Sarah Ann Hall

Reporting on writing in progress or, more probably, not.

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Photo credit: http://www.emedco.com

 

August has arrived and with it the delicious task of decorating. Eight years ago, when we fitted out our boat, we covered every single knot in the pine cladding with knotting solution before painting everywhere white. We have repainted at least twice, but the knots are now rampant in their leeching and our home looks like it is suffering a dose of chicken pox. This month, with hubby’s diary mostly empty and me choosing to work fewer hours, we will be turning our walls off-white. After a good scrub, and painting the annoying knots with a stain block, the walls will be going calico, hessian, cotton and other shades of beige. This will necessitate us living between piles of books, stacked furniture, and other stuff moved to facilitate access to the surfaces in need of beautification. Living conditions will be more cluttered and cramped than usual, access to a tabletop or seat to sit on is a dream away. Hence I am not even going to attempt to write until things return to normal and the paintbrushes have been put away. Blog reading will also be even more sporadic than usual, for which I apologise.

Have a great summer and enjoy all you might be getting up to. See you in the autumn.

 

Written by Sarah Ann

August 1, 2017 at 1:52 pm

Writers’ Groups – to join or not?

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On the advice and encouragement of Björn Rudberg I have recently been looking for a writing group to join. I need feedback on my writing to improve, and my last two attempts at attending short writing courses in order to achieve this were not successful. As I live on a boat and move around at least six-months of the year, attending meetings regularly in the same place has presented a problem. However, with improved planning and increased access to a car, I have been attending dance classes – something I want to do – so there is no excuse not to join a writers’ group – something I need to do.

I began my search earlier in the year by considering the area within which I generally cruise. This gave me the option of four towns, all of which I imagined might have a writing group. Town A, the largest and farthest away, has a large writing group with a waiting list, so that’s no use. Town B, the closest, has suggestions of a small writing group online, but its social media posts are three years old and contact details hard to find. Town C has a well-advertised group that meets once a week for two hours and a schedule that follows the school year. Town D’s group is relatively new and meets once a month for two hours. I contacted the coordinators of groups C and D and made arrangements to attend both. Unfortunately, work intervened and I didn’t get to Group C before the school holidays and the start of their summer break. However, earlier this month I cycled through a storm and managed to attend a meeting of Group D.

I was lucky to find the group receiving a talk from author Tessa Harris on how to write suspense. This is not something I do and it was interesting to have the technical differences between suspense and mystery writing explained. I was also pleasantly surprised at being able to perform under pressure, completing a five-minute exercise and coming up with something to share with the rest of the group. We all took turns to read out something created during the session and Tessa helpfully pointed out where we had taken on board her teaching. Constructive criticism was not forthcoming from other group members on this occasion, but I imagine it will be in future when the group meets to discuss topics of interest based on members’ current needs and interests. I will be going to my second meeting next month, to see what a usual meeting is like. I am minded to carry on and, depending how useful I find it, I might also try again with groups C and B to see what they have to offer.

 

Written by Sarah Ann

July 30, 2017 at 6:43 pm

Quotations on Writing First Drafts

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Something we all need to bear in mind.

charles french words reading and writing

Here are a few quotations about creating first drafts to inspire all of us to keep writing:

mark-twain-67793_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” 

                                                               Mark Twain

jodipicoult

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

“You might not write well every day,

   but you can always edit a bad page.

   You can’t edit a blank page.”

                                                                 Jodi Picoult

William_Faulkner

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the     only way you can do anything really good.”

                                                                      William Faulkner.

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Written by Sarah Ann

July 4, 2017 at 8:46 pm

Too organised – #amwriting

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It is time again to review my writing progress for the year. This is proving a really useful process for me as I see priorities change and move. Some of the goals from the beginning of the year have been discarded, others partially met, and the easy ones at the top of the list have been mostly achieved. Having a human accountability partner didn’t quite work out but, by blogging what I intend, I am keeping myself on task.

This week I have been looking back through old short stories, to see what could be deleted from my hard drive, and what might be adapted for submission. This has resulted in a story being submitted to a publisher looking for supernatural stories. I don’t think mine will hit the mark at all, but the process of trawling through old works was not completely wasted. It was good to see how my writing has developed over the years, and how tired and plodding stories have been adapted to be punchier. Coming up with new ideas is good, recycling old ones sometimes helpful.

