Novel Number Two is Finished*

I have finally finished novel number two. When I say finished. What I mean, is that after five drafts (that’s the number of my word document – there have been many more drafts that’s for sure) I have come to the point that I need to pass it on. It’s not finished in the sense that I can save it and upload it to an online platform and publish it. I now need to hand it on to beta readers or an agent to see if it is publishable. 

This book was the first one that I started, but I moved on to another idea that came along (That other book is also finished* and it has been sent to publishers/agents to see if it’s publishable). 

Having worked my way through the second novel again, I think that the story holds up, but I think that I will alter my approach when it comes to writing novel number three. I’m not bored of the process of writing and I have a few ideas percolating away in my mind what that book will be. I know that it will be in the crime genre and I have a definite setting for it. I have already jotted down about 2,000 words, but I will leave them for a few weeks when I’m ready to give it the attention it deserves. 

For now, I have a few smaller writing projects that I would like to do. I feel like I’m in that between projects limbo, but it’s a good place to be as I’m glad that I have completed this element of writing book number two.

Rejections are Inevitable

There’s the story about JK Rowling having had ‘loads‘ of rejections before she published the Harry Potter books. I have had none. That’s not me being smug, because the reality is that I have not sent out either of my novels to agents and publishers. 

I have entered a couple of first chapter competitions, but I haven’t had that letter (it’s more likely to be the email these days). The badge of honour among authors. 

Through a number of reasons, some mainly to do with procrastination and some the fear of rejection. This is something that I have neglected to do.  I need to change my strategy if only so I know where my novels can be pitched when it comes to market. Even if I don’t get published in the traditional sense, I may get feedback that will help me shape my writing going forward If I choose to self-publish my work in the future.  

So, the plan in the coming weeks is to open the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and circle a number of the names that I would like to send my book out to. In the hope of getting closer to my novels being published. Here’s looking forward to the rejections flooding in…along with that one acceptance.  

Lockdown Two

Given how busy work has got recently the writing has well and truly been parked up for another year. I’m still doing the 200 words for BXP, there was a tentative notion of doing NaNoWriMo but that is certainly on hold for another year. 

The editing has stalled and the idea of writing the third novel will have to wait for now. I have simply taken on too much work and that is beginning to kick in now roll on the new year. The lockdown starts again tomorrow. That seems to be removing the fun but keeping the fact that I have to physically have to go to work.  

The New Normal

Image of me at Chester
Belt and braces with my PPE

As I get myself ready to get back into the classroom, the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t seem to be slowing down. As I type this the North East is rumoured to be going into a fuller lockdown. The Liverpool City region is also close to the following suit. This is offset by rising figures of people catching the virus and the so-called world-class test and trace system seemingly in disarray. 

It is always with trepidation that I start a new term. Years have gone by where I have said that I wouldn’t want to start teaching again. That would explain my current freelance situation. The anxiety is heightened by the so-called new normal 

Since 2015, I have been trying to extract myself from full-time lecturing, but with little success so far. In 2018, I went freelance and I have been working at BIMM, Salford and I returned to an old job at Chester, last year. Given the current pandemic, many things have changed and have made the whole process of lecturing less of an enjoyable experience. The classroom stuff I enjoy, but the endless admin is a total bind these days. 

I will be working in several different places again next year. So far, the race back to work is chaotic, to say the least, some timetables have not been revealed despite being two weeks away, some take a lot of deciphering, especially with the blend of online and in-class teaching. This is offset by seeing colleagues wearing visors for their teaching sessions. That takes some getting used to. 

The uncertainty about campus life as a result of the pandemic is also stressful at the moment. Each day something shifts with regards to that. So that adds to the uncertainty. 

Today Sunday, I have been up since 6 am and have been working a full day just to get on top of things. Tomorrow I’m back teaching so hopefully that will go okay. It does feel like a roll-on Christmas sort of vibe at the moment. 

Going Downhill Fast

An empty classroom
The calm before the storm – an empty classroom awaiting students

It’s back to the day job today. Well, not the teaching, but the prep. There’s a lot of that to get through. It feels like summer is well and truly over. Despite what’s going on in the world with the pandemic, it’s been a good summer for me personally and professionally. I have redrafted one novel and another one has been completed, drafted, and ready to submit to publishers. I submitted a book proposal for something else. 

I’m ready for that for the next project. I’m undecided what it will be, but think it should be about the music which has been neglected because of other things that I have been doing. I have still to finalise my work timetable but I’m hoping that there is enough time cleared for the other things that I want to do. At the moment it’s time to take stock this week and put some plans into place. 

This time of year always brings with it the new starts to term and the endless possibilities. It also brings the sleepless nights and the worry about the new term and how that’s going to shape up. I’m at that stage. Ever since I have been lecturing, I have always likened September to being at the top of the slope and being pushed down it whether you are ready or not. That’s where I am at the moment with the new term, I have four employers and I’m a little worried about how It’s all going to fit in. It is also up the wall in terms of the timetable in most of the places. Instead of stressing myself out, I’m just going to get on with it. 

Here’s to the next year it looks like it’s going to be a bumpy old ride, here’s hoping it’s not. 

The Last Quarter

The Pennan Inn,
The Pennan Inn, where they filmed Local Hero. A summer holiday destination.

What a year it’s been, there are four months to go. No one would have guessed the way the last twelve months have gone – that’s both on a personal level and with everything that’s happened with the Coronavirus.  

