Tag Archives: WIP

Five Things I Wish Were Different This Monday Morning

1. The Snow

Oh yes, the snow. It started to fall yesterday, great fat flakes like sky-kisses gently carpeting the world, and I admit it was pretty. So pretty, in fact, that I stood staring out at it for ages, allowing the gentle flickering to soothe my mind. It was mesmerisingly psychedelic, and I did wonder about the possibility of an evil genius harnessing the power of falling snow to hypnotise an entire population and make them do his will… But then I came to my senses and shut the blinds.

And there was no panic, because it was Sunday and nobody had to go anywhere or do anything in particular, and that was fine.

But now it’s Monday. And people have to go places. Trains are delayed. Roads are clogged. Nincompoops like me are afraid to set foot outside lest they find themselves unwillingly doing the splits. Anyone would think I was living in New York, where approximately fourteen feet of the white stuff has lain in situ since some time last year; I’m talking about a couple of inches, if that, which has already started to melt. It’s still enough to scare me, no matter how gorgeous it looks.

So, yes. It’s pretty and all, but I wish I’d woken up this morning to a snow-free world. Sue me.

2. Leonard Nimoy being dead

How did this happen?

Image: chipchick.com

Image: chipchick.com

I hate that Leonard Nimoy passed away last week. I don’t care that he was in his eighties; he was too young to go. Or maybe it’s that we weren’t ready to lose him. Then, with people like him, there’s never a good time for them to check out. A campaigner for equality, a fan of humanity, a photographer, a director, a father, an actor of superlative ability, I was (and am, and always shall be) a massive fan. With regard to his work: I love Star Trek in general, but in reality it was Spock I truly admired. He made the programme what it was, the quiet centre around which the rest of the characters orbited, and Nimoy’s ability to express the depths of emotion beneath the calm surface of Spock’s cool rationality always blew me away.

LLAP, Mr Spock. I will never forget you.

3. The world

Right, so I’ll admit this is sort of broad. But maybe you’ll know what I’m getting at anyway. I regularly tell myself ‘I must go on a news-break’, but I never really manage to do it for longer than a day or two. I’ve heard of people who don’t follow current events at all; they just live their lives, and get on with things, and (not so funnily enough) they seem like the happiest people on earth. I reckon there’s something in that.

I can’t count the amount of times over the past few weeks that a news bulletin has reduced me to a gibbering wreck. Now, of course, that might say more about me than it does about the news, but still. Terrorism, freaky weather, political assassinations, mass abductions, the workings of Operation Yewtree in the UK, people being displaced in their hundreds of thousands, gun crime… the list goes on. Sometimes, it does start to grind you down. It can be hard to remember that one person’s good choices can change the world, but it’s really important not to lose sight of it.

It’s important to be that one person, and to make those good choices, too.

4. My entire brain

Lately, my concentration has been shot. I’ve been eking out a word count on my WiP but it is going so painfully slowly that putting the words on paper seems akin to eating boulders. I’m not sure what, exactly, I’d like to be different here – my brain in general, or my focus, or this particular WiP, or what. But all’s I know is, somethin’s gotta change, man.

Let nobody ever try to tell you that writing is not hard work. It flaming well is.

But there is hope. This week, I have no distractions. I have no appointments, I have no visitors, and I have no excuses. There will be writing. It will be done. And that is that.

5. The state of my house

I’m not exactly living in a hovel, but y’know. I didn’t do a lot of what you might call actual housework over the weekend. This now means I have a pile of dishes as tall as myself which have to be cleaned before I can so much as make a cup of tea this morning. This ‘using all the crockery because it’s Saturday and I can’t be bothered washing up’ thing, dear readers, is something I regularly do. It’s a classic example of why you shouldn’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today, but do you think I ever learn? Of course I don’t. At least I got the bathroom cleaned and the dusting done last week, though. It sort of distracts from the fact that the hoovering needs doing and that there’s a general, low-lying mess everywhere. I have a nagging feeling it’s a metaphor for my existence, but that’s too scary to contemplate, so I’ll just put some dirty plates over it and hope it goes away.

They should teach this stuff at school. I’m not even joking.

Anyway. I hope your Monday is better than my Monday, and that your week is looking good. Remember to be that one good person, and do something awesome for someone else this week in memory of Leonard Nimoy – or, just because you want to. Whichever.

