Saturday, 30 July 2011

Lost momentum (400)

I'm terrible if I lose momentum. I got a lousy mark for one of my modules (but a reasonable pass, I keep telling myself). So I concentrated on my physio and translated my exercises into moderate amounts of decorating (very moderate). Now I'm out of the habit of writing, and it's really hard to get back into it. So, despite the fact that there is a huge sander sailing around the front room trailing smoke, and a smaller edge sander melting the black tarry paint Victorians used to paint the edges of their floorboards with, I managed 400 words. I know I have to work through Jack's strand now, in order to pull it together continuity wise. It's really hard to keep tabs on all the plot strands, but a recent input from an editor has helped me, and inspired me to go back to work on it. So, I may be off my horse but I can at least see it in the meadow. (Hi there, horse!) I just need to get back to my habit.

In the meantime, I have A363 to worry about. The results are due out by the 5th August and I will be very disappointed if I don't make a distinction now I can't get one on the MA.

Knocking down the nails

The house is filling with smoke from the industrial sanders and I'm just glad they aren't too dusty. It's going to be a two day job.  


Monday, 25 July 2011

The Writer's Journey (again)

I'm back to Christopher Vogler to make sense of all the little characters and all the complexities of sub plots. It feels like I'm writing two novels, each following a similar hero's journey, so it seems helpful. I've got the first half of Dee's story in a good second draft - it's about 25k, I've trimmed a few thousands off. It's nice to feel most of the loose ends are tied up, at least, and I can move on. I especially like the scene when Dee manages to reanimate the corpse of his friend, and it gets out of hand. Words like 'putrefaction' and 'stench' are so powerful. Back to new words tomorrow. 

Meanwhile I have managed to paint a load of bookshelves with the help of my daughter and no. 1 son, and they look good. We also painted the kitchen but I've had my doubts about the colour...and now I'm even more unsure. Oh, well.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Crisis time

Having over-extended myself a bit this year, with the full-time MA and A363, I'm considering taking a break before doing the dissertation. I know I can probably knock out a piece to pass the MA, but I really want to learn as much as possible and I haven't had a chance to do any of the required reading or take enough of a step back from my writing, either, to see it clearly. So, against my nature, really, which is a bit 'full steam ahead, don't hold the horses and mix those damn metaphors' I am considering taking my time. 

Meanwhile, I did my first bit of decorating, thanks to the improvements I am experiencing with hydrotherapy. I painted knotting solution over all the knots on the living room bookcases, which is more work than it sounds as there's 13 feet of them . 
 I also got no. 1 son (and occasional editor) to paint the skirting under the new tiles in the kitchen, not trusting myself to bend that far or get back up afterwards. 
If I don't kill myself doing the dissertation, I can finish the book, work on it, then hand in the best bit for next year. That sounds better to me, anyway! Then my focus can be the Mslexia novel comp. which looks excellent and I would love to have a crack at.  This means I can have a single focus for the summer, that will fit in better with the demands of woodwork eradication, plumbing repairs and spinal bothers.

So why do I feel like a slacker and a failure? 

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Finding my way back from chaos (200)

Every time I write a novel - and this is no. 5 - I get to 50k as if I were weaving something by hand. Each new plot twist or character is a new thread, and the trick is to not drop any and make sure you use them all from time to time. The problem is, if you get so far into a novel the danger is that you have so many threads they lose track of them. Worse, you have a slow day or two, and you drop the lot. I just can't hold that many threads at one time.

So, here I am, a few words short of 60,000 words, and I realise it's happening again. So today, I took advice and started writing out cards for each scene. I decided to start with all the Dee scenes, and soon found each scene had things I needed to tie up. For example, I introduced a lovely character from the Inquisition - and then somehow, he disappears, wasted. So he needs to be woven back in, which mirrors the present day thread, which is fun. So I ended up printing off ten chapters of that strand and read through, found and tied up loose ends, came up with more plausible bits, and examined the first and last sentences of each scene. I tend to end scenes well on high tension, but start scenes very weakly. Kelley wakes up, mostly, hardly high tension.

So, having worked over about 25k words, I feel positive about the sequence, and have lots more to write. One concern, though - the story is growing more and more, and I think I'm going to end up with over a hundred thousand words - probably quite a few more than that. 

Hopefully, cutting it down will produce a cleaner draft, but that's in the future. Meanwhile, I am still very thrilled at my daughter's graduation and engagement.  

