WIPMarathon Check-In #2 … and PITCH WARS!

Not only am I a day late with this post, I’m also behind on reading others’ posts. Hoping to catch up today!

Winter's day at Dyrham Park
Winter’s day at Dyrham Park

Last Check-in Wordcount: I don’t even know how to answer this. I can say I finished the MS polish I was working on and I’ve set it aside and am walking away! So there’s that 🙂

Current WC + CC (or SC): Nada. Today I’m going to attempt to get through 2 craft books I’ve been wanting to read, and then on to starting to draft the WIP (finally) tomorrow.

WIP Issues this week: I think first chapters are my personal hurdle. Queries I’m getting the hang of, after so much excellent feedback and helpful clinics, bootcamps, tutorials, and classes online. The WIP I was polishing? I decided to rewrite the first 250 and see if I could start off with more of a bang, and spread the worldbuilding and character info further on, so to get to the protag’s immediate problem, well, immediately.

I think I’ve done this, but of course, it being a whole TWO DAYS LATER, I feel the need to go over it again and see what I can make even shinier. 😛

What I learnt this week in writing: I was prompted to revisit my first chapter by these two links, from agent Suzie Townsend at New Leaf, and Chuck Sambuchino. Great advice.

What distracted me this week while writing: Pitch Wars, Pitch Wars, Pitch Wars. I was chosen to be part of #TeamNinja as first alternate with A BREATH OF SILVER by urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and New Adult author  Tina Moss! WOOHOO! 🙂 I’m armed with throwing stars! 😀

Last 200 words: I’m going to skip this bit this week only (and I hate to do that! I love reading everyone else’s!) because I was polishing this past week, and I’m not sure it’s exactly right so I don’t want to put it out there yet. But next week… watch this space 🙂

Looking forward to catching up on my #WIP Marathon buddies’ websites. Oh yeah, and Christmas is happening soon, too! 10 days away. And you know what that means, fellow sun-worshippers. There are only SIX DAYS LEFT before the days start getting longer again. The gloomy England winter is upon us, but the more sunlight I see, the less likely I am to feel like this all day long.

Have a great week!

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“So, any luck in the job department?” or how failure is making me see what matters most.

Under the Golden Gate, March 2013

This month isn’t turning out quite how I hoped. When does it ever?

I planned on a 3-week online course on women’s fiction, but unfortunately this was cancelled the day it was meant to begin (the day after I booked it), so I had to re-think my use of this month’s writing time.

This weekend I’m attending the Psychologies Writing Weekend put on by Writers & Artists at Bloomsbury in London. I’m really excited as it’s my first foray into writers’ conferences (though I do wish I had a buddy going with me!). I’m looking forward to meeting other writers and getting a chance to do some workshops. I’m also attending a live webinar with literary agent Kate McKean entitled “How to Submit Your Book To Agents.” It’s on May 2nd if you want to join me! 

All that to say, most of my time has been devoted to writing. I can’t lie. I graduated in June 2010, and I’ve been endlessly applying for jobs, interviewing, and trying to network since then. A few contracts here, an internship there, but it is has been, without a doubt, the biggest anticlimax of my life.

Why? Well, when you return to university as a mature student — in a foreign country, to boot — you’ve by that time built pretty high expectations and demands of yourself. You’ve missed chances and been unable to focus on one thing in the past, so when this amazing opportunity comes around to make something of yourself, you want perfection. I’ve said it before on here. I worked my butt off to do the best I could on that degree, and some might’ve suggested I put too much pressure on myself, for things that, in the grand scheme of things, haven’t mattered so much. But I did it to prove to myself I could, and whether you scoff at a Film BA or not, getting that 1st is the thing I’m most proud of.

I didn’t expect to meet my future husband before my course even began, let alone that he would be someone who already had his act together (certainly not been my previous experience!). My plan of moving to London and living in a cardboard box until I got a proper job in film died an early death, for a variety of reasons, mostly practical.

If only my path were this clear.
If only my path were this clear.

I’ve had interviews at some fantastic companies and organisations, and been told countless times, “You were this close!” and “It was between you and one other person.” The number of times the door has been shut, slammed, or locked right in my face is just unbelievable, especially for someone who never interviewed for a job she wasn’t offered in the past. All this time I thought a degree would be the key, along with the work I put into it and work experience, etc.

