This is a strange blog post to be writing. It was supposed to be the announcement of the release of my new book, Black Spot. I’ve been talking about it here for years now, from conception to writing to shortlisting in the 2016 Text Prize to its planned publication. I’d originally planned to release it in February 2018 but life and a hectic new job kept delaying it. It was eventually ready by the end of May 2018 (apart from the cover, which would be ready a few weeks later). And then came something that threw a spanner in the works.
About eighteen months ago, I published my most recent book, Project January: A Sequel About Writing. But I’d actually planned to publish it about four months earlier. Yet as the deadline I’d set for myself arrived, the book still wasn’t finished. I still have the publishing plans for it and my next four books written on one of my whiteboards:
*Project January: A Sequel About Writing – November 2016
*Black Spot – November 2017
*Trine – November 2018
*Project February: A Trilogy About Writing – November 2019
*Matriarchy – November 2020
I eventually finished and published Project January in March 2017 and you can read about how I did that in my post on how to psych yourself into writing a book. But because it was four months late (or at least four months later than I’d planned to publish), suddenly my subsequent publishing plans were also thrown out. (Obviously I like the idea of publishing roughly one book a year.)
It’s been a whole year since I made four New Year’s writing resolutions. Given my previous lack of success in making plans and sticking to them when it comes to writing, I gave no guarantees about achieving any of them but because New Year’s Eve is right around the corner again, I thought I should review them and see if I managed to tick any of them off the list.
Resolution #1: Publish Black Spot
Straight off the bat, a big fat no. I didn’t publish Black Spot. I said at the time I made this resolution that I was just waiting for a couple of rejections from publishers before going ahead and self-publishing. Of course, that was before Black Spot was shortlisted for the 2016 Text Prize for Writing for Children and Young Adults. Although I didn’t win, I did get a lot of great feedback, did another rewrite and sent it off to a few more publishers. So I’m still waiting for a few more rejections. One way or another, Black Spot will be published in 2017. (I won’t call that a resolution, just an inevitability. There aren’t any more reasons to keep putting it off.) But as with everything when it comes to publishing, it’s just taking a little longer than I thought it would.
I previously wrote about not winning writing competitions after submitting my unpublished novel, Black Spot, to the Hardie Grant Egmont Ampersand Project in 2015, being contacted by one of the judges who seemed interested but ultimately failing to go any further than that. The three reasons I gave not to be too dejected were:
*There are a lot of people submitting to writing competitions, so it’s not small fish in a big pond, it’s a lot of fish in a small pond.
*A lot of competitions have very specific requirements, your writing might not quite fit the criteria and trying to force a square peg into a round hole is a futile exercise.
*There are so many differences of opinion on pieces of writing that getting all the judges of one writing competition to agree is a bit like getting cats to walk in formation. Or it might simply be that it isn’t your year (just ask Kimberley Starr who entered the Text Prize in 2013 with no joy and won it in 2015 with a reworked version of the same piece).
Here are a few more things that might make you feel a little better.
Today something unusual happened. I had no family commitments or job interviews, a day to myself, and I was planning to do housework and writing. I’d just started the dishwasher when my phone began ringing. I thought – hoped – that it might be about one of the jobs I’d interviewed for. But I didn’t recognise the number. Then I thought it might be about another job I’d applied for; I’ve applied for a lot. So I answered.
It wasn’t about any of those things. Even though this Project October has felt more about my efforts at jobseeking than about my efforts at writing, it wasn’t anything to do with potential jobs. It was a woman named Ally, who told me she worked at Text Publishing. She was calling to let me know that Black Spot, which I’d entered in the 2016 Text Prize – a competition for unpublished young adult manuscripts – had been shortlisted. And to invite me to the announcement of the winner in just under two weeks’ time.
I didn’t write today and after not writing yesterday that really has put me behind schedule with the word count. I slept late (exhaustion still not dealt with), washed my hair, dried my hair, fell asleep again (when I am tired, I am really tired), then woke up to have some dinner and go to a branch meeting of the political party I am a member of. Sometimes, it just isn’t going to happen no matter how good your intentions are.
Today’s Word Count: 0
Ongoing Tally: 23,826
I’m back on track today. I had another job interview this morning, but for a different job, and I’m back home now. It’s only early afternoon so I have plenty of writing time. I’ve upped my daily target for the last four days of Project October to 1,500 words per day, which should mean I get to 30,000 words by the time it’s over. And what’s an extra 500 words a day? Nothing. If I look back at some days during this month, I’ve been doing that and more anyway.
Agony today. High heels yesterday partly responsible. Dancing at the wedding partly responsible. Nursing eight-month old twin nieces partly responsible. Taking public transport to the wedding and home again also partly responsible. I didn’t even wake up until half past one in the afternoon, which I suppose is the sign of a good wedding, right? It’s also a sign of the complete exhaustion that seems to befall me after every social event I attend. I am starting to feel older than my age. Not just the aches and pains. Every time I interact with young people, people in their teens and early twenties, they just make me shake my head in frustration and ask, “Was I ever that stupid and self-involved?” I don’t think I was but isn’t that what all older people think?
Today was another day of reinterpreting an already written conversation and considering how terrible I was feeling, it was excellent timing. I doubt I would have written anywhere near 1,500 words if I’d had to write it all from scratch.