Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Impossible Deadline - I forgot to say...

...that I did hit my 'impossible deadline' - in fact I even got my compo entry in early! :) I'm now half-way through the third (and final?) draft. The next part of the plan is to get the book out to some agents in the new year :)

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

How to Finish a Novel

To get my novel finished I've decided to enter this competition. The prize is amazing - £10K and a publishing deal. The deadline is a month away. It's good to have a deadline and I like a challenge, but it means I must not only finish my second draft (rewriting at least one chapter per day for the next three weeks), but I also need to pick and polish the best 5,000 words and write a brilliant synopsis - simples!
I've been rewriting the entire first draft from multiple third person POVs into one first person POV as well as tweaking the plot, shaping the structure and tightening the prose. It's not been easy but it's definitely improved the first draft.
Because of family responsibilities I can only write very early in the morning or late at night, creating a steady cycle of sleep deprivation. Add in a few restless nights with R and my poorly tooth and it's quite possibly a recipe for disaster. So I have one month in which to achieve a miracle - let's hope it's worth it! :)

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Moving Forward

So, we've finally moved - by this I mean no more interim moves, no more storing things in people's garages and attics - we have moved lock, stock and barrel into a proper family home! It's been a long time coming, and yet, now we're here, I think it will be a while before I feel settled. Over the past 20 years, I've moved house far too many times (I've lost count but reckon it might be around 30) and so have got used to feeling almost rootless (thank goodness my parents never moved or I really would be lost!). So, it feels alien to have reached this point. But I'm looking forward to being 'normal'. The first step was getting R's name down for a good pre-school earlier today.
And, although we still have far too many boxes to unpack and we have to get our 'old' house ready for rental, I'm looking forward to making some headway with the second draft of my children's novel. I've summarised the plot chapter-by-chapter, examined the story arc and begun looking at the character arc. After much deliberation, and a bit of experimentation, I've come to the conclusion that the story should probably be changed from the third person to the first person, or it should be at least mostly in the first person with some in the the third (if I can make it work?!). But it's going to be one heck of a job, especially as the first draft's around 80,000 words. My alpha readers mostly agree with me, but B thinks it's a totally mad thing to do - maybe he's right, but if that's what it takes to write a good book...
Last night I saw John Connolly the crime author at our local town hall. He was highly entertaining and insightful and when I'm less tired I'll try and summarise the evening properly in a blog post. K and N, two of my writing friends, met him aftwerwards and told me later what a genuine and honest bloke he was, which I found refreshing for such an established author.
October is going to be a cracking month for writing/literature festivals with events at Morley, Ilkley, Wakefield and Hebden Bridge. Although why they have to be at the same time of year as each other is a mystery, as surely they would have more attendees if they were spread throughout the year? Just a thought. Anyway I've booked myself onto various workshops at Morley and HB, which will (hopefully) spur me on to finish my second draft during the autumn and winter. Now that really would be moving forward.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

The Teeniest, Tiniest Droplet...

It's been a hectic but inspiring week. We're half-way through moving and for the last week we've been shuttling between our old house, our new house and my parents' house. Thank goodness for my parents who've been minding R while we pack, lift and shift boxes, and making sure we're fed properly at least once a day!
For two days I had to leave B to soldier on without me when I was struck down with a bug. It also meant I missed a writing workshop in Leeds, which was a real shame. But thankfully I made it to the R.L. Royle workshop at Brighouse Library, which was fun and inspiring. So much so that it has helped me work out a way to improve my novel and got me writing some fresh prose despite all this 'moving madness' - thanks Rebecca! :) In fact I can't wait to get cracking on my book again, which is how it should be!
I also met several interesting people, a couple of whom might come along to our Cleckheaton Writers' Group sometime soon.
Sadly the chaos of moving house meant that I was too late to get tickets for any of the Ilkley Literature Festival workshops that I wanted to do, but hey, you can't have everything. And I have got myself booked on a couple of workshops at the Morley Literature Festival, so it's not all bad.
For the last few days I've been feeling hugely inspired by the paralympians - not just by the GB athletes but by every competitor - they are truly amazing people and each one has an incredible story. It just goes to show what you can achieve if you believe in something enough, although of course you must also dedicate most of your life to it. So, if I can apply the teeniest, tiniest droplet of that inspiration and dedication to my writing, maybe just maybe...

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Editing the First Draft

It's been about six weeks since I finished the beloved monster that is my first draft. And, for no reason I can explain, it feels like the right time to go back for 'round two'. But where do I start? I'm part-way through reading a good book about editing your work before publication and I've read countless tips on the internet, Twitter and other blogs. And now I'm close to information overload!

It seems the best place to start is to make a chapter-by-chapter outline of what the first draft looks like, with a paragraph of what happens in each chapter. Then I need to work out the theme/message. Next I ought to look at the protagonist (but what if there's more than one?) and how he/she changes over the course of the story. Then I have to write summaries of the subplots. Once I have my story and character arcs outlined, the novel needs to be split into three parts: beginning, middle and end. And then, only then, am I allowed to begin at the beginning and tackle Part One!

It all sounded quite manageable until I read one piece of advice which said: "Expect this process to take at least as long as it took you to write the first draft, and likely a lot longer." What??? Surely there is no way it could possibly take that long? I refuse to believe the second draft will take me longer than the first (which took over two and a half years for reasons which I won't even go into), but then surely there's no way that Life could drop that much dung on me this time - is there?

Anyway, onwards and...editingwards (or should that be 'editing words' - sorry!)

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Family Street Cabaret Heaven

Three exciting things happened this weekend. They were (in no particular order): the Cleckheaton Folk Festival, the Wimbledon Finals and (cue fanfare) the climax of this year’s Hebden Bridge Arts Festival (HBAF). Despite being tempted by the other two events, I decided to enjoy the last day of the HBAF and, this time, I brought my family with me.

We arrived before 12, found a parking spot and walked up to the Marina. My husband, B (a keen astronomer and science boffin) wanted to try the Astronauts’ Caravan, although we decided that R was probably a bit too young for it (R will be two next month and we never know how she’s going to be with these things – and I certainly didn’t want to subject the other ‘passengers’ to one of her meltdowns within such a confined space!) So B paid his pound and hopped aboard. It was a clever concept as the ‘passengers’ don’t actually move – they stay static while the caravan revolves around them. It really plays tricks with the mind and when B came out he described it as: “Disconcerting but enjoyable.”

