare to hope it’s reasonably good. In its own small way.

And then. And then it’ll be time to send it away into the big bad world. I hope it doesn’t come back until it’s encased within covers.

*I’ve just realised how many people reading this will now be thinking ‘What an old-fashioned fuddy duddy stick in the mud! CDs? I don’t even know what they are anymore.’ Well, sorry about that. I’m a troglodyte.

Life/Time Management

Another new week is beginning, and the sun is shining here. It looks (fingers crossed) like it’ll be a lovely day. The weekend was more or less restful – I was attacked by an idea on Saturday lunchtime, which is currently languishing in scribbles on the back of an envelope, and my husband and I had a Serious Discussion about the opening chapters of ‘Eldritch’ yesterday. So, I almost had a break from the words that like to linger in the corners of my mind.

Not, of course, that I’d like them to give me a complete break. That would be like the bereft, cold feeling of having the blankets pulled off you in the middle of the night. It’s just – sometimes – I wish there was more space in my brain. Space into which I could put, for instance, all the other things I have to do. Space to remember everything I need to remember, and arrange my life in the most time-effective and efficient way.

So, not like this guy. Image: smallbizmodo.com

So, not like this guy.
Image: smallbizmodo.com

Now, normally I’m not too bad. I’m usually pretty well organised. I get up early, I attack the day long before most people (I think anyone who does the sort of work I do would do the same), and I generally know what’s on the schedule from one day to the next. But there are times when I slip up, and that’s a real pain. I’ve been entering competitions, as you know, and trying to submit work to as many places as possible in the hope it might be suitable for publication. And I’ve mentioned before that there are lots of places to submit. So, it’s inevitable that, at times, stuff is going to slip through the cracks. I realised on Friday, for instance, that I’d allowed time to slip away from me, and that a competition deadline was approaching – and that, even if I acted fast, chances were I’d miss it.

This was a shame, because it was a competition I really wanted to enter. I’d noticed the call for submissions a few weeks ago, and I’d had an idea. I kept this idea on a particular shelf in my brain, ripening like a fine cheese; every so often I’d turn it, tend it, and check how it was getting on. Unlike a good cheesemaker, though, I allowed too much time to go by – I left it too long on the shelf. By the time I hurried it out into the light, I fear not only did I spoil it, but also left myself too little time to get it out into the world. The competition is in the UK, and the closing date is early this week. I sent my entry, but I have a feeling it will be too late. I also know that I should have spent more time on the story, if I’d had time to spend.

I got very side-tracked with ‘Eldritch’ last week; I really allowed it to take over all the space I had in my head. So, other things (like checking up on a contact I hadn’t heard from, sending a few emails re. an upcoming publication, and – of course – sorting myself out for upcoming competitions) fell by the wayside. I don’t want this to happen again, because it makes me stressed. There are, of course, a few simple steps that can be taken to avoid a recurrence – first among these is ‘not relying on your holey brain to remember everything, and getting a calendar’; second would be ‘not forgetting to take a big red marker and write the stuff you need to remember on the calendar.’ I’ll probably end up writing notes on my hand to remind me to write on my calendar, which will devolve into tying pieces of string onto various extremities and leaving myself Post-It notes all over the house… I can see it turning into a total disaster, but it’s better than nothing. At the moment, I normally put reminders on my phone to help with time management and organisation, but I think the poor device is going to raise the white flag shortly and beg for parlay. Plus, if I lose the phone, my whole life goes with it. That, naturally, would be a disaster.

Whatever way I choose to do it, there’s a job to be done. It’s (besides the physical action of putting words on pages) the most important job I have to do, which is making the most of the time I have, and doing as much as possible in every working day. I have a lot of ground to cover in a reasonably short space of time, and so every second is important. So, today’s agenda looks like this: my (wonderful) husband gave me some interesting and useful feedback on the first 10,000 words of ‘Eldritch’ yesterday, so I’m off to rethink the opening sections. I’m still determined to get the book submitted to agents, but this time I want to make sure I don’t send it until it’s as ripe, tasty and perfect as I can make it. If I’m to keep to my schedule, then, I’m going to need to have the most efficient working week I’ve ever had!

Determination, organisation, motivation… and a lot of perspiration! Hope your week is shaping up to be fun, creative and (happily) busy, too.

Monday Musings

It’s ‘that day’ again. Let’s not speak of it. I’ll draw a veil over it, shall I, and we can move on with the rest of the post? Marvellous.

If I may begin with an observation – weekends never seem to last long enough, do they? I’m still not fully convinced time behaves the way it’s supposed to. When nobody’s looking, I think it speeds up or slows down as much as it wants to, just for the fun of it. There’s no other explanation for why it seems to take so long to do the housework, say, or work your way through your manuscript, or whatever it is you might need to do between Monday and Friday, and then the weekend comes and you don’t even have time to take your shoes off before it’s Monday morning again.

Anyway.

Despite the fact that it was so brief that I barely knew it was there at all, I managed to have a nice weekend. We didn’t do a whole lot – in fact, I can hardly remember Saturday, which is probably not a good sign – but I’m pretty sure it was a good (if mentally vacant) day. Unfortunately, however, I didn’t get my manuscript edited. My aim for the weekend was to get the first edit of ‘Eldritch’ completed, and be ready to begin the second run-through this morning, but my brain had other ideas.

