The reasons for the early Christmas prep … whinge time!

I posted earlier this week about my procrastination for my writing and promised I’d explain why I think I’m doing this. So here’s the explanation. Frustratingly, I started writing this post immediately after the 3rd Dec one but I’ve somehow lost it. I must have closed it down without saving it. Grr.

Let’s crack on. Here’s are several things that have happened that have led to my crisis of confidence:

P10507461) My NWS report earlier this year. I submitted novel 2, ‘Getting Over Gary’, and my reader didn’t have many positive things to say about it. She kept saying there were lots of positive things … but somehow managed to emit them from my report. She kept referring to it as a “draft” but I actually felt like it was pretty much there. Thankfully my incredibly supportive fellow-Write Romantic, Jo Bartlett, had beta-read Gary. I asked her to look over the report and she was really encouraging in allaying my concerns

2 ) I started to edit Gary as there were a couple of points that my reader had made that I decided to act upon. I’d loved the book before submitting it but began to really doubt it was good enough as a follow-up to Steven. One of the points that plagued me were that my heroine of book 1, Sarah, and her best friend, Elise (the heroine of book 2) weren’t different enough. I write in 1st person and have given myself a bit of a challenge. Book 1 is told completely from Sarah’s POV but book 2 is Elise’s story and mainly told from her POV but it also continues with Sarah’s story and includes chapters told from her POV. By book 3, we have Sarah’s, Elise’s and Clare’s (new heroine) POVs. I began to realise that my reader was right and I wasn’t really sure what to do about it. Jo came up with a great suggestion of expanding on some aspects of Elise’s personality that I’d touched upon in book 1 but hadn’t made much of in book 2. If I built on this, I’d get my difference but it meant quite a bit of work and I struggled with it.

I then got the amazing news of a publishing deal. Then another. In the two-offers excitement, I pretty much wrote off September, not writing anything. Early October was then devoted to getting ready for the launch of our anthology, late October was a holiday, then I returned to start NaNo …

_MG_69113) I failed NaNo. Last year I “won” it, finishing Gary and starting on book 3, ‘Discovering David’. I wanted to use the 50k word goal to finish David after which I’d turn to Gary again and try to finally resolve the issues in that. The thing is, I started NaNo knowing the plot of David wasn’t perfect. I had a big event happen near the start and I realised earlier in the year that I needed this happen much closer to the end to ensure my heroine, Clare, had a good character arc. This meant a lot of re-plotting. I took my notebook away on holiday with a plan to re-plot it then but I just didn’t find the time to look at it on a family holiday.

I decided to just crack on with writing the chapters I’d mapped out (as I’d still need them) then re-order things later. I managed about 20k words which was probably about 17k more than I’d have done without NaNo but I lost my confidence and let myself get distracted my the whole Christmas preparation thing I talked about in my last post.

4) Our anthology, ‘Winter Tales – Stories to Warm Your Heart’ came out at the start of November which was very exciting. But, on the day it was launched, I had a bit of a panic attack. We’d discussed as a group whose short story would feature first in the anthology. It was decided that mine would because (a) I’d been the one to pull the stories together and my husband had typeset them and (b) My story is called ‘Not Just Another Winter’s Tale’ which fit well with the title of the anthology. Very exciting. Very flattering. Actually, very scary and that fear hit me big time when I went onto Amazon to look at our book and registered that the “look inside” would mean potential readers got to sample most of my story. Only my story. Nobody else’s story. Just mine. Which meant that some people might make the decision not to buy because they didn’t like my work. Huge pressure. Of course, the logical side in me is telling me that I have no way of ever knowing whether someone chose not to buy because of the sample but my Doubting Thomas tells me they could well have done

P10506875) The reviews for ‘Winter Tales’ started coming in. Some of the group had made contact with book reviewers and provided them with advance pdfs so a few reviews came in pretty quickly. It was amazing to get 4 and 5-star reviews from these individuals with hundreds or thousands of followers and I basked in the collective glory of the anthology. But I was also hit with doubts. One thing I hadn’t been prepared for was any of the reviewers specifically naming stories as their favourites. The first reviewer picked four stories as her favourites (not mine) and the second one said she preferred the non-traditional romance stories (also not mine). Ridiculous isn’t it but this really threw me. I certainly hadn’t expected to have my story named as a favourite but it hadn’t entered my head that others would be picked out either. Which took me back to point 4

6) I’m feeling really down about work at the moment. This time last year, I’d been out of work for several months and had just secured a job with the company I currently work for. A month or so back, my team received some information that indicated that we could find our roles at risk. Several other pieces of data came to light that suggested this would definitely be the case and, whilst I’ve been now told my role isn’t at risk, there will definitely be a restructure in the new year and I have no idea what my role will look like. I saw a promotion opportunity internally recently and, as I’ve taken a big step down in salary and level to work locally and avoid a huge commute each day, I knew I could do this job. The recruiting manager knew I could do this job too but she felt that I’d be wasted in the role because I’m good at and passionate about what I do at the moment. So the promotion isn’t open to me and I just have to hope that whatever restructuring happens in the new year finally provides clarity on my role and a pay rise. Not going to hold my breath, though 😦

So there you have it. The job situation is having a huge effect on my confidence but I’d be lying if I said it was the whole thing. I think the bigger concern is around writing books 2 and 3. I’m exceptionally proud of Steven. I was proud of Gary until I submitted to the NWS and I was very happy with the story for book 3 until I started writing it. Musicians often cite “that difficult second album” and I think I’m suffering from the difficult second and third book. I’m also doubting my story in the anthology and am doubting I have what it takes to be anything other than a “one-book wonder”. And I’m not even that yet because it won’t be released until next year!

