I did make New Year’s Resolutions this year, for the first time in donkey’s years, just because it felt like a good idea after 2020. I made three, and one of them was about writing. Write more books, it reads. Simple as that. With any luck, I’ll be able to stick with it.
Last year, in June to be precise, I brought out my first traditionally published romantic fiction book, THIRTEEN STOPS, about the lives and loves of the people who use the Luas line from the Stephen’s Green to Sandyford and vice versa.
At the moment, my editor and I are working on the follow-up, THIRTEEN STOPS LATER, which will be out sometime this Spring, I think. She gave me a severe bollocking recently, my lovely editor, for having put way too many women’s names starting with ‘M’ in the book.
There was a Maria, a Martina, a Melanie, two Marians and a Marianne, I kid you not. I’m afraid I had to go medieval on all of their asses and eliminate them from the manuscript. Talk about killing your darlings…
There’s going to be a third book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, as well. It’s already written, but before my editor sees it, I now have to go through it looking for Marians, Mariannes and Martinas to cull.
I have to round ’em all up in a butterfly net, drive them out into the countryside and dump them somewhere far enough away that they won’t be able to find their way back. May Almighty God and Holy Mary (Aw, why didn’t I think to sprinkle a few Marys about the place?) have much mercy on their many merry souls.
I’ve signed up to a few online writing courses as well, because I find that these help me to keep my joy in writing alive, keep it new and fresh. It’s so easy to stagnate when you’re stuck home alone, just writing away by yourself all the time.
This is especially true in the time of COVID, when we’re being encouraged for the sake of our health to stay solitary. I find that clicking into an online class, some of which may take the form of lectures to actual, real life students, can really make me feel like I’m connecting to a wider universe, and that I’m not alone in said universe, writing by myself in a vacuum.
The writing courses I’ve signed up to for the New Year focus on two aspects of writing in particular, memoir and journaling. The memoir classes are because there are some parts of my life that I think could make an interesting memoir, as opposed to an autobiography, which details everything that happens to you from the time you’re a foetus onwards. Memoir concentrates more on one time in your life in particular, which is what I think I’ll go for when the time is right.
Journaling is something new to me, but it’s definitely not a new practice. Writers, and many women writers in particular, have been doing it for years. All you need is a nice new notebook and a pen, and then a topic to write about. I’ve signed up to a couple of online classes, as I’ve said, but I found plenty of free journaling advice online as well, and even a few free courses.
I have plenty of jazzy notebooks to choose from, as I collect cute hard-backed A5-sized ones and frequently buy second-hand ones as well from charity shops, sometimes even ones which have a page or two already scribbled in by the original owner.
Maybe I’m a little odd, but the fact that someone else has used the notebook before me doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I often prefer reading second-hand or pre-loved books to brand-new ones, too. They have more character, somehow.
You can journal about whatever you like, but sometimes people like to be given prompts, plenty of which you can find for free online and which can take the form of direct questions or instructions.
Write down 30 things that make you happy, was one of the first prompts I ever used, and the point of it was that, by the time I’d made my list of 30 things that made me happy, I felt pretty bloody smug about my great life, and even inclined to be grateful for it. Bada-bing bada-boom. Mission accomplished, lol.
Gratitude journals are very big in the writing world these days. Oprah Winfrey famously keeps one, and she says that starting it was the most important thing she’d ever done in her life, and no fooling.
Some journal writers maintain that your writing about a particular problem must lead up to your finding a solution to it. Others are adamant that you mustn’t only write negative things in your journal or it’ll just become a dumping ground for, well, negative things.
I’d be more inclined to say that it’s my journal and I’ll jolly well write what I want in it, but that’s just me. I initially began journaling (in December 2020) just because I longed to feel a pen in my hand again and wanted to see a physical notebook page filling up with my words. That’s clearly the result of nearly a decade spent writing on a computer screen, and it’s as good a reason as any to keep a journal, if you ask me.
Anyway, since starting this article, I’ve been up the Dublin mountains with the Mariannes and abandoned them there as planned. I think I managed to get away with it. Don’t worry, I’m not completely without compash. I left ’em a couple of tubes of Pringles to keep the munchies at bay.
When I’m going to bed tonight in the dark, pulling the covers up over my sleepy head and dreaming sweet dreams of winning all the writing prizes in the world at once, I’m confident that no ghouls will stalk my slumbers.
And when I hear a pane of glass breaking in the front door and echoey footsteps treading the stairs, I know it will be only my friendly neighbourhood thug-slash-junkie on the lookout for stuff to sell for drugs, and not in any way, shape or form a Marianne, twisted and seething and hell-bent on revenge…
By Sandra Harris. ©