Happy 21st birthday, Mackerel Sky

Today, 24 January, marks twenty-one years since I started writing Mackerel Sky. Aka Watching Clouds, which is what the story had always been called up until about six months ago. Mackerel sky is a cloud formation, my favourite as it happens, and so it seemed a reasonably appropriate swap for Watching Clouds.

Owen still watches clouds, and he learns about the mackerel sky from Andrew during a peaceful moment (as yet written only in note form).

Twenty-one years. When I started (I was only half my current age!) I had only a thought to write the story of a young man who chose a slightly oddly path to follow in order to provide for his brothers and sisters. It was always going to be a romance, but it also contained a fair amount of anger and grief. I still have the very first words I wrote (back when I hadn’t yet happened upon the name of my MC) and I am quite thrilled with the fact that a good chunk of the initial ideas remain in the story. Not that it hasn’t changed over the years. Believe me, the opening section has had several re-writes and new-writes, and yet I keep coming back to starting where I’d always started it. I like to think that means it starts in a good spot, rather than me being resistant!

I think on the story a lot, even if I don’t write or am not editing. I even have a cover designed, which I have posted in several places around my house as inspiration. However, I find I’m just not feeling the finish. I want to publish this story but I also think I wouldn’t die in a ditch over that not happening. I’ve loved the journey, and I do actually have a full draft pretty much written (oh, let’s be honest – I’ve books two and three written as well, which stemmed from the fact that I kept thinking about an alternate ending and, voila, two extra books. I could condense them all into one but it’d still be a mammoth tome).

I know that publishing doesn’t mean I can’t ever edit or re-write or write anew. So, perhaps I just don’t want to let the story go. Perhaps I want to protect Owen, because I’m pretty sure people are going to think he’s on drugs or something over some of the things he does and thinks. He isn’t, by the way.

If I were disciplined (I’m a Capricorn, you’d think I’d be there with bells on) I could get the first draft done and to beta-readers┬áby mid-year, and official editor (if needed, since I’m actually qualified myself) by end-year.

That’s kind of the reason for this post – a name and shame, if you will. Twenty-one years is ridiculous!!! I wrote 50,000 new words during the last NaNo and enjoyed it, and it wasn’t really rocket science. Though… I’ve not written a new word in the time since, instead writing for other novels and engaging in short stories on my writing site (not ‘mine’, but you know what I mean).

Off to set this website as my home page, to guilt myself into writing every time I see this post wishing my favourite novel a happy 21st!

Procrastination… and other things

I have been writing Watching Clouds for twenty years, and I have several other ‘novels’ that I started back in the late eighties and that I’m still writing. It is, therefore, totally no surprise to realise that I’ve neglected blogging on this site for six months. Time appears to have no affect on me.

And yet in my daily work life I’m all about deadlines and time frames, and I’m organisation personified.

Why is it that I can’t be the same in my writing life? I think there are three things.

  • I’m a pantser – I just write from anywhere in the story. I might have an idea where I’m going to end up but I don’t plan to get there. I generally never start at what might be termed ‘the beginning’. I write upon ideas and eventually I have a whole bunch of bits and bobs that need to be knitted together to make a whole. Bit like a peggy-square blanket, really.
  • I write to inspiration. I know we’re supposed to write every day but I don’t. Sometimes I don’t write for a week (longer than that and I do get a bit antsy). All of my writing has to come from somewhere – a full blown idea, a dream, or a tiny speck of something that can grow. I can’t be forced; it’s just horrible gunk that comes out if I am (and it doesn’t get better).
  • I’m easily distracted (unless I’m in full writing mode). This is good for the house and gardens, but not good for Owen who’s been waiting twenty years!

The thing is, when I write it’s usually the weekend and I barely ever go out (once I’m home, I’m home). Plenty of time for writing, right? Nope. Lately, the internet has been my downfall. I’m a writer by hand, but I belong to Writing.com and always have to log on to chat, edit, review, read. Just recently I signed up to Pinterest – a hugely dangerous site for a procrastinator. The stuff on there is just amazing. I have made boards for two of my characters – so I’m researching if not writing – but also made boards for writing and self-publishing. For a pantser I’m quite addicted to worksheets and lists, though I rather think this is my Capricorn side coming out.

In any case I’m beginning to realise that I can write like a pantser, but I must also start to plan/plot my novels out, ensuring that I have the general elements of a novel actually in play. I like to think I did that a bit with Owen’s epiguide ‘story’ – got to know him (and his brother) a bit better. Before I did that ‘story’ I really was a bit grey on him, even though he’s a first person narrator and we’ve been together twenty years! He suffers a bit from alexithymia – which is the inability to express feelings, show feelings etc.

So, in a roundabout way, I am writing. Just not adding word counts to my novels. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but I am a bit afraid that another twenty years will go by and Owen will still be waiting for his story to end. Since I’m not writing to make a financial career I have no impetus to finish a story and publish it, and this quite possibly is my biggest downfall. I want to publish, I just feel no push-and-shove to make me do so.