 

 

Wobbling On

It will probably surprise nobody to learn that I spent yesterday, and will spend today, taking the least sensible of all the writing options open to me; viz., carrying on with my new WiP. I have nothing to offer here in terms of a sensible explanation besides the fact that the story is bashing me around the brain and writing it seems to soothe the savage beast inside my skull.

Image: dailymail.co.uk

Image: dailymail.co.uk

It’s a little like examining a massive tapestry in a huge, unlit room using only a tiny, weak battery-powered torch. All I can see is the picture which is illuminated by the sputtering beam of light in my hand; the bits still to come are shrouded in darkness. I do know what I want to happen in the story, of course – I have a skeletal plot structure and an ending in mind. The detail, however, and the actual meat of the story which will bring me from where I am now to that wonderful point where I can write ‘The End’, has yet to materialise.

But that’s the fun of it, isn’t it? Isn’t it?

I’m working on a story which I first came up with almost eight years ago, during which time the protagonist was a couple of years younger than she is now and my writing style screamed like something out of the nineteen-fifties. I have a draft chapter of this WiP saved, which I wrote in 2006, and I’m surprised words like ‘balderdash!’ ‘jolly good,’ and – of course ‘lashings of ginger beer!’ (which, apparently, doesn’t actually appear anywhere in Enid Blyton’s oeuvre, despite the stereotype) aren’t studded through it like cloves in a boiled ham. I really find it hilarious that the writing I was doing a few years ago is like something from a different planet – it took me years to shake off the style of writing found in the books I loved to read as a child, and develop a voice of my own.

I’m still not sure I’ve managed it, but I think I’m on the right path at least.

My. That's a big path. Image: helenotway.edublogs.org

My. That’s a big path.
Image: helenotway.edublogs.org

However, I tried to explain this current story to my husband the other night, and I ended up going round and round in a ring of syllables, getting more and more confused. I finished on the word ‘basically,’ which is never a good sign you’ve explained yourself clearly, and he turned to me and said ‘Er. Yeah, that sounds… um.’

I made it sound terrible. Absolutely awful.

Now, admittedly, I’m not very far into the writing of this story yet – fewer than 7,000 words of a first draft currently exist – but, as I said, I do know where I want it to go, more or less. In my head, it all hangs together beautifully. But when I tried to put it into words it came out as something like:

‘So, there’s this pilchard, and it lost its watermelon a few years before in a tragic squash-making accident, and then there’s this spider-thing, with a net, that wants to, you know, catch things, and there’s a bucket and spade which the pilchard really wants and so the spider-thing decides to take it first.’

Clear, non? Of course. I know you guys know what I’m getting at.

It’s important to be able to talk about your work in a way that doesn’t make you sound like you need a long lie-down; summarising your plot and characters should, really, be something you practise from the get-go when you’re writing a book. You never know when you might need to pitch something, after all. Of course, it does help to have written the thing first, and that it’s polished and buffed to as high a shine as you can manage before you start pitching it, but still – always be prepared. It does worry me that a story so clearly outlined in my head can turn into a mouthful of must when I try to explain it, and I hope I’ll be able to do it justice in the future.

I’m also feeling a little like a cobweb in a stiff breeze about this book because I’m taking the same approach as I took for the previous one – ‘Emmeline’ – wherein I knew what I wanted to say, but the story pretty much told itself as it went. I’m trying to rely on my inner pantser, which involves forcibly silencing my far more vocal plotter-persona. So far, the story has set itself in a new location, it has raised the protagonist’s age by at least two – if not three – years, it has developed a whole new set of characters and it has given the Antagonist an entirely new and (if I may say so) deliciously plausible reason for being so Evil. During yesterday’s writing a new character – a boy! – walked into the story and held out his hand in greeting, and I didn’t know his name until I typed it.

So, it was really like meeting someone new for the first time. In a weird, spooky and ‘man, my brain is strange’ sort of way.

And yes, I know I know I should be finishing ‘Eldritch’ (again) and trying to work out just exactly what is wrong with ‘Tider’ and chewing my nails to the quick as I wait for news of ‘Emmeline’, but it’s really hard to resist the lure of a new story.

So, for the moment, I am bending to temptation, and hoping it’s the right decision.

Image: writeontrack.ie

Image: writeontrack.ie

The Blog Tour Q&A

A hundred thousand welcomes!

This morning, I have the inestimable pleasure of taking part in a blog tour; the ever-wonderful and marvellously talented Susan Lanigan (whose novel, ‘White Feathers’, will be published later this year, book fans), has nominated me to carry on the Q&A torch. So, here I go.

