It starts tomorrow


In my previous blog post, I asked “What’s different this time?” I’ve made plans before, vowed to work hard, promised to finish this book or that within so many days or weeks. Why should anyone believe me this time around, when my attempts to restart my career have flopped like a floppy thing up until now?

Well…I’m not going to be concentrating on restarting my career, funnily enough. I’m going to be blunt here. Yes, I do need money to live. I know; shocker, right? And I’d quite like to earn a living wage from writing alone.

There are, however, things I’m not willing to do while trying to reach that destination. Sometimes my reasons are laziness, and sometimes my reasons are born of moral objections. Street teams are a no-no. Using Twitter as a place to bang on and on about my latest release, also a no-no. I’m too poor (aw, violins) to pay for advertising and as I’ve said before in a now-deleted blog post, the ones who can afford advertising are the ones who don’t need it, because obviously they’re making enough money from writing to pay for advertising so they obviously don’t need it, because…and so on and so on. Ad infinitum.

The received wisdom among writers is that you must promo, promo, promo and I can’t think of anything worse. It puts me off as a reader, so how could I, with my writer hat on, commit the very sin of which I’m complaining? I despise promo that goes beyond “Hey, here’s my book.” Just letting people know it’s out there. If that means I fade into obscurity forever, then…that is something I shall have to accept.

The only thing I have control over is how much I write. Of course, if making more money became a natural consequence of that, I’d be well pleased. It seems logical to conclude that more books out there means a better chance of making money. So that’s what I’m aiming for:

  1. Writing more.
  2. Enjoying writing more.
  3. Profit.

Way back in the olden days of my teen years, I wrote purely for the joy of it. No, I didn’t plan my career because teens think they’re immortal and their thirties and forties are centuries in the future, right? And the bottom line is…I have a bottom line. I have bills to pay. My time is valuable. So while I’m saying “Money isn’t what I’m going to be thinking of right now,” that’s probably not strictly true. I realise that I might not become a zillionaire overnight in my coming six-month endeavour, but I know for sure I definitely won’t if I carry on the way I am now.

The main thing that’s different about me now as opposed to me then is I’m in a position to put my books out there. I have an Amazon account, I have the ability to contact publishers, I flatter myself that I have connections. I’m no longer thinking “Agents, editors, publishers.” I’m thinking “Finish this book then publish it yourself.” If what I write makes me money, I’d quite like that money soonest, rather than waiting years for traditional publishing to get its arse in gear.

That may be something I look to in the future; traditional publishing is by no means off my menu. But for now, it’s all about two things: consistency (writing as often as possible) and having fun. Okay, three things. Getting my work out there so it stands a chance of making the next six months financially viable and not a complete waste of my time. For the past few years, I haven’t been writing. That’s the main problem here. You have to write books to be able to publish them. I’m not willing to go crazy, whoring my books and desperately attempting to “brand” myself as an author. I am, however, willing to produce the things that make us writers — books.

If, on the 31st March, there isn’t an improvement in my writing career — you know, I’d like it to be off life support and breathing unaided and paying a few bills — well, then there will be time for a serious rethink. Possible plug pullage. It may well be the case that I’m far from rich in monetary terms, but rich in having fun, so who the hell knows how it’ll be in six months’ time?

Until then, well…write, write, write, every spare minute.

Think positive thoughts.

Profit. ;)

Going back in time

Twenty-one years ago, almost to the day, I started writing a novel. Something that turned into a really long novel. At a rough estimate, 150,000 words. Why is it only a rough estimate? Because I wrote it longhand. In blue biro. So exact word counts are impossible to give.

I had no outline, nothing written down that is, just a fair idea of how I wanted the story to go. I had a lot of enthusiasm but not much talent. Seriously, this book had it all. A young woman who was a bit of a loner, and older guy who turned out to be a vampire, a love triangle…basically, it was Twilight before Twilight was Twilight. Seriously. I should think about suing Stephenie Meyer for reaching into my eighteen-year-old brain and publishing the crap I came up with in the mid-nineties.

