Insecure writers’ time again

It’s that time of the month again, Insecure Writers’ Support Group.

So what have I been doing since nano, and how is it going?

I had a day of editing, where I went through what I’ve done so far and pulled it into some sort of order, making notes on continuity etc. During that I cut out a chunk and then added some back in, resulting in a grand moving forward of 275 words. For six hours’ work.

Since then, I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t touched it. Is it the realisation that there’s a long way between talking the talk and walking the walk? Is it that I’m burned out? Is it that I’m too lazy to write when not being cheered on by others? Probably all of the above. But I do intend to get back to it. And I do intend to write up the research I’ve done on the workhouse project so far as well.

There’s just this annoying event coming up that seems to demand the whole world stops for a few weeks, and that throws all sorts of distractions my way. I’m determined to actually accept and enjoy Christmas this year, rather than being dragged towards it kicking and screaming, but I do still need to make time for my writing.

The times over the past month spent in cafes and other places with fellow writers proved a good experience, and I still disappear to the cafe once or twice a week for breakfast and a scribble, but I’ve just taken on a grand total of five new beta reading projects and I still have my proofreading course to get on with, and I really must start getting on with things rather than wasting time.

I read with interest opposing views from published authors about nanowrimo over the past few weeks. It appears that even successful writers disagree on whether it’s a good thing to pour out lots of words quickly or not. I guess it comes down to what suits the individual. One phrase that I like was that it’s finding the time to think a novel that’s the issue more than writing it. That’s what I was lacking as I went through nano – changing my mind about things but not going back to change them. On the other hand, going forward helped me to work out various issues that needed to be worked through.

So it’s back to work properly after Christmas, with maybe a dabbling here and there beforehand, and getting on with everything else while still bearing in mind that I benefit from a creative time. With that in mind, I spent today on a creative project that I hope to publish soon – just an audio file of an elderly relative, which I’ve made into a video with photos. A simple project, but one that’s kept me entertained for a few hours. That’s what I really need – a project that absorbs me so much that I don’t have to force myself to find time for it, but one that pulls me in and doesn’t let me escape until I’m done.



Insecure Writers time again

86044-insecurewriterssupportgroupWell it’s the first Wednesday in the month again, which means Insecure Writers Support Group time. I’m already well into nano, having hit just over 12,000 words late last night. That puts me well above target for finishing the 50k by the end of the month (and also pushing on to finish the whole manuscript, of course).

So how’s it going?

In one sense, it’s going well. I have a lot planned out, I know my characters, I know where they’re going, I know what has to happen in every scene.

In another – not so much. I haven’t found the spark yet. It’s hard work. I see my writing as weak, trite, clichéd, uninteresting.

So why continue?

As part of my preparation and thinking about the writing to come, I looked back on one of my fanfiction stories. It was over 32k words, published a chapter at a time, as it was written, over a period of a couple of weeks to a month. The writing looked good, the characters well portrayed, the descriptions fitted and did the job they should do. And my author’s notes that I put in at the end of each chapter told another story: the one of the writer. The one whose characters were so real that they took over, doing unexpected things that changed the plot slightly. It reminded me of the extreme buzz that I can feel when a writing project goes well, that elusive high that leaves such an impression I can’t help but chase it. I likened it recently to a drug, that I’m addicted to and constantly looking for. I know it exists, because I’ve felt it. That compulsion to write, to get a story out of my head and into words, to a form I can share.

I’m constantly making up stories. I don’t often get to the point where I put them into shareable form. But that knowledge of the personal pleasure that comes from writing that’s going well – that’s enough to get me trying every now and again. And I suspect that the more often I feel it, the stronger the urge will be and the easier it will be to find.

So I’m going to keep going with this novel, maybe trying to slow down, concentrating on feeling the story rather than just purely chasing words – or maybe the opposite, waffling as much as I can in order to get the rubbish out of the way and find the real story. I’m not sure at this moment whether Scrivener is helping or hindering – the ability to jump around from point to point can cut two ways. It can enable me to pick up somewhere more interesting for a while, but it can also allow me to back off instead of pushing on with tricky sections.

So maybe I’ll just waffle and see what comes out of it. Editing’s easier than the first draft, right? Or put it another way, I can’t edit what I haven’t written.


That time of the month again (IWSG)

86044-insecurewriterssupportgroupInsecure Writers’ Support Group time – boy has that month gone fast.  With one month until nanowrimo, the plan is to plan; that is, I intend to spend the time between now and 1st November planning my novel in as much detail as I can, so that on November 1st I can start writing and keep going with the minimum of pauses until I reach 30th November/50,000 words/end of the novel/all three.

