Wednesday 23 October 2013

Sacred Routines

The priority
I have few problems with self-discipline as a writer. Even when I feel reluctant I can write. I can pluck ideas and content from the air and turn them into something readable. As I define myself first and foremost as a writer, I try to make the first thing I do every day my writing. Well, maybe after a quick look at Twitter.
I actually don’t feel right if I don’t. My aim is to work for two hours and write 2,000 words or review 3,000 – 10,000 – or some carefully calculated combination of the three. I don’t always make it and so I also write at weekends and whilst on holiday. I’ve not quite caught up. 

Friday 18 October 2013

Breaking the mould?

A recent rejection
I’ve just had four short stories rejected. Well, sort of rejected. They came back with a lot of editorial comment, which is always something to take note of. So after the initial “they just don’t get it, do they? For goodness sake, are they expecting me to produce yet another clone? And they’ve got a typo in one of the titles – a typo not of my making” –type reaction, I calmed down and took note. Whatever I might think, this publisher is not going to publish these stories as they are now.  

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Some thoughts on books

Books at an early age
My father was the youngest of nine siblings and we lived with my grandmother. There were nearly always cousins in the house and all older than me. At one point they could read and I couldn’t. Reading seemed to involve staring at the page for a long time. So, I would stare at my pages for a long time and tell myself the story the pictures suggested. Many of the books I knew very well and even knew the words in them, though I couldn’t read them. Later the symbols began to mean something.  

Thursday 3 October 2013

My ambitions as a writer

Living the dream now
I graduated in my MA in Writing for Children in 2000. A year before I graduated I gave up a job as a Head of Modern Languages in a secondary school to spend more time on my writing. I immediately took on a temporary contract and for a while there seemed little change though I did have more time in the evenings and at the weekends for my own work: I managed to confine my school work to term-time, 8.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Gradually I took on more individual tuition and less work in schools.
Just six weeks after I graduated I had ten, yet that’s right, ten proposals for educational books accepted. That kept me occupied for a while. I still get royalties from some of those books now.
I’d dreamt up to that point of having that sort of free-lance life – a combination of teaching and writing and that is what I got.
I extended the dream: I wanted to be respected enough as a writer to be invited to talk to university students about my work. An earlier dream had been to be a university lecturer. Now I am a university lecturer, much of my work consisting of talking about writing and it is okay to write on my employer’s time. There is no life / work boundary. In this case that is a good thing. And hand on heart I can say I make my living from writing though the fiction itself does not bring in enough to live on – yet.
The dream now
I’m still waiting for that break-through novel. I’m not sure that it’s the one I’m trying to sell at the moment, nor even the one I’m writing now, or the one planned for after that – even though as always the current one is an improvement on the one before. They are all of course part of the process.
It isn’t about block-busting best-sellers for me, though I’m sure if that happened I’d find a way of using the money. I want to write something of the quality of David Almond’s Skellig, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women or Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials BUT hope that when I do that won’t be the endgame. Sometimes it can be hard to follow your own good act. Flash fiction is also becoming important to me and that may successfully follow half a dozen high quality novels.  
As an academic I’d like some David Lodge-type recognition. Ah, shall I also in retirement slip into the theatre at the last moment to watch an adaption of one of my novels? David Lodge sat almost right next to us at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton recently.
Keeping the wish-list simple
We fail to fulfil our dreams when we are not clear about our goals. I’ve decided to keep my wish-list very simple: I have just three wishes. All other good things follow naturally. What I’ve described above is the second part. I’ll gladly tell you about the other two in another context. I can also say that number one and three are getting there rapidly. I therefore assume that this goal is on its way to being fulfilled – all the more exciting because I can’t quite see it. It will take me by surprise one day. My task now, though, is to keep on writing.