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 my story world.
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 his 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. I’m not doing that. 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.
It’s half term. In my humble opinion, I’m not doing too bad a job as a mother. The children have been outside in the garden more than they’ve watched telly. But I did turn a blind eye to an unauthorised water fight yesterday, which I lived to regret seeing mud on my newly cleaned floor, an extra storey of washing on the pile and hearing the misery of younger siblings. As I yelled at the instigator, even he admitted it had all gone a little too far.
If you’re local, Gary Dalkin, Steve Cox, John Pegg and I have been asked to run free creative writing sessions at Gateway Church’s ‘School of Life’ ( 128 Alder Road, Poole, Dorset). They’ll be at 7.30 pm on 21st and 28th June, then 12th and 19th July. We’re hoping they’ll provide aspiring writers with a mixture of inspiration and guidance. Unfortunately, there will only be eight spaces. Booking beforehand is essential, but I hope to post a sign-up link here later in the week.
And if that isn’t enough self-promotion, my latest article, ‘The Jane Game’ is out today in Writing Magazine- 10 reasons why Jane Austen might get overlooked by an agent or publisher today.
It was dark, but this is Bournemouth, in the middle of a subway, under a roundabout:
Is it just me being pretentious, or is there a metaphor here? Even if it is mid-May rather than November.
Other writers are often shocked by my family’s low-brow tastes. We have DVDs, not books in our sitting room, and those are more often rom-coms than foreign language films.
But we do like our Radio 4 comedy, particularly John Finnemore. My eldest son could win the specialist section of mastermind with his knowledge of Cabin Pressure.
The crew of the fictitious MGM airlines play Yellow Car. The rules are very simple: say ‘yellow car’ when you see one before anyone else. And if you listen to the programme, you’ll know you’re always playing, even in the middle of a crisis.
We play the game on the school run. I was going to say it’s a lot of fun, but today I realised how seriously everyone is taking it. People argue. Worse still they cheat- calling yellow car before they go round corners, and counting yellow number plates.
Yellow car! You’ll have to take my word for it.
I’ve visited Wembley IKEA, but I last spent proper time in London 12 years ago when my eldest was eight weeks. I hadn’t thought through things like breastfeeding on a rush-hour tube- with a rucksac on my back and the baby in a complex set of straps on front.
It was probably unfair I took against my capital city after that. This weekend the sun was out, I had another adult to help me and four weaned children carrying their own stuff.
And then on Monday, my youngest developed chicken pox. It explained why he’d been a bit whingey and decided to sit down in the middle of the pavement on a couple of occassions. He’d done rather well considering he’d been incubating a virus.
I found the rash in the middle of TESCOs. We were duty-bound to get out of there as quickly as possible, but I’d done most of my shopping and we were only an aisle away from a bottle of Calpol and some cooling spray. We left the store prepared for quarantine.
Tuesday was unpleasant for a while. The victim developed a blister in his mouth and didn’t want to eat anything, but he was on over-cooked pasta and yoghurt by teatime.
And today it looks as if everything’s crusted over. His appearance may clear play parks and swimming pools, but he’s no longer infectious. We can leave the house.
I’m theoretically in control of what happens over the pages of my novel. My say-so is required for Zombie apocalypse, Viking invasion or any other horror. And I’m writing women’s fiction. So it would be pretty irrational to be frightened of it.
But I was, mainly because I had no idea where to begin. As soon as I realised I had some time to begin another edit, I signed myself up to improve my French on Duolingo, rediscovered my Freecell addiction and did some washing.
I then remembered Hillary Rettig’s advice not to get hung up on getting everything right in one go, and to do multiple drafts. With some of the pressure off, I bravely opened the file. Immediately, one of its many faults came to my rescue. I needed to change half of it into the past tense. That would keep me busy for a week or two.
Ah! you might be thinking. She’s doing something clever with points of view and structure. No! I just couldn’t decide as I was drafting it which tense it should all be in. And once I had, kept forgetting. So when I say half of it is still in the present tense, I mean there are some scenes with both. I’ve told you this already. It’s a Nanowrimo novel.
I met a deadline yesterday. Relaxing a little today, I had a very pleasant morning and early afternoon with my next one. I’d already done the research and produced a rough draft. Now it’s a matter of making sure it reads well, makes sense and importantly comes in at the right number of words. Hopefully, I’ll manage to send it in a few days early.
This means that tomorrow, I can afford to focus on other things in my life, like catching up with friends. I’m not talking about long lunches, just messaging people to let them know I’m still alive. And laundry. I wish I knew how to drop housework into a writing day, but I don’t really. You’d think it would be easy to put a load of washing on when I’m working in the next room.
If any of you have any tips on the whole freelancing/housework balance thing, I genuinely want to know.