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Crappy day (800 and 800)

Today was my actual birthday, which was a bit crap because my husband was in hospital having minor surgery. I'm sure I wouldn't have found it so stressful if husband no. 1 hadn't gone into hospital with a 'minor chest infection' and died 10 days later of undiagnosed leukaemia. So I don't have as much faith in hospitals as perhaps I should have. Anyway, he was fine, and apart from looking a bit battered and sore, he seems OK. Hopefully I will get some sleep without nightmares tonight, because the last week has been rubbish.
On the plus side, I am just a shade under 60k words and am looking to write the rest of the book before 1st September. I'm wondering whether I could do the last chapters of the book rather than the first for my dissertation! I do have a reasonable draft of about 6000 words for the end of the book (though it has a schmaltzy bit I don't like) already and I like the idea of not handing in chapters 5-17 or something - because the first and last chapters have to be the strongest anyway.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Guest blogger - please give a warm welcome to Boz! (0)

My fellow MA student Boz is my first guest blogger - we seem to have a similar distraction technique for not actually writing words! And I am sad to report that I took an actual day off writing, not even writing this blog.

How absolutely fabulous that my friend and MA compadre, Reb, has allowed me to write a little post for her blog. Thanks, Reb!  
It seems Reb and I are suffering from the same affliction, namely eruditioperlegomania , in other words, we’ve got the ‘waste time on endless research’ bug. And the thing is - I love it, love it, love it, but to quote my heroine, Edith Piaf, “A quoi ca sert?”  My dissertation is set in 1960s Manchester and is vaguely about a bunch of children, kids born in the UK to immigrant parents of different nationalities.  And that’s all you need really know because that’s where the research has exploded like a cotton wool puffball the size of K2.
All I was looking for originally was an idea of how these immigrant parents got to be where they were. In a limited way, it’s my era and my story, so I should, I think, have known more. But it’s led me into history, literature, anthropology, social science and wait for it – taraa! – something I’d never heard of as a discipline – Cultural Studies. I’m telling you my mouth is awash with saliva when I think of Cultural Studies. Yum.
And boy, am I hooked! The more academic papers I read, the more references I find to others which, naturally, I must also read. In the meantime, time is zapping by and my dissertation is not looking remotely written. However, I’m still counting it as work in the hope that I’ve absorbed some of it and it will sneak into my story one way or another – kind of the Rosetta Stone Immersion Method.
Anyway, I was reading a brilliant little book I ordered via Between Two Cultures: Migrants and Minorities in Britain by James L. Watson, when I realized that I don’t have enough hours left in my life to read everything I need to read, and I started reading more quickly. I know, I know… 
My next thought was ‘Yes, but why do you need to read them? You don’t, you plonker!’ But, Reb’s readers, I do, honest I do. It’s a relentless itch – the more I scratch, the more I need to get three inch acrylic nail extensions.  
My next thought was ‘Well, there’s only one thing for it. You have to get a brilliant mark for your MA dissertation (tricky when you haven’t actually got anything but notes and index cards so far and a mere two months left!), and then do a PhD because that will give you permission to research. That must be the way forward.’ Oh, but I can’t afford to do a PhD. Bugger. Oh yes, and let’s face it, even if I could do a PhD, finance and grade permitting, I am seriously old (54) and I’ll probably be 60 by the time I finish it, by which time (I know me…) I’ll be living in squalor, my garden will be a jungle, my car will be a rat-infested wheelie bin, and I’ll look like a bag lady who’s totally lost touch with soap and washing detergent in the intervening six years. Or I’ll have become Alan Bennett’s Mrs Shepherd.
So what I want to know is why can’t somebody just give me a position that’ll pay vast amounts and will just let me trip into on one research paper after another, like a bee sipping juicy globs of nectar from every tempting flower in the meadow.  The other part of this contract would be that I could write, but only when I felt like it and on any topic I fancied. ;)
Oh, go on someone…  gi’us a job! Is it really too much to ask? 

Thank you, Boz. Good luck with that job! 

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Assignment (850)

I'm waiting for my assignment score, which is being posted on Monday. I loved doing the Fantastic Fiction module - in which I wrote the beginning of a novel for children - and hope I get a good mark. But at this point, a pass would be reassuring! My main excitement was that my kitchen is tiled, and looks wonderful, and although the house is a tip and really getting me down, we're celebrating my birthday two days early so I don't miss out. I will have to cook though...

Friday, 15 July 2011

Chunk of dissertation off (1300)

I'm up to 56,000 words, which is great, and the first four chapters are edited and off, and I'm working on the book again. It's nice to be cruising through an action packed sequence but I've had a miserable day just the same. Sometimes the universe just runs sideways and helps everyone else, anyway, but leaves me a bit short. My husband got a last minute cancellation for day surgery, which he's been anxiously waiting for - but it's on my birthday next week, which I made plans for. I got really nervous about having acupuncture, which was cancelled, our no. 2 son deigned to visit, but just to pick up airbeds, and my husband was snappy with me all day because I asked him to do some tiling. I would have done it (I'm strangely good at tiling) but my back isn't up to it. On the plus side, the tiling looks lovely. But really, the worse thing is we've run out of chocolate...

