Writing

Have You Re-Worked An Old Story?

stack-of-books-1001655_1280When it comes to writing, I’m a bit of a hoarder; I don’t throw anything out. Next to my desk is a chest full of notebooks, manilla folders and scraps of paper containing story ideas, incomplete manuscripts and research notes. It’s what some people like to call ‘an organised mess’. However, this mess could be a goldmine for a writer.

Every once in a while I go through this collection, surprised to see how long it has been since I’ve looked at some of these pieces, seeing the possibilities in a many number of them. I keep asking myself why I’ve never bothered to continue working on them. There is one in particular that stands out.

89f02ba9c66e17313a433a4b6daba917About ten years ago, I wrote a young adult novel. It was complete in that it had a beginning, middle and end – only trouble was it was less than 30,000 words (and contains a number of subplots not suitable for a novella). Clearly more work needed to be done. At the time I gave it to a beta reader for feedback. The feedback I received was: – ‘This story was great – no – brilliant!’  And this was just in its very first draft! So, with positive feedback such as this, what did I do? Being in a group of insecure writers, I think you all know the answer that that one – I let fear get the better of me.

Over the years, I have worked on it, believing that this story has potential. It has only been within the last year or so that I have thought of the possibility of turning this into a series. For now though, I just need to concentrate on this one, making it the best I possibly can and worry about the other possibilities later.

Have you ever pulled out a really old story and re-worked it? Did it work out? Are you a hoarder when it comes to your writing? Does fear hold you back from working on a piece you think has potential?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing

Is Your First Piece of Writing Gathering Dust?

mortality-401222_640It was some years back in the early 90’s when I decided to summon my courage to send my writing off for publication. At the time, I had been writing for many years, purely for a pleasurable hobby and during High School I had let some of my friends read what I’d written. All the time though, I had it in the back of my mind to be published; I always had a dream of being a published author.

After leaving High School I did some correspondence courses on writing and had written some incomplete stories, but I really wanted to try my hand at writing a short story to get it published in a magazine. It was then that I wrote my first ghost story. I was working full time and let a co-worker whom I trusted to read it. ‘You wrote this yourself?’ she asked, clearly surprised that I had done so. Now, whether she thought that was a good thing or a bad thing, I’m not sure, but she seemed to think what I had written was alright and I sent it off to a popular Australian women’s magazine.

The wait was excruciating and I can’t recall how long I ended up waiting, but in the end I eventually received a form letter in the mail with my story returned. I admit I wasn’t too happy, but when I read my story again I was horrified; with new eyes I realised my mistake. It wasn’t as good as I thought; clearly I had more work to do.

I sent my work out when I wasn’t ready and looking back, I now know that I wasn’t completely confident enough within myself at the time either (perhaps I was also aiming too high to begin with). It has proven a great learning experience though and that piece lies amongst many of my other papers hidden away somewhere, gathering dust. I keep it as a permanent reminder of just how far I’ve come.

What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing

Being a Writer: Worth Taking a Risk?

takingrisksI’m sure everyone has got at least one in their life; the naysayers, those bloodsucking vampires that want to drain all the hope out of our lives. They have a tendency to fill your life with such negativity, that you begin to believe what they say; that writing is not a ‘real job’; that you’re wasting your time because there’s ‘no money in the arts’. When you get told a lie over and over again, you start to believe in it (hey, it works for politicians).

Being surrounded by such people can become emotionally and sometimes even physically draining. The best thing is to stay away from them, yet it can prove difficult when these people happen to be members of your own family. Even to this day, for example, my mother feeds me the same old lines I’ve heard so many times before (at least I know what to expect). My interpretation: I’ve always been a problem because I’m not like my older siblings. When others fill you with negativity, you begin to believe in what they say and therefore begin to doubt yourself. That doubt then turns to fear and you find yourself hesitating in even wanting to try.

