May is here and the A to Z challenge is over at last! April wasn’t exactly the best month for me but I still did make significant progress on each of my goals:
Submit Moonshadow’s Guardian to publishers — This goal is actually changing. As the second book is developing in bigger and bolder ways than I imagined when I set out to write it I’ve reached a point where I want full control over every aspect of this series. Which, by the way, has now become a trilogy.
I’ve already gotten a quote from a professional editor and will be moving forward with this very soon. My plan is to pay for the developmental editing myself and do it over the next six months, then run a crowdfunding campaign next year(probably in February) to pay for line editing, formatting and cover art. I don’t have a huge platform but it is growing steadily and I believe it’s strong enough to get my first book into the world.
Finish Moonshadow’s Guardian 2 — As I mentioned above, this book just keeps getting bigger, so I’m honestly nowhere near done. I had to throw a lot of my outline out the window and change a bunch of stuff, so I have spent lots of time on it and I am confident this will be the best first draft I’ve ever produced.
Blog Regularly — I did all the A to Z Challenge posts except for one(Z is the one I missed, more on that next week) and I also posted a bunch of interviews on The Steampunk Cavaliers blog. Things are going really well over there and I encourage you to check it out.
And here are this month’s goals:
Finish altering things in Moonshadow’s Guardian — I have a couple fight scenes and one conversation to alter, then everything is ready for the editor!
Actually finish Moonshadow’s Guardian 2 — To be completely honest, I’m not really sure this is plausible because of how much the book has grown and how many threads I have to wrap up now. Still, I’m going to put a lot of hours into it and it just might happen.
Keep blogging regularly — Having all my A to Z Challenge posts planned out in advance gave me time to plan all of this month’s posts, so this one should be pretty simple. I’ll be posting articles every Tuesday and interviews every Friday.
What did you accomplish this month? What are your goals for next month? Let me know in the comments section below!
Let’s start with a fact we all know: building a writing career is hard work. It’s hard to become a freelance writer and it’s much, much harder to become a successful fiction writer. Even the best and brightest among us put years of hard work into their craft before they see any measurable success. The few who do manage to become popular with their first published novels often wrote several others first; those who get the first book they wrote published have often spent years writing short stories.
Yet sooner or later it becomes crucial to invest real money into your career. You probably know you need to invest in a website, but have you thought about investing in yourself?
Why investing in yourself is key to your writing career
If you’ve already written a book you probably know how irritating it is when people assume anyone can write a book. If you’ve edited a book you know how frustrating it is to see people believe you can just write a first draft, publish it and become successful. And if you’ve been at this for a while you’ve probably realized there is always more to learn. You’re prepared to commit hundreds, even thousands of hours to building a writing career, so why not invest some dollars too?
Yes, there is a lot of great free content online, but a lot of the best content is locked away in some sort of paid course or ebook. Paid courses also often come with actual mentorship and feedback from the instructor as well as your other classmates. Not to mention encouragement in real time(ish) when you’re struggling with an issue. This feedback from real professionals can leapfrog your writing by years if you use it well.
Committing real dollars into your writing education also helps you stay committed to learning and to your career overall, even when you’re feeling tired and discouraged by all the things you have to do to become successful. Sometimes a financial commitment to your career propels you to take your career more seriously than before.
When is the best time to invest in your writing career?
Any time is a good time. Making a small financial commitment to your writing education every month or year can keep you constantly moving forward. Every time you study a new aspect of writing or even a new writer’s process you learn something about the craft. Every investment will speed up your progress towards success.
So what should you actually invest in?
Like so many things in writing it all depends on what kind of person you are and what goals you have. If you happen to be independently wealthy and have full control of your time you might want to invest in an MFA. If you work a day job you might want to take evening classes at the local community college or purchase an online video course you have 24/7 access to.
