What makes a real writer? #amwriting

Photo of a DiarySometimes I don’t feel like a writer at all. I mean, what is a writer supposed to feel like? Grand? Intelligent? Full of ideas that over flow from their fingers tips to the page? Buggered if I know.

There are days when I wait for ideas to come and others when I simply listen to what’s in my head and let it come out onto the page. Is that right? is that the way to do it? Waiting? Listening? Drumming your fingers on the table, everything set out neat and pristine in front of you? I have absolutely no idea. But maybe that’s a good thing. I pick up my pen some days, laptop others and just get going, but even through this as I write in what ever medium comes to me, there is doubt. A sod of a thing, it grows roots inside, doubt, if you let it. It takes up home and is a proper pain to get shut of. You need weed killer for doubt, good strong stuff, industrial strength, because once it sets in, it’ll spread across everything, starving it of oxygen, wringing out the necks of every other living bloody thing that’s around it. Just cracking on – that’s a good doubt weed killer, as is exercise, reading (although, beware reading a book of the same genre you write in when you’re in the middle of a Project – this can send you either way).

So what is a real writer? God only knows. But, hang on a sec, here’s the thing – maybe that’s the point, you know, the fact that I don’t know. I mean, there is no one size fits all, is there, really when the chips are down (or your pens are). No pre determined prescription of the grandiose writer that’s scribbled out and thrust into your hand to take three times a day with water. If you can write, if you can pick up a pen or open a laptop and simply write, then you’re a writer. Simple. Can I do those things? Um, yup. Can you? Quite. So I guess that’s what we tell ourselves in those moments of doubt, that’s what should be our weed killer to it, the question: ‘Can I write?’ And then the answer will trip of our tongues, will waltz off our lips they were the prizewinners of a major competition, ‘I write therefore I am a writer.’

I write therefore, I am.

Have you got a minute to support #AutismTMI?

Stacked_LogoToo Much Information #AutismTMI is The National Autistic Society’s biggest campaign to date

It’s designed to raise awareness of autism, and will begin with the start of World Autism Awareness week from 2nd-8th April. THE ENTIRE CAMPAIGN WILL RUN FOR TWO YEARS AND AIMS TO DRASTICALLY INCREASE UNDERSTANDING OF AUTISM EVERYWHERE.

This is a cause very, very close to my heart. Not only is the main character of my novels a woman on the autistic spectrum, but I know friends and children with autism, and the more we can do to make sure we understand all about it, what it is truly like for them (and their parents), the better. Just showing an understanding of each other, taking time to hear what things are like for others, no matter what their situation, is always a calm and happy thing.  That’s a good kind of world to live in, right?

You can sign their map now to show your support. It just takes a minute, but means the world. Click here.

Also, if you ever wondered what going to a shopping mall is like when you have autism, watch this #awareness

Want to know what I write in my Morning Pages? Here you go… #amwriting

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Welcome to my weekly ‘Diary of a hopeful author.’ Here’s a sneak peak into what I write in my Morning Pages…

I’m off for a while. A break. A small one, but it gets to a point sometimes – and I don’t know whether you find this – that you need a wee bit of time away from technology and the day job and just, well, chill.

So for the next few weeks, that’s me – trying to clear my mind. But, as a writer, I’ll have with me my pen and notebook, scribbling my morning pages in the shadow of big, snowy mountains. Morning pages to me are a bit of a saviour. I know I’ve written about them before – and you may have tried them yourself – but it really helps to write in the morning anything that enters into you head. It’s therapeutic I find, a way of keeping the drama on the page – a way of listening to what you have to say. And that’s what writing is about, essentially – listening.

So, I thought I’d let you have a sneak peek into what walks out of my head on to the page some mornings. Unsurprisingly, I end up writing a lot about the day time, the rise of it, the sun and all that entails. Here, below,  for you, is an unedited copy of what I wrote a few days ago when I woke up at 6am, downing strong coffee. It’s basically painting a picture with words of what I could literally see from the window that day, the weather, the feelings it created, ears and eyes open, listening to the words that wanted to speak.