On Australian television, we have a show called Q&A, which consists of an audience asking questions to a panel of guests. Recently, one of their guests was astronaut Chris Hadfield. He had the audience, panelists and host alike all enthralled with what he had to say, he could have been the only guest that night. There was one thing he said in particular that caught my attention and I had to write it down.

“A lot of us just deny ourselves something in life because we’re afraid of it. We say I won’t do that because I’m afraid. Which things in your life do you decide are worth taking a risk? Give yourself a definition of what success looks like. What am I really trying to accomplish with my life? The real question we all face is not what do I want to be doing in thirty years, but what do I want to do next? Give yourself a long term definition of how you want this to turn out so that you can tell yourself is this a risk worth taking?’

He knew the risks involved in becoming an astronaut, but he did whatever it took to fulfill his dream. If he had any naysayers in his life, he certainly paid no attention to them whatsoever! And this is how it should be for those of us who also wish to fulfill a life’s ambition.

Being a writer can be challenging, but it can also be very rewarding. Life’s too short to worry about what other people think. As the saying goes – feel the fear and do it anyway.

Which things in your life are worth taking a risk? Are you surrounded by negativity? Do you pay too much attention to what others say or do you ignore them? 

* In November, I’ll be taking the plunge and diving back into NaNoWriMo – who’s with me? Also, in order to spend more time on my writing projects, I’ll be cutting back on blogging and will now be blogging on an intermittent basis.

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Writing

A Writer’s Journey: At a Crossroads.

crossroads

Have you ever had the feeling that you were at a crossroads in your life? That you are about to dive off and take a plunge into the great unknown, but at the same time you are also holding yourself back?

This is how I have been feeling these past few weeks. Perhaps it’s because there is a change in the air as Spring is beginning to reveal itself or perhaps because I’m feeling more confident in myself that the time has actually come to take a new step when it comes to writing. And yet there is that niggling doubt – fear, uncertainly and a lack of confidence. Once I step forward into that new sphere, what I’ve left behind will stay there. Where I am now will be gone; there is no turning back.

The reality is I’ve been in this current state for quite some time now. I’ve become too comfortable and therefore I’ve become scared of changing the status quo. When we are faced with this situation, and we sit on that fence for too long then all our efforts to get this far will be wasted. You will feel that you’ve become a failure and live the rest of your life with regrets, which only makes you unhappy. You won’t be living up to your true potential and you’ll begin to feel that you have let others down as well as yourself.

It’s a big step, an awkward step, one that you should be prepared to take, however tentatively. If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent years practising and learning your craft; all it takes now is to face the great unknown. That is the biggest challenge.

I know that I have people around me who are urging me forward and a husband prepared to support me every step of the way throughout that new journey. I hope that you too have found that support, even if it is only with one person; that can make all the difference in a writer’s life.

I’m prepared to take the next step into my writer’s journey. I hope you are too.

Are you at a crossroads in your life? Are you prepared to face your fears and take the next step forward? Do you have the support of others with you throughout your journey?

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This Writer's Life · Writing

Keep the Dream Alive.

kangaroovalleyhouse2

I’ve been away for a few days – a combination of my birthday and our 20th wedding anniversary. Our accommodation was our dream home in our dream location. During every birthday I contemplate what I’ve achieved so far and what my future goals are – this birthday doubly so. This eventually made me think what dreams are the most important to me.

We dream because we really want something. We then have to set ourselves goals in order to help achieve those dreams. We’re told to dream big and big dreams can mean big goals – as long as we have the persistence and determination to see it through, as well as an awful lot of hard work. Our success in achieving our dream is a result of how badly we want it.

When I was younger, my dream was to become a writer, but now I realise I always was a writer. The difference is simply to either be a writer or a published writer. I have always had more than the one dream, but it has always been a matter of priorities. Sometimes we have to sacrifice our other dreams for the one that is the most important to us. Yet, who knows? The dream that is of the utmost importance may lead us to those other dreams, therefore making that one really big dream all the more valuable.

