It’s Bournemouth, UK. We have a couple of millimetres of snow and the primary and senior schools have shut. Plus point: I don’t have to get out of bed yet. Negative: I’m going to have to take my two youngest to my hairdressing appointment.
I’m not sleeping well; I am too excited about Saturday. My writing mate Rachel and I are going up to London for the Writer’s Workshop ‘Getting Published’ Day.
There’s the going up to the Capital thing- on a train- without children. That would be quite thrilling enough for two mums usually sandwiched between school runs. But we’re going to meet with other people like us — obsessed by their novels and worried they’re delusional. And receive face-to-face objective advice on our work. And that’s before the seminars and insider tips.
I must be growing a thicker hide, looking forward to the critique. But the book doctor I’ve been assigned has an excellent reputation, for kindness as well as helpful comments. And our appointment is early on in the day. By 10 o’clock, I’ll know what she thinks is working and what is not. I can then enjoy the rest of the event.
As a bonus, I’ve discovered I’ve been selected for ‘Slushpile Live’. In my case, I read my synopsis aloud in front of an industry panel and listen to their reactions with the rest of the audience. I practised it last night in front of my husband, (along with listening graciously to criticism.) I’ll try to remember it’s only a synopsis. These things can be reworked much more easily than 80,000 words of a novel.
And if they don’t jump up and down demanding to see my full manuscript, I’m hoping they’ll like my hair.
I don’t remember learning much at primary school other than reading, writing and how a mung bean grows. Today, my seven-year-old started up a conversation about the trials of finding a publisher. He’d been given JK Rowling’s struggle as an example. I was in my thirties before anyone told me this stuff.
After a hiatus, I’ve turned back to editing my second novel. It’s rough of course, but to my surprise, readable, at least up to page 60. One scene follows on from the next. Unlike my first novel at this stage, there are no scenes just there for the word count.
This time, I’m using third-person with its pitfalls and opportunities. Telling the same tale from different points of view is a lot of fun. But I miss my old narrator. Like any relationship, it took time to get to know her.
I’ve received word of a commission from a new client – a magazine I’ve wanted to work for, for some time. So I’m pleased if a little bogged down in new contributor paperwork.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.