I’m delighted to welcome Hannah Lynn with a guest post and extract from her latest release, Peas, Carrots & an Aston Martin. First of all, here’s the book info…
When George Sibley dies, his only son, Eric, has no idea that his inheritance will come with conditions. Now, if Eric is to ever get his hands on his father’s treasured Aston Martin, he must somehow juggle his hectic career and family life in the city, with regular visits to the small riverside town of Burlam. Life for Eric quickly becomes a chaotic kaleidoscope of grumpy pensioners, wellington boots and vintage auto-mobiles, fraught with heavy machinery mishaps, missed deadlines and drug raids, the result of which leave his marriage, job and sanity hanging in the balance. .
Peas, Carrots and an Aston Martin is a light-hearted and humorous tale of a man who reluctantly goes digging amongst the weeds in order to discover his roots.
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Over to Hannah with her guest post about Not Being Good Enough
When I was sixteen my English teacher asked to speak to me at the end of the lesson.
‘Hannah,’ she said. ‘I’m a bit confused. I looked through the option lists and you’re not doing English A level.’
‘No,’ I said.
‘Well, I’ve got music.’
She frowned, confused. ‘I don’t understand.’
‘I need to have Maths and Science as my others.’
I shrugged. ‘You know, so I can go to university and get a job afterwards.’
‘But you love writing.’
‘But I have to do science.’
‘And you’re good a writing.’
‘But I’m good at science. And I’ll need to get a job. Writing isn’t a job.’
I look back on this conversation and want to cry. Not for myself necessarily, but for all the children I have taught over the years that feel that they can’t possibly go on and study what they want to for fear there will be no job at the end of it. They let their passions dwindle and die for the sake of some possible future paycheck. In truth though, I wasn’t just the fear of no job further down the line, (I realise I must sound like the most ridiculously forward planning teenager in history) there was the fear of not being good enough. Like a lot of people, I could have gone on a studied a multitude of subjects, but I chose one that I believed would provide security and, possibly more importantly, would offer the least opportunity for failure.
Skip forward twenty-years and those fears haven’t gone away. Every time I read through a draft I am plagued with doubt over whether I can actually write. Every time I read a book and a turn of phrase makes my heart skip, it quickly drops again with the desperate sadness that my writing may never be good enough to make someone else’s heart skip in that manner. Every time I stumble across a word I have never heard of I chastise myself. Surely someone who wants to be a writer should know all the words? So what do you do? How do you stop the fear of not being good enough controlling your life decade after decade? I’m afraid I don’t have the answers, but I do have a bit of advice based on my own journey through writing.
If fear of not being good enough is holding your back, then getting better seems like the best plan. The quickest way to get better? Practise. This doesn’t just apply to writing of course and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution out there, but why not join (or set up) a local writing group? Or join one of the amazing online courses sites like Future Learn offer.
Accept that there are different writing styles
It is easy to feel like you are not good enough to write, when there are so many amazingly talented authors out there. Every other book I pick up fills me with self-doubt. But I remind myself that I have my own style. I will never be able to write like Margaret Atwood or Murakami, but that does not mean I can’t keep going until I find a voice that I am comfortable with and proud of. It is also important to remember that everyone has different tastes. One of my favourite novels has over 3000 one star reviews on Amazon. You can’t please everyone, so focus on yourself first.
Critiquing hurts, it really does, but rather than seeing it as a judgement, see it as advice. It helps to make sure you are in safe hands and understand that that people who are advising you only want you to produce your best possible work. Closed groups for critiques work well, but be careful. If you are all at the same starting point it can be a little like the blind leading the blind. As a word for critiquing others, start with the positive. It can be all too easy to leap in with the things that need changing, but pointing out another writers strengths can completely change how the feedback is received.
Critique yourself (kindly)
There is nothing more beneficial to your writing that editing. The more you read your own work the more you will see your own pitfalls; favourite repeated phrases, repetitive sentence starters — I have an extreme addiction to the word just in my drafts. It’s tricky. The more you start to change things the more you will want to change. Nine times out of ten you will be your harshest critic, but don’t worry about getting things right, just work on improving. (See point above.)