We popped over to the tourist office to find out what was going on and where (they were very helpful and friendly) and then headed into the centre to look for a toddler-friendly cafĂ©. We settled on a place called ‘Innovation’ which was tucked behind a gift shop, just off St. George’s Square. Again, I found the staff helpful and friendly and the place clean and bright. They had items on the menu to suit all of us (giving them a BIG gold star in my book) and the food was tasty and good value for money.

After lunch B decided to buy a harmonica (so that he could sit on the step outside our house and ‘play the blues’, apparently) and we made our way to St. George’s Square where the MC Unofficial Medal Ceremony Band were getting ready to play their first set of the day. The three men, dressed in mock uniforms, warmed up the audience with some banter before throwing themselves into an upbeat skiffle rendition of ‘I Used to Love Her’ by The Rolling Stones. The band played several sets, featuring covers of songs from The Clash to Johnny Cash. The set went down well with R, who happily clapped and danced along to all of them.

In between songs, the bands awarded medals to members of the audience for having the ‘most interesting T-shirt’, ‘the best hair’ or the ‘freshest ice lolly’. When not playing or giving out medals, the multi-talented musicians took it in turns to entertain the audience with comedy, magic tricks, juggling, balloon modelling and unicycling (while juggling swords!) All their acts were funny and involved the crowd: both adults and children (at one point three audience members were throwing juggling clubs at one of them).

One of the highlights was the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ trick, where a (brave) woman from the audience had to ‘sleep’ (on a board balanced on the backs of two chairs) while her ‘prince’ fought and won a duel against a baddie, using balloon swords, and finally woke her with a kiss. The actual trick involved removing one of the chairs (without her crashing to the ground, which thankfully she didn’t!) but it was the high comedy factor that made it so memorable.

The forecast had been mixed, so we were expecting showers, but the weather stayed fine. As we took a stroll along the streets, we soaked up the happy, relaxed atmosphere around us; it was the perfect tonic after such a hectic and tiring week – I wish we could do this every weekend and can’t wait to do it again next year!

Friday, 6 July 2012

‘Beyond Chick Lit’ Part Two: Jane Green at Hebden Bridge Library

Jane Green was one of the calmest latecomers I've ever met. Charming and serene, she apologised profusely for her late arrival before taking the ‘hot seat’.

Novelist Linda Green introduced Jane, explaining she was on a hectic tour of the UK (she now lives in the US) and revealed that she and Jane have the same literary agent. However, despite having the same surname she said they were not related. Linda said she had been a Jane Green fan for years, having read her books from the start, and that when ‘Straight Talking’ came out it heralded a whole new genre within women’s fiction. Linda then led an informal discussion (more of a friendly chat really) including the odd comment and question thrown in by the audience…

Jane has written 12 novels, all of them best sellers. She has sold over 10 million copies worldwide and writes about many of the challenges that women face. Her latest novel, ‘The Patchwork Marriage’ is about a childless woman who marries a man with children. Becoming a wife and mother overnight proves harder than she imagined as the children make her life difficult and it puts a strain on the marriage. Jane is particularly interested in the dynamics of ‘blended families’ as both she and her second husband have children from previous marriages.

Going back to her first novel, Jane explained that ‘Straight Talking’ was very much about her life at the time – it followed themes that she was familiar with (a 20-something woman looking for Mr Right) although the story was not about her. She has since written about marriage, divorce, motherhood, coping with teenagers – the whole gamut of a woman’s life. But when one of her friends died from breast cancer, she completely lost her will to write. It was around the time she married her second husband and she did a lot of ‘lurking’ on internet chat forums. As she had just gained a blended family she was fascinated by the idea of a woman who marries a man and tries to ‘adopt’ his children as her own, only to find out it isn’t the perfect family she’d always dreamed of. During her research she discovered that it was widely recognised that most children of divorced parents have a secret hope that their parents will one day get back together. So, for the children, it is a greater loss rather than a gain when one of their parents remarries someone else.

Jane said she never takes characters straight from life; most of her characters are from her imagination, although she has “messed up” once or twice in the past. She wrote ‘Mr Maybe’ loosely based on an ex-boyfriend, but before she’d written it she told the ‘ex’ she would “write a book about him one day”. She explained the man in her book was only a bit like her ex, but “far more handsome and charming”, although to this day her ex tells people the book is about him. She also joked that ‘Straight Talking’ was “revenge” on all the horrible men she had dated in her 20s.

When asked whether there was a difference between readers in the US and the UK, Jane said there was. One of the differences, she said, is the covers – in the UK, book covers are “patronising” and often “dumb down” books. She said North American writers take themselves very seriously and work hard at being the best they can be.

Jane explained she was recently on Radio Four discussing the ‘Chick Lit’ tag with Adele Parks. Jane and Adele disagreed on the point. Adele called it ‘demeaning’ while Jane said it simply did not apply to what she’s writing now. She said she was in her 20s when she wrote ‘Chick Lit’ but she is older now and writes about different things. Even her book covers are more ‘grown up’ now.

Her next book is likely to be a Young Adult (YA) one. In her current novel, one of the voices is that of a 17-year-old. To get the voice right, she ran a few things past her own teenage daughter, but she says she can also remember vividly what it was like to be a teenager. She can remember feeling ‘on the outside’ during her teenage years and so she identifies with those teenage girls who don’t ‘fit in’.

When asked how she begins a novel, she explained she starts with a theme and then works on the characters. She said the characters tell their own story. She knows the arc of the story, but not every detail and only plots about one third of the arc at a time. The story is very much character led and she said you must stay true to the characters.

Linda asked her what she thought about ebooks and the future of publishing. Jane replied that technology has changed everything; people are more removed and isolated and they’re not reading as many books. She said she doesn’t believe it can carry on like this and at some point people may go back to books (in the conventional sense). She admitted that in the US ebook sales have surpassed hard covers for the first time and that Britain will follow suite before long. But overall she wasn’t worried. She said that women read for two reasons: to escape and to relate.

The discussion led on to the inevitable topic of the moment: what did she think about the ’50 Shades’ phenomenon? Jane said she wasn’t impressed by it and thinks most of its success is down to people wanting to be “part of the discussion”. She joked that her next book was going to be called ‘60 Shades of Green’.

The next topic was the relationship between daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law. Jane admitted she’d had a difficult relationship with her first mother-in-law but grew to love her later (after her first marriage had ended). This provoked a general discussion on daughter-in-laws and mother-in-laws which most of the audience agreed was a tricky relationship.

