The Highs and Lows of my Writing Year

1473055_612428212125677_1989818867_nIt’s been an interesting year as far as my writing goes with a couple real yippee moments but also a few harsh kicks in the teeth. I’d hoped that 2013 would be my year and all those hours locked away with my laptop wouldn’t have been better spent watching The Great British Bake Off (at least I might have been able to eat the results of my hard work).

I started 2013 raring to go on my 3rd novel and for the first time I used the ‘freefall’ method. This has its good and bad points with the main bonus being that you quickly get the story down on paper (or screen in my case) so it’s great for keeping up momentum BUT when you finish and begin editing there’s a LOT of work to be done. I naively believed that I’d be able to finish editing by the end of the year but no matter how much I wanted to reach my goal,  I soon realised that my target was unachievable if I wanted to give it my best effort. Patience is a virtue which I don’t possess, I want to get it out there and also I’m keen to develop ideas I’ve had for my next novel (ask any writer, there’s always a next one…).

ups-downs-in-life-278x278Of course, I WILL finish editing at some point (hopefully early in 2014) but annoyingly it’s taken a lot longer than I’d like. Because I’ve dedicated my time to the novel, I decided to put writing short stories on hold this year. However, I submitted a story I wrote a while ago and was chuffed to bits to have it published in Gutter magazine. That was no2 in my top highlights of the year as I’d been unsuccessful in my previous submission and to have a piece in Gutter is to be in prestigious writing company.

Midsummer, it felt like it was all happening! The no1 high of my writing year had to be making the shortlist of the Hookline Novel Competition.  I was skipping round my bedroom singing The Only Way is Up (takes me back to hearing Yazz played on a constant loop in Kavos in 1988). It was an anxious wait to see if my last novel would be selected by book groups to be published by Hookline but unfortunately the bubble burst. I didn’t make it so it was a bittersweet high that became the no2 low of my writing year.

And the no1 low? Being unsuccessful in my application for the Scottish Book Trust’s New Writers Award, making the shortlist might have taken the edge off the disappointment but that didn’t happen either. The standard knock-back states that, “due to the high volume of applications we are unable to give individual feedback.” This is frustrating because this was my second attempt and I’m none the wiser as to how I could improve my chances next time.

imagesAnd will there be a next time? If the truth be told that despite positive experiences with Hookline, Gutter, Paragraph Planet and inspiration from seeing other wannabe writers succeed, I’m at an all-time low as far as my hope of achieving a career as a writer. I first blogged about my writing journey in 2011 when I began my MLitt course but I was on the long and winding route years before uni. I’d already been on two Arvon courses, written three novels, had a handful of stories published and yet although I’ve made progress, I’m wondering if being a published novelist will ever happen. What’s a girl (okay, forty something woman) to do???

When the latest rejection hit home there was a lot of, “Why am I bothering?” moans and groans. It’s not easy to constantly bounce back and keep telling yourself (and try to convince family and friends that you’re not delusional) that it’ll happen one day and maybe this latest novel is the ONE.

It took my hubby to point out that I was always writing the novel for me, for pleasure, not to win an award, a competition or even get published. The man talks sense. Seeking external approval is not why I started writing in the first place and it’s why I’ll keep going, no matter how many knock-backs 2014 brings…

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18 thoughts on “The Highs and Lows of my Writing Year

  1. Hang in there. I often think that artificial slices of time – like year ends – come at the wrong moment for confidence. Switch it to March, maybe, and you’ll be telling us how you have finished editing your novel, have got some positive feedback from readers and are ready to send it out into the world. Rejections are always pants. But we write because we love it and would go mad if we didn’t. It just comes with a few extra pants. x

    • You’re so right Isabel. Sometimes I question the time I spend on Twitter but it’s been a great source of support from you and my other Twitter pals. Hearing you’ve finished your novel and your poems are getting recognition is great. I’ve also been inspired by Isabel C getting an agent and have just started reading Louise Walters debut novel so you’re all keeping me inspired. Thanks. x

  2. I was a bit concerned about 2/3 through this post that you were quitting but I’m glad you have a Man Who Talks Sense – or, at least, did on this occasion when you needed to hear it. his could be my writing year, and previous ones, that you’re writing about! Hang in there, Helen, I am hopeful and convinced that perseverance counts every bit as much as talent and luck in this game. Here’s to a great year of writing in 2014 and writing for you, first and foremost, has to be the best way to approach it.