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Past the halfway mark (3000)

A great word count, I know, but misleading. I found a great scene I wrote last year, and it fits in with chapter 20 so I rewrote it and in it goes. Tomorrow's is a recycled scene from the original book, so an easy day and it adds up to 55 k. So I took some time this afternoon to do a bit more research, and it's fascinating stuff. Hungary was so interesting four hundred years ago (and probably still is, though the bit I'm writing about isn't in Hungary any more, the borders have moved many times). Now I have to knuckle down and put a decent draft together for my supervisor, and then I can move on with the book. I've had a few ideas about the rationale too, though I haven't had any feedback on the rationales I have written as I haven't had my assignments back. And the date for the results of A363 roll ever closer... 

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Taking a day off (1500)

I sat down this morning and felt so tired and lost. I suddenly realised it must have been a few days since I had a day off - actually, it was sixteen days since I didn't work at least for a couple of hours. While I'm completely proud of my work ethic, I could also call it creepy obsession. I hung around this morning and wrote in my journal, then I realised what I actually needed to do - spend some time thinking about the story. So I jotted down the rest of the Dee strand, and sat down to my new research book. It's fascinating, but all the time I was reading I was also writing in my head, so sat down and actually did a bit of typing to go with it. A strange day off, but it was nice not to feel I had to write. 

Monday, 11 July 2011

Pushing on (1500)

I did the scary edit thing on chapter 3. Isn't it hard to go back to work you've moved on from? But it's OK and no. 1 son didn't find much to work on. I also started chapter 17 even though I was itching to rewrite chapter 16 from Jack's POV. Having fun with research, but did splash out for another couple of research books. Oops! Amazon should be rationed...

Now I need to do chapter 4 tomorrow. Busy days. I also managed a very short walk up Hillsborough (well, to base camp - the information board, anyway). It was nice to get the heart pumping a little bit from actual exercise, I've spent months stuck indoors. Good for the soul, seeing birds and beetles and wild flowers, especially from so high up. 

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Try again tomorrow (3000)

I had the best intention - I was going to sit down with real persistence and edit chapter 3. But I just had a peak at what I wrote yesterday and started playing around with it - and the next chapter just shouted out to be written. I have written it entirely in the wrong character's point of view, of course, it really should be in my main character's voice. I will resist rewriting tomorrow if I can, it should be easier as there's less distractions while my husband is working.

When I first wrote a draft, I put a high tension encounter in very early, and then the middle of the book sagged like an old mattress. Now we build up to said scene, which is even more scary, and it works ten times better. I think the pacing thing which I am so bad at will be OK for the contemporary strand, but the historical strand has the squeak of rusty springs about it... but I'm NOT going to work on that tomorrow, because I shall be editing in an orderly manner! Oh, and did you notice I wrote three thousand words in one go? I have the flat arse to prove it...Up to nearly forty-four thousand now.  

Saturday, 9 July 2011

New plan - edit first, then write. (1800)

I'm going to try to edit first - since I hate it - and write the new stuff in the afternoons. On the plus side, I've written buckets today. All very badly, but the flow of the story is down.  I'm at about 43000 words now, and I've got 6000+ to go to my supervisor. Feels like halfway-ish. 
I've also spent the day walking around carpet warehouses and finding bargains. I haven't enjoyed doing a house up this much for many years, my husband hates all these decisions so he resists change as passionately as the cats. But he's having a go at moving into the house we technically inhabited for the first time four years ago. More wormy floors to find tomorrow, and my deposit came through from Winchester to help fund it! Lovely stuff.  

Friday, 8 July 2011

Attempting an edit of chapter 2 (1500)

Having put it off (and off, and off) I can't ignore the fact that I now have conflicting goals. I want to have Borrowed Time finished for Mslexia's novel writing competition, of course. I also want to turn in a dissertation, beautifully polished and edited and re-edited, so I need a good draft of half of it to send off. the problem is, I want to carry on writing (just under 41 thousand words today!) so I'm forcing myself to work on the rewrite of Chapter 2 today, and Chapter 3 tomorrow. This inevitably leads on to displacement activities like making bread, and pie for the boys.

Meanwhile, we have ripped up a load of disgusting old nylon carpet to reveal the floors.
 We have also revealed the odd munchy board with resident woodworm, but not too much so far. Not to mention my decorating dynamo who is off tomorrow to go volunteering on an organic farm - a bit of a rest, really.