This is literally what the inside of my brain looked like this weekend. Image: artsandcatsmovement.wordpress.com

This is literally what the inside of my brain looked like this weekend.
Image: artsandcatsmovement.wordpress.com

I’m sure this is a ‘fail-safe’ mechanism, built into the brain; a ‘Do Not Edit’ function which kicks in when fatigue would make it dangerous to approach your WiP. It’s not just an excuse to let your brain ramble off down the highways and byways, gathering berries and singing to itself (though there’s nothing wrong with that, of course.) I felt the need to read this weekend, which I did – I got through ‘Eight Days of Luke’ by the majestic Diana Wynne Jones, and I started ‘Mortal Engines’ by Philip Reeve, which has been on my ‘To Read’ list for months. This takes the books I’ve read this week (if you count last weekend, too) to 3.36 approximately, which is a point of pride for me. Last weekend, I enjoyed ‘Robopocalypse’ by Daniel H. Wilson, and ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ by Ruth Ozeki, which is one of the most wonderful books I’ve ever read. My imagination feels fat and sleek at the moment, pulsing with inspiration and life. It’s just a shame my brain feels like a piece of lint.

Sometimes I feel that a change of scenery can be a very helpful thing to do if you’re feeling a little bit unmotivated. I spent a lot of Friday in Dublin city, which was great – the weather was wonderful, and it was refreshing to be among people and the hustle and bustle of a city again. I have a feeling, however, that I enjoyed it so much because I knew I’d be going home at the end of the day to my sleepy little one-horse village, where three people on the pavement at the same time constitutes a crowd – but in any case, it was great. I really enjoyed feeling like a pretentious auteur, sitting at a café table with my WiP spread neatly around me, being held down by coffee cups and milk jugs and random pieces of detritus, hoping someone would walk by and be stunned into awed silence by the sheer brilliance of my words. That last part didn’t happen, of course, but I enjoyed myself nonetheless. So, in an attempt to recreate that feeling of hipster-inspiration, I’m going to take myself off to our one and only coffee shop here in Countryville, order the most complicated coffee on their menu, and break out the red pen. I’m just over two-thirds of the way through ‘Eldritch’, so I am hopeful I’ll see the end of Edit One before the week is out.

So far, the editing has been going reasonably well. I’ve run into a few difficulties with regard to the book’s structure and its central narrative conceit, but I hope I’ve smoothed those over – that’s what I spent a lot of Friday doing. I am planning at least one more read-through before I start the query process (don’t worry about that noise you’re probably hearing right now – it’s just me, hyperventilating), and once ‘Eldritch’ is out of my hair, it’ll be time to go back and tackle the almighty mess that is ‘Tider’. I’m hoping my memory has made a bigger mess out of it than is actually the case in reality, and that I’ll be pleasantly surprised when I get back to it.

I guess it’s good to be an optimist.

Image: acceler8or.com

Image: acceler8or.com

So, I’m off to pack up my manuscript, my editing pens, and my wizened motivation, and hit the café. I’ll try not to wear black, or a beret, or sigh heavily at random intervals, but I can’t make any promises. Fingers crossed I’ll get the work done before I keel over from a caffeine overdose, or run out of money.

Whatever you find yourself doing this wet and miserable morning, good luck with it.

What in the World?

This morning, we awoke to news of a further explosion in the United States. A fertiliser plant explosion has destroyed homes, businesses and lives in the town of West, near Waco, in Texas, and has caused an unspecified amount of deaths and injuries. Of course, when we hear ‘Waco’, we think of the horror that took place there twenty years ago, almost to the day; it almost seems unbelievable that an explosion would happen in the same area now. I’m praying that it turns out to have been caused by an explicable, understandable and ‘ordinary’ thing – I’m praying that it turns out to be accidental. Between the horror at the Boston Marathon, American politicians being targeted with ricin-laced mail, the war in Syria, the situation in North Korea, and so many other things… What in the world is going on?

It’s hard to keep your head on straight when the news is bursting out all over with stories of inexplicable cruelty and (seemingly) mindless savagery. When you realise that there are so many people in the world who are denied even the most basic chance to live their life as they would choose, perhaps because their country is embroiled in war, or ensnared by poverty, or both, it makes the choice to be a writer, for instance, seem at once completely frivolous and vitally important. Frivolous because I am in the fortunate position of living every day without the threat of destruction, and vitally important because if we are not creating, then what’s the point of even being here, on earth, in this time and place?

The more I hear about destruction and death, and the more news I watch about dictatorships and terrorism and war and imposition of unfair laws on a populace struggling to survive and military posturing with no thought to the safety of the people… well. The more I feel that creating something – no matter what it is – is the most important calling a person could have. How else will we fight off destruction and dark-hearted sorrow? Not with more aggression, more terror, more fear – but with light, and laughter, and song, and new life. It’s at once the simplest and most difficult thing in the world.

Image: warchild.org

Image: warchild.org

I’m not really making a whole lot of sense this morning. My flu is still not entirely gone, and I am very tired. I’m almost three-quarters done with my redraft of ‘Eldritch’, which is great, and I learned yesterday that another of my short stories has been accepted for publication; I’m also (possibly) shortlisted for another competition. My database of stories written and submitted is looking nice and fat and healthy, and I’m pretty happy with what I’ve read of ‘Eldritch’ so far. Of course, it’ll need at least one more going-over before I’ll be happy to send it anywhere, but I can actually see it happening now – it seems real, achievable, and within my grasp. I am going to query a novel with agents and publishers. Even getting to this point is a dream come true.

But, sometimes, when you turn on the TV or search the web for news, and you realise just what some people are living with and dealing with on a daily basis, you would have to stop and wonder: ‘What is the point? What difference does it make, to anyone but me, that I’ve managed to achieve these tiny things?’ But I have to believe that creating something, writing a story that might bring some laughter and happiness into someone’s life, or giving a hug when one is needed, or sending support to a friend in need, or even just caring about what happens to other people, makes a difference. If I didn’t, I’m not sure what would keep me going.

Sorry for the depressing post today. I’ll try to be all about the kittens and the sparkliness tomorrow, okay?

Image: blogs.warwick.ac.uk

Image: blogs.warwick.ac.uk