    • Thanks Kath, I’m not naturally a quitter and writing has become so much a part of my life I don’t think I could stop now even if I tried. You’re right, I’m very lucky to have a supportive hubby who puts up with the ups and downs – I might have to upgrade his Xmas gift now!
      All the best for you too with your writing in 2104! 🙂

  3. Your experiences sound so much like my own, Helen, and I really sympathise with the frustration you’re currently feeling. It’s brave to go public on this sort of thing (especially when everyone else seems to be celebrating major advances in their careers) and this post confirms you’re certainly not a quitter. I hope that 2014 will prove more rewarding.

  4. Your husband got there before me.
    Basically, I reckon as long as it is overall more pleasure than pain, it’s worth hanging in there!
    If you’re still feeling icky come longer hours of daylight and spring sunshine – maybe you could try banning yourself from writing anything at all (or how about even more hardcore – banning yourself from writing AND READING?!!) for say…a month… Then see if by the end of the month you are just desperate to get back to it!

    • Thanks Catherine, Yes he’s spot on with his perspective. I like your idea (although I couldn’t give up reading) and in Feb my day job has an intense period when I’m working away from home etc so I’ll probably have an enforced break. This will help me get a bit of distance from my writing and as you say, it’ll test my need to write and hopefully make me keener to carry on.

  5. Oh I know that feeling! But it seems as if you’ve had a good year to me. Keep going and remember that the rule (not the exception) is that most writers take years to get anywhere. It’s a long road.

  6. Helen, I think any writer reading this will identify and empathise with you and think ‘I’ve been there’ – well, I know I have! It is very kind of you to say (in your comment above) that my finally getting an agent has inspired you – I’m delighted if anyone is encouraged by my story because believe me I felt like the most hopeless loser during those inevitable low points, and I just had to grit my teeth, talk myself out of it and keep going. If you love writing (there’s no ‘If’ though, is there?!), it is absolutely worth doing for its own sake and for your own satisfaction. The external stuff, whether anyone else likes it or thinks it will sell, etc, is the bit we can’t control but that doesn’t mean it will never happen. I sincerely hope it does for you and that a year from now you are reporting even greater things!

    • Thanks Isabel, Having both joined Twitter and blogging around the same time, I feel as if we’ve been going through the ups and downs together in a virtual sense thanks to social media. Like you, I’ve always managed to pick myself up from a knock-back. The plus side is that it forces me reflect on the crucial issue of why I write and as you say it’s for the love of the process, not to get a pat on the back. I can’t wait to hear the next step in your journey as it definitely feels like 2014 will be your year – who knows, it might even turn out to be mine. Either way, we’ll both keep writing as that’s what writers do.

  7. Helen.
    Having had the honour of reading the first few chapters of your latest novel, through tears of laughter, I insist you continue. I hate to sound like Louis Walsh but there is a gap in the market for this book. Think of your gran, who first noted that you have a way with words. Well, in fairness, maybe she meant you talk too much, but you do indeed have a way with words. Keep your chin up and your laptop at the ready.

    • Veronica, As my best friend you’re biased but I still want to thank you for the encouragement. You’ve had to listen to my writing woes for years now and are always willing to support me. I am very lucky to have you as a best friend and hope your optimism and belief in my writing proves to be correct. x

  8. Hi Helen, I’ve been meaning to leave this comment for some time, because, like others who have commented here, I empathize with your post and it hits very close to home for me. Writing is truly an ongoing roller coaster of emotion, and at least for me, the slides downhill seem to come more frequently than the highs. I can only tell you to persevere, because often it’s our own inner self trying to protect us from further heartache by flooding us with doubt. The fact is that you had some notable accomplishments in 2013 – you are getting so close! Please keep us up to date on your revisions – I’m slogging through yet another round myself. And best wishes for the new year!

    • Hi Kristin, As you know, even when you’ve had some success, any rejection still hurts. The problem for me in 2103 was that I hoped one success would lead to another but of course it doesn’t always work that way. But we’re both committed to our writing ambitions and that will spur us on this year. All the best for the new year!

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