Catching up with Sally!

 In November 2015 I interviewed Sally Bridgewater, Creative Writing Courses & Competitions Coordinator for Writing Magazine, who was about to embark on an extreme writing challenge of hitting the 50,000 word target for the NaNoWriMo Challenge – but in one day!

I thought I’d catch up with Sally and see what has happened since.

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Hi, Sally, welcome back.  Can you share with us what has happened as a result of completing the challenge?
Doing the twenty-four hour wordathon was a fun challenge, but I wouldn’t class it as life-changing. I did really appreciate getting the chance to write a piece about it in the Writing Magazine, which is my first proper published article. It did really help me get the rest of my novel draft done back in November 2015, and getting a full draft down on paper gave me a lot more confidence that I really will finish this novel one day.
Have you submitted the finished draft yet? 
Nowhere near! I took a break after NaNoWriMo in 2015 – one of the downsides of taking on extreme challenges is that afterwards you usually feel in need of an extreme rest. So I only picked my novel back up in April 2016, when I started world-building and generally trying to re-plot the whole thing. I just aimed for twice a week as I’ve been pretty busy with other things, and that gave me a good stretch of steady progress on it over the summer.
Believe it or not, I have not yet gone back and re-read what I wrote in the wordathon or in the rest of that November – as soon as I started working on the novel again I knew I’d be changing so much that there wasn’t too much point in working from the draft outwards. I still don’t see it as a waste of time though – doing that really rough draft gave me a rough sense of the characters, the world, the plot, and most especially got me far enough to imagine what would happen at the end. All of that was crucial, and as I am a first-time novelist I don’t think there was any other way for me to work out a full plot from my first ideas. I’m hoping with my second or third book I won’t have to write completely discarded drafts though!
I hope not. However, I can see how completing this punishing challenge has taught you so much and given you a tangible first draft to build upon.
In November 2016 I wanted to do NaNoWriMo again, of course, and I was aiming for a complete rewrite of the novel with my new plot. Even though I was the most prepared I’ve ever been, with a spreadsheet of all the scenes I was planning, unfortunately life got in the way. I finally reached the top of the waiting list for a much-delayed jaw surgery during November so I had to give that priority. I thought lying on the sofa recovering would give me lots of time to write, but it turns out that healing is a lot more tiring than it looks! I didn’t want to push myself while I was obviously not at full health, so I’ve not given myself a hard time about it.
I hope you are fully recovered now. What are your writing goals for 2017?
Get this second draft finished! I have recommitted to writing 1000 words a day, and it’s really working pretty well at the moment. I use the Jotterpad app on my phone to write on the bus on my way to and from work, and I am genuinely surprised how much easier I find it to do that than to carve out a chunk of time to sit at my computer – somehow that just feels more like Hard Work. I am using all the psychology tricks I can to make it easier, such as congratulating myself just for making the three short taps it takes to open the Jotterpad on my phone. I know that’s all I have to do really, and then once it’s actually in front of me it’s much easier to contemplate doing the actual writing.
I am also using a site called Beeminder.com to keep me on track – it makes a graph of a goal you want to achieve, so in my case I have one tracking the number of ‘days I worked on my main fiction project’ and I’ve set my target as only three days a week. This is because if you fall off the line on the graph of how many things you said you’d do, then Beeminder charges your credit card an ever-increasing amount of money. It is scarily effective at keeping you motivated, I’d seriously recommend it for anything you’re stuck on.
I’ve then got a great writing project I’m looking forward to in April – my friend Tonks and I (who helped with the Wordathon in the first place) have agreed to do ‘Camp NaNoWriMo’ and make it Editing Month. The real twist is that I will edit her first draft and she will edit mine. It’s a little scary but we trust each other and it will be so much easier seeing how to improve someone else’s work rather than your own. So that gives me a deadline to get the second draft done!
If anyone would like to follow developments, they can like my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SallyBridgewater. I could do with your support!
I wish you a very happy, healthy and successful 2017!

Sally Bridgewater – From Newbie to Novelist!

I am delighted to be interviewing a ‘Newbie’ writer, Sally Bridgewater, this month. November is the month when many eager writers embark on the challenge of creating 50,000 words in thirty days as they join the NaNoWriMo challenge. Sally has taken this to the extreme and decided to try writing them in one day. 

 

Welcome, Sally!

Where, when and why did you develop the idea of attempting this personal challenge of moving from ‘Newbie to novelist’ within 24 hours?

Since graduating a couple of years ago I have supposedly been focusing on becoming an author, but distractions (like bills) keep getting in the way. I was getting quite frustrated at not having finished a story yet (apart from one short-ish one here), and never finishing any stage of my goal was really drain my enthusiasm. So actually my primary purpose is to go from Newbie to Novelist in 30 days, and get to ‘The End’ no matter how many words it takes. I added the extra #50Kinaday Wordathon part of the challenge when I stumbled across this podcast from Matt Ahlschlager back in March or April sometime. He makes it sound simple, even quite easy to take on NaNo in a day. I remember I was walking the dog down by our local canal while listening to it, and I could feel the idea of doing it myself getting lodged in my mind. I think I want to do it mainly because it is a neat way to make sure I get a lot of words down on my way to the full first draft. Also, I like turning my life into ‘events’ that I can share with my friends and family, and this one gets particularly fun reactions from people.

