Sunday Update 26/08

I’ve decided that I need to get back into regular blogging. I’m starting with a weekly update on the… um, usual stuff that I update on. Lets see how many weeks I can keep it up for.

It’s official that I won’t be pitching at Bloody Scotland this year. I got the rejection email this week. As I previously said I’m not too upset about it because the novel I was going to pitch was one I felt in two minds about actually finishing.

I am back working on the sexy spy novel that I’ve nicknamed Project Kindness. Coming back to it after a break has been a weird experience. I have enough distance now that it no longer feels like something I wrote and that means it feels like I’m editing someone else’s work. However I’m still too close to it to be sure which bits of it, if any, are actually good.

Much of the rewriting and editing on Project Kindness is of the deeply finicky and technical type. I’m constantly wondering which order to put the scenes, when to switch point of view characters or jump from a-plot to b-plot and exactly where to cut each scene for the maximum impact when we come back to those characters.

I’m also still looking forward to NaNoWriMo this year. As previously stated I’m hoping to work on a YA (Young Adult) novel so that I can finally have a novel I can show to my kids. My previous attempts to write YA have been failures due to my stories running away from me. Or in one case to two characters in their 40s deciding that this was the book they were going to consummate a 7 year long flirtation in.

In non-writing related news I’ve decided to try spinning. I already crochet and I’ve been known to knit but this is my first attempt at spinning. I ordered a drop spindle kit that came with some carded fleece ready to spin and today was my first try.

OH MY GOD I suck at spinning. I really suck at it. It’s been a long time since I tried a new craft and discovered that I had zero aptitude for it. It’s kind of embarrassing to be this bad at the foundational fiber art. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying though. Stay tuned for future updates and possibly photographs of my cack handed attempts at producing yarn.

This week I also had not one, but two phone calls from my mother that had me running to Google. It happens occasionally that she phones me talking such utter tripe that I’m convinced that she’s flipped. Sometimes she just has a bee in her bonnet as a result of uncritical newspaper reading. Other times a quick google will reveal that she’s right-ish she’s just doing her usual thing of communicating the facts in entirely the wrong order or using language usually associated with people who need a lot of medication to cope with reality.

Once I’d done my googling and decoded what she was saying it became clear that the area she lives is suffering an infestation of “corn ticks” (so called because the engorged ticks look like corn kernels) and that she’s allergic to the ticks and they’re causing lung inflammation. All that explains why last week she phoned me up to cough at me so badly that I was worried I’d have to call her an ambulance.

No further news on my ongoing attempts to stockpile enough food to survive Brexit. See you next week if I don’t see you before.

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Time to make a plan

For the last few weeks I’ve been drifting. I was stuck between writing projects. I couldn’t work out what I wanted to focus on and I felt lost. It’s time to pick a direction and start walking.

I haven’t heard anything from Bloody Scotland so I’m going to assume that they don’t want the story I pitched for Pitch Perfect. Frankly that’s a relief because I didn’t feel ready to finish it. For now Project Cecil can stay on the shelf.

I’ve decided that this year’s NaNoWriMo first draft will be of a story I’m calling Project Academy. It’s another attempt to write some YA (young adult) fiction so I’ll have something that I can share with my kids. I’ve already done most of the pre-November work on this story.

That means that I have until the start of November to work on something else. So I’m going back to Project Kindness, my tale of sexy spies and Celtic gods. I’m sure my beta readers will be delighted*.

I’m aware that for most of my readers this doesn’t really count as a plan. None of this is moving my ‘career’ along. It’s not going to solve any of my real life problems. I admit that I have no idea how to have a ‘career’ and that most of my real life problems are insoluble. I do have the beginnings of a plan for a small part of my real life problems but that is a post for another day.

 

*That was probably sarcasm.

I’m not dead I just don’t have anything to say

I’ve been so quiet recently because I don’t feel like I have much to say. This is unusual for me but then these are unusual times. It’s hard to find something to say when just looking at the state of the world makes you want to scream.

I try not to be distracted by all the horrible stuff that I can’t do anything about but I can’t pick something to focus on. I’m drifting. I was working on a novel but then I put that on hold to work on something that I could pitch at Bloody Scotland. I’ve submitted my short pitch but I’m not working on that novel just now because I don’t really expect them to want it. I started work on the prep for a new novel so I’ll have something to write for NaNoWriMo but shouldn’t I go back to finishing the one I was working on?

