Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Could do better

What do you do when you can't write? You blog.
Hey ho. Rain, wind, clouds, should be using this time efficiently before term starts and I have to turn my attention back to teaching. I had planned to do so much this summer - get the novel finished (hollow laughter), get fit (even hollower laughter)
Where did it all go? What have I actually achieved?

Not as much as I should. Could do better.

The five chapters are out there in the ether being ignored by my supervisor (or else he is so horrified he can't bear to give me feedback), I'm staring at the outline rearranging scenes and ditching entire chapters - a novella anyone?? And the weather is kindly informing me that summer is nearing the end.

Once term starts I will be head down, nose to the grindstone, elbow to the wheel and a few other idioms. I have a rough outline for lesson plans, a few notes for Assignment briefs, all of which need refining. I have a pile of books I need to re-read and some I need to read for the first time. Amazon have been busy delivering stuff this last week and the pile beside my desk is getting alarmingly high.

The Holiday.

Paxos for a week, wish it was longer, but a week of lying about by a pool in the sun sounds bloody good right now. I love that boyf is such a fascist about holidays. It is the one thing he is really bossy about. I am checking the weather on line every day and was a bit alarmed yesterday to see a storm forecast for the day of our arrival, but that's changed to a few clouds now, so I'm hopeful that it will have blown away by the weekend.

Meanwhile, back to shuffling chapters around.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Everyone needs... editor. A good writer friend who will, with patience and a good eye go through your work without prejudice and make all those small deletions and highlight all the bits of overwriting and self indulgent phrases.
I have boyf, who has spent hours this weekend doing just that. It is daunting watching someone else wield the red pen over your work, but boy is it helpful. I have just looked at the first chapter and with his help it is now tight, fluid and does what I want. In fact it is pretty damn close to resembling exactly what I thought I'd written but hadn't - does that make sense?
Writing is lonely most of the time, dispiriting a lot of the time, sometimes it is frustrating, sometimes exciting and always consuming. What makes all of this bearable is having someone who understands to share it.

Last night we talked through his screenplay which he is adapting for an American audience. I can see why, but I wish it wasn't necessary. We discussed the different national sensibilities, how would Americans get this joke or that line? It is almost like having to write a whole new story. Of course when he is done or at whatever point he is ready, I will do the same for him as he has done for me. The trouble is, I won't have to do as much, he is very good at editing his own work.

Saw a woman I used to know in Sainsburys this weekend. She didn't see me and I didn't put myself out to be seen. The thing is, that now my kids are older, I have no reason to pretend friendship with this woman - which I did for years. While our children were friends, I ignored the oh so subtle put downs, the passive aggressiveness and the outright rudeness of this woman. When I saw her in a dress shop and she decided to try on the same outfit as me and called out 'I'll need it in a smaller size' in a loud voice, I didn't beat her senseless with her oversized handbag. When she had to stand in for me at the last minute as parent rep at school and took the chocolates the teacher had been told to give to the rep - saying - 'Oh, I didn't like to hurt her feelings, and I've already accepted them' I didn't choke her with her own Alice band or drag my keys along the side of her oversized car. I never called her on any of the mean things she said or did. I smiled and seethed.
No more. I can ignore her with impunity. My daughter is no longer in touch with hers. I can be honest with myself - she was a bitch and I was weak to keep her in my life for so long. I can, with time and distance see that I did what I couldn't at the time. Now I can be better, truer, I only keep the friendships that are meaningful and rewarding and that deserve to be in my life.
Now if I can learn to do that with the words I write....

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

ps next chapter

My innate Tiggerishness is slowly returning. I figure if we don't have hope, then really there's nothing. As writers that has to be our gift - our endless optimism and hope.
I look at the next couple of pages for rewriting and they're not so bad, I start thinking about the plot again, the twists and turns my heroine is going to take, and a small frisson starts to build.
If I can't sleep tonight, I will write the next chapter and then I'll make cookies for boyf (I got in choc chips just in case).

Out of the abyss.

It has been a horrible 24 hours. I managed to work myself up into an 'I am wasting my time, I have nothing to offer and my life is shit,' state last night, so much so, that my body resorted to its favourite pastime of not sleeping.
I'd not had such a bad bout of insomnia for some time, so the ferocity of it was startling and because I wasn't alone I couldn't put the TV on or play music and dance about (don't knock it till you've tried it) or start making complicated cakes - all good activities for insomniacs. I couldn't even write, because that was the last thing I wanted to do even if I had been able. I was stuck - staring into the dark, the abyss, the lonely night.
Eventually, after a wary but wise boyf left without breakfast and sent a loving text from a safe distance (smart man my boyf), I managed to grab a couple of hours sleep. I was woken by a delivery. Plates. Not just any old plates - pure white bone china dinner plates- 8 of them. Now to some people this may seem an odd thing to make a person feel better, but you know there's not much wrong with a world that can produce objects of such simplicity, beauty and function.
My sister understands, but I doubt anyone else would.
I have now, rescued my work from the bin where I hurled it last night and from the trash can on my computer, I have re-organised my office space, placed my desk adjacent to the window and I feel ready to step back into the fray.
No, I've still not heard from the Agent I emailed asking if she'd like to see this book when done, I've not had any major insights into solving plot and character problems. But I am hopeful and that's all you can ask for in the end.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Cup Cakes as an aid to writing

