Decay

As I mentioned last week, the editing process for my work in progress novel came to a halt round about the beginning of lockdown here in the UK. I know I’m not alone in suddenly feeling like I just couldn’t be creative, at least not in a literary way.

I felt like the words had been sucked out of me, also not uncommon in what is now known as ‘these unprecedented times’. However, peculiar to my novel was the oh so ironic title of…

ANTI-VIRUS

Now, whilst my novel is set in the UK and takes place in a pandemic-type setting, the central plot isn’t about the pandemic itself (not really), nor is it about finding a cure (well, maybe it is), nor is about the heroic survival of a selection of characters against the odds (although perhaps it is). There is jeopardy, there is intrigue, there are twists and turns and characters who turn out to be, well, wrong in the head, but

IT’S NOT ABOUT A PANDEMIC! (EVEN THOUGH IT IS, KIND OF)

Sorry for shouting. It’s just that I had to do this to myself (in my head, I don’t actually shout at myself) in order not to let my novel shrivel up and die and become a largely insignificant – in the grand scheme of things – casualty of 2020. As you can probably tell, it’s complicated. I just didn’t have the energy to explain it back in March, April, May when things were really bad here (although not Anti-Virus bad).

That, dear reader, saved my novel, or at least meant that I felt connected enough to return to my literary offspring before the end of the year. It also meant that my pandemic era, government-approved, one hour walks turned into treasure hunts – if you consider treasure to be sinister, ugly broken things that are menacing in monochrome. Luckily I do. Also luckily I live in a city where there are pockets of these places tucked away, if you look hard enough. I am nosey and curious, so I have found them. I also found a new source this morning, a full seven months later, which pleases me immensely.

I know that this post is somewhat a reiteration of last week’s, but it’s important to me. I look to my left and I can see that I have increased my word count in the editing process. That, in this case, is a good thing. I mostly wrote Anti-Virus on my commutes to and from work, so in hour long snippets. This meant the writing was quite spare and my chapters were more like scenes – in-fact it read a bit like a screenplay. The extra 10,000 words (so far) are contextual so that there is more description of the world in which my characters exist. Not so much that there’s no room for imagination, but enough so that it doesn’t read as if everything is happening in an empty space.

I’M EXCITED!

Next week I’ll move on from the ‘thank God I didn’t let my novel die’ phase. But I’ll still be hunting for more photographic treasure, you can be sure of that!

Revamping and revisiting – and some focus

Well, yet again, its been a while. That’s what a global pandemic does to you, or at least to me. I haven’t been completely absent though, just mostly from here.

It’s a weird old life, being a writer when you’re not actually doing much writing. Imposter syndrome for the win! Thank goodness that I have a day job that pays the bills and that hasn’t suddenly been obliterated by the joy that is 2020. I am very lucky.

When I finished my first draft of my dystopian novel at the end of 2019, the whispers of a potential pandemic were making the news. And then, Happy New Year, it became a reality in all its deadly and devastating force. What a treat.

I had just completed my first draft with the joyous and ridiculously apt title of

ANTI-VIRUS

I have a particularly dark and twisted sense of humour but I felt it was less than appropriate to promote my achievement against the backdrop of a pandemic, even though my book isn’t really focused on a pandemic, not really. Explaining that technicality felt way too complicated and exhausting as we began, country by country, to go into lockdown to save lives. So I put my word-swaddled literary baby to one side. For. Bloody. Months.

Instagram saved me, surprisingly. Posting themed photos hinting at the background to my plot, wrapping up each post with the phrase ‘Welcome to the world of Anti-Virus’ during this time has kept my silently screaming baby alive in my head and also the heads of my followers, who have asked me, quite regularly, ‘When is it due?’. (The baby analogy stops there, you’ll be pleased to know).

I have returned to editing with a vengeance now that the new normal has, because humans are adaptable, become more normal, even if it’s not the old normal. I have set up a dedicated space for editing with a new, surprisingly reasonably priced desk, under the window in my spare bedroom. It helps when you don’t have to keep moving your notebook, sticky notes and other inspirations from one place to another. This is the first time I have written at a desk and boy, does this writing lark feel more ‘real’ now. Environment is important, clearly.

