This year I’m going to do something I’ve never done before; I’m going to take a blog break over Christmas/New Year. The weekends are crazy busy, work is crazy busy, after work is crazy busy and… I’ve started writing again.
So the precious little time I have leading up to Christmas I’m going to spend on fictional words. I’m sure you are all crazy busy too so you won’t even notice the gap.
I hope you all have a safe and, even if only at times, relaxing end of year. It is a really good time for reflection and evaluation. Are you going in the right direction? Can you keep doing what you are doing? What would you like to do differently? How will you make that happen?
I’ll be doing a lot of that thinking this year and I’m sure I’ll write many lists. Change is the only constant in life, so it is up to you if you are going to be the agent of that change, or just the subject.
See you in 2016!
Like most of us, I’ve had a lot of rejection in my time. You would think I would be getting used to it by now, but it still carries a painful barb. My novel got rejected this week. To really rub salt into the wound it was just a two sentence ‘dear author…’ rejection. In recent history I’ve usually got a personal note to say it was good, just not what they were looking for, but that was bitterly absent on this one.
It was interesting to go through the rejection transition, which does speed up as you get more ‘used’ to rejection. The first step is what I think of as the ‘it’s me’ stage –where you read the subtext of the rejection as “what the hell are you doing wasting your time on this? You can’t write, so just stop, okay?”
The next stage is the ‘it’s them’ where the rejection reads as “we are too small minded to consider things outside the box and are closed to the potential of doing something different.” I used to stay in this stage for a long and angry time.
The final stage is the ‘the planets didn’t align’ stage where you realise they were just not the right publisher for your book. They were looking for something and this wasn’t it. Someone else will be looking for it and they will be as excited as a kid who has found their mother’s chocolate stash (behind the fantasy novels in the bookshelf) when they read your pages. That’s the publisher you want championing your book.
This time it took about 24 hours to transition, so I think I need to apologise to my work colleagues and I know I need to apologise to my family for my foul mood on Wednesday. I was in stage 1 at work and 2 at home. Sorry. And thank you to my fantastic friends for dragging me into stage 3 much faster than I think I would have been able to do so alone.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about exactly what writing is, as you can gather from my posts, and now I’m redefining my concept of writing. I used to think of it as just putting words on a page, that writing was literally writing but there is so much more to it than that.
Thinking is a big part. One of my friends says her first draft is the one she comes up with in her head. There is no writing at all for that one, you see it as a private movie, some scenes being replayed dozens of times before you are happy to move on. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately.
Writing is also considering which way to go next. I have five core pieces of writing that I have started and hope to finish one day, another twenty which are just started but I’m almost ready to let them go. Working out which one is the next one to commit to is a big decision. That too is writing.
I think the only time I will be able to stay that I have stopped writing is when I stop thinking about it. At the moment I think about something to do with my stories every day, multiple times a day.
So this week I did a lot of writing in my head. Sure, this new definition may just be giving me an excuse to avoid putting the words on the page, but I don’t see how getting stressed about not writing will help me either.
I’ve been sitting here trying to think up a post I could write which would distract you from the fact that I’m not answering my last post, but I couldn’t. So honesty is the best policy; I didn’t write a word.
The positive side is that I didn’t even turn on the computer, so it’s not like I sat staring at a blank screen three times this week. The curse of active November struck again and I had unexpected events covering two ‘dedicated’ writing times, and one night I was just too damned tired.
So I’m going to try again this week. If I’m writing the same post next week, then you know I’m embracing the excuse and maybe I really am just avoiding writing.
I have a very short fuse at the moment. Everyone is feeling it; friends, family, my computer (but in my defence the computer has seriously been provoking me this week). What’s even worse is I feel justified in every outburst, which is very out of character for me. The guilt module has apparently been uninstalled.
There is a lot of stress at work again, with 200 people being made redundant last month and a threat of more on the way. I’ve also managed to over-book my weekends, leaving the precious little time at home to be filled with unavoidable chores.
But I wonder if the stress is not really the cause of my grumpiness, after all, it is usually there in one form or other. I am starting to think it is the lack of writing.
True, the stress has impacted on the urge to write, but maybe when I have been turning away from the computer I should actually be turning to it? It is like when you start feeling sad, so you avoid going out, but when you do get forced to go out you realise it is the best medicine for your sadness. I think writing might actually be my stress outlet.
So I will say no to a few people this week (lucky for the guilt un-installation), turn the phone off, detach the internet, unplug the TV and force myself to write. I will commit to Monday night, Thursday night and Saturday ALL morning. Let’s see if this is the kick-start that starts to improve my mood as well as my productivity.
I know that all I have to do is sit myself down at the computer and make myself write, but for some reason I’m not doing it. The garden beckons, or my tax needs to be done or any of 100 other reasons come up. They are all just excuses not to write.
When I get like this I wonder if maybe I’ve stopped being a writer, and it used to scare me a bit, but I’ve been through this before so I know I will snap out of it. I’ve got blog posts about it from last time it happened.
