Wednesday 17 January 2018

Doubting Alexa

I’m still not sure about writing this, such is my level of doubt at the moment, but here goes.

Most writers and others will have heard of Imposter Syndrome. I’ve been experiencing this feeling for some time now, so much so that I’ve struggled to write anything for a while, and had little belief in the words I have committed to paper. I’ve told myself that this is a feeling many writers have, but I give myself the same reaction my mother did when I said other mothers allowed their children to do something – I am not them.

When my first book, Sporting Chance was published back in November 2014, I’m not sure what I thought would happen. To be truthful, I didn’t care because I had a book out with characters I loved, and still do. It did quite well, and is still my best-selling book. Since then, I’ve had eleven other stories published. Some have been better received than others, but none have sold in the same numbers, even with good reviews, and I can’t help wondering why. My Highland Cowboy had some great reviews, but has sold less than a third of Sporting Chance. Now, I know other people have experienced a drop in sales over the last few years for various reasons, and I tell myself I don’t do this for the money – which is true. I don’t have to live off my sales, so I could go on producing books while my publishers take them. The thing is, I feel guilty. I feel like I’m letting people down. And then I begin to wonder about the point of is of sitting staring at a screen, writing words, editing them, grinding out a synopsis and blurb – spending hours – for so few to enjoy or experience my words. Is it worth the effort and heart break? I could go back to writing fanfiction, something I loved to do.

Last year, I had two books and a short story published. While You See a Chance had two older characters. I spent ages writing and rewriting this one, maybe too long, adding bits and taking some away. It was hard. On the other hand, My Highland Cowboy just happened with little bother. It was my style – two MCs I loved, a smattering of secondary characters and sex. It wasn’t majorly angsty like some others I’ve written, but I’d intended it to be like that. The Matchmaker, a short story, is written in the same sort of vein—light and fluffy.

While these were the stories I had published, I began to write what I intended to be one long book. It got to 100K so I decided to split it and write a third with the same MCs to make a trilogy, but I wasn’t going to submit until I’d written all three. I love the MCs, especially Jonah, who I’ve wanted to write for a couple of years. He’s a large bloke with a tough background who has fought to gain confidence and overcome his problems. He believes in giving back and his friends love him. The other MC, Owen, is based on the experience of a well-known person who is mixed race and was adopted. He recounted his experience in a documentary some years ago. I wanted to explore their problems, but not do the old put them together, split them apart, put them back together story, although there is a little of that, and will be more in the third book, if it ever gets written. The thing is, I’ve lost confidence in the story. I have no idea if it is any good or whether I should even continue editing or writing more of it. I have another story that I stopped writing at 20K even though I had ideas for the rest of the story. I did write another story which was supposed to be a short Christmas tale, my first May/December story, which turned into 60K words and not quite so light and fluffy. Finishing it was hard, and I’ve no idea whether it worked as I haven’t dared read it back. And, all the time, I keep telling myself, why bother with any of them when no one reads them anyway. Making myself edit these stories is increasing my doubt even more, so what do I do?

I know other authors will have gone through this. I don’t want pity, or even to be told, yes, I can write, but I need ideas of how to get through this, and why I should bother. I’m savvy enough to know that outside forces, my arthritis, housing situation, trying to lose some weight, and the death of my brother have affected me and my levels of motivation, but in the past, I’ve been able to overcome my doubts.

This time, I’m not sure I can.

Wednesday 10 January 2018

Bye, bye 2017 and hello 2018

I’m still not sure about writing this, but here goes.

2017 was a difficult year from a personal, and in some ways professional, point of view. It began with a couple big changes for me. After suffering an injury, my physical health had worsened making getting about even more difficult, but on the plus side I’m not living on my own anymore. My family also had the sword of Damocles hanging over us in the form of my brother’s cancer treatment. As many of you know, in October, he died suddenly, leaving behind his wife, three children, my mother and me.

My brother and I didn’t live in each other’s pockets. I spoke to him when he was at mum’s house and sometimes on the phone, but his loss has hit me hard. He was my only sibling – the only other person in the world with the same ancestry. I’ve felt lonely knowing he isn’t there anymore. I’m heartbroken thinking of the two very young children he’s left behind. It wasn’t how I planned it. He was the one to stay at home while I left, firstly to go to university, and then to live and work two hundred miles away. My one consolation is that I was able to get to his funeral with help from some wonderful people. It was an amazing occasion with dancing to Boogie Wonderful included. I met people I hadn’t seen for over thirty years. It’s so hard to believe those teenagers I knew are now grandparents.

In the wider world, events have been incredibly depressing. Some days I’ve dreaded opening Facebook and Twitter. In Britain we’ve had the madness of Brexit and in the USA there has been the continuing circus around that man. Sometimes, it feels like the world has gone mad. On the other hand, it is more positive to see women and men speaking out against the culture that exists in so many organisations and society in general. Hopefully, change will come.

I’ve read lots of wonderful books this year. I think my reading biggest change has been reading much more historical fiction, something I’d avoided being a history teacher, and not the biggest fan of the Regency period. But KJ Charles sucked me in and Jordan L Hawk, Joanna Chambers, Ruby Moone, and Cat Sebastian kept me there. I’ve read around 200 books this year. Currently, I’m making my way though Rosalind Abel’s Lavender Shores series.
On the watching front, we’ve watched all seven series of The West Wing and wished there were more, and also all twelve series of Supernatural. Other watches are listed in other blog posts. Next lengthy watch will either be Buffy or How to Get Away with Murder.

Now, for my writing. In 2017 I had two novels and a short story published. My Highland Cowboy had some great review and was lighter than my usual stories. While You Take a Chance had two older MCs. I loved writing that one and wish it had done better for me and the publisher. The short story – The Matchmaker – featured in an anthology, Right Here, Right Now. This was another low angst feel good story. Over the year, I’ve completed five full novels, so I have three not published and, as yet, unsubmitted. Two of them have the same MCs and are set in Norfolk. There will be three books in the Half series and I have the last one to write. I’m not planning on submitting until all three are finished. I’ve also completed a May/December story called Two for the Road which needs editing, and half of another story which hit a brick wall at 20K, but I might get back to it.
I’ve no idea of plans for 2018. I haven’t felt like writing for a while now. If I get the muse back hopefully I’ll write book three, and edit them all, edit Two for the Road, finish the other story, and even do more than contemplate the idea I have for an historical story set in the mining industry of the early 20th century, inspired by two characters from How Green was My Valley, my own family history of mining in Tonypandy, and a side character from Rainbow Connection. It’ll need some research.

I will admit feeling somewhat disillusioned about writing. I tell myself I write because I want to and not because I want to sell books, but it would be nice to sell more. I know everyone is suffering from reduced sales in a crowded market, but it can be disheartening not to sell even when you’ve had lovely reviews. Oh well, I’ll see how the muse takes me.
That’s it from me for now. I’d like to wish everyone a happy and healthy new year in 2018 and good luck with those sales.