Nope. God has had other plans. I can’t say I understand them, but life throws you surprises and you have to accept them, no matter how unbelievable. And when I say I’ve been applying everywhere, I mean everywhere. Jobs I’m totally overqualified for that I’ve dumbed down my CV for, jobs that I’m underqualified for that I’ve aimed for anyhow, jobs I’m perfect for either in an industry I care about or not, and still, every door has been closed.

Do I know why? Nope. My name? My nationality? My age? The economy? All these things? Or just that God has another plan?

I read a devotional email today that said in all our struggles and fears, it’s vital we yield to God. When I’m weak, He is strong. I’ve prayed many times, Your will be done. Whatever it is You want me to do, and to want, I want it. Show me how.

But I’ll pray it again today, and every day. I want to do what God wants me to do, just so I’m finally at that place in my life where I’m confident in my path. I felt confident at uni, but that had a countdown that expired on the day I graduated. It was a shadow of the real thing.

Writing has been the one thing that’s been consistent in my life since I was young. I’ve always had stories flowing out of my head onto the screen, and the more I learn about writing and publishing, the more I write and read and talk with others about it, the more I feel confident that if nothing else in all this struggle, God’s given me this passion, bigger than any other one. I can’t ignore that, and if people look at me and say, “Why doesn’t she have a job yet? What’s wrong with her? Is she just irresponsible and lazy? She must not really want it, I have to remind myself that their opinions and judgements aren’t relevant. I have to stop worrying about that.

My closest friends know how hard and frustrating this time has been, but they also encourage me to use the time not spent applying for jobs on writing. To those friends, thank you for believing in me, and not making me worry you think I’m lazy, or ridiculous, or irresponsible.

Words cannot express how exasperating, how humiliating, and how confidence-destroying these last few years have been. But if they’ve taught me anything — once I look past the self-doubt — it’s that the thing we have passion for, the thing we don’t feel we’re wasting time doing, whether it pays into a pension or not, it nurtures the spirit to do it. So I will keep writing, learning, networking and reading because it’s the one arena in which I feel I truly belong.

This is a mighty long post, and if you’ve gotten this far, thanks for hanging in. It felt like time for reflection again on what’s been going on. I leave you with some snippets from JK Rowling’s Harvard Speech, which is one of the best things I’ve ever read:

Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it.So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

Lacock Abbey, filming location for Harry Potter, June 2006

Why yes, I am wearing an I Love Sirius Black t-shirt.

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California = snowboarding + sun

 ** Sorry to those who received a jumbled-up run-on email version of this post moments ago. It should be much easier to read this time around!**

I made it back! Sans broken bones!!

I'm no snow fan, but I had to admit, the views were stunning.
I’m no snow fan, but I had to admit, the views were stunning.

My husband and I (who I should take to calling the Scotsman as a fellow writer I admire calls hers “the Frenchman”, and it’s much simpler than saying, “My husband” all the time. And I’m not fond of “The Hubs,” at least, not with a straight face…).

Okay, start over.

The Scotsman and I returned from a very unexpected holiday to Northern California.  I lived in Sacramento (or “Sac”, as it’s disgustingly referred to by locals, but I myself have been known to call it that ;)) for about 4 years just prior to moving to the UK, so it’s been a little over 6 years since I was last there. In fact, I celebrated my 6th anniversary of living in the UK while we were over there.

SIX YEARS. Wow. So much has happened in that time, so much I never expected to experience. But that’s another post. Our holiday was awesome. When I moved away from California, I was so ready to go, ready to start my new life in Britain, and ready to leave a lot of toxic stuff behind.

A week at Tahoe was enough to make me really sore... but love snowboarding.
A week at Tahoe was enough to make me really sore… but love snowboarding.

I did, but I also left some really good friends behind, friends I now only see on Skype, or if they do the unthinkable and make it over to visit. I left some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen: Stinson Beach, Muir Woods, Mt. Tamalpais, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco. I left a few of the most mouth-watering restaurants behind: Wasabi sushi bar, and Sizzling Fresh (yes, I do love a good Mongolian BBQ and that’s the best IMHO). I left behind glorious weather and that big orange thing in the sky.