Going through my hard drive also reminded me that, a long time ago, I had planned to self-publish some of the flash fiction from my blog. I saw how much work I had done on collecting these stories together and collating them into themes. Laying them out correctly on the page is a laborious process, and one that can be done with half an eye on the TV rather than stealing from precious ‘alone’ writing time. This forgotten project has, for the time being at least, been added to the list of the year’s tasks, albeit one to complete by Christmas.

August is earmarked for home re-decoration and writing will be sparse. With this in mind I have reduced my availability to work during July in order to have one full day free to write, and hopefully complete some projects before a month of physical hard labour. Thursday mornings will be taken up with completing work reports from Wednesday, and then I will have an afternoon and all day Friday to get on with short stories and editing the back end of my out-with-agents novel.

 

Task & original priority position – re-ordered June 2017 Ease of completion Progress 6 weeks later (end of Feb) Progress April Progress end of June
1. Keep up with blog Variable on time allowing/ having anything to say.

Hopefully on the easy side.

 

Not great. I’ve not posted as often as I would have liked. I’m doing better, but I might be running out of things to say already. I post at least once a week, but could be more regular with writing updates.
2. Read 85k word novel and decide whether to pitch or ditch.

Easy and relatively quick if I decide to ditch. Time commitment if I’m going to pitch and it needs editing. Time commitment if start sending to agents.

I have allocated the week of 13-17th March to do the read through. I’m away from home and will have the head space. Done – it’s a pitch. Sent to an agency’s open pitch process.I need to go back to a list of agents to approach I drew up 12 or more months ago and submit to others.

Deadline to have made other submissions: end of April 17, and ongoing.

 

Deadline met.

Sent to eight agents – a ‘near miss’ for one. Chs. 1-3 have been re-edited and are ready to resubmit. Deadline for resubmission: mid-July because of people taking the summer off.

8. Friday Fictioneer stories Easy to do if have nothing else on. Requires time and concentration. Can be addictive so need to limit or will get caught up and carried away to the detriment of other things. No progress.

I wrote a story to one prompt, which I was pleased to have achieved, but didn’t manage to post it.

I have managed to write and post a 100-word story two weeks running. It’s a bit early to say I’ve succeeded with this priority, but it has been met earlier than expected.

 

I have responded to most prompts and gained some encouraging feedback on my stories.
4. Write short stories to go with friend Jan’s paintings/ prints/ illustrations. Relatively easy if I come up with any ideas. Enjoyable. Able to do between other things as shorter time commitment. I have drafted one short story and am looking at the other pictures chosen. I need to re-visit the project with Jan to see if she wants to paint to my words. These stories are progressing slowly. There is a lot of research and re-drafting to be done. Need to determine number of stories to write and liaise with Jan on how to take forward.

Deadline to complete stories: end of summer.

 

Ongoing. One story is finished. I have done research for others. One is only just started. Deadline for completion will be missed.
7. Short stories for competitions Quite hard. Time commitment to look for competitions and then write themed stories to deadlines.

 

One short story submitted. No other competitions identified to enter. I have written another short story to a prompt and submitted it. This is something ongoing that I will fit in as time and interest allows.

 

I came runner-up for my one entry so have continued looking for competitions to enter.

Two more submissions made.

9. NEW ENTRY

Self-publish flashes and short stories.

Time-consuming but can be dipped in and out of. An organising project and learning experience, e.g. about self-publishing platforms. Takes less brainpower than writing.

 

Stories are collated. Laying out pages to be completed. Cover design needed. Self-publishing platforms to be researched.

Deadline: December 2017.

4 NANOWRIMO story from 2014. Work up 51k words into a novel. Medium. Big time commitment. Hopefully enjoyable to do. No progress No progress. I want to work on this story as I want to get back to the characters.

Deadline to have started second draft: end of summer.

 

No progress – this is off my radar.

New deadline to start second draft: before the end of the year.

3. Edit diaries of living and travelling on a narrow boat and self-publish. Hard. A lot of editing and additional writing to be done. Self-publishing is new. Large time commitment and learning new skill.

