Reality Check 2017

reality check graphic

A YEAR and a half ago, having got Close Call: Short and Bittersweet under my belt and deciding that becoming the next J K Rowling was a tad ambitious, my master plan was to develop my ‘brand’ and complete all the projects I had already started … while holding down two day jobs …

It still hasn’t quite gone according to plan. I have failed miserably at maintaining my blog and I still haven’t got any of my short stories published in a literary journal. As ever, the biggest barriers are time and resources, particularly a quiet place to work during down time from my day job – and perhaps too much emphasis on entering competitions to try and raise funds. Meanwhile, the passion project I started in 2013 is on the back burner, while I concentrate on more achievable goals …

On the bright side, I’ve had all the therapy I’ll ever need and never had to pay for it …

Moe recently, since my writing style leans towards the filmic anyway, I began to experiment with screenwriting. Now, since completing an introductory course at Edinburgh Uni, I am renting desk space one day a week in a film production office and have started a feature film and script versions of three of my short stories. I let each story ‘choose’ the medium it is most comfortable with – a story that has potential as both a book and a film is more appealing to me right now and I have a wee bank of stories in both formats.

My priorities then over the remainder of 2017 are:

  • finish a novel I started a few years ago and secure an agent, with an eye on later developing it into a script
  • finish my feature film script before October, so that I can get it to just the right industry professional at a writers retreat for which I have won a partial scholarship that I still can’t afford (bawling my eyes out). But since I do believe in miracles, you just never know …

Both projects offer me the best chance of success, with scope for some form of mentorship. Also:

  • plug away at getting short story publication in a literary journal
  • seek out an indie film-maker who might be interested in one of my short scripts
  • maybe even resuscitate my blog.

And so ends my manifesto to myself …

July 2017

 

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Reality check November 2015

THIRTEEN months ago, I was in the first stages of setting up my online presence as a newly self-employed ‘writer/ghostwriter’ and my first collection of short stories, Close Call: Short and Bittersweet. Woo hoo! My intention was that by the end of 2015, I would be well on my way to becoming the next J K Rowling …

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BY the time I published Close Call in April and got the marketing underway, I was already running low on funds. So I swallowed my pride and looked for a day job. The timing couldn’t have been worse – I lost momentum at the most crucial point in my campaign.

In the end, I found myself with two part-time jobs, one office based and one as a waitress. On one level, I was trapped for most of the summer, on another I would have gone mad with the isolation of writing at home all day. The sheer physicality of working in a busy tea room has kept me grounded and in reasonable shape and I have had the great pleasure of working with a great bunch of people – mostly half my age!

For the first time in my life, I have just enough job security to pay the bills and just enough flexibility to write my little heart out. What more could a girl ask for.

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THING is, even with more free time on my hands, production and marketing don’t mix – which is why self-publishing is such a ball ache. I am the publisher. This means by the time I have faffed around with my blog, twittered around with my social media, requested reviews, networked with other writers, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, I have even less time to write. In fact, contact with my iphone switches off my creative juices altogether. And this only compounds the sense that my window of opportunity is closing …

So I have had to make a decision. Continue plugging my first book, or move on. Methinks I should draw a line. Although Close Call has hardly made a dent in the bestseller list, I did achieve what I set out to do. That is to produce a portfolio that would demonstrate my style and approach as a ghostwriter to potential clients. And it’s been an excellent dry run for my next projects.

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MY master plan now is to continue building my social media network, develop my ‘brand’ and soldier on with the bigger projects I have already started, while in the short term produce individual short stories for publication in literary journals. As for this blog, it simply isn’t feasible for me to pump out masses of ‘content’ every single day, so my goal is to consistently produce one short story a week (and anything else that inspires me in between). It’s a tall order, I know, but I have a whole winter ahead of me and more free time to get my act together.

2016 promises to be my most challenging year yet. Watch this space.

The Poet

I follow the path of poets of old.
Their voices beckon me into the fold,
Many cut short in the days of their prime,
but nevertheless remembered in rhyme.

For somehow in the throes of death,
They cry out with mortal breath
“O kindred spirits, living or departed,
carry on the work I started.”

For aspiring poets share a trait,
a common tendency to emulate
to the point of near obsession
those who leave the headiest impression.

Now inspired to the point of distraction,
I write of comrades wounded in action
of rescues effected in countless battles,
mothers and children herded like cattle.

I do not know from whence it comes,
the cries of the dying, the pounding drums.
These are the things that came from before,
days long since gone, ages of yore.

I have no desire to write of such things
as flowers and trees and tiny birds’ wings.
In poetry books they have their place,
but me I will write, by the gift of God’s grace,
of karmic desire and brave young men,
journeys beyond and back again.

Written during my Wilfred Owen phase!

Copyright (c) 1998-99

Ragged rocks

“SELF-EMPLOYED …. Oh, shit, what have I done?” 

The enormity of jumping off the hamster wheel was still sinking in. The feelings of panic I kept in check by reminding myself that I could jump back on at any time. Still, the whole point of doing this was that there was no Plan B. 

Blog. Tick. Facebook page. Tick. Linkedin. Tick. Twitter … reluctantly … tick. Now, back to that damn blog. What do I put in it? Where do I start?

While foraging online, I had spotted the title of a talk that evening in town. The Ragged University … hmmm. So, in the space of the few hours left, deciding that I was feeling a little ragged myself from being holed up for days hatching my cunning plan for world domination, I forced myself. I had only a semi-notion of what it was about.

As I waited for the talk to begin, I chatted with another member of the audience I hadn’t seen in a while. It was good to get the craic. He asked me what I was up to.

“Well …”

I had had some strange reactions from people since I had stopped coughing the word ‘writer’ as if it was something I had to apologise for. But he didn’t bat an eyelid. Instead he told me that he was hoping to do the same. He reckoned the first thing to do was set up a blog, standard advice these days for authors, but he needed to find out more about it.

I guessed immediately that he might have read The Writers and Artists Yearbook, which these days tells aspiring writers that in order to put themselves out there, they need a blog. Only thing is, it doesn’t adequately explain why (although I am prepared to concede that I might have missed a bit!). I told him that the main reason for having one was to draw people to your website so that you were more likely to be found online, assuming, of course, that you were writing material that people liked. The other reason was that it gave you a chance to show people the quality and style of your work. I was about to add that it allowed you to chat with the very people who might buy your books when you finally got published, when the talk began.

The ragged schools, I learned, were a network of volunteers operating in industrialised areas in the UK from the middle of the 19th century. Rural areas had been getting the benefit of free community-based education since well before the time of Robert Burns. This is quite incredible, when you think that a formal universal education system as we know it only started in 1870.

The ethos of the ragged school philosophy was that everyone, regardless of social, economic or educational status, has a personal library of knowledge and experience as valid as that of the person standing next to them. In that sense, everyone is a school in their own right, exchanging information with other such schools on a daily basis – any time, any place, anywhere. There is no right or wrong way of thinking or doing things. People are free to take information or leave it as they see fit. Trial and error takes care of the rest. The Ragged University is a modern reworking of the ragged school philosophy.

It became instantly clear to me that the earlier conversation about blogging was a perfect example of a ragged school in action. And I knew straight away what my first blog article would be about.

TICK.

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2014