Linda asked whether Jane’s writing had changed over the years. Jane said that it had, but she wasn’t sure if it was down to living in the US or being a mother. She said her writing had become less edgy and more soft and sentimental.

When asked whether she preferred living in the UK or US, she said she felt at home in both, but that the US was her home now - she’s lived there with her family since 2001 and she’s now a US citizen. She said she’s not often in the UK and misses the London she grew up in, not the London of today.

Living in the US has hugely influenced her story settings and characters, starting with the Beach House which was the first to have only US characters. She said all her characters are US ones and she finds she has to consciously introduce British ones if necessary.

Jane didn’t do a reading from her latest novel but was happy to sign any books before she headed off on the next leg of her UK tour. The whole evening had a nice, intimate feel as if we were friends having a girly chat over a glass of wine. And it was clear the audience enjoyed themselves, throwing in lots of good questions and funny anecdotes of their own (I won’t mention all the details but many eyebrows were raised and much laughter induced!) One of the audience members was a lady approaching 70 who wanted Jane to bear in mind that when she starts to write for the older generation she must cast aside stereotypes. But the question remained: what to call ‘Chick Lit’ for a female readership over 60? (‘Pension-Lit’ just doesn’t have a great ring to it!) It was a fun and informative evening and K and I left feeling we had gained a useful insight into the writing and publishing processes from both of the Green ladies. Now all I need to do is to apply this insight to writing my own best seller! Well, a girl can dream, can’t she?

‘Beyond Chick Lit’ Part One: Linda Green at Hebden Bridge Library

We set off early but ended up cutting it fine as the event’s timing meant battling through the rush hour traffic. But this time we knew where the venue was and so, once we’d parked, K and I scoffed a quick sandwich in the car before dashing into the library. We needn’t have worried. As we stepped inside we were greeted by a lady who said Jane Green (the ‘headline act’) was running late and offered us a glass of wine. There’s nothing like the offer of a free drink to put a smile back on someone’s face and we helped ourselves; as designated driver, I only had a thimbleful but it still felt somehow wrong to be drinking in a library!

While we waited for Jane, we were treated to a very interesting talk by novelist Linda Green who told us about her route to being published and what led to her decision to change publishing houses. Linda, who is from London but now lives in Hebden Bridge, used to be a newspaper journalist; but it was her life’s ambition to get a novel published. So, she took the brave decision to give up her job and write a book. Five years and 102 rejections later she got her second novel published. In those five years she studied for an MA and rewrote one of her books many times over. Her advice to aspiring writers was that you must learn your craft and remember that “writing fiction is an art and not something you can just do without working hard at it.”

Linda’s first breakthrough came when she attended a writing workshop run by writer Martin Bedford. He agreed to read her first three chapters and synopsis, suggested revisions and asked her to delete a third of the book! She found the latter part really tough having spent so long writing it. After following Martin’s advice she managed to get an agent and thought that was it, but she had to face 12 rejections from publishers and then the agent asked her to write another book instead!

She obliged and was two weeks overdue with her baby son when she finally finished her manuscript and sent it to the agent (she was sure the baby was waiting for her to finish her book). She received a note back saying that they had preferred her first novel!

Once her son was nine months old she rewrote the book and asked Martin to look at it for her again. Then she sent it to two agents who were both interested. After eight more rejections from publishers, she finally landed a book deal with Headline Review and the book went on to sell 75,000 copies.

Her surmise of her experience of getting published is that “talent doesn’t always come through”. In other words, publishers don’t like taking chances – they have to be able to see exactly where the book will sit on the bookshop shelf – so it has to fit into a particular genre. When her first book was marketed they called it ‘Chick Noir’ as it was a lot darker than the average ‘Chick Lit’ book. She thinks that publishing is a strange business and that ‘Chick Lit’ has become a very broad genre – it has grown from a genre aimed at 20-something women to cover books for women of up to age 50!

Linda went on to explain she was no longer with Headline Review as she took issue with them over a few things. Firstly she objected to the ‘Chick Lit’ pigeonhole; she wanted to be more ‘grown up and serious’ but when she broached the subject with her publisher, she was told “You’re not Ian McEwan you know.” Also she was fed up with what she viewed as ‘sexist’ book covers being used i.e. lots of pink, high heels and even a thong on one occasion! She told us that the publisher said they had taken ‘a massive risk’ with her last book by not making the cover pink!

She also explained how a lot of books are rejected by the marketing department, not the editorial team. And she told us that it can take so long to turn a book around that by the time it has come out it will have missed the current trend (so there’s no point jumping on the ‘50 Shades’ bandwagon then!)

She said she thought ebooks were a good thing as they gave authors ‘another path’ to getting published. Linda thought that publishers may have to open their minds and be willing to take more of a risk. She explained every time she tried to do something different she’s had to fight for it. Her new book is heavy going and she had to fight hard to get it published. The publisher wasn’t keen and told her that “women want happy endings”. So she found neither the editorial team nor the marketing team were behind her as it wasn’t ‘happy’ enough.

It was this attitude, coupled with the fact she felt the covers of her books were all wrong, that prompted her to leave Headline and join a smaller publisher, Quercus Books. Since joining Quercus she has been much more involved in consultations about the cover and other parts of the publishing process.

Linda also told us how all book sales were down at the moment, especially for women’s fiction. (It was agreed by all of us how women, especially mothers, were the first to ‘do without’ when times were hard). She also said that had meant that book covers were changing too, from illustrations to photographs, which she considered a good thing. And the advent of ebooks meant that book covers are becoming much less important. For example, her most recent book ‘And Then It Happened’ is told from two points of view (one male, one female) but she is sure that the cover would put off any potential male readers. Thanks to the Kindle (other ereaders are available) people might read things they wouldn’t normally read, as no one knows what they’re reading. She thinks lines will blur and people will just pick and enjoy a good book regardless of author and genre.

Linda said she never set out to write for one particular genre. Her first novel, ‘I Did a Bad Thing’, was set in the world of newspapers as it was a world she knew very well. But she was conscious to make sure that the voice of the novel wasn’t her. In her latest book, she said there is more of her in the male character than the female one (like her, the man is a former journalist).

The idea for her last book came from a story she covered as a journalist where a man had been in a coma for seven years (when she covered the story). His wife took him home from hospital after a year and nursed him for the next 10 years until the strain became too great and she found a suitable home for him. In her book, Linda decided to take a younger couple with a young daughter and throw in a few ‘what ifs’ for good measure.

