In January, I took part in the RED January challenge for the first time. RED stands for Run Every Day but the challenge was simply to be active in some way every day and as I hate running, I decided to walk every day instead. The good thing about the challenge was that it was a positive thing to do – I took something new on rather than having to give something up – and the idea behind it was to boost my mental health and wellbeing. Many people also did it as a way of raising funds for Mind, the mental health charity.
And so instead of walking one or two times a week, I upped my game and set about walking every single day. I walked in sunshine, rain and snow, and found new places to walk in my local area that I had never been to before. I’m proud to say that I didn’t miss a single day and I know it really boosted my spirits to go for a walk every day like that. The challenge finished on Wednesday of course, and I’ve had a couple of days off since then but I already miss it on the days I haven’t been out. So I may have to get back to it now that I’ve got into the habit. As I work part-time for a local Mind association every morning, and I would generally go for my walk after that, I found it was a nice way to sign off from that before starting my freelance work in the afternoons.
I can certainly recommend walking as a way of keeping fit for writers and also as a way of getting some thinking done. I’ve heard many writers say that they have been able to solve plot problems while out on their daily walk! I also use the time to listen to podcasts about writing sometimes, which is another good use of your time. The other thing I have enjoyed is taking photos of the view while I’ve been out and about. Sometimes, it’s been incredible to see how blue the sky has been on the days I’ve been out. I have put some of my pictures below for you to see the range of photos I took – unfortunately, you can’t see just how cold it was on some days!
I’d be interested to know what you do to keep yourself active as a writer, and how you find it benefits your mental health. There’s no doubt that if you take your writing seriously, you will be spending a lot of time sitting down at your desk staring at your computer so it really is good for your health to get out and about if you can, even if only for a short while.
I’m going to be trying a different format for my posts from here on, making them a bit more like a diary of what I’ve been up to between posts. I hope you find it useful 🙂 You may also have noticed that I’ve changed the title of the blog – it seemed like as good a time as any!
The good news is that, as promised, I started editing Sam’s Story this week, one of the sequel novellas I’ve written to From Here to Nashville. I don’t really enjoy editing as I may have mentioned before (!) because I find it much harder than writing the first draft. When you’re writing the first draft, you can let your imagination run wild but once you get to the second draft and you already have a story in place, it becomes much harder to make changes without it having an impact on lots of other parts of the story.
This was the first book I wrote in third person so it was always going to be a challenge for me and I sent this one in to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme for its first read in 2015, two whole years ago now. My writing has changed a lot since then, improved even and so it is hard to deal with some of the simple mistakes I was making back then. For example, head hopping, where you switch from one character’s point of view to another’s right in the middle of a scene, making it unclear who’s talking. My RNA reader mentioned this and so did one of my beta readers so I didn’t have to wonder about whether they were right – if more than one person mentions it, it’s clearly an issue and you just have to accept it. And for the most part, it wasn’t actually that hard to deal with but I was annoyed with myself for having done it. However, I think I have moved on from this now and will be able to spot it more easily in the future.
The hardest thing to deal with has been the fact that, as always in my happy ever after world, my characters fall in love far too quickly. As Sam is only just getting over the loss of Rachel to Jackson, it’s important that he doesn’t come across as shallow when meeting someone new, and perhaps falling in love on the rebound. This means that I have to make it all take a bit longer – I have this problem all the time – and in having to do that, I have to change lots of other things as well.
Unfortunately, what I find when I reach a difficult point with editing is that I just stop doing it altogether. It’s simply too hard and I will never be able to master it, is what I tell myself as my excuse for not doing it. I have been trying to do an hour a day but honestly, by the end of the first week, I have the attention span of a gnat and I’m starting to get very frustrated with myself. I’m forcing myself to stick with it because I want to get it finished but it really is proving hard!
Upcoming WI Audition
The other thing I’ve been working on this week is my 15 minute talk for my WI audition next Saturday. They are very strict about timings and I won’t have a full 15 minutes so obviously, I can’t do the full talk I would normally do. I started off by paring down my usual talk about my self-publishing journey to the bare bones confident that this would be more than enough. Then I practised saying it out loud using a stopwatch only to find that I had the grand total of just three minutes! So I have spent the whole week adding content back in – this was only supposed to be a flavour of the talk, not the whole thing! I have now reached seven minutes and I am desperate to get to 10 but I can’t think what else to put in. I never thought I would struggle to find words 😉 Anyway, I will have to plod on as best I can and finish it because the audition is next week and I want it to go well of course.
