Nothing like being thrown in the deep end

The new year’s resolution for 2019 was the same as most new years of the last decade: write more, make a go of it, get published. Hardly new, hardly surprising.

This time, though, I have the added impetus of a looming milestone: the big 4-0. Most writers have been at it for years by this age. I mean, yes, I know, there are plenty of authors who get a start well into their 40s, 50s, even their 60s, but let’s face it: the 30s are generally where the magic starts to happen. Instead, I’ve had my head buried in the sand for the last 10 years pretending it’s not really happening. I won’t get into all the reasons why this has been a write-off decade; maybe that’s for another post at another time.

Long story short, I decided to kickstart the creative buzz by returning to an old friend, one I’d vowed never to go back to – you guessed it, good ol’ NYC Midnight. I got put off their challenges as they grew in popularity. Not to sound like a snob or go all “I like the old stuff better than the new stuff”, but as that competition grew in numbers, it took the organisers longer to get through submissions, and the quality of feedback began to suffer. I also found that, as someone writing who is not in North America, any non-American references or language was often called out as suspect by the judges. (Case in point: I was asked why a working class Australian household wouldn’t just check its front door camera to see who was posting nasty messages. The answer, for reference, is because that’s not a thing in Australian working class households. That wasn’t as bad as the other half’s story about a court case, where the judge asked who “Regina” was – that answer lies in the fact “The Crown” is known as “Regina”, and that’s who brings cases in courts.)

Anyways, back to that short story, I was all excited and ready to dive straight back into fiction. This was early January and I was ready to start the year right.

Until I got my assignment.

Action/adventure, a secret mission, and a bank manager.

First of all: ugh, action/adventure. But also: ugh, secret missions with bank managers. All I could think of was Bond-style spy thrillers, but that’s a whole separate genre according to NYC Midnight. I spent all week working on some Dan Brown-style Vatican adventure only to decide with 12 hours until submission that I hated it, it wasn’t going to happen, and I should just dump it all and give up.

But that nagging voice kept saying: this is your new year’s resolution and it’s only January. Just bloody well do it.

In the end, I went back to a different idea, the first one I came up with but that I dismissed as not being relevant. The story came out in a few hours. I gave it a quick tidy-up edit and submitted it. Out of sight, out of mind.

The result was a World War 2 romp titled This One’s for the Village, Lads! Who knows if it meets criteria, but at least it got the juices flowing.

As always, I begin with this.

So, it’s been a while… I’m having hard enough time trying to write the damn novel, let alone remembering to update this thing. No excuses, I know. I love to write, it’s all I do, so I should be doing nothing but, right?

Actually, I’m tired. My creativity seems to come and go in waves. When it comes, it’s a huge tsunami of words that can’t get down on the page fast enough. When it goes, it’s weeks with no joy.

I was really good in the planning stages of my novel, and got into the habit of coming up to our little study for an hour before bed every single day, like a workhorse, and sitting at the laptop. Even if nothing came of it, I was in that habit – and they say that is the first part of the battle, right? So the excuse-maker and procrastinator in me likes to blame the fact the study roof started to leak for me getting out of the habit. It’s bullshit, of course. The truth is I just stopped caring. It was hard, so I gave up.

This is my eternal issue: I work at something because I want to change for the better, and as I start to show progress then I self-sabotage and give it all up. I find an excuse. I just pack it all in. That’s where the 6 Month Novel programme has been a big help: I can make excuses all I like, but at the end of the day I have deadlines. And the journo in me is very, very deadline-driven.

The journo in me, though, doesn’t deal well with long lead times. I was in daily newspapers; I need short, short timeframes. And as I move into the final month of writing time with about 40,000 words still to go, that short deadline is going to take over my life. I will make it, dammit, but I’ll probably be a zombie until the end of February.

So what of the story?

Well, I had a vague idea, as we all know. I had this vague idea of worlds colliding but I wasn’t sure how to go about that. Lo and behold, at the mid-way point it’s turning into a horror novel. I didn’t set out to do that, but the story took me that way. Don’tcha just love writing?

Keep you posted. Promise.

Romance is dead

Thank fuck, NYC Midnight did not give me romance again. In fact, they gave me my old friend horror. And yet, I still struggled. I ditched my first draft mid-way through day 2 and started again, so the result – New Lease of Life – is not as accomplished as perhaps I would like. But still, it’s done and submitted. Horror enough? You never know with these NYC judges, as we’ve said before.

But now that’s out of the way, and I’m well and truly focussing on the 6 Month Novel stuff. It’s amazing, actually, how it’s all coming together with just a focus on characters. I’ll update more later.

In the meantime, if you fancy reading the aforementioned horror, here ’tis.

Glutton for punishment

This weekend I should’ve been preparing for the 6 Month Novel (hereby referred to as 6MN), getting to know my fellow 6MN-ers and generally enjoying those last moments of freedom.

What did I do instead? I was in a writing competition.

Now, to be fair to me and myself, I entered the comp long before I knew about 6MN and that I would be doing it. Good ol’ NYC Midnight and its Flash Fiction Challenge. And, while the sane probably would’ve just bowed at of the comp, I couldn’t. It was like they were tempting me. Like they had heard my cries of “no more romance PLEASE” and decided that I needed another go at Horror. And I had ideas and images blazing through my brain all of yesterday.

So, I had to. Right?

Story’s just been submitted and now it’s almost time for Downton. I refuse to give up my Downton fix; a girl’s gotta have something, right?

Maybe I’ll do my prep in the ad breaks…

Oh, I’ll post the latest flash fic challenge once the entries have closed and it’s safe to do so. Will be good to know what people think: was it worth the hassle?