 

No progress There is too much work required to get this to a state suitable for publication. The narration needs to be completely re-written.

 

2018?
4. Continue with novel-length abuse story started 2014. Medium. Need time and space to pick this up again. Has a beginning but needs a middle and an end.

 

No progress No progress.  This is a project too far for 2017. 2019 maybe

Written by Sarah Ann

June 28, 2017 at 11:26 am

Slow progress – #amwriting

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Any writing progress is satisfying at the moment as work chops and changes and makes planning difficult. Writing on two fronts, as the mood takes me, I am focussing on the short stories I am writing to the prompts of a friend’s pictures and my has-been-going-on-forever novel.

The short story I wrote during a train journey in March, about a dancer turned boxer, has finally been re-read and lots of holes found. There is a story, but I have yet to work out how much background needs to be included and how much can be left to the reader’s imagination. There is a lot more work to be done, but the story has been looked at again so it is fresh and hopefully the hole-filling will be completed soon.

Chapters 1-3 of the novel have been re-read, scribbled over, the changes typed in, and the chapters read once again, slowly and aloud. I know I’ve said this before, but I think they are ready to go. Moving Chapter 4 to the position of Chapter 3 has made the start of the story less repetitive, given voice to a new character, and maybe even introduced a small hook. On my list of jobs to do, I have to compile a writing CV for one agent – it will be short – and then, after another read through, I think chapters 1-3 will be ready to send into the world again. So that’s next week’s job, assuming the work that currently pays my wages doesn’t want me to provide cover on the days I plan to write.

 

Priorities for the next fortnight: write a writing CV; submit novel to agents; continue reading novel from chapter 4 to make sure changes follow through and there are no typos!

Ongoing projects successfully met: chapters 1-3 of novel had been read, edited, and are ready to go; a short story has been edited and work to be done identified. (I need to count the small things!)

Ongoing projects partially met: I am crocheting a scarf and have completed five repetitions of an 8-row pattern – only 32-repetitions to go before the thing is finished.

Fails: I have done no Italian or piano practise.

Written by Sarah Ann

June 14, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Oh those poor agents – #amwriting, #amediting

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I am not sure what I was on in March when I thought that my has-been-going-on-forever book was publishable as it was. Perhaps I made too much use of my friend’s Nespresso machine and excess caffeine caused delusions. On the advice of my new writing friend Lou, who said the book was almost there but not quite, I have been re-reading and re-editing. Chapters 1-3 haven’t been covered in so much scribble since a major re-write two years ago. And when I found a typo in Chapter 2, I wanted to jump up and down and pull my hair out. A train pulls away, not ‘as the trained pulled away.’ How did I miss it? As I paced my friend’s kitchen, coffee in hand reading aloud, how did I not stumble over this mistake? I don’t know, but I did, and it makes me unhappy to know I sent out a manuscript that wasn’t just not perfect but also contained errors.

I have worked on Chapter 3 today, which was previously chapter 4, and found yet another mistake – a we instead of a with, as in ‘take a walk we me.’ Again, how is it only now I am seeing it? I want to boil my head for my stupidity/ poor eyesight. Instead I will plod on. It has taken me three weeks to get this far (p. 21), slotting in reading and editing between appointments, typing in changes while hubby watches TV. I just hope I can keep the same mood and frame of mind until I reach the end of p. 212, as the changes need to be uniform and the feel of the book consistent.

As for the eight agents I submitted to in April, one replied the book was a near miss for her, three others said, no thanks in the current market, and after the passage of time, I imagine I will not be hearing from the remaining four. I will be working on my re-submission next week.

 

Written by Sarah Ann

June 7, 2017 at 1:30 pm

OMG I almost won something – #amwriting

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I emailed some writer friends recently to ask:

why is it the things you spend months nurturing and send into the world with hope come back rejected, whereas the things you knock up quickly and send out just because you’ve finished make it? Serendipity? Sod’s law? They couldn’t answer.

I ask because a deadline I met in March just to prove I could has proved fruitful. A panel of judges read my story and placed me as runner-up in a short story competition, and you can read it here.

 

Written by Sarah Ann

May 31, 2017 at 11:08 am

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