I kept the pages in a lever-arch file with a Wallace and Gromit design; a scene from The Wrong Trousers as the cover. Why is this important? It isn’t, as anything more than a memory I’m left with.

I wrote the first 140 pages at an amazing speed, though I do say so myself. Ten pages each evening while sitting in the living room with my parents watching telly. Or at least, as much as I could then, and I’d continue in my room after bedtime, sometimes writing ’til as late as 2am. I didn’t go out in the evenings; I was a loner. One or two brief, disastrous relationships had been enough to put me off that dread activity known as ‘socialising’. Besides, writing was much more fun. I was going to belt out book after book after book, win the Booker Prize, and take over the world.

140 pages, longhand, in blue biro. In a fortnight.

Yep, you read that correctly. I hand-wrote 140 pages of a shitty, now-trunked (actually, torn-into-shreds-and-binned) novel, in two weeks.

What has all of the above got to do with anything?

The dates are easy for me to remember. I started writing this novel on the 1st October 1994, and finally wrote ‘The End’ on the 31st March 1995. A fortnight for 140 pages, and another 280 in the following six months. I still can’t get over that. I wrote one third of a novel in two weeks, and the remaining two thirds took me another twenty-two weeks.


The twenty-first anniversary of my, er…interesting…effort fast approaches, and perhaps at this point I could suggest, if you haven’t already, that you go back and read my previous blog post? The one in which I explain why my writing ground to a halt over the past few years, and my feelings about my writing career (such as it is) thus far.

I either give up, or make one last-ditch attempt at this. Trying to build up my momentum bit by bit isn’t working. I’m seeing no return on my efforts because my efforts are, and I’m being kind to myself here, paltry.

When I was eighteen, every spare moment I had went into my book. At that age, I still lived with my parents so didn’t have to worry about rent or stocking the kitchen cupboards. Food just magically appeared, right? Same as laundry. I dumped it on the chair in my room and a few days later it manifested in my chest of drawers washed, dried, ironed and folded. Magic!

So obviously I had fewer demands on my time. I’m not saying I’m going to write 50k words by hand in a fortnight, because nowadays I have piddly things like rent, council tax, the evil day job, chores and suchlike, to tackle. I’m quite efficient at these things but nevertheless, they take a few hours out of each day. I can no longer afford to start writing at 6pm and just carry on until 2am or until I get my ten pages done. Also, my physical health isn’t what it used to be. It takes me far longer to deal with the migraines from which I used to bounce back in my teens.

That said, there is one thing I can do that I used to do back then, and that’s throw myself into my writing as if it’s the only thing worth having. Remember earlier in this blog post I said that as a teenager, I was so damned certain I was going to take over the world? Well, my writing was done with enthusiasm, but not to an exact career plan. When it came to editing, honing my craft, studying grammar…all of that could be done later. It would all be taken care of later, later, later and suddenly it’s twenty-one years later and I’m looking back on time wasted and looking forward at…I don’t know what.

Starting Thursday, because I like anniversaries, I’m going to get as close to 1994 as I can. Not using a time machine, and sadly my thighs won’t be back to their undimpled teenage glory days either, but you can’t have everything.

What I can have is a damn good try at becoming a writer again. For six months. 1st October to 31st March.

I’ve made writing plans before. Some have come good, others have resulted in less than stellar outcomes. What’s different this time? That, my lovely peoples, is a matter for my next blog post. Nineties enthusiasm and a twenty-first century deadline.

A bit of history. Or herstory.

This might be a long blog post as I’ve had some brainthinks about writing lately, and I’m not sure how they might splurge onto the (web)page.

First of all, my previous blog posts have disappeared. This is for a few reasons. Firstly, I’m a minimalist, and I’m constantly looking for ways to rearrange belongings to create space. Donations to charity shops, storage solutions, throwing old stuff out, passing on to friends things they might be able to use, that kind of thing. And this ‘real life’ habit also affects tech. Deleting old files from computers and my tablet, not storing photos on my mobile phone, that kind of thing. And it’s spread to my online activities too.

