Participants: Gerald Hornsby, Elizabeth Holland, Maria Johnson, Anita Belli, Sandy Stuckless, Kathleen Marple-Kalb, Beth Hudson, Cheryl Whiting, Marian Thorpe, Rik Lonsdale, Maniksha Pant, Gail Aldwin, Deborah Klée
Please introduce yourself and tell us what you are proud of achieving this week.
Anita: I’m Anita. This week I have delivered a #creatingwriting workshop about refugees to c.250 #KS2 children. And prepared to deliver another workshop about African Story Telling next week. Also had great feedback from children and teachers about A Month of Writing Adventure
Gerald: Is that this project? anitabellibooks2020.wordpress.com/2021/04/01/fal…
Anita: That’s the one. #AMOWA. the children loved the freedom to write without rules. And the teacher said it encouraged even the reluctant writers to want to write – specially the year 6 boys.
Maria: Hi! Nice to back after missing the last couple of weeks. I’m Maria, from North Wales, living in Greater Manchester. My main focus is my Celtic historical fiction series & I also have one fantasy novel. I’m chuffed about hitting 70k words for my 4th #histfic nove
Kathleen: Hi! I’m Kathleen! I write mystery books — but this week I’m thrilled to be working on a short story. (I’ve been on the couch for most of the week with a mild concussion — and it’s a treat to be able to write again!)
Odessa: Hello. I’m Odessa. I am proud of the fact that I have committed myself to really figuring out Twitter so I can connect with all of these wonderful writers
Gerald: Hi Deborah! I’m Gerald, from Essex, UK. I’m proud of appearing on Deborah’s #CastawayBooks and not sounding like a complete idiot. Also finished final edits of #BodyUnderThePier, the 3rd book in the #JerrySanders series. Also writing first 2 scenes of next series.
Beth: Hi! I’m Beth Hudson, fantasy author, and my milestone this week was getting three short stories sent back out to magazines. I’ve got six floating through the ether currently.
Sandy: Hey everyone. I’m Sandy and I’ve had two short stories released as parts of two separate anthologies this week, one Monday, and one Tuesday.
Elizabeth: Hiya! I’m Elizabeth from Kent. I’m proud of just getting through this week A very lively puppy and weaning myself off of antidepressants. No writing has been done.
Beth: Sometimes getting yourself through the week is the most important thing.
Deborah: Hi Everyone. Thanks for joining me.I almost finished editing my WIP this week.
Karen: Hi! I’m Karen, and I write historical fiction. This week I got a lot done on my 1930s book and nagged my voice artist into turning in a few more chapters of the audiobook we’re working on. Sporadically working on. Now I need to start my June newsletter.
Gerald: Yeah, me too. I missed last month. So I definitely have to send mine out this month. gerald-hornsby.com/blog/about/
Cheryl: Hello, I’m Cheryl proud of the fact I wrote every day this week. I’m getting into a routine. I have moved away from a diary and over to a planner. Have focused more on prioritized tasks rather than time. Planned & researched a new chapter now 2500 words in. Yay!
When did you decide to write your first novel and what was it that inspired you to commit to writing that first draft?
Maria: I started writing my 1st novel – the very first scribble-y genesis of it – when I was a teenager. I started writing it down when I realised a story/character I had made up as a child had never left me.
Kathleen: I wrote my first novel at sixteen — and actually tried to sell the crazy thing. (Didn’t get far.) But I loved reading — and thought I might be able to write something that someone would like to read.
Anita: When my children were small. I thought I would have time off work to just write! Wrong! 2 small children, close in age and returning to work… but I did meet a fab writing friend at playgroup who kept me going and I wrote 5 unpublished novels in that time
Gerald: NaNoWriMo 2003 was my first attempt, based on a joint story I was developing with others online. It wasn’t very good. But on a writing retreat, my friends helped me out sorting through 30-odd first drafts and half drafts and long ideas. They inspire me. So, having inspired me to find the stories I was most passionate about, I completed and published my first novel in December 2019, at that time having over a million words of long-form fiction hanging around.
Mishka: I’m more of a reader than a writer. But I have always liked sharing the short stories that I write with my friends. It was them who encouraged me to work on my half-baked ideas and to write a proper novel. So I am doing that now.
Cheryl: I decided to start & write last July when work was thin on the ground. Just as I got my act together, I got work in Sept! Made a real start in Feb this year. Started small – 1 chapter a month but now getting into the swing of things, and done 2 chapters this month.
Gerald: That’s a great way of looking at it. I tried to inspire people a few years ago with “A Page A Day”. Q: Do you think you could write a page of a paperback novel per day? A: Of course! Q: If you’d started this a year ago, you’d have a completed novel by now!
