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.

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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.

Cursed

Let me tell you how my weekend went. On Saturday I took my son to see Infinity War. I was traumatised, I tell you. I’ll talk more about it in another post.

Then I got home to work on my pitch submission and found that my Laptop would no longer charge, probably because the internal socket for the power cable is damaged. So I tried to use the remaining battery life to put in a hurried submission. I did my best and I got something that wasn’t as good as what I would have had if I’d had more time but might have been good enough and I tried to send it in. I filled in the form on the website and it sent me an email with a link to a service to upload my files to XPONorth’s dropbox account.

And that link led to a discontinued service. A service which, according to the copyright date on the page, was discontinued last year. So I emailed XPONorth. And posted on their Facebook page and sent them a message using Facebook Messenger and tweeted about it and mentioned them in the tweet. I’ve heard nothing from them. But I know they’ve seen at least one of the tweets because the official Twitter account liked it.

It would seem that the Writers Pitch to Publishers and Agents event at this year’s XPONorth has been cancelled. But they didn’t do anything sensible like taking down the webpage, disabling the online form or changing the automated email. I have wasted three fucking months preparing for a non existent competition.

And of course my laptop is dead. I hope to get it repaired but that means spending money I shouldn’t be spending. I’m typing this on my iPad which means I’ve had to delete a bunch of apps I was using so I could fit the WordPress app and the Scrivener app onto it. Oh and I had to buy the Scrivener app so I could try to continue work on my novel only the app version doesn’t have the split screen feature that I use to re-write with.

On Sunday I went to Dundee to meet my mother for lunch and chat and a bit of shopping. Well, she shopped. I watched her shop because I need my money for repairing my laptop and buying expensive writing apps.

For some reason my Mother had her laptop with her. I don’t know why she had it. She never mentioned to me that she had it even when I told her about my laptop having died. I only know she had it because that evening, when I was at home, she called me to ask if I remembered at what point she lost it. Well obviously not. If I’d have known that I would have told her at the time.

I’m cursed I tell you, cursed.

If you’re feeling like donating to the ‘repair the computer assuming it can be repaired’ fund then you should use the Ko-fi link. I can’t add it while I’m using the iPad but there should be one on the sidebar or below this post or you could go back a couple of posts to get it. You could also find the link to the Shop o’ Doom in an earlier post. It’s still closing on the 8th of May. Assuming I can close it using the Shopify app.

Goodbye for now

Don’t panic. I’m not going anywhere I’m just unlikely to be posting any time soon because my computer is dying. It’s a laptop and the battery will no longer charge via the cable. I have maybe 3 more hours of life in this thing and then that’s it. Goodbye writing.

I can’t add much more because I have to get on and post my submission for the pitch to publishers event at XPONorth. There’s zero hope I’ll be accepted though because there’s no way I’ll do a good enough job in the time I have left before the battery runs out.

Maybe someday I’ll have enough money to buy a working computer. Until then farewell.

No begging links here. I know that I don’t have enough readers to buy me a new computer.

The definition of insanity

I keep reading that repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity. Sometimes it’s a quote, often attributed to Albert Einstein.

It’s kind of true. But it’s also kind of bullshit. Doing the same thing over and over is also known as practice and it’s how we get better at stuff. But making the same bad choices over and over and expecting them to somehow eventually work out in the end is a symptom of all kinds of mental illnesses.

So by making a plan to pitch at XPONorth again am I on the path to improvement or insanity?

I’m intending to pitch my novel of sexy super spies and occult shenanigans. I’m pretty sure that it’s not what they want. I seriously doubt that any of the serious Scottish publishers will be interested in a funny, dark, erotic, supernatural thriller. But what else can I do? I’ve got nothing else that’s close enough to finished, I can’t write the kind of novels they actually want and I can’t find any pitching opportunities that would put me in front of the kinds of agents and publishers that actually would be interested.

So I’m preparing to expend a lot of time and effort and money on something with virtually no hope of success because I can’t find any alternatives with a better chance of success. I could just do nothing at all but then I might as well be dead. I need to do something with my time to give me the illusion of meaning.

I know, intellectually, that my existence is ultimately meaningless but I’m not strong enough to face that down and keep going. I have to pretend that what I do matters so that I will keep doing it.

My tarot deck keeps telling me that I’m trapped by indecision

It’s not wrong.

I have done very little this week except vacillate on the subject of my writing “career” and I’m no closer to a decision than I was last week. I still have a novel that I was querying that I don’t know what to do with. I still have the novel that I was working on that I don’t know if it’s worth finishing. I still have many potential future novels and no idea where I want to go.

Back in 2016 when I pitched my finished novel at XPOnorth it was greeted with a great deal more enthusiasm than I had been expecting. So much enthusiasm that it led me to believe that it was good and that people liked it and that my pitch, and therefore any query letter I wrote based on it, was persuasive.

