Inspiration and Persistence



Or, how late it is, how late. With hindsight it sounds a bit pretentious to talk about a new ‘writing project’ when what I mean is that I’ve started a new novel. Sorry about that. It’s not even that new since I had the idea for it two years ago.

One of the downsides of writing a regular blog is that it’s all there; the hopes, the dreams, the plans - all laid out and ready to come back to bite you, especially when you realise how much time has gone by. What I hadn’t foreseen, when I originally said I’d started some new work, was that I would then do two rewrites of ‘Fighting the Tide’, turning it from a ‘light lunch’ to the ‘substantial meal’ an agent suggested, and then trimming 10,000 words out of it at the suggestion of an editor. Whilst there’s a danger in chopping and changing, the suggestions I was advised to make made sense and I’m happy with the version that’s out there. It’s now a question of waiting.

I’ve also completed the first year of a Diploma in Creative Writing with the OU and have signed up for the second and final year. What the course has done for me is to push me way outside my comfort zone and prove to me that I can produce good work even when the subject doesn’t especially inspire me or is so difficult that I want to walk away from it. By sticking with it I’ve produced all kinds of material; short stories, poetry, some life writing and surprised myself with the results.

I suppose what that demonstrates is that it’s not really about the initial spark for a piece of writing, but the keeping going. I don’t really have any problem thinking about what to write - ideas just arrive - the hardest part is choosing one and sticking with it. That’s not to say you should just start any old thing because if you don’t care about it you won’t want to write 100,000 words about it.

In October I’ll be back on my course and, no doubt, drawing on dark and difficult stuff and stretching myself again. But, until then, rather than agonising over which idea might be ‘best’, or trying to second guess what the market wants, I’ve decided to have some fun. I’ve launched into ‘Make, Do and Mend’, a novel with two female leads, Coralie, who makes green oak garden furniture, and Alys, who owns a small garden centre. It’s about making mistakes, doing something else and mending in the process. I’m going to see how far I can get by October. For now, it starts like this...

Chapter One.
Things to do in June.


That’ll be the one that got away then, thought Coralie Dempsey as the bride faltered in her progression down the aisle to cast a doe-eyed and melting glance at the man at the end of the row. Coralie didn’t know the bride; she didn’t know the groom either. Attending the wedding of a couple she’d met only fleetingly wasn’t high on her ‘to do’ list. She was only there because the bride’s proud parents had insisted and declining their invitation would have been hurtful after all their kindness.

Being tucked away beneath a leaded clear-glass window at the back of the church suited Coralie just fine. But if the man at the other end of the pew had also been hoping to avoid drawing attention to himself, his plan had backfired the minute the bride had her moment of doubt right beside him. Square-shouldered and stubble-jawed with the kind of rugged good looks that would have made every Brontë hero seem positively girly, he looked as if he’d had every woman in the church – except, possibly, the vicar.

© Christine Stovell

Stop press!
Oh feck! The postman has just delivered a rejected short story. Well that's ruined the good mood! Bum and ten bums in a row!

Stop press 2!!
Oh feck!! What is this? National reject Chris day!! I've just had another short story rejected by email... do you think I should step away from the short stories now? No, it's all right. You don't need to say anything!

Paiting is 'Camaes Head' by Tom Tomos

Comments

pinkfairygran said…
More please, I loved the opening, it caught your attention, led you into the story and made you want to know what happens next. Well done you! As someone who has written a novel, had it appraised and been told that once I learnt the technical bits about writing a novel, I was almost there with something publishable, and then done a course and has a massive rewrite to do (some day, when in the mood) I know all about the loneliness of writing, the spurring yourself on. I think the title of your posting could just as easily be 'Perspiration and Insistence' don't you?
ChrisH said…
Oh phew, PFG, I was shaking in my boots there!
Lane said…
That's a stonking good opening. I'm interested already and love the theme (and the m/c's names).

You're so right too. Ideas are the easy bit. Slogging to the end is a different story.
Milla said…
yes yes, choosing one and keeping going. I'm such a flighty bint, I get all these oh-so-fantastic ideas which sort of die in my hands when I have to bother getting beyond chapter one (short chapters at that)
plenty of BUMS flying your way about short story. Short stories are pants (possibly round bums), avoid them, stick with the novels.
LittleBrownDog said…
Chris, I think you've done amazingly well to have got this far. I just wish that agent/editor/whatever would hurry up and get on with it, I've just been drumming my fingers on the table for far too long waiting for my freshly printed copy of FTT. Love the intro to the new one - can feel the hushed expectant atmosphere already - heck, I can almost feel Mr OWGA's stubble...

It must be so hard picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and starting again after a rejection - persistence and resiliance is half the battle (thus speaks one who invariably skulks away at the first hurdle of disappointment). The other half, I'm sure is won already. You're a shit-hot writer with gimlet-eyed skills of observation and your own distinctive and very engaging voice. I for one can't wait to see your stories in print, I just wish they'd hurry up and get on with it. No, I don't think you can second-guess the market or what the current fashion in publishing is looking for. I believe you can only really write for writing's sake and write about what you love and what's true for you.

Sorry, I've gone on far too long. What I really wanted to say was please don't be discouraged - you're an inspiration to us all.
ChrisH said…
Lane, that's very kind of you. Glad you liked the names.

Milla, tapping foot here, we know you can write so just apply your bum to the seat, will you, and stay there for 100,000 words (easy, eh!).