The thing that gives me faith that I will one day get the urge to sit back down at the computer is that I still think about my stories all the time. While I’m fighting the lawnmower across the grow-5-cm-a-week grass, I’m thinking about the next novel in my were-world. I see scenes that I watch and re-watch in my head, honing them down to what feels right. I’m sure once I’ve got it I will come into the study, boot up the computer and put some words on a page. I’ll be a writer again.
It just didn’t happen this week.
I have never been a patient person. I’m not sure that many of us are, but for me it has always been something I’ve known I need to work on. Writing forces you to become an expert.
A short story commonly sits with a magazine for three months before they give you any indication about if they like it. Even if they pick it up it can be another six or twelve months before they actually publish it. And that’s a short story.
I had a novel sitting with a publisher for two years before I pulled the pin. The six month query elicited a ‘we are still considering it’ response, but all other queries went unanswered. I’m assuming they didn’t want it. It has been six years now with no response.
It has nearly been a month since I subbed my novel for the Ampersand Prize and I know that I probably have another two months to wait before I might hear something. I thought I’d be able to distract myself by working on another project, but my patients isn’t so easily fooled.
Every day I wonder how the story is going. Have they read it? Do they like? Is it on the ‘to be considered’ pile? It isn’t interrupting my work on the new project, but I wonder if I’ll be better or worse when I’ve got two, and then three of these out in the market? I guess I’ll become a master of waiting eventually…
I am so close to the end of my novel that I feel like I should be able to reach out and touch it. I have also just mentally closed down on my writing. After pounding out three to four thousand words a week for the past three months, I’ve now hit a wall.
It has been a long time since I finished a first draft novel. It was some time in 2010, and I don’t remember if this happened. Part of me doesn’t want to finish the novel, because I’ve enjoyed having a project that I have been able to totally immerse myself in. I’ve liked spending time with the characters and in the world and knowing what was waiting for me at the computer each time I sat down.
Another part of me is terrified of stuffing it up.
I have also had a head-cold and lost all the heating in my house as we shiver through the coldest few weeks of the year, but they are excuses, not real reasons to stop. It is late summer in my novel, it is not cold spending time there.
So I will buckle down and do what all writers do when faced with this; force myself to write. If I give myself permission to write as many ends as the novel needs, I’m sure I’ll find the right one eventually. One that will do the rest of the novel justice.
But it is incredible the feeling of loss I’m already getting at the idea of it being over. I’m sure the edit will quickly cure me of that.
I can’t explain the how or why, but when I get a story idea I almost always know the approximate length the story will be. Often it is only a small moment or part of the story that I see, but even then it will feel like a novel, or a short, or a flash.
My feelings probably then dictate how I end up writing the piece, so I can’t entirely put it down to the communal unconsciousness of writing, for example I recently wrote a flash fiction piece (which will be published in Antipodean SF next month) which could easily have been a short story, or even a novel, but it felt like flash so I kept it under 500 words.
Having said that, I repeatedly saw one scene of the novel I’m currently writing, which has turned out to be the opening chapter, but at the time I had no idea what the story would be, how it would end or even who was in it. But I always knew it was going to be a novel.
So I will keep thinking it is the magic of this writing thing. The stories are already out there, they randomly choose a writer to discover them.
The exciting thing is that I can feel another novel tapping at the side of my brain, waiting to step forward. And what do I see; a small parrot darting over the top of a boy. I’m serious, that is what is haunting me. It’s what I know about that moment, about the boy and about the parrot that tells me it is a novel. I love this writing thing.
Forgive me if I’ve told this story before. But I’ve been thinking a lot about synchronicity and how we do or don’t shape our lives with it. Synchronicity is when a single or series of coincidences come together to make something happen that you want to happen. I’ll give you an example.
For a long time I wanted a blue cat, but I also didn’t want to buy a cat, I wanted to re-home one. Out of the blue when at dinner with friends I mentioned this. My friend got a funny look on her face and said that she happened to hear that her husband’s mothers’ cleaner’s mother needed to re-home a British Blue cat. That is synchronicity. That’s also how my cat came to live with me.
The thing that worries me about synchronicity is that if we can harness its power to do good, what in us makes us not use it all the time? Why does my rom-com-zombie-romance-action –thriller story not fall onto the right publisher’s desk at the time they are looking for it? Does that mean I actually don’t want it to be published?
I think it is like the old story about the poor man who begs God to let him win the lottery, but he never wins. When he dies and goes to Heaven he asks God why He never delivered the winnings and God replies that the man needed to buy a ticket.
If the rom-com-zombie-romance-action-thriller is stuck in my desk drawer, the only way the publisher is going to see it is if he/she is robbing my house. Even then I doubt they would make an offer of publication, no matter how much they like it.
So I think synchronicity is out there waiting to help us, but we need to help it help us. If I had never mentioned aloud my desire for a blue cat, my little fluffy muse would never have come to live with me. Synchronicity requires some proactive-activity on our behalves first.