On Writing: An Introduction of Sorts…

My name is Jo and I’m a writer.

Just writing that sentence is giving me the shivers.
I’ve always, always been reluctant to talk about my writing. This isn’t because I don’t think it’s any good, I mean, it has it’s moments. But there’s just something about saying the words “I’m a writer” which makes me uncomfortable.

Maybe it’s because I’m British and self-deprecating and I don’t class myself as a writer because I haven’t got a book on the shelf. Or maybe it’s because the usual response to “I’m a writer” is “Oh, what do you write?” and then that’s where I blankly stare at you… which I’ve heard is pretty disconcerting.

So yes, I don’t have a reason for you but I can probably count on one hand the people who know how serious I am about this writing malarkey.

I’ve always thought my writing as mine. I’m very picky about who I share my writing with because it’s personal. I’ve never written a diary so I wouldn’t know how it feels to have any read it but that’s what I imagine it to feel like. When it’s written it’s fine, I’m happy for people to read it because it’s out there and I can’t change it. But while I’m cutting things down and changing scenes, I like to keep it secretsecret. Also, it makes me blush and stutter something rotten.

I just want to take this opportunity to get you all up to speed with my writing and give you a bit of a reason why I’m not joining you all in NaNoWriMo this year.

Currently, I have two things I am working on at the moment. The first is a contemporary YA story called Patter, and it was written last year during NaNoWriMo. Since then I have been redrafting and jiggering with it.
My third draft, completed in January this year, weighed in at a ridiculous 90k words. This is when I was still thought that the longer a young adult book was, the better it would be. It had a brief snippet of interest from an agent that ended up in complete and infuriating disappointment. But that’s another story and you live and you learn.
After I finished feeling sorry for myself, I redrafted it and was extremely happy. So I sent it off to three agents.

I got two ‘nos’ and one nothing.

And that’s when I started to feel like I needed to do something because obviously something wasn’t working, but I had no idea what. A while ago, Kirsty Eagar recommended that I use Cornerstones, a literary agency, because she had used it while she was living in London and it proved to be invaluable to her. I was sceptical because I wasn’t sure whether I needed it. I mean, I knew what I was doing, didn’t I?
Apparently not.
So I got in touch with them and decided that if I was really serious about my writing, I needed to invest in it. I won’t lie, it is a bit pricey but the service is absolutely amazing and, to me anyway, 100% worth it. The full report was so in-depth, constructive and, at time, brutally honest (there’s nothing quite like seeing every single one of your swear words you’ve used listed in a Word document to make you realise you swear like a sailor…with a swearing problem).
I blinked at it for an entire day. There were big changes I had to do, changes that were going to… well, change pretty much my whole book. And it was going to be a lot of work.
And then I pulled myself together and decided to grow up and opened my Word doc and looked at it with fresh eyes.

That was just over three weeks ago and so far I have hacked off 20k words, killed off two characters (well, not literally), changed the twists and turns completely and transformed the book.
Whether it’s better or not, I’m not sure. We’ll see. I have the changes planned out but I have yet to start re-writing. I just know that I’m not going to rush it and I’m not going to be all “OMGAGENTS!” until I know for sure that I’m happy with it and it’s the story I want to tell.
I’m only 23. I’ll get there.

The second story I’m working on at the moment is another contemporary young adult book and it’s based on a story and characters that have been rattling around my head for a very long time. In between my drafts for Patter, I started to plot, scribbling in notebooks, made notes on my iPhone and there are post-its scattered around my room. In the last few weeks, I’ve actually put font to Word Document and made some progress on it. It feels weird because it’s extremely different to the first book but I think that’s what I need.

I don’t want to witter on about it because I’m very conscious of how annoying I’m sounding but I started a tumblr a while ago (it’s been linked over there >> on the sidebar for a few weeks, I’ve been hoping no one noticed it). There, I am posting snippets, pictures, lyrics, songs and all my inspiration for it so if you do want to know more about it that’s where you should go.

