short and sweet

If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you’ll know I’m not exactly what you’d call ‘succinct’.  This is true of my fiction writing too- I’ve never really managed to grasp short story writing, or the idea of flash fiction.  Almost all the story ideas I have would require a novel to execute, or possibly even a series of novels.  Nonetheless, in an attempt to branch out, and improve my writing I attended a workshop last year on short story writing, and found it really inspiring, so I came away thinking “ok, maybe I can do this after all…” but then after about ten failed attempts, I decided that no, actually, short story writing was clearly not for me.

Fast forward to now, and in the past month I have entered two separate short stories into two different writing contests, and I’m about to submit a third short story for an anthology.

I’m not sure what changed- maybe those ten abandoned stories were a necessary hurdle, like me gunning my creative engine, maybe it’s down to not overthinking it so much, maybe it was giving myself permission to suck and to get it wrong.  I don’t know.  But I am super excited to tell you that one of my short stories, that I wrote for the Beauty and the Beast writing challenge on Wattpad has made it into the top ten entries!  I found out a couple of days ago and I’ve honestly been on a high since.  I really surprised myself with how much I enjoyed writing that story, and maybe that shows through, but whatever the reason- having someone I don’t know, who has no vested interest in me say “yeah that’s actually good,” is such a fantastic feeling, I fear I’m in danger of becoming a praise junkie.

The winner of the Wattpad contest will be announced on Monday, but even if it’s one of the other nine entrants, I’ll honestly be chuffed just to have made it to the top ten, and likewise with the other stories I’ve submitted- the joy has really been in the writing of them, and realising that I am capable of executing something in under 1k/2k/5k words and actually enjoying the process (although I won’t lie, editing and cutting words down is harrrrd!)

You can read my Beauty and the Beast inspired story ‘Inner Beauty’ here and the other entries here.



Patrons and Patreon

Two blog posts in one week?! Apparently I have a lot to say right now.  Either that or I’m procrastinating in order to avoid writing a tricksy scene in my WIP…hmm.  Could be that too.

I DO have something to say though, and that is this:

I am now on Patreon!

The idea of setting up a Patreon page has been something I’ve mused over for a while now, and in great depth (as my poor partner will attest to).  I’ve read success stories, not-so-success stories, how-to articles.  I’ve mulled over what it means to be a ‘creator’ and the pros and cons of asking people to fund your creativity (which is essentially what Patreon does).  I’ve spent literal hours debating all of this and more, and then finally, on his way out of the house this evening (no doubt happy to be escaping yet more hmming and ahhing on my part) my boyfriend said “just do it!” And so…I did?!  Apparently Nike really were onto something with that, huh?

In an ideal world (Ha! Hahahahahahaha) I wouldn’t need to ask for financial support to write, but clearly this is not that world.  I am not a starving writer (yet) but the reality is that without some form of patronage or a lottery win (and I don’t gamble, so that seems…unlikely), I will probably need to start looking for a second job on top of my library post soon.  Two part-time jobs, two small children, a chronic health condition and spiraling anxiety doesn’t seem like a recipe for success though, and certainly not a scenario in which I imagine my creativity will flourish.  Hence, I have finally bit the bullet and set up a Patreon.

To be honest, given my online following (all ten of you reading this) I doubt I’ll be the next Amanda Palmer style success story, but nonetheless I have set a goal of $500 (annoyingly, Patreon only works in dollars, for those of you who can’t convert in your head- like me, that’s about £400) because if I were to get enough patrons to reach that amount, it would mean that I could forgo the ‘second job’ idea and just concentrate on being- well, me.  I.e. raising my boys, being the best goddam Saturday girl the library ever had, continuing to be a CIDP warrior, and- of course- writing.  Whether that’s blog posts, novels or short stories- just getting my words out there.

So, there you have it.  If you’ve got $1 to spare (that’s 80p to us UK folk) you can become my patron.  And if you haven’t, it’s all good-  I’ll still be here, wittering away when the mood strikes me.

On swimming & writing

I’ve blogged before about my love of- but not necessarily skill at- swimming, here and here.

Well this week I went for my first swim of the year, and by that I mean not only my first swim of 2016 but literally my first swim in almost a year.  I am usually a seasonal swimmer anyway, as the thought of leaving the house after dark in the winter months and voluntarily plunging into luke-warm water wearing nothing but a small amount of lyrca just seems, well wrong.  But I didn’t manage much swimming- or really anything at all- last summer on account of fostering a newborn baby, which left very little time for anything else.

So I was looking forward to getting back in the water, but I was also apprehensive- we have a new local pool so I’d never been before, I didn’t know how busy it would be, where the changing rooms were, I was worried I’d be so out of practice after my year of very little exercise that I’d get in and promptly drown.  But actually?  It was fine.

