Every now and then I remember I have a tool that can be better than any social media platform could ever be for me. It’s called my own website. And I should use it more often.
I recently shut down my Twitter account. The rich egotist who bought it might have been the trigger, but I’d been thinking of coming off for months because I don’t enjoy using it. The takeover reminded me that ‘my followers’ aren’t my followers; they are Twitter’s followers and Twitter can mute or delete them or me at any time. The same is true of Linkedin (though I’m still on that) and all the other platforms out there.
Social media can be a useful tool for sharing and speaking with people across the world, but it can also be an unhelpful distraction as Twitter and similar platforms become less and less social.
I spent November participating in National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) as I’ve struggled to complete long-form work this year. This is the second time I’ve had a go. The first time was way back in 2013, and the less said about that the better. My experience held positives and negatives:
- I re-established a daily writing habit I thought I’d permanently lost.
- I exceeded the target word count goal of 50,000 words.
- I made some new writing buddies and renewed connections with existing buds.
- I wrote a story that will make eyes bleed, mostly an editor’s.
- Reading back sections of the manuscript made me wonder if I accidentally dropped acid at certain points in November.
- I often felt squeezed for time due to work, other life events, etc. – it would have been better to clear my calendar more.
- I lost enthusiasm for the story in the final week meaning I was just chugging out words not caring if they made sense or who I killed in the process*.
Whilst Nano was useful in some ways, I don’t think I will do it again. I like working to deadlines, but as many in the tech and video game sectors say, crunching rarely returns the best results.
*real people were not harmed in the making of this story.
I volunteer for the events team at Glasgow 2024. Our job is to promote the 82nd World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) by running regular events online and in person with authors, writers, editors, fans, actors, climatologists, goblins, and the occasional astronaut. I ended up hosting one of the best-attended events of the year just before Halloween, which was funny as I wasn’t actually supposed to be hosting it. But if I’m going to host something, I’m going to host the hell out of it. Smug mode engaged.
You can watch the replay of Reclaiming Paganism from Horror below. In it, I chat with Bram Stoker-nominated horror author Gemma Amor, trade questions with author and founder of Edinburgh’s Samhuinn Festival, Mark Oxbrow, and learn that my colleague, friend, and fringe theatre operator, Sarah Johnson, is a practising animist pagan. Our conversations were layered, good-natured, unintentionally funny, and for me, enlightening.
On 1st March 2023, I’ll be hosting “Eat my speculative shorts!” a discussion on short fiction and why it’s a huge but overlooked market. More details soon.
My short stage dramedy “Harriet’s Melody” was selected for a rehearsed reading performance at the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch. It took place on November 21st as part of the East London and Essex Playwrighting group showcase for new writing. Considering it was a Monday night, and the world cup was on, I was impressed they sold over 40 tickets. Directed by Sharan Atwal, a dance choreographer, actor, director, and artist, and performed by several experienced actors, it was fun seeing their interpretation on stage. It was also useful to see live audience reactions and make notes on what was and wasn’t working for them.
I write mainly in prose and the feedback process is different. Often, beta readers (other writers and editors I share my drafts with) will read my work, then feedback after a few days (more often weeks and sometimes months) with notes, comments, and suggestions. Rejections are very common, but I’ll grab any feedback I can from a reader, editor, or audience member when it’s offered. Some feedback I use, and some I ignore. I often look for consistencies in feedback because logically (to me at least) if the same thing isn’t working for several people, then I need to look at that before anything else.
With a live performance, I was able to witness reactions in real time and gain instant feedback. This is incredibly useful for my own development, and something I was grateful to get. As a bonus, I got some written feedback from audience members. The good news was that no one said the play was total shit. At least, not to my face.
“Great dialogue and writing. A little predictable which pulled my focus away from what was happening. I liked the concept though! I think the foreshadowing can be a little more cryptic.”
“Love the concept! The mystery is great. Great tension.”
“Unusual scenario, which made it very interesting. Thought it was going to be a serious piece but the humour ‘popped’ up and burst through.”
“I liked the voice in her head and the premise of a disappearing authority figure. However, the police officer being so angry about a dead dog didn’t ring true. Perhaps a more dramatic scenario would merit more of a response.”
I didn’t know anyone in the audience (well, aside from some of the other writers). People just bought a ticket and turned up. I do share work with selected friends and family members for feedback, but I am careful with who I share with because friends and family are already on my side and want me to do well. This is a great support and something I always treasure, but it can unintentionally blur their views, good or bad.
One of the few exceptions I make is with my partner. She is an avid reader, theatre goer, and thoughtful critic. If something needs work, she will let me know. If something is passable, she will give it a nod. If something needs to go in the bin, she’ll cheerfully dispose of it for me whilst I sulk in the corner.
A note on the term ‘new writing’
I found it odd to hear myself referred to as a ‘new writer’ when I’ve been writing seriously for nearly 20 years. It’s a useful marketing tool and I understand why people employ it. But I always remind myself that every published writer, author, screenwriter, and playwright I know wasn’t a new writer when they were first noticed by an audience or reader. Everyone I know who has gone on to great success had been working for years before they got branded with the term ‘new writer’ or ‘new voice’.
Right now, I feel pretty old and worn, but if people I don’t know want to call me ‘new’ I’ll go sulk in the corner before grumpily accepting the brand.
Until next time
It’s been a tough few years for everyone I know, and things seem to be getting tougher every day. All any of us can do is the best we can with what we have. I’ll keep trying and I hope you do too. Until next time, look after yourself and each other.