I suppose the real problem is that it all feels pointless. Everything seems pointless. I am one of the little people and there’s not much I can do about anything. I’m at the mercy of events driven by people with so much money and power that they don’t have to worry about the consequences of their actions. I’d be better spending my time learning more about growing vegetables and stockpiling cans so we can survive Brexit.

One foot in front of the other

I am not having any fun.

It’s worse than that. I’m having whatever the opposite of fun is, the Anti-Fun possibly, and I’d really like it to stop

Everything hurts, doing anything takes an insane level of effort, judging by the weather someone has opened a portal to hell over Scotland and the rest of the world seems to have gone nuts while I wasn’t looking. It’s hard to believe that there’s any point in doing anything.

I have done some things recently but I’m pretty sure that nothing will come of any of them.  However, since I’m typing anyway, I might as well type an update about the few things I managed to con myself into doing.

I decided which of my novels to attempt to pitch at Bloody Scotland. I even wrote a bunch of 100 word pitches for it and picked the best one with some help from my spouse and one of my friends. However I haven’t sent it in yet. I don’t know if there’s any point.

I’ve been working out with weights a bit. As much as I could manage what with my health and this insane weather. I have no idea if it’s making a difference or not.

I am continuing to wear compression garments for my Lipoedema. They seem to be working but I’m currently awaiting new compression leggings. I was measured for them on the 9th. The manufacturer still hasn’t got round to making them. I don’t know how long it will be before they do get round to it. I had to make phone calls to chase things up. I hate making phone calls.

I am so bone tired that I need a new word for it. Exhausted just isn’t enough. Neither is knackered. I am heartsick of the continued burden of existence. I see no point in anything.

I’m trying to persuade myself that I’m excited about the new series of Doctor Who and the trailer for Shazam. I haven’t seen Ant Man and the Wasp yet. There’s Captain Marvel to come. And there’s Infinity War part 2 next year. I haven’t read all of Ben Aaronovitch’s excellent Peter Grant books yet.

You’ll notice that there’s none of my stuff on that list. I’m not even pretending to care about my own novels. They are important to me. I love them. I just can’t muster any enthusiasm for the idea of showing them to anyone. What’s the point?

Once again my body betrays me

Yes it’s a very dramatic title. Unfortunately it’s also true.

I am typing this very slowly because there is something horribly wrong with my right thumb. Yes I am right handed. How did you ever guess?

My thumb is swollen, itchy and sore. It won’t bend properly and it looks like the knuckle has somehow slipped round the side of it. It’s incredibly distracting and it means that I can’t do any of the things I normally do to fill the day. No computer games, no crochet, chores are even harder than usual and typing anything takes ages.

Yes I have sought medical attention. The current working hypothesis is that there’s an infection under the skin and pressing on the joint. I’m back on antibiotics. If they don’t work by Friday there will be blood tests. It might turn out to be gout. Because my body never met an embarrassing and poorly understood health problem that it didn’t want to try out.

Which is all very annoying because I should be working on the novel I want to pitch for Blood Scotland. Or the pitch. And I’m not. Because just typing this little bit has fucked my right hand up even more.

Pitching blues

This year’s Bloody Scotland is bearing down on us. There’s a pitch competition that I’d like to try but I’m having trouble working out which novel to pitch.

Until recently I would have assumed that I’d have to pitch a finished novel but that doesn’t seem to be hugely important for the competition. That’s confusing to me since every published author’s top piece of advice is “Finish your shit”.

For this competition I have to write a 100 word pitch and submit that and if they’re interested I get to pitch in person in front of actual publishers and agents and a paying crowd. The live pitch will be in late September at the Bloody Scotland festival. It’s dedicated to crime writing so the publishers and agents will be looking for crime/detective/mystery fiction.

I have to decide which novel I want to pitch because that’s the novel I should be focusing on just now. Let me describe them for you.

Firstly there’s the one I’ll call Project Kindness. It’s the one that’s closest to finished. Close enough that I could have a complete 3rd draft to show anyone who was interested by the end of September. However it’s a supernatural spy thriller. There are some murders and there is a mystery but it’s not what they’re looking for.

