No more neglecting my blog: A reflection on where it went wrong this year.

I feel a bit sorry for my blog. It must have been wondering what it had done to cause such neglect. The last time I blogged was in October. I’ve never had such a large gaps between blogs before. The main reason is that wage paying work has been incredibly busy. I haven’t even had time to edit Choose Yr Future. Exam work, steady teaching work and the run up to Christmas conspired to make it impossible for me to get anything that wasn’t strictly (financially) necessary done.

Of course, I used to be able to write whenever I had a minute. These days whenever I have a minute I fall asleep. That is one of the most annoying things about getting older; I just can’t burn the midnight oil anymore.

I failed once again to finish this years Full House Reading Challenge. My error was to ask my husband to help me pick a book at random. His throwing a paper ball at the bookshelves resulted in me having to read Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. Which I started in September and have not yet finished. (Although only about 10 pages left!) I might have abandoned it if he had not watched me very closely to see if I stuck with it. I am very much looking forward to reading a different book.

I’m not sure about doing any reading challenges this year. It might be time for a year off. A year of reading what I want to read sounds appealing but I will probably get sucked into something. I usually do.

Now the worst of the busyness over. Exams are done with until the summer. Supply work is back to day to day and no responsibilities. So hopefully back to blogging regularly and editing every day. It’s exciting. One thing to be said for this prolonged absence, I’m raring to get going again.

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Happy Sixth Birthday to me.

So it has been six years since I started this blog. It doesn’t seem that long. A lot has happened but mostly what it made me think is how rubbish I have become at blogging recently. I have neglected my blog lately and not because of the usual workload excuses either – or not just because of those. Mostly out of writer’s block.

For the last year or so, I have found it increasingly hard to think of things to write about. Not just blog-wise but in my fiction writing as well. I have been working hard at editing Choose Yr Future but new projects have not been forthcoming. I seem to have started dozens of things. Starting is not so much the problem but continuing once I have started.

Over the last six years, a lot has happened. I published Shattered Reflections which was an interesting experience rather than an out and out success. Don’t get me wrong, people said good things about it. It garnered a couple of good reviews on Goodreads but I found it hard to promote myself. On top of this, life events (such as my mam’s illness and then death) made it difficult for me to entirely concentrate on my writing career.

Still, I think I learned some valuable lessons. I think I’ll be better at it this time. And even if little more than my close circle of friends read it then I will be happy enough. I never aimed to make a fortune. Writing has never been about that for me.

I’m not going to promise that I will blog more. I know that those sort of promises can fall flat easily. But I do enjoy it and I quite often it helps me get my thoughts together. And as for finding the next project that is going to take off, perhaps I just need to be a bit more patient.

Writing is Fun

I’ve just started to read a collection of short stories by Ray Bradbury. In the introduction, Bradbury talks about his enjoyment of writing – how the ideas come and take you to a brilliant new place and they spring from your pen and you’ve done it, you’ve created a new world. You can taste this joy when you read Bradbury and the stories I’ve read so far certainly suggest someone who loves the job of being a writer.

I’m not writing this as a review of Bradbury’s book. For a start, I’ve only read about 10 stories so far (and according to my kindle, it’s going to take 160 hours to read the rest of it!). It’s a reflection on some of the things Bradbury says about writing and how I agree with them.

First of all, I quite agree that writing is a really fun thing to do. I love it. I don’t often suffer from writer’s block because I don’t work in a particularly linear fashion so there is always something else to work on or look at until while I wait for ideas to work themselves out. Words are exciting and playing with them can be a delight. There is nothing more satisfying then reading back something and knowing it is good. (of course, there are things that make it less enjoyable. Like the fact that somehow when I opened the most recent copy of Choose Yr future, the chapters were in the wrong order!)

The other thing that Bradbury said that rang true to me was  the fact that he wasn’t completely in control of his narratives. Often it feels like this. You don’t know straightaway how things are going to work out. You have to get to know the characters, chat with them, give them things to do before you can really know how they will feel or react. Sometimes they sneak into the narrative and become important without you really pushing them in that direction, other times they tiptoe away without leaving much of a mark. Sometimes its a surprise to find them gone.

Plans for the Future

Or is it really that time again already. Another year has flown by and I am still no further forward then I was last year. A large part of this was my own fault. Losing files is inexcusable. It took me a while to forgive myself.

I’ve decided that I’m not going to blog every book this year. I got fed up with it towards the end of the year and it was never really what I wanted the blog to be about. It was supposed to be more personal – about my journey as a writer and a person. It has been helpful to do these last few years when I have been going through a lot of personal things and it kept me blogging but now it is time to get back to what this blog was originally for.

