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Do you ever think that you might be the equivalent of the joke acts on the X-factor?

(29 Posts)
IThinkOfHappyWhenIThinkOfYou Mon 26-Aug-13 21:51:18

You know the ones, can't sing, can't act, can't dance but they come along to the auditions, wait in the queue and when they get their 2 minutes everyone but them knows they are shit.

They think they are good, they think Simon et al are plain wrong, but they are not good. They are bad, very, very bad and they need to give up, but they can't see it.

I only started writing a year ago. I was awful at English at school, I'm dyslexic and I didn't even do Eng Lit at GCSE and I have it in my head that I can write a book. Sometimes I think well, why not? Someone has to write all the books, and other times I think my Dad is going to punch Simon Cowell for not appreciating that singing off key and out of tune makes me the next Lady GaGa.

How do you know? Do you just wait to be laughed off stage?

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 30-Oct-13 10:06:50

(also, rofl @ being able to change your mind and clean your house tomorrow if you want!)

Icepole, I wish I could print you out a massive, official-looking document signed by Ninah, me, everyone on here and all the writers I have ever met, which would be a License To Write. Because I feel like you're too ready to believe you shouldn't be doing it. Actually, if you want to, you should. That's all there is to it. My knitting tension will never be even and my mum's watercolours will never make the Royal Academy, but no-one tells us we shouldn't do it, and she doesn't worry she's wasting her art teacher's time. Writing costs nothing. It squanders none of the earth's resources.

If you enjoy it and want to do it, if it gives you any kind of satisfaction or makes you see the world in a different way, if you have voices in your head squeaking 'I am a character! Write me!' doesn't that mean you're not wasting your own time?

As for the time of other people, you're not tying people up and forcing them to read your work. If they are doing it for you it's because they want to. Anyone who has critiqued other people's work will have learnt a lot from doing it - the amount I have got out of reading writing that doesn't quite work and figuring out why it doesn't work is tremendous. Do NOT worry about wasting their time.

And worthwhile.... what's worthwhile? A lot of people don't think anything James Herbert ever wrote was worthwhile. Other people would say the same about Hilary Mantel. I like them both. Who gets to judge? How would we ever know? I have a friend who writes funny poems. She has no plans to get them published but they make us laugh. She recently dug out and shared an incredible poem her mum wrote after a rape 40 years ago which completely nailed something very important. Having been hidden away for decades we shared it and were moved by it. Worthwhile - I should say so.

Ninah - I think the shift from focusing on publishing a book to focusing on writing better is very important. I feel the same as you and once I had made that shift my writing really started to grow.

ninah Tue 29-Oct-13 22:56:37

clean your house? are you nuts? I console myself that even if I've wasted years writing unpublishable books I've managed to evade the equivalent amount of housework.
I could still change my mind and clean it tomorrow, and you'd never know. It's not like my duster arm's going to drop off.
Want do you want? shiny worktops or a paperback?
Actually, I'm over wanting a paperback. I just want to get better. And not at dusting.

icepole Tue 29-Oct-13 22:41:43

I know this is an old thread but I really relate to it. In fact I wrote a blog post about it today. I really fear that I wasting time. My own and other people's. I don't mind wading through years of being crap if at the end of it I can produce something worthwhile. But what if I never, ever do? What if I am better spending my time on - I don't know - applying for the x-factor? Or just cleaning my house?

TunipTheUnconquerable Sat 31-Aug-13 12:31:58

'they look baffled as to whether that means that its finished or not. I don't know either!'

Ha ha, yes.
The other one that confuses me is 'I've finished the book and now I'm editing it' and I never know whether people mean:
- 'I've rewritten it 9 times and now I'm doing the final check' or
-'I finished the first draft and now I'm rewriting over and over again' or
-'I've got to the end of my first draft and now I'm checking for typos and then I will send it off because I don't realise it is normal to rewrite'.

Or the 'I did 13 drafts' thing and you don't know whether they mean they rewrote the whole thing 12 times each time making a number of passes or that they rewrote twice, each time making a pass for adverbs, a pass for clunky dialogue, a pass for typos, etc.

GrendelsMum Sat 31-Aug-13 11:00:28

Yes, I know what you mean about not knowing what to say when people ask what you're writing. I only have two modes - either get horribly embarrassed and stare down at the floor and say 'no, not finished yet' and I'm sure I look very rude, or I go on and on to people about tiny details.