Image: researchvoodoo.com

Image: researchvoodoo.com

Since I have nothing like as cool as an upcoming book to talk about, I’ll have to answer the questions based on my two most active WiPs; technically, I’m working on both of them at the moment. So, it’s not really breaking the rules. Right?

What am I working on?

The first of my current Works-in-Progress, ‘Eldritch’, is a book which I had thought was finished and done with several months ago. However, it would appear not. A very kind and generous agent-person, who shall remain nameless, gave me some wonderfully useful and constructive feedback on the book a while back which – unfortunately, in a way – necessitated the total deconstruction of the story and the story world, and its rebuilding almost from scratch. The characters stayed the same, and the basic plot, but everything else – narrative voice, motivation, stakes (i.e. what’s at risk if the heroes don’t succeed), structure and scope had to be reimagined.

Invigorating work.

Image: superstock.com

Image: superstock.com

‘Eldritch’ is about a boy named Jeff who, on the day he turns thirteen, receives a strange gift from an uncle he’s never heard of before. But the gift is no ordinary one: it is a deeply powerful object, designed (or so Jeff is told) to test whether or not he has inherited the magic that runs in his family – but does his uncle have a larger and more sinister motive? (Spoiler alert: yes.)

My other Work-in-Progress is one that should be familiar to anyone who’s been hanging around here for any length of time. It’s going under the name ‘Emmeline and the Ice-God’, but that’s only a holding title, so so speak. It grew out of my NaNoWriMo project in November 2013 and was completed in January 2014. I have edited, polished and buffed this one several times, and it’s lurking at the corners of my mind, giving me no peace whatsoever. It’s my intention to start submitting it in earnest in (probably) March, if my nerve holds until then.

‘Emmeline’ is the story of an odd little girl who, when her parents are kidnapped, is sent immediately to live with strangers. On the way to her new life she meets an odd little boy with no name, calling himself ‘Thing’, who doesn’t know his own age or anything about his past. They become sort-of friends, despite Emmeline’s misgivings, and he helps her to escape from a dangerous situation. Before they’ve even caught their breaths after this scary encounter, however, Emmeline is abducted by a gang of strange and frightening men. Thing, with the help of a group of people calling themselves ‘The White Flower’, who seem to know a lot about Emmeline and her family, sets off after her… But who has taken her, and why?

And what is the secret of Thing’s past?

*cue dramatic music*

So, yeah. That’s where I’m at. Besides trying to prepare stuff for competitions and magazine submissions, and stuff. Never a dull moment.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Well – it’s mine. Isn’t that enough? I write children’s books (or, at least, it’s my ambition to write children’s books, ones which are publishable and enjoyable and which will be read and loved), and they all have elements in common – a child protagonist in a world (usually) devoid of parental-figures, for whatever reason; an unsettling challenge or a frightening adventure; things are learned about oneself and the world along the way; friendship is put to the test; monsters are encountered and dealt with – and my books are no different from this tried-and-tested model.

I’d like to think my characters make my work different from other books in their genre, perhaps. I like to write dialogue, and I like to write with humour, and I hope that makes my work memorable. I’m interested in writing about children who are a bit strange, even eccentric, because those are the sort of books I loved to read as a kid.

In fact, I might as well come clean. Those are the sort of books I love to read now, too.

How does my writing process work?

Through panic, mainly. Panic, and my all-consuming fear of failure.

Things that work in my favour: I am good at imposing deadlines on myself, and meeting them, and I am a goal-oriented type. What that means in practice is I can’t let myself shut off of an evening unless I’ve made a particular word-count or hit a particular point in the text, or whatever. Not always a good thing, from a peace of mind point of view, but it’s good for the old self-motivation.

Usually, I plot things out to the nth degree – I didn’t with ‘Emmeline’, and it worked wonderfully, so I will try that again for my next project – and I like to have a sense of the characters before I begin, so I sometimes jot down biographies and motivations and the places in the plot where a certain character’s actions will intersect with another’s, and what effects that’s likely to have, and so on. I like to have an idea of how the book will end before I begin, but I don’t always manage that.

I tend to write careful, self-edited first drafts which are massively overlong. I then make at least two on-screen edits, looking for inconsistencies and errors and repetition (the ‘Find’ function in Word is my best friend), and when I’ve done this I let the work sit for a while. Then, it’s time to print and take the whole book apart with scribbled corrections, which I really enjoy. Then, after another period of percolation, I go over the book on the computer screen again, looking to cut words wherever possible; anything which isn’t utterly necessary is junked. Then it gets left to sit, again, and checked over once more (possibly in print) before the submission process begins.

