Jericho Writers Festival – July Round-Up

The Month I Discovered Editing Doesn’t Have to Be Scary

Firstly, how is it already August? I’m not sure about everyone else, but this year feels like it is absolutely whizzing by. So much so in fact, that I have to confess I haven’t even been able to catch up on all the webinars from the July programme for Jericho Writers Summer Festival of Writing, so I may well come back and update this blog once I’ve caught up fully. But for now, I just wanted to share a couple of the eureka moments I had during July’s sessions so far. 

Editing doesn’t have to be scary – this is possibly my biggest take away from the whole festival so far, and possibly overall. I, like many writers, love the writing part, but have always been absolutely terrified by the idea of editing. I’ve never been very good at reviewing my own work, and the idea of having to write a whole novel and then tear it to shreds just seemed rather overwhelming. But I know I have to do it, and finally I have reached a point of not-complete-terror when it comes to editing and it’s honestly thanks to a couple of sessions during the festival. There were two different sessions that covered this topic in July, and the main thrust of both of them was: have a system. Most importantly I’ve learned that editing is not about tackling everything at once. Instead, it’s best to deal with each element of a story separately. Yes, it’s going to take a while to do (I’m currently in the process of getting started, and already can see it’s going to take a lot of work), but I think the fact I have some idea of what I need to do, it feels a bit less scary. For me, that is a major thing, and hopefully it means I can actually make some progress with my manuscript, instead of being too scared to do anything with it. 

There’s not enough time in the day to do everything – a simple message, but one I personally have to keep reminding myself. My mind is so full of ideas, plans, and to-dos that I often find myself feeling guilty for not getting more done, or I completely freeze with overwhelm and get nothing done. But having listened to many authors throughout the festival talking about their process, I realise that it really is up to me to decide what’s important in my life. Right now, my priority needs to be on editing the books I’ve already written. That means putting my WiP to the side temporarily. I also have other responsibilities that pay the bills, or otherwise have an important role in my life and they need time too. It’s certainly not easy to acknowledge that I’m not going to get everything done, but at least I can take a bit of pressure off, by giving myself permission to set things aside if I need to. 

Trad or Indie, you need to be prepared to market yourself either way – I wrote a blog recently about my revelation that not everyone works in marketing (duh!). But the more webinars I’ve listened to during the festival, the more I’ve realised that every author needs to prepare to learn about this side of the writing business. That applies for traditionally published authors and indies. More and more authors are expected to pick up the slack in terms of marketing their book, and while you’ll definitely get more hands-on support if you go the trad route, you’re certainly not off the hook. You still need to be prepared to put yourself out there and promote the book however you can. For me, this insight has further solidified my desire to go indie, but I think it’s worth everyone knowing this up front so you can manage your own expectations when you do get published (and you will!).

There are a lot of amazing authors out there – Friday Night Lights is the writing competition that happens during the festival, and shortlisted authors have the chance to read out the first 500 pages of their manuscript. I sadly was not shortlisted, but having listened to the entries that were, I can’t complain. They were absolutely brilliant, and I’m so pleased for the people who got through. Personally, I have been inspired by the amount of talent out there and it makes me want to improve my own writing. But also it’s encouraged me to branch out in my reading habits and hunt down some of the amazing authors that I know are out there, but I’ve yet to discover. 

You’re not alone and you don’t have to do or know everything – I remind myself of this particular point whenever I am having a wobbly moment (and they happen more than I care to admit). There’s something reassuring about knowing that there is a huge, wonderful, supportive community of writers out there who I can call on if I need help. Some of these wonderful writers are people I know personally, others are connections I’ve made on social media, some are just names to me right now. But they are out there, and most, I’ve discovered, are all more than happy to help when a call goes out. Similarly, I’m also hugely reassured by the fact that there are so many experts available in the areas I’m weaker (cover design and editing, for example) who can help me out when I’m ready to take that next step. Knowing that I am not alone, and that I don’t have to know or do everything myself, is a huge relief to me, and this festival has been a wonderful opportunity to expand my network. 

Writing is therapy – I attended a workshop on writing as therapy and it was a perfect reminder of why I love to write in the first place. I don’t know about you, but my expectation when I started writing my novel wasn’t that I’d be published. Obviously I would love for that to happen and am working on it, but it wasn’t the driving force behind my writing. Like so many authors, I write as therapy for myself. I write to make sense of the world. That’s partly what this blog is about: I’m writing about my experience of becoming an author so I can try and understand it myself. I also write a journal where I explore a lot more of the emotional issues I’m facing. But I have finally realised that even my novel writing is a way of exploring, understanding, and dealing with the world and all its foibles. Even if I never get round to publishing my work, or if I do but never sell any copies, I don’t think it would stop me writing fiction, because for me it’s an important emotional release, and essential for my wellbeing, and I’m thankful to Jericho Writers and the speakers of the festival for helping me to remember this fact. 

So those are some of the things I’ve learnt during the last few weeks – but what about you? Have you been attending the festival, what have been your key takeaways from recent sessions? And if not, I’m willing to bet there’s still been at least one thing you’ve learnt that’s had a big impact on you recently so, please share. I’d love to hear and learn from you all. Comment below or drop me a note on Twitter @Hilly_B_Author

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