Back in January I blogged about how difficult I was finding it to get back to writing after the New Year. Seems it’s not just me.
Thank you to everybody who commented, tweeted, emailed, facebooked, phoned or just patted me sympathetically on the shoulder. It was a potent cocktail of understanding, encouragement and sound advice (tasty, multi-flavoured and with a bit of a kick). So I thought I’d tell you how I got myself going again. By listening to you and by concentrating on what’s important to me.
The Importance of Having Fun
Writing used to be my joy. It was the activity I craved when I was too busy to spend time on it, the thing that refreshed me when I’d finished all my motherly duties and household chores. And my displacement activity, the thing I sneaked off to do when I should have been doing something more important. Now I have more time for writing, surely it should be easier? But as writing has taken a bigger role in my life, it’s become more serious, more of a duty and less of a joy. Until I realised back in January that I wasn’t enjoying myself at all.
One of the few perks of having no publisher or agent is that I have the freedom to choose what I write. So I’ve shelved the serious side for now and gone for fun instead. I put my novella away and got out my old notebooks. I found something that made me want to start typing and scribbling and dreaming again. Now I’m writing my way through a new story at a snail’s pace – a few hundred words per week. As I come to the end of each scene, I let my mind play with the next, thinking what I want to happen, what I want to disclose. Then I let my characters talk – to me and to each other and we tell the story together. It’s completely lacking in discipline and the first draft will be a mess, but I’m having fun again.
When I write, my main fulfilment comes from creating something new and striving to write my stories the best way I can. I don’t think I’ll ever make a living from writing, so does it really matter if I never get published?
I think it does. I want to tell stories, not keep them to myself. I want other people to get to know my characters, to laugh and cry with them, to fear for them. To be the writer I want to be, I need to be published.
But I don’t think I’m a good fit for the mould – and it’s a pretty small mould, anyway, with a lot of very talented writers scrabbling to get inside. Commercial publishers are overwhelmed by the volume of material they receive every week – so much so that many will only look at a manuscript if it comes from someone they know. And they don’t know me.
I need to take control of my work, not only creatively, but commercially too. After my last blog, someone sent me a link to the Guardian Masterclass website (click here). So after Easter I’ll be learning about Self Publishing from Joanna Penn (click here), and about Self Publicity for Authors from author Adele Parks (click here) and Hodder & Stoughton’s marketing director Jessica Killingley. I’m not expecting a couple of courses will solve the publishing problem, but they might help me to understand it better.
As for the rejections? Unfortunately I don’t think self publishing is the answer to all my woes, particularly not for the children’s stories which really need pictures. As I’ve said before, I can draw a pig so you can tell it’s not an elephant, but that really isn’t enough when it comes to illustrating my own books.
So I have sent my rejected manuscripts out into the world again with a kiss on the cheek (a virtual kiss since so many submissions are now by email). That’s not as painless as it sounds – I’m not looking forward to receiving more rejections. However, and I know it’s a cliché but it’s a true one, the one sure way to never be published is to keep my work to myself.
The Importance of Inspiration
While I haven’t been writing so much, I’ve been reading a lot – not for research or to improve my craft, just for pleasure. I’ve been watching films – lots of diverse films. And it’s been a fantastic couple of months for TV dramas.
Result? A notebook bursting with ideas.
The Importance of World Book Day
Last week I had a wonderful reminder of why I want to be a writer. Why I love my craft and why it’s such a worthwhile way to spend my time.
I spent World Book Day at our local primary school. (You can see more pictures here)
The juniors listened to The Dragon Stone, a story I wrote for a competition with the brief to write about a child overcoming her fear of the dark, then I showed them some objects that had helped inspire the story. This week they’ve been writing their own stories and we’re going to choose one from each class to go up on my website.
None of the infants cared that The Hole In Henry’s Bucket wasn’t a ‘proper’ printed book. The children loved the cuddly toys they used to help me tell the story. And afterwards they made their own pictures so we could illustrate the book ourselves.
Now that really was fulfilling – and fun!