I’m just getting myself back into the swing of things creatively after a week away in Scotland. I’m not haste to get back to any form of work just yet – both writing and teaching. I have some down time before I get back to the day job and I have to tie up the novel that I was editing. The last chapter needs to be edited. Then I will sit down and read through the novel as a reader, and not the writer. 

It’s certainly been quite a productive summer, I have been busy with work and other things, but I have managed to achieve a few of things that I set out to do. The lack of commute and working from home has given me more time, I’m certainly not in the mood for getting back into the old commuting routine just yet and I’m hopefully that I can put off doing that for another few months. 

Finishing What You Start

Difficult First Album Word Doc

It’s July and we’re past the halfway mark of the year. It has been a difficult one given the pandemic and lockdown. Thankfully I have been okay and my family too. Although a few of my neighbours have been affected. They are thankfully on the mend.

At the start of the year, I set out a few of my writing ambitions for the year. Having been something of a sporadic writer, I decided to be more productive and committed this year. I signed up for the BXP Challenge to write at least 200 words a day. I’m pleased to say that I have not missed a day doing this and I’ve written 48,458 words for the year. This has been helped by writing whenever I could. That would have been on trains in the morning, instead of doom scrolling on social media.   A few notes on my phone or a laptop in coffee shops has enabled me to build up a head of steam. Not having to commute since March has helped, especially in my most busy periods May and July when I was busy marking. I still managed to get something written.  

One good thing about being this productive is that it enabled me to finish a few things that I had been planning to do. My first novel, Difficult First Album, was waiting for one final edit before I could send it out to publishers. That’ll be done. My second novel is close to being redrafted. 

Yesterday I finished my submission for the 33 1/3 series for a book on the band Tears for Fears. This is an idea I have had for a while and I have had a few notes hanging around that needed finishing. They have call-outs every year for submission ideas, I have missed the boat for many reasons. Thankfully this time I have managed to get something finished.

It may be an obvious thing to say, but the whole idea of showing up and getting things done has worked for me. I will carry on in the same manner for the remainder of the year.

Unread Books

My Book Shelf
A shelf of unread books

It’s the summer, although it might not be noticeable given the recent weather, and it’s usually a time when the teaching and the marking subsides and I can do my own thing. Which is usually the more creative things; music and writing that I like doing. 

Before I can get on with doing that, I have had a sort out of the house. I have bought a few things to brighten up the place. I may even get the paintbrushes out and give the walls/ceilings a lick of paint. Needs must, as I have been come to notice the imperfections of the place more due to the lockdown.

I have also had something of a clear-out of a few things around the house. One thing that has not been culled is the piles of books and CDs DVDs that I own. The fact is that they have increased over lockdown. 

What is noticeable about the piles of books that I have is the amount of those unread. This almost accounts for three shelves worth of books to be read. I know I won’t be able to adopt a policy of not buying any books because as I type I know that I have a couple of books on the way to me via delivery. I haven’t got the willpower to not buy books. When I step foot in a bookstore again, I won’t be able to resist. 

 I’m slowly getting to the point where I am looking at the shelves and thinking that I will never get around to reading a lot of these books. 

Ulysses is on one of those shelves gathering dust. There never seems to be the time to sit down and read that. I know that it’s a big undertaking and I know that you have to be in the right mindset to able to do it. There are many others, that made sense to me when I purchased them, now I don’t have the desire to start reading them. I know I won’t get rid of them and the piles will keep on getting bigger.

You can follow what I have been reading over at Goodreads.

Here’s an interesting Radio 4 documentary on bibliomania

The Great Reopening

The Worker's Memorial, St Helens
The Worker’s Memorial, St Helens

Today marked the further relaxation of some of the measures imposed because of lockdown. I won’t say anything about my opinions of the government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, let’s just it isn’t favourable. To be honest I think the end of lockdown is going too quickly especially as the R number is supposedly increasing

The book and record shops are opening again. Yes, I know, that’s getting my priorities wrong. A world without book and record stores would be a poorer place. I have spent many an hour just browsing their shelves, usually followed by a coffee soon after. It would be the perfect way to spend a night after work or a weekend. 

Despite the queues around the blocks for stores like Primark, I can’t say I will be joining everyone. I’ll wait, I’m in no rush to get back to shopping in-store. I’m happy that I can now get shopping deliveries from my supermarket and the clothes I need or want I’ll get them online for now. 

I have been maintaining my lockdown of sorts. I have barely ventured out beyond the walks and when I visit my mum in her garden. I will keep on doing that for the time being. The record and books stores can wait for now. 

All the Time in the World

BXP Challenge
The BXP Challenge

At the start of the lockdown, there were several articles published about having all the time to finish that novel. That is something I had been trying to do since the start of the year, so I was ahead of that curve. 

So, while, everyone else went off at a rate of knots doing the Joe Wicks workout, baking banana bread or painting the house, I was editing, using the extra time that I was saving on the commute. 

Weirdly with more time, comes more distractions to occupy the creative time. First was the latest series of Curb Your Enthusiasm to get through and there was the Tiger King. There’s the Star Wars Skywalker Saga boxset that’s been released on DVD. Then there’s the work which has luckily for me has not disappeared because of lockdown. Instead, I have had to adapt to teaching online using Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Thankfully that has gone smoothly without any hitches. There’s no commute which is a blessed relief, not having to battle with the daily clown show that is Northern Rail. 

Why is that my word count for April was less than it was for the preceding three months? I’m still doing a minimum of 200 words. April was mainly reading and re-editing so the new words may have replaced those that were no longer needed. 

As we enter May and June, it’s marking season. That means my creative projects get put on hold. Here’s hoping that I can keep the writing streak going.