How to murder rejection

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Image: Pixabay

Here’s a riddle for you.

What is made from paper, but these days most often from pixels on a screen?

What, despite its ephemeral nature can cut like a wound, its sting successfully piercing the heart of any creative soul?

What wounds like a well aimed blade? Like being dumped for the first time? Like being a huge Star Wars fan watching the The Phantom Menace for the first time? 

What can leave you feeling low, worthless, convinced that you’ve pointlessly wasted years of your life when you could have been pointlessly wasting it in some other way?

Answer?

It’s our old friend REJECTION, of course.

Now, those of you who have read this blog before know that rejection is something of an obssession of mine – perhaps because I’ve been laid low by it’s poison on many occasions.

But, there is heartening news, my dear, beautiful bundles, because here is a gorgeous fact to ponder.

REJECTION IS MERELY A STEPPING STONE TO ACCEPTANCE.

You can have that nugget of wisdom for free. If you want to type it up, add a picture of a kitten and hang it in your study, you do that.

For guidance on how to cope with this thorniest of writing issues – and for a nice list of famous authors who’ve been rejected more times than you have – why not pop over to the Mslexia blog, where my latest post is up and waiting for your perusal.

Be lucky.

 

Why I gave myself ‘permission to be crap’

 

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Image: Pixabay

 

When is a novel like an old jumper?  

Well, let’s start off by getting this straight – I’m a rubbish knitter. I know the theory of combining lengths of wool, needles and fingers, but have got no further than small strips of uneven textile, with even my best examples resembling something a box of frenzied kittens have been let loose on.

Anyway, in my experience, a novel resembles my attempts at knitting a jumper.

Both can be big, baggy – out of shape and slightly out of control. And full of holes. Where I want my text to be neat and controlled, where I want to create fantastic patterns and spin wonderful colours, there is instead a saggy, loose ‘something’ that resembles a novel as closely as a jumper does.

Well, alright, novels are not made from wool. They have chapters instead of rows and words instead of stitches … In fact, let’s drop the jumper simile now as I’m actually starting to feel like one of those aforementioned kittens – all tangled up and irritated enough to eat a nest full of sparrow chicks.

You get my point, I hope.

Writing a novel of 80,000 words or so is tough. Not only do you have to have an idea that will sustain you through what could be a year – several years? – of writing, you have to ‘juggle’ so many things.

There’s a ‘ball’ for character, one for plot, setting, sub-plot, theme, pace That’s six ‘balls’ on top of juggling the skills a writer hopefuly already possesses- the ability to write clear, interesting, cliche free prose. Surely, too many ‘balls’ and not enough hands.

You can see how easy it would be to find yourself empty-handed, surrounded by balls.

Now, I’ve written three of these unwieldy creations, all unpublished, of course and varying greatly in quality. At least two are unpublishable at the moment. The most ‘finished’ one is the YA fantasy novel. I’ve spent so long with this book, these characters – writing and re-writing – that I’ve written nothing else ‘big’ in the past two or three years.

But now I’m at the stage where I want professionals to consider the book, it’s time to crack on with the sequel, right? I have a reasonably coherent plot . I’ve given my characters plenty of opportunities to do some interesting, upsetting, dangerous, thrilling things. No one’s gonna come out of this one unscathed and in fiction, that’s a good thing. So far so great.

Thing is, the more I developed the plot, the more confident I felt in which direction my beloved Edie and her pals would go – the more unable I felt to write.

You see, the first book just spilled out. I plunged into the story like  a poodle BASE jumping off Niagara Falls – unaware I was doing anything wrong. I did it without a thought and with enough enthusiasm to power a rocket. And that helped me to just write.

Eight years after I started the first book, I’ve learned a lot – I’m better at this writing lark than I was back then. Problem is, I now know how hard it is to get it right.

The weight of this knowledge has been paralysing. I’ve stared at the screen, genuinely wondering how on earth I’d written a book before. I couldn’t imagine how any of my characters think or speak, what they would do in any given circumstance. I read and reread the opening chapters of the first book, trying to absorb the tone, the voice. I even started writing a few, faltering paragraphs. But still – I didn’t feel right.

And then I did something idiotic. I renamed the file I was working on. It’s now called

PERMISSION TO BE CRAP.

And the first line? The line that greets me everytime I open that file?

PERMISSION TO BE CRAP, SUH? PERMISSION GRANTED.

It’s worked. Instead of being hung up on creating something wonderful from the start, I’ve allowed myself to just write. I’m officially allowed to be rubbish.

Not everything I’ve written is good. The opening chapter at least will be deleted. But there’s a section or two where my characters have emerged, recognisable, with the same voices and speech patterns, the same attitudes.

So, next time you stare at a laptop screen, and the pressure is too much – give yourself permission to write execrable nonsense.

It might just help.

 

 

 

How to murder Prevarication and Distraction

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Image: Pixabay

 

You have a few hours free.

You’ve sent the kids off to play by the railway line (cos you know, they love Thomas the Tank Engine and there are so many nettles and hogweed, urban foxes and rats down there, it’s virtually a nature walk).

Your other half has gone to the football / aqua-zumba / sealion taming lessons you bought them last Christmas.

The house is silent except for the scritch of woodlice at the skirting board.

You open your laptop or take out your Transylvanian vellum notebook and ivory and tiger skin Montblanc pen.

You breathe deep, slow, open your mind to the ideas sloshing around it …

You catch sight of that unruly pile of Amateur Shed-Builder Monthly magazine. The untidiness distracts you, so you straighten up the stack and retake your place.

You breathe again …

Actually, now you think about it, you’re pretty thirsty – better put the kettle on. And there’s a piece of that Venezuelan Mud Pie left your mum made that would go down very well. And you’d better just check Ebay, because you put a bid in for the entire DVD collection of Chastity and Me staring Bill Clinton and your Aunty Paula would really love that for her birthday …

Six hours later and all you’ve managed to write is the word fish fifty times.

If only you weren’t so easily distracted …

Well, if you pop along to the Mslexia blog, I might just have a few suggestions for you …

 

 

 

 

Overcoming those knotty writing obstacles* with Mslexia

Image: Pixabay

Image: Pixabay

Today, my first blog post for Mslexia has gone live.

Those of you who’ve read this blog before will be unsurprised to find the posts will include writing, monsters and my usual daft view on things. It’s particularly wonderful to be part of such an intelligent, respected magazine – to say I’m chuffed is an understatement.

For the next three months, I’ll be blogging about … Tell you what, why don’t you just read my pitch.

To become that most mythical and elusive of heroes – a successful author – you must conquer terrifying foes. As a blogger and novelist-in-training, I’ll share with readers practical ways to immobilise the Writing-Obstacle-Hydra’s many heads. These include:

  • Time constraints. Trick! Overcome with cunning and sleight of hand.
  • Lack of self-belief. Stifle! Slow smothering brings results.
  • Money concerns. Blamo! Best acknowledged then ignored.
  • Continued rejection. Plyers! Yank out its teeth.
  • Fear of failure. Snap! Break the creature’s neck.
  • Prevarication & distraction. Die! Die! Die! The hardest to kill.
  • Family & friends. HALT! DO NOT CUT OFF THIS HEAD ‒ merely charm it.

So, if you stumble over any of these problems in your writing, pop along to Mslexia and we’ll thrash it out together. Why don’t you take a look anyway – it’s a great read.

P.S. Don’t forget your sword.


* Not included in my posts is the fact that this guest spot has helped me to overcome one of my own writing obstacles – getting my first professional writing job.

Many thanks to everyone at Mslexia.

Just in case you missed the link, here it is again.