[Interview] – Writing A Story A Day with Vanessa Matthews

if you want to stretch yourself and grow as a writer then go for it! It has been one of the most valuable learning experiences I could have had to develop my writing …it’s really infectious, once you start immersing yourself in writing, the words just keep flowing and flowing.

 

Today I’m interviewing Vanessa Matthews who has just wrapped up her own Story A Day challenge. Vanessa went one better and not only wrote a story a day but submitted one to a contest every day!

If you’ve ever wondered what you might get out of attempting to write a story a day read on!

 

WHAT’S THE MOST SURPRISING THING YOU LEARNED THROUGH THIS CHALLENGE?

Oh, to pick just one!  There have been so many learnings!!  One of the biggest lessons I have learnt is not to write about anything you don’t feel passionate about.  It might sound obvious but during my marketing career I have written with ease about things I liked, and things I didn’t like so much, so I hadn’t anticipated any problem with tackling whatever was thrown at me.  However writing for business and writing for pleasure are very different things!  If you don’t feel compelled to reach the end of your story, drop it and move on to something else.

As for surprises, I have uncovered a passion for writing poetry that I never knew I had, and based on the feedback i’ve been getting from some very talented published poets, i’m even more surprised to find that I might be quite good at it.

 

WHAT MADE YOU START THIS CHALLENGE?

I had heard about a local writing competition taking place for the Daphne du Maurier Festival, which happens in Cornwall every year, and I decided to give it a go. On further research I realised that there were an enormous number of writing competitions going on and the thought just sparked from there.  I had been plugging away at the beginnings of a novel and had found myself lacking in motivation to keep going with it.  As a busy mom of four I just couldn’t seem to find a way to prioritise my writing so this also seemed to be a good way to try and make a habit of writing a little every day.  Although ‘a little’ has so far turned out to be more than 60 pieces of writing… and that excludes my blog posts!

 

HAVE YOU WRITTEN AND SUBMITTED TO A CONTEST EVERY DAY?

Yes, with one very tiny exception… my sci-fi story competition!  sci-fi became my nemesis and despite sitting at my computer for hours trying to build a plot, I found that I just didn’t care about it enough to see it through.  I did write about 500 words and had a basic story map but I just found myself detaching from it the more I tried to write it.  I realised at that point that I was not only wasting my own time, but I was also wasting the time of the competition judges if I submitted a thoughtless piece.  I didn’t want my challenge to end up making a mockery of the art of writing by throwing together any old rubbish just so I could tick the box to say I had done it.  That would have felt disrespectful to me and all of the other writers who had entered with heart.  I plan to post a list of the competitions I have entered on my blog when the challenge is complete. Once the competition deadlines and judging periods have passed I will also post each of my entries so that you can see what I have been up to.

 

DO YOU RECOMMEND SUBMITTING STORIES QUICKLY?

In this instance I do yes.  by submitting things quickly I have forced myself to focus, choose my words carefully and get straight to the heart of what my gut instinct tells me to write.  Once finished it is very easy to overanalyse and become too self-critical but there just hasn’t been the time.  I can already look back and see how I could have done better on some of the entries, but it doesn’t matter.  I did my best on the day, and win or lose, each entry has taught me something new.  However, I would recommend taking more time if I were submitting a novel to a publisher, as you only get one chance to impress and if your story is riddled with repetition, disjointed content and grammatical errors then you won’t stand a chance.  When you are so close to your story, often its only by reading it through several times over several days that those kind of errors emerge.

 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO FOLLOW YOUR LEAD?

That depends on your motivation.  If you only want to be in it to win it, then forget it, but if you want to stretch yourself and grow as a writer then go for it!  It has been one of the most valuable learning experiences I could have had to develop my writing and I have felt so creative and inspired by it.  it’s really infectious, once you start immersing yourself in writing, the words just keep flowing and flowing.  I have actually turned into a bit of an insomniac at times because I haven’t been able to quiet my imagination long enough to go to sleep.

 

DID YOU HAVE MUCH SUPPORT? DID IT MATTER?

I have been very lucky to have the support of my husband and family and made sure I had their buy-in before I started. Having a large family with young children, their support did matter, as I knew there would be times when the housework would get neglected, or I would be unavailable because I was at the computer.  But I was only asking for 30 days, and I needed to do something for myself.  Whatever your family circumstances, a challenge like this inevitably takes you through lots of highs and lows so I think it helps to at least have a cheerleader who can keep you motivated on the bad days and maybe even critique your work if you trust them to be fair and honest.   The feedback I get on my blog has also been an incredible boost, people have been so kind and have made really encouraging comments on my work which has kept me going, particularly on the days when writers block and creative insecurities crept in!

 

WHAT’S NEXT?

I didn’t think about that at all when I started, and some of that will depend if anything comes from the competitions I have entered.  Regardless of results though, I do now have a plan that I could never have anticipated.  I am writing a collection of poetry!  I have written about 20 pieces so far with another 50 or so sketched out as titles – and yes, they are all brand new poems that I have written in addition to my competition entries! I hope to submit the collection to publishers over the next few months.

 

Thanks, Vanessa! Inspiring stuff! I’m ready for May now!!

 

Vanessa has worked as a freelance copy writer, food writer, and marketing consultant for approximately 15 years.  If you want to read along through the highs and lows of one author writing a story a day, check out the blog posts as they happened. You can read more about her writing journey at her blog: http://ordinarylifelessordinary.wordpress.com/