I didn’t realise that Monday’s post was my 100th. Have I really done that much burbling? Have I really frittered away my time grinding out the words that hopefully someone will read and
appreciate? Did I keep an anxious vigil watching over the statistics pages? Did I agonise about when I’d be DISCOVERED? Nah, not really or at least only at the very beginning.
When I started off in January it was all deadly serious stuff about the writing process and my book Time for Your Life . Now it’s just random burblings interspersed with snippets from one of the two books I’m currently completing – both of which I’m sad to say have run aground on a sandbank and are sitting there waiting for me to rescue them.
I had no idea what to expect when I started blogging – certainly not to gain a respectable number of followers which I have – although most of them I suspect were just “fishing and farming” and have never been heard of again. I did think at first that they’d just got bored and “unfollowed” but wouldn’t someone have told me…who knows?
Those who have stuck with me I’ve come to regard as virtual and possibly virtuous friends and if I don’t hear from them I worry about them wondering if all is OK or whether I’ve just pissed them off too. I’m humbled (OK not obviously so) by their talent and facility with words.I try to give feedback and comment but I’m not as forthcoming as I should be. I have to be ruthless in allocating time to deal with social media otherwise I’d be lollygagging about all day, still in my PJs and curlers.
In these eight months of blogging so much more has changed than tying myself to my PC to write a blog. I’ve the one book under my belt – not a runaway success but then it was never meant to be. It’s done what I wanted; through licensing it to clients, it’s paved the way for me to spend a lot less time running after the day job and much more time writing. Any sales now are a bonus.
I’ve got back into the swing of writing short articles and features for magazines and I’ve even delved into the world of short stories and competitions although I don’t know the results of that yet. This week I received my first commission (as opposed to sending in a pitch) for an article as a result of someone reading this blog; I’ve broken into the national magazine market for the first time and most exciting of all I’m in discussions about ghost writing an autobiography for…mum’s the word.
I haven’t missed the day job; in fact the few days I do work at it I enjoy much more than I was doing twelve months ago. Its not just work; it’s an opportunity to socialise as well. That is one aspect that I need to add more off to the mix – there are times when I go a whole week without having a conversation with anyone except myself, the birds, the plants in the garden and my characters. It may seem odd for someone who is the author of a book about work-life balance, but then anyone who has read it will know that I put a lot of emphasis on making conscious choices about where and when to put time and effort rather than acting by default. But I do worry sometimes about becoming that batty old bag who waddles around the village muttering to herself so I just phone a friend.
What comes next? You’ll just have to wait and read the next exciting episode of Sheila in Blogoland.
Something from the motivational conference I attended earlier this week must have snuck into one of the spare rooms in my brain because I have shifted some work this week. For the first time ever I chose to put writing above the day job so I got a real feel for what life might be like if I ever give up the day job.
In line with my policy of trying to get a couple of articles accepted every month I have a queue of pieces all waiting in their allotted folders to be fully developed. The basic idea is there together with notes and research material. To get them all placed I sent out a half-dozen pitches and whilst I was at the conference two came back as acceptances…well one had a laconic “let me have a look” but ever the optimist I take that as a yes. Writing those two articles kept me full at it until the witching hour on Tuesday.
But the big thing this week was a nibble from a publisher and very pleasant it was too. In a rush of enthusiasm, on spec I had submitted a 150 word general summary of the book The Uncertain Coast via the publishers’ website. Just in case you’ve forgotten the Uncertain Coast is an illustrated light-touch history of the towns and villages lost to the sea on the unstable Holderness coast and of some of the people who lived in them. On Wednesday the publishers came back and asked for a full synopsis.
Yikes – this presents something of a problem. They want details of word count, how many photos/piccys, chapters and chapter summaries, markets and market sizes, hat and shoe sizes – no I made those up just to check you’re still awake. The problem is I simply don’t know. I’m about a third of the way through the research and have just the first chapter written plus two others.