Her new book (not yet available) is set in Hebden Bridge. It’s about three women who are fed up with the way the country is run. They each have their own cross to bear and they all have children at the same school, which is how they first meet. When local cuts mean that the local lollipop lady is about to lose her job, the three of them successfully campaign against it. It sets them on a path to set up a new political party and run for the next general election. Linda thought ‘what if they used social media to bolster their campaign and what if they were successful?’

As aspiring novelists, K and I found it a highly interesting and informative talk. Linda said she loves to put the ‘what if’ into the situation and she’s not afraid to stick to what she believes in, making her a woman after my own heart. I hope she goes on to push the boundaries of women’s fiction and perhaps even gain a (probably clandestine) male readership. I wonder if it could be the start of a whole new genre? Answers on a (non-girly) postcard…

Thursday, 5 July 2012

‘New Blood’ at the Hebden Bridge Little Theatre

It had been a manic day, so I was frazzled by the time K and I set off for Hebden Bridge. Once we’d arrived in the town, it took a while for us to find the Little Theatre. It wasn’t signposted but we found a friendly local who pointed us in the right direction. We arrived just ahead of N, another member of our Cleckheaton Writers’ Group.

As aspiring authors, our group (well three-quarters of it) was keen to see 'New Blood', a talk featuring five newly-published authors: Sophie Colombeau, Peter Salmon, Selma Dabbagh, Ros Barber and Suzanne Joinson. The collection of novels and authors was pretty eclectic and we were looking forward to seeing how the event would work. We bought drinks and watched people filter in, chatting and milling about before the show, most people were friendly, but we couldn't help noticing a lady who worked in the theatre giving us very strange looks, both before and after the show, which we all found rather unnerving.

We found some seats just before the lights went up and the five authors were introduced by Stephen May, an established novelist, playwright and TV writer. He explained how the authors would take it in turns to talk about how their novel came into being and then read a short extract from it.

The first author to speak was Sophie Colombeau, author of YA novel 'Rites'. Sophie, who is currently studying for a PhD in York, explained she had gone down a fairly unconventional route to getting published. She decided to enter the Next Great Novelist Award for writers under 30 run by Route, an independent publisher – she had to submit the first three chapters of a novel, which she did, even though her book was far from finished. The publisher liked what they read and asked to see the rest, giving Sophie the choice of an impossible deadline to get it finished fast or to withdraw from the competition. She chose the former and churned out a whopping 50,000 words in two weeks and won the competition. (The book was edited / redrafted before publication). Her story is about four Irish teenagers who make a pact to lose their virginity away from the watchful eyes of parents and priest. Ten years later, they look back on the events and reflect on how it all went horribly wrong. The story is told from 11 points of view and comprises of narrative chunks rather than chapters. She explained her inspiration began when the voice of one of the main characters, Damian, started 'speaking' to her and the rest flowed from there. The extract she read out was Damian's version of 'the truth' (each character has their own version of events). The character's voice came across as that of a very real, self-absorbed and obnoxious individual, and gave us a tantalising taste of an intriguing story.

Peter Salmon, an Australian now living in the UK, did many other things before becoming a novelist. His first novel 'The Coffee Story' was chosen by Toby Litt of The New Statesman as his 2011 Book of the Year. As well as The Coffee Story, Peter has also written short stories, and for radio and television, and is currently working on his second novel. The Coffee Story is told from the point of view of an old Ethiopian man in the last days of his life. Peter explained how he had done five years of research to make it authentic, but in the end he just had to stop researching and follow Teddy's voice. Peter explained how his inspiration came from 'old moleskin diaries with only three pages written' and the rest was from the character of 'Teddy' who 'took over his life and refused to die'. At the behest of an audience member he read a steamy sex scene from his novel while pacing up and down (the audience member had requested the scene, not the pacing!), which (he said) helped him to correctly pace the reading of the extract. It was a highly evocative piece, involving all the senses and pulling the audience into the minds and bodies of the lovers, whether they liked it or not!

Selma Dabbagh is a British Palestinian who has lived and worked in both London and Palestine. She spent 9 years living in the Gulf but she explained how the time she spent living in London both before and afterwards enabled her to look at the situation from both sides. Her writing is mainly set in the contemporary Middle East, and is especially concerned with men who have fought and been injured in combat. Her novel 'Out Of It' started with the image of a young man on a roof, stoned, frustrated and jumping up in defiance in front of a plane. She said it was also about a sense of guilt. She read a powerful extract from her book featuring the young man in question. The extract plunged the audience inside the mind of an angry young man raging with conflicting emotions while the battle raged on outside. It was a powerful, visceral piece, bursting with raw power and energy.

Ros Barber is a newly-published novelist, but she has had several poetry collections published in book format and over 50 poems published in journals and magazines. She has also taught creative writing for many years. Her first novel, The Marlowe Papers, is written entirely in verse. She said she preferred not to think of it as one long poem, but as '131 linked poems'. Ros explained that this wasn't the first novel she'd written, but it was the first to get published. Her inspiration for The Marlowe Papers came about when she accidentally came across a programme on BBC4 about Christopher Marlowe being the true author of Shakespeare's plays. It set her thinking 'what if...' and she spent the next five years writing The Marlowe Papers (although one of those years was spent purely researching). She deliberated over what language to use when writing her story and decided she didn't want it to be written in mock-Tudor language but in contemporary English. But how could she do this when the narrator of the story was Marlowe, who lived in Tudor times? Ros considered how all Shakespeare's plays were written in iambic pentameter and so took the bold decision to write her entire book in blank verse! In Ros' story, Marlow, a wanted man, doesn't die in a tavern brawl – his death is staged and he escapes to France. Marlowe lives the rest of his life in exile, longing for his true love and pining for the damp streets of London; while in hiding he continues to write plays and poetry, under the name of 'William Shakespeare'. She then read us a moving extract from her novel, which really conveyed the sense of loss and sadness that the protagonist felt at leaving everything and everyone he cared about behind.