Generally, though, there are three main things worth investing in: actual courses(online or offline), books about writing craft, and one on one mentorship. I believe every writer should invest in at least a handful of excellent books about the writing craft that they can refer back to. Having both books about overall writing and books that focus on specific topics relevant to the genres you write in is a good idea.
Should you take a writing course? I think you should try to take a few, either advancing a specific style of writing or exploring a new style of writing. I also think every fiction writer should take a script writing course because even a basic script writing course can change how you think about storytelling forever, especially if you’re a novelist. What type of course you take is entirely up to you and your goals. How much feedback do you want? How much structure? Do you want to take an existing project in or work primarily on exercises? How much can you afford to invest in an extensive course?
What about one on one mentorship? One on one mentorship is great, but depending on the type of mentorship and who you want to work with it can be quite expensive. A mentor who works with you one on one will often provide the highest level of motivation–at least partially because it is so expensive–and the most detailed feedback. Hiring a freelance editor is similar: you’ll pay a fortune, but you’ll learn a lot and jump several levels in writing skill if you apply the lessons from the experience to the rest of your work.
In short, only you know what you really need and can afford. We can all benefit from investing in our career but every writer’s path is different. A
Want something a little bit more specific? Here are some resources & classes I’ve loved:
WritingAcademy.com – I’ve taken the YA fiction and screenwriting courses here and quite enjoyed the exercises and examples given. They do put the courses on sale every once in a while so you might want to watch out for those.
For Freelance Writers
Escape the Content Mills – I actually got to beta test this course for an extremely low price and I absolutely loved it. The hand outs were great and the community on the forum for this course was also amazing. I love working with Linda Formichelli(you might notice this) and would recommend any of her courses.
Freelance Writer’s Den – Run by Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli, this is a paid forum where you can network with other freelance writers, ask questions of experienced pros, get feedback on query letters and letters of introduction and even find jobs.
These are the best resources/classes I’ve invested in so far. Of course, everyone I listed above sells ebooks or online courses and there are also hundreds of other reputable writers and schools who can teach you new writing skills and offer excellent feedback.
What have you invested in/are you thinking about investing in? Let me know in the comments below!
Last week I shared my accomplishments of 2015 and–in the interest of both accountability and education–today I’m going to share my goals for the year of 2016. This year I’ve actually also divided the goals into quarters and even figured out how far to progress on each goal during the first four months of the year. Of course, this is always subject to change, but I’m pretty proud of the way I’ve broken things down:
1. Submit Good Bye to 30 publishers(or until I get a contract) — Good Bye is actually a novella so this is a somewhat ambitious number, but it’s totally doable.
January: Finish editing Good Bye and edit the synopsis/query(queries will be customized but the blurb will be the same for each one) 3-5 times. Submit the initial batch of queries at the end of the month, probably 10
May: By now I should have heard from most/all of the publishers in my initial submission batch and if I haven’t gotten any nibbles I’ll revise the submission package and send it to a second group of publishers
October: Again this is plenty of time to have heard from publishers so this is when I’ll submit to the third batch of publishers on my list if I haven’t gotten any nibbles. At this point I’ll probably revisit the actual manuscript and potentially make some small changes as well
2. Submit Moonshadow’s Guardian to 40 publishers(or until I get a contract) — As an adult fantasy novel of roughly 67,000 words there are tons of markets for this book so I think 40 submissions is totally reasonable. This is currently on submission so whenever I hear back I will immediately submit to the first batch of publishers unless I decide to make a few more last minute edits(or miraculously get a contract from the first publisher I queried).
3. Write sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian — I actually wrote a sequel for this book initially but scrapped it years ago. This year I had some brilliant new ideas for it and I’m already a quarter of the way through the outline. I’m going to start on this right away once I’m done editing Good Bye so it will theoretically be in something like readable shape when I actually get a contract.
