Friday, 10 February 2017

Reasons, Excuses and Resolutions

In 2015 I started a blog linked to my website, intending to post on a regular basis. I wasn’t naïve enough to believe I’d have something interesting to write every week, but thought I could manage maybe once a month. Even once every couple of months would have been acceptable…
Unfortunately I failed miserably, managing only three posts in 18 months.

So, why am I so useless?

I’m going to blame it on the shortage of a commodity that every writer I know complains they haven’t got enough of—talent.
No, that was a joke. The real answer is time (though in my case, lack of talent is also something I should perhaps take into consideration). But in the limited time I get to sit at my laptop and write, the composing of blog posts is way down the list of my priorities.

First and foremost, I have to write stories—and that’s what takes up most of the available time. After writing the first draft there are amendments and corrections to make, and then it goes off to Sam, my genius editor. She does the edit and sends back her comments. It’s then usually a quick case of accepting her suggestions or coming up with a compromise to get round whatever problems she’d pointed out, and then I need to search for the cover art and write the blurb. All this takes precedence.

Second, I’m a member of a couple of writers’ forums. Sometimes I’ll post my stories there for feedback, and I often provide critiques on other authors’ work. In my opinion this is extremely valuable, because writing is a constant learning process. I can read someone else’s story and correct typos or offer suggestions as to what parts work or don’t work for me as a reader. But then I’ll read a critique by another author, and be blown away by their insight into the story. I think reading critiques – on either my work or someone else’s—is a very valuable lesson in the craft of writing.
So, participation in these forums is the second thing on my list of priorities, and also an activity that I really enjoy.

Something I’m constantly being told is important for aspiring authors is maintaining a presence on social media. I have to confess that I find this difficult; it’s almost a chore. It’s not that I don’t enjoy interacting with people—I’ve ‘met’ many fun and interesting people through social media. I’d like to be able to make people smile with what I write on social media—be it passing on something I saw that made me laugh, or something I experienced in real life, or simply by adding a witty’ comment to other people’s posts.
Note that I highlighted ‘witty’; sometimes it’s difficult to get the balance right and it’s easy to offend people. I did exactly that fairly recently. I’d been following a woman whose posts I’d always enjoyed. Her youngest son is a bit younger than my daughter, and I liked the variation and balance across her posts as a whole. Some were about her job as a sex blogger and sex-toy reviewer, and others were about her family life, the build-up to Christmas, and so on. But then she posted a picture of a cat with a caption about her pussy, and my sense of humour got the better of me. I made a (not too graphic) comment about the double-entendre, and I was promptly banished from her account. I certainly didn’t mean to offend her, but evidently I did. So, that’s one bridge burned by my sense of humour. In my defence, anyone who test-drives dildos for a living should expect a smutty-riposte if she writes captions like ‘my pussy is spoilt’ when talking about pampering her pet cat. But I’m still on her mailing list and one of her Twitter followers, so I see most posts (until she realises this and blocks me from those, too)
However, as a result of that experience I’ve toned down my comments on social media—especially to people I don’t ‘virtually know’ very well.

I know some people write all sorts of really personal stuff on FB, things that I’d only discuss with friends I really know and trust and whose opinion I respect. One woman I know (in real life) was forever telling her ‘followers’ about her relationship problems. Then she announced on FB that she’d rented a house for her and her kids to live in, and that she intended to leave her husband. But she actually posted about this before she told her husband, and he found out about it from one of their friends who’d read it on FB. I mean, what sort of person would do that? I can promise my followers that I won’t be burdening them with any crap from my own real life.

The majority of people I follow on Twitter are other authors, and some (probably most) of their posts are self-promotion. I know this works for them, because I’ve lost count of the number of books I’ve bought as a result of reading their adverts. And, if authors don’t tell people about their books, who else will?
I tell myself that the people who choose to follow me on FB and Twitter are actually interested in when my books are released or on sale, so some self-promotion is acceptable.  But I also know I should try and do more ‘fun’ posting. I follow some very funny people on Twitter, and it’s amazing how they can make me smile or laugh out loud in less than 140 characters. I should work at being like those tweeters, and then maybe add the hashtag #bmbtaf to remind people that I’m also saying ‘buy my books, they’re about fucking’.

Adding a wisecrack to other people’s tweets or posts is a lot easier than writing a blog. It’s the sort of thing you do when you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, or waiting for your kids at the school gate, or sitting on the toilet (too much information?). Writing a blog post takes longer, and is therefore pushed to the bottom of the list of priorities.

In summary, this is how I prioritise my available writing time:
·         story writing
·         reading and feeding back on other writers’ work
·         social media
·         blogging

This is the reason (or my excuse) for the lack of blog posts. But I promise I’m going to try to improve my output.

Over the last 12 months, blog posts weren’t the only part of my writing schedule suffering a dip in productivity. 2016 was a difficult year for my family. Early in the year we learned that my sister was seriously ill. She’d been diagnosed with cancer the previous year, but following surgery things had looked hopeful. Early in 2016 the cancer returned, and this meant more treatment. A combination of radiotherapy and immunotherapy gave spectacular results early on, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. But in the summer her health deteriorated again, and in August we discovered the cancer was so aggressive it had spread throughout her abdomen and nothing else could be done. She died ten days later.
During her illness, I’d started writing Global Playground—the final part of my Bon Voyeur trilogy. I found that writing is a good way to forget about real life—simply because while you’re immersed in your characters’ lives, you forget about what’s going on in your real life. But now, over eight months after starting this story, it’s still not published.
There are two reasons for this. The first is down to motivation. When my sister died, I was understandably very upset. She was my big sister and had spent her life looking out for me, and I had spent my entire life looking up to her. But something I hadn’t expected was the total apathy I felt after her death. I’d seen both parents die, but never felt the same sense of loss as I did with my sister’s death. Maybe we accept parents are going to die, but siblings are different—we expect them to stay with us for all our lives.
For weeks after the funeral, I just couldn’t find the incentive to make myself write. I also wasn’t sleeping, but in the end that worked in my favour. To avoid disturbing my wife, I’d get out of bed at three in the morning and sit on my own in the living room for a couple of hours. After a few nights of staring out of the window drinking cocoa (or brandy), I made myself pick up the laptop and write. I found it helped me to get back into the habit of doing something, and it also helped my story to progress.
The other reason it’s taken so long to write Global Playground is because there were a lot of things I wanted to include in the story. Bon Voyeur was released in 2015, but I actually wrote it ten years earlier. It’s less than 9,000 words, but I liked the characters so much that I wrote the sequel, Abuse of Power, about eight months after BV was released. That story was about twice the length of the first part. But the characters had grown so much that I knew what I wanted to happen in the final part. Global Playground became novel-length with a word-count of over 108,000—which is almost three times longer than anything else I’ve ever written.

Because I kept missing deadlines for its release, in November I took a short break from my WIP and wrote Victor-Juliet-Charlie, a ménage short-story about three police officers. After Christmas I wrote another short story called Still Crazy for the Make Me Yours Valentine anthology which came out last week. I’m really happy with how Global Playground turned out in the end, but I suppose I’ll have to see what my reader thinks. I hope he likes it! It will be released on 24th February.

My New Year’s resolution was to try and write something for my blog at least once a month—but I’ve already failed with that because January came and went, and there was still no blog post. Maybe I’ll manage two in February and get back on track…


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