Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Evaluating the value of a blog

Years and years ago, when I started this blog (July 2009!) I had a clear intention. I was going to systematically work on my writing until I got up to a publishable standard - or at least, as far as I could take it. With the Open University's excellent courses and an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Winchester, I found an outlet for my imagination. I've loved it, I've honed my craft and am still enjoying writing and still learning. I've done well in competitions, got an agent, got books published. I wouldn't change that, it's been a great journey. I made all

And it was fun, and hard work, and frustrating at times. Because publishing is slow and I work fast. Most of my books are done, in first draft, in about 8-10 weeks. Which means I now have a backlog of books that haven't found a home, mostly because they are sat on my hard drive in second draft. I miss the guidance that a good agent can give you, a few pointers in the right direction that can make or break a book. So, January/February will come with more approache
s to agents, with the new book: Northern Penguins. I never thought I would write anything like it, it's about a new person in a settled community with all its traditions and tensions and secrets. As I can't come up with thirty distinct characters, I have broadly based some of them on people in the village (with their consent, of course). This is going to be interesting. I might be thrown out of the village next year, if they a) don't like the book or b) don't like the character they think is based on them.

In the meantime, I have taken up art again, which is hilarious. There is something very challenging about not knowing enough, being bad at something, making mistakes. I always learn as much as I can before I go on a course. I'm one of those people who hates the idea of being the idiot in the room.  So I think this will be very good for me.

So why continue to blog (especially as i haven't been very reliable at it)? I think a creative journey, with all that learning is always valuable to record, so I will continue to witter into the universe alone about all my artistic and creative endeavours, no matter how badly they turn out. 

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Depression and writing

It's hard to say you have depression when you're very peripherally related to an industry like publishing. I have always felt that you, as a writer, have to be ready to say, brightly and enthusiastically, 'Of course I can do that line edit in six days! Complete rewrite, sure, two weeks? No problem.'

To an outsider, it might seem that the writer is CENTRAL to the publishing process, but that's not how it feels. So much work goes into turning an idea (a well written 100k book is still essentially just an idea) into a product. Experts are considering how your book will read, how it will affect the reader throughout the read, what comparisons can be made and how to position your book in a busy market. Sending the book to an agent is step one - they have to sell it to editors. They know what they want, what they have bought or read before (I've had a book turned down because it was too similar to something that was coming out). All this is invisible to most writers. 

Well, I do suffer from depression and unfortunately, I haven't had much benefit from modern antidepressants. So, it's a long slog back to the light each time. It doesn't stop me being imaginative or creative, it makes concentration harder, the words flow slowly and worst of all, it undercuts my confidence. I look at today's words and all the old fears come flooding back. Is it all a pile of steaming crap?  

Well, obviously it IS, it's first draft, from which I will grow better drafts, whole chapters and books and series. But it's hard to see that while you're just wishing you could sleep (without nightmares), walk into the village (without panic attacks) and look forward to a brighter day. Good days and hours are coming, but the bad days are hard. I just fantasise about those lovely safe asylums, where you can sit in the corner in your pyjamas and rock... In the real world, I'm gathering the happy days to me to keep warm. The weekend with both grandchildren and the birthday my husband was told he would never see, the research for future books coming together, the art course and camping trips ahead, all happy moments. But writing has definitely lost its ability to heal me. 

If I have to pretend I'm not depressed, I don't care if I don't sell another book to a big commercial publisher. I think I would need to be in a better place than I am now, certainly, to cope with the pressure. I feel like I'm transitioning to seeing writing books in a completely different way...

Meanwhile, I've been reading a book a day. The Binding by Bridget Collins was great, unashamedly fantasy but completely accessible to people who won't read fantasy. A historical story with lovers torn apart, trying to find each other. Heartwarming story, real tension, great writing. I thought it was a bit like The Night Circus and maybe a bit better ending.

The Binding Bridget Collins