Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Second edit has begun.

My work space for the second edit - a chair and the floor!
January has certainly been a 'bit of a month'. Lots of personal frustrations and the house seems to be rebelling by fusing its lights and the internet came out in sympathy. All sorts going on which has affected my moods. I haven't been able to make any decisions or get any enthusiasm for anything let alone writing. I felt I should be signing up for a poetry course but couldn't physically do it and when my next art history course was cancelled because the tutor could no longer run it I was quite relieved. I've even cancelled things because I wasn't up to it. I've been a right moody cow. Music just about kept me sane.

I ran off the first twenty-five pages of my novel ready for the second edit but then put it away without a second glance. One quiet morning last week I pulled out the file, picked up my red pen and started on the first paragraph. Since then I have used that first hour of the morning while I am alone to edit. I'm taking it slowly and only edit a few pages at a time then go back the next morning and re-read the alterations, maybe do further edits and then carry on to a new page.

This edit is very different. I do it in silence which is opposite to how I normally write with music pounding through headphones. It feels serious and I think it is good to have different ways of working at different stages. I've no idea how others do it. I know Ian Rankin has certain CD's he uses when writing so I am in good company!

The more time I edit the nearer I get to the decision on sending the novel out there which is both exciting but overwhelmingly terrifying. With novels there is so much time and effort spent and if no likes it enough to publish you have to either consider self-publishing, stuff it away and start again - or give up writing which I can't see I'd ever do. I'd write for myself if all else failed.

I'm feeling a little more positive about things today which is why I'm blogging. Small steps, small steps.

Friday, 9 January 2015

A small success and the editing begins

One of my poems has been commended in the Kingston Libraries Poetry competition. This is just what I needed as I've been having a bit of a 'low' right now. So this was a nice surprise and made my day. The prize event takes place on 7th February and though I've not been asked to read, the main winners will be, along with Alison Hill (Judge and local poet) and others. Apparently there will also be music - how can I refuse! Sounds great. So I will pick up my £10 book voucher on the day and sit back and enjoy myself.

Meanwhile I have completed the first very quick edit of my first novel. This was mainly to sort out inconsistencies, typos, spelling mistakes and words or speech marks left out. I did of course make some changes, do a quick cut and paste in one part and added another 2,000 words. While I know there is much more to do the good thing was that I still liked the story and I got completely caught up in it and found it difficult to stop reading.

Never having written something so long and dreading the editing process I found I enjoyed it and was surprised how quickly I got through it. But now comes the more difficult part. I need to run off the pages and see how it looks on paper. Although I have breaks between parts I still haven't pinned down chapter breaks. I think I will do this better when I can handle the pages. I also feel I need to slow down and concentrate on each part, not get carried away with the story.

I have lots of notes and questions to refer to as I edit. Maybe after I've put all the edits onto the computer it will be time to let someone read it. I feel I need the opinion!

For now I'm having a short break away from it. I have a busy week coming up so maybe I'll go back to it after that.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Confronting the demons of past writing

The shelf with all my writing files and other stuff is a mess (again). So this morning while trying to fit a box file in and not succeeding I began looking at what was on the shelf - what I could maybe dispose of.

I came across the file containing the assignments I completed for The Writers Bureau. I began this course way back in 1991 and I was still going in 1996. However, I never completed the course and gave up about half way through. Looking at the file was quite a sad experience. The course dealt with a whole array of writing but the assignments I completed were mainly on reader's letters (I was quite successful with those and even got a few cheques) and articles to magazines, including fillers. I had a few good ideas but I hated fillers and articles were always a struggle. As I flicked through what I had written up I felt much as I did before - that my heart wasn't really in it. I didn't want to write articles for women's magazines like Take a Break and Chat. I didn't feel I had anything in common with them. Whenever I do anything in life (that includes a job) I have to believe in what I am doing and believe in the 'product'.

I never got to the good bit in the course - story writing. Instead I struggled over assignments in non-fiction and the idea of writing a cookery book! The reason it took me so long to get through half the course is because mentally I quit several times and then roused myself for another go. But it was hopeless.

I did actually manage to sell one article some time after I gave up the course! The rest of the articles I wrote now look so dated and to make room on the shelf I'm about to throw the file out.

I'm not sure what to make of it all. The whole things leaves a sadness in me and I'm not sure why. Is it because I gave up and never completed the course? Is it some of negative comments about my ideas? I always felt the course tutor was pushing all the time for me to get stuff out there but apart from the letters I had no confidence and felt way out of my depth with articles and all the rejections didn't help!  I like to think I've moved on and that my writing has improved, that I have found my place in writing through poetry (I actually always wanted to be a lyricist!) and now attempting novels but when I look back on this period of my life it transports me to those days. Obviously the yearn to write has always been there but often I feel I'm banging my head against a brick wall and all those doubts come flooding back.

