Thursday, 29 August 2013

Fear - and writing

I've read a couple of posts recently, about writers and fear. 

Andrea Phillips, guesting on terrible minds, wrote about the four fears that stop you writing...and after a whole summer without writing much at all, topped off with an agent rejection for Rurik because the story is about rings, (and apparently Tolkien and Wagner have cornered that market), I am very much feeling The Fear. 

Andrea used four categories, which pretty much seem to cover everything about The Fear. Here's how they eat away at me. Some, more than others...

1. Fear about (lack of) talent.

I am so hard on myself. I write my stuff, then I compare it to the work of someone who writes more action, more quirkily, more descriptively, more...everything! And my inner critic says - 'you're rubbish.'

I enter competitions and never allow myself to consider the possibility of being placed, because there will be a million others all entering the same thing who can string words together in a way that will make the reader go all gooey like I never can. I might as well save myself the cost of an entry fee.

It's a risk, letting people see what I've written. Especially when, as a writer, there is so much of 'me' in what I write about. But if I don't take risks, I'll never know what could have been. And if I don't enter any competitions, ever, I can say with 100% confidence that the chances of being placed are definitely zero.

So I keep writing, trying new things, testing myself and my capabilities.

2. Fear about feedback.

I am now a little more restrained regarding who I ask for feedback, having been bitten a few times by folk who told me how I should write/they would write a scene, instead of suggesting ways of improving it. I have some writer friends whose opinion I trust, and the rest fall into the category of 'take with a pinch of salt unless they all say the same thing or what is said makes sense'. And - shock! horror! - even the opinions of agents and book doctors sometimes fall into the latter category...

That's not to say I ignore feedback - a writer ignores feedback at their peril, and should be constantly striving to improve what they lay down on the page.

And feedback often confirms gut feeling, which I really should learn to trust more.

3. Fear about publication.

If no-one in the professional publishing world can make money out of me ('lacks commercial sparkle' seems to be a consistent theme for my full-length children's novels) then to get my stories to the kids I think will enjoy them, I have got to go it alone.



The traditional route to publication meant I didn't have to think about formatting or cover design or promotion or sales. Self-pub does, and it turns me into a quivering wreck who would rather bury her head in the sofa cushions and never write again than face going it alone.

Which brings me full circle to the risk-factor - if no-one wants to do it for me, then I'll have to do it myself to find out whether kids really would want to read my stories.

4. Fear about being judged.

I know my writing isn't always brilliant, but can I bear others thinking the same thing? Will my work wither and die quietly, like an unfunny comedian? Will it get slated by people I want to impress? Will anybody, anywhere on this planet, actually ever read anything I produce, because they take one look at the title/blurb/cover and go 'Nah!

If I thought like that all the time, I'd never write.

Perhaps I need to add a little something to the famous song from 'La Cage aux Folles' - 'I am what I am'; I am what am I am, and I write how I write.

Having read that lot through, I've just realised something; if I stay true to myself and my story, writing to the best of my ability, then the only judge I have to fear is the one inside my own head.

The Fear will only stop me writing if I let it..

So I'm not going to.  

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Saying it with flowers - The Flower Festival

Yesterday, I spent the day telling stories. Not with words - with flowers.

It's not easy to interpret with flowers; the circle of life, for example - sounds like a good title, but do you create something circular, or focus on the seasons, or maybe celebrate birth, life and death? You could take a roomful of flower arrangers, and they'd all have a slightly different take on the subject. The trick is to find something that connects with your audience, rather than leaving them standing bemused in front of a fabulous display that cannot be 'read'.

I'm one of the flower arranging team at my church, and for the last dozen years or so, we've held a flower festival every three years. This year is special, as we are celebrating the 125th anniversary of the church building with 'A Tapestry of Time'.

Please forgive me - but I am going to indulge, and share some photos of the flower festival so you can judge whether or not the flower team have 'told the story'...

St Mary, to whom the church is dedicated - although no-one is actually sure which St Mary we were dedicated to, it's always been taken that it's Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Changes to the building - it certainly isn't as originally built.

The church's year - in colour.

Victorian versus modern vicar.

Music in the church.

Your Majesty - the church has seen the reign of six monarchs already.

Hatch, match and despatch.

A country church - Plough Sunday, Rogation and Harvest.


The text on the sampler reads 'To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.'

Mission - the charities our church supports.

So - what do you think? Did we tell our 'stories' well enough?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

When the words won't come...

The writing commitments are stacking up, but my head isn't in a writing place.