Give yourself time
Some people are lucky, they know their vocation from a young age and spend their teens and twenties working towards it. Other’s only discover their passions later when jobs and families make it more difficult to find the time to devote to it. If you do find yourself starting out later in life, don’t feel the need to compare yourselves to others who have been doing this for decades. Take your time. Keep working on it. A little bit every day will add up and if you are in this for the long haul the progress will come.
Everyone has self-doubts. Some more frequently than others I suspect. The fact of the matter is that there will always be someone better, someone more talented than us, but writing is not a competitive sport. It is not a case of working hard to win a race. It is a marathon and it is a lifestyle and it will give back to you, if you keep believing in it.
About the Author
Hannah Lynn is an award-winning, genre-defying novelist. Publishing her first book, Amendments – a dark, dystopian speculative fiction novel, in 2015, she has since gone on to write The Afterlife of Walter Augustus – a contemporary fiction novel with a supernatural twist – which won the 2018 Kindle Storyteller Award and the delightfully funny and poignant Peas and Carrots series. While she freely moves between genres, her novels are recognisable for their character driven stories and wonderfully vivid description. She is currently working on a YA Vampire series and a reimaging of a classic Greek myth.
Born in 1984, Hannah grew up in the Cotswolds, UK. After graduating from university, she spent ten years as a teacher of physics, first in the UK and then around Asia. It was during this time, inspired by the imaginations of the young people she taught, she began writing short stories for children, and later adult fiction. Now as a teacher, writer, wife and mother, she is currently living in the Austrian Alps.
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ERIC SIBLEY SAT across from the solicitor. He was unsure as to what the appropriate or expected response was, given the current situation. He blinked a few times and rubbed the bridge of his nose, then shuffled around on the chair and tried to find a more comfortable seating position. The shuffling included a solid minute of switching his weight from one buttock to the other, adjusting his legs from crossed to uncrossed, and sliding forward and back on the cement-hard plastic, after which, he concluded no comfortable position could ever be obtained in a chair so cheap and badly built. It simply wasn’t possible.
In Eric’s opinion, the chair wasn’t the only cheap thing in the solicitor’s office. The entire room, from the Blu-Tacked A3 posters on the window to the laminate desk, worn blue carpet and instant freeze-dried coffee, reeked of skinny budgets and cutting corners. There was no class, no style. On the other side of the desk, the solicitor looked just as cheap, with his polyester jacket, comic tie and supermarket aftershave.
‘Just explain it to me again,’ Eric said. ‘You’re saying I get nothing? None of it? Nothing at all?’
‘No.’ The solicitor removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. ‘As I have explained, your father has left you the remaining tenancy on his allotment and his 1962 limited- edition Aston Martin DB4 series four, affectionately known as Sally, on the condition that you fully tend to the allotment on a weekly basis for the next two years.’
Eric shook his head.
‘But the house? Everything in the house. The paintings, my mother’s jewellery, all of that, it … it’s …’
‘It’s been left to the church,’ the solicitor finished for him.
‘But he didn’t even go to church!’ Eric thumped the table with his fist. ‘He was a bloody atheist!’
The solicitor – who was presumably named Eaves or Doyle, judging from the sign above the door – shuffled the papers in front of him, then returned his glasses to the end of his nose.
‘I realise that this is a difficult time for you. But your father was very specific about his wishes. The car will remain in your possession, permanently, provided you adhere to the specified conditions.’
‘And if I don’t?’
‘Then your father has made provisions for that situation too.’
Eric drew in a lungful of air which he let out with a hiss. ‘But Abi? He must have left something to Abi? She’s his only grandchild for Christ’s sake.’
Eaves-possibly-Doyle massaged his temples with his knuckles. ‘I’m very sorry, Mr Sibley, I don’t know what to tell you. Perhaps your father felt you’d value these gifts more than the house or money.’ ‘Like hell he did.’
Eric pushed back the chair, snatched the papers from the table, and strode over to the door. When his hand was on the handle, Eaves-possibly-Doyle coughed. Eric spun around.
‘Mr Sibley, before you leave, I have to tell you that it would be considered trespassing if you were to step on your father’s property from now on.’
Eric’s lungs quivered.
‘Exactly how am I supposed to collect the car without going on the property?’ hesaid, through clenched teeth.
‘Your father has seen to that as well.’