Tuesday, 3 January 2012

And a year's perspiration......

Or three guesses for this years resolution!

It's not quite a month on from my Arvon foundation crime-writing course, but it feels a lot longer!  Somehow the intervention of Christmas and the new year has drained some of the inspiration I felt.  Maybe other people are good at making and keeping new year's resolutions but I find January a depressing month.  How can I change my life for the better when it's so cold and wet outside?!

I'd like to resolve this year that I'll finally get a novel published, but it's not something I can guarantee.  What I can do, though, is to maximise my chances.  So here are my own personal resolutions for making 2012 the year I become a published author. 

- I resolve to tell people that I am a writer.  For so many years I've used words such as "I'd like to be a writer...." But I do believe that my subconscious listens to what I say.  And I am much more likely to keep writing, keep submitting, keep smiling at the rejection letters when I know that I am already a writer.  I don't need permission from anyone to describe myself in this way!

- I resolve to write something every day.  Too often I'm tempted to wait until I have a decent chunk of time to write something, but even if it's only a few minutes, writing every day will keep my plot and characters at the forefront of my mind.  I know I'm much more likely to have that "eureka" moment when I'm washing up if I've been thinking about my characters that day.

- I resolve to enter at least three competitions this year: Debut Dagger (for unpublished crime writers), the Good Housekeeping competition which is open to all unpublished writers, and a short story competition.  And I will read the winning entries with a keen eye to see what I can learn from them.  I've entered the Debut Dagger the last couple of years and the winners all have something that makes them stand out.  Just need to translate that into my own work now.....

- I resolve to attend the two major crimewriting festivals in the UK, the Bristol CrimeFest in May and the Festival in Harrogate in July.  I honestly believe that to get published, I can't just sit at home crafting the perfect novel - I've got to get out and meet writers, readers - and hopefully agents.  And I'll have a perfectly prepared 30 second pitch for any agents I happen to meet - but no more than that.  And I'll try not to go too puppy-like and bouncy when talking to them.....

So that's my resolutions for becoming a published author in 2012.  I'd love to hear from others what steps you'll be taking towards your writing goals this year!      


A week's inspiration.....

Written in early December from a remote farmhouse on Dartmoor....

It's 6 am and I'm sitting drinking tea from a mug with "The Big Sleep" on it, and writing this instead of following it's very sensible instructions.  But I'm so inspired I feel as if a dozen novels - or at least a dozen scenes from my current novel - will come pouring from my fingertips with ease.  There must be something in the water in this place, for after a few days I can feel that the quality of my writing has changed.  Those key scenes which I haven't previously even attempted to write don't seem so daunting, and while not perfect, what I'm writing has an integrity and authenticity and I know it's good.  Does that sound arrogant?  I hope not - don't all writers instinctively know when something we have produced is working?

"This place" is Totleigh Barton, the Arvon Foundation house on Dartmoor.  The house is fab - nooks and crannies for writing, wood-burning stove and long table for the evening meals, and a huge (and now lovely and warm!) barn where all aspects of writing are hotly debated.  We are immensely privileged to two amazing tutors this week: Frances Fyfield and Dreda Say Mitchell.  Both are enormously generous, to the group and on an individual level.  In the mornings we share writing exercises and talk about different aspects of writing a novel.  In the afternoons the tutors provided individual feedback.  To have someone of the stature of Frances Fyfield saying they enjoyed my writing leaves me walking on air for days!  And Dreda gave wonderful feedback on plotting that was like a light going on in the brain.

It's also fab to listen to what other people are writing.  I'm constantly amazed by the huge talent of unpublished writers, some of whom have been working away for years and may be on their fifth or sixth novel.  Some of the writers here have agents, one is self-published - and nearly everyone is producing work that I want to hear more of.  So far we've been sharing first pages and writing exercises: we've had kinky sex in Surrey, prostitutes in Milan and dead bodies everywhere from Trinidad to the Scottish mountains.  Friday night we all get to read something from our current work.  I can't wait.

So - yes, of course I'd recommend an Arvon course.  The opportunity to spend an entire week immersed in writing is in itself rare and valuable.  To do it in the company of supportive and insightful tutors and serious writers happy to debate plot problems over the washing up is possible unique.  The only problem with the course it it's length - if I could stay for six more weeks, I'm confident I'd have a stonking novel at the end of it!