• Fiona McIntosh: Voyager Author of the Month

    Fiona McIntosh was born and raised in Sussex in the UK, but also spent early childhood years in West Africa. She left a PR career in London to travel and settled in Australia in 1980. She has since roamed the world working for her own travel publishing company, which she runs with her husband. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and twin sons. Her website is at www.fionamcintosh.com.

    Her latest book, The Scrivener's Tale, is a stand-alone and takes us back to the world of Morgravia from her very first series, The Quickening:


    About The Scrivener's Tale:

    In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant... until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems.

    As his relationship with Angelina deepens, Gabe's life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching and following every move he makes, and yet he finds Angelina increasingly irresistible.

    When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia.

    A special 10th Anniversary edition of her first fantasy book, Myrren's Gift, will be released in December!

     

     

The obstacle course of writing … Fiona McIntosh blogs

Hello everyone – I’ve been asked to comment on writer’s block and what other obstacles I might have faced when getting down to the business of writing.

Now my response here is very personal and I imagine if you gathered up 25 writers in a room and asked them the same question we’d all come up with 25 very different replies. There are no rules to writing. And like any artistic expression it is a very personal journey with unique characteristics because of the individual on that journey. However, there are certainly some common obstacles that all writers face in their craft – how we deal with those hurdles might well be what sets apart the successfully published authors from those still aspiring to be published.
OdalisqueFirstly, let me say that I don’t believe in writer’s block. It doesn’t exist for me because from my perspective it’s simply a state of mind, rather than something tangible. I took a long time to get around to writing creatively. My first attempt was in 2000 and that same year the same manuscript was accepted and bought by HarperCollins. Since the publication of that first novel in 2001 I have not stopped writing. The floodgates were opened and the torrent erupted. I now have 15 novels published, another two written and in their editorial process for publication in 2009. However, I genuinely accept that other writers believe in this phenomenon, may well have experienced a horrible period of simply not being able to know what to write. I sympathise but I have no experience of it.

Obstacles to writing are likely, for the most part, self inflicted. I sense that they usually come from within and are connected with a fear of failure, fear of humiliation – a sense of anxiety, often inferiority regarding our work. Many of us feel like frauds waiting to be found out. And to write is to make yourself bare because writers draw deeply on their own psyches, emotions and fears. Laying oneself naked, and thus vulnerable to rejection and criticism takes enormous courage and resilience. And all those armchair critics who love to snipe online about this book or that, might well consider how brave a writer is to simply finish a manuscript and make it available for consideration. The fear of rejection, criticism, humiliation, etc, can be crippling. The trick, I’ve found, is to resist reading reviews as best I can – for new writers this is especially wise in the early days when you’ve not fully developed the hide of a rhino and are still in that starry-eyed cosmos of being dazzled by the brightness of seeing one’s name in lights, so to speak. And should you accidentally google your own name, and inadvertently spot a comment about your new book, and then by some mishap click through and read with sickening horror as the critique shreds your precious work as pointless piffle … learn not to take it all too seriously. We write books. We are not saving the world. It doesn’t matter if someone – and it is only one reviewer, possibly a reader of fantasy but not someone credited as a journalist whose specialty is to review genre fiction – doesn’t like your work. Rarely is it personal. And if it is, all the more reason to dismiss it. You have to learn from the outset – and this applies to submitting manuscripts for consideration by commissioning editors – that you cannot please everyone. You are going to come across people who hate your work, I mean really despise it, and you must not feel wounded by that. The Net allows every man and his dog to comment and you have no way to defend yourself. Move on.
Myrren's Gift
More importantly, the fact that an editor doesn’t want to buy your blood, sweat and tears, is not a reflection of who you are. That editor simply couldn’t see how the manuscript fitted into his or her stable, or felt it needed too much work at this point and they didn’t have the time or money to invest in it at this stage, or your writing needed a bit more polish, or they simply weren’t buying during the month your ms lobbed. You know sometimes a work is not picked up for the most banal reasons: editor is moving jobs and doesn’t feel it’s appropriate to buy a manuscript – even though she loved it – on behalf of the soon to be ex-employer. That’s happened to me. It’s life.

I often believe that very little separates me as a published writer from an aspiring one. But that gap – I feel – is all about our approach to writing. I am not necessarily a more talented writer than you or a better storyteller but I am someone who can be very disciplined with my writing and I will always finish a manuscript and to deadline. Too many hopefuls that I talk to admit to working on the same manuscript for endless months – sometimes years … what? – constantly editing and re-writing and not actually finishing and sending it off for consideration. Perfection or constantly tinkering is a real obstacle for some. When you get in to the habit of setting deadlines, achieving them and finishing your manucripts, one of the major obstacles to being successful at writing has been overcome. And the more you write and finish, the more you’ll keep improving. If you keep persisting, the odds are that the increasing quality and the repetition of your submissions are going to work in your favour.