Secondly there’s the one I’ll call Project Cecil. It’s the furthest from being finished and I don’t really feel ready to work on it. However it’s the closest to the kind of novel they want. It’s a modern epistolary novel told through emails, chat logs and blogs. It follows a group of friends as they investigate the disappearance and murder of a mutual friend and eventually come to realise that one of them did it. I think I could do a killer pitch of it but it’s the one I feel least able to finish.

Thirdly there’s the one I’ll call Project Dingo. It’s about half done. It’s the funniest. It’s set in 2012 and it’s about a locked room mystery that nobody wants to solve. It’s the closest to a traditional mystery novel in structure but it has witches and other weirdness in it that might make it a harder sell at Bloody Scotland.

I can’t make up my mind. I feel like I should pick Project Cecil because it’s the one they’re most likely to want. But I don’t want to work on it. I’m not ready yet. Then I want to stubbonrly pick Project Kindness because ‘Finish your Shit’ and because it’s the one I’ve been working on recently and it’s in my head. But then I want to pick Project Dingo because it’s the balanced one.

I don’t know how to make up my mind. Suggestions are welcome in the comments.

And if you have enjoyed this indecision you could show your appreciation by buying me a coffee with Ko-Fi.

It’s never just one thing.

So in my last post my laptop had died and I discovered that I’d wasted 3 months preparing for a nonexistent competition. How can things get worse?

The good news is that my laptop is fixable and for a reasonable fee. The bad news is that after paying for that and buying Scrivener for the iPad my spouse and I went to the optician to get our eyes tested. I need new glasses and my other half needs two pairs (distance and reading glasses) and my eyesight is so bad that my one pair costs more than both of theirs.

I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. I dread to think what that’s going to reveal.

In addition to being impossibly broke yet again I also have to work out what my writing plan is. Until the debacle with the nonexistent pitch competition my plan was to prepare my current work in progress for the competition then when it failed to garner any interest I was going to query it while trying to fix whatever is wrong with the first one then pitch a third novel at Bloody Scotland in September.

I suppose I could still do the parts that don’t involve the nonexistent pitch but it’s feeling pointless. I can’t work out if it’s my usual terrible self esteem talking or if there’s something wrong with this plan that I’m not letting myself see. There’s this voice in the back of my head that keeps telling me that this can’t possibly work because that’s not how my life works. And it’s not wrong about my life so far. It is kind of insane to expect anyone to value anything I do enough to pay me for it. They never have so far.

I hope I’ll be back with a new blog post about Infinity War soon but it probably wont be until I get my repaired computer back. In the meantime if you want to donate to the fix the computer fund or the actually be able to see fund then you can do it via Ko-Fi. Yes it says that you’re buying me a coffee but I’m allowed to spend the money on something other than coffee. Also coffee is a vital part of the creative process.

There’s also the Shop Of Doom. It’s still closing on May 8th because nobody is buying anything. Which is a pity, I have a couple of the t-shirts and they’re lovely, but I get that they’re pretty expensive and not to everyone’s taste. At least I tried. Having tried is not as much consolation as you’d think. It really doesn’t ease the sting of failure much at all.

Performance review 2017

Since writers don’t have employers we don’t get handy annual performance reviews to tell us how we’re doing. So I’ve decided to do one for myself.

My primary focus for the last year has been to move toward getting published. So that’s a fail then. I have queried some agents. Not as many agents as I could have so that’s something that I could improve on next year. All the ones that have replied have said no. There’s still one I’m waiting to hear back from but I don’t expect to hear anything now until the new year. I did pitch my finished novel at Bloody Scotland and while I got some useful feedback to improve my query letter it hasn’t led anywhere.

Since my main focus is about being a professional writer rather than simply publishing one book I’ve also been writing. I’ve been re-writing and editing a sequel to my finished novel. I wrote the first draft of a novella and for NaNoWriMo I wrote the first draft of a straight crime novel. That’s pretty good but there’s room for improvement. I think I should aim to write at least one first draft and move at least one novel to the completed stage every year.

My secondary focus was to build the skills I need if I have to self publish. I’ve have been moving in the right direction but not nearly far enough. I’ve taken up calligraphy, which can be used to do cover art, and I’m improving my design skills. If I absolutely have to I could probably create a professional looking front cover.

