Progress Report! (Or how I learned to love my work again!)

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BABY STEPS!

 

I have been an editor/proof-reader for years and always considered myself reasonably good at my job. I never had any complaints, which is my benchmark for how good you really are. In fact, several Literary Agents complimented me on the quality of our submissions.

English was always my favourite subject and I read a lot of books, but never once considered being a writer. I was far too busy managing Anita’s books, back in the day when manuscripts had to be submitted to agents and publishers in a very particular fashion.

Over the years, we received stacks of very encouraging and favourable letters from both agents and publishers alike, almost leading to publication a couple of times but sadly, despite almost being good enough, Anita was never published.

This might have been why I didn’t think of being a writer, after all, I knew, better than most, just how bloody hard it was. But eventually, my muse arrived. This was just after the Kindle phenomena took off. Suddenly, everyone could publish their books on Amazon, and it was supposed to be so easy, anyone could do it.

I have to say, in fairness to all the wonderful writers out there, I did find it very hard to write a full-length book. 70.000 words seemed an impossible target, and I doubted my capabilities every step of the way. That first book taught me so much about plot and dialogue, character arcs and subplots, even though it made my head spin. The day I finished The Ninth Life, a sense of achievement crept over me as I realised I had become a writer!

That was in 2014, and I went on to write two more thrillers after that. Most of you will know the fun I have had finding the right covers for my books, but I didn’t worry about the content at all. After all, I checked them for spelling errors and I had my editor head on, so they had to be fine.

Or so I thought.

What happened to make me doubt myself?

I have recently written a memoir/novella about my fight with breast cancer and published it on Amazon. It received one review that commented on how short it was, and when I took a long hard look at it, I had to agree. Not only was it far too short, it could be a lot better. That was when I knew I would have to check my other books too.

I read The Ninth Life again last month and was shocked at the state of it. Where was all the brilliant writing, the competent editor, the jaw-dropping prose? To say I was disappointed would be putting it mildly, I wanted to crawl away and die. For nearly a week, I battled with unpublishing my books and throwing them away, for the thought of rewriting them seemed an impossible task.

Gradually, common sense prevailed. They were my babies, I was an editor, I could fix this.

One thought kept me going. If I can now recognise the faults in my writing, does that mean I have improved over the years? I am pretty sure I have, for I am looking at my work with a totally different mindset. Most of what I see is amateur, almost childish. There were so many repeated and wimpy words and adverbs by the bucket load. It probably would have been easier to scrap them and start afresh, but I am nothing if not stubborn, so I will improve all three books, or die trying! They might be the only thing I leave this world to remember me by!

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The Ninth Life is now called Nine Lives. It has been thoroughly edited to within an inch of its life AND has two new covers. What it needs now, is some fresh eyes to see if it passes muster, and while you’re at it, please tell me which cover you prefer?  

Are there a couple of beta readers out there, who like reading mystery thrillers?

Changing a Battery is easy, isn’t it?

 

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image by pixabay

 

Last year, when my old PC kept breaking down, I invested in a laptop so I could continue blogging/writing.

It was a good plan I thought at the time, despite the fact that said laptop came with Windows 8 installed on it. Learning that was a nightmare, but I stubbornly persevered and business continued more or less as normal.

When the main PC finally shuffled off, I replaced it and stopped using the laptop as much, just in the evenings when I was curled up on the couch.

Two weeks ago, the laptop refused to charge and after investigation, it would seem the battery had died. All I had to do was change it.

I couldn’t really afford to have a professional do it, and had heard that it was possible to do it yourself, even though my laptop was one of the harder ones to handle.

I made sure to order the right battery and even found a site online with illustrated step-by-step instructions, so I was confident I could do it. Secretly, I was scared stiff, I mean, anything could go wrong. It usually did.

When the battery arrived, my stomach turned over and I didn’t want to open the box. The thought of what I intended to do was making me feel sick, but it was time to put my courage to the test.

First, I had to remove eleven screws from the base of the laptop. Then I had to carefully lever the laptop apart, being careful not to yank the connecting cable, but to pull it gently out of its connection.

Four more screws held the battery in place, and there were two more connecting cables. My confidence was building. I was actually doing it!

 

 

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image by pixabay

 

All I had to do now, was reverse the process. Sounded simple, didn’t it?

But it wasn’t plain sailing. The screws were all different sizes and the instructions hadn’t indicated which ones went where. I hadn’t thought to make a note of it either. But the hardest part was joining the new connectors, stupid strips of plastic with a set of metal teeth on one side that you had to shove into even weirder looking places.

After ten agonising minutes, when I thought I would have to give up, I managed to do it and the laptop looked the same as before. Nothing left over or sticking out so I took a very deep breath and plugged in the charger.

I didn’t have a clue how long it would need. So gave it an hour and then I switched the laptop on. Hard to do with all my fingers crossed by the way, but as I watched, the screen flickered into life and my screensaver appeared.

I couldn’t believe it, I had successfully managed to do one of the most complicated procedures I have ever come across. My ego doubled in size, and I was unbearably boring for the rest of the day, patting myself on the back.