So, that’s me.

I figure passing on the baton is part of this whole process, so – if she’s willing – I’d like to tag the fabulous E. R. Murray to answer these questions, too.

And finally – thank you, Susan, for considering me worthy of the Blog Tour Torch!

Image: friday-ad.co.uk

Image: friday-ad.co.uk

 

 

 

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.

Diving Back In

Today, it’s the ninth of April.

Image: howmanyarethere.netEdvard Munch, The Scream

Image: howmanyarethere.net
Edvard Munch, The Scream

You may remember me saying, some time ago, that I planned to get back into my novel(s) at the start of April, and get at least one of them ready to start doing the rounds of submissions before the end of the month. Well, you’d think I’d have started the process by now, then, wouldn’t you?

I haven’t, though. Partly, this is due to being quite busy so far during April, but mainly it’s due to something else entirely. Something to which I am no stranger.

My old nemesis: Fear.

I opened my computer file for ‘Eldritch’ the other day, and began to get that old familiar thrumming in the chest once more, the dead giveaway that all is not well within. I read through the first few pages and realised that there were 150 more to go, and my vision started to blur. I had to close the file and step away from the computer for a while – so far, ‘a while’ has been ‘a week, nearly’. My gaze fell upon my hard copy of ‘Tider’, complete with all its handwritten, sweated-over notations, yesterday, and I couldn’t bring myself to open up my box-file and just deal with it. I know I have to do this work, and I know (or, at least, I’m *fairly* sure) the stories contained in both these files are worth saving – at least, to me. But all of this logic and reason and sensible-ness tends to go out the window when you’re faced with the unenviable reality of writing: it’s hard work, and it may (and indeed probably will) be hard work which will come to nothing.

I know how it feels to put my heart, soul and kitchen sink into a project and watch it vanish without trace. I know how bad that felt at the time, and how it made me slide into a trough of depression that lasted the best part of a year. I don’t want to go through that again. I have no way of knowing for sure, of course, that the same thing will happen with my creative work, but the old fear is there, lurking, waiting to pounce.

But then, I have to realise that this fear isn’t what it seems. It’s definitely there, skulking about like a wolf in the woods, but it’s not necessarily a fear of failure in the eyes of other people. It’s not even a fear of success, as I’ve talked about before here on Blog Central. I have a feeling it’s more of a fear that I’ll fail myself, that I’ll let myself down, that I won’t do a proper job of this work, that I’ll do it ‘wrong’, that it won’t ever be good enough… Paradoxically, of course, the way this fear manifests itself is to paralyse me from taking positive action, and to stop me from opening up my files and getting stuck in. My fear of not doing the work properly is keeping me from doing the work properly. Analyse that!

Yeah, I don't get it either.Image: blogs.babble.com

Yeah, I don’t get it either.
Image: blogs.babble.com

I may not have said this before, but I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist. Like most people with this tendency, if something isn’t 100% correct and exact the first time it’s done, then it’s very difficult to deal with it.  Part of my brain wants to just shut away all my work, lock up all my files and never look at them again, and close the door on all the words that aren’t good enough, that don’t meet the (self-imposed) ‘required standard’. I also tend to be very impatient with myself, and if I can’t pick up a skill or learn something the first time I try it I often feel like a failure. I don’t necessarily give up trying, but somehow the enjoyment is taken out of it for me. So, once again, I find myself wondering why I’m drawn to the life of a writer, which is the sort of life in which tendencies like these are definitely not helpful. In fact, they are the very things you really need to overcome if you’re going to be able to live peacefully in a life which requires you to write, rewrite, draft, redraft, correct yourself, edit and undo lots of your own work, and learn that you can’t write a book perfectly the first time around.

Writing is rewriting. This I know. I don’t tend to write the sort of first drafts I’ve read about on writing websites, or on other writing blogs, which are basically ‘spews’ of emotion and feeling and characterisation and story without any structure or narrative; my first drafts are careful, tentative, over-written and over-complicated. So, necessarily, they aren’t good enough to be exposed to the world. But it’s almost like I’m trying, even from the first draft, to do my absolute best – to make the work ‘perfect’. But, of course, it never is perfect the first time around. This tends to hurt my head a bit. It’s amazing how you can know something with your rational mind, but your more irrational, emotional, instinctive side can be completely unaware of it. No matter how much I know the books I’m writing can’t be perfect the first time they’re written, I still try to do it. And by doing so, I set myself up for ‘failure’, which locks me into the fear, which means diving back into the work of fixing my words is ten times harder than it needs to be.

