It’s three years, almost to the day, since I started work on my first novel, The Folks across the River. My eldest son had returned to school, and my youngest had just started nursery. For the first time in at least a year, I had some valuable ‘me’ time. And I wasn’t about to spend it doing extra laundry! As for the idea for the novel; I’d dreamed it whilst on holiday. I don’t think anything gifted to you in dreams should be ignored.
‘So what of the novel?’ You may ask. ‘Why are you telling the story of the novel, instead of working on it?’ Because I believe in the three years since I first sat down to write, I’ve learned a lot. And its a lesson you might find interesting, if you are working on your own novel, or considering writing one in future.
To blog or not to blog?
That was the question I asked myself, back in September 2018. I already had this blog set up, but I originally started it as a tourism blog about Barcelona. Then I realised I really wanted to get back to fiction writing, so I rebranded it as Experiments in Fiction, and posted a few short stories. Other than this, I was reluctant to start blogging, because I rightly surmised that it would take time away from my novel writing. So here’s what I did instead:
I wrote the first draft of my novel in a burst of feverish enthusiasm. It took only three months, but the end product was unpublishable. It contained some beautiful paragraphs, and the overall idea was good, but the execution was amateurish to say the least. I didn’t even try to get it published, but I did keep redrafting it and trying to beat it into shape.
Then big changes happened in my life: I moved with my family to Malaga and started full-time work. This didn’t leave much time for novel writing, so the novel and the blog got shelved. I got through the mundane aspects of working life by assuring myself I’d be a writer ‘someday.’
The next big change affected not only my life, but probably the lives of every human on this planet: along came the pandemic, and with it strict lockdowns, and (for me) the need to return to writing in order to stay sane. I started The Quarantine Diaries, but was soon drawn back to poetry, which I’d always loved writing since childhood. Not having much self-belief at that time, I was amazed when I started to get positive feedback about my poetry from fellow bloggers. People actually started to follow my blog, and encourage me to keep writing. I was thrilled! You can’t imagine my excitement when I got my first ever poems published. This was beyond my wildest dreams!
When the offer of redundancy came up at work, I took it. This would allow me more time to write, I realised, and I couldn’t wait. We moved once again as a family, this time to Slovenia, and writing about my experience helped keep me grounded through all the mixed emotions this threw up. Furthermore, I never felt alone, because I took my blogging family along with me! A writer can live anywhere, that’s one of the beauties of the job. But until this time, I didn’t realise the value of a writing community.
No man (or woman) is an island
The writing community, and in particular dVerse Poets’ Pub, has helped get me through so many ups and downs, I can’t begin to express my gratitude. And being a member of that community, writing short articles and poetry, has taught me invaluable lessons about being an editor and an author.
As editor of my own short blog posts, I’ve learned the value of proofreading and spellchecking. I’ve learned how not to use a thousand words to say something that can be said in a hundred. And I’ve also learned that stories need to be both skilfully-crafted and attention-grabbing in order to stand out from the crowd. Which brings me back to my novel…
I returned to the novel today with not one, not two, but five different drafts to work with! I was almost afraid to start, because I’m afraid I won’t be up to the task of making it good enough to publish. But the skills I have learned through blogging should hold me in good stead. The point I am trying to make is, when I was reluctant to start blogging, I didn’t realise the value of the connections I would make, and the writing skills I would develop in so doing. I certainly do now. I hope, when the final draft is finished, that I will be able to ask writer friends to proofread and critique my work. All writers should have a circle, and I have found a strong circle of friendship here, thanks to you all!
I will continue to post poetry and a few factual posts, but if I’m absent more than usual, it’s because I am busy redrafting my novel. I hope you enjoyed this post, which started off as the story of my novel, but rapidly turned into the story of this blog!