How not to get your Book Edited

So having failed to get an agent for my second novel I thought I would enlist some help in the shape of an editor. Not knowing where to turn I tried The Writer’s Workshop.

I got the manuscript back after a few weeks. I was quite horrified by the comments of the editor. I know there are things wrong with my novel but I wasn’t prepared for the total decimation that happened. She didn’t like anything about my book at all. She didn’t like the beginning. She didn’t like the middle. She didn’t like the end. She didn’t like the characters. She didn’t like the dialogue. She didn’t like the story. She seemed to have expected it to be some kind of tacky thriller with lots of edge of the seat action. This couldn’t be further from the kind of book I was trying to write. It is a book about a girl’s discovery of faith through Islam and what love is and what it is not.  I don’t want to write thrillers. The advice was full of patronising comments. At one point she tells me the plot of Cinderella. It’s the kind of writing advice you would give to a class of ten year olds. I know because I used to do that for a living. There was a whole segment about the plots of various books which I feel sure I have read somewhere before, probably in a book about novel writing. So she had lifted her advice straight from someone else.

A quick google gave me the information that my experienced editor and agent was in fact someone who only started writing in 2014. They had one novel published which sounded deathly dull middle class home counties fare. She had failed to get a publisher for her second one so had self-published and had set up her own publisher to publish the third one. Hardly experienced. I felt I had been misled by the kind of editor I would get. Her main achievement on her web page seemed to have been home schooling her children. She also had the cheek to put a blatant ad for her book on the end of the email.

I felt angry and then I just felt sad. I can hardly bear to look at my book now. There is an art to giving feedback. When I was a teacher however pitiful the child’s offering I always found something positive to say first. I thought the Writers’ Workshop was about nurturing new writers. Assassination is not nurturing.

I was advised to read On Writing by Stephen King and go on a course run by their company. I have nothing against Stephen King but I don’t particularly like his novels and I don’t want to write like him. It seems to me everyone is now writing the same kind of books because they have all been on the same courses and read the same advice. It’s all so boring. I haven’t read a really good book in ages.

I would not advise anyone to use the Writers’ Workshop but to find an editor by other means that at least gets what you are trying to do to some extent.

I will probably just self publish my book as it’s not commercial. Then I will have  a go at another one. I doubt I will ever land an agent.

I must go on…

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Trying to get a Book Deal

So I kind of almost finished my second novel and tried again to get an agent. I sent off the first three chapters and the synopsis and cover letter as advised by all the sites. I chose the agents from the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. Yet again I failed to get any interest.

I did think this novel was better than my first one. I wrote the most powerful opening I could manage but still not a spark of interest. I tried to be more commercial and fit into a genre. Yet again I failed. The rejection letters are generic and just mention the huge amount of submissions they get. I realise I am wasting my time.

It is hard to keep positive in this situation especially as the British winter has set in with its usual viciousness and we have nothing but damp and cold. I am fighting off my depression like St George with the dragon.

I now don’t know what to do. I could try rewriting my novel completely or I could tart it up a bit and self-publish.

I don’t think if I keep reworking it that it will ever be finished.

So here I am again.

Going on.

Don’t Worry. It’s Not You. It’s Society. Anxiety Blog

anxiety-symptoms-cartoon

 

Modern psychological research is suggesting that the causes of anxiety may not lie within the individual in terms of faulty biology or faulty thinking patterns but come from factors within the wider society.

The most recent Psychiatric Morbidity Survey indicates that there are some 3 million people in the UK with an anxiety disorder. What methods are used to give us information about anxiety? Different methods produce different evidence. Traditionally, anxiety was studied as something within the person using scientific experiments but these days surveys and interviews are often used to examine the effect of society in causing anxiety.

Anxiety is usually described in terms of the body’s stress response triggering the fight or flight reaction. This could have been useful in caveman times when we were out hunting but these days it can cause problems. The amygdala deep inside the brain alerts the rest of the brain that a threat is present and triggers an anxiety response just like in the cartoon above. Just knowing this doesn’t help you very much does it? Biology isn’t the whole story.

The Survey

The survey is a common method of collecting data in anxiety research. People answer questions about their feelings and behaviour on a scale such as the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale and this data is subject to statistical analysis. This type of research often leads to thinking of anxiety as due to faulty biology which leads to faulty thinking and disordered behaviour. It is also possible to use surveys with more open-ended questions and answers.

The survey method is cheap and can be used with lots of people at once. A large group of people taking the survey can make the evidence seem likely to be true for most people.