LBD, what can I say? You have brought tears to my eyes, dear heart, and very probably prevented me from sulking on the Pillow of Doom for the entire afternoon. I am now going to do some work on 'MDM' and will not peep at this blog until I've written 300 words. (Gulp! I may be gone some time...)
Edward said…
I agree with LBD - you have a very distinctive voice and I was immediately sucked into the snippet you wrote. Don't be downhearted!
ChrisH said…
There! 300 words - 300 words of drivel but something to work with. Thank you all for the help and encouragment.

Edward, thank you and that's a very kind thing to say given that the snippet is probably not your bag at all!
Pondside said…
As I read the snippet I thought "I'd like to read this book!".......so keep going Chris - you're good!
Flowerpot said…
That's a great start to chapter one Chris - and I love the idea of the two main characters. Your course sounds brilliant and well done you for sticking with it and obviously doing REALLY well! As for the rejhections - I sympathise. Have a groan and a swear then forget about it. Large glass of wine and tell them where to go. They'll be sorry when they see what they've missed!
Debs said…
Love the title and thoroughly enjoyed your snippet.

Do keep going and send that rejected material out to someone else.
ChrisH said…
Pondside, thanks - I appreciate that vote of confidence.

FP. Have taken your advice. Hic! We will get there!

Debs, only another 95,000 to go! I'm hoping to be as productive as you are in your shed!
Frances said…
Come on Chris, what happened next in that church. Please don't leave your yearning public yearning.

Or maybe, do leave us yearning a bit longer, while you figure out which bit to show us next. Just hints, mind you, don't show us too much!

You write wonderfully, and I know that we will be seeing a publication.

xo
liz fenwick said…
Love the opening.....keep going and the first draft will complete by October!

(())s on the r's. had one this week too but look at them as stepping stones.
lx
gaelikaa said…
Don't let the rejects bother you. Some of the greatest writers are still getting rejected even at the peak of their careers....
Pat Posner said…
Oooh, I like this a lot, Chris. Hurry up and finish it *ducking under desk*

Hugs on the passes

xxPat
Amanda said…
Glad you enjoyed the course, Chris - you will love A363 too.

Sorry about the rejection - BUM!
:-)
elizabethm said…
I think LBD has so perfectly said what I want to say that it would be silly to try again but I am utterly with her on your voice, your skill, your determination and your talent.
Great blog title too.
Helen Ginger said…
Sorry about the rejections. Right now, send it out to someone else. Do it before you have time to get depressed!

Remember, keep moving forward.

Helen
Straight From Hel
ChrisH said…
Frances, hello m'dear, thanks for your interest... how a bit an introduction to my second female lead, Alys, next week?

Liz, yes you're so right - but sometimes the Rs feel like 'always the bridesmaid...'! Oh well, onwards!

gaelikaa, welcome and thank you for your encouragement. I enjoyed visiting your blog too.

Pat, you've made me laugh! I hope I will at least get some sort of of 'dirty draft' down by October - at least it will be something to work with then. I'm glad you liked it!

Amanda, thanks - I'm really pleased to hear that about A363. Some of the students comments have been mixed, but then some of the comments on A215 were a bit negative and I've got so much from that. Good luck with the final assessment.

Elizabethm, I actually got tears in my eyes when I read LBD's comments as I'd just got past the shock/anger part of the cycle to the feeling rather sorry for myself. Milla's comments, after I posted news of the first r, and then LBD's really turned the day round for me. Thank you to you, and everyone else who's been kind enough to stop and say a few nice things - it truly takes the sting out of it!

Hello and welcome Helen (fellow ginger, Rose and I salute you!). I will take your advice and send the work out again rather than being tempted, as I was, to chuck in the 'coffin' drawer where neither story would ever see the light of day again. The nudge will help me to keep moving forwards - thank you for taking the time to comment.
MelRox said…
oh... Its so disheartening... keep up the hard work gal!
Tam said…
Love the start of the novel and pooey-pants to the rejections. Chin up and keep going :-)
ChrisH said…
MelRoxx, welcome, and thanks for cheering me up!

Tam, thank you! I have to keep going to be a real writer like you! (Although I don't think I'd like to be braving the classrooms so I'll be sticking with adult fiction!)
Fennie said…
I wonder what the ratio is of appointment to disappointment? (I realise I am wondering what the opposite of disappointment is - it's clearly not appointment, but if you can just take a flyer on the word, I'll get on with the comment). You feel instinctively that it should be one to one - as many green lights as red - but I'm not so sure. Of course it depends on your disposition. People tend to count miracles rather than disasters (though pessimists perhaps do the reverse) but I'd say there would be at least three rejections for every acceptance in whatever field - even men in pews.
I have to join in with everybody else re FTT - send it out again, and love the snippet of the new one - you'll get there and we'll be there cheering and nodding to each other 'we knew her before she was famous'
Glad to see you are going on with the next course - I shall be plying with paints for a while I reckon.
Cait O'Connor said…
I was going to ask you how the OU course was going, it sounds very positive.

Keep at it, nil desperandum...
ChrisH said…
Fennie, I've sent two short stories out and got two back...

SBS, fortunately it wasn't FTT - that's still out there. Phew!

Cait, OU course was very worthwhile (even without know what my final mark is!.
Calico Kate said…
Starting from bottom up - really sorry about rejections. wWhat a pain - but don't stop! IF this first chapter is anything go by then you've just sent it to the wrong person!
I would def like to read more.....
CKx
ChrisH said…
Kate, thank you for your encouraging words.

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