Here’s to us and our glorious morning pages. Have a great few weeks. I’ll catch up with you soon  :-)

My Morning Pages, March 26th, 2016

“A halo of blue light rests on the horizon beyond, a thin silk band of shimmering brightness, fragile under the burgeoning weight of the heavy, grey clouds above.

Morning has begun. But the sun is quiet. Hidden behind an artist’s wash of black and navy and marbled pewter, the sun struggles to punch out, settling, instead, to whisper through the sky, to skim paint brushes of buttercup yellow in small, secret lines across the horizon.

The trees that stand tall at the bottom of the garden are still. A gentle wind breathing in and out, they appear relatively untouched by the looming rain that threatens to charge from above, the birches and the ancient oaks saluting the morning as solid and stoic as perhaps an old grandfather would, medals on his chest in the face of an unwelcome intruder.

The rain comes now, tapping at the window panes. Only a few seconds pass until, clouds parting in biblical waves, it lashes down in great big streaks across the glass and the concrete and the petals of leaves that scatter along unpruned borders, squirrels huddling in bowing groups under the wide umbrellas of the trees.

The sky, right now, has morphed to a dirty dish cloth wash,  a soup of wet and damp and upturned, pungent soil. And yet, even through all this, the birds sing. They announce their presence through short, intermittent voices, small radio transmissions of song and sound, their dedication to the day. Light, carefree, their dance to the sun that lies kidnapped behind mottled, clotted clouds.

And as they sing, one slip of blue sky sneaks past. One glorious, warm ray.  It blinkers bright,  a single slither of pure determination, of defiance and rebellion as if shouting, ‘Come what may, the day will win!’ For, of course, it always does.”

Thanks for reading:-) Share your own thoughts from your own Morning Pages below…

How to keep going in the face of rejection… #amwriting

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Welcome to my weekly ‘Diary of a hopeful author.’ This week it’s all about rejection and how to keep going when you really don’t want to. 

There are days in writing when things suck. You get up after having, some weeks before, sent out your writing for people to read, ever in the hope that you’ll get somewhere. But then despite your best efforts, they get back to you and you read their letter and it’s a no. You have received that dreaded rejection note (again) and you are, basically, gutted.

This has happened to me. It’s happened to loads of authors out there, it’s happened to J.K. Rowling. We hear, as writers, a lot about rejection, don’t we? Almost as much as we hear about writers’ block. But while for writers’ block there are many pieces of advice out there to help us overcome it, writers’ rejection is an area of where advice is sparse.

That’s why when I saw this tweet by amazing children’s author Abi Elphinstone on her own rejection experience and how she handled it, I had to share it. Because rejection is hard, but read this and you’ll see that it is also good. Because it creates a steel and a grit that will set you up for a long time to come. And help you keep going when times get tough.

So, over to Abi Elphinstone and her take on rejection… And good luck with your own writing:-)

2 years ago my only contact with literary agents had been rejection letters. 96 of them in fact. And I REALLY want unpublished writers to remember that amidst the inevitable frenzy of my Book2 tweets’ next week I am an author who has been turned down by nearly every agent in the UK. It’s clearly not something to boast about, but that 7-year struggle, though painful, lonely & frequently embarrassing, taught me far more about joy & determination (not just in writing, but in life) than any of my good fortune ever has.
Because inside every person who faces rejection, there grows a quiet grit. It doesn’t mean I boogie when I get a 1* review on GoodReads or miss an award longlist – but the quiet grit I learnt back then means I feel an unconquerable joy at every little thing that goes right. Disappointing days stay firmly in perspective & I’d take that hard-won grit & joy over an easy book deal any day. So keep going, keep writing, & know that if I pulled through you can too.

Abi Elphinstone’s latest book, The Shadow Keeper is out now.

