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Brain treason

I’m a writer – that’s no news to you right? So I spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen typing. I just typed the following sentece:

The short hall led to an opening.

It’s part of a description for a house a police officer steps into. You should read that and think, so what? There’s nothing wrong with that sentence. And you are absolutely right. There is nothing wrong with that sentence.

Except that as soon as I finished it, my brain stopped me writing further, demanding that I change ‘led’ to ‘lead’. I literally had to stop and question my own brain questioning my own brain. I’d typed what I had because instictively I knew it was right, but the mere suggestion that I might be wrong stopped me mid-flow.

You might also have realised that when I say it stopped me, it really stopped me, because look, I’m here typing this blog rather than carrying on with my story.

My brain does this a lot. I instictively know the right answer, but have so little belief in myself that I don’t trust that I am correct. I double guess myself all the time. Not just with the writing, but it everything, which is one of the reasons I keep largely to myself, I’m convinced I’ll never understand other people. My brain is litterally betraying me.

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Full on

I haven’t been blogging because I’ve struggled through August and into September. The struggle has, to be fair been mostly about time, just had so much on, I’ve had to prioritise stuff and unfortunately blogging fell off the list.

Though August I had a 114k edit, a good book, but that’s a lot to get edited in 4 weeks. Then it was my wedding anniversary (29 years), my daughter’s birthday (23 years old), work in the garden that had to be done because plants work to their schedule and never mind the rest, and there were things in and on the house that needed to be sorted.
Though in fairness, I have to say that the garden (the front garden) looks lovely now, am really proud of it. This year (in case you missed previous posts) we’ve ripped out 22 year old bushes (not a fun or easy job), and covered the beds with chipping to just place out flower pots as they are much easier to maintain. I love the way the garden looks.

Our house is south facing, so we’ve also had a load of work done to replace the facias and guttering, but more importantly, we’ve had a new roller door fitted to the garage. This was actually done on Monday, so only three days ago now, and it’s already proving a boon. To get our vehicles on the drive (well the campervan) that van has to be put very close to the garage door to fit, so the old tilting door couldn’t be opened with the camper in place. Now this one rolls up without going out and we can get things in and out through the garage without having to move stuff – it is amazing how much of a difference that makes! Looks great out there now.

We also finally got a load of pictures back from the framers. One was a reframe because it was an old picture that had been my parents and over the years the frame had decayed, so needed replacement, and the rest were things that we’ve had for ages, but just didn’t have framed. Now they are all back, and they are up on the walls and it’s lovely to get some colour and art up. Am really pleased with how they look.

Though August I really struggled to write anything of my own. Again, it was mostly a time factor, but when I did have a few minutes to sit down and write, I found it a real struggle. So, I stopped trying. Thankfully the first week of September we were away on hols in the campervan, and I had the time and space to stop for a while, and now my writing is flowing again.

It was much the same with reading, really struggled. Now with all the work around the garden/house, I did manage to get through a few audible books – the exact reason why I love audible. My favourite book has to be Denzil Meyrick’s “Whiskey From Small Glasses”. I absolutely loved it. Will put a blog up on my other blog (GB Williams Crime Blog) soon, but I have a rash of blog tours to do my bit for this week – another thing that’s kept me busy.

On the writing front, while I haven’t been writing much, I have been working on blurbs and cover art and trying to get a blog tour organised, so it’s all good, all on-going.

Thankfully the first week of September we were away on hols in the campervan, and I had the time and space to stop for a while, and now my writing is flowing again.

Anyway, am now hoping that normal service will be resumed, whatever the hell ‘normal service’ is.

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Loser

Another day, another rejection. It gets difficult to stay positive when all you get is negative reinforcement. 

I get my work out there, put myself out there, but I get a fair bit of negativity back, though in fairness, a little positivity too.  I keep trying, I make  submissions to agents and publishers, but the big publishers can only be accessed via an agent, and the agents just reject or just don’t respond. 

I am a good writer, and quite a prolific one. Here are all but one of the books I have out (one is missing because it published 7 days ago and I haven’t had chance to change the graphic to my satisfaction yet):

The problem seems to be that I don’t fit easily into any particular pigeon hole. On those rare occasions when I get feedback, it’s not the writing they reject, it’s the fact that they don’t know how to market the work.

