Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Past the thirty thousand mark! (1200)

I can't believe it but I'm at 32, 603 second draft words on my novel! And 4467 of them are at the revamp stage. I went back to an old trick that I used to use - end your day's work in the middle of the action so you get started quickly the next day.I have also been working on my website. We had a lovely talk on the MA from Candy Gourlay about websites, and my husband had already bought my name as a co.uk domain. Having put together a leaflet for teaching, it occurred to me that a lot of the information could go on a website. I'm putting together three workshops - a fiction one to get story juices going, a poetry one to look at the importance of the right word, and life writing because that's where a lot of narrative therapy experience taught me the value of writing it all down in the first place. All of our imaginative writing is drawn from our life experiences to some extent, even if I'm writing a battle scene with two bad guys, I'm using my knowledge of movement and pain and being inside a body. I may even draw on my experience of my bad back!
I'm setting enough time aside to write but nowhere near enough time to read. Next job. Convince kids that reading and research is as important as writing.    

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The joys of editing? (800)

Having started chapter 11 it's back to chapter 1 to tidy up and trim down. I hate this bit, mostly because I don't really know how to do it. I do have a book on editing and revision, snappily titled Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell, who wrote my favourite book on plotting. Which I can't do either. 

I don't mind faffing about with language, I'm OK at seeing the silly mistakes where you don't know who's talking etc. (I also know I'm terrible at seeing repetitions, but I do hear them when I read them out to no.1 son!) My problem is the big stuff, who knows what when, which order is everything in? Are characters consistent? I'm worried that chapter 1 will end up overwritten and the later chapters won't be written enough, so I'm just going to edit in order while I keep writing the main book.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Scared to death by my own writing (2800)

Having plonked out 2800 words this morning, some adapted from a previous draft, I am suddenly nervous about holes and inconsistencies which start to creep in at this point. Do we already know Zsofia's name? Where did they get the vellum in chapter 6 and is it related to the one in chapter 10? This is the point at which I start to falter normally, then struggle on for another ten or twenty thousand words then panic completely. How does anyone write an entire book?
I've been advised to plot what I have written on cards and build the next few steps from there. After all, I know where the story is going, I know where it has to get to. A very helpful insight from Will, thank you! New research book came in the post this morning, so more reading to do. I could write a non-fiction book at this point, I'm learning so much about Lithuania and Poland's strange political history. I do have blisters on my nose from the grindstone...so I'll take a break now and cook dinner for the five thousand instead.
   

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Rewriting (2000)

Looking back at what I'd written yesterday, there was some good and some I just didn't need. I've found my way to the end of Chapter 9 and am ready to meet the big bad in sixteenth century Poland. I've already sketched out the scenes where Dee and Kelley meet her so that should take less time than normal, giving me time to work on second draft of the first 10k for my supervisor to look over.


Meanwhile, I'm surrounded by boxes and rubbish and furniture. We've shifted beds, dumped old mattresses (at the proper place, not random fly-tipping, I hasten to add!) sorted boxes and done oodles of laundry. At least the weather was gorgeous. Thank goodness for my hard-working family, who moved a three bedroomed house, drove the entire contents 166 miles, then dragged it all up the drive! 

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Back in Devon for good (500)

The rental house in Winchester is empty, keys back to the estate agent, and all the stuff is in heaps all over the house. Books, kitchen stuff, furniture, bedding, books. The adventure that started here is finally over and it was a great experience for me, and my two fellow adventurers. One got best student award for his course, the other excelled and got a job next year as a senior resident for his final year at Sparsholt college. I have done the taught part of my masters and am well into doing the dissertation. It has been a very productive year.


Today I wrote 500 words and realise they were just rubbish. A year ago I would have tried to improve them convinced that I needed them, now I just know they are unnecessary, don't advance the plot, and can chuck them out again. But I have worked out what top do instead.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Slacking (0 and 800)

Yesterday, I just sat about and wasted a whole day. I did cook up a load of Fearnley-Whittingstall's chorizo and Thai green curry sauce for the freezer, and chased the cats away from the bird feeders one million times before I lured the little grey baby bird assassin into the kitchen with dog biscuits (yes, she's that stupid) and shut the door. We've already loaded her collar with bells, it sounds like Christmas here when she scratches. It's not as if I used the spare time sensibly by going to bed early or doing my new back exercises either, I just tapped away at plants vs. zombies until 1a.m. and then didn't sleep.