I know there are many writers who would push beyond whatever situation they're in, producing their quota of words every day. 'You're not a writer if you don't write' is a favourite theme of Chuck Wendig's. And he's right - you have to be writing to be a writer.

But after recent events, my brain is mush. It is incapable of doing any more than listing what I need to do - it certainly can't put together a coherent storyline or edit other people's work. Problem is, how long should I leave it before forcing myself to pick up the threads again? Every day I let my writing slide is another day where my skills get rustier and it gets harder to pick up where I left off.

I just don't have the energy at the moment to make things different...

Friday, 16 August 2013

Pizza and paracetamol

They were the first things my son managed to swallow after his naso-gastric tube was removed!

He's recovering - slowly - from the appendicitis (thank God!), and we are measuring improvements in tiny steps. Literally, like the ones it takes to get him from the bed to the chair, or the chair to the bathroom, or down the length of the ward...

There have been lots of 'what-if' moments over the course of the last week.

What if - he'd had the op 4 weeks ago, when he first went to the hospital with suspected appendicitis, but the symptoms weren't quite right?
What if - he'd been moved onto a surgical ward immediately after assessment, instead of to medical?
What if - there hadn't been so many other surgical emergencies to delay the surgeon for over 24 hours before operating?
What if -

You know, you can spend your life on 'what-if's', but they won't change what's actually happened.

At least, today, I saw 'my' son again - I didn't care for the grey-faced and blue-lipped version we took into hospital.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Unplanned absence

Well, for regular blog readers - apologies, I wouldn't normally go so long without posting, but...

I went into hospital with my son on Friday, 5pm, and he had surgery for a perforated appendix yesterday at around 8pm. Hence writing time a bit scarce at the mo!

Back home for the first time tonight and letting Dad stop over instead, but I'll be back over there tomorrow...

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible... Thank you for your patience. 

Katherine x

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Challenge me - the story.

Here it is - just under 500 words, incorporating as per 'challenge me', a cowboy hat, a zimmer frame and a rocking horse! Now off to write one just for Sarah with a snowman, flying elephant and kiwi. D'you think she meant the bird or the fruit?


The Ride to Heaven Retirement Ranch, by Katherine Hetzel.

‘I ain’t leavin’!’ Hank Snr exploded. ‘I bin here since I was born – and the on’y way I’m leavin’s in a box, feet first!’

‘Dad, you can’t live here on your own anymore – not since…you know.’ The eyes of both men were drawn towards the elephant in the room: a silver zimmer frame parked beside his father’s favourite armchair. ‘This place is closer to me, Dinah and the kids – we’d be able to see you more often.’ 

Hank Snr grunted and turned away.

‘Here’s the brochure.’ Hank Jnr slapped it down on the arm of his dad’s chair. ‘Take a look – I’m gonna make us some coffee.’

A week later, Hank Snr arrived at the ‘Ride to Heaven Retirement Ranch’ for a three-day trial.

‘Hank Calchick?’ Hank Jnr enquired of the young woman dressed in gingham. Like an extra from 

‘Oh yes – you’ll find him in the Rodeo Room.’

‘I’m sorry?’ Hank Jnr thought he’d heard her say –

‘The Rodeo Room. Just down the corridor on the left.’

Bemused, Hank followed the direction of her finger. Inside the Rodeo Room were a dozen elderly gentlemen, whooping and hollering at the figure sat astride a sturdy rocking horse, riding as though he were being chased by the devil. With a start, Hank Jnr recognised his father in the saddle.

Hank Snr spotted him and grinned broadly. ‘Whoa, whoa!’ he shouted. Once the rocking horse had slowed to a halt, two burly orderlies stepped forward to assist in the dismount and ease Hank Snr into a wheelchair.

‘Dad – what the heck?’ Hank Jnr looked in amazement at his Dad’s twinkling eyes.

‘Damn fine filly…’ Hank Snr watched another octogenarian being hoisted into the saddle.

As the horse picked up speed, accompanied by shouts of encouragement, Hank Junior leaned close to his dad’s ear. ‘Can we go somewhere quieter?’

‘Sure. How about the garden?’

Hank Jnr rolled his father into the corridor.  

‘Don’t forget this if you’re going outside!’ Another extra from the musical plonked a cowboy hat on Hank Snr’s head and patted his arm before, presumably, heading off to sing to the residents.

Hank Jnr found a quiet spot with a bench, and the two men sat in silence, watching horses grazing in the field beyond.

‘So…how’s the food?’ Hank Jnr ventured.