Thanks for reading:-) Join in the writing conversation  below…

What being a published author is REALLY like… #amwriting

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Welcome to my weekly ‘Diary of a hopeful author.’ Hello! How the devil are you? I’m (finally) back after a winter of editing with a post that tells you, with utter honesty, about, for me, what it’s really like being a published author…

I was going to write about the merits of editing. Pen in hand, I was poised after a long winter of absence from my blog due to a looming deadline, about how nothing needs to be, in your writing, perfect when you first get it to the page.

But that’s not going to happen. I am, instead, going to speak to you about, well, what I’ve found being an author is like.

Don’t get me wrong – being an author is, in the most part, I have discovered, great. But, as in life and other walks of work, there are times when the wall you build to stay strong buckles and the stormy sea beyond threatens to flood what’s on the other side completely.

When I began as an author, got my publishing deal, I naively thought, “Awesome! Job done!’ except it wasn’t, not by a long shot. See, despite so much planning from all involved in putting a book on the market, things don’t always work out quite as you wanted. Sometimes they take longer, sometimes they may not happen at all, but still, you have to deal with comments  such as, ‘Oh, you’re going to go global,’ (Hold your horses); ‘You’ll be the next JK Rowling,’ (only one JK); ‘Why aren’t you on the bestsellers list yet?’ (yup, had that Q a few times) or (and I get this one a LOT, face to face) ‘How are book sales?’(Eeek!)  And without doubt, people are well meaning, but I never wanted to raise anyone’s hopes too much in the first place because being an author is damn competitive, man, I mean, tough, tough stuff.  Consider this: in the UK alone, over the course of 2014, publishers released 20 new books per hour, meaning that the UK published more books per inhabitant than anywhere else in the world.

And so there’s never any guarantee, no matter how cracking a novel you’ve written, that it’s all going to take off. And when it doesn’t, I cannot tell you how gutting that feeling is – you feel personally responsible, somehow, despite the large team around you, you even start, as I have done on occasions, to doubt your ability to even write (daft now when I say it, but it can be a strong feeling for writers at times) But then you remind yourself why you love writing, pick yourself up, look at what’s going well (my novel’s going down a storm in France and is to be published in over ten languages) and try and carry right on.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I love my job, but yeah, like anything – and despite how awesome it may appear from the outside – there are no guarantees and sometimes it kicks you down. Careless comments, working straight through the night for a deadline (twice last week for me. Twice), not knowing quite how to push yourself out there any more than you already are, taking on too much ‘cos you think it might help, writing for free, watching others doing so well and being so, so genuinely chuffed for them, yet at the same time being just a wee bit sad for yourself.

Yep, it’s a rollercoaster, I’ve discovered, but, even though I never envisaged it would be quite this challenging, it’s one that I’m willing to ride.

And boy have I met some amazing people on the way, other authors especially, a whole bunch of us now who have each others’ backs and who I know I could turn to let off steam with at any time and, well, have a bloody good laugh (and a beer) with.

See, writing, authoring (if that’s a word – is now…) or any career really – it can be bloody amazing one minute and a proper downer the next, but, as the great Dolly Parton once said, if you want to see the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain. Well said, Dolly well said. I’m off to fetch my umbrella…:-)

Thanks for reading:-) Join in the writing conversation  below…

Merry (bookish) Christmas :-)

Hey there!

Merry Christmas! Hope you have a cracking one with lots of rest, (nice) family time and maybe a mince pie. At our house, we’re having

A Christmas tree - made of books!
A Christmas tree – made of books!

the whole family over on the big day, but only problem is out oven’s on the blink. Cue parents-in-law having to cook the turkey for us in their oven on Christmas eve, then haul it to our place in the car…

Whatever your plans are this festive season, I hope you have a peaceful, happy time – and plenty of time to read.