January: Finish outlining and start the first draft
February: Complete the first draft
June: I’ll have spent two months away and be ready to start the second draft of this novel at this point
July: Knowing me I’ll convince myself I can finish the second draft in June, hit a snag and have to do massive restructuring, so I’ll finish the second draft sometime in July
4. Rewrite Some Secrets Should Never Be Known Pt. 1 for submission — This used to be one book but has grown enough to almost be its own book. I’ll be adding a couple subplots to flesh it out completely and mercilessly editing the already existing scenes. I also want to make sure the second part goes through at least a couple rewrites so I can adjust the story in the first part as I need to before submitting.
February: Outline Pt. 1 and Pt. 2
March: Start writing new version of Pt. 1
April: Finish new version Pt. 1 and start new version Pt. 2
May: Finish new version Pt. 2
August & September: Edit Pt. 1 & draft submission package
October & November: Edit Pt. 2, Start part 1
December: Finish editing Pt. 1 and start submitting
5. Blog Regularly — I really fell off the blogging bandwagon this year when a heavy workload and insomnia conspired to leave me without a lot of energy, but I’ve been working quite hard on my writing and I’ve also acquired a lot of books. So here’s my blog plan:
January — April: Reviews & Things! I’ll be exposing some excellent books with diverse casts that are far too often ignored, as well as reviewing all of the books I enjoy from a massive(think 30 books) bundle of ebooks about writing I purchased during a Nanowrimo special. This is the first time I’ll ever be reading so many writing related books in a relatively short period of time and I’m excited to share the best ones with you.
May — August: I suspect by this point I’ll be heavily into video production on some projects I’ve been sort of working on for the last month or so. Depending on where things are, I might be talking a lot about them and what I’ve learned as well as sharing them here. Otherwise I’ll probably continue to review craft related books.
September — December: I’ll definitely have some wicked video stuff to show during this part of the year, but I’ll also be taking some classes(both writing related and not) that I’ll be reviewing here.
6. Double my writing income(without working more hours) — It’s a fairly lofty goal with everything else going on in my life, but I’m fairly confident I can do it. Of course I will be working 5-8 extra hours a week at first to research clients and publications to pitch as well as working on the pitches themselves, but I’m going to get a strong start on this at the end of this month when one of my existing contracts wraps up.
For this one I have a simple goal: research and pitch 10 companies every month. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to consistently get my name out there and a few excellent clients can easily double my income. I’ll also be applying for some grants this year in the hopes of taking a sabbatical to edit Some Secrets Should Never Be Known.
What are your goals for this year? How have you organized them? Let me know in the comments below!
Over the years I’ve done all kinds of Nanowrimo themed things here on the blog, including hosting fellow Nanowrimo veterans for pep talks. This year I’m more focused on other aspects of writing–I happen to be in the middle of edits and thinking a lot about different genres–but I thought I’d compile all the pep talks I’ve hosted here for those of you participating in the challenge.
Ready to be inspired? Read away:
Nanowrimo Veteran Pep Talk This pep talk might not have a particularly original name, but the article itself is chock full of inspiration.
A RedParrot Offers Pep — One of my all time favourite guest posts on this blog regardless of time of year, this excellent pep talk uses a mixture of words and silly cartoons to walk you through the process of writing a novel.
Peppy McTalk — Written by long time Nanowrimo veteran and now self published author Dylan Madeley, this pep talk was written for week two but will give you an inspirational boost at any time of the month.
Pep Talk: Sunstreak — Another Nanowrimo veteran who started young and successfully beat Nanowrimo multiple times while in high school(often writing well over 50K), Sunstreak has a lot to say about this amazing competition.
This past weekend I attended the first ever Writer Igniter Conference, an online writing conference run by Gabriela Pereira, Chief Instigator of DIY MFA and one of my favourite people in the blogosphere. The first day of the conference focused on craft and the second day’s workshops focused on the business side of writing.
There were four feedback sessions during the Writer Igniter conference including two first page critique sessions(one for YA/MG and one for adult genre fiction), a log line critique session and even a short website critique session at the end. A combination of editors and agents provided the feedback, and participants were invited to give each other feedback too.
