This week, I'm delighted to have author Sue Barnard on the Write Despite Feature. As well as working on her fourth novel, Sue is also an editor and finds it difficult to find the time to write. And when she does find the time, she can feel selfish about it. But I'll let Sue explain. Welcome, Sue.
What challenges have you had to overcome or deal with in order to write?
The biggest one has been finding the time to actually do any writing. Real life has an annoying tendency to get in the way of creativity. And for some reason I always feel selfish about sitting down to write – as though I should be doing something less self-centred. Oddly enough, I don’t have this problem when I’m editing or critiquing work for other writers – which is, of course, another claim on my time. My own writing always has to take a back seat when I’m doing that. That might go some way towards explaining why my current Work In Progress has remained In Progress for so long. Could this be because women might be conditioned (consciously or subconsciously) to always put their own needs last? It would be interesting to know if male writers have the same problem.
How do you think this challenge has impacted on your writing?
I sometimes have to force myself to ignore other commitments and just sit down and write. Having said that, I find that I do a lot of thinking when I’m busy with other (non-writing) tasks. Sometimes inspiration strikes at the most unexpected moments. On one occasion a complete stanza of a poem arrived, fully-formed, when I was sitting in a traffic jam. Gardening can be particularly profitable. I’ve had some of my best ideas when I’ve been mowing the lawn. Perhaps the most significant of these was how to resolve a particularly thorny issue in The Ghostly Father.
I’ve done NaNoWriMo a couple of times, and I’ve found that to be a great help, as having an externally-imposed deadline gave me an excuse to concentrate on my own writing for a while. Last year, although I didn’t meet the target, I did manage to write several key scenes of my current WIP.
What was your greatest fear when you first started to write?
I think the biggest one was self-doubt. When I first started writing, I never thought I’d ever manage to produce anything that anyone else would want to read. Even now, as a published author, I’m still afraid of producing something sub-standard. I’m lucky enough to have some very loyal readers, and I’d feel as though I was letting them down. I’m also nervous about getting bad reviews, but I’m now starting to develop a thicker skin. As one writer friend pointed out recently, it’s impossible to please everybody.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to write, but who is feeling held back by circumstances and/or challenges?
Don’t waste any opportunity to think or observe. As I mentioned earlier, inspiration can strike anywhere at any time. Keep a notebook (or a smartphone) handy, and jot down ideas as they occur to you.
Try to set aside a time each day, or week, for writing and/or research. This doesn’t have to be at home – sometimes it helps to get away from the house and any home-related distractions. Try your local library. Or your local park, if the weather is fine. Or maybe a coffee-shop. That certainly worked for JK Rowling.
Don’t be afraid to seek advice from other writers, either face to face or online.
Don’t feel disillusioned or frustrated if you find things aren’t going smoothly. It took me quite a while to realise that writing a book takes a lot longer than reading one!
Try to write something every day, even if it’s only a paragraph or two. A novel of 100,000 words begins with a single sentence. Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect at the start. You can always go back and edit it later, but you can’t edit a blank page.
If you are short of ideas, find some writing prompts. You can buy books of these, but it isn’t essential. You can find prompts anywhere; it’s just a question of knowing where to look. As an example, turn on the radio then write something which fictionalises the first thing you hear.
Tell us a bit about something you've written that you're really proud of, or something you're writing now.
I was particularly proud of my debut novel, The Ghostly Father, even though it was never originally intended for publication. It’s a re-telling of the story of Romeo & Juliet, but with a few new twists and a whole new outcome.
I wrote it for myself, simply because I’ve always loved the story but hated the way it ended, and I wanted to give Shakespeare’s star-cross’d lovers a version which didn’t end in tragedy. But judging by the number of people who have bought it, read it, and been kind enough to say they’ve enjoyed it, it seems as though I’m not by any means the only person who prefers the alternative ending.
I’m currently working on my fourth novel, which is a time-slip story based on an old French legend. Unfortunately I can’t say much more than that at this stage, as it would give too much away!
Thanks so much, Sue for your interesting and informative answers to my questions! Now do go away and be as selfish as possible for as long as you want (ie, get writing!).
Until next time,