This is the equivalent of a writing marathon. How have you prepared for the event physically and for your novel?

Physically speaking, I am just trying to keep myself well and avoid getting too stressed out about it. I could do better though – I often stay up late, I don’t eat enough fruit and I don’t do much exercise, so avoiding the autumn sniffles so far has been mostly luck.
I have been ‘in training’ of a sort over the last few days by trying out a standing desk (I made it myself with two boxes under my laptop and a pile of Writing Magazines under my keyboard). It will definitely help me avoid bad posture if I’m not sitting for the whole day.
Of course, I have also become quite obsessed with my typing speed, and whether I can concentrate for twenty-four hours straight. I don’t know how much direct practice I can do for those things though; I am just going to wait and see. At least I have past experience of working fast when I was writing weekly last-minute essays during my degree.
I have been busy (some might say distracted) preparing the online infrastructure, such as my website and my Facebook page, in time for November. Because of this I have not yet started the plotting for my novel, and at the time of writing there are only 7 days left before it all starts! I have a colleague at work called Tina who has started chanting ‘Plot! Plot! Plot!’ whenever she sees me – I think she’s quite concerned… I work quite well under pressure though so I’m hoping one week is long enough to plan a novel, right?

Have you ever completed the NaNoWriMo challenge before?

Yes, I have ‘won’ (got to the 50,000 word mark) NaNoWriMo for the last two years. I also did Camp NaNoWriMo in July (it is the same concept but less difficult as you can set your own wordcount goal). It really helped me to start writing again. I had heard about it during my degree but didn’t have time to try it, so I promised myself I would do it when I graduated. Both years I worked on a novel about a deaf girl and a Romani boy (they are both prodigies: the boy for music and the girl for mazes). I will finish that novel one day, but I wanted to go with something fresh for this year’s challenge.
The first year I did NaNoWriMo, November 2013, I got as involved as I could with the community, looking around the forums, visiting my local ‘Come Write In’ group each Saturday, and signing up to have a NaNo veteran mentor. I happened to get one of the kindest people on the planet as my mentor, I am sure of it – they even posted me a handmade care package from America, including knitted fingerless gloves and a little jar of coffee. For NaNoWriMo 2016, my fourth, I won’t try and do anything like this Newbie to Novelist challenge again. Instead I will put my experience to some use and take on a couple of mentees myself. My goal is to go above and beyond to encourage them, like my mentor did.

You obviously love writing and reading. Which is your favourite genre to work in?

I’m not sure I know what my favourite genre is to write in, as I have barely started exploring different ones. The story I worked on before for NaNo was a historical adventure set in a slightly-alternative French Revolution; the one I am planning now is science fiction, set in the far future on a different planet. I don’t actually feel qualified to tackle either of those genres, and they are not what I mostly read – they just came out of whatever ideas I had at the time.
I read very widely and in fact I would say that I am addicted to novels. Many a time I read for hours when I should be doing other things, like sleeping. Looking at my bookshelf I can see a lot of fantasy in particular – Game of Thrones, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke – and some steampunk sci-fi (the Mortal Engines series by Philip Reeve). There’s a lot of my old favourites from growing up. I don’t think I am particularly original in my tastes, I absolutely adore Harry Potter and I even have all the Twilight books (I know they are very problematic, but I was exactly the right age of teenage girl when they first came out…).

Where did your love of writing begin?

I definitely have my parents to thank for giving me a love of reading and writing. They put in hours of extra work with me outside of school when I was really young to teach me how to understand written language (I remember jumping from word to word on pieces of paper across the floor of the living room). They also read bedtime stories every night for my whole childhood, and when my sister and I got ‘too old’ for such things, we started reading books aloud to our parents instead, or as a family. I still do read aloud with my boyfriend – it is a really good way of sharing a story with someone. I feel that the best characters from those early bedtime stories have stayed with me. For instance, to this day I consider Matilda from Roald Dahl to be a role model (and Tim Minchin’s adaptation as a musical is brilliant too).
Wanting to be an illustrator and an author are the earliest ambitions I can remember. I wrote a lot of story fragments from being very young (some got saved from our ancient PC and I still have them). When I was 12 my sister turned 10 years’ old and I wrote her a toy-sized trilogy about her stuffed Panda going on an adventure with our hamster across the globe. And when I was in high school and not having a great time (some bullying and so on), I would sometimes spend my break times scribbling in a notebook in the toilets. In the only detention I ever had (I was what one calls a ‘swot’) the headmaster set us to writing a story as punishment, and I couldn’t believe I was being told I could sit and just do my favourite thing for an hour. I was very busy practising my musical instruments usually though (I play violin and piano) so I didn’t make time for it properly until NaNoWriMo 2013.

How supportive are people being of your challenge?