These feedback sessions came at the perfect time for me, as I’ve got a novel in the final stages of editing before submission and I’m going to be doing a big update to my website over the next couple of weeks(mostly to update my publications list and update my bio), so I really appreciated the opportunity to get feedback from the pros.
I managed to score a first page critique, a log line critique and a website critique and I’ve already edited the first scene in my novel and my log line based on the feedback I was given. Both the pros and the other participants at the conference gave me valuable, specific advice I know will help me take my work to the next level, and I’m incredibly grateful.
Feedback sessions were done live but online and most of the sessions were done anonymously, which was great for me because I personally have a hard time dealing with face-to-face critiques. I’ve got a pretty thick skin and I only submitted work I’m extremely proud of(putting a first draft in front of an agent, even at a conference, is a bad idea) but having the whole internet between us definitely helped relieve any anxiety I felt beforehand.
The first day of workshops began with an outlining workshop and ended with a revision workshop. I won’t comment on the outlining workshop because I deliberately skipped it(I plan to listen to the recording right before I do an outline next week) but I loved the revision workshop. A lot of it was stuff I already knew phrased in a more coherent way than I heard it before, but it provided great insight into the way other writers approach the process.
In the end my only complaint about the revision workshop is that I ran out of room for notes:
The second morning of the conference featured a presentation about how authors can legally protect their work(I’ll admit, I slept through most of this one) and a class about social media for writers. For me the social media workshop was pretty basic–I’ve been researching social media for writers as long as Facebook has existed–but it was a thorough introduction to the concepts and it was awesome to see other writers having light bulb moments.
The conference finished off with a workshop on book proposals led by Gabriela herself and an “Ask the Expert” panel featuring most of the speakers from other workshops and critique sessions. I kept mostly quiet for this one but really enjoyed the thoughtful questions other writers asked and the thorough answers they received.
Why I like the online conference format
I do plan to go to in-person writing conferences at some point, but here are a few reasons why I like online conferences:
It’s cheaper — I managed to snag an early bird ticket to the Writer Igniter Conference for $147, but it only went up to $187. This is cheaper than a lot of big conferences, especially when you consider that I didn’t have to travel or eat out.
No commute — When I woke up and realized it was already 20 minutes into the legal workshop I only had to jump out of bed and hurry to my computer, meaning I could still attend part of the workshop.
No stress about clothes — When I go to a professional event I always struggle to choose an outfit and decide how business-y or casual I want to be. I honestly didn’t even get dressed for either day of the Writer Igniter Conference and nobody even knew!
Easy to connect with other participants — The tech used to run the Writer Igniter Con split the screen between a slideshow presentation and a chat room where participants could connect and ask questions. This meant we could participate in the discussion without interrupting presentations and it also made it really easy to get to know the other participants during and between workshops.
I’ve attended the Muse Online Writer’s Conference before but I got way more out of the Writer Igniter Conference. The format of the workshops was much easier to follow and the specific feedback I got on my work and my website was well worth every dollar I spent on the conference.
The chatroom also allowed me to make connections at opportune moments. During the social media workshop I got everyone to share their Twitter profiles so we could connect. During the revision workshop I talked about trading critiques and I’m already trading first chapter critiques with two of the participants.
I’ve finished this conference with all kinds of new ideas for my writing and a fresh boost of motivation to keep working towards my dreams, and in the end that is priceless.
Would I attend this conference again?
I’d definitely attend the Writer Igniter Conference again, although next year I’d love to see some new, more advanced workshops about things like how to write a query/synopsis. The feedback sessions alone would be well worth the cost of the conference, but at this point in my writing career I’d get a lot more out of workshops heavily focused on the submission and publishing process.
Have you ever attended a writing conference? What was it like? Tell me in the comments below!