One of my favourite writing-related sayings: The best time to start was yesterday. The next best time is now. – (Unknown)
Sandy: It was somewhere between high school and college. I was reading a lot of epic fantasy D&D stuff at the time and thought to give it a shot. It was an epic failure
Karen: I’d been attempting to write a novel for years, but never finished one. Songbird, my first finished – and published – book, didn’t write itself, but the ideas kept coming at a consistent enough rate that I felt like I was meant to finish it. I think that was what inspired me to finish – I knew it was a solid story, and that kept me interested through the hard slog of edits, rewrites, more edits, more rewrites. I could have gone on forever, but I finally decided to stop and see if it was worth publishing.
Elizabeth: My first novel was written about 3 years ago. I was in an awful place with my mental health and it provided me with an escape. It also gave me a purpose and pulled me back from a very dark place. I’ve written short stories for as long as I can remember.
Marian: I wrote my first novel in high school – I was reading a lot of CanLit and decided to write the Great Canadian Novel. Interestingly, although it was terrible, I still write about some of the same themes today – love of and attachment to a sense of place, a landscape.
Beth: The things we find most powerful often do start young, don’t they? I don’t mean that you don’t change, but by high school you’ve got a good start on your adult personality, and a lifetime love of some things.
Odessa: I was a teenager when I decided to write my first novel. My boyfriend had broken up with me and I was going to write a book about how horrible he was, but then I saw this other really cute boy and started writing a different book and finished it
Beth: I decided to write my first novel in 6th grade, but it didn’t get very far. In 8th grade I actually succeeded in writing an entire novel (revised three times before reluctantly shelving years later). I had decided I wanted to be a writer, and I got into a workshop (all the rest were adults, including Bill Kinsella, author of “Shoeless Joe”) and they were incredibly encouraging. My book was awful, but they never said that, they just helped me learn better ways of writing.
Marian: How encouraging!
Beth: It was wonderful, and cemented my commitment to workshopping as well.
Rik: Fearless critique in a supportive environment teaches so much
Beth: The supportive environment is key, though. I’ve bowed out of workshops that were all about finding the most things to criticize (not critique).
Rik: Of course, good critique is more about asking questions than commenting.
Beth: Sometimes it’s also about brainstorming to help other members to most effectively say what they’re trying to say. Which is what I love about my current small but mighty workshop.
Cheryl: I’m a big believer in talking about things. The more you talk the more you process ideas and the more clarity you gain. Not to mention the nuggets of insight others can add from a different perspective. I talk to myself it’s amazing how much I can change my own ideas
Beth: I love that the people I work with now are willing to say, “This isn’t working,” and then help me figure out what would work better. And yes, verbal processing is really helpful in that respect, as well as the different perspectives.
Sandy: This is one reason why I want to get back into a live writing group. It really helps to have others to bounce ideas off of.
How many years have you been a writer and what have you written during that time?
Gerald: On and off (mostly off), since I was a child. But I took it more seriously when I stepped down my a high-pressure job and began writing short fiction in early 2003. See: youtube.com/watch?v=Nq7YC5…
Kathleen: I’ve been a writer as long as I can remember…fiction as a kid, then a radio journalism career…and now back to mysteries as well as my work. Two published books…two more on the way. And morning news every Sat and Sun.
Maria: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t scribbling down stories. First had the idea for what would become #theboyfromthesnow when I was 7. I’ve got 3 books published (1 currently in process of publication), 2 projects that need editing, a few things half written.
Mishka: I have written poetry for 12 years now. And started working on my novel last year. But I have written short stories, analytical essays in between.
Beth: It depends on whether I count my decision to be a writer at 7 (in which case that’s 50 years) or whether I count from my first serious story at 12 (that’s 45 years). I’ve written 6 unpublished novels and 3 published, had a number of short stories published in various magazines and anthologies, and compiled an anthology of my short stories.
Karen: I’m 57 now, I’ve written all my life, but I’ve been writer since my teens. There are notebooks and files on my computer which will never be seen, but 2 published books, one coming next April, a draft of the 1930s book, and 3 other projects in mind. So far.
Anita: I’ve been writing for 35 years on and off. Seriously since 2013. Published 5 novels, 4 non-fic and developed a #creativewriting programme for children and adults, online and IRL.
Rik: That’s a hard one. I’ve tried a few times in the past but life and stuff… This time it’s serious. 9 years, four novels, (3 not to be mentioned) A ton of shorts. (40 published in a local mag and paid for), a couple of flash SL’s, other stuff. I run two groups.
