Happy New ‘Me.’

It’s half way through January. Christmas and New Year have been and gone. In our house, all that remains are a couple of yellow, deconstructed sprouts in the bottom tray of the fridge, six (gifted) packs of ‘After Eight Mints’ and various boxes and cartons of chocolates with only the dodgy coffee cream and coconut varieties left that none of us like.

So, how many of you are still hanging in there with your New Year’s resolutions? You’ll be impressed to know I haven’t broken any yet (although mainly because I didn’t make any!) I figured after the year I’d had, health and writing wise in 2016, 2017 could only be better. 2016 could be defined by two words. NO WRITING. Or, perhaps I should say; ‘pain and sleep.’

fullsizerender-1Both RNA parties and various writing events and meet ups fell victim. For the first time since joining the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme, I missed the Conference, usually one of the highlights of my year. My 50th Birthday celebrations were lovely but muted and I was unable to host the sacrosanct Romaniac Sparkle Weekend. The bilateral jaw joint replacements I’d had in 2010 were not working and numerous tests and an exploratory manipulation of my jaws early in the year showed my mouth opening was less than half a centimetre. One side was encased by new bone growth.

All I could eat was soup, shepherds pie, lasagne and soft foods from a small spoon. Eating in public became a no no. As my jaws deteriorated, I became hyper conscious of the pitiful ventriloquist’s dummy act my poor mouth attempted when forced to talk. Those who know me well will understand why I chose to hermit. Morphine patches and top ups of extra morphine and analgesia helped, (or maybe caused) the excessive drowsiness. Whatever; morphine and sleep became my best friends in 2016.

We take for granted the simplest actions of eating, sneezing, yawning and brushing teeth. When these basics became almost unbearable, my Maxillo Facial surgeon asked if he could consult with my original surgeon who had since retired and see whether there was anything they could do. Several weeks later I was advised that my original surgeon had agreed to come out of retirement and together they would try a major and risky operation. There were no guarantees. If the pain improved, that was a bonus, but the main proviso of going ahead was simply to help give me back a quality of life.

13th October was D Day, and, by coincidence, six years to the day since I’d had the bilateral total jaw replacements.

 

It’s been a long and painful recovery. As a result of the surgery I’ve developed hyperacusis and vertigo which has hindered progress but in terms of the work the wonderful surgeons did to free up my jaw prosthetics, it’s still early days, but it seems to have been a huge success. 2016 wasn’t a complete wipe out after all and the highlight of my year was being able to stuff a whole mince pie in my mouth at once! Beat that!

Not being a lover of New Year, I’d planned to go to Northumberland for Twixmas but cancelled at a low point post surgery to give a good friend chance to re hire their cottage out. However, as I improved and both my lads made plans, I got the itch to take off on an adventure, have some space, maybe do some writing. I had no intention of sitting home alone on New Years Eve to enjoy a solitary evening with the BBC and Robbie Williams, toasting Bruno, my Labrador! So guess where I ended up? Charlestown, in St Austell. Yes, I know it’s even further than Northumberland and I must be mad but I paced myself by stopping over in Glastonbury, my spiritual home, to split the journey.

For six days I relaxed, breathed in huge lungfuls of sea air to heal and blow away the past months. In between I secreted myself in the quiet corners of restaurants and pubs, and wrote. Yes, I wrote! I can’t tell you how good it felt to scribble again, to watch the words and scenes flow effortlessly across the various notebooks I’d received for Christmas. By the end of my break I’d added about eight chapters, plotted the main twists and turns and written the ending of Country Strife, my second novel.

So, to 2017 …

When I got the email from Immi inviting me to re-join the NWS this year I replied instantly to take up my place. I missed seeing my RNA friends and the Romaniac girls last year; the support, comparing progress, the banter, the fun. All the Romaniac girls are now published, agented and have book deals. Except me. In 2016 I felt less and less able to contribute to our daily messages and to add anything other than congratulations to peers on social media. There is never any sense of competitiveness within the RNA or with the Romaniacs but seeing so many RNA friends enjoy publication days, book deals and to see their new relationships with publishers and agents etc, I realised I was being left behind.