So, today I resolved to work, work, work. The cat was secured (with more dog biscuits) and I sat down determined to plough on with the story. I managed 800 words before I ran out of steam, but my heart wasn't in it.

Fortunately, I'm going to be teaching creative writing workshops through the local library, so I have spent a very productive couple of hours writing a tri-fold leaflet all about it. So I don't feel quite so lazy today. The cleaning crew are down in Winchester, blitzing the rental house and packing up the big van. I shall look forward to having them back tomorrow at some point.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Moving angst (1600)

Four years ago we moved house, and returned to our rented house in Beaford to clean up. While driving back, we were hit head on by an idiot, who overtook into a corner. Now my husband and children and cleaning up the rental house in Winchester and driving home on Saturday... I am unable to go with them because my back won't stand the journey, so already feel guilty about lumbering my husband (who is a bit phobic about the whole idea of moving house) with the job of filling a large Luton van and driving it 166 miles back home. Then everything will have to be carried or ferried by car up the ridiculously steep drive.
Meanwhile, I left my heroine stuck in a car when she realises someone is on the back seat (major creepy for me personally!) so chapter 9 is all about that confrontation. I have enough for the dissertation but am going to keep going even as I start revising chapters 1-8. Good words are thin on the ground, at the moment!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

On a roll (3760)

Yes, 3760 words! Admittedly it took me all day and 1400 words were mostly written and just needed to be chopped to fit. It was fun, writing a sort of legend or myth that just grows over time. I've been researching Elizabeth Bathory, who certainly killed a lot of young girls but almost certainly doesn't deserve the reputation she has now as a 'vampire' and monster who bathed in the blood of young girls. As if a serial killer and sexual sadist wasn't enough! Now I've invented more backstory about her origins. Great fun. Hopefully she won't haunt me, because I did make her clever and pretty. My back hurts from sitting at the computer for six hours though. 
Meanwhile, the house gets painted by my flunkies, normally called the 'tiny spongers' but presently earning their keep. We move our stuff back on Saturday, Sophie Matt and Russell head out in the rented van on Thursday to clean up the house and pack it all into the van. Then I get my boys back and we'll be seven again. We would be eight, but no. 2 son is living with his girlfriend but not too far away, so we shall see him soon, too. 

Monday, 20 June 2011

Progress! (750 and 1450)

My wordometer has reached 17861! This is partly because I'm running into scenes I have already written, though I'm keeping very little. So I managed a whole chapter this morning, bringing in new threats to Jack and Felix now they have met. The same threat has just popped up in the Kelley strand - wow, I feel like a real writer, with a plot and everything (which reminds me, I should get me one!) The kids are decorating the hall stairs and landing(s) which is the biggest expanse of wall we have and doing a lovely job covering the mustard/beige/baby poo shade the previous owners liked. Although, they were heavy smokers, so it could have started out white. The skirting is now darker than the walls and I can't wait to get the terrible carpet up. I guess we're staying here after all... 

Friday, 17 June 2011

Fourteen thousand words! (850)

I'm chuffed to have logged fourteen thousand words on Borrowed Time since I got back from Winchester and it's a substantial chunk of the dissertation. Whether the words are any good remains to be seen! Daughter and betrothed are sanding and knotting the acre or so of tongue-and-groove panelling the previous owners covered up the hallway in (then didn't bother to use knotting solution so the whole thing is spotty). They took down the original Lincrusta...which people now pay to have restored...when they stripped out the fireplaces and modernised the ancient walls with cheap plasterboard and tacky skirting. At least the woodworm are original - and enjoying the old doors. We moved in here and immediately were hit by a driver, head on, and it soured our relationship with the place a bit, so it's good to reconnect and start decorating and improving it. We were measuring up for book cases yesterday, what a lovely bonding experience that always is. He's measuring up for a case for CD's so it's not just me and my insane book habit. In my defence, he does have a lot of guitars, drums, flutes and a violin.
As I write, I'm finding connections between different narrative strands. There has to be a reason to jump between time periods and I've made the account of Kelley written down in documents in the present day, although my character doesn't exactly sit down and read them, they are there. I think they might be archived and translated by the bad guys at the end of the book, come to think about it. Plot, just jumping out while I write, how cool and helpful is that?

