End-of-term parenting decisions and Zadie Smith-related despair.

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.20170202_135117-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poached eggs, cultural ‘Supermarket Sweep’ and my failure to multi-task.

Poached eggs, cultural ‘Supermarket Sweep’ and my failure to multi-task.

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.

 

Novel mode

Novel mode

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…

Storyworld immersion

…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.

Wasteful editing 

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.

 

Afraid of my own novel

Afraid of my own novel

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.

 

 

 

 

When the washing machine’s a few feet away.

When the washing machine’s a few feet away.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imperfect, but here.

Imperfect, but here.

You may not have noticed, but I’ve been blogging weekly since New Year. I’m quite proud of myself.

There are many benefits, the most obvious of which is my connection with you lovely lot. However, I have to fight perfectionism and vanity to do it. I want each post to be as interesting, as amusing and grammatically correct as the last. And the pictures I’ve taken with a cracked £40 phone to be as beautiful as those in a travel magazine.

But you know that’s not the case, and the fact you’re still here teaches me a lesson: we’re imperfect, fallen human beings with the capacity to enjoy imperfect things.

So, I’m posting this on a Saturday, instead of the Thursday I was aiming for. I’ve not told you the half of what’s happened this week, I can’t see a joke in the last 150 words and I’m showing you a picture of the garden because frankly, the house is too messy for anyone to see. But something is going up because it’s good for me.

Thank you for still being here.

 

 

Novel tangles, crocuses and people who have been warned.

Novel tangles, crocuses and people who have been warned.

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.