Goodness! Is it that long since I wrote a post? Admittedly, it was March, but my last post featured the snow. Now I’m worried about finding water bottles and sun lotion.
So why have I been doing a Greta Garbo? Do I have any reasonable excuses?
April was the CampNanowrimo challenge. This time, egged on by Rachel my critique partner, I put 30 hours of editing into my second novel. That doesn’t sound very much, but I was meticulous — deep work counted — staring out of the window thinking about writing didn’t. And there were Easter Holidays to navigate and articles to finish at the same time. Convert the hours into minutes (30 x 60 = 1800) and it sounds a lot better.
I cut 20,000 words, so the novel is almost novella at the moment. I’m happy with the characters and plot. I now need to work on my setting — make sure I imagine it properly and not leave a white backdrop. As I do that, I’m beginning to see the book take shape and look a little more like I want it to do.
I’ve called the new novel Exile. I have days I like what I’ve written and days I don’t, but I’m always pleased with that title.
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.
Three hours of undiluted housework. It doesn’t matter how many hugs I give my children, how many times they’ve been in bed within half an hour of their bedtimes, that they start the day with clean school clothes, or that I’ve attended two parents’ evenings in a week, and come up with tech solutions for my son, if the house is in chaos (untidy is a given), I get crosser and crosser with myself, sure under those piles of papers there are permission slips I’ve not returned or incomplete homework sheets.
Work-life balance isn’t the issue. As a mum-freelancer hybrid, life is work and vice versa. I need to find the writing-housework sweet spot where I’m producing as many words and doing as little tidying-up as I can without any Nixon-like guilt.
Today, I have a sofa full of clean washing (albeit none of it in its right place) and clear surfaces in my kitchen. I’m just about to pick my children up from school feeling like Mother Theresa.
I’ve said this before, but it’s so much easier to blog when you’re having a good day. It’s sunny, the air is clean, and I achieved almost unprecedented efficiency with my pitches this morning. So much so, I rewarded myself with a pumpkin latte. And just as I was sitting down, an email came in asking me to do an article I hadn’t pitched, but would really enjoy writing.
If it makes me any less obnoxious, Friday was a real stinker.
Anyway, onwards and upwards with a little more momentum than usual.
Well, hello again! Remember me? Yes, I know it’s been a while.
I knew summer was coming, as it did last year and the years before that, so why didn’t I prepare meal rotas, online deliveries and continuous activities in advance? Why, when I had the time, did I prioritise reading reports, and getting to end-of-term concerts and plays?
But in Norfolk last week, while the skies were often blue, the air was cool. Overnight, the edges of the tree in front of our window turned ocre. Autumn’s coming with its promise that this year I’ll perfect the after-school routine. The children will develop self-discipline and consistent consideration for each other. And I’ll make that courgette cake I’ve been thinking about for the last eleven years. Perhaps by next summer, my home will be so ordered and beautiful, other people will ask to come and write there.
And the laws of procrastination mean it’s been so easy to work on my novel. It has been a joyful escape rather than a discipline, partly because my fictional world is much better organised than my real one. My characters’ lives might be a mess, but they manage to keep their couches free of washing.
I don’t have any deadlines at the moment. I am grateful (in a slightly anxious way), as life has become about deciding which of the children would forgive me most easily for missing a concert/ end of term celebration/ play/ rock climbing session.
About Zadie Smith and Maggie O’Farrell. The reader in me luxuriates in cleverly written books like This Must Be the Place and Swing Time (I’m only halfway through that one, but I assume the rest is as good!) The writer despairs. How do they do it?
And about editing my novel. I won’t meet my CampNanowrimo goal, but I have chipped away at it most days. So that’s something. I hope to produce a thing of beauty in the end. At the moment, it’s a big mess.
…Like our home. The one thing my life is not about at the moment is housework, though it almost certainly should be. I’m not honest enough to post pictures. There isn’t a corner I don’t mind you seeing, and my phone is refusing to transfer photos. So this is a (boring but appropriate) re-post.
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.