And yesterday’s nudge from one of my Instagram followers has focused my mind on when to aim for publication, and also to promoting my novel, because I am damn proud of it. I have a vision of it, a vision for it and it deserves to be read.

I have added my Instagram feed to my website – do take a look. It will give you a sense of the background to the plot. It will drop some hints, it will give you a photographic insight into how my characters are forced to live in their dystopian world. All the imagery is my own. Oh yes, and I’ve updated my ‘About’ info. It was more than time.

I will be using this platform, my website, to discuss my progress, my trials, my tribulations, my successes and will include some Anti-Virus inspired flash fiction and poetry along the way.

This is when I plan to publish

2021

Fancy joining me for the ride?

Understating the obvious

Well it’s been a while, hasn’t it?! Mind you, you should be used to my somewhat hit and miss offerings of late (ahem, over the past few years…).

Right now I can point towards ‘these unprecedented times’ as my reason (ermmm, excuse). As to my infrequent and erratic appearance during the months and years prior to ‘the current circumstances’, well your guess is as good as mine as to the reasons why. I’m sure there would be overlap, if we chose to compare notes.

One thing that the CoViD-19 pandemic (euphemisms are so over-rated) has does is put a big spanner in the works on the novel that I was editing. Given that its storyline is virus-related (sort of), I just couldn’t get my head in the correct space to continue editing.

I’m not worried about the possible criticism – oh, she used CoViD-19 as an easy inspiration – oh, it’s lazy writing – oh, why would I want to read that after the terrible things that have been happening – oh she is profiting out of others’ grief and misfortune – and so on. Whatever you write, you will always be criticised, there will always be someone who wants to tear you to shreds. And, really, profit? I’m under no illusion that making any kind of living out of writing isn’t guaranteed, especially not these days!

Don’t get me wrong, I am lucky to be able to work from home. I’m also a little less lucky because I have a condition which means I need to shield/self-isolate more than your average person. It’s fine. I’m employed, I can pay my bills, I’m not suffering. But, these changes in circumstance have been a challenge. For those of us not in terrible difficulties (and for that I thank my lucky stars, my ancestors, this good Earth, any heavenly body or otherwise who is listening), this enforced stay at home period has resulted in ups and downs.

For me the downs meant a feeling of near-revulsion for my draft novel. Not because the plot is virus/pandemic related (all is not as it seems, if that’s not too much of a spoiler!), but just because my focus and concentration was suddenly directed elsewhere:

  • where to set up my home office (such as it is)
  • wondering how long before my eyes fell out from squinting at a laptop screen when I normally use two large desktop monitors in the office
  • how many times I would have to reset my printer to hook up with my home WiFi
  • how to set up my new work mobile phone
  • overcoming my revulsion for Skype/Zoom (I really do not like seeing my digital self)

The list could go on and on. I also felt guilty for allowing these, quite frankly, insignificant things to consume me when I could be in a much, much worse situation. Swear words were said, many, many times.

I’m only human. Like many, many others, I had to learn to adapt, to not keep beating myself with an imaginary stick for not making the most of my down-time by writing. But in truth, writing (or rather editing) felt like a bridge too far. Too much mental energy for the amount I had spare after all the work ‘stuff’ and the dark inability to tear myself away from the news as I ate my lunch or ‘relaxed’ after work.

Finally though, I had a breakthrough. Last night, unplanned, I managed to do some editing and amazingly resolved a plot problem that had been haunting me for a long, long time. I was quite surprised, to understate the obvious.

I’m not setting myself a goal for my next breakthrough. There is no deadline. Let’s face it, this novel has been a work in progress for several years, so the latest intermission won’t make much difference. I’m just thankful that I haven’t permanently lost my mojo.

It seems my writerly brain is alive and well, if a little peripatetic at the moment.

Stay safe everyone.

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