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Real Life (400)

Today, real life got in the way of writing. The jackdaw we were helping died peacefully, but left a gap in my day, especially as he was doing so well. Russ and I went to the bank to discuss either taking out a small mortgage to do the structural and plumbing work the house needs, or whether we might just move. Mortgaging would save us money, and I love the location but my back doesn't really suit the steep drive and long walk into town. So we thought about moving and talked about mortgaging and came home with lots of plans. There was no room left for writing, although I managed to find a bit of Felix's chapter. I had one of those moments, when a new character walks in and you really like them. Shame he's getting divorced, the soon-to-be ex-wife is great! I shall have to find more interesting things for her to do. Tomorrow, I hope to finish his chapter and get back to Kelley's adventures in 1585.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Research, research (1100)

The problem with research is that it's fascinating. I get sucked in with new directions like finding a 'natural philosopher' called Boldizs√°r Batthy√°ny (another sub-plot) and spend time following the story instead of writing nice new words. Eventually, I fell into another character's story and managed to write some words. It's very satisfying while the words are coming but it's so easy to get distracted! I'm going to try headphones tomorrow...

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Chapter 4 (1200)

I seem to be on a bit of a roll (just writing it has jinxed it) but the story is being stitched together. I can see what will need to happen in second draft now, find the little links and hooks and make sure they go somewhere, preferably towards one of the other strands. I'm missing the peace and quiet and sheer boredom of Winchester, though, there are so many distractions here!  Baby bird to feed, cats to keep off the baby blue tits in the garden, children to see to, meals to cook, husband to entertain in his lunch hour, postman to deal with, phone ringing...that's without any housework or actual paid work. How does anybody actually write a whole book? 
One thing I've been doing is strengthening the story by reducing the number of points-of-view, rewriting the teenager's scenes as much as possible through the eyes of Jack, the main character. It gives an insight, which feedback from class has suggested is missing, into the motivations and character of Jack, who is supposed to be at the centre of the story, after all. I often find that the peripheral characters seem stronger, partly because you can 'see' them through the lead's eyes which is harder to do through the central character. But they also seem quirkier and more interesting, so I'm going back to strengthen the main people and play down the visiting talent. It does make you think about the personality of the person more, and I'm playing around with the relationship from the other side, see which works best.   

Monday, 13 June 2011

Monday mornings (1000)

Strange how Monday morning always seems to have that back-to-school, or back-to-work feeling, even when I'm doing neither. So I actually sat down and worked. This threading the strands together thing is (sort of) working, I'm just playing with finding the links between them rather than forcing them with contrived connections. Meanwhile my baby bird is hanging on and gaining strength, very nice although the study stinks of cat food and worse and everything I own is covered in bird poo. It's suddenly a cold night with a clear sky and big moon and I'm freezing, although we managed a sunny evening. I feel like I ought to go howl at the moon or something, writing about the Carpathian mountains and packs of starving wolves...  
I can't respond to comments on my blog - this is getting old and annoying, blogger - so in response to Downith...
I have, gorgeous book! I used the picture to visualise the dog in the book. Hope things are going well?

