Posts Tagged ‘@jaynebithrey’

The skill of prevarication. And why aspiring writers are so important.

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

It really is incredible the lengths that I will go to not to write. My husband has just watched me come in from riding, which occupied two hours of my morning, make tea, tidy the kitchen, have a shower, dry my hair, choose my clothes, make coffee, impart gossip, discuss dinner and he then commented “You really will do anything not to write won’t you?”  And I think he might be right. And this isn’t because I’m lazy or ambiguous about writing – I adore doing it. I feel incredibly privileged to have the ability to do it, both in terms of skill and lifestyle, and I spend much of my time waiting to be able to do it. Enthusiasm and inspiration cannot be summoned at will and usually present themselves at very inconvenient times, school pick-up and so on. So after analysing his words (secretly of course, to his face I protested vehemently, pleading beds to be made, vacuuming, etc. – things he doesn’t understand and has no experience of so can’t argue with) I realised that it’s because I’m scared. Scared that when I try and nip back into the world I’ve created, which is becoming bigger and more detailed every minute of the day (and night, sometimes) that maybe this time it just won’t work. Perhaps I’ll be denied access. Perhaps the characters won’t come when I call them. Perhaps the story will be hiding from me. It’s a mixture of all of these things. I don’t know whether I will be ever become skilled enough to know that when I settle down to write it will, magically, happen. I suspect not. I’ve written about a variation on this theme before; confidence and lack of, etc. And I have also learned that the best way to proceed when you’re not really sure if it’s going to happen is just to start writing and keep ploughing on for a good few hundred words. It usually works. Sometimes it doesn’t and you have to erase the lot, but recognising good writing from bad is an essential part of being a writer. I appear to be capable of both extremes and I am definitely ruthless when I see something doesn’t work or doesn’t fit.

Another key factor in the success of my day to day writing is that I need to be absolutely focussed. Which is particularly hard for me because I am easily distracted and easily led. Twitter, facebook and my phone all provide constant sources of distraction, and all my friends know that I don’t work in the conventional sense so I’m usually available for coffee/lunch/general chat. Since the Autumn term started I am being quite dedicated though; the amount of time I spend being productive has increased dramatically, and the amount of time I spend gossiping has reduced dramatically. But the tea-making, showering, bed-making, etc. is all part of me preparing myself to write. I could just walk in the door and sit down and get on with it but then I know I’d be distracted by thoughts of tasks ahead and I wouldn’t be able to concentrate. The trick is to be really strict with yourself about which are the essential things and which can wait. And then stick to your decision.

Happily, my latest manuscript is going very well. Though I haven’t actually added anything new to it for a few days, I’ve been editing what I have written thoroughly, which is useful. It gives me a really good feel for the characters and allows me to build them up early. After a few vacillations (and tweets) I’ve stuck with the first person POV. I got concerned about 6,000 words in that I’d made the wrong decision so I backtracked slightly and wrote a section in the third person but that didn’t seem right either. Eventually I went with the first person POV, which is both the easiest and hardest decision because it requires bravery and confidence but also means that I do not have to do an entire 6,000 word re-write.

Another thing that has happened this week is that I introduced my mother to twitter! She’d been interested in the idea for ages but I think possibly age, lack of computer experience and generally not understanding the internet made it a difficult leap for her to take, though she writes a blog regularly (link to the left of this page) and wanted to introduce it to a wider audience. So I was very kind; I took her through twitter, found nice pictures for her background, etc. and showed her the ropes. I explained as best I could how it all works and found people I knew she would like for her to follow. Then I made the fatal error of trusting her to tweet on her own. She’s @JayneBithrey and I think to date she’s tweeted about four times. The last of which was about a week ago. This tells me that she doesn’t know what to tweet about, she needs to find the aspects of her character that she wants to bring to the fore via twitter and concentrate on those. I am convinced that once she gets into it, she will enjoy it. So if anyone has any advice for her then do tweet her. Please. I’m not convinced I can cope on my own.

However I do accept that twitter isn’t always the easiest thing to understand, and this has been well-demonstrated already this week (as it is most weeks, to be honest) by the flare-ups I have seen between aspiring writers and established agents/publishers. Quite often someone who blogs regularly, or is working on a novel, will come to twitter and see it as an excellent way to promote their work. Which it can be. But it is not a platform for formal submission. Unfortunately a lot of these individuals don’t realise that so they don’t go about it correctly. Instead of following the right people for information and opinions, and building up their own, like-minded, follower list they simply bombard agents and publishers with an identical tweet which will read something like: “PLEASE RT!!!! I am trying to get published, I am a person with X career who loves writing, my blog is” (don’t google that by the way, I can’t be held responsible for what might appear). Anyway, this makes the rest of us almost literally cringe; it’s a horribly lazy, very blatant way to ask for attention and it simply will not work. In fact, it will actually work against you, which is what a few of the agents/publishers point out – and sometimes in a very sharp manner. And I do have to question this, I’m afraid. I understand that these individuals already established in the publishing industry want to use twitter much like the rest of us do without being constantly targeted for submission, but if you are on there in your professional capacity then you need to accept that aspiring writers will target you. It seems to some like an excellent, direct method of communication to some powerful people. Irresistible – and annoying. But, just occasionally, I do wonder whether the agents/publishers might give the annoying people the benefit of the doubt about knowledge of twitter etiquette and just ignore them. No response is the easiest and quickest way to show people doing it wrongly the error of their ways. And those who may have the same idea. A sharp, pointed, negative response will be perceived as ‘horrible’ by people who won’t understand what they’ve done wrong and could potentially discourage them from approaching agents/publishers in the future. And let’s face it – if they don’t the world could lose out on some pretty good writers. All of the world’s most treasured authors were nothing more than people with an idea once. Skill and tenacity is what projected them above others. Aspiring writers are an important part of the publishing industry’s future, and sometimes I think the established professionals would do well to remember that.

Now I have a confession: I may have written an entire blog post – but the only reason I started doing this was as prevarication so I could put off being brave enough to climb back into my manuscript, as per the opening paragraph of this blog. However, the time has now come. It stands at 10,275 words and my aim is to get that to at least 12,000 words today.

After lunch.