Sunday, 12 December 2021

My Writing Year

Because I am classed as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable, I’ve been forced to isolate myself from Covid-19. As a result, 2021 has been one of my busiest ever writing years. Exactly a year ago, my second collection of poetry, The Skylark’s Call, was launched. On Zoom of course, with readings from my guests Moyra Donaldson, Kevin Higgins and Damian Smyth, supported my members of Queen’s Writers’ Group. A year later, most of the first print run has been sold and over £200 has been raised for Cancer Focus NI. And on top of that, I’ve just completed the second draft of my novel. The working title is The Cut. It is a crime thriller set in a fictitious English town in 1961.

Promoting a new book during the series of lockdowns we’ve had over the past year has not been easy. I’m very grateful for the support of the independent book stores that have stocked the book. So thank you No Alibis, Books Paper Scissors, The Secret Bookshelf, Walsh’s and The Salmon Bookstore. I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to give public readings of my poetry over the past year. So thank you The Culture Café and Marie-Louise Muir on BBC Radio, Over The Edge and Susan Millar DuMars, The Poetry Garden and Jo Zebedee, and The City Chapter of Armagh Libraries and The John Hewitt Society on National Poetry Day. These last two readings being with a real live audience. I’m also very grateful for the support of my publisher, Dempsey & Windle, as well as the many people who have chosen to buy the book through my website and get a personalized dedication from yours truly. Thank you all again for your support, for the book and for the good cause that I’ve been raising money for.

Turning to my novel, The Cut. I’m very grateful for the excellent guidance and advice I’ve received from Curtis Brown. The six week novel writing programme I followed this Autumn was very intensive, but hugely beneficial. It helped me to identify the many flaws of my first draft and showed me how to resolve them. I ended up making some major changes to the manuscript. Such as cutting five chapters and plenty of scenes throughout, as well as cutting one character and sub-plot entirely. I started the novel at the previous chapter five. I rewrote parts of all of the other chapters, and I added fifteen new chapters and one new character. For the past three months, I’ve been getting up at 6am most days to start on it. It’s been immersive and very compelling work.

The second draft of the novel is much better than the first. The final report from Curtis Brown on my synopsis and the first two chapters was very positive. My plan is to leave the second draft until the New Year and look at it with fresh eyes. I expect to then be making a series of minor changes to the manuscript. Fingers crossed that these will primarily be refining and tidying. All being well, I hope to submit draft three to a selection of agents. Isn’t it strange, even the darkest situations can also give some light.

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