I’m not great at planning out a structure, chapters and content before I’ve completed the research. When I judge I’ve got all the material I can access together, then I start to fit the pieces and the book evolves. So collecting up some emergency rations – fruit, energy bars and sport water – what? Who wrote that? My emergency rations come in the form of choccy, cashew nuts and a fruity red wine. I went into conclave with my co-author i/c photography and we knocked something into shape. I was elected to turn that something into a persuasive, seductive come-and-buy-me to the publishers.
I’m currently on version 5, weary, wordless (well almost) and most telling of all, I’ve realised that seduction is not my forte.
What a weekend! Apart from shovelling a ton of gravel onto my newly made gravel garden in the pouring rain, I have just about completed my research for “The Uncertain Coast” and made a start on the writing thereof. It’s only going to have a limited market but an email winged its way into my box this morning asserting that writers might find it helpful to go for being a bigger fish in a smaller pond so perhaps I’m on the right lines.
Part of that research was to find a cannon ball fired off by John Paul Jones as he rendered passing honours at the house of the man tasked with eliminating piracy on the East Coast. Some of you may remember an earlier blog on this very subject. Well I have to tell you that cannon balls can be very disappointing. All I found was a weedy tennis-ball sized one rather than the flipping great lump of lead I was hoping for. Not worth a photograph at all. The cream tea was pretty yummy though.
I made one revision to the latest article for the Yorkshire Dalesman after I found a a slip-up about dates which made a nonsense of part of the article – don’t know how I came to write it or miss it first time around. It just shows the value of leaving a “finished” piece of work to stew for a while and then come back to it.
Yesterday I made a visit to racehorse trainer Ann Duffield’s yard up near Middleham in the Yorkshire Dales. I had a great morning interviewing her for a profile-type article and realised that I have enough material for at least one other article taking a different tack (if you’ll pardon the pun). It was a fascinating insight into a complex world of which I know nothing.
However, the piece de resistance occurred in a small café near Middleham where I fetched up for coffee before meeting Ann. It was quiet and the girl waiting tables was inclined to be chatty. Visitors at that time of the morning are clearly as rare as hen’s teeth and she asked me what I was doing there. Once I told her she was off like a whippet on steroids with her questions. Are you famous? Can you get rich as a writer? How do you publish for Kindle? What does it cost? Can you do it yourself?
Turns out that three years ago when she was sixteen she started to write a fantasy novel but then gave up because she couldn’t see how to get it published. So I shared what smidgeon I know with her and gave her Legends of Windermere blog to look up as an example of the blood, sweat and tears of indie publishing (Charles you owe me one if a teenager from England becomes your biggest fan). Before I left she held out a serviette and a pen and asked me to sign it “in case you ever become famous”.
My head is now a heck of a lot bigger than that cannon ball.
Yesterday was a glorious day for a bit of field research and, purely by chance, I happened to have a commissioned article to write which entailed just that. I needed to take some photos and to pay a visit to a local museum in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.
I’m finding that short (1000-1200 words) articles are a useful way of adding to the coffers whilst working on my magnificent octopus…oops, opus. My goal is to have two to three of these articles on the go each month. It’s a bit of an ask but I’m sure I can rise off my beloved sofa and meet the challenge full on.
I don’t look to the nationals to stop my financial wheels from falling off; it is mainly regional magazines, small press and trade press that keep the Writeonthebeach literary aspirations on the road. The pay is reasonable and (so far) reliable and it’s fun to write for them too.
The only problem is that I get so immersed in the research that it takes me a lot longer than it should to produce the finished article and that impinges either on writing time for the M.O. or on the day job. But then, when you’re striding out across the moors with only a few tatty-wool sheep for company and a lone curlew calling overhead, who cares?
The article is finished and the photos ain’t too shabby so after a few days “mulling time” (just to be sure I’ve not made any howlers) it’ll be winging its way to the editor and after a decent interval the next pitch will follow.
I love it when a plan comes together or am I tempting fate?