This September has been a strange one. Usually, I’d be preparing a new programme of creative writing classes, booking editing work for the rest of the year, wondering how to fit in my novel-in-progress, and dreading the onset of winter-short days.
Now, there remains an element of all those things, but the balance has well and truly shifted. Much of that is pandemic-related, some of it is timing, but I’m lucky – and not to tempt fate, but it seems to be working out.
My new normal? Who knows…
Face-to-face writing classes have gone virtual, albeit in a very low-tech method via email – and in a couple of cases, the telephone. My editing has been scaled back to existing authors (and any thrilling new projects that just can’t be passed over!) and, for the first time (only time?) ever, replaced by the writing of my own novel. This, of course, is down to the generosity of Creative Scotland’s Create: Inclusion Fund, and believe me, I’m waking up grateful every day.
Oh, and those long, dark winter nights? Well, they’re going nowhere, but having done the lockdown thing, the home-schooling, living in a bubble of two – and knowing I can escape, legitimately and without guilt, into the novel – means I’m in a more positive mindset (so far; ask me in January) than I might have been!
Last month I sang the praises of online festivals. I’m going to do the same again here: webinars, podcasts, Zoom meetings, they have all continued to be my connection with not only the writing world, but the outside world in general.
Bloody Scotland always feels like an annual friend. I have fond memories of last year’s Pitch Perfect, and this time, joining in with William Ryan’s Masterclass, and having him outline a novel in an hour was the highlight. He used an idea I’d sent in, which was very exciting, and equally fascinating because the end result – despite the same premise, setting, characters and crime – was poles apart from my intentions; totally different stories.
I was equally delighted to receive a place on the Lucy Cavendish Creative Writing Weekend: presentations from authors, editors and agents, matched workshops and tutorials with Jo Browning Wroe and Miranda Doyle. For the first time in ages, I was put in the role of ‘student’ – a timely reminder of how my own class participants feel when I nonchalantly set them a writing task; they do it admirably. I’ve a lot to learn.
And learn a lot, I already have. If I had to distil it into three words, I would reiterate the familiar ones: persistence, voice and community.
- Publishing your novel is all about hard work and not giving up; every ‘overnight’ success has months, if not years or toil behind it.
- Plot, setting and characters are all integral to a good novel, but the one thing that is vital above all others? Voice. Get that right, the experts say, and you’re on to a winner.
- The support, solidarity, and all-round generosity in the writing community can never be underestimated. It could be full of rivalry, back-stabbing (not literally, hopefully) and envy. Overwhelmingly, it isn’t. It’s a great place to be.
Here's (still with trepidation) to autumn...