I almost feel a bit silly telling people, because everybody does a double-take when I say how many words I am aiming to write in my Wordathon. Then they usually doubt whether such a thing is even possible, and finally express at least some degree of concern about me undertaking such a thing. I am glad I am getting people interested, but I didn’t want to alarm anyone!
I have had some lovely responses when I have asked for help with the project. I still haven’t done that enough though – apparently I just don’t have a knack for delegation. So if anyone can see a way that they could get involved, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. My e-mail address is new2nov@gmail.com.

What is next for Sally both with your writing and in your career?

Well, after getting this first draft under my belt, I want to leave it for a bit and then come back to the manuscript with fresh eyes in 2016 and edit it. I guess in the long run I want to find myself an agent and look at getting published, but I’m not expecting my first novel to be good enough to do that.
In the meantime, I won’t just be waiting around idly for luck and traditional publishing methods to find me. I am hoping to build up support for my writing by using the crowd-funding platform Patreon. I am still figuring out how to run my own blog, so it will take me a while to discover the best way to self-publish, but if I go that route then I want to make a proper go of it.
I also have plans for my parallel career dream: setting up a social enterprise company to build a website of tools and resources to help people use their brains better. I call it ‘Think Sharp.’ It is going to be my attempt at improving the world, but I will only really have time to think about getting started on it in the New Year after I’ve done this!

Thank you for taking the time to share your ambitions with me. I wish you every success in achieving your goal on the day, but more than that in your literary ambitions over a longer and perhaps more sustainable writing career.

Thank you very much for having me on your blog, Val. I really appreciate it.

An Interview with Della Galton

Della Galton

 

I was intrigued to read that your first published story was achieved when you were six. You obviously have not looked back since. Could you share with us how this early success came about?

I have to confess, Valerie, that this comment on my home page is actually a bit tongue in cheek and an effort to pretend I am younger than I am. I wasn’t really six. Although I think my very first publication credit, which was a poem in Pony Magazine was actually published when I was about eight 🙂

Would you agree that you are a person who has a natural empathy with people, their problems and situations and that this is part of the appeal of your many successful character driven stories?

I do hope so. I do like people very much. And I think that all writers need empathy and sensitivity in order to step into the shoes of a character who may be quite different than themselves.

How would you describe your work ethic?

Workaholic. Definitely.

To achieve all that you do I can only imagine you are a fantastic organiser of your time. Roughly what percentage of time would you spend researching, writing and promoting a novel on social media?

I spend a little less time on social media that I did once – as it’s not easy to justify spending too much time there. I have a tendency to use it as a procrastination activity to avoid writing. But I would still say, writing a novel 60 per cent, researching 20 per cent, promotion 20 per cent.

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I remember driving my son back from college and hearing you on Steve Wright in the Afternoon discussing one of your non-fiction books ‘Eat Loads and Stay Slim’. Then I saw a new title of yours called ‘Ten Weeks to Target’ and I wondered if the research and work on one project creates a ‘spin off’ of ideas for new stories as an ongoing process?

I am thrilled that you heard the Steve Wright Interview – my one claim to fame, that!
Actually, the two books were entirely separate. Ten Weeks to Target came first – it was originally published as a serial in Woman’s Weekly. However, there’s definitely a spin off process that goes on constantly. Both of these titles came from my own experiences of trying to stay slim – and eat loads!

Could you tell us about some of the lovely pets that share your life?

I adore dogs. Currently there is Maggie May, my ten year old white German Shepherd. And Seamus who is a wolfhound, fourteen stone, and five years old.

You are not only a lecturer, public speaker and a creative writing tutor, but you also still attend writing events yourself. How important is this two way interaction?

Writing is my passion as well as my work. So I guess it’s just how things pan out. I think I must be quite boring. So recently I’ve taken up singing lessons and am learning to play the guitar, in an attempt to be more balanced.

Could you give a short piece of advice to as yet unpublished writers who are trying to break into the limited short fiction market, especially in the UK?

Don’t assume that rejections mean you aren’t any good. I still get my fair share of rejections. Not every story is saleable at the time you send it out. That doesn’t mean it won’t be later.

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Of all the things that you have achieved within your career what have been the top three most memorable highlights that you hold fondly?

This is tricky. There have been many. I will try and narrow it down.

I quite liked going on the Steve Wright Show.
Selling my first short story was awesome, as was selling my first novel.
And the third one, was when the editor of My Weekly phoned me and asked me if I fancied going on an all expenses paid trip to Malawi – I’m a journalist as well as a fiction writer. That experience and the going bit – I went twice – was fabulous.

The more I researched this interview the more convinced I was that your love of the world of writing is a driving force which means there are many more delights for us to look forward to. Could you share with us what is next for Della Galton?

At the moment I am writing a series for People’s Friend – I can’t tell you too much about this as they haven’t started publishing it yet. Watch this space. But I’m also keen to write a third novel in my Ice and a Slice series. The first novel is called Ice and a Slice. The second is The Morning After The Life Before. I don’t know what the title of the third one will be yet. If any of your readers have any suggestions I’d love to hear them though.

Many thanks for having me as a guest.

More from Della