Have a very merry (and bookish) Christmas. And a huge thanks for reading my blog this year:-)

Nikki x

What I’ll be reading this Christmas… #ChristmasReads

fiction-fridayWelcome to Fiction Friday. This week’s fiction gives you the selection of books I’ll be hunkering down to read by the fire this Christmas (mince pie optional)

 

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The Tea Planter’s Wife – Dinah Jefferies

A dear friend of mine, this is Dinah’s unforgettable new (and Sunday Times bestselling!) novel, The Tea Planter’s Wife is a haunting, tender portrait of a woman forced to choose between her duty as a wife and her instinct as a mother…

Buy here

The Well – Catherine Chanter

51aSPnU8ciL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_When Ruth Ardingly and her family first drive up from London in their grime-encrusted car and view The Well, they are enchanted by a jewel of a place, a farm that appears to offer everything the family are searching for. An opportunity for Ruth. An escape for Mark. A home for their grandson Lucien. A Richard & Judy book club pick.

Buy here 

The Kind Worth Killing – Peter Swanson

A critically acclaimed novel, delayed in London, Ted Severson meets a woman at the airport bar. Over cocktails they tell each other 51xhf1bAusL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_rather more than they should, and a dark plan is hatched – but are either of them being serious, could they actually go through with it and, if they did, what would be their chances of getting away with it?

Buy here 

The Humans – Matt Haig

After an ‘incident’ one wet Friday night where Professor Andrew Martin is found walking naked through the streets of Cambridge, he ihumanss not feeling quite himself. Food sickens him. Clothes confound him. Even his loving wife and teenage son are repulsive to him. He feels lost amongst a crazy alien species and hates everyone on the planet. Everyone, that is, except Newton, and he’s a dog.  What could possibly make someone change their mind about the human race. . . ? Love Matt Haig’s award-winning writing, and Humans is a fine example of it (I’m five pages in).

Buy here 

So there you go – that’s my Christmas reading list – what’s yours?

How to find your writing voice… #amwriting

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Welcome to my weekly ‘Diary of a hopeful author.’ This week it’s all about finding your own writing ‘voice’.

I come from a background of regulation, working wise, that is. Embroiled in a world of statistics and focus groups and set patterned deadlines, my mind asserts that things should be done certain way at times, to a particular timescale. And while this approach, this attitude, if you will, was very handy in the domain of marketing, turns out it’s not quite so hot on a permanent basis for creative writing.

And so to my week and my utterly paralysed writing. I am, see, in the middle of an edit. Book two of my trilogy and way before this stage I assumed I had it all figured out – plot, characters development. The lot. And yes, while these things are definitely moulded, what a great (my) editor does, I am discovering, is take what you’ve got and help fine tune it in ways you never thought possible.

With my head in a muddle, it was only when I went away for the weekend, away from not only my laptop, but from my routine, from statistical head, really, that I realised I had been applying my old marketing work ethos to my writing. I was, in effect, attempting to ‘statistically analyse’ the merits of my edit changes. It came down to this: I had lost my voice. I was forcing words and ideas into my mouth without them actually being mine. It was not genuine. It was not,  I realised as I journeyed up the M4 home, me.

So, Monday morning and I asked myself this: was I writing from my gut? The answer, when I made myself admit it, was no. It was a light-being-switched-on moment. It was not me, that voice I was trying to shoehorn into the edit, but something else, my statistical head, maybe, who knew. But no amount of economics degrees or results analysis were going to help me, because I had been censoring myself, restricting, without realising, my own voice. It was not coming from inside.

We all find this, us writers. Do you find this? We think we should, see, write perfectly straight off the bat, forcing our words into a mould because we think that’s what should be written, that’s what people expect. And the result? The work we produce when we write like this is not true, not us, instead it is someone else’s and, the irony is, that when that happens, the result ain’t good.

So what to do? Well, you can, as I did this week, get into your true writing mojo mode by asking yourself a series of simple, honest questions. Honesty is the key here…

To find your voice, ask and answer these questions:

  • What I would really like to say is…
  • What am I frightened of is…
  • It would be great fun to say…
  • If no one was reading my work, I would really write about…

We all get a confidence knock from time to time – hell knows I do – but these questions to ourselves help. You may have one answer to them, you may have several, but the single thing you’ll most certainly end up with is the true key to who you are and what you write. In short,  you’ll end up with your voice:-)

Thanks for reading:-) Join in the writing conversation  below…

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