Health is the most important thing in life, next to family and friendships and I have to accept, for me it will always be a challenge. I’ve realised I may never fulfil my full potential. But I have to keep trying. Having made the inroads with Country Strife, I’m going to type up what I scribbled in Cornwall and fill in the gaps. With the jaw surgery behind me and less pain and renewed energy, writing shouldn’t feel such an uphill struggle so I’ll push ahead while the going is good. And as if by magic, this years RNA Conference returns to Harper Adams, just up the road in Telford, so there’s no excuse for not attending.

I welcome 2017 warmly. I wish those of you who choose to get up super early to go jogging or head straight to spin class after work, and my sons who have replaced the selection boxes with boxes of protein shakes and dumb bells all the best. However, as long as I can limit my wine intake and reduce portion sizes, instead of resolutions for 2017, I’ll make three promises to myself:-

1/ I WILL finish Country Strife to send off to NWS – aiming for Easter. You heard it here first.

2/ I WILL go to the RNA conference in July.

3/ I WILL live well and enjoy every day of my 50th year as best I can.

I wish you all a happy, healthy and productive 2017 too. Let me know any promises you’ve made to yourself…

Until next time

Debbie xxfullsizerender

 

Life Cycle of a Writer: Debbie

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.

CROWS COPYWRITEFREE

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. 3

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!

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Wish me luck. I’ll be in the summerhouse.

Until another day

Debbie xx

Life Cycle of a Writer – Debbie Fuller-White

As writers, there’s one thing we do almost as much as writing.

No, it isn’t eat cake.

We wait.

Think about it. First, we wait for ideas to strike. Next we wait for time to write. Then there are endless hours we spend waiting for the browser to load web history for research. We wait (sometimes a long, long time) for our brains to get into gear. Once we’ve gone through all this waiting and have a completed WIP then, provided your arthritic fingers and hunched back have held out, there is a perfect proof, fit to send to an agent, publisher or to enter into some competition. And thereafter comes the hardest waiting of all.

It can take weeks or months. Sometimes we never hear back after submission. Long, interminable periods of waiting. I’ll confess; patience isn’t one of my virtues. My novel went off to the NWS for critiquing at the end of July and it’s proving a long wait, although I’ve heard the poor organiser has an injury and so the manuscripts are delayed sending to readers. So, all I can do is wait … And wait … And wait.

If I have any fingernails left I need to muster some powers of concentration and keep busy to distract myself and help make the time go quicker. So here’s the plan:-

– Keep on going, keeping on going. It’s important to keep up momentum so I’m getting on with the next project. With the working title, ‘I Believe In Angels,’ I’ve entered the Love Story New Talent Award with my first chapter and I’ve just returned from a weekend trip to Glastonbury where the novel will be set. I spent much of the time secreted in cafes or on the High Street, eating, drinking, people watching and surreptitiously scribbling in my notebook, in the spirit of research. I’m also going to do a couple of short stories and enter them into competitions.

– Block out the crows. Sing in their faces. ‘Tralalalala!’ Try to ignore them and not let self-doubt creep in.

– Ignore the desire to email and check to see if the WIP has slipped off the organiser’s desk and into the waste paper basket, or to send it again.

– Stop reading and re-reading the submission guidelines, asking myself if I got it right, and counting how many weeks since I submitted.

– After months of being a hermit it will be good to catch up with friends and the people I love and who make me happy.

– Catch up on reading. In the words of Stephen King, ‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.’

– Try and stay positive. Make a list of potential agents and editors to submit to.

– Keep it in perspective. Remember the NWS organisers (and Editors and Agents) have a mountain of manuscripts to work through. I’ve spent months and sent my work out there so it’s understandable to feel a little anxious and exposed but that’s all the more reason to keep busy and help pass the time.