The fifth and final author was Suzanne Joinson, ex-Writer in Residence at Shoreham Airport (according to Stephen May) and author of 'A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar'. Suzy explained how she had spent most of her 20s travelling, staying in countless far-flung destinations (Europe, Asia, Russia, China, Middle East). She talked about the feeling of dislocation she felt after spending so long staying in soulless hotel rooms, staring out the window at flashing neon lights in a city far from home. Then she started thinking about travellers in days gone by and did some research into missionary travellers in the early 20th century. She discovered that, after World War One, there was a huge surge in applications from women to become missionaries. She wondered if they were really all that religious, or whether they had other reasons. She wondered if one of their reasons was to escape after suffering loss, such as the death of a loved one. Her novel is set in 1923, a time when missionaries were allowed to set up 'ladies houses' which would be designed in an eastern style, set around a courtyard. In these houses, Suzanne supposed there would be lots of affairs, breakdowns, conflicts etc. Suzanne explained how her own upbringing was rather unconventional, growing up in a sort of 'hippy cult' on a council estate in the late 70s/early 80s. She found that her travelling brought her origins to the fore and she felt and looked obviously English wherever she went (red hair, big hat etc). She succeeded in getting a grant to do research in Kashgar, only to find there was a riot going on when she landed! The phone lines had been cut and the whole situation was “very useful and scary!” In the book her character takes her bicycle to Kashgar with her, a very English thing to do. Suzanne then read an extract from her novel which was written and delivered in an amusing style, with the characters seeming to be drawn very much from real life – I got the impression that some might perhaps be people from Suzanne's own past.

The talk was rounded off with a Q&A session, which produced some interesting answers.

Question 1: Where do you get your inspiration/motivation and do you work out your entire plot in advance or do you sit around and wait for a 'big idea'?
Most of the writers agreed that a writer 'just writes' (rather than plotting or waiting for the big idea), apart from Selma who said she decides on the ending and then works back from it. Regarding motivation, Sophie said she thought a looming deadline really helps (well, she should know!) Suzanne said that personal confidence also helps - she also had the looming deadline of childbirth and said after the birth of her son she wasn't sure how to get back to her manuscript as she wasn't the same person as she was when she started it. (This was something I could really identify with, having started my own novel while pregnant). At the same time, she said that, before having a baby, her job had stopped her from working on her novel and so having the 'break' from work helped her writing too.

Question 2: Did you choose the style and format your book was written in before you wrote it – if not, how did you decide on the style and format?
Selma explained that, as her main action was in Gaza, she knew she wanted to keep the chapters short, the style pacy, the characters young, with lots of action such as chases etc. She said it took a long time to get the balance right. Suzanne has two viewpoints in her book, one past and one present, so she knew it would be a dual narrative within one story. Peter said he hates a 'well-crafted' novel. In his book his character is dying and on strong drugs, and his character isn't a reader, so the narrative is very disjointed. He said his character dictated the style of his book. But he admitted that he is currently writing a more conventional book. He doesn't think you can 'pick' a style and that he has been known to write 40 pages of just one sentence! Sophie said she likes Julian Barnes' books which have the main character(s) talking directly to the reader. Ros explained how her book is really an epistolary novel, creating an intimacy between the narrator and the reader. Her book is centred around human emotion which determined much of its style.

Question 3: How do you deal with rejection / dejection?
Peter's answer was “drink”, which was followed by vigorous nodding from the other authors! He went on to say that he had decided that he wasn't going to be a writer on several occasions. He said even when he was finally published he still felt some self doubt. And if he hadn't written anything for a while he thought that was it. Ros said she had a strange conviction from childhood that she was born to write even though she had nothing to back up her claim until she was well into her 20s! And when she had finally written something, a bad event stopped her from writing for several years. She said she wrote her first novel 'in anger' and to 'escape' (she had a very unsupportive partner who didn't want her to write). She said that as long as you're writing it's fine – even bad writing is better than no writing at all. Sophie was in quite the opposite situation: she had a boyfriend who told her she should leave her job in the civil service and take up writing. Her advice was to find fellow writers which she said was a very important thing for her.

Question 4: How much of yourself is in your book / characters?
Sophie joked that her 11 characters had '36%' of her in them. Peter said he had never written as himself – he always writes as an old man. Suzanne quoted Bennett saying “All art is a return.” Her new book is about Jerusalem at the start of the occupation and admitted that certain personal elements always creep in. Ros said that her novel was a “blissful escape from autobiographical poetry”, although she admitted that in her novel the theme of longing for someone you can't be with was an autobiographical thread. Selma said that in her books there are 'bits' of people she knows and that each character is one aspect of her psyche. She also admitted she had to consciously avoid bringing in negative versions of people she knows, which wasn't easy.

At the end of the Q&A the authors and audience mingled in the bar area, where the authors signed their books, all of which were available to buy on the night. My friends K and N bought a book each and got them signed, but as I'm a cheapskate with expensive taste (the one I really wanted was £20) I decided to add it to my Christmas list!

It was an interesting event with some very different personalities who had written in a range of styles and genres. As I left, I wondered whether it was a good or a bad thing for a new author to go on tour with four other new novelists. Surely there must be some rivalry / conflict along the way? Perhaps it could provide the material for a new novel, as yet unwritten?...

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

‘A Virtual Toast’

I’m thrilled to be one of the guest bloggers at the 19th Hebden Bridge Arts Festival. I’m especially honoured as, despite being from West Yorkshire, I’m not a ‘Hebdonian’ and so probably considered something of an ‘outsider’. I’ve noticed there are many talented acts this year both from inside and outside of the region. This year, I’m going to be concentrating on the ‘outsiders’. I’m writing this while on a short family holiday to Wales. We drove through hours of driving rain and appalling traffic to an area of Wales which had recently suffered from flash floods. Fortunately the area has since recovered. But when we arrived, we were shocked to hear how badly Hebden Bridge had been hit. I felt awful - for the people, their homes and their businesses, and most of all hoped the damage had been limited. My next thought was: what about the festival? I realised that many volunteers had worked extremely hard to make the festival happen, putting in their time and effort throughout the year. I wondered whether it would still go ahead, or was the damage just too great to repair in such a short time? After reading a series of reports, I was happy to learn how the people rallied round and were working hard to repair the damage. In fact every report contained a similar message, namely, how strong the sense of community was in Hebden Bridge and its surroundings. And it is clearly this prevailing community spirit that makes fantastic events such as the Arts Festival possible. As for the festival itself, I’m very much looking forward to the spoken word and music events this year. As an aspiring writer, I’ll be trying to attend as many as I can, especially the events featuring novelists, including the ‘New Blood’ talk, featuring five newly-published authors. As a seasoned festival/gig goer I’m looking forward to seeing several talented female singer/songwriters, including the world-famous Becky Unthank. I’m also excited about seeing the street theatre and visiting the open gardens with my young family. And so, before the fun begins, I’d like to raise a (virtual) toast to the community spirit of Hebden Bridge and wish them all a highly successful festival this year!

Monday, 18 June 2012

A Rip-roaring Regency Rom-com!

