When I was younger, I heartily disliked New Year’s Eve; for my mother, it was a time of looking back and rehashing old tragedies, old regrets. She cried without fail, and to younger me this was painful and put a real pall over the end of the year. But I’ve learned that like Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions, the end of a year is a time to both reflect back on what’s gone and also to look forward! Further, in reflecting on what we haven’t managed to do, we can take stock of the positives, and use our achievements to spur us to greater things in the New Year.
2015 was the year I launched this blog, and started to write up my first novel, And The Buntings Flew. I also published my very first piece of fiction this year! I’ve learned so much about writing, blogging and publishing and although it sounds corny, about what I can strive for, and achieve.
So in the spirit of reviewing, learning and setting what we call at work “stretch” targets for 2016, here’s my review of the year; hopefully it resonates with some of my readers? I’d also love to hear your thoughts on what worked, what emerged and what gave up the ghost in 2015.
And The Buntings Flew – my debut novel
My target was to complete a first draft of And The Buntings Flew, which I envisage will be around 85,000 words long. 2015 was when I actually started the draft; up to that point I was merely flitting between a couple of MS Word documents with a very rough plot, some research on the period and some ideas for characters. Although I haven’t met my target to have a complete first draft, I am now more than 40,000 words in, that’s half way, and have just finished chapter 8. The plot has shaped up and my characters are, I modestly feel, well-developed and rounded in my head, if not yet in the draft! I have a chapter by chapter plan, a couple of spreadsheets with timelines, main events etc. and each main character has a fully drawn word sketch. More; I feel like the ideas have evolved into a creative work, which I will soon finish, edit and one day say; “this is my first book.” I passed my driving test on my second attempt; as we rounded the final corner and set of lights back to the test centre I knew it was in the bag; the feeling is the same for the book, as a creative venture. The next step is to nurture it into a successful one!
To have a read of-the synopsis and some excerpts from chapter one of And the Buntings Flew, please click the links below
My Writing Blog
If you’re reading this, you’ve found my blog! And I’m very glad you have. This time last year I was pestering friends and relatives to like and subscribe to a landing page and some “About me” info; I’m now proud to have more than 100 followers of the blog, and in turn I’ve discovered some great blogs that inspire, entertain and inform me.
I’ve added some pages, and picked up some great blogging know-how and widgets along the way; my plan for 2016 is to transfer the blog from the free WordPress.com platform to a paid, WordPress.org site. A move to the hosted platform will allow me to customize my theme, remove ads from the blog, add a raft of useful widgets and plugins not currently available to me, and generally remove any restrictions from my blog.
If you’re interested in a comparison between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, this article helpfully broke it down for me:
My Other Writings
Writing earlier in the year about short fiction, I became intrigued by the popularity of micro fiction, as well as the resurgence of the novella; (you can read my blog post on short fiction here) I’ve had plenty of ideas for short stories over the years, and did complete one or two supernatural tales in the late 1990s; interestingly, I’ve outlined a short story over the Christmas break that has a distinctly Lovecraftian/M.R. James feel, blended with a couple of very modern horrors; rampant development, especially on greenbelt land, and the daily commute.Watch this space in 2016 for the finished tale!
My first foray into micro fiction went really well, with my short short “New Beginnings” being published by Tim Sevenhuysen at fiftywordstories.com ; it blends my love of gardening and all things weird; please have a read, it won’t take long!
Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” (Mark Twain)
Mark Twain had his tongue very firmly in his cheek with the above quote; writing is a craft like any other. In Danse Macabre, Stephen King talks about the knife we are all born with; the knife is called talent. Some people are born with huge knives, and these people are called geniuses, but even the largest of knives have to be honed if they are to work, and to be “wielded with great force.”
I have tried to hone my knife this year in as many ways as possible, home life and a full-time job permitting. A couple of things have worked really well for me, requiring as they do varying levels of commitment; if you are interested in ways to improve and share your work, some of these methods may help.
Scribophile is a free to join online writing and critique group; it also has a wealth of learning resources, articles and tips. There are as many communities as sub genres, and I’ve become much more comfortable with sharing my work for critique, as a result of engaging on Scribophile. Basically, you earn “karma” points by critiquing the writings of others, the longer the critique the more points you earn. These points allow you to post your own works. It can be a commitment in your time to critique enough works to post your own, and there is a recommended word limit for each piece of writing to be critiqued (generally 3,000 words) but once you are in the swing of critiquing and have found some like-minded writing/authors it is a very rewarding and useful resource.
