Friday, 30 December 2011

Slow progress, but actual planning.

Book 2 has started to come together. In a very small way, you understand, but my main character now has a name, there is a bit of a history of a village falling into place, and I understand the motivation of my main characters. Unfortunately, as usual, my 'bad guy' is working his charm on me and my narrator has a sly, nasty side. He might surprise me yet and prove to be the villain.
My tally so far of work: 805 words on Tuesday,406 on Wednesday,Thursday 706 words, but several hours of planning, card writing, family tree writing and charts as well. I don't know if I can bash it into shape enough by the end of March for Good Housekeeping, but I'll give it a go.
Normally, I come up with a name and the tiniest bit of plot, and I start writing. That leads to new ideas and they get written, too. The problem is, if the first ideas are rubbish, the whole thing has to be totally rewritten many many times. I'm trying to approach it from a different direction this time, by developing the story until I just have to write. So the snippets I have managed are scenes, or bits of scenes that might be useful and help me get into my characters. This way (hopefully) my characters will be consistently written and not evolve, change age, ethnicity and possibly gender, as they have before.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

New resolution

I don't do New Year's resolutions. What's the point of starting the year with a failure? And I always fail. So, instead, I've had a good look at what motivates me to stay on track.

Deadlines. I'm deadline girl, give me the merest hint of a date and I set goals, over achieve and get the words done ahead of time. Easy peasy. So I've been through the Mslexia diary (lovely lovely diary, I recommend it) and selected a few deadlines, added in the MA and the AA100 assignment dates, thrown in a  few competitions for variety, and marked them on my super duper new year planner. The only place I had room for said planner was in the cloakroom, on the wall, but at least I get to sit down in there a few times a day and will notice the colour coded stars marked on it.
 The diary is £12.99 direct from Mslexia, by the way.

So, I have deadlines. the other thing I benefit from is publicly declaring my progress, either to family or by word counter. So, I'm pledging (for myself) to humiliate myself by declaring my word count (or lack of) everyday, either here, on Facebook or on the wall of shame in the cloakroom. I masterfully wrote 41 words today, before being stalled on my next book by a lack of story. It's all there in my head, but it's still forming from brainstorming sessions with the family, research, and ideas buzzing around in my brain. This might explain why I couldn't get to sleep until 4am and have a migraine.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Too much to do to write!

I'm taking an unscheduled and, I think, reasonable break from writing for a few days. Tomorrow the boys and husband come home (the latter no doubt the worse for wear after the firm's pub crawl) and then we have 13 for dinner on Sunday.  I'm reading a fellow student's novel and am deep into that, am tired from filling the freezer with industrial quantities of Xmas snacks (none of which I like!). I have to get three bedrooms moved tomorrow, furniture and all, to accommodate all the kids and their partners... and we celebrate the winter solstice so everything has to be sorted and ready by Monday evening. Most of my army of helpers are away (the younger ones are at their grandparents to see a panto) so I'm busy busy!

What I really want to do is start my next novel...

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Starting AA100

I'm officially terrified. I've got the AA100 coursebooks from the Open University, along with the *gulp* assignment book. It seems strange to go back to level 1 but honestly, I have no arts training at all. I feel like I blagged my way entirely through the MA so far by working hard on my writing, but feel completely lost as far as my dissertation's rationale is concerned. I hope that the course will help me gain the language with which to describe how literature works. I always felt I was at a disadvantage compared to the English Literature graduates in the group.

The first book looks fascinating, but the assignments look scary! Because the OU has become infected with fee changes (more than trebled) I realised if I didn't sign up now I wouldn't get the old prices for my courses. Since I already the two writing modules at distinction, I would be able to get a lit degree in 3 years for less that the future cost of just one module! Crazy. So, despite some time limitations because I do have a book to edit...I'm looking forward to giving it my best shot. And I don't have to get distinctions, so I can concentrate on getting the most out of the courses instead of focusing entirely on assignments and scores.

Talking about time limitations - apart from being distracted by AA100 and  PD James's Death Comes to Pemberley (I can't work out if this is heresy or actually very good), I am reading a fellow student's novel. It's scary - because it's very, very good, and a lot more polished than my novel. I'm enthralled already, and I'm only half a dozen chapters in. I can see that I won't be working on my novel for a few days...

At home, the new book-room has an actual functioning door, and so does the dining room, finally squashing most of the draughts that rattle through the house. When people think a house is haunted because suddenly the temperature drops and a room has mysterious cold spots - that's our house. We either have a thousand draughts or a regiment of ghosts. And another bedroom has a new carpet, functioning door and paint job. No. 1 son will be pleased! 

Friday, 9 December 2011

Back to the dissertation

With all the excitement of competitions and the fourth edit of the book, I began to forget I'm supposed to hand in a 15-20k creative piece and a 4k rationale for my dissertation. I was going to hand it in at the end of September, but I reluctantly decided to defer for a year while my back got better. I feel confident, now, about the creative piece but the rationale has me stymied. I've only done two rationales before with mixed results (both, at least, passed). I wrestled with writing the two strands and interweaving them to make the book - maybe I could write about that? I don't know... I wish I was more clued up about literature and books and all the theory of writing rather than just the craft of writing. To this end, I've decided to take AA100, the arts foundation course, with the Open University. Maybe it will give me more idea of how to analyse books, even my own writing. So often I do something but couldn't tell you why, exactly, although I do consider the psychology and process of reading.

Meanwhile, the new study has just got a big book case for all my research and textbooks. Thank you, boys!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Good Housekeeping Competition

Good Housekeeping magazine, Jan 2012 issue (out now) is offering a £25000 prize for a first novel, as an advance, and an introduction to an agent. Now, I know a whole group of people who are wrestling with or planning to write a novel. This competition has a number of major advantages for all of us. 

  • It's deadline is 31st March so we have some time to polish or rewrite or, if you're very organised, even write a novel
  • It's free to enter except for buying the magazine
  • It's for any genre except children's
  • It starts with a 5000-10000 word submission, allowing more time to complete the rest of the novel.
Now, what's not to love about such a big prize for so little outlay and a do-able deadline? Anyone else going to give it a go?

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Back to work after a week off

I've had a great week organising Solstice/Christmas; travelling to the Isle of Wight where we used to live and catching up with friends and family; and enjoying reading. I can see the logic of treating reading as a part of the writing process, and prioritising it, but in practice I can only do one well, or the other! So, having enjoyed a few books for old times sake, and a couple of new ones for fun, I've really got to sit down and get back to editing. Since we had a plan to scale back Solstice and just have one tree, not go mad on presents and food etc. I can say we seem to have failed. Badly. The artificial tree wouldn't fit in our newly decorated living room so we went shopping for a new, more sensible sized one. The old one ended up in the dining room (because it's such a nice, if nine foot high, tree) and the old dining room one squeaked into my newly decorated, insulated and fixed up study. The kids wanted their little tree in the kitchen - we have four trees. We seemed to have missed downsizing the holidays by a mile. 

Meanwhile, I have been thinking about the sequel and how close I am to finishing (well, abandoning really) the first book. “Poems are never finished - just abandoned”,  Paul Valéry said, and he described how I see novels, too. There just comes a point when you can't polish any more, so you send it off, and the second you do you find a million mistakes. I think it's part of the process. The plan is to finish draft 4 by the end of December and start the new year with a round of submissions.