I’m no longer a member of any writing fora. I recently moved away from the one remaining site of which I was a member because I wasn’t in agreement with the general ethos there — that of churning stuff out and who cares if it’s not edited and EL James is a great example for all of us. Not a philosophy I can get behind as I have standards, so…these days I limit myself to emails, and Twitter. And now, blogging.

So, back to those old blog posts I nixed. I’m a great believer in owning your words, so how could I delete stuff I said over the years? Well, it’s partly because that’s not who I am any more and I’d like to try making a fresh start. Yes, I could have left my old blog posts up and moved on, but…in real life when I buy a new pair of shoes, I throw out the old ones they’re replacing.

A while back I spoke to Penny Watson about a half-hearted (on my part, that is; Penny’s never been anything less than enthusiastic and supportive) idea, namely, Scarlett version 2.0. Starting over. Treating my writing career as if I’m just starting out, because let’s face it, I’ve completely lost any momentum I had way back when I was productive and selling one or two books here and there.

Why did I let that momentum go? Well, when I started out I didn’t expect to be a millionaire overnight. I fully acknowledge that no-one owes me anything in this game. However…I became discouraged when I made certain comparisons. In this country, there is a particular level of renumeration-per-hour called the minimum wage, and given how long it takes me to write a book, even at my fastest speed, my books were earning me well under that level. No complaints, just a fact.

(I don’t want to come across as someone who thinks she’s owed anything; I know that any payment must be earned. This blog post is just my attempt to explain how and why I stopped writing, and later, I’ll talk about what I’m thinking of doing to get back in the game, if I can.)

This situation discouraged me enough to put me in a state of being unable and/or unwilling to do anything other than throw my hands up in despair when met with further difficulties. I do not expect untold riches as a reward for books I write, but I do expect to be fully credited for any contributions I make to various books. Being denied this can sting, especially when words you wrote, scenes you composed, work you did is publicly praised, though not credited to your name. ;)

I guess it’s a compliment when someone thinks “Her contribution was so good, I’ll pretend it was mine!” but you live and learn.

Then life kicks you in the teeth again. I won’t go into detail here because some shit’s still triggery. Suffice it to say, in my already very low state, I was met with a set of circumstances that…bottom line here…made me wonder if I’d still be alive at year’s end.

I don’t want to turn this into a drama; let’s just say writing was not as successful as I’d hoped, nor as important to me as it once was. So I dropped everything and saw to other matters that demanded my attention.

All this time I still had notebooks, bits of paper, ideas, and I promised myself if circumstances permitted, I’d write them all down.


That’s if fate permitted me the opportunity and the time and the inclination.

I took a while to get my life back on track, by which point I had the opportunity and the time to write, but had completely lost the inclination. I kinda sorta maybe wanted to write, but honestly? I couldn’t be bothered. I’d had a little recognition, some praise, a small amount of money. And none of that seemed important any more. Please don’t think this was down to a sense of entitlement. It’s just dealing with recovery from a complete mental breakdown takes time, and you re-prioritise some things.

I wondered if I could cope with trying to get back in the game and failing to do so. I procrastinated because of these wonderings. A lot. I’ve read in various ‘how-to-write’ books that procrastination is often used as a way to avoid failure and I believe that’s true. Time and time again I’d swear “Okay, I’ll start writing again soon!” and I never did. Or at least, here and there, I’d eke out a few hundred words then give up. There didn’t seem much point, after comparing my living expenses with what I earn or earned from writing. (And remember, anything less than around £6 per hour, which was roughly the level of the minimum wage when I was first published, raises the question of financial viability.)

I’m going to talk figures here. The most I’ve ever earned in one month is around £150, and that on two occasions: when By the Book was first released, and again when Stay the Night was first published. Would that figure have risen if I’d maintained the productivity and momentum I had a few years back? Possibly. I certainly hope so! Whatever the maybes and could-have-beens of the situation, I’ll never know the answer to that question, and must deal with circumstances as they are right now.

But that’s a subject for my next blog post; this one’s gone on for around a thousand words! I’m going to wrap things up and next time, I’ll talk about where I see things going from here.