- Open University (OU) and Other Writing Courses
I took a creative writing course online with the OU in 2014 and enjoyed many aspects of the course; it was a very helpful starting point for me. I am actively looking to build on this foundation by taking additional courses in 2016, either with the OU or with a more specific , writer led class with experience in the genre I wish to work in (contemporary literary/historical fiction) as well as in general writing craft. Suggestions welcome if you have taken a course you can recommend!
- My Facebook page for my writing (Margaret McGoverne, Writer) has attracted some great feedback; via this page I’ve also made contact with people on my personal FB page with some great family and contextual information relating to the background story of And The Buntings Flew. I also love how interconnected the different social media sites are, and how each one leads readers to more information about your work!
- A great idea I borrowed from Joanna Penn over at The Creative Penn was to set up Pinterest boards with pictures related to works either completed or in progress; I had literally never thought of complementing my writing with visual social media, so this was a wonderful idea to come across. I created a Pinterest account for my writing and created a Pinterest board with pictures from locations and themes which will feature in And The Buntings Flew. I’ve picked up some Facebook page and blog readers from the Pinterest boards and I have also found it a very useful exercise to think of images that will feature in or outline the story; in this way I’ve come up with some additional features and angles to the novel which will enrich it , I feel, historically and geographically.
- Reddit Writing Hub
If you’re not already a Redditor, Reddit is a site where users post content (pictures, links, news items etc) divided by subject matter into “sub-reddits.”
The Reddit writing hub (r/WritingHub) is an index of writing sub-reddits designed to help writers find communities and content relevant to their interests. The largest sub-reddits in the writing hub are r/writing, r/screenwriting, r/writersGroup and r/selfpublish. There are also writing contests and writing prompt sub-reddits, all of which have proved useful to me over the last year. If you subscribe to the writing hub, your Reddit front page will include updates from the writing sub-reddits, and in this way targeted writing related content is delivered to your effortlessly! While not a primary resource, I have found the writing hub at times encouraging, informative and a place to discuss issues with like-minded redditors.
A couple of the social media platforms I didn’t get to grips with this year although they were on my list were Periscope and Twitter. The former is a live video streaming app; my idea was to have a regular (OK, semi regular!) live stream broadcast of my novel-writing in progress, complete with feedback from any viewers; the ultimate in hot off the press promoting! I still think this is a great idea but for me right now it’s one I will return to; as I still have a full-time job, finding and keeping a regular time commitment is difficult, I commute to and from London, so getting home is an exercise in variable times. The other thing that made me shelve the idea for now was feedback from my son, an avid gamer and watcher of Twitch, a video streaming app for gamers. My son’s opinion was that the live streaming approach would be more appropriate when I have a completed work that I can promote and direct people to: as an unknown my audience would likely be non-existent, and the time and effort/reward formula just doesn’t seem worth it now. However it’s definitely something I will return to. However I’d love to hear from you if your experience differs!
Twitter is something I don’t use in my personal life; I don’t think I have the commitment to keep readers constantly informed and entertained, and so this is a personal choice, but again I will review and revisit this decision if its seems that the time and effort of updating a Twitter stream would seem to offer rewards.
Lastly I have gained an interest in podcasts during 2015, thanks once more to my son, who avidly consumes them, in a plethora of subject areas. I am definitely interested in recording podcasts that discuss the writing process, and the historical and social background to my novel; I think this would be a great way to get a feel for eventually recording an audiobook version of my novel, either with the help of a professional narrator or narrating my own novel. An interesting question occurs to me as I write this post; for a novel set in Northern Ireland, would the narrator ideally have a “Norn Iron” accent? Something else for me to delve into in 2016!
If you’re still with me, constant reader, I want to thank you for your time and support in 2015; never before has there been so much to tempt and divert us, and I’m profoundly grateful when anyone takes time to read my words.
My resolution, or rather my strategy for 2016 is to write, write write; to reach and reinforce my daily/weekly word count targets , and to explore new ways to improve my craft as a writer, and to reach out to potential readers and fellow writers.
I wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year!.