After our evening picnic, Mum and I settled down in our camping chairs and huddled under our many layers to watch an adaptation of Pride & Prejudice by The Chapterhouse Theatre Company. As we waited, we wondered not only whether the set would survive the gale, but also if such a lengthy, complex and character-rich story could work as a two-hour play with just eight actors.

Before I go any further, I’d better admit that I’m an Austen anorak, and so I’m hard to please when it comes to any Austen adaptations. For me, Jane Austen’s eye for detail and observational humour is hard to beat; but would this play deliver the goods? I needn't have worried. Laura Turner’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice brought Austen’s penchant for the ridiculous to the fore. And then cranked it up a level.

I laughed long and loud at the hilarious performances delivered by the supporting cast, in particular by Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennett. Liam Webster’s hilarious portrayal of Mr. Collins was a delight to behold. The talented Mr Webster also put in convincing performances as the infamous Mr. Wickham, Sir William Lucas and a highly entertaining footman. Helen Fullerton’s portrayal of Mrs. Bennett was equally side-splitting as she bustled around the stage shrieking “Mr Bennet!” and fussing over her four (yes four - no Kitty in this version!) daughters. The multi-talented Ms. Fullerton also played the roles of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mrs. Gardiner. Grace Scott’s excellent portrayals of Lydia Bennett and Caroline Bingley were equally convincing as both the bitchy Caroline and the frivolous Lydia.

Most faithful to Austen’s original characters were Mr Bingley / Mr. Gardiner played by James Beedham (who also played Col. Fitzwilliam’s servant), and Jane Bennett / Georgiana Darcy, played by Clara Edmunds (who also played Miss de Bourgh). I was charmed by both performers. I felt that Elizabeth Bennett, played by Samantha Hopkins, was a little forceful in her delivery at times, although she shone in later scenes, especially during her angry refusal of Darcy’s first proposal and her feisty response to the fury of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Adam Grayson was suitably moody and distant as Darcy and perfectly sardonic as Mr. Bennet.

My only real criticism was that the story was a little condensed, but that is probably because the original story unfolds quite slowly. That said, most of the details were faithfully reproduced, with only the odd change. For example, in the play Mr Darcy reveals Wickham’s true character during his first proposal speech to Elizabeth. (In the original, Darcy supplies this information to her via a letter). I acknowledge that it would've taken too long for the characters to sit and read a letter every five minutes, so the information had to be included in direct speech.

The stage and props were minimal but used to maximum effect. I was impressed by how well the actors managed to use a couple of chairs, boxes, the odd picture and a desk to evoke the grandeur of grand estates like Pemberley and Netherfield. The musical accompaniment was also simple yet effective, with various members of the cast playing woodwind and brass solos to accompany a change of scene or a dance. All in all, Mum and I really enjoyed the performance – it was brilliantly acted and well-scripted. And no, the wind did not flatten the set, much (I’m sure) to the cast’s relief!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Oh Mr Darcy!

I'm looking forward to spending my evening in the company of Miss Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy. Well, almost! In truth, I'm attending an open air performance of Pride & Prejudice at Oakwell Hall, performed by the Chapterhouse Theatre Company. No matter how many times I read the book or watch my favourite adaptation (the classic BBC version from 1995 - Keira Knightley? Pah!) it takes me through the full spectrum of human emotion and I rejoice at the outcome every time. I'm really hoping that the two main characters are all that I want them to be, as well as Lizzy's family, the Bingleys and the infamous Mr. Wickham. I also hope that the weather holds, or it will put a serious dampener on the proceedings! It's a shame the weather is so inclement, but I believe that the smouldering Mr. Darcy is worth braving the elements for, don't you ladies? ;)

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The End!

'The End' - I have been longing to write those two little words for two-and-a-half years, since I began the first draft of my children's novel. I began it while I was expecting my daughter, followed by a 'break' to focus on motherhood and several other life events that collided with it. At Easter 2011, to get myself kick started, I joined my local writers' group, which did the trick. Over the last year and a quarter I have drafted 44 chapters to add to the original 10, bringing the total wordcount to over 80K. And on the stroke of midnight between 9th and 10th June, I finally got there. To say I feel elated doesn't even cover it. After seeing my email with the final chapters attached, my husband called me from his night out to join me in my 'celebration'. There may not be any party, or even any champagne, but I feel fantastic - it's as if my whole self is smiling! I know that the hard part is yet to come, but for now I'm going to sit back and enjoy the warm fuzzy feeling I've achieved without even a single drop of vino! :)

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Jubilee madness

The Brits are a funny lot. Most of the time we sit and grumble about how rubbish everything is: the weather, (all) politicians, the state of the roads, you get the idea. And yet the last few days have been what I can only describe as an 'explosion' of patriotism, the extent of which I can't recall seeing before. There was a fair bit of interest around last year's royal wedding, with reasonable numbers of flag wavers, but it was nothing compared to the activity of the past few days. I'm not a revolutionary, nor am I a monarchist, so without particularly strong views either way I've watched it unfold as a casual observer, and found the whole thing utterly fascinating. I was invited round to my neighbour's garden party yesterday, the whole of which was decked out in a riot of red, white and blue with Land of Hope and Glory belting out of the stereo while the guests toasted Queen and country. I managed to dodge the toasts as I was dodging in and out to collect a shopping delivery! So, I was watching from a safe distance as my neighbour nearly set half the garden ablaze with the largest Chinese lantern I've ever seen. It fell back to earth several times, nearly setting fire to a giant parasol and a string of bunting before flying off on its merry way. The day before, my plans had fallen through and I found myself watching the Thames River pageant. I will admit it was a spectacle once all the boats were on the river, but after a while, it got a teeny bit boring - the commentators were clearly running out of things to say - not meaning to be cruel, but my husband and I were half-wishing for the bridge to get stuck (or something equally amusing) to liven it up a bit. Of course it didn't and everything went swimmingly (please excuse the pun!) It will be interesting to see if the Brits continue to fly the flag for Team GB throughout the summer. I suspect it will depend mainly on our athletes delivering the goods. No pressure then!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

And now, the end is near...