Most writers will tell you they write every idea the moment it comes to them, and many even go to great lengths to do this. They keep a notebook beside their bed and one in every bag, write on envelopes or napkins and sometimes hide out in the bathroom to get a particularly complex thought down.
I, on the other hand, have recently made a point of not writing ideas down right away. There are some exceptions–names(I have a terrible time naming anything), little details in stories–but most ideas don’t get written down right away.
Here’s the thing: not all ideas are worth pursuing. And in my early years of serious writing I devoted a lot of time to ideas that weren’t worth pursuing. I would get halfway through an outline or a draft before I realized the story didn’t actually have any substance or that I didn’t care enough about the characters to make them real in the reader’s head. I’ve written entire novels during Nanowrimo that I know I will never go back to because the story simply doesn’t hold up.
I don’t want to spend a lot of my time on ideas that aren’t worth pursuing, and once I start writing things down I get extreme pretty fast. It’s pretty common for me to write down a single bullet point about a blog post and end up with a full page outline before I know it. Or to write a new outline for a novel based on a single idea, only to overturn the idea or realize it has deeper implications and end up drastically altering the outline.
Leaving ideas in my head allows me to figure out which ones are worthwhile. If it isn’t worthwhile it will pass through my head and never return. If it is, it will linger at the back of my consciousness, presenting itself occasionally(or frequently) throughout the day.
Even better, every time an idea comes back to me it comes back with more details. By the time I reach the page I’ve already worked out most of the kinks and I can write the whole idea down. Sometimes this looks like an outline, other times it’s a scene or even a sequence of scenes, and sometimes it’s a blog post like this one.
Once in a while I’ll reach this point and realize the idea isn’t worth pursuing or simply won’t work, but usually if I actually write it down I end up completing the project and loving the final product.
I might miss out on the occasional idea, but I’ve already got entire notebooks filled with outlines of blog posts, articles and books I’ve never written. And while most of them aren’t worth committing more time to, there’s enough good material in my notebooks to keep me writing blog posts and books constantly for the next ten years. So any new ideas I commit to need to be truly exceptional. This is especially true now that I’ve got a full time freelance business with steady clients who have high expectations.
I haven’t outlined a new blog post in several months, but I have edited one novel and a novella(I’m actually editing the novella for a second time right now and am almost done), created a submission package for the novel, and re-written Part 1 of an old Nanowrimo novel. As crazy as it sounds, ignoring the majority of new ideas allowed me to keep a laser like focus on the big projects. If I had given in to every urge to stop and outline a blog post or a short story I might never actually write, I wouldn’t have two projects on track to go on submission by November first.
How many notebooks full of abandoned ideas do you have? What crazy things have you done to get your ideas down? Let me know in the comments below!
This past weekend I finished my most recent edit of Moonshadow’s Guardian, a YA fantasy originally written as a Nanowrimo novel. I’ve already edited this novel several times–it’s faced the most drastic changes of anything I’ve ever edited–and am mostly finished my query letter and synopsis. As I told my best friend the other day, it’s time to send this novel out to publishers.
And then she asked me the question: “Are you nervous?
I might have stared into the phone like it was an alien for a while, because here’s the thing: I’m not nervous. I already know some of the publishers I send my novel to will reject it. In fact, I know most of them will reject it. That’s part of the gig. They might all reject it for all I know.
And eventually I will be nervous. Once it’s been two or three months since I heard from anyone, when part of my brain inevitably starts hoping I haven’t heard back because my novel’s reached the finalist round, gotten all the way to the head editor of the imprint I’m submitting to or the second read from an editor I mailed it to directly. Eventually I’ll start to feel disappointed every time I open my inbox to find nothing from the publishers I’ve submitted to.
But for now I’m not nervous, and here’s why: I have put everything I can into this book at this point in my life. It’s gone through several drafts and been partially or completely critiqued by several different people. Before this most recent edit I sent it to one of the harshest critique partners I’ve ever had and the manuscript was returned with hardly any notes. And this edit was the fastest edit I’ve ever done, finished in almost exactly one month.