I have been experimenting with Amazon ads again this week for From Here to Nashville with some success but it’s not been brilliant. It is a constant challenge to keep the momentum going with sales of both books really and I feel that I am now approaching the end of the peak for The Vineyard in Alsace so I need to think carefully about what to do next.
I am looking forward to another meeting this week of my Society of Authors group, where we’ll be discussing the topic ‘What Makes a Good Story?’ I will also be attending my first RNA AGM this week now that I am officially an independent member. The meeting also includes a talk by Julie Cohen on Pacing and how not to let your reader get bored, which I’m really looking forward to as Julie is always interesting and helpful. I’m travelling down to London with another RNA friend so it will be good to catch up and be writerly for an afternoon 🙂
Finally, I started a proofreading job this week for an author who writes courses on Teachable and who contacted me as a result of seeing my name in connection with the Open Book festival. It’s funny how you make these connections quite out of the blue but I’m very glad I did.
Thanks for reading. Please do leave me a comment if you’d like to talk about anything I mention in the post. It’s always good to chat 🙂
My husband started his business over twenty years ago and I always remember admiring his self-discipline when he first began as a sole trader, getting up at the same time as I did to get ready for my normal, boring job and usually at his desk before I left for my daily commute to Stevenage and corporate life. The fact that he is still running his (now limited) company today shows how hard he has worked at it during the intervening years.
As I began my first week as a self-employed freelancer last week, I worried that I wouldn’t be as self-disciplined, especially now there are all the distractions of the internet but I can safely report that I have probably never worked so hard in all my life. The reason is of course that everything I achieve is now going to be down to me and I will only reap the rewards if I put in the maximum effort. I don’t really know why I doubted my ability to be disciplined in my approach to this new life – I am one of the most organised people I know and everyone who knows me says exactly the same of me – but I suppose it’s all just new to me and I needed to see whether I could hack it.
So what did I do during my first week? Well, the first thing I decided was that there would be certain things I must do every day, specifically, three things:
Complete and mark a new proofreading exercise from the book I am working my way through at the moment.
Write at least 1,000 words a day of my current WIP.
Edit my second book for at least an hour every day.
I am very pleased to report that I did these three things every day and felt happy with myself about that. I was at my desk before my husband left for work every day as well (it does help that my daughter has to leave for school at 7.45am and I always want to see her before she goes) and generally, I continued working till about 5pm, with breaks for talking to my daughter etc in between.
Apart from my three important things, I also set up a new website for my proofreading business. You can see it here: Clued Up Publishing, or just click on the picture above, and I created a poster on Canva as well. I used Canva for the pics on my website too and found it incredibly easy to use once I got going on it. I have had some really positive feedback on my website and it made me realise that it’s something I’m quite good at (if it’s okay for me to blow my own trumpet!) If anyone needs a WordPress website setting up or indeed, if you need a proofreader, please do get in touch either via the comments below or via the new website.
I am now the proud owner of two Twitter accounts as well! Crikey, I thought that would be much easier to set up than it actually proved to be but I got there in the end. If you’d like to follow me in my alter proofreading ego, I’m @Clued_Up_Pub. On my list of things to do this coming week is to set up a Facebook page for Clued Up Publishing as well so that will probably take most of the week to achieve.
I have signed up to a freelancers job website as well and hope that something may come of that in the future and I have kept my eye out for any part-time jobs I could apply for locally that would be less intensive than teaching but would ease the pressure on the finances a little. One job I saw looks very promising on the creative front so I’ll just have to wait and see 🙂
On the writing front, I also did some more research into writing short stories for women’s magazines, something I’ve wanted to do for a while but have never really had the confidence for. If I’m honest, I still don’t have a lot of confidence that I can succeed at this but I’m going to give it a try.
My husband popped into his accountant’s this week and brought them up to date on my new circumstances so I now have the form to fill in to register as self-employed to HMRC. It felt very good to receive that form, I can tell you.
All in all then, it has been a busy and satisfying week. I have realised though how lonely it can be being at home on your own all day. There was a time when I would have given anything to just be on my own for a minute, let alone a whole day but oh, how times change when your children have grown up and no longer define your identity. If you watched the BBC programme, The Age of Loneliness, this week, you’ll know what I mean. It was a very poignant programme and I shed quite a few tears watching it. I have gone from being surrounded by people in a very busy environment, yet sometimes feeling quite lonely amidst all the chaos, to being totally on my own. However, I think I just need to make sure that I socialise enough to keep that part of me ticking over and to that end, I have arranged a couple of visits with friends, family and the RNA to keep me going over the coming week 🙂
Thank you for reading, as always and do leave me a comment about how your writing life is going so far this year.