The wonderful news is I got to experience all these things again, and this time, with the Scotsman. I’m so grateful to my awesome friends for taking time out of their non-holiday days to spend catching up, eating, chilling, and generally being their generous and fun selves that I miss so much. It was all a huge breath of fresh air, and we soaked up every second of it.

Visited my favourite wine's vineyard. Yay! We both had colds. BOO.
Visited my favourite wine’s vineyard. Yay! We both had colds. BOO.

On a writerly note, my first MS is set in another part of the Bay area but is based on a lot of the places and experiences I had in Sac and the north Bay, so it was with a bit of trepidation that I revisited these places. I’m happy to report we had an awesome time, despite us both catching colds after Tahoe, and I lived 100% in the present while appreciating what was good about my past experiences there. I’m so grateful we had the chance to take this trip.

I could get used to this view (from Coppola's vineyard).
I could get used to this view (from Coppola’s vineyard).

Apart from the memory lane-trips and seeing friends, we spent a week in South Lake Tahoe, mostly at Heavenly (one day at Northstar). The Scotsman is an experienced snowboarder and we had two friends from the UK over there on their own holiday, so the 3 of them went off on the slopes in the morning while I had 3 mornings of lessons.

In retrospect, I’d like to have had maybe 5 days of lessons, but Tahoe is ridiculously expensive. I had ONE good instructor, and he was from Scunthorpe, England.

The first day I had a stoner dude, the sort of which I am told there are a lot in Tahoe. He was all, “Use your MIIIIND, be a wise learner, watch others!” to which I wanted to reply, “Why the heck am I paying YOU, then?” The third day, I had a 19-year-old LA girl who said, “Snowboarding is all about the cute outfits!” and when I asked for help on starting to turn on my board, she said, “I don’t know how else to explain it to you,” I again wanted to ask, why the *&*£$£ am I paying you?

I finally walked across the Golden Gate for the first time, & wore flip-flops. Mistake.

My husband and friends gave me lots of tips, though, along with the GOOD instructor, and while I think I mastered falling leaf and braking, and got in lots of J- and C-turns, I didn’t start to connect them to S-turns, and managed to exit the ski lifts about 4 times without wiping out (and taking others with me). Getting off ski lifts is the most frightening part for me. But it turned out fantastic all the same. For 5 days and having never skied before, I’m actually really happy with that 😀 There’ll be a next time 🙂

So now we’ve been back nearly a week and jet lag still has me in its clutches, but I managed to get back on track and start working on my WIP again yesterday, as well as some more (very slow) job hunting.

On to my #WriteMotivation update:

1. Revise NG chapter. Not yet, but I made some notes today and I do think there needs to be even less backstory than there is here. None would be nice, since I know backstory in the first chapter is meant to be a big no-no…. it’s a bit confusing though when most books I’ve read lately are CHOCK FULL of it in the first chapter. But I will persevere.

2. NG x10. Not going to happen unless #1 happens and I’m 100% happy with the result.

3. Revise 1st draft of A BREATH OF SILVER. HAHAHA, uh, what now? That would mean having a finished 1st draft.

4. Finish reading all outstanding CPs/betas’ stories. I’ve finished two this month, so I’ve actually done okay with this one. 3 more to go!!

So, as you can see, sadly it’s day 23 out of 31 and I’ve not accomplished much, but for being out of the country for 17 days and fighting jet lag and a cold that clings for the last 4 days, it’s not surprising, really. Every #Writemotivation month I’ve been involved in so far, I’ve failed to reach all my goals, but I’ve also done a lot more than I would have, had I not been involved. That I know is a fact. So thank you, as always, to KT and the crew for giving us all this extra push to get our words down 🙂

If I have a completed 1st draft of A BREATH OF SILVER done by the end of April, I’ll be pleased. If I rewrite NG chapter 1, and maybe another 10k on BREATH by the end of this March #Writemotivation Month, and finish one more beta’s MS, then I’ll settle for that!

Revised Goals, then:

  1. 10k written on WIP.
  2. 1st chapter of NG rewritten.
  3. If #2, then NG x3.
  4. Finish at least 1 more beta’s MS.

Hope you’re all doing well and getting those ideas down! I know this weather is appalling but happy almost spring anyhow 🙂

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