No, it's nothing fatal! Both my current freelance contract and the first draft of my children's novel are nearing completion. Part of me feels a little sad about reaching the end of my freelance project, as I've really enjoyed working on it and with the people I've met along the way. I have a strange, almost nomadic existence, as I get to know people in a fairly intimate way in a short space of time, but am obliged to leave quite suddenly once the interview or working partnership has ended. That said, I get great satisfaction out of seeing the end result once it's published. ("And every stop I make, I make a new friend" - apologies for the obscure reference, but anyone old enough to remember The Littlest Hobo will know what I'm 'barking on' about!) As far as the children's novel goes, I'm starting to feel excited at the prospect of having almost completed a first draft! I've written over 52 chapters, equating to roughly 78,000 words - I never knew I had it in me! Of course it will end up an awful lot shorter than that, and I'm half-dreading having to 'murder my darlings' as the expression goes, but I'm sure it will be worth it once it's finished. And with this lovely, long bank holiday weekend stretching out before me like a long stretchy thing, I've really got no excuse to not finish it, have I?

Monday, 28 May 2012

Fame at last! (well sort of...)

As our writing group is about to be featured in the next edition of Yorkshire Life, K, D and I have just spent the best part of the afternoon striking our best poses for a professional photographer. I've always hated having my photo taken, but when it's in a good cause... It's a shame that our fourth member, N, couldn't join us, but sadly the photographer couldn't do this evening, which is when we'd normally be meeting. It's not exactly fame, but it might attract some new members. There are just four of us at the moment and, happy as we are, we'd love to recruit new members as we find each person adds an exciting and different dimension to the group. So, if there are any budding writers out there in the Cleckheaton and surrounding area, please get in touch!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Stop thief!

'Procrastination is the thief of time', as the well-known adage goes. But what about social media? It sneaks in and robs creative writers of their precious time, energy and creative spark, leaving them empty, exhausted and bereft. Well okay, there are more time and energy stealers out there, but social media is a big one - yes it can be useful, but it can also end up as yet another obstacle to navigate when trying to find the time in which to write. Like me, I'm sure there must be many busy working parents who have very little free time / energy left to complete that unfinished novel. And the little, precious time you do have gets eaten up by either household chores (yawn!) and trying to catch up with friends and family (yay!). And then, when you finally get sat down wherever you usually write, with your head switched into 'creative mode', determined to finish the first draft of your novel, you realise that your entire evening has been stolen by, you've guessed it, the two or three hours you've inadvertently spent browsing the internet including that cursed social media - again! So, I ask all of you creative types to join me - close your internet browser and don't open it again until at least tomorrow evening - then you (and I) will have absolutely no excuse whatsoever for not getting that first draft finished - will we? ;)

Friday, 25 May 2012

Motivating masterclass!

Earlier this evening I attended an energetic and enjoyable masterclass at the WYP led by Leandra Ashton, focused on harnessing ‘the creativity within’ via some unusual and interesting methods. The class was far more physical than I expected, with plenty of props for inspirational purposes. Rather than scribbling furiously for an hour or so, we spent the best part of the class making full use of the space, incorporating music, movement, clothing and even a washing line to transport us somewhere different and evoke a range of feelings and associations. It was fascinating to see how no two class members saw the same story / associations in the same things. Leandra also explained how her obsession with washing lines had inspired her to create the story and characters for her play, Napoli. And she gave us a fascinating insight into the creative processes she uses when collaborating with the actors in her Flying Cloud Theatre Company. I left the class feeling positive and energised, with the intention of trying out one or more of these techniques the next time my muse has left me high and dry.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

And finally...

After 18 months of living in a frustrating state of limbo, our 'house situation' (or should that be 'house saga'?) may soon be half-resolved. One of our houses finally has a buyer (a real one this time, not just a pretend one!) And, once that's done (it all takes FAR longer than it should with more red tape than ever (stupid politicians - no wonder no one wants to move house these days!)) (note to self- I really must stop over-using brackets!) then it will let us start to move forward with our lives. We can't get too ahead of ourselves though as the contracts aren't even exchanged yet. And once we have sold it, everything has to go into storage. And then we have to empty our other house and put everything into storage. And get it smartened up and rented out. And then find somewhere to live! Don't worry we won't be living in a caravan for months, we have family that will put us up (or should that be put up with us?) Who knows, by this Christmas we could actually be living in a proper family home instead of a matchbox!

Slow but steady progress

I'd also like to share (with whoever is remotely interested!) that I've completed over 51 chapters and am (finally) nearing the end of my first draft. I was hoping to have it done by Easter, but... so, my new deadline (for the first draft - not the book itself - that would be madness!) is 31st May. The plan is then to park it and come back to it three months later in September, then edit it to within an inch of its life - oh yes, and then get an agent and become a huuugely successful published author (well, a girl can dream can't she?) Wish me luck!

Featureless silver screen, mist is water in its ghost state...

Last night my friend K and I half-froze on top of a windswept hill near Oxenhope, but it was worth it. We were there for the second leg of a three-part event to mark the end of the Stanza Stones project, a collaboration between imove, Ilkley Literature Festival, poet Simon Armitage and Pennine Prospects. The project, both ambitious and fascinating, has involved many talented and creative people - some of them already famous (Yorkshire poet Simon Armitage), but many of them yet to be discovered - aspiring writers, film makers and dancers. The project centred around six stones (plus an elusive seventh stone in a mystery location) which can now be found in various remote locations along the Pennine Watershed, from Marsden to Ilkley. Into each stone is carved a poem written by Simon Armitage. The overarching theme of the poems is water; each poem represents water in a different form i.e. mist, rain, snow, dew, beck and puddle. The evening itself was very well organised (and free!) - we were shuttled from Oxenhope up the winding road to Nab Hill and dropped off a short walk away from the Mist Stone. The way was quite muddy and the wind unseasonally chilly, making us glad we'd donned all our walking gear. (I felt a motherly concern for the excellent dancers who braved the cold in their thin T-shirts and hoodies to entertain us both during and between the readings!) We arrived at the 'site' to the sound of some interesting world music coming from a soundsystem powered by a couple of bicycles, being ridden by enthusiastic volunteers. Attendees were invited, nay encouraged, to pedal them, and although we weren't keen at the outset, by the end of the evening, once the cold had set into our bones, they seemed quite an inviting prospect! After a bit of a wait (that'll teach us for being early and getting the first bus up the hill!) we were treated to a reading of all six poems by Simon Armitage. Hearing the poems read by their originator really brought them to life, and, as I'm sure many will agree, Simon has 'one of those voices' which entirely engages the listener, drawing them into his world of verse. We were also treated to a series of readings from a number of young writers and poets who had been involved in the project. They had all drawn their inspiration from visiting the moors and attending masterclasses with Simon. Our only real disappointment (apart from the cold!) was that we didn't actually get to see the Mist Stone itself. We had (mistakenly) thought this was part of the evening and if we'd known more about performance timings and exactly where it was (a mere stone's throw (sorry!) away from where we were), then we'd have scampered up to the top to find it. That said, it didn't spoil the evening and it can always be seen another day, perhaps when the weather is less cruel. According to the stone carver Pip Hall, who engraved Simon's poems into each of the stones, the stone chosen for carving at Nab Hill had a hairline crack down the middle which caused it to split in two as they were raising it, giving her a pair of stones to work with instead. So the Mist Stone is in fact two stones - perhaps it should be renamed the 'Mist Stones'? Once the performances had ended, K and I walked (very briskly) back to the waiting coaches and were ferried to the Village Community Centre for much-needed hot chocolates and bourbons! As we regained the feeling in our hands and feet we were treated to a series of films made by young film students from the Leeds College of Art. Some were scary, some were touching and some were downright baffling, but all were entertaining. K and I also bought ourselves signed copies of Simon's poems, although we didn't get to meet the man himself (sigh!). All in all, it was an original and entertaining event and it was well worth braving the cold to be there.