That was the last time I got any positive feedback from anyone in the publishing industry. Everything since then has been form rejection. If there’s something wrong with my novel then I’ve already blown it’s chances with the best agents to represent it. I have one beta reader telling me that there are massive problems with the first chapter that need to be fixed or I will never sell it and one telling me that it’s okay apart from a couple of spelling mistakes. I’ve got no idea if there are any agents left who’d be interested in it even if I could fix it.

I decided to concentrate on finishing the novel I was working on and then fix the other one later once I’d worked out what I wanted to do. Only now I find that working on this novel seems pointless. It has the same setting as the other one and though I could tweak it slightly and make it the first book set there I’m starting to wonder if the problem is the setting. Or if the problem is me. What if all my books are too wierd? What if they’re just not sellable?

I started thinking that if they are too weird to sell to an agent or a publisher then that’s not necessarily the end. I could self publish. Only I’d be doing it badly because I still can’t afford an editor, or a development editor, or a designer, or cover art.

Maybe the answer is to write stuff that’s less weird. I did try that for NaNoWriMo 2017. I wrote a first draft with nothing magical or supernatural or sci fi. It was ok. I’m not sure the novel has much potential but I wrote it. Maybe I should concentrate on that. It would be much easier for me to break into the industry via crime. But then I would be stuck writing that sort of novel. I’d have built the wrong career.

So what do I do? I’ve got a finished novel that isn’t really finished. A work in progress that might not be worth finishing. A bunch of weird first drafts that I might never be able to interest anyone in. A not weird first draft that I’m not ready to work on and that might be a move in the wrong direction.

Should I just drop the lot of them in a drawer somewhere and try writing something different? Maybe I could write some generic fantasy? Maybe I should give up on selling, give up on re-writing, and just stick them all on the internet for free.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if there is a right decision or if they’re all equally wrong. I don’t know what I want to do either.

All I know for sure is that I am spectacularly, incandescently, outrageously angry.

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.

The best laid plans

This is a brief FML update.

In theory I should be starting my diet in earnest today but it kind of seems pointless because the scales are broken and I can’t weigh myself. I can’t afford new scales. How do I prove to the doctors that I’ve been sticking to the diet if I can’t tell them how much weight I’ve lost?

I’m too tired to come up with a solution to this problem because I’ve not been sleeping because I’ve been in a state of abject panic about the upcoming Bloody Scotland pitch. I’m panicking in part because I feel like I’ve got no business pitching my weird multi-genre mess at a crime writing event. Somebody is bound to call me on it and what am I going to say? I am now old enough that ‘it wasn’t my idea’ is not a valid excuse for anything.

I’ve also spent two days not phoning the salon for an appointment for a much needed haircut. If I don’t get my undercut trimmed before Sunday I’m going to be delivering a presentation looking like I’ve been attacked by a toddler with a strimmer. I hate making phone calls at the best of times but my anxiety is out of control at the moment.

I think this is all a preemptive reaction to the expected rejection from the pitch. I’ve recently discovered something called rejection-sensitive dysphoria which is common in people with ADHD. Basically it means that it’s not just my imagination. I do have an extreme reaction to rejection and criticism. It’s not because I’m weak or oversensitive. It’s part of the way my brain is wired. Which is a tiny bit of a relief but also means that I’m not going to ever just get over it.

Yay for self knowledge.

My friends

There’s a quote that’s been running through my head all day. It’s from Doctor Who, from the 11th Doctor, from the episode The Wedding of River Song.

“My friends have always been the best of me”

Amen, brother.

This afternoon I was listening to music on my headphones and trying to plan my pitch for Bloody Scotland Pitch Perfect and thinking about that quote.

I was listening to the Correspondants, a band I only know because a friend showed me a bunch of their videos. Then I thought about how many of my musical tastes have been formed by a friend sharing the music with me. Dragging me to a concert, sending me a video, giving me an album or otherwise putting the music in my head where it becomes part of the way I think.

I was planning my pitch for an event I only signed up for because a friend nagged me into it. It probably won’t lead anywhere but at least it feels like progress. Sometimes the illusion of progress is what you need to keep you going.

I’m pitching a novel that I couldn’t have finished without my friends. They encouraged me, they believed in me and they walked the path beside me working on their own projects. One friend pointed out how confusing the opening of the first draft was. Another helped me see that in the second draft I’d woven the two main narratives together in the wrong order. One friend did a detailed read through, fixed all my typos, helped me come to terms with my raging apostrophe problem, corrected my medical terminology and gave me the confidence to pitch and query.

And then there’s my other half. More than a friend or a husband. A muse. The person without whom I probably wouldn’t be a writer. Because even though I’ve always written I never thought being a writer was a reasonable ambition for me until someone else believed that it was.

My friends have so much faith in me that I find it confusing. How can they be so sure? I’ve never been that sure of anything in my life. Except for my friends. I’m sure of them. I believe in them. I can’t wait to see the things they’ve made