The question which really drives me mad is when people ask 'have you finished it yet?' and I say 'well, I'm currently on my fourth draft' and they look baffled as to whether that means that its finished or not. I don't know either!

I'm actually trying to work on positive things to say to people, nice summing up of the book's genre and plot, smile like I enjoy talking about it. I think I'm getting better, but the instinct is to stare at the floor and mutter. My poor DMiL was asking me about it the other day, and DH had to step in and explain that writing a novel involves a lot of editing.

LadyMaryQuiteContrary Thu 29-Aug-13 21:58:37

I've written other (picture) books but I'm going to finish this one before I move on to another novel or I'll end up with lots of unfinished manuscripts.

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 29-Aug-13 21:06:06

Ah, I find it reassuring you say it might have been as many as 3 or 4 drafts - I think I'd got the idea you hardly rewrote it at all!

I'm doing my 4th draft right now and hoping it will be ready to submit after that (though won't be astonished if it's not).

LadyMary are you just going over and over that book or have you moved onto the next one as well?

LadyMaryQuiteContrary Thu 29-Aug-13 20:44:07

It'll get done. Ds is back at school next week so I'll have more time. I still worry it's dribble though.

wordfactory Thu 29-Aug-13 20:37:04

lady some of the smaller presses take unrepresented subs. I've a few mates offered deals recently with the indies.

My advice; get it out there. Let it do its thing. And you do your thing, which is write another damn book!

wordfactory Thu 29-Aug-13 20:28:57

Was that first book easy to write? Good question.

In many ways yes, because I wrote it for the LOLs and had no real expectations of it. I certainly didn't pay anywhere near enough attention to things I pay attention to now.

Also, the lack of information out there reduced the pressure. I knew so little grin...

LadyMaryQuiteContrary Thu 29-Aug-13 20:28:18

Yup, 17. I've sent it out to a few in between and had a couple of interested agents but it's never amounted to anything sad I've paid someone fab to edit it so this is the last rewrite unless I manage to find a publisher for it. I'm hoping to get it finished by the end of October so that I can enter it into the Chicken House Times comp. It's never been sent to a publisher.

wordfactory Thu 29-Aug-13 20:24:34

Truth be told...not enough.

A couple of drafts, maybe three or four. It was a rough diamond for sure.

And I wouldn't recommend that. For a start, things have got much tougher and agents ecpect somehting more polished.

That said, I do believe there comes a time when every project just needs to be left alone. It will never ever feel perfect. It needs to be sent out and try to find its place in the world.

Too much redrafting can often be a delaying tactic, because yes, sending it out there is scary biscuits. Also too much redrafting can kill off the freshness.

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 29-Aug-13 20:19:47

how much rewriting, I mean?

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 29-Aug-13 20:19:27

Wordfactory, how much writing did you do to your first before you sent it out?
You always make it sound like writing it was so easy grin

wordfactory Thu 29-Aug-13 20:16:44

Seventeen redrafts Lady ?????

Are you're sure you're not just avoiding sending it out to agents?

LadyMaryQuiteContrary Thu 29-Aug-13 20:14:27

I worry all the time about whether I'm wasting people's time. I started my book three years ago (it's a children's book so not incredibly long) and have rewritten it 17 times and I'm still worried that I'm wasting people's times. You have to overcome your fears though or it will stay as a file on your laptop, never to see the light of day if you don't. Find some readers, no one you're related to or friends with, and ask them to read it. They will often pick up things you haven't noticed, plot errors and so forth.

wordfactory Thu 29-Aug-13 20:04:05

Hi OP.

I think your feelings are enormously common. Certainly when I started writing, over ten years ago, I kept it to myself, assuming I'd be laughed off the stage.

We didn't even have an internet connection in the house. So I didn't even share my passion with strangers online.

Then I met a woman at the library and she told me she was writing a book and she was a member of a writing circle and did I want to come along. I was unbelievably nervous. But it was the best thing I ever did. They gave me enough confidence to finish the book and when the time was right, to sub it.

I've never looked back. And I still go to my writers circle grin...

