Edits: The Hiding

Still haven’t conquered my fear of edits. Reading through the bits of this novel and I want to include this and that and pull in other characters so that the next two books I want to write in the same world all feel a bit more coherent with each other, rather than barely related. And of course barely related could work but… I don’t want to do it.

*sigh*

This was supposed to be a 10k short story, goddammit!

And while I’m trying (not terribly hard, if I’m honest) to edit the 50k thing it’s become, I’m also trying (not very hard either) to fight off not one but TWO screenplays. I mean, come on, guys. Gimme a break, yeah? At least with a book I can publish it. With a screenplay I can… submit it. Somewhere. And hope.

And presumably wish on a star and click my heels together three times…

*eyeroll*

And long before it even gets to that stage there’d be the running it by a couple of lovely people of my acquaintance who have experience with the format and can give me (no doubt harsh but fair) guidance on what to work on. So really, prose, PROSE, writerbrain. PROSE IS WHERE IT’S AT.

Writerbrain looks up from Scrivener: Whu?

Meanwhile it’s a beautiful day outside and I’m on day #3 of zero sugar. I’d be more impressed if writerbrain would stop acting as though I’ve been mainlining Smarties 24/7.

Maybe this is what happens when I don’t have sugar. Maybe sugar was depressing my creativity? Who knows? Either way, having un-depressed creativity isn’t so good for my productivity if I can’t make it through edits, cos no unedited thing is going to get to the outside world.

Which is precisely why I haven’t yet published a novel. Several short stories, one novella, one almost-but-not-quite novella. No novels. Because EDITS. And now writerbrain wants me to write more stories instead of editing what I already have.

Ye gods.

Where’s the fucking chocolate?

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I care – day #2 without chocolate

We went food shopping today. For the first time in a long time, so long I can’t actually remember how long it’s been, I didn’t buy chocolate.

I started doing this at some point earlier this year. I’d buy a bar of really dark chocolate which I’d break up into the ten squares and then have a piece after dinner. Then it became two pieces after dinner. Then it was a piece after lunch and two pieces after dinner. Quite soon it went from being a bar a week to a bar in a few days, sometimes two days.

Sometimes, albeit rarely, one day.

So then I’d be out of chocolate, but I wasn’t going to drive all the way back to the cheap supermarket I got the chocolate from just for a damn bar of chocolate. So I’d go to the local shop and get something even worse. Once a week. Twice a week.

I’m not on antidepressants anymore and haven’t been since the year before last, but there have been times lately when I’ve wondered if I should be. Between the stress of the money situation and generally feeling so utterly inadequate, I’ve turned more and more to food, and bad food, food barely worthy of the name ‘food’, for comfort. I know sugar doesn’t help my mood but I’ve found as long as I’m above a certain threshold, it doesn’t actually affect me.

Lately, clearly, I’ve been below the threshold. And I ate the sugar anyway.

So I stopped eating it. Yesterday I had no chocolate at all. This wasn’t by choice. I actually got my days mixed up, thinking Sunday was Monday and I’d be getting more chocolate the next day so I ate the last two pieces on Sunday. Which produced a Monday without chocolate.

Which didn’t kill me.

Not that I thought it would, but I did have that hankering for a sweet something after dinner. And I was going to do myself some toast or something and then I thought, no. I’ll have a cup of tea and then see how I feel.

Three hours later I realised I had forgotten about the chocolate altogether.

So today we are on Day #2 of No Chocolate. There isn’t even any chocolate in the house. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I know it’s a good thing. I know (I hope) I’ll see an impact on my body as well as my mood.

Mostly I worry that, like with every other good habit I’ve ever started, I’ll peter out at some point. I’ll decide I don’t have to stick to it because I’m fine now, or whatever.

It’s why I’m still blogging today, even though I don’t have much of anything to say. I want to blog every day. I want to not eat food that makes me ill. I want to be slimmer and healthier and more productive and, yes, better known, albeit for the right reasons.

(Not because I’m crying out for help because I don’t want to kill myself.)

None of that happens overnight. It doesn’t even happen over a week or a month or maybe a year. But the only way to blog every day is to, well, blog every day, regardless if I feel like I have something to say or not. I mean, clearly I have *something* to say. I’m 543 words into this post and it’s still relevant to me. You may well feel otherwise.

The only way to become the person I want to be – the blogger, the healthy eater, the slim person, the writer, is to blog, eat healthily, slim down, write. And that means doing it every day, even if it’s hard, even if it feels really quite pointless because progress is s o   s l o w and/or when you get right down to it, who the fuck cares?

And the answer is…

Me.

I care.

So it’s worth it.

