Friday, 21 October 2016

Losing confidence in my novel

So what do you do when you start to lose confidence in your novel?
I got some good feedback when I went to my local writer's group but as well as pointing out a few things that I hadn't thought of it put some doubt in my mind about the whole direction the novel was taking. The more I think about it, the more I'm not sure how this novel should pan out and it's not the way I planned it.

So I'm now left with a stranded novel and no idea if I can finish it. If the plan isn't working anymore should I write a new plan? Or should I dump the whole thing? This is worse than writer's block, it's paralysing my thoughts rather than my writing.

I've got a small plan for something I want to write for NaNoWriMo and part of me just wants to plough on with that and forget the troublesome novel for a while. But that feels like defeatism and not the way a proper writer behaves. A proper writer would beat that darn novel into shape and make it submit to my powerful will. But I'm struggling to feel like a proper writer over this. I feel out of my depth, confused and troubled.

So I face a weekend of worrying about what to do and probably doing nothing but worry. I can't even bear to look at what I've written or the plan. That's how much I feel disconnected with this whole novel at the moment. Here's hoping some distance and deep thought will give me much needed perspective ... and maybe a bolt of lightening will strike and the solution will present itself.

The Prompt - Red

Today is the 50th anniversary of the disaster at Aberfan. I was a primary school pupil when this happened and the same age as some of the children who lost their lives that terrible day. It is sobering to think that all the experiences I have had, all the things I have done, all the life I have lived never happened for those young lives.

The prompt 'Red' reminded me of the red Welsh flag, the red shirts worn by Welsh sports stars, the red dragon which represents Wales around the world. So I decided to try a tribute to the people of Aberfan on this most difficult day.


Another school day, classes settle to learn.
Teachers take registers and young voices answer,
'Here, Miss', 'Present' and 'Yma'.

Proud red dragon nation,
Celtic heritage, land of song
And poets, your life is about to change.

A rumble, a rush then darkness.
The blackness engulfs all
And the silence descends.

Blackness covers the red.
Light and hope extinguished,
Buried beneath the waste of your lifeblood industry.

Many rush to the school.
Hands grab at the spoil, digging, pulling,
Frantic rescue and a few are saved.

Red faces, flushed with effort.
Bodies found and hope is fading,
Black eclipses the red dragon's future.

Late morning and only the dead emerge.
One hundred and forty four souls lost,
Half of the children at Pantglas School dead.

Red flags at half mast.
The red dragon weeps as the horror unfolds,
A generation snatched away one Friday morning.

A young girl hears the horror in the Midlands.
The scale too large for her to comprehend,
Yet fifty years on I still remember my mother's tears.

Red roses and flags, tributes to those lost.
We remember those young lives lost,
The promise gone and many hearts broken.

Monday, 17 October 2016

To Plan or Not To Plan

I've signed up to do NaNoWriMo again this year and that's set me thinking about planning.

I've had a few goes at NaNo before but have yet to win. I've enjoyed the experience but have struggled to sustain the writing. This year I thought I'd be more organised and plan my novel properly before I started. However I've been struck down with some ill health and have left things hanging. I've managed to do a little planning - character types, basic idea for story, setting - but not a proper plan.

Now here's my dilemma. I have done a proper plan for a novel that is sitting on the hard drive. It stands at 18,000 words but is not feeling the love at the moment. Since I went to the writer's group and got some feedback I'm not sure that it's going the right way and I need to think it out. This means I'm wondering whether to plan my NaNo novel or 'pants' the thing. I'm quite happy to write this way so it holds no fear. I'll make my mind up at some stage but again this has got me thinking about whether I'm a planner or a pantser.

I know that there are positives on both sides. With a proper plan I know where my story is going and can write any part at any time. I can write the ending first if I want to - rebellious or what? But the novel with the plan is stalling and I'm not sure I believe in it anymore. If I write with no plan I feel freer and the story seems to flow. I can let the story develop as it wants to and I can change things as I go along.

So what should I do for NaNo? Do I force my tired cold-ridden brain to do a proper plan for the novel or do I just start writing on November 1st?

Friday, 14 October 2016

Word of the Week - Fluffy

After a week away I'm trying to get back into the swing of things and WOTW seemed like an appropriate place to start. Thinking of the word for the past week has forced me to sit down and assess where I am at the moment.

This week I have chosen 'Fluffy' as my word. Let me explain: we had a holiday in the sun, a last chance to warm our old bones before hunkering down for the colder months. It was a lovely week in a super resort and I think we both benefitted from the break (even if OH rushed around trying all the fitness classes on offer!) However on the day we went I was ill. Not just a cold but a proper viral collapse, involving passing out at various stages around Gatwick Airport! I was in and out of consciousness for two days and weak and tired for another two - great way to spend the majority of a 7 day holiday! It was ok as I got to sit quietly and read which is one of the main points of a holiday, even if I didn't get to lie in the sun this time around so have very little in the way of a tan.