Elizabeth: I’m not sure how many years. I know there’s short stories I wrote as a young child. My stories have almost always been romance. I’ve even dabbled in some FanFiction over the years
Marian: I’ve written all my life, from about 8 – but as a published writer: short stories in my late teens, poetry in my 30s & 40s, non-fiction between my 20s and 50s; first novel out at 57, more poetry/non fiction and novels between then and now (63).
Cheryl: I’ve written all my life – all been academic assignments and research papers. This is the first thing I have written that wasn’t part of formal personal development. Something I want to do rather than something I am expected to do.
Sandy: Probably about 25 years, with many stops and starts on various projects. Within the past 3-4 years, I’ve published a half dozen short stories in the spec fic arena. Paranormal, scifi, and urban fantasy.
What has been your greatest high in this writing life? A moment or event that has brought you great joy and excitement?
Maria: Probably when my first novel was published & holding my book in my hands for the first time. Well it’s a toss up between that & receiving the email from my publishers to say they had accepted it for publication. Had to pull my hubs from the lunch queue at his college
Cheryl: At the moment I am getting a lot of excitement from responses to my Linkedin snippets and summaries of topics. linkedin.com/posts/dr-chery… Conducted some really good interviews this week, as part of my book research & meeting lovely supportive people here.
Rik: An easy one for me. Feedback from a beta reader on my current work, ‘not for the faint hearted, but I couldn’t put it down’. From an industry pro, though now retired.
Gerald: Hard to define “greatest”. I think it was the first time someone I didn’t know emailed me and said how much they enjoyed my writing. It’s happened since, and each time it’s a thrill, but that for me was the moment when I thought “I can do this”.
Karen: Actually seeing Songbird in print, in my hands. It’s since had a new cover, which I like much better, but it didn’t matter at the time. My book existed.
Anita: It has to be the moment I first saw a copy of The Art Forger’s Daughter in print, delivered to my door!
Kathleen: When an important reviewer named my first book her favorite debut of the year. After all of the struggle and drama of a pandemic debut, it was wonderful validation.
Beth: I think it has to be getting my first novel published. Despite the fact that I was a little dubious about the cover and apparently my editor couldn’t write blurbs, it was such a thrill to see something I’d been working on so long recognized by others.
Elizabeth: Holding the paperback of The Vintage Bookshop of Memories in my hands for the first time. Amazing to see all your hard work in front of you.
Marian: Oh, that’s hard. Holding my first paperback in my hands…knowing there are people who love my characters and created world as much as I do…being praised by medieval historians for my worldbuilding…I don’t know which. Probably the middle one 🙂
Karen: Agreed. After the initial high of that paperback, being able to discuss my characters like they’re real people, with readers and other writers, is something I don’t think I’ll ever get over.
Chris: First professional production of one of my theatrical scrips. I still have a photo of the cast read-through. Opening night was slightly surreal.
Mishka: It’s silly. I evoked Melpomene (muse of song & later tragedy) in my Epic from Altars of Madness. The heroine of my Epic also went on a journey that turned to tragedy. A reader messaged me that they have found this clever connection between Melpomene and my heroine. It felt awesome. Justified. I really put thought into something and someone actually put some time in my work to figure it out.
Sandy: So far? I’d say my very first acceptance. It was from a publication that didn’t know me from Adam so the acceptance was solely based on the story’s quality and not any perceived ‘skin in the game’. It gave me that first taste of validation
How have you managed the lows – the inevitable rejections and feelings of imposter syndrome?
Anita: With difficulty. It is still hard, but I now view my writing and writing tutoring as a whole #creativeprocess and I am fine with how that is all working out. One feeds and nurtures the other. I feel fortunate to be able to be #Creative
Cheryl: I had a troll when I first started posting about my book. Someone contacted me to say they thought I was out of my depth with this. Me??? DrC!!!! I saw it as a reflection of their weaknesses rather than mine. Hurtful at the time but fired my spirit & determination.
Mishka: Recently I’ve tried thinking along the lines of ‘what’s the worst that could happen?”. No really, it has worked several times. That’s how I reason with myself. What’s the worst that could happen?? And usually, the answer is nothing much.
Elizabeth: I’m still learning but every new experience is a chance to learn. My outlook is that every rejection, every ‘bad’ review is a chance to improve myself and my skills. I still massively feel like an imposter
Cheryl: Although we may not be close to our ideal it does not give us a reason to have a negative self-image. we should never dismiss how far we have come in being the writer we are today. It does not matter where we are, it is only a reference point for future refinement.
Elizabeth: This is such a lovely way to look at it! Thank you
Karen: The bulk of my inevitable rejections happened when I was trying to get an agent. Now I’m with a small press, and intend to also self-publish in the future, so rejection will only come from readers and thus after the fact. Self-doubt arrives at about the 50% mark of every project, where I think I’ve gone completely wrong, and then at 60%, where I think the book is far too long and I’ll never be able to edit it properly. And I remember this always happens, and keep writing.
