Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Pause for thought

I'm sure many other writers reach a point where they just need to stop and leave a story for a little while. Or maybe it's just me?

Almost all of what I want to write into the second story in my series is just about there, but it just needs to "take shape" in my mind a bit more.

Of course, being a "free time" writer doesn't help, especially at this time of year. I didn't feel completely refreshed by the time I went back to work after the Christmas and New Year break, and I've been feeling really tired most evenings.

I've taken action on one of my New Year "not quite resolutions". I arranged a session with one of the advisors at the gym and went along with specific goals. He enjoyed coming up with a programme to help me achieve these.

I'm aiming to go twice a week and get into the habit of making time to do this. The main difference from what I was doing is that I'm now working with much heavier weights.

This last weekend, I spent Saturday indulging in my other creative hobby, photography. A talented local photographer organises workshops from time to time, which have all been "people" photography. She arranged a venue, models and even a stylist for three of them.

Saturday was an outdoor session with two models, who were great fun to work with, and the stylist came up with some interesting looks (note the head-dresses).

And yes, there was a horse too, Junior, a 14-year-old Welsh cob. He was a good sport, even if he did get a bit bored from time to time.

Doing these sessions has really boosted my confidence about more "formal" people photography and given me opportunities to practice and learn with a very competent photographer to guide me.

One thing I will look into is getting my own photos in the cover art. I've signed up with one of the many photography model websites, so I'll see if I can find some who look like my mental images for characters, then get photos which suit the story. I've got some ideas already, suitable for studio, indoor and outdoor locations.

Well, it'd be fun, wouldn't it?

So, this weekend I WILL be getting back to my writing.

I want to get book 2 to the publisher by the end of March, which gives me two months to finish it, get comments from my crit group and do my own personal obsessive reviewing and revising before seeing if the editor likes it...

Sunday, 10 January 2016

First-Time Nerves?

I don't think for a second that my feelings are unique. After all, many other people have written published books. But I can't deny that I feel a teeny bit nervous.


Well, um, you know... reviews. On Amazon.

It's my first ever book. Yes, of course I know it's nowhere near perfect and probably not one which vast numbers of people will want to read. But it took me months of effort to write the story, revise it and find a publisher willing to take a risk with it. Then I worked on further tweaks with two editors. So it's my baby! And it's out in the big bad world.

People in my critiquing group made very helpful comments on my first draft, which I used to revise the story. And both editors had some great suggestions. With their help, the story's better told than it would have been. And I'm incredibly grateful to Fireborn for publishing it.

But even with all the encouragement and support before publication, I'm still a bit anxious. You see, what I really want to do is write entertaining stories which people enjoy reading, even if my stories are a bit "niche" because of their genre. I don't know what people think until I start seeing reviews. Like all authors, I hope I get enough positive reviews to make other potential readers think that this might be a story they'd enjoy too.

To date, I've had five people post reviews on and, and, to my relief, all have been positive. Four or five stars and complimentary comments on the story, characters and even on my story-telling.

This is a huge pat on the back and really encouraging. This particular story is the first in a series of five I have in mind. I've been working on the second one for a few months now. So to get a thumbs-up from anyone is real confidence boost, let alone five readers. This lift helped me get through some tricky areas in writing the next story.

I'm close to completing my first complete draft, which will be posted to my critiquing group as soon as I'm happy enough with it. Then to see if the publisher's editor thinks it's worth recommending for publication...

In case you're wondering, I post reviews of everything I read and of the audiobooks I listen to during my daily commutes to my day job. I try to be constructive, as there's almost always something positive to say and it can be a critique without being over-critical. I know very well how a thoughtless criticism can hurt, even when that wasn't what was intended.

And no, I don't automatically write good reviews for authors I'm acquainted with through my crit group or Facebook. I review the book I read and comment on how I feel about it. If I accept an advance review copy (or ARC), it's on the basis that I will review honestly. A lot of the writers I know do exactly the same.

So, please, please, please, when you've read a book you enjoyed, write a quick review on amazon or any of the other book retailing sites. You could help someone else find a book they'll enjoy reading. And it will might help the writer. They might see your review just when they're experiencing self-doubt or some moments of despair, and feel encouraged enough to stick at it and write an even better story.

Friday, 1 January 2016

New Year Ruminations

I’ve never done the traditional New Year Resolution thing. If I’m honest, it’s partly because I’m a minor rebel. And I know I'm a bit lazy and probably forget them in about ten minutes.

And why wait until January 1st to make changes? Why not just decide to do something and get on with it?

Yes, of course I could make fairly predictable resolutions, like lose weight and get fitter. But I need to address whatever it is holding me back from just doing that now.

So, just restructure my life to reduce stress to a more comfortable level and give me more free time? 

Umm... Just? 

I’ll need to work on that. 

There seem to be so many independant factors contributing to my overall stress level. Some are effectively impossible to address on my own, and at least one might require a huge upset in my life with a short-term stress overload. But I know I need to find a way to do something, as I can’t keep on going much longer the way things are now.

Just before Christmas, a couple of silly things left me feeling surprisingly rattled.

One was a Facebook meme about reaching out for your heart’s desire. Right at that moment, I realised I didn’t know what mine is. All my “desires” are a mix of heart and head, so I can’t be sure whether something is what I really want in my heart, or whether I decided to aim for it.

The second was someone posing the “suppose you’d made different choices in past” question in conversation. That’s not something I want to think about. It strikes me as a short-cut to unhappiness and dissatisfaction, especially when there are things in my life right now I’m far from overenthusiastic about. 

I’m where I am now because of decisions I made in the past. I can’t do anything about those now. All I can do is make decisions now and hope I get them right for the best possible future.

So, what can I decide now?

I can arrange an appointment with an advisor at my gym to design an exercise plan aimed at a reasonable fitness goal. While I vaguely think I’m still in my thirties, my body won’t be fooled. I can also get off my backside and go for a walk on the fantastic moors which are only 30 minues drive away.

I can consciously try to eat less, or at least consume fewer calories. I know I tend to eat more when I’m bored or stressed, so those are the times to be firmer with myself.

My two “creative” outlets, photography and writing, primarily require free time I can devote to them. Neither is one I can pick away at in an occasional five free minutes.

I’ve enjoyed three photography workshops this year, and these are something I can continue. I just need to discipline myself to finish off editing the photos and post the best ones to photography websites in the hope of selling them.

My first novella was published in November 2015, much to my delight, and I’ve already had some encouraging reviews. I’m getting on well with writing the second story in my planned series, which will be with the publisher in two or three months. Do I aim to complete another one or two other stories this year? One I’m pretty sure I can achieve, two would be a stretch.

But the things I’m most unhappy about in my life... Do I stick at it and hope they get better? Decide enough is enough? Find a middle way? No idea at the moment. Just have to hope any decisions I make help me find the best possible future.