Posted in Life | 1 Comment

Wet feet and windowsills

Today is a better day. I have wonderful friends, one of whom sent me money for Scrivener and another of whom insisted on buying a couple of ebooks directly from me so that I could get 100% of the money. The support continues today, with a couple of business opportunities coming up, and I continue to be humbled and grateful for the outpouring of love and hugs.

It’s a cold and wet day, which mostly means cold and wet feet but the dog loves it. The sky has looked like a snow sky all day, flat and white, and it’s so dim and dingy we had to put the lights on before lunch.

All of which gave me the chance to wear my puffy winter coat. The hood has one of those floofy linings that you can take off, although why anyone would want to is beyond me. You can’t see past it most of the time, I probably look like Kenny (albeit taller) but it’s so much fun! I feel like a kid, having to peek out of the enormous hood and constantly brush the floof out of my eyes to see what’s going on.

Also, I have invented a new term for crap phone batteries – constipated goldfish. As in, “my phone has the battery life of a constipated goldfish.”

Aren’t you glad you’re reading this blog post?

On the windowsill in front of me sits the still unfinished necklace that I started making MONTHS ago. I know what I need to do with it, I just haven’t been able to muster up the interest. I’ve finally realised that I don’t want to make a business out of the jewellery or the handbags or even painting. I love doing all those things but as hobbies. Trying to make a business out of any of them just took away all the fun and joy the processes gave me and that seems like too high a price to pay. The writing, however, is more than willing to be my business and the feeling is mutual. Which reminds me, I need to add some stuff to this website.

I did have a good realisation this morning (which I think is at least partly responsible for the above line of thought). I realised I’m now far more determined to fight for the life I want, while also not being invested in having it all happen as soon as humanly possible. Somewhere over the last couple of days I let go of the idea that there was a deadline, that I had to make x amount of money by y date.

Maybe because… well, I have no idea why and it really doesn’t matter.

The point is, without that pressure, I feel like I can breathe again. I just want to write. And publish. And write. And publish. Whenever I can. And as soon as I can, yes, but not by any particular time and with no particular hope associated with the outcome. I just want to do it.

I have no idea if that makes any sense to you but it does to me and it feels amazing. I feel free.

It’s a good feeling.

I hope you’re feeling good, too.

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I thought I couldn’t sink any lower

You might notice that this is a different website to the one I’ve historically blogged on. Well, about that…

Up to yesterday afternoon, I thought I couldn’t sink any lower. That things were as bad as they could get and I just had to hang on in there until I could get something going, get things off the ground, bring in some money… Then my web hosts contacted me to let me know that, due to non-payment of hosting fees, they would have to take down both of my websites. I wasn’t surprised and to be honest, I should have made that decision myself a while back, like several months back. I didn’t. They made it for me. It is what it is. I still have the archives, which is good. They’re good people and the embarrassment of not being able to pay them for so damn long is quite acute, although I’m trying not to dwell on it because that doesn’t help anyone.

Then I found out that a very lovely and good friend of mine is going to be setting up her own company in the New Year. She just turned thirty, she’s VERY good at what she does and I know she’s going to be a great success.

I’m pleased for her, while wondering what the hell happened to me. I’m thirty-six and I can’t even pay site hosting fees, let alone get any of my varied enterprises off the ground. I’m surrounded by people achieving great things and here I am, achieving nothing. I’ve started things, to be sure, and made a lot of progress towards things, but what have I actually got out there? What is currently earning me money and building towards some kind of life and name for myself?

Nothing.

It’s no great mystery, though. What happened to me, I mean. The truth is, I’m just not very good. At anything.

I’m almost unemployable. Which is to say I can get jobs but holding on to them is nearly impossible. The longest I’ve ever stayed in one job was one year and two weeks and that was the job which made me go on antidepressants. I’ve never had a job which made me feel like anything other than a very small cog in a very big machine. I’ve never had a job where there was any possibility of promotion. The most rewarding job I ever had was riding horses to Machu Picchu. Kickass job to be sure, but the time in the office was awful and since I was the only person in my department there was nowhere else to go.

A lot of my friends tell me that I’m awesome and really good at this, that or the other, but the problem is that their belief in me doesn’t affect mine. No matter how much someone tells you you can do anything you want, if you can’t see it, it isn’t going to happen. And in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, it becomes harder and harder to maintain any level of belief in your own abilities or self-worth.

I’ve tried to be positive. I have tried so hard. I have to stay positive for my mother, who is currently facing the distinct possibility that her home of nearly twenty years will have to be sold in order to pay a marriage settlement which is less than one twelfth the value of the house in question. I have to stay positive for the dog, who is a rather sensitive animal with teeth an inch long. If he gets upset, things can go downhill pretty fast so you may scoff but any impact on him has to be considered.

I have tried. And today, I am failing. Because I’m tired. And I’m scared.