There are problems with the survey method though. The people answering questions may have lied or they may not have taken the survey seriously. They may not have understood the question. The questions may not fully reflect their experiences. Some researchers argue that anxiety scales are not accurate. For example, a statement reads ‘I worry more than most people’ and the answer is marked true or false. Just think about how vague this is and how open to different interpretations. The element of the social environment is missing on these scales. The Twenge (2000) study, which showed increased levels of anxiety from the 1950s to the 1990s, uses this method in the primary research studies.

This means the evidence collected by this method may not be entirely reliable.

The Interview

 This is similar to a survey but a researcher interviews the people taking part. The data from this can be seen to be more accurate than a survey if the interviewer is skilled and well trained. It can produce more detailed data, getting closer to the person’s actual experience. This method can also move beyond the idea that the anxiety is a fault from within the individual. It can bring in the missing factor: the social environment. The researcher can ask people about what might have caused their anxiety or indeed cured it.

Brown et al. (1992) found that anchoring life events, which bring security, could lessen anxiety. An example of such an event could be getting married and settling down. A team of researchers interviewed women about their feelings of anxiety and they did use scales but with an interviewer doing the rating. Then they interviewed the women about what was going on in their lives in a less structured way.

There are problems with this method too. The interviewer is a person and that person could be biased. They bring in their own thoughts and feelings into the social interaction and they might even lead the interviewee into answering in a certain way. They could do this without realizing it. It is also difficult to code this rich data gained from the interviews for analysis and mistakes can creep in here.

The evidence from this method may not be totally reliable either.

The Meta-Analysis

 This is where the researcher pools the data from lots of previous studies and then performs statistical analysis on all of it to see what the effect is. This is good for looking at large amounts of data but it is so complicated errors can creep in. There may have been errors in the previous studies that are then carried over into the new study. This method is good for looking at trends in society such as has anxiety increased over time. The bad news is that it probably has. The Twenge study (2000) did this and found that anxiety has increased a huge amount since the 1950s. Twenge also compared anxiety levels with social statistics and found that anxiety levels increased along with environmental factors such as low social connectedness and social threat levels. Lonely people living in high crime areas are more likely to have high anxiety levels.

Yet again there could be a problem with the reliability of the evidence due to the possibility of errors in the original studies used for the meta-analysis.

Looking to the Future

 A more recent movement in research has criticised all these approaches as having too much power inequality. The researchers are in control. Transformative research approaches want to redress this balance and give more power to the individual. The person with anxiety can collaborate with the researcher to set up the study.

Yes that’s power to you, the individual.

All of this doesn’t mean that anxiety research has all been wrong up to now. If the researcher has tried hard to minimise the risk of errors and performed the study rigorously the evidence can be useful. Both Twenge (2000) and Brown (1992) provide reasonably good evidence to suggest that anxiety can be linked to social factors.

This can be really empowering for people with anxiety symptoms. Instead of a pill or a course of therapy they can think about factors in their lives that could be causing their symptoms.

References

 

 

(Borenstein, M. Hedges, L. Higgins, J. Rothstein, H. 2009) ‘Introduction to Meta-Analysis’, John Wiley and Sons, Ltd (Online) DOI: 10.1002/9780470743386 (Accessed 24th Nov 2017)

 

(Brown, G. Lemyre, L. Bifulco A.1992). ‘Social Factors and Recovery from Anxiety and Depressive Disorders A test of specificity’, British Journal of Psychiatry vol. 161 pp. 44-54 (Online) DOI: 10.1192/bjp.161.1.44 (Accessed 24th Nov 2017)

 

 

(Charlton E. 2017) ‘What happens to your brain when anxiety attacks?’ (Online) Available at https://www.thecounsellorscafe.co.uk/single-post/2017/02/04/What-Happens-to-Your-Brain-When-Anxiety-Attacks (Accessed 27th Nov 2017)

 

 

(Hoskin, R. 2012) ‘The dangers of self-report’, (Online) Available at http://www.sciencebrainwaves.com/the-dangers-of-self-report/(Accessed 24th Nov 2017)

 

(McLeod, S. A. 2014) ‘The interview method’ (Online) Available at www.simplypsychology.org/interviews.html (Accessed 24th Nov 2017)

 

 

(McManus S, Bebbington P, Jenkins R, Brugha T. (eds.) 2016) ‘Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014’. Leeds: NHS Digital. (Online) Available at https://digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB21748 (Accessed 27th Nov 2017)

 

(Noble, J. 2006) ‘Meta-analysis: Methods, strengths, weaknesses, and political uses’, Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine Volume 147, Issue 1, Pages 7–20 (Online) DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lab.2005.08.006 (Accessed 24th Nov 2017)

 

 