Now I really have to print off chapter 2 and work on it - red pen moment. I hate this bit!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Finding it difficult to edit (850)

As I get up to 40k words, I'm finding it difficult to go back and edit. It's like they are two such different processes, I can't easily swap from one to the other. Am I the only one who finds this? Plus, a lovely book full of yummy research came in and I was distracted by having to go into hydrotherapy this morning. Add pulling up the living room carpet and scoping out new floors in town, and you can understand I found it hard to focus! I did write 850 words but I think they will end up as much reduced since they don't move the story on much. Dee and Kelley are at the castle where all the murders took place, though. Fun times.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Therapied out (1500)

I'm up to 38,500 words, which is good. After physio, I'm shattered and I have hydrotherapy in the morning. Exciting times! I just wish I didn't have to eat standing up... finding it difficult to make Felix and Jack sound distinct. Back to the drawing board. Number of chapter two words edited: 0. Whoops.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Frustrating day (500)

My back is so painful it's distracting. Back to the physio, as it's getting worse again. That's seven months of various levels of ouch.

Looking at the book, it seems to be time for rewriting the early chapters to get them out to my supervisor and get some useful feedback. That's the plan, anyway, but I really want to keep going on the book proper. Since I can't easily do either, it's frustrating! Hopefully, tomorrow will be better.

We've decided to raise a small mortgage on the house to try and fix some of the big problems with it. I think an old house - especially one this big - is a bit of a project anyway, and for once, I'm not focused on selling it too soon. So I'm able to look at lovely wood floor samples and have chosen a woodburner. This is an updated version of my first woodburner, from 1994.
 Wood is cheap and available in Devon, so it's a cheap, lovely looking option. It will certainly warm this room up a bit, anyway! I'm hoping to turn a shower room into an en-suite and create a big built in wardrobe, too. We've got structural work like a cracked drain and woodworm to deal with, too, and ideally, we would get the patched, cement render off and lime render the outside. But I can't see how they would get the scaffolding up the drive...other than by hand. Oh, my. Are there enough zeroes on that quote, do you think?  

Monday, 4 July 2011

Marathon (2350)

To avoid the painting and the smell of gloss I locked myself in the study, left the door to the garden open and, because I had nothing else to do, wrote a decent first draft of chapter 14. This is a bit dodgy, because I haven't written chapter 13 and I'm not sure what happens in it, but I did know what was going to happen to Dee in the sixteenth century, so I went with that. I did spook myself, as the two principal characters get kidnapped in the middle of the night and writing action scenes is hard for me. It's a bit like writing a car chase...doesn't really work. Well, not for me, anyway.

The study thing with the door to the garden overlooking the nature reserve blah blah is a lot less glamorous when you know the sewer runs right under the floor and smells like it is cracked. I moved out when the sewage stank worse than the gloss paint. 

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Busy day (1100)

I had a window for some writing this morning, before I cooked a big family roast. It was really exhilarating, I started out knowing I had to get from A to B but it seemed as if there would be a really long (and dull) journey between them. Then I found a halfway point that was way more exciting, and will naturally lead on to the next chapter. What an (unplanned) gift! One for the fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants brigade, I think. Hopefully, I can put  Stephen King back on my bookshelf, after I relegated him after listening to Marcus Sedgwick, who was so convincing about plotting. I agree with all his arguments, but I'm not a plotter and these little moments are so magical and creative, I couldn't bear to miss them. I'm up to 36k now and on a roll. 

And only one month until the A363 result, which hopefully I get at distinction. If I don't I'll still trade in the points for the Open College of the Arts and study some poetry. Meanwhile, I want my assignments back from Winchester, I seemed to hand them in ages ago. 

Saturday, 2 July 2011

All change (1600)

Some of the Chain Gang

It's chaos here at the House of Woodworm and Drafts. Lifting the elderly hall carpet revealed what we already knew - extensive woodworm in a few crucial places, though the rest looks OK. With the new paintwork and bare floors, it looks loads better already and we've taken out a mortgage to sort it all out. Going to Winchester was a chance to decide whether to go or stay here, and what to focus on in the next five years. The MA, more than anything, told me to get on and spend a year writing and see what happens, and that's been great for me. Leaving a job full of responsibility (and attendant paperwork) was difficult and left me floundering a bit, wondering what to do with my time. I can't do masses of housework because my back is so bad, and it would rapidly send me insane anyway, because I hate it. I feel too guilty to sit about and read or do hobbies, and I miss the discipline of work that sits you down at 9am and you have a target. having worked for a few hours, I feel justified in chilling out with a book or mucking around on the computer. 'Retiring' is hard work, and 'becoming a writer' sounds too poncy for words. So I'm 'working' on my novels and developing the teaching, and for the first time in four years, don't feel like a complete slacker. My back being very slightly less painful, I have cooked a lot today and advised the chain gang (cute name for the kids, don't you think?) what to do in the garden.