Happy New Year!
Two of my children went back to school yesterday, relatives left and my husband went back to work. I went straight to Office World to buy some index cards.
I’d call my relationship with routine “passionate”, rather than “happy”. I rail against it when it’s here, but goodness! am I glad to see it after a long absence? School drop-offs that force me to start my day by half past seven. The sense of purpose I get just writing an invoice. The freedom to catch up with my emails, rather than eating another mince pie.
And not having time to look at the first page of my novel, again!
Last month, I showed my first three chapters to my writing group. After two hours of critique, I was as grateful as I was exhausted. They were supportive, encouraging, but rigorous and my first page received most of their rigour.
There’s so much it has to do: introduce a setting and two characters from one person’s POV; keep to the ground rules of grammar, and interest someone long enough to make them read on.
Whining won’t get it written, but I don’t think working on it at the moment will help either. Like cooks and elves after Christmas, it needs a rest.
I don’t understand the choices my computer keeps offering me. The more updates it has, the slower it gets. Surely, they should improve its performance? I still miss being in halls of residence with people who knew about this stuff and importantly, would help me for free.
We started watching Motherland last night on BBC iPlayer. Everything resonated- the spurious temporary traffic lights on the school run; the child throwing up seconds before other children arrive for a party; the phone call about a child’s forgotten swimming things (parent to teacher on phone- “Just a question- did you try my husband?”and eventually,”You and I both know he’s going to end up sitting at the side!”); envying other women with parents round the corner, ever-present husbands and childcare sewn up for all but one Thursday afternoon a month, and so on and so on. (Husband to wife over phone: “remember when you drop one of those balls I’ll be here to pick it up and hand it to you so you can keep juggling!”)
Apologies to the BBC for the paraphrasing, but you have commissioned something brilliant. I wish I’d written it.
Fantasy: (while having perfectly balanced and secure children) to be part of a comedy team that develops fabulous characters and nails a section of life like that.
I should stop mulling over post ideas and just communicate. I really should.
We went to London this weekend for my birthday. It was possibly my best yet (at least a tie with last year’s where there were gluten-free pies.) We had the use of my husband’s boss’s very nice flat. So, on Sunday there were poached eggs and salmon on a rooftop looking out on the Shard and Walkie-Talkie buildings. Then we travelled around central London trying to find art. This was easier said than done, even once we were inside the Tate Modern. Eventually, we realised the speakers on the wall were an installation. We then legged it round the National Art Gallery, going for quantity rather than quality of experience- how many old masters could we appreciate before the children’s patience with culture finally wore out.
Anyway, I’m back, three days behind target on Camp Nanowrimo, but still hopeful the discipline of editing for an hour a day will push my new WIP forward.
I did hope I’d return to my laptop inspired with plenty of article ideas. However, it appears I am useless at creative multi-tasking. I can either concentrate on my novel or pitching features. Sometimes, there’s an overlap and wrestling with the novel suggests an article for Writing Magazine.
I’m in novel mode again, a pleasurable, guilt-ridden state. I’m not quite sure who flicked the switch from hard-working freelancer to dreamer. Slowly, very slowly, I’m understanding how I work best…
…and why as a responsible parent, I don’t write fiction all the time. To do it, I need to fully immerse myself in the world of my story.
At the moment, for instance, I have an image in my head- one of my main characters is stroking a kitten. She was a gift, but from whom, and why? And why was the character’s reaction so negative at the time? It’s all I can think about as I go to sleep or load the washing machine.
Making sure it still feels like fun
I hardly noticed the work I put into my first novel. I was a mum at home; there were many other things I should have been doing with that hour in the afternoon. Because of this, writing rarely felt like a treat in comparison to my other options.
I’m trying to think of this manuscript as socialising with interesting (albeit imaginary) people when I could be earning money or doing something about my laundry pile. Allowing the housework to build up really helps foster that sense of indulgence.
It is common sense to sure up your structure before you try perfecting your sentences. After all, you may be chopping that carefully worked prose later. However, looking at the story as a whole overwhelmed me. So, as working anyway round is more productive than pontificating about process, I’m editing at the micro level before the macro. And I believe I’ve found my stride.
I’ve not been sleeping well recently. There are of course many downsides. Sleep is pretty important. Upside? I feel justified sitting in bed to write. Insomnia is the ultimate antidote to perfectionism. But I better get this written before I collapse.
It’s half term in Dorset, so anything I achieve other than parenting is a bonus. Yesterday, I sent off three pitches- in a single email, but that’s a day record for 2017. Today, I’ve continued the structural edit of my novel.
I’m at my favourite stage- well away from realities like finding a publisher, but no longer creating something from scratch. I have a plot, subplots and characters. I know my setting. I can now enjoy getting those things right.
It’s a psychological edit as much as anything at the moment, as I focus on plot. Is that really what my main character would do at that point? Is that how she would break the news to her brother? What would he do then? And when he can’t do that? Isn’t that just cheesy? Yes, it is. Oh yes, I remember, you were thinking about word count. It’s all very messy, but it’s getting less so, every time I sit down to write.
I keep thinking of new things to tell you, but can’t think of a coherent order to put them in, so I’ll just spew them out. I think an editor would call this a signposting issue.
I was feeling pretty pleased with myself as I read through the first seventy pages of my novel. After that, parallel story threads started to tangle, which made for interesting but deeply confusing reading. For the last few days, I’ve stared at the words for half an hour or so, then thoroughly overwhelmed, escaped to twitter or the supermarket.
But some prayer and sleep, and I think I’ve located the offending knot in the centre of my metaphorical ball of wool. The sense of achievement allowed me to push through organising the rest of the section. As a bonus, I’ve managed to rationalise large amounts of repetitive whinging from one particularly miserable character. I’m obviously now ready to come on here and boast about a good day. (Sorry about that! I rarely feel like blogging on a bad one.) On with the rest of my structural edit. One can always hope that was the worst bit.
Spring is flirting with Bournemouth. The crocuses (croci?) were planted before we moved into the house (see above).
We’ve one and a half of a couple staying with us from this Saturday, hopefully for the next month or two (although we’ve given them an out clause). They’ve been warned about the mess, the children and the project of a house and are still coming, so we like them already. And if you’re reading C&C, see this for proof I wasn’t exaggerating.
Yesterday morning, I started revising my new novel, simply because I didn’t have the creative energy to pitch article ideas. And I’d run out of every other method of procrastination I could justify that early on in the day.
Printing the manuscript provided a major mood-lift. Whether e-books take off or not, there will always be something about seeing your work on paper.
I remained cheerful, glancing through as I manually numbered the pages. (Learn from me, and do it in Word, before printing.) I wrote most of the novel during a prolonged November lie-in, focussed on word count rather than the Man Booker prize. But the story looks as if it’ll hold together without massive plot adjustments. My last book took three or four years to get to this stage.
Then, mid-print out, this month’s issue of Writing Magazine belly-flopped onto the door mat, cheering me up further, as my article, “Get Serious”, is inside.