Monday, 14 January 2013

Despite everything, it would appear that I am doing things right...

Hey it's me again.

I have just finished reading Anne R. Allen's blog for this week and I thought it was brilliant.
I am currently going through a tough time with my story/book. I am working diligently on version 3 (still) at the moment and it can be really frustrating, but I’m hoping that it’s all part of the process. I'll be the first to admit that I have no idea what I am doing when it comes to trying to earn the mantle 'Writer' although I would much prefer the title 'Published Writer' more.

When I decided to try and enter what I have come to learn is a very competitive market I chose not to do any research regarding the actual in's and out's of what to do once I had finished my story/book, instead I decided to just get the damn thing written. I did this for a couple of reasons.
The main reason was because I didn't want to lose myself to a fantasy of what it would be like to be the next JK Rowling or Stephenie Meyer’s, etc. The reality is, and I don't think I am talking out of turn here when I say that most people who enter this world of writing, deep down, all harbour the dangerously dark thought that if it happened to the aforementioned, why couldn't it happen to me? And who's to say it won't? But just in case, I try and keep my feet firmly on the ground at all times.

The second reason I chose not to get online and do as much research as possible about becoming a wannabe writer before I had even written anything was because it is such a competitive market.  I was amazed when I did start looking into writers and the next step to writing to see just how many other there were out there all wanting the same thing.  I'll be honest, it took the wind out of my sails and I almost gave up there and then, this was after I had already written two drafts of my story/book. 
Before I wrote my first word I remember reading or hearing somewhere that 95% of Americans asked, admitted that they would like to write a book, but less than 1% actually try to do it, something like that anyway. I then also remembered hearing somewhere that to actually finish writing a piece that you could call a novel was the hardest part over and that if you got to that point you were well ahead in the game. (I have since learnt that this isn't quite the case, but for the sake of my sanity I'm not going into that here).  In my head I imagined it to be quite a desolate place in the world of writing, because whilst the book shops and libraries are full of exciting wares, I just assumed that Stephen King was having a good year and had written 20 books the previous year and that made up for at least 50% of what they were selling, plus their back catalogue's, etc. Turns out that isn't the case, there are loads of us out there trying to pedal our wares to that someone who will read it and hopefully enjoy it. Add to the equation 'self-publishing' and everything gets even more complicated.
Read Anne's post about the ridiculous lengths 'Amazon' are going to to try and stifle the self-publishing route. I haven't even considered 'self-publishing'. Not because I think my stuff is so good that I will be picked up by one of the big publishing firms as soon as I feel my story/book is ready. No, it's because I don't feel that I am ready just yet to consider sending my work out to anyone for their consideration, whether it be for publishing purposes or otherwise, even though I will admit that I am desperate to send it to someone with the hope that they like it. And to a certain extent I believe that is why I am where I am now when it comes to my book/story. I'm not getting ahead of myself and I genuinely believe that it is very easy to do just that in this business. I want to make sure that when I do send it and gear myself up for all those rejections letters, that I know I have sent the best work I know I can do. Then when they letter box sounds the arrival of one of the many letters I am expecting, all of them starting with, 'Dear Pip, thank you for your story/book, but...' I'm hoping I can use the rejections as fuel (probably literally as I will be burning them to keep my house warm) and realise that if I get that letter it should hopefully mean that someone who has a connection with the writing gods has read it and that whilst it failed, someone who (hopefully) knows what they are doing is basically telling me to re-think it and try again.  I have discovered that there are two fundamental sides to writing.
The Romance of Being a Writer
  • The idea of actually writing a story/book. I think most people would admit to wanting to write a book. Sitting at a window, staring out at the view, losing yourself as you formulate convoluted plots and story lines that you're convinced will keep a reader coming back for more. And then simply putting it all on paper. And to be paid for it, now that would be cool.
The Reality of Being a Wannabe Writer
  • It's hard work, really, really hard work. In my head, right now, I could tell you my whole story/book. I could vividly describe each and every character that call my story/book home. I could easily explain to you what they look like, right down to what they are wearing and where they brought their clothes from, whilst at the same time taking you on a detailed exploration of their surroundings. And over a bottle of whiskey (or a cup of tea if you prefer) and a few hours of your time I could tell you it all, every bit of what my story/book is about. The reality is, a vivid imagination is a wonderful thing to have, but if I wrote everything I have just said, I would have wasted 10 pages on needless pointless details and quite a bit of your valuable time, all over things that aren't necessarily relevant. So you have to learn how to write in detail, but not at the detriment of the story. Like I believe all good writers do, I want the person to get the feel of my characters, without boring the (hopefully one day) reader. I believe the phrase quality, not quantity is probably apt here. I also think you need to be sensible. At the end of the day most of us that write do it because we want to tell a story and have someone else read it and hopefully enjoy it. Published or not, that is the goal, why else would we do it?
