Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Joy and Misery of the First Draft.

When people find out that I love to write books, one of their first questions tends to be "Where do you get your ideas?"

I would love to say that I am one of those tremendously organised individuals who has an 'Ideas Journal' or a day of the week set aside for 'Possible Plot Meditation' but the truth is that ideas are everywhere - it's a constant barrage of background noise inside your head; a stream of 'what if...?' and 'imagine if...' and 'maybe...'

Occasionally one of these little voices gains strength and speaks up a little louder than all the rest. It squashes the others down until it's all that you can hear and then you just have to write about it or go crazy! Erm...maybe that's just me.

Once you begin to write about it, it consumes you. It's feverish, that kind of writing - it flows out of your brain and onto the page (or the screen) at speed and in bursts of startling clarity. It's the most delicious feeling, to be caught up in that wave of creativity, surfing along its length and whooping with joy at simply being able to weave the story and follow the characters. 

Every wave, however, has to break and every so often I find myself sitting at my computer screen and staring at the keys, perplexed. The 3,000 words I wrote yesterday, or even the 10,000 I managed last week suddenly seem ridiculous, trivial...maybe even pathetic. The ability to add more or to see where the story could go is impossible and the temptation is to hit the delete button and start again - I've done that so many times. However, I've had an epiphany of sorts and I now realise what this is - this is part of the journey from forming the idea to writing 'The End': This is The First Draft. Even though a good 60-80% of this won't make it into the final cut (it tends to be back-story) it's still important in the grand scheme of 'getting-the-book-written'.

So, if you're one of those folk who has been writing constant first drafts and giving up when you hit the sandy shores of your idea then take my advice and next time, keep going. Even if you only manage a sentence today...well, it's a sentence more than you had yesterday and don't worry - the great thing about the 'writing and the sea' metaphor is that the tide will come in to rescue you again soon.

Best wishes.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

This whole Social Media Thing is Damned Difficult!

I read a blog post a few weeks ago (sorry, I can't remember who wrote it or where...I was just browsing) which stated that the writer, in no uncertain terms, was fed up with being 'nice'. She'd spent the better part of a year attempting to build her 'online presence' with a decent weekly blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads etc. etc. etc and had a reasonable number of followers/friends/fans on each. Her books were selling well (for an Indie) and things were ticking along quite sweetly.

Unfortunately, she felt like a fraud.

You see, she'd done her homework before she went online - she'd told herself that she was going to learn from the mistakes of others and never blog, tweet, post, like anything controversial. She had toned her language down, selected her Facebook 'Friends' with care, only shared book related blogs via Triberr and she was starting to feel the strain of being...well, I suppose she was being the 'magnolia paint' version of herself. It got me thinking - is that what I'm doing too?

Isn't that the whole issue with the World Wide Web? Everyone wants to be liked and if you're promoting your book, music, art, whatever, then you have a vested interest in presenting yourself in the best possible light. However, as far as I can see, the people who are most successful via social media seem to be those who don't shy away from making waves, giving opinions and generally acting 'human'; which was surely the whole point of social media to begin with - one human being communicating/interacting with another. Of course...I could just be over-thinking it all!

Best wishes.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

This Summer Town.

Surfing in July.

I live in a seaside town in the very North coast of Northern Ireland.

In summer the population of the town swells to bursting, with the trains expelling another influx of day-trippers every hour and tour buses disgorging sun, sea and sand seekers onto the beaches and parks (and into the pubs).

The 'day job'.

My 'day job' is in retail and the store that I work in has a prime location a few hundred yards from the train station and on the main drag through the town. The shop sells fashion, footwear, home-wares, stationery, electricals, soft furnishings, gardening and pet items along with a small selection of grocery and perfumes. It's spread over two floors in a building that was once the old town station (and then a nightclub where I used to dance the night away, but let's not get into that). I started working there in December last year, enjoyed a fairly busy Christmas and then a cold and wet winter before the first serious tourists began to arrive around Easter.
The change of pace was incredible and I wondered how the main summer season would compare.
The summer season was insane.

Ready for the tourists.

The shop refilled regularly as people got off trains and buses, folk wandered in from the beach, often in bare feet and bikinis, looking for sunscreen, towels, shades, drinks, underwear (amazing how many people come away on holiday and forget to pack underwear!), queues built up and disappeared, the store got messed up and tidied. It passed in a flash of sunshine, sand, laughter and waves of tiredness that left me unable to do anything but fall into bed when I got home.
Everything else fell by the wayside - my writing suffered, my home got messy, my kids ended up cooking for me instead of the other way around. It was crazy.

Roller-coaster sunset.

And now it's September; the beaches are empty of windbreakers and sandy sandwiches, there's no queue for the Post Office and always plenty of chilli-chicken baguettes at the deli counter. The locals have reclaimed their parking spaces and their Sunday walks: Children are wearing coats again as the chill creeps back into the air and the waves send spray high onto the rocks. It seems to be a common belief that a Summer town is sad and depressed once the tourists have gone home; that it craves those few months every year when its streets are full, its beaches echo with the song of bathers splashing in the water and the late night party crowd stagger home through warm breezes from the ocean, their bare feet sinking into still-warm sand. 

My hometown.
My hometown.

Yes - during the winter months our town is quiet; most shops open fewer hours, the caravan dwellers disappear back to the city and the holiday-home owners sign their second homes over to the student rental market. It's peaceful, I suppose. So long as you don't mind the colder weather, lots of rain and storms that roll in off the sea, which I don't. 
But 'sad'? 'Depressed'? To be honest I think that this Summer town gives a sigh of relief once August ends, pulls on a heavy sweater and welcomes Autumn with a smile on its face and a fresh wind full of promises.

Best Wishes.