Has it really been a year?

A year has passed since I gave notice to leave my safe, full-time, permanent position as a customer service executive, to concentrate on bringing up my young daughter and focus on building my writing career.

This morning, I’ve been looking back on what’s passed in this last year as I head towards the end of the rewrite of my NaNoWriMo novel, the first draft of which I completed in November 2012.

So, what have I achieved?

I wrote a novel.

I really did, from start to finish, just over 50,000 words. It doesn’t seem like much of an achievement now – as I’ve been spending the last year editing it – but it was back then. There’s not many (apart from those who have enough passion and dedication to finish one) who can say they’ve written a novel. Plenty of people are really impressed when I tell them I’ve written a book. Then I get embarrassed because I know that it’s nowhere near ready to be unleashed on the world.

I wrote and self-published a mini e-book. 

After I left the security of working in the corporate world, I threw myself into researching self-publishing – the revolution of the publishing industry – and spent the first month working on writing a little e-book about living on a budget, inspired by my decision to relinquish an income of my own. I surprised myself with the tips I came up with, and found myself wondering why we didn’t use our own advice more often. An article I’d read in Writing Magazine gave me the confidence I needed to go ahead and publish the book. It’s easy enough to self-publish, but what many probably don’t realise is the formatting involved – this took up a massive amount of my time as I played around with Word, Adobe and another e-publishing program. The book is now live on Amazon and I’ve sold quite a few copies, which I’m rather proud of. Not as many as I would have liked, admittedly, but I’ve since discovered that marketing isn’t my strong point. I’d much rather be writing and chatting with the wonderful group of writing friends I’ve met on social media.

I joined the group of The Rejected

After pouring my blood, sweat and tears into a proposal and partially written manuscript, I received a very encouraging rejection from a major publisher. Of course I was deflated, but I was also over the moon – a publisher had taken the time to read my submission and respond, even giving me some feedback. They told me it was quite clear that I’d spent a lot of time and effort on the submission however they didn’t feel the story was developed enough to be able to proceed with it. This gave me the excuse I needed to press on and make my work even better. I put that story away and decided to focus on my completed manuscript, to make it as good as it could possibly be.

I had an article published in Cat World

It might only be one article, and I didn’t get paid for it, but it was a huge achievement for me. I’ve had fillers published and am due to have another article printed in Evergreen –  sister publication to This England – this autumn.

I joined a Writers Circle

A lovely little critique group in Northampton. We all get together and read aloud our work and listen to each other, offer advice, then have a nice cuppa and a biscuit. If you haven’t joined a writers group, do it. It’s the best advice you could ever have. Writing is a lonely profession in the real world, and although I have made some wonderful friends online, sometimes we crave human contact and adult conversation. Especially us full-time mothers who spend the majority of their day with little people.

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It’s clear a lot can happen in a year, and it’s been educational. So, what have I learned?

My first draft sucked

I wrote The Gateway (temporary title of my work in progress) in the first-person viewpoint. I sat on it for a few weeks. I read it. I cringed. So the whole thing is being re-drafted in third-person viewpoint.

The first draft is easy

It really is. You just have to get the words down on the paper. The hard part is the second draft. Bringing your writing to life. Getting rid of the cliches. Wondering if your work is ever going to be good enough. I have days where I bounce with enthusiasm over my writing. Then the self-doubt descends like a black cloud and I wonder how my work is ever going to get published.

Editors are very busy people

And sadly rarely reply to queries. I’ve lost count of the amount of emails I’ve sent with a proposed article, only to still be waiting weeks later for a response. It’s so disheartening. Imagine sending out several job applications and not having one reply? It’s hard, it really is. And definitely up there with rejection. Which leads me on to my next lesson.

I’m an eternal optimist

I’ve spent a year trying to break into the market, in both article writing and fiction writing. I’ve faced lots of rejection, I’m still writing my novel, yet I’m still going a year later. Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know.

The world of writers is a fabulously supportive place

I’ve discovered some great networks, made some wonderful friends and had enormous support from some really special people. Earlier this year I shared the news that I was expecting. Fate dealt a cruel hand, and our little baby girl couldn’t survive in this world. If it wasn’t for the wonderful support some of my writer friends have bestowed upon me, I’m honestly not sure when I would have picked up my laptop again, and I’m so grateful to them.

