Writing with a Disability–Stroke of Fortune

Living the Dream—Well, Almost!
It’s no fun being disabled, though it is the perfect excuse to get out of doing the ironing, which I always loathed! All right, I never actually did any, far preferring creases to sweating over a hot iron, but hey, it provides me with the perfect explanation for the creases, instead of just being regarded as an idle domestic slut.

Advertisements

Writing After a Stroke –Disability

Living the Dream—Well, almost!

It’s no fun being disabled, though it is the perfect excuse to get out of doing the ironing, which I always loathed! All right, I never actually did any ironing, far preferring creases to sweating over a hot crease-eradicator, but hey, it provides me with the perfect explanation for the creases instead of just being regarded as an idle domestic slut.

Off On My Hols–Then a Stroke Brings Calamity

I had a stroke in 2015, on the jet flying to Malta for a week’s holiday-cum-writing break. I never did get to see the island. Instead, I saw the inside of a Maltese hospital for about four weeks, before my travel insurance company arranged for a plane home.

Memorable – But For The Wrong Reasons

That was a memorable trip. I was hoisted to a rack inches from the plane’s roof, well-strapped-in, for the flight. Surely, I could use that experience? I was a writer, for God’s sake, so I was certain I could lever it in somewhere! Especially as the worry about how in hell I’d get to the loo, lassoed as I was from the ceiling, occupied me for the duration of air time.

Difficulties of Writing When You’re Disabled

  1. But writing – about the terrors of inaccessible toilet facilities or anything else, when you’re disabled – is often an exercise in frustration.
  2. For instance, I can no longer touch-type, having only my left hand that actually works. Instead, it’s a one-handed peck and sniff exercise. I often hit the wrong key: ‘p’ when I want ‘o’, and, ‘m’ when I want ‘n’.
  3. And when I’m interrupted by bathroom breaks I have generally lost my train of thought entirely by the time I get back. What used to be a quick scurry to the loo, has turned into a 15/20 minutes’ operation, by foot, by the aid of trolleys, furniture, invalid bars, and a wheelchair. Getting there and back is an effort, especially as the bathroom, like in a lot of these old terraces, is built on to the end of the kitchen. Occasionally it means I’ve had an ‘accident’ before I get there.

If things are really desperate, I use the commode in the ground-floor dining room-turned-bedroom; though I try to avoid using that during the daytime as it’s so easy to become lazy. Besides, getting to the loo and back is the only exercise I get (I know, I know).

As I said, I live in an old terrace, and the house is a bit up and down, with a step up from the living room where I work, so, what, in a normal house, would be a quick whiz to the downstairs bathroom in the wheelchair, involves all of the above aids, and the same in reverse. So you can see why I can often lose my train of thought. Perhaps I should keep a writing pad, with string attached pen in the bathroom. Although, if I did that, I might never get off the loo!

Alternatively, I could write the idea/plot twist down before I started my intrepid travels. But if I did that, it’s guaranteed that I would be one soggy scribbler by the time I reached the bathroom (or even the commode).

Writing Matters

Moving on from bathroom matters (thank God, sez you!), as regards writing itself, I’ve been a seat-of-pants writer from the beginning, although, nowadays, I do make a plot plan of sorts. There’s usually a good lump of the middle missed out; I’ll figure that out when I get to it, is my thought.

I’ve never had the patience to write plot-plans that are half as long as the novel will be. Not sure if the necessity of writing even a half-arsed plot-plan is down to the stroke, or just getting older. Maybe, I’m just fed up rewriting those endless drafts necessitated by being an SOP writer.

Books Completed Since My Stroke

Anyway, since my stroke, plot-planned, or otherwise, I’ve completed three novels

  • Asking For It #16
  • The Spanish Connection #17
  • Game of Bones #18

in my Rafferty & Llewellyn Mystery Series

Several short stories

  • Pond Life – A Rafferty & Llewellyn Short Story
  • The Station Thief – A Rafferty & Llewellyn Short/Short
  • The Monarch’s Gift – A Rafferty & Llewellyn Short/Short

Two further Romances

  • The Wishing Fountain
  • Strangers on the Shore

All of which is an achievement in itself, with just my left hand!

More Difficulties

  • I’m now halfway through #19 in the series, though my notebook, with my only part-done plot-plan, tends to keep getting away from me. Writing with your left hand when you’re right-handed, is hard at the best of times without a moving notebook, so the chances of me being able to read the doctor-like scribble are small, at best.
  • I’ve tried using the hard plastic folders with the metal grip, but I’m just as likely to grip my fingers as the notebook. Ouch! Those grippers are fierce. Maybe a permanently-open document on the computer would be a better idea—at least I’d avoid the hazard of the grippers snapping my digits.

Staying in Hotels –Oh My!

Sorry, this is turning into a rant. But I shall continue in this vein for a moment, while I tell you about my recent experience with a hotel in Norwich, which I went to for a weekend writing break.

