Saturday, 23 June 2007

And hello from me!

I'm a relative newbie to the novel racers (I've been part of the group for a couple of months now) and am so glad I joined. Writing is such a solitary affair and it's great to read all the blogs and find you're not the only one going through writing 'wobbles' or 'wibbles'. You're not the only one who is nervous/excited/scared/driven all rolled into one. There are loads of people out there going through exactly the same thing as you! The comments I've received on my blog have been so supportive and helpful and feeling like I'm part of a 'race' (even though so many have already crossed the finishing line) spurs me on to keep writing (every day if possible).

Anyway, I'm 33 and I live in Brighton and work in London. I live in a stamp-sized flat with the world's smallest balcony and the world's most neglected garden and I've crammed the flat full of my three obsessions: books, CDs and DVDs. I'm just glad I don't have a shoe obsession too.

I started writing when I was about six or seven years old and used to write my own 'books' that I'd illustrate and bind with wool. Recently my Mum gave me a selection of the books I wrote back then and it looks like I was obsessed with wizards, witches, princesses and dragons. I also wrote a book about a group of flower friends who walked around on their roots and battled their nemesis "Evil Weed". That was the book I sent off to Penguin publishers. They rejected me of course but the letter they sent back was wonderfully helpful and didn't discourage me from writing.

I've written on and off since then. In 2003/4 I went on a creative writing evening course at my local tech. It was two evenings a week and, when the class first started, there were over thirty of us. Over the year people dropped out and dropped out and by the time the class 'graduated' there was only a 'hardcore' of 12 of us left. It was a great class for motivating me to write and activating my imagination but I didn't learn much about the craft of writing. That said my tutors were very supportive and one of them suggested I start submitting my stories to the women's magazines.

That's when I realised that maybe I could be a 'writer' and get work published and in 2005 I joined BBC GetWriting (now closed). They gave me my first publication when they included my story 'Daddy's Game' in their first anthology. After that I became hooked on writing short stories and sent out subs to magazines and competitions like some kind of obsessive. Over time it began to pay off and last year I won three writing competitions and was delighted to find out I was joint second in the Woman's Own short story competition. Seeing my published story (and photo - eek!) in their magazine gave me a massive thrill and the Brother print/copy/scan machine they sent me as a prize was pretty nice too! This year one of my stories was bought by My Weekly magazine and I'm determined to sell stories to Take a Break and Woman's Weekly too - now matter how long or how many rejections it takes!

On the novel front....

In 2004 I started a Young Adult Novel but floundered at 52,000 words and put it to one side in September. That was it for novel writing for me until February this year when I read about the Waterstones/Cosmpolitan chick lit competition. I'd had an idea for a chick lit novel for some time but had put it off and put it off. The competition spurred me on to write it. All I had to do was write the synopsis and the first 3,000 words. I finished that and thought Okay, I could just leave it at that now and get on with some more short stories but I was bitten by my characters and I needed to tell their stories and finish the novel. I couldn't just leave them hanging. I'm currently 79,000 words in and trying to get it finished by 15 July (so it will have taken me 4 months to write). At first I thought the final word count would be 90,000 words but it's starting to look more like 95,000 words - possibly more!

It's always been my ambition to write (and finish!) a novel and I can't believe I'm nearly there. So many people say "I could write a novel" or "I've always wanted to write a novel". I didn't want to be one of those people. I wanted to be a "Yes, I've written a novel" person and...if I just keep plugging on, I will be!


KeVin K. said...

"...writing short stories and sent out subs to magazines and competitions like some kind of obsessive."
There's no "like" about it. You have to be OCD to the max if you're going to make a go of writing as anything more than a hobby. The mantra I learned, and which helped me turn the corner from someone who dreamed of being an author to someone who wrote (and sold) stories is: Write, mail, repeat. (If your muse drops by, be polite but don't stop writing to chat.)

And you floundered a 52k on a YA novel? Those usuallly average around 40 and max at 50k, don't they?

KeVin K. said...

Meant to also say: Congratulations on the writing contest wins and story sales! Milestones you'll always remember.

CTaylor said...

Kevin - try as I might I can't find out the word count for a YA novel! When I started my YA novel I was aiming for 80,000 words - so I still had (or thought I had) 28,000 words to go. I was nowhere near the end of the novel at 52,000 words.

Since I abandoned it I've actually done some research into the YA market but the advice on how long a YA novel should be varies widely depending on where you look or who you ask. I've read it can be anything from 50,000 to 90,000 words and have no idea which figure is correct!

When I've finished the chick lit novel I'm going to have another look at novel #1 and work out what to do with it.

Thanks for the congrats!

DOT said...

Congrats from me too! I am especially motivated by your closing comments about being someone who claims they could have written a novel but never did.

It's a bit unfair on her, but my Mum motivates me. She wrote well and started a number of projects without completing one before she died. I am determined not to follow in her footsteps. I mean, I guess I will have to die one day but not before I finish my novel.

CTaylor said...

Thanks Dot. Something I didn't mention in my blog was that a close friend died last year. She was only 33. It made me realise that we don't have "all the time in the world" to fulfill our dreams. You have to write as if there is no tomorrow. If I'm honest that's what spurs me on to write more than anything else.