I’m not superwoman

I can’t do everything. Just like I couldn’t do everything when I was working full-time. Being a mother is a full-time occupation. It’s not easy to fit your own work in around looking after an inquisitive, demanding, hugely energetic toddler. Especially when you’ve spent most of the day (literally) running around after them as well as trying to keep the house clean, and cook a nutritious meal every night (on a budget at that). It’s a wonder I have any energy left. Actually, forget that. I don’t have any energy. I’m exhausted. 😛

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So, what now? I still firmly believe this was the best decision I ever made. Writing is my dream and it might not be providing me with an income at the moment, but I love it and it makes me happy. A few months ago I was torn between choosing to self-publish, or try to get [The Gateway] traditionally published. I’ve read many articles and viewpoints on the debate and for now, I’m going to try the traditional route. I’m not saying I’d never self-publish, but I want to be sure my writing is good enough for a publisher to want to buy it. Several people have told me they love the first three chapters of this story and the concept, and that’s really encouraging. That’s what’s given me the confidence to proceed with this project and put the article writing on hold, so thanks to all those who have supported me so far, cheered from the sidelines and waved their pom-poms.

I have set myself a deadline to finish the second draft/rewrite of The Gateway by the end of this month (six days left!), after which I’ll be taking down the first three chapters, which are currently on the blog. I then have until the end of September to polish it, after which I’ll be submitting, with everything crossed, and my breath held in anticipation.

Wish me luck! 🙂

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The best decision I made

For each day that goes by, I don’t regret my decision to leave my 9-5 office job to look after my daughter full-time and focus on writing in my spare time. I don’t even know where I found the time to do anything else after being at work all day and still had a family to look after and a house to run. It’s a non-stop day even now, from 7:30 in the morning until around 10pm at night (on the nights I write – I make a point of stopping at 10pm at the latest otherwise I’m just permanently knackered). Things aren’t so bad now that the little one is getting older, she sleeps through the night most of the time – unless she has a very bad case of teething (molars, I hate you). Many of you will know that I’m a fan of cooking from scratch and creating meals with thrift and care. They’re always tasty (so I am told, and even if I do say so myself) and always nutritious, but they do take some time. Especially my home-made pasties where the pastry is made in advance and then a roux has to be made for the sauce (I recently made some “highly recommended” chicken, bacon and mushroom pasties from the New Year leftovers, which was generously donated to one of my husband’s work colleagues). Then there’s the soups, the breads, the soaking and boiling of beans, the quiches; the list goes on. In between that I adopt several roles including Playmate, Teacher and all-round activity creator, as well as trips out to a few toddler groups throughout the week. Then there’s the running through the house pretending to be a monster before turning around and being chased by a little monster in a bit of role reversal. Occasionally I’ll sit down for five minutes with a cup of tea and catch up on Twitter, Facebook, Emails etc, read a few posts before looking at the clock and getting up again because the schedule around a small person needs to be tight. When she sleeps, I write. I write blog posts or I write articles or I research markets for article submissions.

So I’m getting there slowly but surely. First there was the launch of my mini-ebook: 7 Simple Ways to Survive on a Budget in October. Then of course in November there was NaNoWriMo where I wrote a 50,000 word novel in less than 30 days. It was hard graft, and it needs lots and lots of editing, but it was such an achievement and a buzz to know that I have a full manuscript to work on. I started another novel for NaNoWriMo 2010 which I didn’t complete so I’m throwing myself into that at the moment.

I now also have a Facebook page and have just uploaded a short story on to Wattpad, which you can read here for free.

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve sold a few copies of 7 Simple Ways to Survive on a Budget, which is fantastic news and really encouraging. A lovely review has been put up on Amazon for it, too.

So there you have it, my achievements so far in the three months of 2012 since I left my office job.

In 2013 I intend to complete my second novel, finish my course with the Writers Bureau and finish editing both novels for publication. It’s ambitious, but I believe I can do it.

As Henry Ford said: ‘The whole secret of a successful life is to find out what is one’s destiny to do, and then do it.’

What are your plans for 2013?