Tuesday, May 23, 2023

And just like that...

...another year has zipped by. Just over a week to the second anniversary of my retirement.

As you all know by now—I do go on about it way more than I should—I reluctantly retired on 31st May 2021. Appropriately, Memorial Day; not to take any glory away from our Vets of course, their memories are far more significant, but it was a memorable day for me nonetheless. I am getting over the hurt...I know, slowly but I am doing my best...it was my decision, but those who worked with me will agree, I was given very little choice. Or, the choice I was given was just not an option I could possibly accept or live with. See here if you don't already know the story.

So how is retirement going I hear you ask (I don't—hear you that is—but I imagine you would ask). A year ago I published this post. Reading it a year later, apparently I whined a lot!. Now, not so much. Yes I am old and actually a full year older but I am doing okay. On balance I am enjoying being retired. I enjoy not having to work, though I still miss the actual work, the coding, the challenge and of course, the people I worked with. And the feeling of pride when everything works as it should; and it usually did. But I have got to admit it is nice to be able to just do whatever I want, whenever I want. Like the surprise trip to Florida in February. Even grocery shopping, doesn't have to be the weekend, doesn't have to any specific day, just whenever I choose. The down side is that I do get bored from time to time. I was aware this would be the case and planned hobbies and activities to keep me occupied and, more important, keep my brain exercised.

The second year of retirement went fairly well. I wore out Masterclass writing sessions and no new ones appeared. After hunting around I finally discovered The Writing Master Academy (WMA), an amazing community of writers and an endless supply of courses and webinars. I had joined Nanowrimo the previous year but did nothing there. Last year I signed up and completed the November challenge, writing 50,000 words in just under a month, they call it 'winning' and I did feel victorious even if that was also the only prize. Between those two sites I also completed the first draft of my novel and that was the trophy. That was also the easy part.

I am now on the tenth draft. The first five were just fixing typos and grammar, expanding on descriptions and generally filling in the obvious blanks. Then I passed it to my alpha readers, yes two of them. Following feedback I cut 5,000 words of unnecessary backstory, no longer novel length I returned to filling in blanks by expanding the plot. Next step was two early beta readers and a couple of weeks of virtual nail biting as I tried to convince myself that they wouldn't hate it. Surprisingly, they didn't, and they did come back with some really useful feedback. 

Next I found a critique partner (CP) on WMA, another writer to get a writer's perspective, unlike beta readers who give a reader's perspective. Of course, all of this feedback is just that, feedback. It is up to me how much of it I want to implement and how much I don't agree with. To be fair, almost all of it was valid and useful. So far, no one has actually told me the story sucks and most of the time I feel good about that, just sometimes I think they are just being kind.

A critique partner is a reciprocal arrangement. I read and thoroughly enjoyed her book and supplied my feedback within ten days. Then I headed off to my surprise Florida trip—a short break away from writing and reading. I planned to start working on my CP's feedback as soon as I returned. Best laid plans. I didn't receive any feedback. I waited a week and then moved on to my next stage, on the assumption that my CP hated my story so much she didn't want to respond. I had a book club waiting in the wings for my draft to beta read. I sent it along to them, a little late so now I had another month to wait as they had already selected their book for April. I spent the next week wondering if I should contact my CP or just let her be. Finally, one month after I sent her the manuscript, I send a reminder email. Two days later I got a response, apologizing and sending me feedback. It was a shame I didn't get this before sending my draft to my beta reader book club, but I immediately started working on yet another draft, incorporating much of the feedback. 

My word count was now back up to 54,000. I am hopeful I can pad it out some more as I start working on my beta readers feedback, but if not it is still a valid count for a novel. The most difficult part of the writing process is the constant fear that my story is boring and my writing is bad. The most difficult part of the revision process is that I know the story, the back story and the characters so well, I fear I am not sharing enough of that information with my readers. So this next draft will be dedicated to ensuring valuable insights are on the page, not just in my head. 

While I waited for the book club feedback, I started working on a draft of my submission package—that is a query letter that will go out to potential agents, arguably more important than the book to get this right. It should contain a synopsis of the book and the first ten pages. I also started outlining my second book. I have kept myself busy.

Obviously the submission package can't be completed until the feedback from my beta book club is reviewed and incorporated, which is what I am currently working on. Then the first ten pages will be polished and put into the query letter. Once that is completed I have a professional, freelance editor lined up to review it and give me feedback. That is when another bout of hard work begins. Selecting potential agents and matching my submission to their specific requirements and send it off...and waiting, listening to the deafening silence from that abyss.

In answer to your question, the second year of retirement has gone fairly well. I have remained active both physically and mentally. And who knows, I would probably have been laid off by now anyway—though at least that would have come with a severance package, instead of just the feeling of being put out to pasture with the door slammed in my face.

I have had periods of extreme boredom but these have been short and only because I find television boring and my husband loves it and will watch anything. I love my husband and so I do spend some time each day with him, watching television but only after I have completed my writing hours—the fun stuff. All that, I hope, explains why I have been ignoring my blog for so long. I have been writing, just not here. I will of course, let y'all know when my novel is finally published. If that sounds overly confident, it isn't. I will try to publish the conventional way but if I fail to attract an agent I will self publish. Watch this space as they say...whoever they are.