I find I vary in my attitude towards my novel. Sometimes I’m convinced it’s a great idea and I’m just worried I won’t do it justice. Then other times I lose faith and decide that no-one’s going to be interested. But mainly it’s my writing that I lack faith in. I seem to have a built in speed limiter, that tells my brain just how good I’m allowed to be (not very) and kicks in any time I threaten to get anywhere near approaching that level. As though in anything I do, I have a built in quality level that I’m not allowed to exceed. Just as people supposedly have a programmed weight, and moving beyond that weight in either direction takes a lot of effort, so improving in any way feels a real effort, and something in me rears up and backs away, crying “No, you’re not allowed to do that!”.

It’s like a ball and chain round my ankle, dragging me, so that any challenge is met with “I’ll do what I can but I know it will never be good enough” rather than “I can do that!”. I find it hard to put in more effort than my limiter says I’m allowed to spend, because I’m useless, and so there’s no point putting in more energy because that will just prove just how useless I am.

Or will it?

This is why I’m determined to push through on this novel, so that I have something to show. Novel number 2 is knocking at the door of my brain impatiently demanding some attention, so I don’t have to feel that this is my one idea, my one story, and once this is written there’s nothing else. It’s another issue that means a lot to me, and I would really, really love to put it into words and share it. But I need to get number 1 out of the way first. It’s not going to write itself, no-one else will write it, and it’s up to me. If I don’t feel my characters are well enough written, then I need to figure out how to improve. If I don’t feel my characters are well enough planned, then it’s up to me to think them out better. If I feel the situation at the end is contrived and too convenient, then guess whose problem that is to solve?

But the main problem I have to solve is the one in my head, the one that whispers, “You know you’ll never be worth anything. You know your life is measured only by the happiness of those around you, and not your own happiness. You know how you exist to serve others, not yourself. You know your role is to pull all the crap onto yourself, to free others from it. So why bother?”

So I guess I need to push through that barrier and just trust that I can gradually lift the settings on the limiter and set my limit a little higher, and keep writing. This blog entry has proved that I’ve been skipping my morning pages too much (a week laid low with a cold is the current excuse) and I know that I also need to do more writing exercises, learning more about writing techniques and PUTTING THEM INTO PRACTICE. Once this cold has receded enough I’ll be back swimming regularly, which proves invaluable in terms of thinking time for my novel, and I really need to get on with the planning side so I’m ready for November – I’m planning to interweave three stories, so I really need to be clear how they intersect and what the timeline is.

I have a plan of action for the next month, and I guess it’s time to feel the fear and do it anyway. Get out of the mode of “I’ll try but I know I’m going to fail” and get into the mode of “I’ll never know until I try.”



My first Insecure Writers Support Group Post

As I understand it, the idea of the IWSG is to post on the first Wednesday of every month your honest experiences with your writing, to share the triumphs and admit to the defeats, and then to support others who are doing the same thing.

So where am I in my writing life?

Research for my non-fiction history project is going well; I spend one morning a week in the archives researching with the aid of the old documents, and during the rest of the week I’m spending some time tracing family trees or reading generally about workhouses. (AHEM! READING GENERALLY! YOU’VE SAID IT, NOW GET ON WITH IT! YES BOSS).

I have what I believe is a sound idea for a computing textbook for schools, which I’ve made a start on but need to get back to.

That’s two projects on the go. Both non-fiction.
I had a crisis of confidence over the past week, thinking that there are so many writers out there already, the world doesn’t need someone else adding to the pile and there aren’t enough readers to go round as it is.Oh dear! So why does my brain keep insisting it wants to write fiction? Haven’t I got enough to do already?

This week I’ve faced up to that and said that I can still write for my own enjoyment, whether it’s anything that gets published or not. I have started to map out a fiction fantasy novel, probably YA type, but possibly bleeding over into adult (I believe this YA is a myth anyway; most prolific readers I know will read anything, children/adult/teen/YA labels notwithstanding.

My problem is that I’m trying to invent a whole new fantasy world, to mix in with the real world, and my imagination doesn’t work that way. Give me a situation or idea and I can spin half a dozen stories/themes/variations off it before you can blink, but give me a blank sheet and my mind will imitate it faithfully.

I’ve decided that although planning is important, I can spend various spare moments in the day brooding on my plot, and need to make sure I do. My main writing priority though needs to be practice, so I’m going to drag down one of the many writing books I’ve got on my bookshelf, pick some writing exercises, probably about creating worlds or characters, and start having a go, on the principle that I have a lot of crap to get through before I find the good stuff so the sooner I start, the better.

How about you?