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Another day without writing a word

At least I have a good excuse - my husband's parents and our son and his girlfriend were all joining us for a Sunday lunch, and by the time I had cooked and eaten that I was so sleepy I couldn't concentrate. Any spare time was taken up with feeding the bird every hour and a half. But I did do some research into beliefs about blood around the world and the crimes of Richard Trenton Chase, who believed drinking blood would 'cure' him from what he believed was a disease and killed 6 people. The details will give me nightmares but it's a recognised delusion. I can get on and work tomorrow and hopefully, the bird won't take so long (if he's still here). He's a time waster, he's very cute. He is still very fragile but we're still trying. He managed to balance on two feet today, pretty good at his age, and has filled out a bit over 48 hours. He is easier to feed, too, but I'm looking forward to him being able to eat by himself!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Chapter 3 (800)

I have to confess, I didn't write a single word yesterday, being entirely occupied by famly stuff and the rescue of a jackdaw. This one literally landed on our doorstep after falling prematurely from its nest. Desperately cold and starving in the shrubbery where it ended up, it came out to attract its parents' attention and the cat pounced. I brought it in to keep it quiet and warm (and die in peace) and four hours later it came round enough to take a little food and a lot of water and so I decided to give it a bit of TLC and see how it does. So far so good - its warm and dry and eating and very inquisitive, even if it's too young to stand yet. So I got up at 12, 3 and 5 a.m. to heat up the heatpad and feed it and I reckon it's got a chance.
So, I decided to try and write a  bit more to catch up today. I managed 800 words of chapter 2 and rewrote chapter 3 from the first person POV. My historical strand seems so much more interesting from a different viewpoint, and he's an interesting rogue and conman. I'm enjoying the challenge now!   

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Chapter One and Chapter Two (600)

I don't feel like I'm writing all that much but I'm reorganising previous writing so the word count overall is piling up. What I can't see is how to weave the strands together. Marcus Sedgwick wove three narrative POV together in White Crow, so it's back to the drawing board to work out how he did it. I'm missing the quiet days in Winchester, only for the fact that I literally had nothing else to do but work. Having come home to spend time with my husband, he had to go to Winchester to look after our youngest boy while the eldest was away - camping in Devon! I can't keep up, I'm going to tag them all with GPS trackers... I'm also missing my student colleagues, especially from the Fantastic Fiction module, who had such an interesting way of looking at writing. They pushed me to do better, at least with the kid's book. Back to work. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

New distractions and hardware problems (700)

I did write 700 words. I also have 4000 words of rewritten and tarted up beginning. I also made choc chip muffins! This was very satisfying but very very fattening. I also sorted out the airing cupboard and finally threw  out all of my predecessor's duvet covers and throws. I loved Maya as a friend, but we still have a lot of her stuff. So I am getting rid of most of the stuff we had before and can use the stuff we have bought as a couple. Since my future son-in-law is working his socks off in my garden, I have promised white choc and lemon muffins on Friday, just to keep him motivated... not to mention that my husband will be back with many of my books.
I do have a better feeling for the beginning of the book now, and am bringing in sections of the old book. I have a feeling that there will be a big edit, and and the old stuff, which got me started, will go. Bookshelves beckon for tomorrow, that should take up the whole morning. 
Meanwhile, I can't make my new printer work, both mouses (mice? mices?) have packed up so I've pinched my husband's barely functioning one. It's way better than a typewriter but it's frustrating (and another distraction) when the computer doesn't work smoothly. Not to mention not being able to answer comments on the blog - I don't know why, but I know other bloggers have the same problem.  

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Easily distracted (700 and 500)

Moving back home has given me a load of extra excuses not to to write. While everyone has been fed perfectly well, I couldn't move for all the half opened Jacob's cracker packets in the cupboard and couldn't get anything out without getting everything out. So, one major sort out later (do we really need those black beans whose best before date was somewhere n the nineties?) and I have space to move! I'm also sorting out, finally, the results of two families with children moving in together, and keeping all of his stuff, and all of my stuff, and then getting stuff which is ours...


In between I'm horribly easily distracted by a computer game called plants vs. zombies - yes, it is that stupid - and the urge to use up the 4 bars of cooking chocolate and three tins of cocoa powder by making chocolate chip muffins. On my brief moments in front of the office computer (that's what we're calling the playroom/storeroom/laundry room now) I did manage to weld the first five chapters of Marley into something and played with the idea of changing the beginning of borrowed time to better accommodate the ending. But the airing cupboard needs sorting...