If the people whose job it is to sell stuff don’t know how to sell my writing, how should I? Marketing was never my strong suit. Well, here’s the thing, that’s what I’m going to have to figure out isn’t it? Learn to do the marketing.  

Sigh, but not today, today I’m going to let myself experience the emotions another rejection brings up, I’m going to sort the TBR pile into the space I’ve recently made for it, and tomorrow I will dust myself down, pick myself up and submit again. I will learn and improve. As things should be.

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Busy Day

It’s been from the sublime to the ridiculous today.  Yesterday I was so shattered I couldn’t do anything, today I am shattered because I haven’t stopped.  So far today I have:

  • Transplanted plants from the front garden to pots (13 pots, I hope the transfers are luckier than that number.
  • Done 2 9kg loads of washing.
  • Hung all the washing on the line.
  • Painted the front fence – it’s 6 foot tall it was thirsty for paint (yes lots of gardening being done at the moment.
  • Cooked a fish pie (which I’m looking forward to eating because it’s in the oven right now and smells wonderful!)
  • Been a taxi service for my daughter.
  • Written 6 marketing paragraphs.
  • Posted a blog and stuck that on social media.
  • And now I’m writing this blog.

Apparently, the post-vaccine exhaustion has left me, though I have every intention of doing little more today.  After dinner I am going to have a long soak in a hot bath and then put my feet up with a book for the evening.  There doesn’t appear to be much on TV, so I may binge some more of “Shakespeare and Hathaway”.

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Month 2

Well February was hectic!

I know I didn’t do much here but that was because I was busy on my crime blog, I did an author interview per day, and I’m deep into an editing commission, did an interview about my last crime release and I’ve been finishing one steampunk series and starting another. I was also reading a lot, mostly because I have a couple of festivals coming up – more on them later.

While this is my musing blog, I also set it up to talk about writing more, and share some experiences/knowledge and learning with you guys. I hope you find at least some of it interesting. So over the coming months, I intend to have a few guest posts, see what others have to say too. Hope that that’s okay with you all, shoul spice things up a bit.

Reading wise this year I set my Goodreads challenge at 24 – I read 7 books in January and am on 10 for February. Though to be honest, I think it was 6, you see I read a comic volume (yes they still count) which Goodreads only had in issue form, so it counted as 5 instead of 1 book. Seeing that – I bumped up my target to 30 to more than compensate. However, since I’ve already done 17 in total, I may bump that up. What to I haven’t decided yet, may go to 48, which is what I did last year. Once I decide, I’ll hitch the target up.

If you want to follow me on Goodread – friends are always welcome, here’s the link to me (and yes, that is now a very old photo!)

Have fun as we move on to March, and happy St Davids Day.

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Stationery

A writer friend posed a question on Facebook today asking if anyone else had a stationery addiction. That would be me.  I have more notebooks than I expect to get through, but I still see a pretty notebook and want it. During the discussion on the post, I also realised that I have distinct uses for the different types of notebooks I have.

The picture is of the drawer I keep of the unused notebooks that look good.  Most of them are spiral bound and hard backed, because these are the type I most like to do my first draft writing in.  These are generally A5 but a few are B5, but mostly I prefer A5.

I use the A6 notebooks for ideas. They’re easy to carry and if they get messed up, I don’t mind. I have one I’ve nearly filled with ideas for my next steampunk trilogy, including character descriptions, background data, details on fashion, architecture, world history and even sketches of ‘hieroglyphs’ that will be used in the series.

What I won’t photograph are the stacks of A4 pads and papers that I have at least two magazine racks packed with.  These I keep for editing, when I write out the story events by chapter to ensure that I’ve got everything I the right order.  This does not, of course, include my stash of A4 printer paper.

The there are the piles of part used notebooks from which I have torn pages already transcribed.  These get used when I want to write something short, usually one-off-scenes or short stories.  Or maybe when the mode is “I need to use up some of these notebooks” before someone points out my notebook hoard is out of control.

Glue-spined, soft-cover notebooks are not a favourite , which means I won’t buy them, but I still get gifted them.  These notebooks I use for working out stuff, crosswords clues, codeword possibilities, games score, or generally use as needed.

Remember this is just about my stash of writing papers. Probably best not to ask about my pen/pencil collection – and don’t even start on the sticky notes!

I love stationery, how about you?

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Month 1

My new notebook for my new novel – let’s hope the wording is prophetic

Like a lot of times when you reach a milestone, it’s time to celebrate and take stock.  I sat down this evening and felt like I haven’t done anything.

