It’s been a while since I last blogged. (Ooer, that sounds a bit like a confession.) Unlike most of my fellow Romaniacs, I’ve had little to shout about. In fact, NOTHING to shout about.
A bad case of the January blues ran into February, then March and before I knew it Easter had been and gone and I was no further on with progressing, ‘Living in the Past,’ the novel I (finally) finished last summer. Why?
Well, once again I have any number of reasons, although a critical NWS review comes high up the list. After I’d digested the five page report which, in a nutshell suggested I might be better off to put what I’d learned so far down to experience and move on to the next novel, I lost all motivation to respond to the 5.30am alarm clock set on dark, damp mornings to get up and write. The pain of my arthritis and news that I need to have two lots of major surgery to replace my existing prosthetic jaw joints consumed me. Morphine patches meant I spent up to four hours asleep in the daytime. Deranged blood results, yet more building work, the garden, domestic chores, not enough hours in the day; these things individually may not seem much but all together they threatened to overwhelm me.
For months, I returned to deriding myself. ‘You’ll never be a writer … You’ll never get that book published … What if the reader is right and the agent who was waiting to see it (three years ago!) also thinks it’s a pile of poo? And what if, after reading it, they won’t entertain the idea of ever receiving anything from me again?’
‘Man up, mom!’ said my eldest son. ‘So the reader didn’t like it? It’s one person’s opinion. Not everyone will like it. But the question is; do you like it? You’ve been working on it long enough. Or if not, do as they say and stop talking about it!’
He was right. It has taken four years to write this novel so far and all I’ve ever really done is talk about it, except when the opening chapter got runner up in the inaugural Festival of Romance in 2011. However every time I’ve almost condemned it to the waste paper bin ‘something’ has stopped me. I still believe. I still believe it has legs.
So, I HAVE A PLAN and writing it down here will make me do it. I’ve made a start, re-read the whole thing and also re-read (several times) the NWS critique. Interestingly, because I’ve let the MS rest a while, I’ve returned to it with fresh eyes and concede the reader raised several points that are fair comment. I don’t feel anywhere near so gloomy about it. Using two different coloured highlighter pens I’ve gone through and highlighted, a) the areas I need to change and, b) all other points I’m still unsure about which I must ponder on. With any luck if I work through systematically, I’ll find the holes, make my heroine more appealing, nail the research, expand the characters, dig deeper for more conflict etc because one thing’s for sure; I’ll never be a writer or get a book published if I give in.
You know, this writing malarkey really is a battle of wills. Is it a pile of poo? It may be. It may not. The only way for me to find out is to try. I haven’t spent four years on this to give up now. Don’t get me wrong; if the agent agrees I may need to re-think the plan but until then I have to give it my best shot.
You heard it here first; by the time I next post, it will be done. Polished. Finished. No more twiddling. And by then I’ll have contacted the agent to see if they are still interested!
Wish me luck. I’ll be in the summerhouse.
Until another day
34 thoughts on “Life Cycle of a Writer: Debbie”
Your son is right (they sometimes are, surprisingly!). I too had a terrible report back from the NWS – and by that I mean terrible for me, though very carefully and thoughtfully written. For ages I couldn’t look at the book. But when I did, I realised very good points were made (also rejected a lot, too). That manuscript is now a book, published with Choc Lit. You will get there 🙂
Aww, thank you for that encouraging comment, Kathy. It knocked me for six, especially as I’d really positive one’s when I sent in partials two years in a row. The tone was rather curt (to say the least!) but since I’ve taken a step back the tone doesn’t upset me any longer. It isn’t personal but it felt like it at first. Hearing you’ve been in similar position has spurred me on as I read all your books. It just shows it can happen to the best of us! Warm wishes x
Chin up Debbie – I also had an awful report years ago and burst into tears. But, a little time later, I was able to agree with some (not all!) of the points. It is only one person’s pov and when you are published not everyone is going to like your work either. You just have to keep on trucking. You can do it. Sam x
That’s the way to do it! You’ll finish, because you’re a fighter.And think how you’ll feel when you’ve won. Good luck.
Just call me Rocky! Thanks, Simon.
And sometimes the best thing to do is to move onto a fresh project. I did. It doesn’t mean that book is wasted. We learn from every word we write… x
Thanks so much, Sam. I know you’re right. Like Kathy, it’s good to hear I’m not the only one. Guess it goes with the territory, eh? xx
Thank you! x
Aww, Debbie…you really have been through the mill, haven’t you? Big gentle hug to you, my friend.
As for the report, well…all I can say is that sometimes a fresh eye is a very good thing indeed. I had a professional report done on a novel I wrote several years back and it seriously trashed the novel. I couldn’t do anything for months, just couldn’t even look at it. Then, like you, I returned to it and conceded that the report was right – I had been way too close to the material. I did a massive rewrite on the back of that, and it’s a way better book now than before. Having said that, I promptly shoved it at the back of the drawer and have done nada with it since!
At the moment, I’m just about to disembowel another novel – I realised that (much as early readers loved it) it wasn’t quite hitting the spot. So, although it’s 80K words and two years’ work, it’s back to the drawing board.
You will succeed, of that I have no doubt. In the meantime, just be very kind to yourself. xxx
Goodness, Jane. You too? I guess I have to put it out there or I’ll always wonder and you know I’m not one to give up. You’re all making me feel much better. Thank you so much for your encouragement and kind words. xxx
Sometimes you and the reader are on different planets. Whatever you wrote they wouldn’t like it! That’s life. Your son is right. If you like it then stick with it. You don’t know what it might lead to. Many years ago a college lecturer told me to rip up a story and start again because ‘it was fatally flawed’. I sent it to a competition and it ended up being published in ‘Woman’ – as did many other stories he didn’t like. Believe in yourself and keep going!