God, I am a complicated little person.

Perhaps this is why I want to be a writer. What better way is there to face up to these irrational tendencies and deal with my crippling perfectionism than by forcing myself to work through it? I managed to do it before – ‘Tider’ is in its sixth or seventh draft, let’s not forget, and it’s still not right – but because I’ve left it so long, picking it up again now and starting the work again is like starting from scratch.

It’s going to be difficult. Send me your good vibes. I will need them.

This isn't just an excuse to use a picture of Westley. The point is, I'm attacking my problem. Just in case you were going to accuse me of being gratuitous.Image: cinemagogue.com

This isn’t just an excuse to use a picture of Westley. The point is, I’m attacking my problem. Just in case you were going to accuse me of being gratuitous.
Image: cinemagogue.com

Swings and Roundabouts

Yesterday was a sort of ‘mixed fortunes’ type of day. Some good stuff happened, and some – well, not exactly bad, because that would be overstating the case, but perhaps we can settle on ‘not so good’ – stuff happened, too.

So, a more or less normal day, then.

The good stuff included such highlights as waking up alive, husband waking up alive, the sun shining, my brain working, and gaining my shiny second publication in under a week – my flash fiction, ‘Reunion’, appeared in Issue 22 of The Bohemyth Magazine. (If you missed the link to it, it’s at the end of yesterday’s post, or under the new ‘My Writing’ tab on the blog’s homepage.) Another twisty and dark story about death and messed-up families, I’m at a loss to explain where it came from, too. Suffice to say that my brain normally works in pink and fluffy terms, so there logically must come a time when it needs to venture down the rarely-trod path of evil. You know, for balance.

On the other hand, I learned yesterday that I was not shortlisted for a writing competition I’d entered. I was proud of and pleased with the story I’d written, and I thought I’d handled the brief reasonably well. However, I’d also sent an author photograph with my submission, and it – to be fair – was pretty gruesome. I’ve since found another one where I don’t look quite so much like a Vogon overlord, so let’s hope I’ll improve my chances of being selected now. (I’m joking, of course. Not about the photo looking like a Vogon overlord, but about how choosing a better photo might improve my chances. Of course, it’s all about the writing, and this time I didn’t measure up. No big deal.)

Lest the word 'Vogon' mean nothing to you, I've helpfully included this illustrative illustration. Behold!Image: lebaum.blogspot.com

Lest the word ‘Vogon’ mean nothing to you, I’ve helpfully included this illustrative illustration. Behold!
Image: lebaum.blogspot.com

Perhaps a little more upsettingly, I also came to the realisation yesterday that an idea I’d been working on, and a WiP I’d written nearly 40,000 words on, will now have to be scrapped. (Don’t worry, though – the WiP I’m talking about is not ‘Tider’, nor ‘Eldritch’, nor any of my most recent novel ideas, which is a blessing.) You remember how I spoke about buying books recently, and how much I was enjoying reading them? Well, this is still true, but the book I’m currently reading is also causing me a bit of pain. I’ve been meaning to read this book for a long time, ever since I first read a synopsis of its plot somewhere online, but I was putting it off because I knew it sounded similar to an idea I’d had several years back. This sometimes does happen, and you feel that your world is ending because someone has written the book you wanted to write before you had a chance to – but then you actually read the book, and it’s not so bad. Life carries on, and you keep working on your WiP, and there’s space in the world for both stories.

This is not one of those times.

Despite the fact that the author has created an entirely different sort of society to the one I wrote about, and her characters are all different, the core concept of the world and the way it functions is exactly the same as the idea I’d been working on. So much so, in fact, that the same terminology and descriptions are used, along with the same images and explanations I’d come up with to convey the ‘reality’ of the fictive world. It’s almost weird to see the word I thought I’d created, used by the characters to describe their world, appearing in print before my eyes, yet not in a book written by me. I have pride in my little idea – clearly, its essence was good enough to make a book out of – but I know my own work wasn’t a fraction as strong as the work in the book I’m reading. In a way, that makes it easier to take. I couldn’t have done as good a job as this author has done, and she has done greater justice to our shared idea than I would have. So, it’s hard for me but better for the world of books and stories that it has worked out this way.