Okay, I'm having a wallow. Surely, I'm better than this? I have moved on but am I still kidding myself? I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. We all go through these down times. I was doing fine until I picked up this file. So I think the best thing is to ditch the file. I'll keep the workbooks for a while - maybe I should dig out the one on novel writing - but they are probably out of date too now - not in the content as such but technology has moved on a lot since then and most things are done online.

Writing about this helps get it out of my system. Maybe I can now get back to the present because if I wallow too long I might just lose my mojo! And then what will the world have missed?!!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Looking back to 2014 - the round-up

2014 was the most productive year ever for me. I had intended it to be more a year of reading poetry that writing it but I still managed to send out a lot of poems. I’ve received more rejections than acceptances but that’s the way it goes. As well as poetry I also submitted four flash fictions pieces and one short story.

I had another go at a pamphlet competition, entering ten poems to the Pighog Pamphlet Competition but I wasn’t lucky in that. Not to be put off I have entered another pamphlet competition which I’m still waiting on.

I had successes with Areopagus, including a poem in their Anthology (now out) and OU Poets Anthology. Highlights include my poem Aftermath going on display at the Willis Museum in Basingstoke in September, attending Winchester Poetry Festival, the Poetry Book Fair and coming second in The New Writer Prose & Poetry Awards in 2013, though publication and prizes came in 2014.

I don’t only measure my progress by the amount of acceptances/rejections I get. This year I have achieved drafts of two novels, something I never thought was possible. I attended some great poetry readings and met some lovely people.

I wonder what awaits me in 2015? My big project this year is to edit my first novel. I have already made a start doing the basic stuff like correcting typos/spelling mistakes, sorting inconsistencies, and doing some minor re-writes. There is a long way to go and probably a lot more edits to come but I’m taking it bit by bit and doing a little every day. I’d also like to spend some time editing some of my older poetry. I have a lot sitting around which needs working on to bring it up to standard so I can submit them. Again I have made a start and sent off three poems to the OU workbook. Once they are in the workbook I have to wait a year to see which one (if any) gets voted for to go into the next Anthology. What’s left is then available to submit elsewhere.

Having achieved my goal of reading more poetry in 2014 I intend to carry on finding new poets to read. There are many good poets out there whose names are not famous and don’t win big prizes but write stunning stuff and it’s a shame they fall under the radar. I’d like to get to more festivals and readings and perhaps take a one or two courses. I need to learn more about story/novel writing (and find out whether my writing is any good…..yikes!). I feel have a lot of work to do in that respect. I won’t be doing another NaNoWriMo (please remind me I said that when November comes!). When I write my next novel (gosh I said when not if!)I will set my own goals, which strangely I’m quite good at!


So although I didn’t have many acceptances last year I do feel I have achieved a hell of a lot. This year? Bring it on!

Monday, 29 December 2014

Post Christmas?

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. I finally succumbed to the virus doing the rounds and after a week of a bad throat and hacking cough the cold broke on Boxing Day. Thankfully I wasn't entertaining over Christmas - it was just the four of us - so I was able to get rest and have been vegetating in front of the TV, reading, sleeping and helping with the annual jigsaw puzzle when I felt like it.

On Christmas Day morning while I still feeling pretty okay I was, as usual, first up. I love that time alone with a CD of Christmas carols and a mug of tea, candles lighting the room. And guess what I was also doing? I was editing some old poems!

Reading wise I have some poetry books by my bedside and instead of reading a chapter of my current book I've been reading a few poems before I go to sleep. I've just finished Christopher James' England Underwater. This is the third collection of his I've read and I thoroughly enjoy his quirkiness. The poems are beautiful, often unusual and amusing and stimulate the mind (where does he get his ideas from?). I shall have to track down the missing volume from my collection of his work. They are poems I will read again and no doubt get something new out of.

I've now taken the Emma Press Anthology of Motherhood upstairs. I started reading it earlier in the year but it's been sitting on the coffee table for ages without a look. So, this has become my plan - to read poetry before I retire to sleep!

So to make up for not getting here to wish every one a happy Christmas I'd like now to wish all my readers a very HAPPY NEW YEAR. Come back soon!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Areopagus Anthology now available

The Areopagus Anthology is now out. A bit disappointing that more of those who write for the quarterly magazine did not contribute but great to have something to celebrate 100 issues of the magazine. Their 25th anniversary issue which arrived a couple of days ago had a great article about the magazine's beginnings including the old Amstrad computer the editor worked on and to keep up with production took it away with him to a work's conference, including the printer - something unheard of in the days before laptops.  Certain remarks were made by his colleagues, especially about the noisy printer working in the evenings! This brought back memories of early computers I worked with including a dot matrix printer (which is still in the attic).

Anyway, the anthology can be brought through Amazon on Kindle for £2.06. Do take a look (I have a poem in there!)