Sunday, 23 February 2014

All About The Journey

Image credit: Elliot Brown (via Wikimedia Commons)
Why is it that when you have time to write…you can’t?

I don’t often travel by train, much though I love it. And the idea of two six hour train journeys in rapid succession fulfilled some of my (rather odd) fantasies of being unencumbered. No chores, no distractions. Just time to write.

I got nothing done on the first of these journeys but that was okay. I didn’t have a table seat (though I’d specifically requested one) and in any case there were too many people around having interesting conversations. Some of  them I engaged with; some of them I just listened to, my mind boggling, from behind my paper. (Note to self: always take a broadsheet on the train because no-one can see you listening.) “Deb’s just so two-faced. Even Dad says she’s a bitch. So why does nobody ever listen to me?” Well, I was listening, though I didn’t like to say so.

On the return journey I got my table seat. It wasn’t even crowded. I could spread myself out  bit. This is a writer’s dream world, encapsulated on a Virgin train. I opened up the work In progress, the one that’s been marinating for a month or so and was ripe for revision. Turned to page 1.

Let me tell you something I bet you didn’t know. Northamptonshire’s an interesting place. Pretty wet, like the rest of the country at the moment. But it’s green, too. And a bit of water lying in the fields really shows up the contours of the landscape.

That low sun, too (I was travelling in the late afternoon). It cast just the right sort of shadows, those long low ones. You can see the lumps and bumps in the fields; those are the remains of medieval three field systems. Bet you didn’t know that. It’s an old landscape and for once, from the train, I could see it. And that’s funny - there was a whole field, a huge field, full of caravans. And next to it was a canal basin full of parked narrowboats.

The train followed the canal. Time was too precious to waste as the scenery flashed by. Blink and I’d miss it. I could write when I got bored of the scenery. And if I didn’t get bored I’d write when it got dark.

And so on, and so forth. I didn’t get bored and by the time it got dark (somewhere near Warrington) I was too comfortable to sit up straight.  And anyway, the seat height on these trains is wrong for typing at the table height. Even sliding the mouse around on the table (it stuck, by the way) brought on a tightness in my shoulders which I knew wouldn’t take long to morph into pain.

So I never did get any actual writing done. I just sat back and listened to everyone around me, closed my eyes and did that thing that writers do when they’re doing nothing. I gathered material.

Still, at least I got  blog post out of it….

You’ll find me on Twitter as @JYnovelist, on Facebook, on LinkedIn….

Thursday, 6 February 2014


It’s D-Day. Or, more accurately, P-Day. That’s P for Publication, by the way, not Pay or Party or any other P. (I’m sure you can think of some of your own.) It seems no time at all since Thank You For The Music was nothing more than an idea in a coffee cup on a holiday in Majorca and now it’s available for anyone with an e-reader, for less than the price of a magazine.

P is also for promotion. These days publishing isn’t enough. I suppose that’s progress, and maybe it isn’t a bad thing. We aren’t in the Victorian era, when individuals published interesting monographs at their own expense and circulated them widely among their friends. There are so many books available now - self-published or otherwise - that if you want your work to be noticed you have to tell people. And we all want our work to be noticed. We want our work to be admired.

Times change and we move with them. To tell l the truth I’m a little bit scared of promotion. There’s Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn, and author pages on Facebook and Amazon and Smashwords. There’s blogging. But actually I like blogging; it’s just like writing a diary.

When I stop and think about it, digital media are the way I find out about books I want to read, even if I go into a bookshop to buy. They’re the way I find out about other things that interest me, such as whether my my team conceded the usual last-minute goal or what the current state of thinking is on the rogue wether we’ve been having. And it’s how I find out what my friends are doing too. And if I don’t want to know something I don’t follow it through - but I can’t say it isn’t there if I ant to see it.

In fact, if I want to know something these days, the chances are it’s digital media I turn to first. If I use these sources to pick up information, why not use them to communicate it? What’s left to do but embrace it?

You’ll find me on Twitter as @JYnovelist, on Facebook, on LinkedIn….

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Counting Down...

I’m counting down. Right now it’s less than a week until Thank You For The Music is available on Amazon. Five days until I stop being a would-be writer and become a real one. With an author page on Facebook and one on Amazon and, and a book that anyone with access to the Kindle Store can download for more or less the price of a glossy magazine.

I don’t mind admitting that I find that more than a little scary. It’s bad enough putting your darling out to agents and publishers and having them turn it down, even when it’s turned down with rave rejections. (And let’s face it, rejection is the bedrock of every writer’s life experience.) And then the moment comes when someone likes it. It’s as if your little one has won the bonny baby contest, the moment that you know that it isn’t just you who thinks that what you’ve produced is, after all, publishable.

But writers, as everyone who’s ever had to live with one is only too acutely aware, are sensitive souls, insecure to the point of paranoia. We lurch from crisis to crisis, every up followed by a down. Now there’s a new challenge ahead. The public.

Fine, the publisher liked it. The editor liked it. My friends who read the early drafts liked it (or they said they did) and I know without being told that my mum will LOVE the final version, if only because she’s my mum. But what about you, the person browsing the Kindle store for a good holiday read, seduced by the blurb and the cover. Will you like it?

I want you to love it. I want you to settle down on a grey February afternoon or evening, e-reader in your hand and a box of chocs at your elbow like a modern-day version of Jo March from Little Women. I want you to be lost in it, be transported to the sunny climate of the Mediterranean. I yearn for you to agonise with poor jilted Abby, root for her when she has to choose between stable, sensible Edward and idle charmer Rafa. And I'm just desperate for you to tell all your friends how much you liked it and for you - and them -  to keep checking to see when the next book is out.

Why? It isn't vanity, or commerce. The reason writers write is not to make money. It’s because they can’t help it and in order to justify their very existence they need someone to tell them that everything was worth it. They - and I, because now I’m one of them - just want to be loved.

I’ve done my bit. And now it’s over to you...

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