So that’s where I am with my writing.

You may wonder why I’m telling you all this but, don’t worry, I have a reason. I’m starting a new feature on Wear the Old Coat that is all about writing YA fiction. I know a lot of readers of this genre want to become YA writers themselves and I’d like to get a bit of a discussion going.

So every two weeks (or so…*cough*), I’m going to publish a post about writing YA books. These will all be different, ranging from discussion posts with my favourite aspiring authors, interviews with bloggers and, and this is something I’m incredibly excited about, interviews with some of my favourite authors about their own journey with writing. I’ve wanted to do this for a while now: instead of asking authors questions about their books as a reader, but as a writer.

I can’t wait to hear what they have to say and the advice that they’ll give because, and I don’t know about you, but I am looking for all the advice I can get.

So, what do you think? Are you a writer? Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? What would you like to see in this feature? I’m still trying to work out if I can pull this off, so I’m very flexible and I’d love your suggestions!

26 thoughts on “On Writing: An Introduction of Sorts…

  1. I’m so happy you posted this, Jo! I love hearing about your writing.. not just because I’m curious about how and why people write (which I am), but because I find your enthusiasm and motivation inspiring. Very excited for your future writing posts :)

  2. Jo! Great post. I’m like you with my writing and reviews and stuff. I also hate seeing people reading my stuff, which sounds weird, but I can’t sit beside them and see them read it.

    Good luck with your WIPs, I’m sure they are fantastic!

    I’m doing NaNo this year, which I decided to do on a whim and am now writing rubbish everyday and thinking ‘this sounded so much better in my head’. But, to be honest, I’m not super serious about it because I think I’m more of a non-fic writer if that makes sense. I certainly think I’m more suited to journalism anyway…which is good, I suppose considering I’m nearly half way through my degree. I also always thought that I shouldn’t try and write fiction until I’d had some life experience, after all, who wants to listen to what an 18 year old has to say? But, I’m doing it this year, so who knows what will happen?

    Anyway…I’m excited about your new feature, I can’t wait to see who you chat to!

    P.S sorry for rambling ;)

    • Ha, Maree, bless you! I’m sure lots of us would care what an 18 year old has to say (especially when it’s you!)… at least you’d have that authenticity to your writing voice. You forget that the majority of the people who read my blog are people who are more than happy spending time in an 18year old’s head. :)

      But I think that definitely makes sense about the journalism, I think people automatically assume when you say “I want to be a writer” they think fiction. I love non-fiction writing, but I think I’d make a horrible journalist.

      I think that’s the great thing about doing NaNoWriMo, it kind of takes the pressure of things and actually gets you to WRITE. I know that sounds stupid but I know a lot of people struggle with actually getting words down because they’re worried what it will read like. But there’s no pressure because you can always just get the words down and then go back to them a few weeks/months/years later and make the changes.

      But yes, thanks Maree! I hope you enjoy it. :)

      • Well, I hope my story isn’t too whiny haha and there’s no instalove…

        I think my main aim for NaNo this year is not to reach 50k, but more to turn of my perfectionist self-editor. You see, sometimes I am actually afraid to start writing (whether it be a feature or a news story or a review) because it might sound silly. So I will put it off for ages, until I realise it’s due in a day and then panic. But, you’re right. There shouldn’t be any pressure because I can just edit it later and no one has to read the crappy stuff. I just need to stop being all perfectionist about it.

  3. This was a lovely post. I read it three times, because it’s just so raw and honest, and really struck a chord with me.

    I’m really excited about this new feature; it sounds so original and fun. :)

    Your WIPS sound fantastic. Good luck. Writing is a hard task; making the writing perfect is even harder. :)

    • Thanks Jess, that means a lot because I know how much you write! :)

      “Writing is a hard task; making the writing perfect is even harder” < so true. I think I got it into my head that as soon as I'd finished the actual writing of it then it would be plain sailing afterwards. Nah..

