Wednesday 23rd November 2022, WIP 26,890 words, still reading Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, agent submissions 44, no new rejections, three coffees, two teas, four bourbons, one ginger nut and a Mrs Crimble’s macaroon
No rejection emails today but a little note from an author friend to say my book is still with their independent publisher and he’s not one to rush…always nice when others remember that the yellow brick road can be rocky, especially when they try to ease your journey any way they can (thanks Donna).
My writing practice can be sporadic. I write when I can (often in bed last thing at night). I’m lucky that teaching English means I get to immerse myself in words and sentences and stories all day long. It’s one of the reasons I love my job (most of the time). I worry if I do ever get the opportunity to write full time, without my eclectic days of teaching, my ideas will dry up. I work best when I am busy and if I had endless days I wonder whether my intrinsic motivation would stand up to the challenge. Would I procrastinate my way through the days instead?
Currently I am writing a chapter at a time on my ‘hundred-year-old lady story’ (waiting for a catchier title to reveal itself to me). It is very loosely based on my grandmother (the photo above was taken on her 100th birthday – doesn’t she look incredible!). This work in progress started its journey when we began making plans for her birthday celebrations. My dad’s death last year had made me question my mortality and I wondered what being 100 must feel like…with death always on the periphery of your day. Initially I wrote a chapter a day but now, as I approach chapter 20, my progress has slowed to roughly a chapter a week. Although since starting this blog I’ve written two more chapters (I told you I was better when busy). I have given myself a self-imposed Christmas deadline for a rough first draft so I can edit during the school break.
I write all my first drafts by hand (even my blog – I’m old school) followed by a type-up/edit and endless edits after that. I’ve rewritten whole novels changing the tense/the person/the p.o.v in an attempt to capture that authentic voice. The typing class I took at 18 has been infinitely more useful than any of the insurance qualifications I sat for career #1.
If I am not writing daily or if I don’t have the headspace to create a new chapter, I research or read – combining both where I can. I am currently working through a TBR pile of novels narrated over one day – the format I am endeavouring to achieve with my old lady story. Lillian Boxfish has been a tremendous start and as always I read the acknowledgements first so was thrilled to learn the protagonist is based on a real person – I only wish I could have met her. A fellow writer on my workshop group commented on the importance of the passage of time in my work and how I use it as a limiting factor – something I hadn’t noticed my work all had in common. The book I am currently submitting to agents – You Can See the End of the World From Here – is set over 41 days and the elevator pitch goes as follows: Vivian’s son, aged six, predicts he will die before he is twelve – it is forty-one days before his twelfth birthday. On the bleak edge of Sheppey, Vivian is spiraling out of control as she does everything she can to stop his prediction coming true.
Last year I intended (post-MA) to take part in Nanowrimo and start my next WIP but in the summer my dad became ill. The daily pressure to write became an unnecessary burden, until I came across Nancy Stohlman’s FlashNano daily writing prompts. I ploughed my way through and found I had 28 new short stories completed and two left to do. This September I lost my father-in-law (in a bizarre coincidence on the very same day as my father the year before) so once again Nanowrimo didn’t suit my circumstances, plus I was already 15k into my old lady story so didn’t need the push. Yet I like a writing challenge so once again I turned to Nancy’s FlashNano prompts. Anything that gets the ink flowing daily works for me. Sometimes with my busy schedule people call me a machine and ask how I fit everything in. My motto is to fill those little gaps in your day with an achievable task rather than thinking there isn’t time to do ‘that’ and browsing my socials. I am a few days behind this year but won’t stress about that either. And neither will I go back an edit any of these short pieces (unless I need them again). The most fun challenge so far has been starting a story with every sentence beginning with the same word. I sat up in bed trying to decide the best word to start with and all I could think of was going to sleep and doing it tomorrow. So that was where I started.
Tomorrow holds so much promise until I close my eyes to go to sleep. Tomorrow then becomes a day full of possible mistakes, improbable scenarios and terrifying possibilities. Tomorrow will arrive whether I close my eyes or not, whether I sleep, or toss and turn, or get up and watch TV. Tomorrow will no doubt be better if I catch a few hours than if I don’t. Tomorrow I get married. Tomorrow I vow to dedicate my life to a man I have never been alone with. Tomorrow brings me a husband chosen, taking my biodata into account, but without my input. Tomorrow I start my new life, yet I don’t think I am ready for tomorrow to begin.
Twenty minutes of creativity a day is a salve to my busy life and if I get something worth editing out of it – winner winner chicken dinner. On a side note, another thing I do to maximise my efforts is to twist the prompt to build a piece to complement my work in progress. I feature the settings or characters I am already working with. You never know if you might gain a scene or chapter that way. Efficiency for me is key.
Any teachers out there…great writing prompts that I use in both the KS2 and KS3 classroom (with built in questions for inspiring ideas) can be found at https://www.onceuponapicture.co.uk/
If anyone fancies finishing off FlashNano you can subscribe to Nancy’s prompts at https://nancystohlman.com/flashnano/ It’s not too late, as my pilates teacher says, ‘ten minutes is always better than nothing’.
P.S. Looking forward to a book launch tomorrow evening – Periwinkle Perspective Book #3 @PaulEccentric