Just like coming back from any holiday, it’s hard to get back to reality. The reality is that to become published, we need to put in the hard work. These days with the rise in self-publishing, having such a dream can come true. If we dream long enough and work hard enough, anything is possible.

Have you always dreamt of being a published writer? What other dreams do you have? Have you ever had to sacrifice some dreams for others?

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This Writer's Life · Writing

Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

cavesenterance3smallAs new writers, we tend to be insecure and therefore focus on the negative; those people who try to persuade us not to pursue the life of a writer. Yet, we need more people who try to do the opposite; those who believe in us and encourage us to be who we really are. With my friends in the U.S.  approaching Thanksgiving this month, I felt it only appropriate to think about those who support us with our writing endeavours.

In high school, I used to write stories and give them to my friends to read in instalments. I guess you could say they were my first beta readers. Yet it was not until I met my husband that I had found someone who strongly believed I should pursue writing and take it more seriously. He was the first person I trusted to tell about my writing, without feeling ashamed of having that ambition. In fact, he thought it was a great idea!

In recent years, my writing group has disbanded, and although we didn’t meet very often, I managed to take some positive comments from them regarding my work. One man’s comment I will never forget. He said ‘You’ll get published one day; it’s just a matter of when’. These days, my husband is the lone driving force behind my writing (perhaps a large part of that is his plan for early retirement once I write my ‘best seller’ 😉 ) .

My husband likes to remind me of the small successes I have already made, as well as telling me that others have given positive comments on my writing. It is his support, more than anybody else that I rely on. He was the first to encourage me every step of the way, and continues to do so – even emailing me motivational quotes. My husband is prepared to be the sole bread winner while I try to make a success out of writing. I owe it to him to persevere.

As each of us work our way towards our own writing journey, we owe it to those people who stick by us. Sometimes they tend to believe in us better than we do ourselves! We need to put in the hard work and persist in putting our writing out into the world. We don’t know unless we try.

Do you have a good support group? Who is your ‘rock’? Have you ever received positive feedback that helps keep you going?

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This Writer's Life · Writing

Writers: Choose Progress Over Perfection.

MushroomsRecently my husband suggested I should start sending my writing off for people to read. He came up with a few names, but I found myself ultimately tensing up and disagreeing with those names he had suggested.

He then raised a very valid point – if I don’t want anyone to read my writing, then I don’t want to get published; I’ll only be writing for myself. As an unpublished writer, at the moment I am only writing for myself. I’m finding out where my strengths and weaknesses are and I want to build up a body of work so that when I do publish, I’ll have more than one book on offer. Sounds reasonable, however, the problem with that is that it could take years, so why wait that long?

During our conversation, a voice in the back of my head screamed ‘I’m not ready!’ Fear took hold of me once again. Why? I then realised that my fear stemmed from perfectionism. I can’t let anyone read my work – it needs to be perfect before I can do that!

The trouble is there is no such thing as perfect. It’s an illusion. We admire other writers – their writing can look so damned perfect, yet we only ever see the finished product. Years of hard work and persistence enabled these writers to reach such a high standard and yet they learned to let go. They knew when their best was good enough. Like any art, not everyone is going to like everything you write. In order to do the best we can at our craft, we need to make mistakes. If we’re not making mistakes, we’re not learning. Participating in National Novel Writing Month  is the ultimate way in which writers can lose all pretence of perfectionism, and author Anne R Allen lists several ways in which NaNoWriMo can help.

Change your way of thinking. Instead of aiming for perfection, think about making progress instead. Learning to progress increases your knowledge, which can make you an expert in certain areas. It broadens the mind; makes you a more interesting person and can become a great motivator. It will also help you decide that, you too, have done the best you can do and can move on.

Aiming for perfection can be crippling as it helps feed those self-doubts. Perfection doesn’t help you to move forward as a writer, instead strive for progress and you’ll never look back.

Do you struggle with perfectionism? Does perfectionism hold you back from achieving your goals? Will you be participating in NaNoWriMo this year?

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