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.
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.
It’s been an interesting week. To be honest, I’m a wee bit overwhelmed.
My youngest sister graduated her Masters (with distinction we find from facebook- my family have never been one for facts). And then yesterday another sister welcomed her fourth child into the world, a fifteenth grandchild for my parents (also something I found out from facebook).
I’m worried my new lodger is imaginary. She fits in with my world just a little too well to be real. She hasn’t complained about my cooking and is fine with sleeping underneath our boiler, tangential conversations and four children in the house. Having watched A Beautiful Mind, I know to be careful about these things.
Writing wise, I’ve opened an author page on facebook. I am as ever touched by the people who’ve liked it without me begging. My biggest motivation is to protect my friends on my personal account from feeling spammed by blog notifications and professional bragging.
And there are daffodils all over town. I find myself smiling when I see them. A love of daffodils is one of the few superficials I have in common with the ‘heroine’ of my novel. I took these on the school run.
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.
I’ve found this week difficult.
Last week, I created a Scrivener file of ideas for the next month. This was the year when I was going to professionalise my creativity. I was going to find a process. And every day, pitch at least one idea to a magazine.
This week, I suffered pitcher’s cul-de-sac, a variant of writer’s block. Those ideas looked a lot less brilliant in the bleak light of mid-January. I tried to fit them to good magazines, but the most promising angles were going to take far more time to develop. Others had already been covered by the most obvious outlet. One of my stories disintegrated with research. By yesterday, I’d only sent two of the five pitches I’d hoped.
My conclusion? Creativity might respond to regular hours and discipline, but it certainly doesn’t like production targets, even modest ones. It also becomes easily fed up of the same surroundings and inputs. In the end, I took yesterday off, to see people and think about a new sewing project. I started feeling human, and less like a broken machine.
While I was procrastinating on-line, I read a post from the Getting Things Done people about turning your problems into projects and looking for the ‘next action’. This morning, when there was no pressure- it was Saturday and I might have been at parkrun- I knew what I could do. I opened my computer and browsed through potential magazines on the WH Smith website. An hour later, I had plenty of leads to try next week.