Monday, 27 February 2012

The Scent of Spring

At last our house is back on the market (for the third time) - I really hope we get the place sold before the spring ends. So far, our new agents seem better than the other two and we're both feeling optimistic, so let's hope they deliver the goods!
We're also going to view a couple of houses this weekend, one of which looks promising - it's a good price and ticks most of our boxes - but I find you never really know whether you could / would want to live in a house until you've stepped though the door.
But, even though I can't say why, I've a feeling this is going to be a much better year for us.
Bar the odd day here and there, I've continued to make progress on my book, having now written 41 chapters and a bit, bringing the total wordcount to approximately 60K! I know there is at least one chapter which I'm going to completely rewrite as I'm not at all happy with it, but before I do that I'm determined to finish the (bleep!) story. Something tells me there's going to be more than one book - there's no way they can complete their entire quest otherwise. I'd just really like to get it finished this year!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Chug chug

Well I've written 17 days out of the last 18 (every day bar yesterday) and I'm now part-way through chapter 36. The book was never intended to be anywhere near this long and I suspect some serious editing will be needed at the next stage. But I reckon it's better to have too much and cut it down and than have too little and have to pad it out.
R and I have been out and about plenty although mainly indoors thanks to the sub-zero weather. I've also been to pilates twice in two weeks and am determined to keep at it.
Oh, and the washing machine blew up on Tuesday. So I have been driving up and down the road every day to use my parents' machine while they are on holiday! And this Saturday I am going to be mostly cleaning the other house. We have fallen way behind. partly due to the boiler packing up and having to get it fixed last weekend. Once I've finished it's going to sparkle and shine and someone will fall in love with it and buy it instantly (in my dreams!) Seriously though it's looking great and there's not a great deal more that can be done to it. Here's hoping that the housing market picks up in February and we can start looking for a proper family home at long last.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Slow progress

Well, I've been writing every day for the past eleven days, so that's something to shout about. However, my daily word output seems to be gradually diminishing! I'm making slow progress on the book, and am positively crawling towards the end of chapter 33. It's funny how the words just flow some days and hardly come at all on others, but I think (I hope!) this is quite normal.
But, before the month is out, I've GOT to write R's thank you cards. This Saturday, I have to clean and 'prettify' (okay, this may be another of my made-up words!) our 'other house' and get it back on the market. But, at least we have lots of socialising to look forward to from Sunday onwards :o) And the days are finally getting longer; yes, yes, I know they have been doing that since December 22nd, but it's only now that it's become apparent, to me anyway!
I've just started pilates classes, and I am determined to get my neglected yoga practise kick-started again, until I regain my pre-pregnancy abs, dammit. I've been out walking with the pushchair twice this week and have another walk lined up this Sunday, weather permitting. I love cold, windy days - sounds mad but I think it really does blow away the cobwebs. Onwards and upwards!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Going great guns

I've just had a really productive week on the writing front, with 32 chapters now under my belt plus several more ideas re. plot and character development, and scene setting. If I can only keep this up for a week or two longer, I might even finish the first draft before Valentine's Day! I know I shouldn't get too upset if I don't achieve this, but I find I have to set myself a goal to work towards or my motivation just goes out of the window.
On a completely different note, until I get published, I'm still looking for part-time work and think I may have a possible lead on that front. I would have to pay for my own training and be self-employed, but, as I've always wanted to be my own boss, this isn't a problem. It mainly depends on how much my earnings would be and whether I can still spend enough time with my daughter. It would be good to have paid employment of some kind until I can get myself established as a writer.
Well, it's time to start R's bedtime routine, so I'd better sign off now.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Chapter 30

At long last I have finished writing chapter 30! It seems a funny place to get stuck, but I suppose the mind often works in mysterious ways. I'm still not sure how many more chapters there will be - I originally thought that 25 chapters would be about right, but I was clearly wrong! I'm sure I will have to later take out a few bits anyway, to make the story flow better, and I'll be adding in some descriptive details, so it will end up a completely different length once the first draft has been revised. According to all the books on writing that I've read, I'm still doing the 'easy part', which is a little worrying! If I could get the first draft done before the end of this month it would be nice. If I could get an old-fashioned housekeeper to take care of the household chores, then I reckon it would be do-able! Seriously though, I realise I need to pace myself and stop trying to race ahead all the time. But it helps to have a challenge.
The other challenge is solving our living situation, which unfortunately hasn't changed. Our 'other house' is currently undergoing a makeover - it's been a bit of an obsession of mine lately and taken a lot of organising, but it seems to be taking shape at last. By the time we've finished we're hoping it will be snapped up by one of the first viewers. If we can just get it finished and marketed by the end of the month...no pressure then!

Monday, 16 January 2012

The light at the end of a very long tunnel...

Not long after my last post I hit a wall (figuratively speaking) and have been lying in a wordless coma for almost two months. The dreaded writer's block kicked in as Life once again took over. Aside from the writing, it's been a tough couple of months for reasons which I won't go into. But today I started writing at 6am (I had intended to start at 7am, but some loud thumping from next door woke me rather earlier than expected) and did over 1,300 words in an hour! It's probably complete jibberish, but it's a start. And I've just completed over 700 words this afternoon in a good (but scary) writing exercise. I owe my inspiration to my new-found mentor, Dorothea Brande. She was a creative writing teacher in the '20s and '30s and her book, Becoming a Writer, is a real find! But the real challenge lies ahead - now I have got myself writing again, can I actually press on and finish the book? Only time will tell...