Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Catch Up

April has been a month of running to catch up and I'm still not at the end of it yet.

I made a good start on Camp NaNoWriMo, keeping to the thousand words target until mid month when life intervened as it has a habit of doing. I'm up to almost 17,000 of the 30,000 target I'd set but it's given me a good start to novel two.

One of the major things that got in the way of my writing was the arrival of our new puppy, Bailey. She's still tiny so needs lots of attention and constant monitoring (she's taken a liking to the lounge curtains - we may need to shorten them out of reach). It's like having another baby or rather a very active toddler.

On the literary agent front, I've had another two rejections - both saying, as usual, it's not for us but keep sending it out - so I'm submitting my manuscript to more agents later today.

So apologies for my lack of posts this month and please excuse me while I go and play with Bailey. I'm not sure who'll tire first - her or me.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

How Shakespeare made a writer of me

Brought up as an only child in a house full of books that I was given free rein to investigate, the books that I always found myself drawn to were theatre scripts, and most specifically two collections of Shakespeare's plays.

The one with the green cover in the photo belonged to my mum. The other collection, a children's version of Shakespeare's plays with certain sections summarised rather than printed in full, was my father's. I spent many an hour as a child and teenager, thumbing through these books, visualising them on stage, playing the parts in my mind and yes, reciting the speeches in my bedroom - quietly.

At high school, I was keen to learn more about the plays but equally disappointed when my enthusiasm wasn't shared by many of my friends, and horrified when certain teachers presented the plays in a way that not only bored their class but turned many people off Shakespeare for life.

The works of Shakespeare are treated as part of the British, if not worldwide, literary canon but what inspired me about him more than anything else was that he was writing for the people. He wrote to get laughs, to excite, to shock and ultimately, to keep his audience coming to the theatre, bums on seats and feet in the yard (where there was only standing room). His plays taught me about characterisation through dialogue, stage directions, comedy, forming a link with the audience, the importance of interpretation and the clever use of research.

Today, 23rd April 2016, marks the 400th anniversary of his death. It will be celebrated throughout the UK (and probably around the world) in all kinds of ways. I daresay the shops will take advantage and stock a multitude of Shakespeare related paraphenalia. There'll be theatre productions, cinema showings and all kind of events. My family aren't as enthusiastic on the topic as I am so I think I may have to shoo them out of the lounge this weekend to watch a touch of Beatrice and Benedick banter, or Puck mischief on my own. Will you be celebrating?

Links:

Shakespeare's England - Shakespeare 2016
Telegraph article - Shakespeare's 400th Anniversary: When is it and how is it being celebrated?
Shakespeare 400
Shakespeare Celebrations in Stratford upon Avon
Fun quiz

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Doubt - We All Do It

I recently joined the PTA at my children's high school (Parents and Teachers Association) because I felt I had something to offer in the form of my murder mystery fundraisers and past experience with PTA groups. I also wanted to help the school because any improvement in school resources has to help my children. Finally, I wanted to meet some new people and socialise outside my mainly home based existence.

I was nervous about attending but had a lovely evening with parents and teachers alike. I came away happy and feeling that I'd offered up some useful ideas and generally added to the enthusiasm shown by everyone there. I arrived home chirpy and chatty.

The next morning though, I began to doubt myself. Maybe I'd talked too much. Perhaps the teachers had just pretended that my ideas were good when actually I was being annoying. What if they didn't ask me back? What if I had earmarked my children as the offspring of that tedious, writer woman? What if, what if, what if?

I thought back over the meeting, what I'd said and how I'd reacted to what other people had said, and I didn't seem to have talked too much. I hadn't done the 'open mouth, brain falls out' thing that so often spills my thoughts out at inappropriate times. I seemed to have behaved. So why did I doubt myself?

I'm currently submitting my manuscript to literary agents. So far I've had eight rejections, most with encouraging 'keep submitting but it's not for us' feedback, but still a no. Gradually, my initial belief in my novel has been ground down to the point where I wonder if it's good enough. Now I can see that the self doubt in one area of my life is leaking into others too.

As creatives, we offer up our souls when we share our creative works so it can be devastating when they are rejected. We go from cheerful exuberance to living under a grey cloud that blocks out the sunshine and steals away the colour in our world.

I know I'm not the only creative to have self doubts. In a writing group I'm part of, I hear these kind of thoughts all the time. Our ideas shine bright in our internal worlds but in the cold, critical arena out there, we begin to pick them to pieces. We not only doubt ourselves. We turn on ourselves too.

Self doubt is horrible but it's also useful and perfectly natural. It's useful because on occasion it can cause us to second-check ourselves and our work, which is never a bad thing. It's natural because we care about what we create. It's ok to have a little self doubt now and then. We shouldn't kick ourselves for that.

So today, I'm being kind to myself. I'm wrapping up in my shawl with a cup of tea and concentrating on my writing and my own internal imaginings. Tomorrow, I'll tackle the cloud.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Photo Inspiration for April

I love taking photographs of doorways, gates, and paths leading off around a corner. It's not just the beckoning of a threshold but also the idea of what is unseen. What possibilities might jump out at you if you dare enter?


This is a path that I didn't take. My family pulled me past it. I've yet to find out what lies beyond the gate at the end. What do you think? What story could lurk out of sight?

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Choice Words for April

I know, I know. I'm late in getting this post on here this week, but the joys of the Easter school holiday and the challenge of the April Camp NaNoWriMo writathon have kept me busy.

One of the hardest concepts that I've had to face as a writer (and I still find it difficult) is that of the character arc. The two point of  view characters in my novel both change but it's subtle and I'm unsure whether it's enough for the reader, or authentic.

On the Helping Writers Become Authors site, K M Weiland discusses just this topic in her post
The Hardest Part of Writing Good Character Arcs - and How You Can Make It Look Easy!. It's well worth a read. How do you approach character arcs?