The Process of Writing
  • I have never done this before, so I have no idea. I know what I do to get myself ready, and I bet that everyone that writes has a routine that they follow before they start.  Bottom line, it doesn’t matter, before stroking your cat 82 times then jogging up the stairs 19 times doesn’t make any difference.  You have to want to write and all the planning and preparation      is pointless if when you finally sit down you’re going to let yourself become distracted by Angry Birds on your phone.  I often find that I’m sat looking at my laptop and am thinking of anything except writing.  I am always thinking about my story, but sometime getting it down on paper is such a pain in the arse.  Tough.  You want to write a book.  Then the clue is in the title, you have to write.  Sometimes I can write 8 pages in a few hours, (not necessarily good stuff, but most of the time I can salvage something from the words), other times I can spend 4 hours on a single paragraph.  It can be soul destroying sometimes, especially when you feel you’re getting somewhere and then you read it back and none of it makes any sense.  But with hindsight (it really is a wonderful thing), I still look at this as time well spent, something written is better than nothing written.  With the piece I am working on at the moment I had a real problem, my nemesis if you will, was chapter eight.  I rewrote it four times before I was happy with it, each time writing over 60 pages (I know, that is quite a lot of pages for one chapter, but one problem at a time okay, I will fix it I promise).  Anyway, in total I wrote a total of 243 pages for just one chapter, keeping every version of the chapter I wrote just in case. But in the end I used only 65 of them.  It drove me mental and my wife now knows that if I call someone a ‘Chapter 8’, it means that I really don’t think much of them.  I must have spent six weeks writing the bloody chapter.  I could have cheated and used any of the three previous versions I had written, who would have known?  The thing is, I would have.  So I gritted my teeth and kept going until I was happy with it.  Even now it isn't perfect, not by a long shot, but it's better and with some tweaking I should be happy with it soon.  Did it make me angry?  Frustrate me?  Piss me off?  Yes, of course it did.  I even found during those six weeks that my mood changed, I was short tempered, irritable, generally in a bad mood.  At some point I apologised to my wife for my behaviour and she smiled telling me that it was okay, because if what I was writing was annoying me that much, then I must be taking my writing seriously and that in a weird way she was glad to see me reacting like this as it showed her that I was really concentrating and working on giving the best work I could do instead of just making do.  She’s pretty great like that.  I think the point I'm trying to make is that writing is hard work.  The idea seems pretty straight forward, write words on laptop and then print.  If only it was that straight forward.  But it does get easier.  As long as you are prepared to work at it.  But like most things, it comes with practice and time, every word I write is a word closer to hitting my objective of writing my story/book.  It might not be the right word, it might get deleted in version/draft 2 or version/draft 56, but it is still a step closer than I would have been if I hadn’t decided to take the time to get on with it and not to get distracted or give up, which I definitely considered more than once.
Everything else and then some...
  • I have found that a lot of people are saying that you need to get a presence in the world to be taken seriously as a writer.  Facebook, Blogging, Tweets.  And I think that people are right to say this, but I'm trying not to get too sucked in to that side of the digital revolution just yet, because if I did, when do I find the time to enjoy the simpler things in life?  Besides who wants to spend every waking minute looking at a screen, there’s a world beyond that flashing cursor.  Whilst I try to write on this blog at least once a week, I do it more for my own development.  No one subscribes to my posts, and I’m okay with that, I’m just hoping that it isn’t an indication of my writing abilities though.  If however I am ever lucky enough to make a living from writing and I hope one day I will, then my opinion will no doubt change when it comes to social networking and tweeting.  But for the time being I am trying to keep it all relative.  I am hopeful and look forward to the day when I am given a deadline by whoever it is that sets such things, as it will mean that I am doing something right, but until then I will continue to write one word down at a time and hope that sooner rather than later that it might be good enough where I feel comfortable enough to let someone read it.  I am so close I can almost taste it, but I need to know that when I ask someone to read it, I have given them the best I can do without any help.  And if whoever reads it is kind enough to give me feedback, I will listen and learn and then I will write some more.  I’m not saying that when I am finished it will be any good, it’s very possible that in my head it’s brilliant, but when someone else reads it, well, you know...but what have I got to lose?
  • Last year I wrote a book, twice, from scratch, with no help or encouragement from anyone.  If nothing else and when all is said and done, at least it’s something I can scratch off of my bucket list, but I have the bug now and I want to do more.  I am already formulating a plot for my second story/book and by early spring I hope, no, I want my first story/book to be ready for reading and am fully prepared to get rejected by everyone I send it too.  But it’s all part of the process isn’t it?  No one gets picked up first time do they?
Watch this space...
I just want to say a big 'Thank You' to Anne R. Allen for her blog.  Especially for this weeks entry, as it has made me realise that I'm doing okay when it comes to my writing.  And that by continuing to perservere I might actually be doing something right.

Stay cool

Pip  x


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