But that’s not true.

Over January, I completed an editing commission, I finished editing my own latest novel, and I completed dry January, though in all honesty, I’m also looking forward to having a drink next week.

But I also managed to read seven books.  I don’t think I’ve every read that many books in a month before. 

I’ve also achieved a fair bit this weekend. I read one whole book in the last two days.  Ata 225 pages, okay, not the longest, but still a whole book. I also managed to read the first “Book” of the Iliad.  That is one dense read! There are 24 books within the Iliad, doubt I’ll get through that whole tome in a month let alone a weekend. 

I also did two things this weekend that have really helped my mental health.  Firstly, I dressed properly, not just dressed – I do that every day.  But it was that I dressed in smart(ish) clothes. Including an actual skirt.  I can’t remember the last time I wore an actual skirt.

The second thing I did, yesterday, was that I started writing a new book.  I had got out a new notebook, and I started writing.  I got the notebook because I was in pain in my left hand and I couldn’t face typing then (clearly better today).  So I wrote, and I wrote 21 pages long hand, more than that – I am LOVING this story.

Today, I also spent a far amount of time tidying up my website and my blogs, yes, blogs, not just this one, by my crime writing blog, too.  I put out a call to other crime writers, and many of them have agreed to do blogs for me, which is fabulous, and I can’t wait to learn more of my follow wordsmiths.

So yeah, a good month, I’m pleased with what I’ve accomplished and I’m hoping that it’s a sign of how the rest of the year will go.

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Speech to text

Following on from yesterday’s post, I have used several speech-to-text systems.  They all have good and bad points, but here is my experience with them.

The first one I tried was Dragon Naturally Speaking.  It was version 9 that I had, it’s now on 15, so there may (should) have been some improvements in that time.  I found this difficult to get on with, the training took so long it wasn’t worth the effort in the end.  I have a friend that swears by this mind, so it could just be me.  The big benefit of this is that you can use it to voice command just about all of your computer, not that I did. The downside is the cost.

I tried Google dictate – it worked, but not great, not well enough to make it acceptable to me.  One attempt was enough to put me off.

Then I stumbled across this system called Speechnotes. I’ve used this on my tablet, my phone and via the internet.  It works fine, it’s not perfect but good enough for me.  There are only two problems I have with this, it doesn’t do speech marks, and “new paragraph” gives two lines for block paragraphs, so I have to remember to say, “new line”.  Then of course come the hassle of having to transfer it all into whatever word processing tool I happen to be using.  The big benefit is, it’s free.

Word now includes a dictate function.  It has the same issue with speech marks, which gets to me because I tend to carry stories on conversations, but it works well enough and no moving into the word processing tool because I’m already in it.  Unless I’m using Scrivener. The good thing is that it’s part of Word package, so no extra cost.

What I find is all work best where I’m reading out pre-written passages rather than the stop-start speech that comes from creating on the fly. I also find that if it can’t understand unusual names, so I tend to call characters ‘Bob’ or ‘Dave’ and then do a load of universal changes. 

I’m only report my experience, I’d recommend others try a few to find what works for them.

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Not Writing

Whatever you might think from the title, I am in fact writing, but I’m also getting a great amount of pain in my little fingers and hands generally. I have a horrible suspicion that this is the start of arthritis or something similar because the pain is constant, and becomes more intense when I get cold.

Because of this, I’m finding typing a bit uncomfortable at the moment, I can do it for a while, then I have to give my hands a rest. It’s also true that for a while I have suffered with RSI (repetitive strain injury), which I believe has been brought on my years of working on computers, it’s also why I have an ergonomic keyboard and a vertical mouse. But even they can cause strain at times.

The other thing that I’m finding starts to strain is my eyesight. Too much screen time and I have to stop looking. What that means is that I write stuff out longhand in rough to get things down, but that means typing them up can lead to more strain, especially if I’m eager to get on with something new, because I rush and want to press on.

Some of this is doubtless because of my age, I’m 51, but mostly I suspect that it’s because I have never been very good at taking care of myself (hence the state of my mental health last year).  However, what I have found, is that I have an unexpected helper when it comes to the typing.  Speech to text software.  Yes, I’ve used it for a while, and I’ve tried various.  But I try to keep these blogs down to 300ish words, so I’m going to leave it hear for now, and post tomorrow about the different software I’ve used.

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