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.
(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.
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 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.
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 don’t know why you’re miserable.” My husband has never been comfortable with emotion. His strengths lie elsewhere.
“Brexit,” I said.
“Oh! That’s completely rational. It’s going to be a disaster.”
So far, I’ve not said much about Brexit online because friends I respect voted for it. I disagree with their decision, but I don’t think it was the electorate’s fault. We weren’t given enough information. What we were given was misleading, sometimes downright deceitful.
But I’m horrified by Parliament. We elect MPs to act in our best interests, even if that makes them unpopular. Unlike the rest of us, they’ve been fully briefed on the issues. The majority are convinced we should remain, but yet they’ve pressed on towards a “Hard Brexit”. “The people have spoken!” May says. I bet we’d shout something else now.
There I was, telling myself that now we’d triggered Article 50, it was time to move on, I couldn’t do anything about it, when I heard Nick Clegg saying this:
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.