So, what strategies do you have for getting through the big wait on any part of your writing?

Hopefully by the next update I’ll have news from my reader. Until then, you, like me, will just have to wait…

Bye for now,

Debbie xx

Life Cycle of a Writer – There’s no such word as ‘Can’t.’

It’s taken four long and tumultuous years and four re-writes but I’ve done it! Yesterday I printed and packaged up my first novel and sent it off to the Romantic Novelist Association New Writer’s Scheme. COMPLETE. A whole 86200 words! And I can’t tell you how good I feel today.

IMG_1014It’s been a tough slog. Along the four years my Nan, who brought me up, passed away, I’ve had major surgery, my husband of twenty-three years left my sons and I. Then there was the subsequent divorce, house move and upheaval, yet more surgery and treatments while at the same time having builders in for months to renovate our new home throughout.

Looking back I can see how my writing slipped well down the list of priorities. There were times when I despaired at my lack of inspiration and motivation to progress my WIP, ‘Living in the Past,’ or ‘Mothers Love’ as it started out when I came second in the Festival of Romantic Fiction’s new Talent Award in 2011. My head was too full of everything. I’d lost my mojo and all confidence. I couldn’t do it. Who would want to read my books? The number of times I’d mutter to myself, ‘Stop kidding yourself! It’s just a dream.’

But a dream is just a wish without a plan isn’t it? Somehow I mustered some inner strength and with the cajoling of my closest friends, I was persuaded not to give in. Knowing I had to do something or I’d forever kick myself for failing, I booked to go on an Arvon Course with Kate Long and Simon Thirsk. There for a week, I motored on with the WIP and when I read out one of the chapters to the group my writing was described as, ‘Catherine Cookson meets Stan Barstow.’ It was a huge turning point. That course made me believe.

However once I returned home from course, inspired as I was, domestic chaos kicked in again. I drifted for another year or so. I say drifted. What I actually mean is I spent about nine months of it stepping over bags of concrete, RSJ’s, lengths of wood, stacked in piles and tins of this and that, listening to builders and their incessant banter, drilling, hammering, sawing, being without electricity or water for days on end. It was hardly conducive to quiet writing time!

I wrote when I could (which wasn’t very often) and sent in a partial of the novel last year to the NWS. It was a very favourable report which once again, restored my belief. Realising if I kept on as I was doing, I’d keep on getting the same results, I went on Tamsyn Murray’s, ‘Live, Breathe, LOVE WRITING!’ earlier this year. I talked about it in my last Life Cycle post. It gave me that final push and with the help of two of the other delegates, Helen Walters and Bernadette O’Dwyer, we challenged ourselves to finish.

It was a first to actually be able to type the words, ‘THE END’ at the end of July. Then final edits and one last read-through with the help of a good friend and it was done.

I don’t mind admitting there were several dark occasions when domestic chaos, my health and the demands of life overwhelmed me and I almost bailed from writing and the RNA altogether and gave up forever my dream to be published. Had it not been for my Romaniac girls and the wonderful supportive RNA, writer friends and closest friends who kept my spirits up and kept me believing I may not be able to say, ‘I DID IT!’

I DID IT. Now the hard work begins to find an agent or publisher who is interested but for now, I’ll settle for having finished it. My Nan’s words ring in my head, ‘You see; didn’t I always tell you, there’s no such word as ,’CAN’T.’

Until another day,

Debbie xx

Life Cycle of A Writer: Progress

Some of you will know writing doesn’t come easy to me. Or it hasn’t with the health issues and domestic chaos I’ve encountered these last three or four years. But as I mentioned in my last Life Cycle post, “If I keep doing the same thing, I’m going to keep getting the same results.” So, what have I done about it? Well, you will be pleased and maybe a little surprised to hear; quite a bit actually…

When I’m in the writing doldrums I find a night or two with the Romaniac girls or our RNA friends can provide a much needed tonic and inspiration and so, when I spotted Tamsyn Murray was running a, ‘Live, Breathe, LOVE Writing,’ workshop in Cheshunt with Julie Cohen and Miranda Dickinson as guest speakers, and it coincided with a weekend my youngest was with his dad, I decided to go for it.