  • The accommodation door was so heavy I couldn’t get it open sufficiently to get me on my wobbly legs, or my mobility scooter, out. Yes, I’d asked for a disabled room when booking, so I don’t know who thought it would be a brilliant idea to provide the disabled with an impossible-to-open door.
  • When I tried to ring reception to come and let me out, I discovered the telephone wouldn’t work. I finally thought of ringing reception on my (seldom used) mobile, so, after missing Afternoon Tea, I did make it to dinner.
  • But the next day, Sod’s Law being what it is, when I tried to ring Reception on the mobile to go home, it had run out of charge. I had my Fire tablet with me, so I next sent reception an email. But the hotel’s Wifi was erratic at best, so I doubt they received it.
  • Presumably, they didn’t, as there I stayed, incarcerated in my room, trapped by a very heavy, barely movable door, with no means of communicating with the staff. I was reliant upon the youngsters who manned reception to remember my existence. And we all know that youngsters are more likely to be thinking about what they’ll do in their time off, than about the disabled old bird in the off-by-itself-Annexe, who hadn’t made it to breakfast.
  • A writer’s imagination being what it is, those long hours were filled with thoughts of slowly starving to death, forgotten by youngsters whose heads were filled with far more delightful thoughts. I was finally released from my prison at 11.00 am, and thankful to return home unscathed but for bruised dignity.

Indie Publishing

Nowadays, I’m an Indie Publisher so I can afford to live and write full time (well, when I say full-time, you understand the word is relative, what with emails, watching podcasts, trips to the loo, etc).

I spent about eighteen years with various traditional publishers, but I could never afford to give up the day job. The writing obviously fitted around that, in evenings and weekends. Like most writers, I worked seven-day-weeks for decades.

Led to My Stroke? — Maybe

Maybe all that sitting helped to lead to my stroke, which the airplane trip brought to a climax. Use your talents, is one of the parables I used to be particularly fond of. I didn’t realise my lifestyle would lead me to a life as a disabled writer! Oh, the iron-y.

Digital Publishing with Amazon

Anyway, when Amazon’s Kindle came along, offering writers the opportunity to turn Indie, and after having read various American writers’ blogs about how their income had vastly improved since they took the plunge, I grabbed the chance with both hands in 2010 and discovered those American authors were right.

Earning a Living with Amazon’s Kindle

  • A matter of months after I’d turned Indie I was earning a full-time living. I could afford to give up my hated temping jobs. Hurrah.
  • Now I thank God I took the opportunity, because, since I had the stroke, I’ve had a lot of expense, so it’s just as well that I could finally earn a proper living, as I can’t see any employer wanting a one-handed typist! Would you?

But you know, having a stroke isn’t the end of the world.

With my mobility scooter I can still indulge in retail therapy, and although some of the high racks on which the clothes are hung are a bit of a trial, I manage.

And then, of course, there’s Amazon, again, coming to the rescue, with their home delivery of anything from inco-pads to bags of compost.

Admittedly, I can no longer touch-type, play my keyboards, paint, sew, (or iron!), but the many frustrations aside, I can still live a fulfilling life, doing what I love—writing novels.

It’s a far better life than many people enjoy, and I thank my lucky stars, every day, that I found my reason for living when I was in my twenties, and writing my half-finished novels. It took until I hit thirty to finish that first novel, and another six years, completing a novel a year, to get published. You can imagine how I felt when I received my first acceptance.

Reason for Living

But do you know what? For me, nothing compares with the pleasure writing gives me.

And when I’m in the middle of another novel, nothing else matters – not even the, often inconvenient business – of being disabled. It’s pure joy

What about you? What’s your ‘Reason for Living?’ Or are you still waiting to discover it?

Advertisements

All about the indie life v traditional publishing: See my article on the storyreadingapesblog

I wrote an article about my experiences both before and after I took up the indie author lifestyle for thestoryreadingapesblog. I enjoyed writing it and I’ve had some lovely, appreciative comments for my honesty (Rafferty’s family wouldn’t be impressed!). If you’re contemplating the indie life yourself, you could do worse than take a look. Here’s the link:

http://wp.me/p3mGq7-1QU

 

So you want to be a writer…?

So you want to be a writer? Fine. We won’t talk about whether the idea of loads of money sparked your desire, even though it’s a fallacy that all authors earn megabucks. They don’t. Take it from me. No author will sell well if no one’s heard of him/her. And most likely no one will hear of you unless your publisher decides you’re going to be a bestseller. You’ll get minimal marketing. If you want to be marketed you’ll have to do it yourself via a website, a blog, postcards, bookmarks, flyers, newsletters, talks, Author Pages on book websites. All while holding down a full-time job, bringing up the kids, doing the shopping, cooking cleaning, whatever. And that’s always assuming you actually get published. Because, as all you would-be writers out there know, getting published’s the first hurdle.