On the positive side, I’ve had wobbles before and got over them. I’m also meeting my writing pals Alys and Sharon tomorrow who should help to slap me and cheer me up. Jo has reminded me that I’ve got a three-book deal but, whilst amazing, my publishers haven’t seen Gary or David yet. What if they don’t like them. She suggested I could send Gary over for a look but I don’t know if I dare, especially when I know it’s not quite there.

I think what I need to do for now is just focus on Christmas, try to relax, stop panicking about the writing and crack on with it when I get my work confidence back as that is definitely on my mind.

Right, going to stop moaning now. Before I go, though, I’ll just point out that our heating broke down overnight on Thursday and we can’t get anyone out until Monday. We had our first frost today and it’s freezing so I’m feeling extra sorry for myself today. I’m writing this in my PJs AND a onesie, thick socks, and the lounge fire on (thank goodness for an electric fire), trying to get some heat into my bones. I think this is probably making the writing doubts even worse!

Thanks for listening xx

A David-Shaped Disaster

I have just endured a very traumatic couple of days. Why? Because David went missing. I searched absolutely everywhere for him; places he could have been (e.g. the bedroom, my office) and even places he definitely couldn’t be (yes, I actually looked in the airing cupboard; I was desperate by this point). I racked my brains for the last time I’d seen him but this is not easy when you have a memory like Swiss cheese. I’d definitely had him with me on my last work trip to Grantham roughly four weeks ago so, when I checked in there on Tuesday night, I hoped and prayed he’d be in lost property but no such luck. The safe perhaps? No; not there either. Argh!!! By this point I was in serious panic mode.

P1050745I’m sure you’ll have realised that this isn’t a person we’re talking about. David is my third book (Discovering David to give him his full title although, as per my last post on the Write Romantics blog, that may change). I tend to refer to my books by the male names in their titles: Steven, Gary and David. Anyway, David is plotted but only half-written. I wrote about a third of him during NaNoWriMo last November (I finished Gary then moved onto David as I wasn’t at a point where it was appropriate to start a brand-new novel) and I’ve just signed up to NaNo again for next month with a view to finishing David. The thing that had gone missing was my notebook with David’s plot in it, hence the panic.

I hadn’t planned Steven but did plan Gary and David. I know in my mind the rough idea of what’s going to happen but I have a set of three gorgeous hard-backed paperblank notebooks for the trilogy. There are scribbles and ideas in Steven but Gary and David have 2 pages per chapter where I plan out roughly what will happen in that chapter. I then use a date-free planner to keep track of timeframes so I don’t talk about Christmas only to discover it’s actually February. There are a couple of reasons why I haven’t really worked on David since NaNo last year: (1) I wanted to submit Gary to the NWS so did another edit on that and then I’ve been working on a final version of Steven as a result of a final round of submissions and a publishing deal; and (2) I decided to change the plot and was far too lazy to go back to the plan and swap it round because that would mean quite a lot of work. However, I need to do that work as it’s no point starting NaNo on 1st November without a plot in place.

P1050746Which brings me back to David going missing. I am going on holiday later today. I’m off to Tenerife for a week (can’t wait because, other than a weekend ferry trip to Amsterdam and another to Bruges, I haven’t been abroad since my honeymoon nine years ago). We get back on 31st October which means I’m straight into NaNo. Which means I need to have my plot ready. I wanted to take David with me so I could sort out the plot on the plane/on evenings which our daughter is in bed but I thought I’d make a head-start on it with my trip to Grantham this week. Only David had gone missing.

I looked everywhere. I dug out all the bags/backpacks I’ve used recently in case I’d left him in there. I even had the hubby go into the attic in case it was in the overnight bag we’d taken to Blackpool recently. I looked in the DVD drawers, my Brownie bag, my photo album crate … all places it shouldn’t be but you never knew. I felt so stressed driving down to Grantham knowing I’d lost it. I absolutely hate re-doing work and, although I was going to re-plot part of the story, there were another two threads which wouldn’t be changing (Steven is Sarah’s story, Gary is her best friend Elise’s story whilst still following what happens to Sarah, and David is Sarah’s other friend Clare’s story whilst still following the other two. Clare’s story is changing but Sarah’s and Elise’s aren’t. Therefore, I needed the plots for those threads). The other thing I started worrying about was what if someone had picked it up and took it for their own story? Unlikely but, hey, I’m a writer so my imagination went to the moon and back with this one!

P1050747I got home late last night and decided I’d better do some more packing for my holidays. I rummaged in my in-trays for the tickets and booking confirmation and what did I find? David. But the ridiculous thing is that I went through the in-tray on at least five occasions when looking for him before my Grantham trip. Why does this happen? Why do things disappear and re-appear again? Are there mean Pixies residing in my office? The same ones who steal odd socks out the washing machine and who stole my Sindy ice-skating costume when I was eight? Evil little monsters.

So all is calm now. I have David safely in my hand luggage and I’m gathering my plot-changing ideas in my mind. I have my Kindle loaded with my holiday reading too. I really think this is where my Kindle is going to come into its own; about 100 titles to choose from whereas I could only justify the size and weight of a couple of paperbacks on previous holidays and hope I liked them.

I won’t be able to respond to any comments until I’m back from my hols but please don’t let that stop you leaving one; particularly if you know where those pesky Pixies take things! Have a good week or so xxx