It was a lovely surprise to find Helen Walters and Bernadette O’Dwyer at the workshop. I’ve been cyber acquainted with both for several years but never met in person and it was refreshing to meet a whole new bunch of creative writers whom I didn’t know previously. It didn’t take long for our wonderful tutors, Tamsyn, Julie and Miranda to uncover that several of us were in the same situation. 10320306_571743486279813_2446689767311534703_nI’m not the only one who procrastinates and doubts myself!

Re-reading the notes I made on the day, here are the points I took away to put into action:-

– Create a discipline. Write every day or designate slots for writing time. Take your writing seriously and you can call yourself a writer.

– Finish it! Keep writing until you type, ‘THE END.’

– Leave the fannying, tweaking and twiddling to the edits!

– Stop being frightened. Stop making excuses. Don’t give the crows time to start pecking. Keep going. Once it’s finished it will give you such a boost, they’ll soon fly off!

– Set an achievable goal and STICK WITH IT! Helen and I took up Bernadette’s challenge for us all to finish our WIP’s by the end of June.

– Buddy up. Use social media to best effect and keep each other going. Bernadette, Helen and I message each other regularly for progress updates and to spur each other on.

There’s nothing remarkable there I hear you say? No, there isn’t. It isn’t rocket science. Writer’s write. And if you want it enough and you can find your inner strength to stick to these points, you WILL succeed.

img_1560How do I know? Because, for once, I’ve stuck with it and it’s working. As many days as I can, I sit down to write by 10am and write until the muse leaves. Sometimes it can be half an hour. Sometimes several hours. This is huge progress. I’m up to 91,250 words, Chapter 25. Progress. I think of myself as a writer. Progress. I can see the end in sight. Progress. I WILL achieve our self-imposed deadline of the end of June to complete the WIP’s. I WILL do it. And I’ve written it here to prove it so you can all nag and chivvy me along too. Crikey, that is progress.

Until next time, wish me luck and Happy Writing!

Debbie x

Life Cycle Of a Writer: Getting in the Write Mood. Debbie Fuller-White.

It’s timely that it should be my turn to post the Lifecycle of a Writer. A month into the New Year and many of my writer friends have been talking about their writing goals for 2015, planning forthcoming publications or plotting ideas for the next story.

However, my only goal this year (so far) is to make it to the end of each day! I’ll be honest; every day is Groundhog Day and I’ve only written 523 words since October.

Sir Winston Churchill suffered with the black dog. My problem is black crows. crowCopyrightfree

They sit on my right shoulder, pecking and prodding, firmly refusing to leave as I spend endless hours on the laptop, sometimes only managing to produce a meagre sentence or paragraph, which I’ll invariably chew over for hours before consigning to the recycle bin. By the time I’ve finished over-thinking, berating myself and have lost all focus it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy, proving I have the attention span (as well as creativity) of a gnat,. The crows must be right. No-one’s going to read what I write. I’ll never make it. I’ll never become a published author. Best get back to fannying around on social media or stick some washing in.

So what’s my problem I hear you ask?

There have been times over the last three years or so when I’ve felt like a human battering ram. My Nan (who brought me up from the age of two) died. I underwent major jaw surgery. My husband of twenty-three years left me and our two boys. We had to leave our beloved barn and move house. There was the emotional fallout for the boys alongside my own grief and the utter helplessness of our situation. Add to that money worries, the divorce, my ongoing health problem, my youngest son developing similar health issues … and oh, yes; as if that’s not enough, we now have the builders in, trying to make the house more practical so I can manage better and stay here.

As I type this I can see it’s hardly surprising I’m overwhelmed. I have brain overload. Some people may be able to write their way through their troubles but I can’t when there’s so much going on in my head.