I know all that guff about “the only people who fail are the ones who quit” and to be frank, it doesn’t help at this point. You know why? Because I can’t fucking quit. What would I do? Stop breathing? I literally can go no lower (which I probably shouldn’t say because I totally thought it yesterday and then discovered that actually…)

All I can do is keep writing. Having won NaNo this year means I can get a 50% off coupon for Scrivener (whenever I can scrape together £18) and indulge my desire to write screenplays, which I have zero right to do as they’re even less likely to go anywhere than any books I write. At least I can self-publish a book.

Which is what I will do. Self-publish. And write. And publish. What else is there?

Oh yes. Long walks on the beach with my best boy, the floofiest fluffnugget in town. Would be romantic if he wasn’t a dog.

This probably sounds immensely self-pitying and maybe it is, but to be honest, I’m fed up with trying to put a brave face on things. I want to be honest with myself and if I can’t do that here, on my own blog, then where can I? So here I am, letting it all hang out. My hope is that things will improve and as they do I’ll track that here, so that I can see my progress. So that I can see my life, hopefully, on the upswing.

So I’ll be talking about anything and everything: writing, dogwalking, books read, films seen, baking, cooking, and whatever the hell else takes my fancy. I probably should have stayed here, instead of going and starting my own website (and then another one) before I really had anything to put there. I’m right back where I started, albeit with, it has to be said, five and a half years’ more experience of life and… stuff.

Maybe it’s not the worst place to be. And I hope you’re having a better day than I am.

Posted in Life | 6 Comments

An update

I’m hugely flattered, and amazed, to be quite honest, to find that people are still following this blog over a year after I last posted on it. I guess if you arrived here via a Google search or something you wouldn’t see the post I wrote saying I don’t post here anymore because I moved over to a selfhosted site – this one, in fact. Yes, Mhairi Simpson is me. I hate the name “Anne” so much that I decided to chop it off and make Mhairi Simpson my pen name. So there you have it.

I hope you’ll check out my (no quite so) new site and have a look around. I really appreciate you coming to the blog and following it (as several people have done over the last year). If you want to catch up-to-date stuff from me, then come on over to my new site and join in the fun! I look forward to seeing you there.

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My new website is ready!

Yes, folks. I might have mentioned it before, but I’ve been sorting out a self-hosted website so that I can branch out a little when the time comes. I hope to offer downloadable stories and podcasts in the future, and that kind of thing is rather easier done on a self-hosted site.

The new address is: www.annemhairisimpson.com

If you’ve been following this blog, and even if you haven’t, I hope you’ll pop over to my pretty new site and follow me there. I look forward to seeing you on the other side 🙂

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A story is the same length as a piece of string

Another Flash Fiction Friday goes by without a flash fiction from me. The Smurfs are still languishing on my hard drive. It being a humorous kind of piece, I have to be in the right frame of mind to write it and I’m not. These things happen.

I had another idea for a story today. I actually had it a while ago, but then it resurfaced today. Unfortunately, it’s too long for a flash fiction piece. It definitely needs more than 1000 words. Which made me think ‘how do I know that? How do we, as writers, know how long a story needs to be?’

I mean, it’s not the first time such a thought has occurred to me when having an idea. Several times over the last few months I’ve thought to myself things like, hmmm, that would be good for about 12-15k, or that would need around 25k. I remember, years ago, reading Death and The Maiden at university. The playwright had written an introduction saying that initially he tried to write it as a novel, but after a few abortive pages he realised it actually needed to be a play. How did he know that?

I’m not sure I can actually answer my own question. At the time, I thought, that’s ridiculous, how can you just decide something like that? Surely, if it could be a play, it could be a novel? Well, yes and no. Every short story must sit within a larger context, even micro-flash pieces, but for shorts that context can be provided by our own shared experiences as members of the human race living in a certain kind of society. A Kalahari tribesman would probably read them differently.

However, sometimes the story requires context that our society cannot provide. The issue with the story idea I had today was that it would require a certain amount of world-building, since it contains a fantasy element – talking books. If such things were part of our general life experience, I could make the story shorter, but as it is, I have to provide some background for the reader. There is a certain amount of confusion the main character has to go through to get their mind around the fact that suddenly books are talking to her, and I also have to set up the reason they start talking in the first place. All that takes words. And words are very expensive in flash fiction.

The length of a story, like anything else, is flexible. You should be as flexible with your story length as with anything else. And this works both ways. You may have written a 1000 word flash piece but then realised, on editing, that it reads a lot better in 500 words. On the other hand, you might start it as a short and realise it actually needs to be a novella, or a full-length novel. Don’t try and force your ideas into a framework which doesn’t work for them. If your story won’t fit into 1000 words, don’t squash it down. There’s editing and there’s eviscerating. Make sure you know the difference.

If you have a minute, please go to Allies and Enemies, episode #4 of The Elemental Races, and vote on what you think should happen next!

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