the journey of a budding author

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THAT novel

I have been writing a novel for the last eight years. It all began with my signing up for a correspondence writing course way back in 2004. I’ve always enjoyed words and I have tried to write stories at odd times of my life but I’d never really been serious about it.

However I was serious about this course. I started with a will and enjoyed all the exercises until the next exercise that came up suggested I get involved in a writer’s circle. Where does one find a writer’s circle?

As it happened, two of my friends were aspiring writers and we decided to get together once a month to encourage each other. We added a couple more enthusiasts and away we went calling ourselves Writers Alive. We started off by taking it in turns to find a homework project and this worked well. We’d spend some time reading some of our writing and the others would criticise and encourage. By now I was less involved with the homework from the course, and became more interested in finishing my homework for the circle. (I think I’m seriously ADD, in fact I know it!)

What happened next took over almost every waking moment for the next eight years. It came about innocently. Remember those exercises you did at school? ‘Chose one of the following sentences and write a page, using that sentence somewhere.’ I chose one about the start of a train journey and I used my own experience of a train journey fromParis toVenice, embroidering it and putting in a bit of drama to make it interesting.

My friends loved it and suggested I keep writing and see where it took me.

I never dreamed it would swallow up all my time and energy the way it has. I’ve done lots of research; I’ve read more about novel writing and gone back to basics and refreshed my long-forgotten lessons in grammar. I’ve researched how to publish a novel; I’ve subscribed to various writers’ newsletters, and tried to find out how to find an agent. I’ve loved it and hated it and wrestled with and chopped it to pieces and put it together again. My hard drive packed up (twice) and I hadn’t saved it, would you believe, so I had to start again! The worst was when my husband well-meaning as he is, started telling everyone I was writing a novel and he was going to retire on the proceeds. Now every time I meet friends and relations they ask me how the novel is coming on.  No pressure of course!

I subscribe to Writers Workshop and have always enjoyed their posts and they give a lot of good advice. Last year I took courage and sent them the first five thousand words and a synopsis for a crit. I got good advice and stern criticism, (who likes to be told that your writing is over-dramatic and sounds like ‘allo, ‘allo? And that I rambled on too much about unnecessary background) I was thrown back on my heels by this and didn’t look at my story for about six months. Then I re-read the letter from WW and decided it was fair criticism and started taking my story apart. It was only the prologue that was overdramatic anyway and as it had been a suggestion from a well-meaning family member, I was happy to excise it.

I’m tired of it and I want to start writing something else, but I just can’t give up.


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On starting a blog

Remember how it felt, way back at school, when you opened a new exercise book on it’s first pristine page? With a newly sharpened pencil clutched in your fist you hesitated, like a diver poised for that moment, before taking the plunge. How deliciously  intimidating yet seductive it was. That page could be anything you wanted it to be. You could write deathless prose on it, draw pictures that would amaze future generations. Or, you could do what the teacher told you to do. ‘First thing class, write the date at the top of the page’. The magical moment was destroyed as you descended into the mundane world again! And the next page never felt the same.

Today I am starting this blog, with what feels like that prisitine page. What do I write about? I hope that as I get used to it, I’ll be able to dive in and write all kinds of interesting things.

But for now, I’m a bit nervous about where I go from here. so, I’m starting the first few words, almost like writing the date at the top of the page. And I’ll be able to read it through in the weeks and months to come and realise that  maybe I have written deathless prose, or witty scraps about my life and struggles.  I plan to enjoy the ride!