IMG_1014The one thing (as well as the Romaniacs) that keeps me going is the thought of my Nan sitting on my other shoulder, squaring up to take on those crows. Like Jiminy Cricket, she is my conscience, constantly jibbing, jabbing and gesturing, spurring me on. I can hear her now.

‘Ok, you’re having a tough time of it. So do a lot of people. There’s always someone worse off than you. We all have our crosses to bear. You’re having a crisis of confidence? You’re a writer. It goes with the territory. There’s nothing wrong with failing. It’s better than not trying. Didn’t I always tell you, you can do anything you want, if you set your mind to it?  Writer’s block is a state of mind. If you want this that much you need to stop procrastinating. Nobody else can make it happen. Now get yourself a notepad and make a list of all your goals, work out a plan and FOCUS. Finish one project before you start another! Set aside some time every day, even if it’s only half an hour, and write every day. Writers write. It doesn’t matter what you write. Just write.’

Because part of me, deep within, still dares to ‘Believe,’ as she drummed in me so many times, I’m hanging in there. Nan was always right. There’s no such word as, ‘Can’t’ and one thing’s for sure; if I keep doing the same thing, I’m going to keep getting the same results. And a dream is just a wish without a plan.

So, what do you do, when you’re not in the mood to write?

Until next time, warm wishes to you all and happy writing!

Debbie x

Dear Auntie Romaniac: How to avoid losing work?

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Dear Auntie Romaniac,

John Steinbeck’s dog ate an early draft of, ‘Of Mice and Men.’ Ernest Hemingway famously lost an entire suitcase that contained his originals and all copies of his early writings. And apparently Dylan Thomas managed to lose the script for Under Milk Wood three times.

Not that I profess to have any works quite as valuable as these ‘greats’ but everything is relative. My old Acer Netbook is on its last legs. It limps into life every day but I know it’s not long for here. I might religiously back up documents and Works in Progress on a memory stick but the question is; should I back up my back up? What do you do, Auntie Romaniac, to protect your most valuable asset; the words and the time you put into your work?

Laura: I have a USB stick and an external hard drive to which I back up everything I type, and I save every few minutes. My worry is that the internal hard drive could fail without so much as a gasp, and just in case my secondary back-up explodes, I keep a third. I think I’m naturally risk-adverse. I was once an insurance claims assessor …

Catherine: These days I write on a notepad and type up when I get a chance. For that, I have no back up, but I try to type it up before the words build up too much. So I do have the added reassurance of a physical copy if all technology was to fail. Once on my computer it’s set to automatically save to Dropbox. The only thing to bear in mind with this set up, is if you don’t have an internet connection, it won’t duplicate.

Sue: Up until very recently I used to email everything to myself but a few months ago I invested in an external hard drive. It has enough storage to keep all my documents and photos. Since getting my new laptop with Windows 8, I also use One-Drive – a cloud storage facility. It’s very easy to use and backs up automatically without me having to remember. Oh, and I still have my memory sticks – just in case.

Vanessa: A couple of years ago, I felt quite confident with my back-ups – I had my wip saved on two different computers plus backed up to an external hard drive. Then one computer died, the other refused to start one day and I couldn’t access the external hard drive. Major panic! I managed to get the second computer up and running but it did make me paranoid about backing up and I now go a bit over the top! I have my ms on three different computers, an external drive, saved to dropbox and I regularly email a copy to myself, my husband and my agent. All I have to worry about now is overwriting the wrong document 🙂

Lucie: I feel I should listen to my fellow Romaniac’s as I am guilty of being naïve to the fact that my computer may throw a wobbler and lose my work! I did used to save onto a stick, then I signed up to Dropbox but I don’t know If I am still saving work to it … time to sort it out myself, I think!

Jan: It’s a good old USB stick for me, too, I confess. Like Vanessa, I also email myself copies of valuable documents and, dare I utter, *also have paper copies taking up half of one of my cupboards!* I do keep meaning to investigate Dropbox, so maybe this is the year to start …