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.

 

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Half-term, free writing sessions and Jane Austen.

Half-term, free writing sessions and Jane Austen.

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.

 

Explaining Michael House in 1200 words.

Explaining Michael House in 1200 words.

I don’t actually live at Michael House, though at times in the last couple of months it has felt and probably looked like it to the residents. I’m a freelance journalist writing an article about the place.

I had a little panic when I received the job, although it had been my idea. So many awards! So many different things going on! It all seemed very complicated. What if I couldn’t distill everything into 1200 words? And what if no one wanted to speak to me?

But eventually, the information fell into place. As for interviews, I couldn’t stop people telling me about their lives. Keeping within word count was a challenge.

There were common themes. Most had become homeless after a relationship breakdown. Everyone was relieved to have a door to lock behind them. And they were all looking forward to their next chapter.

I’m hoping the article will explain why Michael’s is so special. Meanwhile, here are some photos of the garden that the gifted Sarah Cotton took for the magazine:
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Productive ways to avoid your novel and Victorians at their best.

I have two articles out today. The first, ‘Productive Procrastination’, is in the June issue of Writing Magazine. I lay out twelve good excuses to avoid your novel. This didn’t require much research. I shouldn’t blow my own trumpet too much, but I’m an expert in this area. As usual, my mate Gary Dalkin provides market news.

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(I’m the ‘Don’t fret about downtime’.)

I own to a natural bias towards WM as the editor gave me my break into journalism. This makes the subscription that meant I had some idea of what he was looking for, quite literally, one of my best investments yet. But it would probably have been that anyway. It provides ideas and fresh perspectives, and if nothing else, injects a dose of encouragement every thirty days.

The second article, published in the June/July issue of Discover Britain, is about ‘model’ villages. These include Saltaire, Bournville, Trouse and Port Sunlight- self-contained communities created by industrialists to improve their workers’ lives. It was a lovely job throughout, straightforward and involving research on one of my favourite subjects- Victorian game changers.

Yellow Car

Yellow Car

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.

 

Archaeology for journalists: creating an editorial contact book.

Archaeology for journalists: creating an editorial contact book.

I am slowly building up my list of editorial contacts. Slowly.

I don’t like unsolicited emails, so I understand why there’s often a two-tier system for contacting magazines. Those in the know have addresses for specific people. Everyone else has to put their trust in ones beginning with ask@… or helpdesk@…

It takes effort, money or other contacts to find the first-tier kind: sometimes, you can find them on Twitter- if you know what you’re doing; you can pay lots for a media directory or know people who know people. I belong to a great on-line journalist’s group, but I’m sure it’s possible to expend that goodwill, so I don’t ask for addresses as often as I need (every third pitch).

It’s all part of the process. Instead of getting discouraged, I should expect it to take time.