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Lazy days (400)

Not a good writing day but I got up so early it's a miracle I got any writing done at all. I'm trying to relax and be motivated to work at the same time, which doesn't really work. Back to work tomorrow - it feels more like a work day. I did manage to introduce the antagonist though, quite smartly, I think. A lot of research into the Holy Roman Empire took up the best part of an hour - something else I'm going to have to work on.    

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Making space (1100)

A painful day, partly because I went into town to get trousers for no. 1 son and hurt my back, and partly because I have had to sort through and get rid of some more books. In between, even though in more pain that usual, I managed to write 1100 words on Borrowed Time. I found, in the back of my brain, stuff I didn't even know about 'Greek fire', a technology known to the Arabs in the Byzantine era. How did I know that? I had no idea - so I looked it up, and I did know the basic facts about it. That spooked me, like I was channeling some bloke who knows way more history than I!
Then I worked it out. Years and years ago, I fell in love with a series of racy romances by Sergeanne Golon (actually by two people) which are probably the opposite of literary fiction.  But I loved them, and the racy bits went over my head until I was a teenager anyway. But in the middle of one of the books, is an incidence of Greek fire being used and explained. Ha! Crappy genre blockbuster fiction - with impeccable historical research! Not to mention a bit of sex education...

Friday, 3 June 2011

Sunny, sunny days (700)

I've been watching manoeuvres as my daughter's boyfriend moves in temporarily, another son moves in with his girlfriend but his stuff has moved in, and the third one prepares to go back to college. Meanwhile, I have been trapped by my back typing while lying almost flat. I'm bored with the pain now.


On the plus side, I have edited 4000 words of the beginning of the book ready to fit in the other strand. This complicated structure may be too complex but I'm giving it my best shot for the next month, when I can get it to my supervisor before she goes off on holiday. More thoughts about the plot as well, but I must remember to write them down! I have an 'aha' moment when I'm writing, I'm six inches from a whiteboard and a dozen pens, and still don't do it. Ten minutes later I know I had a brilliant idea, but it's gone... I'm going to put a post-it to remind me to write it down.


Meanwhile, the sun is too hot but looks lovely, and the cat has worked out where the baby sparrows are... two down, four to go. I'm locking her in periodically to give them a chance, but they are a bit stupid, despite being able to fly.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Back on my horse - or possibly carrying it... (1150)

I'm writing, though it feels very uphill because I'm being attacked by the demon of self-doubt. He looks like my geography teacher (gender uncertain) and insists on shouting 'this is all utter crap!' every time I attempt a full stop. He's out of the office at the moment (sadly, probably not sourcing a breath mint) so I can sneak a few words for fun.

I'm attempting a part of the novel that is set in the past, but despite my efforts my third person limited POV character keeps speaking to me directly. He's so opinionated. I love that as a trusted servant he sees everything - that really helps the story along. Right from the beginning I wondered if he could just be the first person narrator of his own strand - or even book. He's suspicious, a conman by trade, and doesn't even tell himself the truth (being locked in with his ego).

Meanwhile, I'm trying to settle back into a routine at home. It's not as easy as I hoped, though the cats are pleased to see me and my 12 year old daughter is great. My husband, on the other hand, has had a taste of freedom...

Oh, and I can't post a comment on my own blog, so sorry I haven't replied to Boz and Downith, it's not for want of trying. But having done some adding up and taking away I have worked out than 20000 words over 120 days is...166.66 recurring words a day - sounds more manageable.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

This is so encouraging (950)

I have just read a lovely post by a fellow blogger known as Caroline Green, at Strictly Writing and doesn't that give you a warm feeling of hope and that the work is worth it? I've listened to lots of people tell me recently, 'oh, it's pointless, there's no chance of actually being published...' but those same people have never actually done the work, written a whole novel and edited it into shape. This gives hope - how many times have we heard the suggestion that successful writing is more work than art? Great ideas, sure, but the difference between the published and unpublished is often sheer hard work. With that in mind, I can report that I have written 950 words of BT and another 1500 of MATC. Not to mention playing around with the plot. So, thank you Caroline.