There are differences in our stories, too, so there may yet be something I can salvage from my own work. It’s not a total lost cause yet.

Anyway. To end on a high, the most incredible beams of sunshine are bursting through my windows, the sky outside is so blue it would put the Riviera to shame (we can ignore the fact that the wind is cold enough to skin you, because luckily I’m inside with the heating on), and I’m going to a Christening ceremony tomorrow for a friend’s new and beautiful baby girl, so that will be wonderful.

Life is good.

Image: visitgrandforks.com

Image: visitgrandforks.com

 

Battening Down the Hatches

You can always tell an Irish person by the fact that they’re obsessed with talking about the weather. I’m afraid to do a search on this blog to find out how many times I’ve mentioned it so far; I’d probably break the internet if I tried it, so I won’t.

This being said, I have to mention the weather today. It’s atrocious.

Sort of like this, except not as well dressed.Image: delilahskye.wordpress.com

Sort of like this, except not as well dressed.
Image: delilahskye.wordpress.com

There’s wind. There’s rain. There’s freezing coldness in abundance. At least there’s no snow this week (at least, not where I live), for which I give grateful thanks to whatever deity/ies may be listening.

This would all be fine, of course, if the weather wasn’t supposed to look like this:

Image: telegraph.co.uk

Image: telegraph.co.uk

It’s depressing to look out the window and see grey, rain-lashed, puddle-dashed concrete when what you want to see is a hillside full of nodding daffodils. My everyday life is soundtracked by sneezing, nose-clearing, voices thickened by sore throats, and people complaining (I’m not excluding myself from this list), and I really can’t wait for the weather to lift, the sun to come out and a little bit of warmth to soak into my sodden country. Irish people are a whole different race when they’ve had a bit of sunshine. We can be troll-like in wet, cold weather, but in the sunshine we turn magically into poets, raconteurs and professional comedians.

Anyway.

In writing news, I’ve been making good on my promises to keep submitting work for publication. This week, I’ve submitted work to one competition, and submitted two more pieces to literary magazines. I’m still pinching myself at the thought that over the next few weeks, three of my stories will be seeing the light of day in three separate magazines. It’s a feeling I’m not sure words can adequately describe. An added benefit is that with every small success, submitting work to new places gets easier and easier – you feel better about yourself when you can say in your covering email that ‘My work has appeared in X Magazine, Y Magazine and Z Magazine’. It makes you a better prospect for a new publisher if you’ve been published elsewhere, and it also makes you feel like less of a spoofer and more of a professional (albeit an unpaid one).

That’s not to say it’s an easy thing to do, this submitting pieces of your heart to the cold scrutiny of an Editor. In fact, it’s been one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. And it’s only when I started talking about it here, and on Twitter, that I realised how many other people struggle with it, too. Other writers, many of whom I deeply admire and whose talent leaves me in the shade, find it hard to summon up the courage to submit their work to journals, periodicals and magazines. I hope that my efforts will encourage them, just as their efforts may encourage me in the future. The writing karma-wheel spins on.

In April, I’m planning to get back into ‘Eldritch’. It’s been so long since I’ve mentioned it that I’ll forgive you if you’ve forgotten all about it. I’ve had a break from it for long enough now to come back to it with fresh eyes, and I’d love to get it edited, trimmed, tidied-up, scrubbed and tied in a bow, and flung around to agents and publishers before the end of April. I think having a small clutch of publications in my sweaty, hopeful fist will look good when I try to find a home for my precious little novel, so the work I’ve put in all during March won’t have gone to waste. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

It can be hard to keep going at times, and occasionally the inspiration/motivation engine will burn low. Finding out that a story you’ve loved, sweated over, tweaked and fiddled with until it’s nearly driven you cross-eyed has been selected for publication is like having a shovelful of coal thrown into your writing furnace, and it’s a very welcome boost. The only problem is, those shovelfuls of coal can be rare and unexpected, so it’s hard to rely on them to keep you stringing one word behind another. Then, I guess the beginning stages of any writing career are like the rainy, cold, unwelcoming weather we’re having at the moment – hard to put up with, depressing to live through, but a necessary precursor to the sunnier days that will follow.

If I can believe that sunnier days are on the way, I’m certain I can believe that things will – one day – turn up golden for my words, too.

Happy Friday, all. Stay warm, stay well, stay writing!