I have done everything I could to make this book the best book I can create, and I am confident it will be successful. Rejections are not necessarily reflections of the quality of my book. And if it does get rejected by every publisher on my list I know I have the dedication and resourcefulness needed to make self publishing work. I will find the money necessary for professional editing, formatting, swag I can hand out at events, whatever I need to make my career work. There is nothing I will not do to make this book a success. Except maybe sell my soul, because I need that for the next book.
If you’re nervous about submitting your book, you have every right to be, but remember this: a rejection from a publisher, even your favourite publisher, does not mean you wrote a bad book. A rejection with criticism even less so. If an editor takes the time to send specific feedback on your work it means they cared about it enough to remember it separately from the dozens of manuscripts they read in a month.
If you are willing to do whatever it takes your book will eventually become successful. Probably not a best seller, but something you can be proud of, something that sells enough copies to at least shut those irritating naysayers up, something that gets readers interested in your next book.
There are some exceptions to this–some stories really aren’t supposed to do anything other than teach us something about ourselves or help us get through a crisis–but if you truly believe in your novel you can almost always find a way to make it happen.
Anyway, I should get back to working on that query letter.
An author I interviewed last November contacted me recently and let me know she’s going to be in an awesome anthology–coming out in just a few days! I normally don’t do two interviews with the same author in such a short period of time, but Devorah’s excitement is contagious so I’ve decided to bring her back.
Please give Devorah Fox a warm welcome.
1. We last spoke in November 2014. Can you talk a little bit about where you were in your writing career at the time?
November 2014 I was deep into National Novel Writing Month, endeavoring to write 50,000 words in 30 days. This was my fourth NaNoWriMo marathon and I’m pleased to report that I was again successful. Those words are the start of “The Redoubt,” Book Four in The Bewildering Adventures of King Bewilliam epic fantasy series. Many more words are needed, for example, the ending. I had hoped to finish the book in time for a July 2015 launch but Fate had other plans.
2. What are some of the projects you’ve worked on since then?
It wasn’t until June 2015 that I got back to writing “The Redoubt” so there’s absolutely no way it will be ready for a July launch. However, I have another book to crow about. “Masters of Time: A SciFi/Fantasy Anthology” will debut on July 13 and it include my short story “Turning the Tide.” I am thrilled to have my story in the company of work by talented, bestselling authors Samantha LaFantasie, Alesha Escobar, Timothy c. Ward, H.M. Jones and Alice Marks.
3. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned since then?
I learned that I can write short fiction. When I first set out to write fiction I wrote novels, largely because I was trying to write the book that I most wanted to read. Later as I joined writers groups I became in awe of authors who wrote short stories and managed to achieve so much with so few words. It’s a very different craft from novel writing, especially marathon writing where the goal is to pour as many words as possible on to the page, as quickly as possible.
When submissions to “Masters of Time” opened I recalled a piece I had written in response to a prompt during a writer group exercise. At the time I thought I had the germ of a novel on my hands but I seized the opportunity to develop the idea. I found that I could say what I wanted to say in less than 2,00 words.
4. How do you balance your schedule between writing/editing/marketing?
I wish that I could say that I have achieved balance. I spend entirely too much time on marketing and not nearly enough on writing and editing. After “Masters of Time” launches I plan to spend less time on marketing and devote myself to finishing “The Redoubt.” It’s a truism that if we spend all our time on marketing and none on writing we’ll have nothing to market, but it’s hard to decline the opportunities that come my way, such as chatting with you.
5. What’s your favourite social media network and why?
I would have to say Facebook. I find it’s a good way to stay in touch with friends whom I don’t see in person because of time or distance. OK, let’s be honest: it’s because it’s chockablock with cute cat photos and videos.