It was moderately busy, but I was able to swim up and down without getting in anyone’s way (or anyone getting in mine).  Yes there were people there swimming faster than me, and people with better technique, people who weren’t afraid to put their head under the water…but there were also parents with kids struggling to just stay afloat, an elderly man with his daughter practicing rehabilitation exercises, and a woman not much younger than me wearing armbands.  No one cared that my breaststroke was sloppy, or that I kept my head above water.  Everyone was too busy with their own stuff to notice how wide my thighs are or how long it took me to make it from one end of the pool to the other.

It’s no secret that I haven’t been writing much lately, here on the blog things are pretty quiet, and behind the scenes not much is happening either.  I told myself that this year would be the year I would finally DO SOMETHING with my writing, that is- start showing it to people other than my close friends and family, enter competitions, query the book I wrote in 2014 etc etc.  But it’s the middle of April and I haven’t done any of those things yet, and truth be told I’m not sure when I will.  I’ve been crippled with self doubt for weeks now, thinking that every word I put down is pure garbage, reading over the fourth (and so far, final) draft of my YA novel and thinking there’s not a chance in hell of it being published, holding back from the blog because I don’t know how to put my feelings into words, and because there are some things I don’t know if I’m ready to share.  I’ve been comparing myself to anyone and everyone, and always finding myself lacking- in skill, in accomplishments, in LIFE and EVERYTHING.

It’s been pretty shit basically.

I vowed to do Camp NaNoWriMo as a way to push myself to JUST GET WORDS DOWN and get a new project off the ground, but it backfired horribly when I realised I wasn’t 100% on the project and felt completely unqualified to write it.  For a couple of weeks I didn’t write anything, and I thought maybe that could be the answer- to just STOP.  For a while anyway, to not force it and hope that whatever was missing would come back, or whatever had gone wrong would somehow right itself.

But as I swam up and down the pool on Tuesday, I began to feel lighter.  Not just literally, but metaphorically too- does it really matter if my new WIP is a wobbly disaster?  Does it matter if only a handful of people visit this blog?  Does it matter if other people are getting agents and publishers and PHDs and I am scratching down vague notions in a Tesco Notepad?  Or does it only really matter that I do things because I enjoy them?  Like swimming…

I used to be able to swim between 40 and 50 lengths in an hour, so I was torn on Tuesday between setting my goal at 50 lengths or setting it at one hour.  And then I realised that what was important was that I’d got in the pool in the first place, and anything after that was just a bonus.  So I swam for an hour, in which time I managed 35 lengths.  I could have beat myself up about that- last year I could do 50, that guy over there must have done about twice that in half the time, I really need to synchronise my legs and arms better and try putting my face in etc etc etc.  But instead I thought how pleased I was to have made the time to go, how nice it was to try out the new pool, how pleasantly tired my limbs were on the way home, how glad I was that I learned to swim as a kid and how fortunate I am that my CIDP is so well managed that I actually physically CAN swim right now.

And it hit me, that I could apply that same mindset to my writing too.  Sure some people have a stack of writing qualifications, and have won prizes and secured book deals and have a billion followers on twitter and enough money in the bank to not need to worry.  But there are also people who can’t read or write, who wouldn’t know where to start coming up with an idea for a story or who are staring down the barrel of their first ever first draft.  There will always be people ahead of me in swimming- and in writing- and in life, and there will always be people behind.  And actually it’s not a race, and no one is keeping score.

Maybe it is good to take some time out now and again- if everything is frustrating and nothing is working and even trying is making you feel bad about yourself.  But in this case, I think I need to do the opposite- and just push through.  I abandoned my WIP (which was really just a character list, vague plan and a folder of research) and instead jumped on an idea I had a while back and just rolled with it- no planning, no thinking about target audiences or marketability or if it would be The Best Book Ever Written (it won’t).  Just writing.  Making words appear where there weren’t previously any words, and not beating myself up if those words are a bit naff at times, and what do you know- I now have 2500 of them, and my aim is to get enough of them (probably about 10,000) to know whether this is something worth throwing myself into and that’s IT.  My aim is not to have a polished MS by the end of the year or to have an agent by my next birthday, it is just to write.

I thought having clear goals this year with my writing- like entering a short story competition or sending my first query letter would help me feel focused, and truth be told help me justify the vast swathes of time I spend writing when I could (and sometimes should) be doing something else.  But actually it paralysed me with fear, so for now I’m sticking to VAGUE and trying to remember that it doesn’t matter if I am never the Best Swimmer or the Best Writer in the world, and that’s good because I never will be either- it only matters that I don’t let my lack of confidence stop me from doing things I love.