Fear of finishing?

I've been writing my second book for more than a year. Which is fairly slow, although I have been editing and refining the first book along the way.

I was fairly happy with the second book - I thought I'd progressed as a writer, with an interesting plot and decent characters. I'd done my research homework, but not become hung up on the details,

You've got to have friends

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It’s been a while. My last post was seven months ago.  After an absence of that long, it’s embarrassing to post again. But a couple of things have made me grit my teeth and hit the keyboard again.

The first was a lovely comment from Carmelita D Brooker (@Evadene2016 on Twitter) who said: 'Enjoying the blogs on your site, Sara.'

The second was a blog on stage fright for writers from the wonderful Stella Duffy. If Stella Duffy, with 17 novels to her name, suffers from stage fright before writing a new one, I think I'm at least in good company.

Like many writers, I often doubt that my writing has merit. I find that writing a blog multiplies this.  It's something about the need to be punchy, smart, for there to be a pay-off in less than 300 words, when my natural style is a bit more...relaxed.

In a bit of a tweet exchange, where I said I wasn't sure my blogs were sufficiently interesting, Stella urged me to do it anyway:

It's impossible to know that though, right? If you concentrate on how interesting it is for YOU, then at least you've pleased one person! With any luck the rest will follow.

As a result, this blog is about support, and how it often comes from the most distant of places. For example, while my family loves me and is (generally) supportive, they see my writing as simply a hobby - not something that is really important to me. Their feedback on my first book has been lukewarm at best, dismissive at worst. My mother decided she's wait until the book was on the shelves before reading it. This was despite me saying that I'd probably self-publish and that an actual physical book is highly unlikely.

One of my friends gave me 'feedback' on an early draft without - I discovered - having read it all the way through. Others have said it wasn't 'their kind of book'. I do understand this. As one Twitter posting put it, 'You can make the best cup of coffee in the world and some people will always prefer tea.'

Therefore it comes as a rather emotional surprise when people who have only the slightest connection to you, come out with flags waving and words of comfort and encouragement.

Writers understand the trials of other writers. My good friend Jess Ryder who has a string of thrillers to her name, has been incredibly supportive and generous with time and advice. I find support on author groups too; I recently posted a note to say I'd completed another chapter of book two and within minutes there were comments and congratulations.

I've discovered that writers, regardless of how famous, published or not; writers of romance, thrillers, literary fiction, even some genres I'd never heard of until I saw their postings; they understand my triumphs, however tiny they sound to my family and friends who have escaped the writing bug. They also understand the fears, the unhelpful comparisons, the sense of being not-quite-legitimate.

So to all the writers, the wqould-be writers, the writers who also work another job, the stumbling, the revising, the editing and pitching writers, the writers helping other writers - thank you for your support.

Now I'm off to finish another chapter and practise my own flag waving skills.

Speaking of romance

As it’s Valentine’s Day, it’s the perfect time to talk about romance writing.

Considering the statistics (romance sells more than science fiction, mystery and fantasy combined) it’s puzzling why so many people have such a poor view of the genre.

Any genre will have its own tropes and romance is no different – Alpha males, friends to lovers, the ‘working relationship’, a past that so damages one or other of the protagonists so they can’t love again, until…

Suffering from the mid-book block

I understand about the ‘shitty first draft’ that Stephen Kings speaks of, but prefer the definition from NaNoWriMo - ‘your first draft is a mining expedition to sift through for the diamonds’.

The problem I have is that I haven’t finished the digging yet.

Sixty thousand words in and I’ve hit a wall. Instead of ploughing on, getting through my story and developing my characters as they encounter their trials, I feel that I’m going backwards.  I’m tweaking, not even writing.  I change a word here, a sentence there. I get hung up on research, writing notes I probably won’t even use. And I’m tying myself in knots.

I’ve read endless blogs on how to fix this. I’ve washed dishes, taken hot showers, walked, looked through photo albums, listened to music, not listened to music, turned off the internet (God, that was hard!), exercised (that was hard too), played games. I’ve swapped rooms to write, tried to change the time I write, read other people’s books. 

It all seemed like procrastination.

I write for other people – I’m in internal communication. I write to deadlines for organisations without any problem at all, so I’m stumped as to why I can’t make my own deadlines for something which is important to me. 

One of the most prolific indie writers is Shannon Mayer, who said in one memorable podcast for The Bestseller Experiment that ‘your muse is your bitch. You have to get it to show up when you want to write, not the other way round.’

Well, my muse appears to have gone AWOL. I’ll let you know when it’s located again.

The sincerest form of flattery?

The sincerest form of flattery?

...the word 'admiration' means more than just passive contemplation, respect and warm approval.  It can also mean emulation.  And as Charles Caleb Colton, and English clergyman said, 'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery'. This certainly seems to be the case in publishing - anyone want a best seller? Put 'Girl' in the title. Even Amazon promotes books on the basis of 'If you liked that, you'll like THIS...'

Call me a dullard

Call me a dullard

I admit, I’m a plotter, rather than a pantser.  Starting to seriously write a book was scary enough, without not being sure where the story would end up.  Having said that, I do wonder sometimes whether having a tightly-plotted story becomes a little like ‘writing by numbers’. I was a bit distressed to read that Stephen King in On Writing calls plotting 'the good writer's last resort and the dullard's first choice'. Really?

Getting in on the sister act

Getting in on the sister act

I was inspired by Jess Ryder's recent post about sisters, to herald publication of her new book The Good Sister.

Her comments about sisters resonated with me. As far as I knew, I was an only child. That was until I visited my father after a gap of ten years to find I had two adopted brothers. I was 17 at the time of the visit.

Four years on, at college, Dad began a phone conversation with the unforgettable phrase "Are you sitting down?" and announced that after years of being unable to have children (hence the adoptions) - my stepmother was pregnant. My sister was duly born, and there are 21 years between us.

Reading for pleasure – no, really

Reading for pleasure – no, really

Almost everything I read about writing a book requires you to read in your genre.  Or just read, period.

So, wanting to be a writer, I set about it with a vengeance. But when I read, the result has been one of two things.  It can make me think – “Oh great, perhaps I could do this. Press on, get it finished!”

Or, it's making me think – “What’s the point? This is miles better than anything I could produce! I’ll never get it finished, I’ll never get published….” Etc., etc.

Clichés coming thick and fast – how I began to write

Clichés coming thick and fast – how I began to write

Like many people, I have wanted to write a book.  Like many people, I had a couple started and abandoned.  Also like many people, I decided I’d go to a course to learn how to do it.

The course – part funded by family and friends – was a romantic novel writing course.Taught by a star author of a well known and prolific publisher, it was set in Italy, North of Pisa, in a converted water mill. It was entirely attended by women, mostly of a certain age.