I also wanted to build up this blog. I think that’s been fairly successful. There are more people reading it regularly, I’ve been posting at least 3 times a week most weeks since the beginning of April. Hopefully if I do publish a book at least one of you will actually be willing to pay to read it.

Since July I’ve been trying to get something, anything, done about my Lipoedema. After 4 Doctor appointments and 2 nurse appointments at my local practice, a trip to the leg ulcer clinic in Dunfermline and another to the Lymphoedema clinic in Kirkcaldy I may be only a couple of weeks away from trying on my first compression garments.

Since September I’ve been dieting because apparently you have to if you want to get your Lipoedema treated even though calorie restriction isn’t a treatment for Lipoedema. I’ve lost 11.5 kg and I’m hoping to get back into weight training. I’m just waiting for my equipment to be delivered.

So I haven’t been entirely useless this year but it still feels a bit unsatisfying. Perhaps that’s not surprising given that this year has felt like someone raised the corpse of 2016, decked it out in leather and spikes, stuck it behind the wheel of a steamroller and then pointed it at democracy.

Lessons from NaNoWriMo 2017

Every year I write a first draft in November and every year I try to learn something new while doing it. This year’s first draft was a straightish crime novel with the working title Project Cecil. The name doesn’t mean anything I just had to call it something and one thing I’ve learned in previous years is that I suck at titles.

This year’s big lesson is that I can write a novel without relying on fantasy, science fiction, or the supernatural. I’m just not entirely sure I want to. It’s really too early to tell if the story is any good. That wasn’t the point. A first draft doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be written. But I am starting to question the logic of writing it.

I wrote a straight crime novel because a friend challenged me to write it. She challenged me because my attempts to get an agent or a publisher are hampered by the kind of stories I normally write. It’s not that they’re bad it’s just that they’re hard to market because they don’t fit easily into any single genre. My friend suggested that if I could write a regular crime novel I would have more chance of getting an agent or publisher interested and once I have something published I might have more luck with my weirder books.

My friend might be right. But I’m starting to think about the long game. My ultimate aim isn’t to get a single book published or even to get paid for a couple of manuscripts. My aim is a career as a writer and to do that I need to concentrate on the books I actually want to write. I like the story I’ve been telling but it’s not representative of most of the stories that I want to tell.

Of course it might still be worth taking this novel to Bloody Scotland next year and pitching it. Even if it doesn’t lead to the career I want it might at least lead to enough money to pay to self publish the other stories well enough to build a career that way.

This doesn’t mean I regret this experiment though. I’ve met some interesting characters while writing this story and I think I’ll probably come back to them at some point and finish telling their stories properly.

The Bloody Scotland Pitch

Yesterday I went to Stirling for the Bloody Scotland Pitch Perfect competition. I didn’t win or get any interest from any of the publishers or agents. The standard of competition was very high and I’m looking forward to reading the other novels that were pitched. I’m sure most of them are going to be published. I also attended the Graduates event where some of the former pitchers who now have published novels talked about the experience and read from their novels.

It was a useful experience. I got to meet other writers, some published already and some not published yet. It was nice to meet other people who’re going through the same stuff and it was encouraging to meet those who are already in the industry. I also got some useful feedback on how to tweak my query so I’ll have a better chance of landing an agent.

However it was also discouraging. I am really starting to feel like I’ve got no chance of getting a traditional publishing deal. I’m just too weird. My stories are too weird. The panel said my story was “really creative” and said that they’d “never heard anything like that before” but that didn’t seem to be entirely a good thing.

I’m also feeling like a mug for following all the writing advice I’ve seen. Because the most common writing advice is “finish your novel”. I keep hearing that no-one will take you seriously without a finished manuscript but there were 8 people pitching and I seemed to be the only one who was pitching a finished manuscript.

So where do I go from here? I’m not ready to give up on Singularity yet. I’m going to tweak the query letter and keep sending it out. I’ve been challenged by a friend to try my hand at writing more mundane crime fiction on the grounds that once I’ve been published people might be more willing to take a risk on the weirder stuff. I’m thinking about it.

I’m also thinking about self-publishing Singularity but I will regard that as admitting defeat because there’s no way I can do it professionally enough. I lack both the money and the skills. It’s going to feel like I’m failing my novel.