The best thing I can advise is to try not to worry about the quality of your work. At least not too much. Just write. Then let others judge.

thoughtsandall Wed 28-Aug-13 23:03:04

Sorry that's meant to read tunip ( my phone autocorrects it).

thoughtsandall Wed 28-Aug-13 14:04:20

Ps: thanks for the signpost to the forum turnip off to have a look at that now.

thoughtsandall Wed 28-Aug-13 14:03:10

You echo all my insecurities and doubts and I think that every writer and aspiring writer feels that way at some point in the process. I have only been writing for a year or so after talking about writing for a whole lot longer than that, and it does get a little easier the more you write and more carefully selected people you show your work to.

I would recommend a creative writing class, but they are a bit like therapists, in that one size does not fit all and it is all dependent on your experience and expectations. The very thought of hearing my own words spoken or read aloud is enough to get me running for the hills but if it is done in a constructive and supportive environment it improves your writing no end now I break into a slow jog for the hills when reading work is on the horizon!

I agree with turnip on the question front- why do other people assume that just because you have put pen to paper you will be published next week? If only it were that easy, and if it were that easy we wouldn't take time to learn the craft and get better at something we love to do.

To refer back to your analogy I think of happy even the most successful of X factor contestants probably had a few knock backs and crisis of confidence on their journey, but one thing is certain, they never would have hit the big time if they didn't put themselves out there in the first place!

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 28-Aug-13 12:30:17

line about singing into hairbrush for ten minutes a week made me LOL.

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 28-Aug-13 12:29:37


ninah Wed 28-Aug-13 12:20:04

you write well going by your posts on here - very engaging and amusing. I don't think for a moment you are awful at English in the slightest. And I completely identify with what you are saying. I'd suspect everyone has these worries at times, however successful ...

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 28-Aug-13 10:33:32

Something I found was that the more I get into the technical side of it, the less personal criticism feels.
I used to feel exposed by showing people my work but now all I want is to make it better. It doesn't feel like 'Here is my soul. Judge me!' at all, but more 'Look, I'm having trouble building this Lego set. The pieces won't stick. Can you figure out what I'm doing wrong?' And that's despite the fact that I spend more time and energy on writing than I ever have before.

I do try to avoid talking about it to most people though. People have such strange ideas about writing. They assume that you are instantly going to be a millionaire or they say 'Have you got a publisher?' and you feel like a twat when you say no. My mother is pretty good but she doesn't understand why I need to do so many drafts and I think she secretly thinks I'm engaging in some kind of self-defeating probably mentally ill behaviour by doing all this rewriting grin

Creative writing classes sound like a good idea though I have never done them myself (wish I had). Another thing you should do is join this forum which, among other things, is a good source of craft book recommendations and above all will make you feel normal about your aspirations.

IThinkOfHappyWhenIThinkOfYou Wed 28-Aug-13 10:15:10

Thanks for replying. I do enjoy it and I will continue to do it but I think what has made me think too hard about it is my last child is starting reception (1 week today!) so the last few months I have had all the usual barrage of "What are you going to do with your time, won't you be bored?" etc. remarks.

I've been off work for 12 years now. There is absolutely no way back into my old industry (technology moved to fast and I didn't keep up plus we've moved and there aren't any jobs here). I have been looking into retraining to do something else but this feeling of 'but I want to be a writer' is nagging away in the background. I will retrain (or do something) but it really made me think.

I am kind of shy about it (for shy read embarrassed). Nobody in RL apart from DP knows I do it. I lie about what I've been doing if I write all day. If someone walks in and I'm on my laptop I say I'm ordering shopping or emailing my sister or something like that. I can't imagine ever saying "I'm writing a book". It sounds too much like something that other people do.

I want to be published, but I think the main reason that I want to be published is so I can say (to myself as well as/more than other people) "I'm a writer" when I'm asked what the fuck i do with myself all day. I don't want it to be a wee hobby that I do when the children are in bed, I want it to be something that I am and that is probably not the best way of looking at it but how much time can I justify pouring into a hobby? We're back to X-factor "but...but...but I'm a singer, I sing into my hairbrush at least 10 minutes a week, you're just to blind to see it."

I think I will take a look at creative writing courses. I've vaguely thought about it in the past but if I'm honest, it's not something that massively appeals to me. In part that's due to my enormous introversion but there is the horror of standing naked in front of strangers showing my 'work' to someone without the shield of the internet and having them point out the flaws and try and change it (try and change me). I think it's a step I need to take. I imagine there is a thread on here somewhere that would help me find something. A quick google shows that there are zillions.

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