Tag: eviemcrae

Is it time to come out of solitary confinement?

Is it time to come out of solitary confinement?

eviemcrae.blogAs part of a busy creative team, I’ve always been motivated and inspired by those around me. I’ve always been in awe of the talented designers who have brought life to my words, no matter how dry the subject matter. Gifted wordsmiths and copywriters have always pushed me to think beyond my comfort zone and have provided invaluable feedback and critique before that moment where you send your handcrafted ‘baby’ out into the world to fend for itself.

If all this sounds frenzied, then you’re correct. However, the world of novel writing is very different. It is solitary. That means you have to be all things to yourself and your work. Many writers will identify with the roller coaster of emotions. The elation and self-belief that you are creating something that could change the world, all the way to despair and the pits of self-loathing. You know what I’m talking about. When you look at your screen and think ‘who am I kidding? A five-year-old could write better than this. I’m an idiot to think I could have something here-‘ and so it goes on.

Sound familiar? If you are one of those who has been quietly working in your corner of the world with no human contact, embroiled in your own nightmare of rejection and derision then I’m here to make a suggestion. Get involved with other writers. They’re not a bad bunch really.

I have to say I struggled with the very advice I’m imparting to you. First of all, I don’t want other writers stealing my idea (as if-). Secondly, having traversed publishing and corporates alike, I have met my fair share of -well I’ll just say it – stuck up literary snobs. The thought of spending evenings or weekends with a bunch of bespectacled ‘superior school teacher’ types makes my feet want to curl up and drop off.

Without wanting to sound like one of those very snobs that I shy away from, neither did I want to attend a writer’s group filled with old grannies writing stories about their cat (and, by the way, I love cats). I’ve been there, done that and I’ll be back there soon enough I’m sure. My desire was to find a group of people just like me – if that were at all possible. People who had enough intelligence to provide valuable critique without making me feel I should give up and stay home to watch the Jeremy Kyle Show. I soon realised that in order to test the waters with what I had to offer, I did indeed have to dip my toes in that scary water.

Taking my courage in my hands, I signed up for a writer’s workshop at Bloomsbury Press in London. The title of the workshop was “How to hook an agent.” I didn’t feel my writing was at the point of needing an agent. My coat of protection was the notion that this was a fact finding mission. If my work wasn’t up to scratch it was because it wasn’t ready – if you catch my drift.

The day of the workshop arrived as did I, all nervous with my laptop in hand. I have no sense of direction and was following my trusty Google Navigation along the streets of London. When I looked up, I met a similarly apprehensive individual, smartphone in hand, nervously looking around.

Are you here for the writer’s workshop?” I asked with all the coyness of a girl embarking on her first day at school. I was met with a smile and relieved nod of the head.

My new friend Alice and I walked in together and sat next to each other to provide each other with much needed moral support. As it turned out, there was nothing to be scared of. We met a group of 4 agents, each providing us with valuable information on what they looked for in a query letter and submission pitch. In the afternoon, we had an opportunity to use that information and deliver our own pitch.

Hearing yourself describe your book to a group of people you’ve never met before is an illuminating experience. First of all, you are fighting the fight or flight instinct with thoughts of ‘what the hell am I doing here?’ But what follows after your mind has scrabbled around trying to find as few words as possible to sum up your book, is the beginnings of your ‘elevator pitch’. Let’s be honest, how many of you would make yourself come up with that at home in the comfort of your study, until push came to shove?

Instead of blank expressions, communicating the much feared ‘what planet are you on?’, you will receive encouraging nods, and people breaking out into their own discussions about ‘your book’.

The feedback I received in my ‘one-to-one’ with my chosen agent of the day, was invaluable. What surprised me most was the questions from other writers and participants. Questions about characters, questions about what inspired the novel and so on.

In short, I came away from the day thinking, ‘you know what, I might have something here. I’ve got a lot of work to do, but I know where the work needs to be done.’ Putting myself up for scrutiny like that provided fresh momentum, new motivation, clearer direction and a belief that my destiny didn’t lie in the lap of Jeremy Kyle while my writing languished in a bottom drawer somewhere.

So if you’re struggling with confidence or clarity, I really recommend putting yourself out there. Start with whatever group you feel most comfortable with. Nowadays local libraries run excellent writer’s groups who will provide you with a forum to read your work out loud. That alone is an invaluable experience.

Of course, for my part, the icing on the cake from my adventures in London was making the acquaintance of like-minded people who were really great fun to be around. We made a pact to email each other from time to time and offer support when moments of doubt come knocking. Nobody was interested in pinching my story idea because they all have fantastic stories of their own to tell. So yes, writing a novel is a solitary experience, but it doesn’t have to be a lonely one.

Live. Love. Laugh. Create.

Live. Love. Laugh. Create.

eviemcrae.blogAs a professional writer with a significant number of years under my belt in the publishing and corporate world, the decision to branch into longer prose was an emotionally challenging one. After all, my childhood dream was to write a book. My teenage dream and my early 20s dream was, yes you’ve guessed it, to write a book. Somehow life got in the way and I found myself starting many novels only to get to around 30 pages and run out of time, momentum or worse still, the story would dry up. Each time I started a new project thinking this time would be different. I had countless stories waiting to be told but for whatever reason I just couldn’t get them beyond a certain point. So what was different this time?

A few years ago my mother died. My mother was too young to die – she was only 60. What hurt us all about her death apart from the obvious pain of separation from someone we loved, was the sheer loss of potential. She was a truly gifted artist. She could paint, draw and use inks and charcoals as if they were an extension to her small nibble fingers. 

My mother was one of those mothers who made the halloween costume from scratch and I would win first prize every year dressed in one of her creations. Unfortunately, much to my own daughter’s disappointment, it was not a gift I inherited. There was always a feeling our mother could have done so much more with her gifts and talents if she had wanted to.

As her retirement age approached she busied herself creating wonderful inks and drawings of Inchcolm, the island on which she lived with my father for a few months of the year as they carried out their roles for Historic Scotland.

Towards the end of her battle with cancer, the one thing she battled with, within herself, was the fact that she was less and less able to hold a pencil or paintbrush and it was inevitable that she lost more of herself when she could no longer ‘create’ than what she lost physically to this eroding disease.

As time passed, we her children were able to look through her many notepads and canvases. I realised that it did not matter that she hadn’t set up an exhibition of her work, or that she had never taken money for commissions. She did it for love and she did it in answer to her own callings inside. I realised the most important thing was just the ability and drive to create something beautiful from nothing.

Not long after my mother died, I met an amazing man who listened to my childhood dreams and pushed me gently in the direction that I had become fearful to travel. I didn’t realise how fearful I had become until I started making the standard excuses – too busy, too tired, not in the zone. I found myself constantly hiding behind my ‘real writing work’. The reality was I was successful in my career, but what if I was unsuccessful as a novelist. A lifelong cherished dream would be shattered. He put it quite simply to me. “What are your priorities? Do you want to do this or not?” The answer leapt into my mind as a fervent ‘YES’ and I knew that I had to do it this time.

So here I am, nearing 100,000 words on my first book. Will it be a success? Does it matter? Of course a small part of me is saying yes of course it matters, I have so much to share. However, the most important thing I have learned, apart from the fact dedication, discipline and commitment are what makes our dreams come true (and boy do you need lots of discipline), is that you just need to create, to write words every single day. It doesn’t matter if the words are not so great every day, you can always edit, pull it apart and put it together again. Just create. Put something into the world that wasn’t there yesterday. That’s the true secret to living a creative life.