‘The chow? Great.’

‘Mmm-hmm. And you’ve kept busy?’

His father nodded. ‘There’s a rodeo every afternoon, a Western on the cine screen Tuesday and Thursday mornin’s, and banjo lessons on a Sunday. They do a sausage and bean bake on a Friday night round the campfire, and Saturday, they open the saloon. D’you know,’ Hank Snr’s eyes lit up, ‘the gals here put on a show? The can-can…I’ll be sorry to miss that. I reckon I’d like to see them gals kicking highsteps…’

Hank Jnr suppressed a grin. ‘I’ll sign the papers, shall I?’ 

Monday, 5 August 2013

Granny's cover is drafted!

SO excited!

Had the first rough sketch today from Laura - of the potential cover for Granny Rainbow!

Granny looks really glam - we might have to make her a little more...folksy...but the concept is there, complete with portrait frame and lots of little powder bottles!

OMIGOSH - this 'getting-myself-published' might actually be for real...

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Writing progress.

Today's blog is a progress report.

Over the last couple of days, I've been working on that opening know, the one I mentioned here? The blog post started an interesting discussion on the Word Cloud about what makes a good opening; as you might imagine, the opinions on what makes a good opener are almost as varied as the people who write them or read them. Definitely a matter of personal taste. As a result of comments on the blog and feedback from a couple of writer friends whose judgement I trust, the opening chapter finally feels like it's all hanging together very nicely, thank you very muchly. (Phew!)

Tomorrow is my day for emailing the opening chapter and everything else to the Writer's Workshop so it's ready for the Writing Festival at York. I won't be able to tinker with any of it any is what it is, and what will be will be. (But my fingers and toes are very firmly crossed)

There's progress to report on Granny Rainbow too - I keep checking my inbox every two minutes today, because Laura has done some initial sketches and said she'd send them through. I can't wait to see them! Maybe... just maybe... I might let you have a peek...

I am aiming to get all the stories finished by the end of September, (ties in nicely with the start of Laura's term at uni) so that I can organise a proper, printed paperback book in time for Christmas. I will ebook it too - but that may take a bit longer to format. It will be interesting to see what happens, once I have a book published - a whole book! - in my own name.

I've been scribbling ideas for the local history book too - the voice of the child who will tell the story has finally emerged. I shan't be working on it any time soon though, as I have to complete a second edit of the full version first.

One thing that's not going so well is numbers of blog hits on Squidge's Scribbles. Since I stopped posting every day, the numbers have dropped right off - I'm not sure whether it's 'cos what I've written about more recently has bored the pants off everyone (!), or whether it's something to do with the frequency of posting. Maybe it's just holiday time, and everyone's leaving the electronic world behind for a well-deserved break?
What do you reckon as a reader of this blog?

Right - must stop writing this, as I'd like to get another Granny Rainbow knocked into shape. And tomorrow looks to be a good writing day too - it's going to rain...

Friday, 2 August 2013

The 'grab' factor.

Before I get into the real reason for this blog, the Squidge family were unanimous in their choice of three items with which to challenge me; Baz's cowboy hat, zimmer frame and rocking horse. Have to say, there's the seed of an idea already germinating, and I will post it as soon as it's done - but definitely before the 9th.

So now - to the 'grab' factor.

I've got a difficult choice to make re a competition. It's for an opening chapter, and I've written something quite new. The idea for the story itself has been brewing for a while, and I've been doing that 'jotting ideas and possibilities down' stage for about a year now.

The problem is I can't seem to get the 'grab' factor into the opening, based on feedback from writer colleagues whose opinion I value. I'm not really a 'sock-it-to-'em' kind of author, y'see...I tend to build things up before I get into the real action.

Which is fine, because it's how I write and how I'm happy writing.

But it means there's something wrong with what I'm presenting, and it made me wonder. Do I really have to grab the reader by the throat and take the main character on a don't-pause-for-breath rollercoaster ride from the first page and right through the rest of the book? I know that nowadays, folk generally seem to need more stimulation, and there are some children's books where there is no let-up from the frenetic pace of the story until the last page is turned. But whatever happened to the slow burn? To building the tension gradually and then hitting your reader between the eyes when they least expect it?

I'm not convinced we need to always hit our readers between the eyes from the word go...but I still need the 'grab' factor in this particular chapter.

What works for you? As a reader, do you have to have a life-and-death opener? Or do you prefer more subtlety in the conflict? Have you got an opening sentence that stuck in your mind and compelled you to continue reading? I'll consider your answers as part of my research...