The Open University (2017) DD801 Medicalising and Experiencing Anxiety and Worldviews and Transformative Enquiry (Online) Available at https://learn2.open.ac.uk/course/view.php? id=204962 (Accessed 24th Nov 2017)

 

 

(Twenge, J. 2000) ‘The Age of Anxiety? Birth Cohort Change in Anxiety and Neuroticism 1952-1993’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2000, Vol.79 (6), pp.1007-1021 (Online) DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.79.6.1007   (Accessed 24th Nov 2017)

 

 

 

Yogi Cameron The One Plan Week 5 and 6 Review

So I am still keeping up my Yogi Cameron plan kind of. I STILL haven’t lost any weight in spite of my Spartan diet. I have had some cheat days but I would have expected at least some weight loss.  Why is my body holding on to its weight?

On the spiritual side these two weeks have been about non-stealing. By this Yogi Cameron means not just literal stealing but things like cheating on your taxes and taking someone’s parking space. I’ve realised I’m a pretty honest person as I don’t do any of these things. This is something I can be proud of at last. I am ethical. I am honest. I have empathy. This is all good for my spiritual growth.

I have been feeling better. I have cut down my portions and now I have even stopped having rice. So I am existing on fruit and vegetables mostly with vast amounts of herbal tea. I have had a few cheat days. Husband has this effect on me. He encourages me to drink wine and takes me out to lunch to places that never have anything healthy on the menu.

I have massively upped my exercise regime. I am doing yoga and then HIIT and then weight training with dumb bells. I am only doing the weight training three times a week but the other exercise every day except Sunday. This is as well as dog walking which is often miles and miles around Norfolk lanes. My legs ache most of the time.

I am also meditating and praying daily.

I have upped my productivity massively and managed to finish my novel. It just needs editing now and adding to. I am quite pleased with it but it still needs some work.

I have also started my MSc in Psychology at the Open University. It is brilliant so far and I amr really interested in it. I have sent in my first essay.

I have also started a course in Hypnotherapy training. I am really hoping this could be a new career for me. It will take me ten months. I really enjoyed the first weekend and I got some compliments. Maybe I will actually be good at this. I am hopeful. The course was very relaxed and supportive. It was right for me. My anxiety melted away.

My depression is being held at bay. My strategy has been to force myself to do things even though I don’t feel like it. This has been effective and I feel better afterwards. I still haven’t got to the stage of joy yet but I am smiling more.

I have had another intervention as I have been going to CBT sesssions with the NHS. It’s not really therapy. I sit in a room  with other people and listen to a lecture on CBT from a very young man. Then I get a booklet and tasks to do at home. There are some useful ideas in it but you can tell it’s just trying to deal with people on the cheap. One size does not fit all in my view.

I still have the problem of no income. I do need to work on this. I do everything to avoid applying for jobs. I think it must be anxiety from my previous experiences. I much prefer doing courses. I still want to work for myself ultimately. Of course I want to be a writer but unless I have a bestseller I am not going to make any money. Being a therapist would be good too. I would like to help people cope with their problems. I have had so many issues it would be lovely to help other people not go into the depths like I did.

I have had to take a long look at myself and there are still lots of things wrong. It’s painful to examine your inner life. I still have very little in the way of a social network. I feel totally alienated from family but let’s face it I always did anyway. I can’t do anything right as far as they are concerned. Maybe being reclusive is my natural state. Of course I would love to have a perfect life like people in a TV ad but maybe I’m just not made that way.

I have felt a longing for children over the last few weeks. Sadly I think I am too old. When I was younger the time never felt right. I have a lot of regrets about the past. I suppose you can regret everything or regret nothing. I am finally waking up and facing my fears.

Onwards!

Yogi Cameron Diet Day 6

Weight: 64 kg. I am kind of amazed I am still the same weight after my blow out yesterday.

Breakfast: berry smoothie with soy milk

Lunch: Chinese stir fried vegetables

Dinner: Chinese stir fried vegetables.

One glass red wine

Exercise: dog walking one hour. Did not manage yoga today

Meditation: 15 minutes

Felt very tired today after yesterday. This seems to be part of my chronic fatigue. I do something one day and am exhausted the next. Mood was medium. I forced myself to do housework and go to the shop. Pleased with the results. Not pleased with my lack of productivity. Felt I ate very healthily today so pleased about that. Proud that I am keeping up caffeine free. Had leg cramps from caffeine withdrawal and a mild headache. I am hoping I feel better when it ends. Trying to heal.

Yogi Cameron The One Plan Day 3

Weight: 64.5 kg. No weight loss

Breakfast: scrambled eggs, green tea

Lunch: ratatouille, rice, green tea, red wine

Dinner: dates

Snack: corn bread. Extra virgin olive oil

Meditation: 15 minutes.

