Friday, 30 September 2011

Enjoying the journey again

Having slumped through the middle chapters tying up loose ends and travelling with my heroes through the story, we're back on familiar ground, and I am able to re-use (although still rewrite) scenes and chapters. Which is exciting, and has pushed the book on to 52k words, which is more than halfway (I hope).

I'm also reflecting on the last four weeks, when I haven't blogged much because I was in a strange place. I have had a painful back since last December, which I expected to follow its normal healing course. It improved, then got worse again, twice. Finally, it just got stuck, and before my GP could send me off to see a surgeon, she had to run some tests to rule out serious illnesses, like, say myeloma. The tests came back positive.

Well, that's just a few blood tests, and they had to be repeated, and new tests added before ... well, before. So having had the 'hopefully it isn't myeloma' talk from the GP, I was sent home to wait for the weeks it takes for the tests to come back.

My first impulse was to call a friend, brother, daughter, someone, just to talk it over. But ... talk over what, exactly? In the end, my husband and I sat down and talked and thought and talked some more. Myeloma isn't curable, although there are some treatments to delay death. So I looked at the possibility, from the comfortable position of uncertainty, and we found some peace with it. Two years ago, I went to a workshop run by another psychologist called Gill Edwards. She, and other people, have been diagnosed with cancer and chosen not to get on the chemotherapy rollercoaster, and most of them had done better than expected. I would never suggest that anyone refuse treatment, but I wouldn't condemn someone for wanting to control their own destiny.

Anyway, much to my relief, the tests all came back normal. In fact, it's a puzzle for my GP, and the errant test (when it comes back) is almost certain to be normal too. She's very relieved (it must be horrible to deal out bad news) and even more surprised to find that the bad back of nine months started to clear up when I got the first set of tests. Four days later, it was fragile but pain-free and I was walking upright. Maybe the threat of myeloma kick-started my self-healing, self-preservation instincts!

While I was considering mortality, I realised something very important. Yes, I love my children, but they will survive without me. I adore my husband, and would hate to leave him, but he would move on in time. But no-one else can write my book.   

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Mslexia Competition

I've been tarting up - sorry, polishing - my first 5000 words for the Mslexia novel writing competition. It has made me focus on what makes a good scene. I'm a great fan of Noah Lukeman's 'The First Five Pages' which makes you look very critically at each scene. It has made me realise how weak the beginnings and endings of some of my scenes are. So I'm looking at each scene as if it were a mini story and trying to make each first and last line intriguing enough to make a reader (hopefully) want to read on. 

It's a depressing job, when I realise just how bad some of my last lines have been. But it is coming together. After a week of almost no real pain, having even a small amount over the weekend has been a bit depressing. I need to go back to some sort of writing routine, it seems to help!

Meanwhile, I finally got my last assignment from the taught part of the MA back at distinction - I was so pleased. It was a series of poems, all of which are now free to go off to the Plough Prize in Torrington. I even did well on the rationale, which was a huge relief. All I have to think about now is the dissertation. 

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Life on hold

I'm in the eye of an emotional storm, which is quite a nice place to be. I had a load of tests and treatment for my back, and then the whole thing stalled why I wait for more results. It's probably a degenerating disc kind of deal, but you have to rule out all sorts of exotic illnesses before you can be sent off for treatment. Thinking of more serious illnesses, even if very unlikely, makes you clear on what's you want to achieve, and finishing this book is very important to me. But I also have had a quiet week with my back which has gone from staggering around holding onto the furniture to being able to stand upright and even have periods of being pain-free. So I've walked around in the amazing autumn weather with my husband, who has taken the week off, worked on turning our house into our home, and nailed three more chapters of the book. I'm up to 37,000 and am tackling the saggy middle of the story. I'm trying to stick to an hour minimum a day of writing, no matter what's going on, but sometimes am working all morning. For the first time in a year, I'm not blogging much, because I'm waiting for these results, and then I shall have an idea what to do to fix my back. But the book makes sense, the characters are doing all the things I need them to do, and the house looks great and feels like home. I hope to prune a few fruit trees very gently tomorrow, with some caution because the site slopes uphill. Oh, and we celebrated the equinox by making twenty-two pots of blackberry and plum jelly. 

Monday, 12 September 2011

Third draft

I'm 27k into the third draft. Having come to a nasty impasse three quarters of the way through the book, I realised it is just easier to rewrite than find all the blind ends, name changes and dodgy information. I'm also completely distracted by my back, which will need specialised treatment and is undergoing all sorts of exotic tests. Despite this, I'm pottering on with the book, most days.

I like to get into a rhythm when I'm writing, same time, every day and set myself a word target, but at the moment with builders in and out, the stupid spine and kids going off to college/uni/WWoofing my life isn't that organised! I shall just have to write when I can.

One odd symptom of my back problem - or more likely, the painkillers - is a problem finding words. The last few weeks I've had real problems sorting out my vocabulary and it's hard to keep my concentration going. So I'm quite pleased with 27k but I have a deadline for the end of September for the whole book, so I shall keep going. Even if my words get a bit stuck on occasion!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

First September

There's something renewing about this time of year. New term, through all those years of school and university. The end of summer and the beginning of the autumn and all its gifts. I love September, it's my favourite month.

So, new start. I've got a solid start to the third draft. I found I ground to a halt on the second draft when the inconsistencies built up too unworkable and now the new draft is smoother and works better - this is the Stephen King approach and it seems to work for me. I want a good start for the Myslexia novel competition and then I just have to rewrite the rest of the book. I still have a few chapters to write but I have 70k of the beginning and 13k of the end. I think I need a bit of work on the last few chapters to write but I really feel I'm writing the characters better and they are more sympathetic as well. They will work much better as my dissertation, as well.  

In the meantime, I'm loading up my new bookcases with books and having a big clear out. Very therapeutic.