Help Needed!

I am having trouble making decisions today, so I thought I would ask for some help.

I’m not happy with the cover on my novella, Apple Blossom. The story of fighting my way through Cancer. The one I chose seems to be totally the wrong colour.

But what do you think?

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Original Cover

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New Cover?

 

Thanking you all in advance!  If this gets to be a habit, I may call upon you more often!

Time to Think Again!

 

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A new week starts, a time when my enthusiasm usually renews itself, but there is a noticeable lack of ‘get up and go’. It was more like, ‘get your arse moving and see what you can muddle through this week!’

Last month’s USB failure, resulting in the loss of three weeks work, has left a sour taste in my soul, leading me to wonder if I should even be doing any of this promotional stuff. I have ended up juggling so many balls; I am in danger of losing sight of the original dream, consumed as I am with the need to find that one magic ingredient that will make it all worthwhile.

It is always possible that I am not destined for greatness, and I am happy to realise that. Relieved, actually, but that will not stop me from trying my best, and improving my work. (At the time of writing, I plan to re-edit my books and update the covers, blurbs and keywords. I have been having a long hard look and not entirely happy with what I see!)

Little by little, I think I am beginning to lose my edge, the ability to juggle everything and still keep my balance. I seem to recall that this has happened to me before, a long time ago. I was in a relationship, and as long as I obeyed the rules and performed as instructed, I was grudgingly allowed to breathe.

Of course, the day eventually came when I needed more than that when I was tired of the constant struggle to be the person that was required. This wasn’t the first time I escaped from tyranny and it wouldn’t be my last, but eventually, I found a better way to live.

My present struggle is beginning to feel the same, and the need to escape is growing again. This presents a problem, for I don’t want to run away from most of it. I have to find a compromise, a way to keep our options open and the dream alive. I have to stop trying everything and anything, looking for the golden goose, who, for all I know, gave up laying eggs a long time ago…

Once Upon a Time…

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This post was triggered by one I read recently by Sacha Black.

https://sachablack.co.uk/2017/07/24/5-tips-to-write-more-in-less-time–mondaysblogs/

It got me to thinking rather deeply about the writing process  and what we are prepared to do or give up in order to do it. This turned out to be quite revealing for me …

 

I never thought I would ever say this, but I have begun to realise something important lately. In my determination and busyness, some of the magic seems to have vanished. My writing has not become the be all and end all of my whole life after all. This came as a massive shock.

Don’t get me wrong,  I won’t stop writing, couldn’t if I wanted to, but a spark of creativity in one of the crafts I used to enjoy, has been calling me back and I realise now how much I have missed it.

There was nothing for it but to rearrange my schedule yet again to make room for it.

Maybe it has something to do with that old adage “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy…” and looking back at the last three years, this would appear to be the case. I think I have turned into a very dull person.

I have almost driven myself into the ground, trying first one thing and then another in my quest to be a successful writer/blogger. So many things have been left behind in the process, but I have had a lot of fun along the way, meeting so many wonderful people. But I had a long hard look at myself the other day and realised that I was becoming exhausted… almost burned out. Added to all of that, is the knowledge that time is slowly running away from me, and I should at least try to be happy.

The spark that has re awakened in me gleams silently in the corner of my mind, waiting patiently for me to pick it up where I left off. Suddenly my mind is full of new possibilities, new ideas, as if I had never gone away from it. This spark is somehow connected to my soul and is the one thing that usually takes me to a calmer, more peaceful world. I know that connecting to this world again will reflect on the rest of my life, for I was in danger of forgetting who I really am and what I can achieve once I am grounded again.

In the beginning, I thought sacrificing everything else was necessary in order to focus on the main objective, which was becoming a successful author, but now it would seem that I have to make room for this spark or there is no point to any of it.

 

Editing ‘Lazy Days’…

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My learning curve has taken a bit of a battering lately.

I have always been painfully aware that I have a lot to learn, and that my non-fiction writing could be missing that special element that would lift it from good to being brilliant.

It was to this end that I posted a request for beta readers for Lazy Days to try to steer me in the right direction. Although I only received one offer, it turned out to be the right one for me. All of my shortcomings were described in detail, along with helpful advice as to the best way to remedy them.

As I said, Lazy Days is non-fiction and not something I have had much experience with, but I was beginning to suspect that some of my failings might be affecting my fiction work too.

Briefly, I expect my readers to have a crystal ball, as I tend to leave out far too much detail. In my defence, I think this might have something to do with long years of being an editor, writing endless synopsis, but hardly a good enough excuse really. We are constantly being told to ‘show and not tell’ and I don’t think I do either most of the time.

I have just finished the first post beta edit and nearly doubled the word count, which kinda proves the point. An improvement, but I know I have barely touched the surface.

I also know that I have my crime thriller books to edit, once I master Lazy Days.

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This post is also a call for more beta readers for our Writers Group Inky Fingers, for although I am still trying to improve my own writing, I want to help other writers too. So if there are more writers like me out there, come and be a member of Inky Fingers and let’s share our knowledge!