Mindfulness: I can statements. Love and compassion to all beings.

Exercise: dog walking 30 mins

Social interaction: talking with husband until he left at 3 for a conference

I had a day of rest today as it is Sunday. I didn’t feel very good. Felt very tired. Mood medium. I was annoyed at myself for eating corn bread. I am not supposed to be eating any bread at all. The only thing I am proud of is avoiding coffee. I am still eating too much though I have reduced my portions. I will concentrate on avoiding caffeine as I can’t give up too many things at once. I spent the morning lounging and watching political programmes on TV. Then I watched a film. I feel myself slipping into old habits so I must try harder. I am more aware of my thoughts and trying to catch them before they turn negative. I felt myself sliding into hopelessness again that I do not have a proper purpose. Try not to have wine tomorrow. Keep trying. I was pleased I didn’t have processed food. I didn’t eat late. I think eggs are not really allowed on the ayurvedic diet but  think they are healthy.

Yogi Cameron The One Plan Day 2

Weight: 64.5 kg. I have lost no weight. Aaargh. Hey it’s only one day.

Dog walking: 30 mins

Meditation: 15 mins. Concentrating on the breath and observing thoughts.

Mindfulness: I can statements. I can write.

Yoga: 30 mins

Jogging: 20 mins

Breakfast: strawberries, banana, green tea

Lunch: aloo gobi curry, nectarine, green tea

Dinner: ratatouille and beans. Baked potato. Red wine.

Snack: almond milk hot chocolate.

Mood: up and down but ok

Social interaction: some at village dog show, husband in the evening

Pretty pleased at the amount of exercise I achieved today. Felt good in the morning. Energy dipped in the afternoon as did mood. Got some writing on the novel achieved though not very much.

The big news was giving up coffee. I had green tea instead. Big achievement. I did not get a headache. Felt naughty about the red wine but it is Saturday night.

I reread some of the One Plan. I love the idea he talks about as emerging as a masterpiece. Yes I would like that.

Feel I kept to eating healthy foods. I am still probably eating too much but I had no processed food. It is time consuming to cook everything from scratch but I really enjoy it. In a better world I would have a house full of children to cook for. I always make too much of everything. Sigh.

I had some negative thoughts impinging but I managed to come back to the present moment. The rainy weather does not help. I enjoyed watching my garden birds on the bird feeder.

A good day. Onwards.

 

Yogi Cameron The One Plan Reboot Day 1

I have started the One Plan before but I gave up after a few weeks. I can’t now remember why. I am going to give it another go. The One Plan is a book by Yogi Cameron who is a holistic therapist. It promises to change your life in a year with a week by week plan. I have been feeling so ill, tired and hopeless recently that I really need something. I have decided to persevere this time and not give up like I usually do.

The One Plan applies the principles of yoga and ayurveda to the realm of the body, mind and spirit.

Week One is about remembering not to eat late at night and to practise non-violence on yourself and others. This means verbal as well as physical.

I am going to blog about my progress through the days. I hope it is helpful to people. I am going to keep broadly to the plan but also mix in other ideas from Buddhism and health sites. I will be broadly vegan with a few animal products from time to time. I allergic to milk and gluten intolerant.

Day 1

Wake 8 am

Weight: 64.5 kg. Heaviest I have been for a long time.

Exercise: dog walking

Meditation: 15 minutes Concentrating on the breath. Observing my thoughts.

Yoga: 30 minutes.

Mindfulness: mantra of I can statements. I can write. I can write my novel. Visualise myself as a famous novelist.

Breakfast: smoothie consisting of almond milk, peanut butter, strawberries, banana, flax seeds, chia seeds, cocoa powder, avocado, cod liver oil. All whizzed up in the blender. Coffee.

Hypnosis tape.

Lunch: 1 pm salad. Yogi Cameron does not approve of salads but it is what I have in my organic veg box so it’s what I’m eating. Lettuce, cucumber, brazil nuts, tomato, avocado, French dressing with garlic and mustard. Green tea.

Dinner: 4 pm three quinoa rice cakes with marmite and peanut butter

One glass of red wine.

Social interaction: virtually none. Greeting neighbours while dog walking. Husband is at the gym until late. Not in yet.