Gosh, Sue. Way to go! I hope you told the tutor! I will keep going. Thank you so much for commenting and spurring me on! I’ll get there, I’m sure.
Criticism is always hard to take, especially if the person critiquing it did not treat it gently, but it is one person’s opinion. I thought the first book I wrote was brilliant. Nobody else did. I’ve not revisited it yet because the criticism tarnished it for me- but it did one thing. Once I had licked my wounds, it spurred me on. Maybe you need some distance from that story and need to try something else before you go back to it. And maybe your plan to tackle it with fresh eyes is right too. But one thing I am absolutely certain of is you should never give up. Each book I have written since the first one has been a journey. A training course if you will. Like everything, practice makes perfect. Keep practicing and it will be perfect!
Yes, there’s some good advice there, Virginia. I won’t give up. I haven’t spent four years on it to give in. Thank you for your encouragement. x
I too had a not-so-good report this year from the NWS. Before I submitted it, however, I’d rather flippantly sent the first three chapters to Harlequin Mills and Boon. Because of the report I expected to hear nothing but then four months later M&B requested the full manuscript after saying they thought it had great potential. The ms is still with them and nothing may come of it but I’m trying not to think about it and getting on with my second book which is almost finished. Keep the faith Debbie x
Wow, that’s so good to hear and just shows, as you say; whatever comes of it, the fact that M & B still have it, it must have something. I really appreciate your comments and encouragement. And I will re-read all these lovely words of wisdom whenever I have a wobble! xx
I was about to say something similar to Kathryn. The same thing happened to me with another publisher. As Sam says, a change is often as good as a rest! Your circumstances have forced you to rest the ms, though, so now you can tackle it with fresh eyes. Remember, simple changes can often be really effective. Deep breaths and .. go you! 🙂 Good luck, Debbie! 🙂 xx
Thank you for your kind words, lovely lady. I have to stop procrastinating and get it out there or I’ll never know. And you and Sam are right. I have another two novels and several ideas for non-fiction I’ve started but not finished either! xx
So sorry to hear that you’ve had so much to deal with, Debbie, and that you’ve been feeling blue. Wishing you lots of luck with getting back into your writing, the summerhouse looks lovely.x
Bless you, thanks Anita. I think I was suffering SAD syndrome but am feeling much better in myself now and raring to go! The summerhouse is my little haven, away from the noise of teenage boys and the distraction of the ironing and washing pile. Thank you for your kind words and good wishes xx
I really feel for you and all you’ve been through. Writing is hard work but almost impossible when you’re not in tiptop health. I think the thing to do is to get it finish send it off and then get on and write another novel based on what you’ve learnt from rewriting this one. As people have said with your critique – it’s just one person’s opinion. Go for it girl I know you can do it !!
Aww, thanks so much Lizzie. You’re very kind. I appreciate your comments. That’s very good advice and timely. I’m well on with the final, final, FINAL revisions and will get it off or I’ll never know what the agent says, and I’ll get on and complete the 1st draft of the 2nd novel. I’m going to Arte Umbria (with Sue Moorcroft as teacher) in July and want to spend the week working and tweaking that. xx
I’m with Lizzie. It really hurts to hear crits about your baby. But move on. Finish this one, make a plan to send it off, and start the next book. Best of luck finding a sympathetic and enthusiastic publisher!
Wait until you get your first set of edits! That was when I cried.
And be well!
True, Lynne! Thank you for your wise words. I’ll remember that about the edits if I get there. x
Debbie take it from me if you love the book you’re currently working on then so will someone else. You have to believe in yourself and don’t let one person’s critique ruin all your hard work. If I’d listened to the critique about the beginning of my second book from a trusted friend, I’d never have sent it to my editor who loved it and out of the five in the series it’s my favourite. I’m sorry to hear about all your health problems, but you can do this. It’s just a matter of time and perseverance before it’s published.
Take care Helen xx
You’re very kind, Helen, about the health and hanging in there. Thank you. I DO believe. You’re sooo right. Great to hear how things worked out for you. xx
I had a sign up over my desk while I was going through A-levels and university. It said ‘You never fail until you stop trying.’ Go for it. You can do it, I know you can.
I think I might have to copy that and place it above my desk in the summerhouse, Wendy. Thank you x
Good luck, Debbie. Never forget, you ARE a writer already. You’ve written a book. It may not be published yet, but take advice, never give up, and you’ll get there eventually. Only stop writing if the process stops bringing you pleasure.
You know, I do forget that I am a writer already, Christina. I used to think I didn’t merit being called a writer as I’m not published but it took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to finish and I’m still not done. And you’re right – I enjoy writing too much to stop. Thank you. x
Oh Debbie, you’ve been through such a tough time. Little wonder it’s been hard to find your writing mojo. But hopefully all these encouraging comments and your lovely new writing space will have a positive effect. Good luck. 🙂
You’re right there, Rae. These encouraging comments and that you’ve all taken the time to post them is most appreciated. Thank you! xx
Apologies for the delay responding to some of your kind comments. For some reason WordPress wouldn’t allow me to comment despite trying for the last few days! I just wanted to say; if those crows peck again and my confidence waivers any time, I shall re-read your words of wisdom and encouragement. Thank you all. I do appreciate it. Debbie xx