6. Of the marketing techniques you’ve tried, which have been most successful?
If sales are the measure, the most successful marketing I’ve done has been book launch signing events at the Port Aransas Art Center. I very much appreciate the support of the Art Center and the Texas Coastal Bend community.
7. Where would you like to see your writing career in 5 years?
I have so many works in progress. In five years I would hope to have finished Books Four and Five in The Bewildering Adventures of King Bewilliam epic fantasy series and “A Whale of a Tale,” a spin-off from the contemporary Coastal Texas thriller “Naked Came the Sharks” that I’m co-authoring as well as a sequel or two to that book. During Camp NaNoWriMo last summer I revived a novel that I started in 1993 and I’d like to finish that. I have several detective-series drawer-stuffers that I’d like to dust off and get between covers. I’m a huge “Warehouse 13” fan and I have three pages of ideas that would make great short stories in the steampunk genre.
8. If this was your last interview ever, what would you really want to say?
Thank you, everyone who has read my work and asked for more. It’s your encouragement that tells me that writing is what I ought to be doing, as opposed to brain surgery or mixed martial arts.
About the Author:
“What if?” Those two words all too easily send Devorah Fox spinning into flights of fancy. Best-selling author of The Lost King, The King’s Ransom, and The King’s Redress in The Bewildering Adventures of King Bewilliam literary fantasy series she also co-authored the contemporary thriller, Naked Came the Sharks with Jed Donellie and the Masters of Time: a SciFi/Fantasy Time Travel Anthology. Publisher and editor of the BUMPERTOBUMPER® books for commercial motor vehicle drivers she is developer of the Easy CDL test prep apps. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she now lives in The Barefoot Palace in Port Aransas on the Texas Gulf Coast where she herds rescued tabby cats and writes the “Dee-Scoveries” blog at http://devorahfox.com.
I talked last week about how this trip changed my life. Now it’s time to go into a little more detail–and of course show off some of the 500 pictures I took while I was in the UK.
I could turn this into a big series–you’d be amazed at how many things a person can fit into three weeks when they really try–but to be honest I’m already eager to start a completely different series of posts. So while you can be sure you’ll hear about this trip again, it certainly won’t be in the next couple of weeks.
Anyway, let’s get started!
No pictures at this point because frankly I find Toronto–and airports–fairly boring. But this was my first time flying alone, which was pretty cool. I loved watching the plane take off and land, which is pretty strange when you consider that I’m terrified of heights.
I did also spend four days by myself in London, but that’s another story for another time. What I will say is this: traveling alone is nice, but it gets tiresome after a while. And it sucks when you want a picture of you taken in a certain spot.
Staying in Wick
I met up with my aunt in Edinburgh and together we took a rather small plane up to Wick, a town in Caithness. The awesome thing about the smaller plane is that it flies a fair bit lower than larger planes, meaning you get to see a lot of the countryside as you fly. I’ll admit, I was too busy gaping to take a picture through the window, but I did take a picture of the plane.
Clan Gunn used to actually own almost all of the lands in Caithness, including Wick and the lands around it. I’m not sure if it’s because of that or because of the spectacular landscape, but I felt far more at home in Wick than I ever have in Toronto. There are many logical reasons for me to continue living in a city, but I’m still planning to move up there someday.
And with views like this, who can blame me?
To be honest, I kind of think my family was insane for moving to a place like Canada when they could have stayed in a place like this. I mean, there are places that look kind of like this in Canada, but most of them have dreadful cold winters, the kind of thing that’s completely unheard of in Scotland.
It was a bit gloomy the day we arrived, but it wasn’t particularly cold and we had beautiful weather the rest of the time we stayed in Wick.
We spread my dad’s ashes outside the Clan Gunn Heritage museum, which was actually a couple towns away from Wick. Well, I wouldn’t say it was in a town, but it was past a town and I think another town began a little bit after the museum.