I am pleased with myself today. I am easing in. I had a sense of well being. I had a slight headache in the afternoon. I am still drinking coffee which I will have to stop but I only had one. I didn’t eat any processed food and I didn’t eat late. I did lots of reading and I wrote this blog. I looked at some social media which I am trying to cut down. I have realised a lot of my problems stem from negative self thoughts. I need to do more tomorrow. I kept grabbing at the thoughts to make them go away. I have just recovered from a cold so feel slightly woozy though the nostrils are a lot less blocked than usual. I also have negative self thoughts against other people. This is something I need to work very hard on to eradicate. I need to meditate on forgiveness. I had one glass of wine which will need to come down.

A good day.

 

The Summer is Over – Notes from The Old Chapel

“The summer is over and we are not yet saved.” Jeanette Winterson

Autumn has arrived in rural Norfolk. As I write the constant rain is hammering on the conservatory roof. The summer has been wetter than usual – a gloom settling over England more deep than usual. I think it’s God’s punishment for Brexit. I can count the sunny days on the fingers of one hand. Thankfully we went on holiday to Italy and saw some real sunshine. If God is an Englishman, as the Victorians used to say, then he sure has a dry sense of humour.

Autumn is giving its bounty though. The hedgerows are full of blackberries and the garden is brimming with small, sour apples. There is a dead mouse under the sun lounger I am trying not to think about. The weeds are rampant. I have pulled some at the front but the borders remain neglected due to the rain. The swanky new bird feeder is attracted tits of all kinds and a nervous robin. He alights on the meal worms, pecks nervously and skitters away at the first sound.  The skies are grey and blank.

There is a slight chill creeping in to the early mornings and evenings but the main day is still warm. I am putting off putting on the exceedingly expensive oil heating. I have a vague dread of the cold of the winter. I keep dreaming of warm climates with lush vegetation. Norfolk has its charms though. The skies are big and the garden is wonderful. In its shelter one feels safe and hidden. The front of the house is marred by the main road. My dog takes it into his head he has to bark at every large vehicle passing. I have tried to train him out of it with limited success.

The rain will make me productive. I can’t work in the garden so I can write.

And write and write…

Taking Control of My Mental Health

I have had delicate mental health for a while. I have taken lots of self help steps to try to make myself better with some success but somehow I always relapse.

This year I have suffered with sinusitis and chronic tiredness which has made me depressed.  I don’t know what comes first, the illness or the depression or that they both feed on each other in some horrific symbiotic relationship. At points all I could do was lie on the sofa and drink wine. I was spiralling downwards.

I decided I was sick of all this and took charge of myself. First the sinusitis had to go. The doctor had given me a steroid nasal spray which did nothing. She said it would take twelve months to work. So basically it didn’t work.  I read up online and came across someone saying dairy caused their sinusitis. This felt right to me. I gave up dairy, bread and eggs two weeks ago. The results were quite something. My sinusitis got better almost immediately. Two weeks later I would say it is almost gone completely though not quite. The eczema on my finger has also cleared up. I think I have been allergic to milk and not realised it. I also felt that my digestion was better and I didn’t feel bloated. I had more energy.

I started hypnotherapy. I have had two sesssions and have received an audio file that I am to play at night. I did not feel instantly better as some people report but I am perservering. It is like a guided meditation focusing on positive thoughts. I have been eating healthily, avoiding alcohol and doing yoga, meditation, jogging and walking. I do feel somewhat better. The hypnotherapy is deadly expensive so I am holding off for a while for the next session.

I scoured the local mental health services and self referred for a well being course. I have four sessions of CBT therapy for depression. It doesn’t start until October. It’s in a group so I am not sure   if it will be effective but I am giving it a try.

I have also decided to take control of my life in other ways. I have signed up for an MSc in Psychology at the Open University and I have signed up  to learn hypnotherapy. So that’s two part time courses. I am paying for them with a student loan from the government. I still neeed some kind of job to pay my way. This is proving tricky. I need to get on it though. I am winding down my business as it makes virtually no money.

I am not cured yet by any means but I feel that I am more in control of events. I have got better before and then slid back down. I must not let that happen again. I know a lot of it is negative thoughts. It’s like there’s a tape in my head that puts me down. My awareness of it is the first step to getting rid of it. I am hoping the outside agencies will help me.

I am toying with asking for antidepressants though I have always resisted this. I am still not sure. I also think about having private therapy though the cost is horrendous.

I have realised that I will never be able to go back to what passes for a normal life. I can’t just have a quiet drink without it turning into an enormous session. I can’t just eat what I like because certain foods just don’t agree with me and I get fat and sluggish. Every day I will have to take time for self care. I am treating myself as a project like an elderly, delicate maiden aunt who needs lots doing for her. I am being gentle with myself. I am turning off the critical voice. Every day it will be an effort but I am going to do it. I have made the first steps.

And I will finish my novel.

Namaste.