The other obstacle we all face and which my experience has taught me will never fade is the familiar worry that your work is not good enough to stand alongside other authors, especially those big name best sellers. You convince yourself that your work is inferior. This is an easy trap to fall into and the more you permit it, the higher that obstacle becomes in your mind. Ignore it. Accept that your work is valid and let an agent and/or publisher decide whether it’s commercial enough to invest in it. It’s not your call. But make sure you do your homework. A pitfall is not having a grasp of what the market wants or where its tastes might go. It is no surprise that Stephenie Meyer’s work is being lapped up by YA readers globally. The trend began two or three years ago when vampires were suddenly the in-thing for fantasy reading, not that vampires haven’t always been popular for fantasy but they were considered a more horror-style character. Anne Rice gave them personality and elegance a while back and then writers like Laurell K Hamilton made them instantly more accessible to the wider public and so it was simply a matter of time before a writer such as Meyer came along with a great tale and some fabulous characters that were going to appeal on such a mass level. So start to understand the market and its trends. See what is pleasing people; what they’re watching on television will often march into books and vice versa. Right now something like Dexter is hot, hot, hot; so villains have arrived that are ‘cool’ and they can be charismatic and have redeeming qualities. Hannibal Lecter was one of those – I can remember thinking when I first read Silence of the Lambs all those years ago that I wanted to write a villain like Lecter, where you can’t help but like him and want him to win.
Royal Exile
So far I’ve suggested sneering into the face of writer’s block if it visits, discipline, persistence, doing solid homework and ignoring detractors, as ways to leap across the most common obstacles that writers face. Poverty is a real problem to overcome and the best way to do that, if you’re a writer, is to work out a routine whereby you can hold down a job that keeps a roof over your head and food on your table but also gives you writing time. This actually comes back full circle to discipline if I’m really honest. I wrote my first novel while working full time in my own business, raising twins and having to travel constantly. I made time at the end of the day, stealing only from my own sleep, to write Betrayal. That way, no one else but me suffered. And I was strict about the times and especially what I did with that time. I never read back what was written; I used the time only to push the story forward. You need to tell the people around you what you’re doing, get them on side and working as your cheering squad. And then you have to make the time, whatever works for your life, to write. For some with full time jobs and children, it might only be half an hour a day. But in that half hour, make sure you take the story forward. Even 500 words a day will give you a decent sized fantasy manuscript within a year. Writing daily is achievable for all of us, no matter how busy we are. If you want to be a writer of fiction and see your books on the commercial bookshelves, then you have to take the business of writing seriously. You have to write daily and if you’re making excuses – I’m too busy, I have a bad cold, I’ve had a mad social calendar, I can’t tear myself away from So You Think You Can Dance … then you’re not really serious yet about the craft.

There are distractions everywhere, determined to drag you from your writing time. So the key is making a commitment to yourself and that manuscript – and then being disciplined. And if you write yourself into a corner by the way… just write yourself straight back out of it! It’s easy with fantasy…because it’s all made up anyway!

Fiona’s latest book Royal Exile is out in just a few days!

Visit Fiona’s website.

Read an interview with Fiona and a review of Royal Exile at A Boy Goes On a Journey

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2 Responses

  1. Fiona, thank you for this. It comes at the right time for me, just when I’ve sent out my MS to a publisher again, hoping for the best. I’ve got the post-submission blues, where I’m doubting that I’ll get it right. You’re so right about making some time every day.

    I’ve found the dead time on the train every day where I have two solid hours to write, even though it’s with pen in a notebook. This has helped me produce up to 2 000 new words a day, which is something if you’re holding down a full-time job while still playing at being a domestic goddess at night.

  2. Hi Fiona! Thank you so much for your deep insights into the writing process. I am currently writing a non-fiction book about moving beyond limits, creating a great life and speaking out. Your blog post “The Obstacle Course of Writing” has given me hope that I will finish my own book within a time frame.

    So far, I have changed my chapter titles and my content very often so that I have not been able to finish it until today. I agree with you about the importance of pushing the book forward, and about setting a deadline for finishing it. It won’t get any better anyway, will it?

    A writer’s blog exists when you believe that you need to write perfectly, and when you think that your first draft has to be so excellent that it doesn’t need to be improved anymore. However, if you just sit down and write what comes to your mind about the topic, then your block will disappear sooner than you can believe!

    Thank you again for your personal thoughts and experiences about the writing process; I am sure it has helped me to move forward with my own book.

    Andrea

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