It also happens to be in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I certainly can’t blame my dad for wanting his ashes spread there, and some day I just might want the same thing done with mine.
Spreading his ashes lifted a weight off my chest that I hadn’t even noticed until I was gone. Or perhaps I had gotten so used to it that I didn’t remember what caused it, didn’t even remember it was there.
I had fun from the moment we landed in Wick, but I had fun in a different way after the ashes were spread. In a strange way I didn’t really feel like I was on vacation until after the ashes were spread. Once the job was done, I had more fun than I thought possible and made friends with a handful of locals.
The Beauty of Edinburgh
Edinburgh is a magnificent city built on seven large hills that used to be volcanoes. This means you can get excellent views from almost anywhere in the city. I found the old architecture so fascinating that I could have taken a thousand pictures. To be honest, the main reason I didn’t is because I didn’t want to stop moving that often.
We spent quite a bit of time just wandering around in Edinburgh and even though we were only there for a few days, by the end of it I felt like I knew downtown pretty well.
To be honest, I wish I never left Edinburgh, as much as I enjoyed the other parts of the trip. I can see myself living in Wick someday when I’m older and more established as an author than as a content writer, but I could see myself living in Edinburgh now.
My aunt did introduce me to a couple awesome people from Edinburgh who I hope to stay friends. In my head I am already half planning the day when I’ll get back to this beautiful city.
My aunt and I did spend a good couple hours exploring Edinburgh Castle. We did visit the castle last time but ten years is a long time and this time I had my own rather nice camera, so I wanted to explore it again.
One of the most interesting things about Edinburgh castle is the hole in the wall where several prisoners of war escaped. This picture doesn’t really do it justice because of the bars, but it was a long way down into the city. Unfortunately you can’t see how sheer the cliff on this side of the castle, but just thinking about that climb gives me the shudders, especially because the largest escape was during a rain storm.
Do you call that bravery or desperation or even insanity?
All I know is that I could have happily kept exploring Edinburgh for a long time, but I will console myself with planning my way back.
What’s your favourite place in the world? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
If a person’s life consists of chapters in the same way books do, a chapter of my life has certainly just ended, and I am beginning a new one even as I write this.
Ten years ago when my dad was diagnosed with cancer my aunt raised the money to take him and I to Scotland, to what used to be Clan Gunn territory. On that trip my dad decided that he wanted his ashes to be scattered near the Clan Gunn museum, in the graveyard surrounding it, a graveyard full of Gunns. He died later that year.
This year my aunt and I finally went back to spread his ashes in Clan Gunn country. My aunt had spent the intervening time putting money away to take me on this trip. Somehow it transformed into a three week journey around the UK, including four days on my own in London.
I’ve struggled a lot throughout the intervening years, in pretty much every aspect of my life. I’ve struggled with depression and know I will struggle with it again, but I feel like in many ways I’ve come out the other side. I’m working in the field I want to be working in for the rest of my life. At some point I’d like to be making a living from writing novels instead of blog posts, but I doubt I’d ever entirely stop blogging.
Over the last three weeks I’ve learned a lot of things, including many about myself, some of which I am still processing. I’ve fallen in love with Scotland and while I’m happy to be home, I know eventually I want to call Scotland home. I’ve taken a few hundred pictures and some video to capture the experience. I have a small collection of souvenirs, mostly things I’ll look at every day, even use on a daily basis.
But most of all, I have new connections, new friends and many new memories. Memories I will cherish for the rest of my life, memories to remind me of the real reason why it’s important to work so hard: so I can go on more journeys and make amazing new experiences year after year. Experiences I can someday turn into stories.
One chapter of my life has certainly ended–I am no longer a student, I no longer struggle to find consistent work, I have a nice place and a stable relationship–but another chapter of my life is beginning. One I suspect will be the best chapter of my life yet.
I hope you will stay with me to discover what this new chapter of my life has in store. It will certainly include many great things here on The Dabbler, and at least a couple published books.
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