So what do you do? I can’t say I went the obvious route of joining writers’ circles and book clubs and the like. I have been a member of writers’ circles, but I didn’t find them that helpful when it’s a novel that you need to be critiqued. Novels are too long to be critiqed at your average writers’ circle meeting. Think about it: you’re one of maybe a dozen at the once-a-month critique meeting and have to take your turn. So you’ll be able to read no more than a single chapter. Spread that out over how many chapters are in the book and you see the difficulty. Who the hell remembers what happened in the earlier chapters by the time they get to the last one? Of course, if you show your face often enough and make friends, you might persuade one or two other members to read your book in its entirety. But it’s still not a very satisfactory way of finding out where your work needs improvement. And it will need improvement. Believe me.

So what do you do? Well, once you’re sure you’ve got the fundamentals of line spacing, page spacing, spelling and grammar sorted out, it’s time to try the professional criticism route (details of who provides these services can be found in either the Writers’ Handbook or the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook). A good professional criticism service is worth its weight in gold and will provide a detailed crit and tell you where your plotting, characterisation, storytelling, etc has gone astray. And though such services are expensive, they’re worth it. You’re paying for expert advice, so of course it doesn’t come cheap. It’s what made all the difference for me. I might have mentioned before on this blog that, if it hadn’t been for such professional advice, I might still be bemoaning my fate as an unpublished author. But I don’t think it’s a thing that can be stated too frequently.

I’d written a book a year for six years, all romances, and all aimed at the Mills & Boon market. All while I had a full-time job and household chores to do, too. And all but the last one received nothing but rejections. That last one was Land of Dreams, a romantic novel set in the Canadian Arctic. And while I was finally published, my next romance offering was rejected.

It was when I switched to writing crime novels that I first started paying for a professional crit. And it paid off because that first crime novel, Dead Before Morning, was taken from Macmillan’s slush pile and published (1993). It was only the second time I’d sent it out, so as you can imagine, I was thrilled. It was also published in the States, in hardback and paperback and, as it’s a backlist book, I’m now in the process of publishing it on kindle. It even sparked interest in a Los Angeles film producer! That came to nothing, alas, but it was exciting while it lasted.

Maybe you’ve taken my advice and paid for a professional critique and still got rejected. Have you asked yourself whether you’re chasing a dying trend? Different types of books are hot at different times and then fade till no editor wants them. Maybe, if you’ve had nothing but rejections on your current project, you should put it away and start again. Most first books are unpublishable. Writing’s a trade and needs to be learned. And no trade is learned overnight. And when you start again, do so with the book you actually want to write rather than the one you think you ought to write. Believe me, when you’re writing from the heart, about characters and themes you care about, it shows.

That’s it! Lecture over. I hope you’ve found my observations helpful. If not, and you’re still getting rejected, buy yourself a big, fat jokebook, one with a section on writers’ woes and you’ll at least see that you’re not alone. Persevere, as nearly all published writers had to do and if yours is a true vocation, you’ll get there.

Article on Writing

I’ve just written this short article on writing for one of crime author, Pauline Rowson’s, blogs (advice for writers). Perhaps you’ll find it helpful, also, if you’ve written a book that has received nothing but rejections. Check it out below:

Start Counting the Money, Honey
by
Geraldine Evans
Author of the Humorous Rafferty & Llewellyn and Casey & Catt crime series

Del Boy of Only Fools and Horses fame, always said: ‘By this time next year, we’ll be millionaires’. Perhaps that’s your belief, too – if only you could get someone to read your book. Maybe it’ll happen, too. After all, you’ve done all the usual things. You’ve penned the Letters to the Editor, subscribed to writers’ magazines, joned the local Writers’ Circle and received your first rejection letter. Or maybe more than one…

Perhaps it’s time to consider having your work professionally criticized?

Yes, I know it’s expensive. I know the critique might be wounding to your ego, but so are all those rejections. It could well be the step forward you need. I doubt if I would have got published but for the advice I received after finishing Dead Before Morning, the first novel in what went on to become a series (Rafferty & Llewellyn). I’m currently fourteen books into the series, having just finished Deadly Reunion. It’s possible I would still be that forlorn and struggling wannabe without their help.

Unfortunately, the criticism service I used seems to have vanished off the radar, but if you check the Links Page on my website (www.geraldineevans.com), you’ll find the names of two reputable firms. And if you buy the latest writers’ bibles (Writers’ Handbook and Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook), you’ll find a lot more.

Yes, I know, you can get a critique from your friends at your writing circle, but I don’t think that’s the most suitable area for a book critique. Think about it. It could take a year (or two) for you to read out the entire book and by the time the last monthly critique meeting comes by, the other members will have forgotten most of the first half of it.

So, if you’re frustrated and yearn to have your book read in pretty quick fashion by someone in the know, think about having that professional critique. As Del Boy would say: ‘You know it makes sense’.

ends