      But I guess that would make it boring, wouldn't it? ;)

  4. Oh my fellow shipmate on this crazy writing boat. This post has me tearing up and wanting to tackle hug you. Yes to all these things and a million more! I’m addicted to hearing people’s processes and writing lives. How they work and rest and what order they get dressed. I need them to tell me I’m not a freak for all my self doubting doubts and writing angst. We’re all a bunch of crazy sobbing fools aren’t we?!
    I love you I love books I love all the things *throws rainbows*

  5. I can totally understand how shy you must be about your writing, so I feel very spesh because you sent me your letter to read :) I’m not happy to hear about your disappointing experience but I do hope that you’re happier with where Patter is right now and I can still picture it on the shelves of book stores, so I *know* it will happen xox

  6. Ripping apart your story to make it better is always a painful experience, but it sounds like you’ve got a great start at it. Good luck! I’m in a similar boat – this is the first year I’ve decided not to do NaNo because I’m already editing something and working on something else…it feels a little weird. Oh, and I think your future “writing YA” posts sound like a great idea – looking forward to checking them out. Happy editing!

    • Thank you! And yes, it is horrible but I think it’s dangerous getting too attached to certaih characters/storylines because sometimes… well they just don’t fit in! I’ve been adamant that a scene is PERFECT for my WIP and I’ve been in love with it, but when I’ve stepped back and seen it from someone else’s eyes I can see that it doesn’t.

      I hope you enjoy them and that they’re useful. :)

  7. Look at you, sharing your heart. This was a great post, Jo, and I look forward to reading all the rest in the series EVERY TWO WEEKS. You know I’m giving NaNo a go this year but I’m not confident I’ll finish up. 2,000 words a day is a chore for me. Thinking of cutting 20,000 from your MS means so much more to me after seeing exactly how long it takes me to write 1/10th of that. I know I’ve told you this before but I love your writing and I love your sense of humor and the two of them together are very special. I am confident that you’ll figure it all out and be published and then I can just send you a note in the mail saying, “I told you so.” xx

    • Thanks Flann, that means a lot! Mostly because you’re usually so mean but also because I love and value your opinion a ridiculous amount.

      I think NaNo is so great for writers who are reluctant to get things down in the first place. I think one of the main things that puts people off writing is because they’re like “Oh, it’s crap” but beauty of it is that it CAN be crap because once you’ve got the words down, you can shift it around a bit and get rid of things and add things. I truly hope you do finish it so I can read it though. :)

      And you’re too wonderful, stop it. You’ll make me blush and I look horrible when I blush. xx

  8. How do you know all these famous writers lol?

    You’re a fab writer Jo, and I’m honored to have a little insight into your scribbles :) I just know you are going to be published one day (and hopefully one day I’ll be the editor that signs you ;) ) I’m looking forward to these writing YA posts as well. So many book bloggers are also aspiring writers – its such a lovely community.

    *Cheers Jo on from the South of England*

    • I lurk in their gardens and make it impossible for them not to talk to me. :)

      Thanks Amy, I’m honoured that you want to get an insight into my scribbles. :) You’re too lovely and I’m so glad I have you in my corner.

      I hope you enjoy them! :)

  9. A word count of your swears! They don’t mess around, do they? Hey, if it worked for Kirsty Eagar…

    I’m so excited for you, Jo! I’m now following your Tumblr and looking forward to any and all future news about Patter and your other WIP.

  10. Pingback: On Writing: Trish Doller on American Contemporary. « weartheoldcoat

  11. Love this post Jo and love your new feature. I’m so impressed by your passion and dedication to writing and I can’t WAIT to see your books on shelves one day! Coz they totally will be.

    PS You potty mouth you! But there totally needs to be more swears in YA.

  12. Pingback: On Writing || Their Stories – NaNoWriMo « weartheoldcoat

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