In the midst of life…

Francesca Burgess considers eternal tweaking and how life interferes with deadlines.

Seven years ago I started submitting short stories to magazines. Deadlines didn’t feature unless I was writing a seasonal story and needed to get it subbed within a certain time frame. Not having a deadline can be a problem where I’m concerned as I tend to tweak and hold on to a story far longer than I should. With competition entries the deadline is a definite cut off point which can be advantage if you’re like me.

When I started writing novels in 2009 I had no deadlines for them, no publishers, editors or agents to get them off to byNaNoWriMo 2009 a certain date. For someone who edits and tweaks ad infinitum, this can be an even bigger disadvantage than it is with a short story. My first good idea was to join in with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which takes place every November. I’ve done this successfully every year since. However, it doesn’t mean that I don’t go on to tweak and edit endlessly later.

My second good idea was to join the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme in 2011. This was extremely effective at giving me a kick up the proverbial. Apart from having to get a manuscript in each year, there is the opportunity to meet publishers, editors and agents. If one of them shows an interest in a novel and asks to see the whole thing, this gives a deadline and a reason to stop ‘fine tuning’.

The cut off date for the NWS is 31st August. Every year it’s been my aim to get the manuscript off by the time I go to the Caerleon/Fishguard Writers’ Week, at the end of July. For the first three years I succeeded.

For the first time this year, my fourth year in the NWS, I took it to the wire. And I mean the wire. It was one of those times when, deadline or no deadline, life itself got in the way, quite literally in the birth of my granddaughter, Seren. But death also played a part as my much-too-young brother-in-law passed away with cancer. Hence visits and funerals to Wales and to the north of the country. In between all this we were preparing for my eldest daughter’s wedding in the West Country, brought forward in the hope her uncle would make it.

So writing and editing this summer – the new novel plus the last one which I’ve been editing twice over for different interested publishers – has been fitted in between the hatch, match and dispatch of human existence. Sometimes life is like that. In the midst of it we have to face all sorts of complications, both wonderful and terrible. Maybe, at some point in the future, all of what I’ve experienced this summer will itself go into a book.

The EndIn the meantime, my NWS entry at least did get finished and sent and both book edits have gone to the publishers concerned.

Now I have NaNoWriMo looming once again in nine days time. Life continues to be complicated but I am hoping to get my 1,667 words written each day.

Wish me luck!



National Novel Writing Month

Romantic Novelists’ Association:

RNA New Writers’ Scheme:





10 thoughts on “In the midst of life…

  1. Such an interesting blog, Francesca: so full of honesty and sincerity. As you say, you should, most definitely, use the ups and downs of such a multi faceted year in a novel. Like you, I’m inclined to spend too much time editing and redrafting, but, as you know, I’m a bit neurotic about always using the best possible phraseology. The very best of luck with all your submissions.

  2. Like you, I found life taking over this year, with an engagement and wedding for me, followed by a pregnant daughter and then the arrival of two new kittens in the household, none of which I had factored in when the year began. But to still manage to write amongst all the upheaval proves we have the stamina and the determination. Unlike you, however, I am not brave enough to commit to NaNoWriMo. Good luck with it. I know you will manage it – again!.

  3. Yes, you’ve had a hectic year too, haven’t you Viv. I see you updating regularly on the SSS facebook page, so I know you’ve also kept going despite it all. NaNo will be good for me at the moment as I need the impetus to start a new project (ie, a kick up the proverbial!).

  4. I do indeed wish you every success and all who venture into the November challenge. Hats off to all who plough through and those who give it a go and the ones who even think about it. Your mind can obvuiusly leap further than mine

    • Thank you for your good wishes, Moya. Getting even part way through the challenge is an achievement, as I always say to those who think they’ve failed because they didn’t get to 50K. Give it a go, you might be pleasantly surprised.

  5. A good post. The trick is to not let life get in the way of your writing and not take too long with editing. Don’t forget the new name we use for it in class. Enhancement! Proper editing commences once the book is with the publisher.
    Good luck with Nano.
    Elaine E

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