Got back the first 50 pages from Boyf with lots of ticks and lots of comments. Realise that my biggest fault is the one thing I haul students up for - the show don't tell syndrome - Bugger! The annoying thing is that as soon as it is pointed out it seems obvious, of course I need a scene here, of course the tense is wrong, of course, of course, of course.
Back to the computer, having first trawled through the internet to look for posture chairs - if I'm going to sit for long periods, shouldn't I have one? Then Amazon to get all those books I need to read over the summer before term starts. Then I go through emails, facebook, la de dah de dah. Procrastination is a wonderful thing. Yesterday I got so desperate to find things to do other than write I made cupcakes, not just the straightforward ones either. Oh No, mine had to be the ones that needed courgettes and carrots and grating attachments. They tasted wonderful though, and I recommend Harry Eastwoods -Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache, the woman is a poet of food and once you get past the weird ingredients (she uses vegetables instead of butter/fats) and take a leap of faith, the results are amazing.
Which brings me back to the editing, it is a leap of faith, the writing thing. You sit down and wonder at this strange sludgy mix you have in front of you and despair of it ever becoming something even vaguely readable, the idea of someone actually enjoying it seems far too much to ask.
Which means it is back to the screen for me, page by page, line by line - get rid of the adverbs, build up the scenes, check for over use of the 'to be' verbs and get this one right. And the cup cakes? They'll be my reward.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Good, bad and red shoes

Ok, the good bit first. Ran my first all day course in Central London on Saturday and it was fabulous. Exhausting, but fabulous. The students were vibed up and exciting and worked extraordinarily hard all day. I was so tired at the end, I could barely register being bought new shoes in the Kurt Geiger Sale - red studded stilettos that make me feel a bit Betty Boo and are going to look great with jeans.
Home for nap and bath and then off to boyf's family for dinner. I had thought that the dinner party last week that I did after the Awayday, was the worst dinner party I'd ever been to (and that's bad when you're the hostess), but Saturday was vying for a place in the lists. I think the best bit was being told that I wasn't 'family', and when I thought about it later, I realised it was actually a compliment and was quietly relieved.

Boyf gave me the first bit of his novel to read today, then hovered over me saying things like 'you hate it, don't you,' every five minutes. Men! No, let me rephrase that, Creative Men! So, here and for the record, I love it. Partly because I'm in it (ficitonally dead, but hey), but mainly because it is good, it is funny and it is poignant. Tomorrow he's reading my first pages, and I have no doubt I'll be equally insecure, but I have new shoes, so nothing can really be that bad.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Writerly bites

It has been an odd couple of days. Lost a client - careless I know, but sometimes you find you're just not suited and the relationship has to end. It is sad, but essential. Meanwhile, my own book is making slow but steady progress. I am keeping up with the running and trying to ignore the pain in my knee - which is strapped as tight as I can get it. And I have discovered Gu bites - delicious pieces of heavenly reward for each chapter edited.
Writers when writing are basically selfish people. No let me rephrase that, we make selfish people look good. The problem is that you are trying to live two lives. The life of the book and your own normal every day life. The latter becomes a bit dull, you can't control people the way you can in the fictional life and that becomes frustrating and depressing. So you get snappy with loved ones and turn inwards in a slightly obsessive unhealthy way.
Or is it just me?
And the boyfriend?
No wonder we will do anything to procrastinate and not write - in some dark deep place, we know that the process will take over and the Hyde (or was it Jekyll) side of our nature will come out.
I finished reworking chapter 5 today. It needs another look through, but it is ready to be left for a second mulch. So onwards with chapter 6 which is lying around looking sloppy and unstructured at the moment - a bit like younger daughter bedroom at the end of term, when the dirty washing and unpacking have merged into an amorphous mass - you know there are outfits she is fit to be seen in for work experience in there somewhere, you just have to dig around patiently for a bit.
Tomorrow I'm off for an Awayday. This, apparently, is where you go along to a hotel with all your work colleagues and discuss what we did wrong last year and what to do about it for next year. I think we get lunch and I hope to get paid. It is a 2 hour drive there and back and I have organised a dinner party for tomorrow night back in London. Do I sound less than enthusiastic? See, told you, writers are selfish. Now where are those Gu bites? Boyfriend is coming over, I need to hide them.