I have signed up to do the Eclectic Reader Challenge again and I am looking for another challenge to take the place of the TBR Challenge. I have looked at a few but have not yet made up my mind – any recommendations would be gratefully received.

After the stupidity of losing the final version of Choose Yr Future, it was a while before I could bring myself to rewrite the parts that I had lost. Some of which I had paper copies of but some had been written straight onto the computer so I had to hope that I was getting it right. In the meantime, I was writing but I was working on other projects – the next novel, The Practise of Deception and a number of new short stories.

Now I am at the stage I was at before I lost the file. I have a finished version of Choose Yr Future which has been redrafted and edited. I suppose the next step is beta readers so I need to discover the best way to do that and also the best way to publish. There are a lot of possible platforms for self publishing if I decide to go that way again. Again, any advice would be gratefully received.

 

The Irritation of Lost Files

It hasn’t been a hugely productive summer. That isn’t exactly true. I have written quite a bit but it hasn’t felt like going forward. There’s a good reason for this.

Somehow I managed to lose the most recent version of Choose Yr Future. I’m not sure how as I never delete anything – there must be at least twenty versions of Shattered Reflections still sitting on my hard drive – but gone it is. There are quite a lot of versions of Choose Yr Future too, some claiming to be the final version although none of them were.

It is frustrating – not least because I know it is my fault. I suspect that it was some sort of iCloud mixup because sometimes I do remove things from there but that is usually safe in the knowledge that there is a copy sitting on my hard drive as well. I can’t quite believe I’ve been so careless.

The worst thing about this isn’t the re-writing although that has been annoying. It is the suspicion that what I wrote before was inevitably better than the new version which covers the same ground but with second hand footsteps. Of course, it may be better but as there is no way to check so my pessimistic mind insists that the new version is inferior.

Still it is re-done now and although I now need to read through the whole thing again to ensure that it still makes sense, it is satisfying to have the finished product in front of me. It certainly feels better than the despair of the missing file at the start of the summer.

Time, there’s just not enough of it

Well, it seems a long time since I wrote a post that wasn’t a book review. I’m even finding it a bit hard to keep up that end of things. Not from lack of reading. Or from lack of writing. But time is really not working for me at the minute.

My workload at school seems to have exploded. There barely seems to be a spare minute. I decided to work as a supply teacher for exactly this reason but now I am working three days in the same school, I find I am having to do more than I would like. So any spare minutes are spent editing or writing. The blog, unfortunately, is way down the list.

To make matters worse, the school was inspected last week. It is horrible to see the stress this causes teachers. Pressure pushes down from the management team and everyone suffers. It annoys me that most things are now directed towards what is needed for these inspections, not what is best for the pupils. Of course, I understand that these two things are supposed to be the same thing but I really don’t think they are.

Well, it’s over now until the next time, but the tiredness and stress still linger. It makes it hard to concentrate on anything else. Thoughts and ideas are starting to creep back in though and today, I have been writing already and once I have done my school work, then I will do more.

Another new year

Well, it has taken a while to get round to writing my first blog this year. In fact, the end of last year was so hectic, I never got round to writing an end of year blog which I fully intended. This will have to act as both.

I was pleased with the amount that I read last year and with the fact that I completed the two reading challenges I signed up for. Both of which – eclectic reader challenge and TBR challenge – I have signed up for again. I read some excellent books – The Slap and Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas spring straight to mind, as do The Absolutist by John Boyne and Complicity by Iain Banks and of course, Maddaddam by the amazing Margaret Atwood. I also read some authors that have been on my list for a while – Dorothy L. Sayers, Daphne Du Maurier and John Updike  – not all of which were enjoyed but it felt good to have read them at last.

This year I’m aiming to read more classics so half of the books I have picked for the eclectic reader challenge are pre 1950. Half of those are pre 1900. The first book I finished this year was a spy thriller which was a new genre and hopefully the eclectic reader challenge will continue to encourage me to read new genres.

I wasn’t sure that I was going to keep writing a blog post for each book I read but looking back over last year’s posts, I realised that it was making me think more deeply about what I was reading.

As for writing, while I still aim to write every day, it doesn’t always work. Time is the one commodity I lack at the moment.  I’m still in the process of editing / re-writing Choose Yr Future. It seems like an never-ending task at the moment. However, I’m sure I will recognise the point when I am happy with the storyline and structure and then I will be ready to let beta readers have a look at it. At the minute, I know it is not ready to be seen by other eyes. If I’m not happy with it, I wouldn’t expect others to be.

I’m not feeling downhearted though. I’m still trying to enter as many competitions as I can and while I haven’t won any yet, I’m not going to give up. If you don’t enter, you really don’t have a hope of winning. I enjoy the process of writing/re-writing even though sometimes I feel a bit like Sisyphus pushing the words into place only to realise later that they still don’t fit.