How does that involve the 'Fluffy' that I have chosen to sum up my week? Well, since we got back I've struggled to get back into the swing of things. My whole brain has felt as if it is made of fluff and my thinking has been fluffy too. The fact that a cold has popped up this morning might explain what is happening - I'm not sure I'm totally over the whatever-it-was I had and the fluffy feeling that has plagued me all week. I've not even managed to get started on a new book, that's how off centre I am!

So here's to clearing the fluff next week, getting back to some sort of routine and feeling more like myself again.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

The Value of a Writers Group Part 2

So I went to the 'trial' meeting of my local writing group on Tuesday and I thought I'd share my thoughts and impressions with all my lovely readers!

To say I was nervous is an understatement! I spent most of Tuesday trying to think of reasons not to go. That's how nervous I was. It was the reading out of a sample of my writing bit that got me. I'm not very good at sharing my writing yet. oh sure, I've submitted some pieces and shared some on the blog but this was different. I was going to read out and have others comment while I was there. Scary or what? I spent far too long obsessing about what i was going to read. I bothered my wonderful friends over at Facebook as I worried about what I was going to read and they were a tower of strength and wisdom as always. Finally I decided on an extract from my novel. Now all I had to do was screw my courage to the sticking place and I'd be fine ...

I walked into town and convinced myself that everything would be ok. I'm not sure I believed myself but by the time I got to the venue I had decided that even if it turned out to be the worst 2 hours of my life it would make a good blog post! I was the first to arrive which gave me time to decide that if no-one arrived by 7.30 I'd have a stiff gin in a local pub and go home, never to think about writing groups again. But of course someone turned up and I had to bite the bullet.

Now as it was a 'trial' meeting I'm not sure if I'm in or not but at the moment I'm not worried about that. I got something valuable from the meeting, I felt like a real writer for a while and have so many ideas that I can write something different each day for a week!

So I now know the value of a writing group; it's a really supportive space where you can get great feedback and where ideas are born. I hope they liked me enough to let me join but if they don't I got something from that one meeting and I can live with that.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Value of a Writers' Group

So I contacted the leader of my local writers' group a while ago with the idea of joining them and improving my writing with some feedback. So far so good. Months passed and I forgot all about it. This morning I got an email asking me along to one of their meetings for a 'trial'.

Which gives me a dilemma. I'm not terribly confident with my writing yet and they want me to read out an extract of about 1500 words! Help!

Several things leap to mind. Firstly: the thought of reading out something which I have written is really scary. It makes me feel really nervous just to think about it never mind how I'll feel when I actually have to do it. Secondly: how do I decide what to read? Do I go with a short story or an extract from the novel? I guess if I want some constructive criticism of my writing I should choose part of the novel as this would be most useful. But the novel is the roughest of first drafts and I'm not sure it's fir to see the light of day.

So what to do? There's a bit of me that wants to duck out altogether but that won't help to improve my writing one little bit. Also, if I can't bear to read out my own writing why should anyone else want to read it? I need to get over this silly reluctance to share. If anyone has the magic bullet that will give me tons of confidence, let me know!

So this week it's less about What I'm Writing and more about What I'll Be Reading (with luck).

Thursday, 15 September 2016

What I'm Writing - To Blog or Not To Blog...

My writing challenge is going well. Two weeks in and two short stories written. I'm worried that I may run out of ideas some time soon but I've decided that I need to complete the challenge more than I need to worry about the quality of what I write. Things can be tidied up later!

Now here's the question: do I publish my stories on my blog? I'm only recently feeling happier about sharing my work so part of me wants to take every opportunity to share what I've written. But here's the thing: if I do share here I can't submit the work elsewhere. Many publications and competitions won't consider anything that has been published on blog so by popping my story on here I take it out of circulation. It's something that I'm struggling with - to publish or not to publish.

As a fairly new writer (obviously not that new ;-) but new to considering myself a writer and sharing my work) I'm not sure how to decide whether a story is worth keeping for possible submission or whether it's ok to pop on the blog. I know there's no magic formula so I'm not looking for that but I'd like to know how other writers decide what to do with their work.

I've decided to keep the second of my short stories on the hard drive for the moment rather than share. It may have a life somewhere else and I don't want to lose that opportunity. But I'm also mindful that it may end up on the blog if I can't find an alternative home for it. So keep an eye out for it!