Beth: Oh, yes, that mid-novel slump where one is convinced that everything they’ve ever written is crap… been there, done that!
Karen: It’s terrible, and I forget that it happens from book to book! I was so thoroughly convinced that I’d screwed up my 1930s book, but no, when I looked at the length, I realized I was halfway there and this is a very familiar place.
Deborah: Reminding ourselves that this is the writing process is a good one. You need to write a few books to realise that you hit the same humps and moments of self-doubt every time.
Rik: Yes, to this. Nail on head, Deborah.
Karen: Yep. I should make myself a schedule to hang over the desk. 20% – blind enthusiasm. 50% – what have I done? 60% – this isn’t bad, but I’m never going to be able to bring it in under 200k. I can’t edit this mess! 95k – oh, this will work.
Gerald: I know there’s at least one person out there who likes my writing. For me, that’s good enough. Every good review and positive comment is an extra boost, but I don’t think we ever lose the doubt concerning our abilities.
Rik: Every now and then I read a best seller that’s poorly written. Then I know it’s not me who’s the imposter.
Odessa: I tell myself that if I want my dreams to come true, I have to keep pushing, no matter what.
Beth: This is a persistent problem for me, since I’m prone to anxiety/depression and can’t market any of my self-published projects effectively. My workshop members always tell me “It didn’t suck,” before they start critiquing (they would tell me if it did). What I’ve kind of settled into is sending something out and as soon as I get a rejection, I send it out again (for short stories). For novels, I’m splitting time between self-published projects and my long-term small press publisher, because I don’t have the time at 57 to send off manuscripts which will sit at a big publisher’s for 2 years before rejection. Luckily, we live in an era where self-publishing is actually practical.
Sandy: A couple of ways. One, realizing I write for myself first. So, even if no one else likes my stories, I like them & that’s what matters. Secondly, I step away for a bit, catch up on reading, go to the beach with my Lovely. Rest is as important as progress.
Deborah: Well said. We don’t always allow ourselves to rest but it is so important to our health, wellbeing, and creativity.
Marian: Understanding that rejections are likely about market and personal taste, not your writing, is part of it. Imposter syndrome for me has diminished as readership has grown. I don’t need a large audience or best seller status, just some appreciative readers.
Kathleen: It was actually easier when I was querying…I could just send out a boatload more queries after a bad rejection. Low marks and nasty reviews — which you really can’t do anything about — do get to me sometimes!
Mishka: Recently I’ve tried thinking along the lines of ‘what’s the worst that could happen?”. No really, it has worked several times. That’s how I reason with myself. What’s the worst that could happen?? And usually, the answer is nothing much
To end on a high, what are you looking forward to next in your writing life?
Anita: So many things! Taking The Story Mole’s to the next level and finishing 2 other books for pub this year: one in the Ruby Sixpence series and a non-fic for writers called Author In The Classroom.
Gerald: 1. Publishing my 7th novel at the end of this month. 2. Completing the writing of my @EfficientNovels book / workshop / course. 3. Starting a new series of cosy mysteries #WitfordMysteries
Rik: The Bridport? The Booker? The Nobel? I don’t mind which comes first really. Realistically though, I’d settle for a publishing deal.
Gerald: Yes, any of those would be fine for me, too! “Aim for the stars, you might hit the moon.” I’d be happy just to get off the ground
Maria: I’m looking forward to having my 3rd historical fiction novel published (early 2022 hopefully) & finishing the 1st draft of the 4th in my series.
Beth: I am trying very hard to get Runedance, the sequel to Goldsong done and out. I got hung up by a ton of other things, now I want to work on it seriously and finish it this year, if not by this fall.
Elizabeth: I’m hoping to try out a new genre in the near future!
Marian: As much as I love my world and my characters, beginning the penultimate book is both a wrench and a bit of a relief. I’ve been living with some of these characters for over 25 years. Time to move on.
Karen: Lots of things! Finishing edits on my third Tudor book, finishing the audio of the second book, and finishing my 1930s book and preparing to self-publish it. Also looking forward to appearing on #CastawayBooks in August and researching for a future project or two.
Sandy: I’m working on another short story that’s part of a shared world anthology due out in November. I may do a second story for the same anthology, so I’m excited about that. I also have my debut scifi novel I want to get into readers’ hands.
Cheryl: The next big milestone for me is finishing my first draft by Christmas!
Gail: I’m looking for to the publication of #ThisMuchHuxleyKnows on Thursday 8 July. It will be so good to get my seven-year-old narrator out into the world of contemporary fiction.