Sunday, 30 September 2012

Buying more books

Guilty pleasures in Sainsburys sounds plain wrong, doesn't it? But I was 'allowed' out to the supermarket last night sans children and it was intoxicating. I found myself browsing - I'd forgotten such a thing existed.

It's very sad, isn't it, that I can be excited about Sainsburys...anyway, I headed by circuitous routes to the book section, not intending for a second to buy anything, but wanting to see if the shelves had been refreshed. And there, staring me in the face, was Jojo Moyes' latest offering, The Girl You Left Behind. For £3.99!!! How could I resist?

I stuffed it furtively into the bottom of my trolley, hoping my other half wouldn't find out I'd been spending on books AGAIN, and trying to ignore the disquiet that comes when you know you're buying books in the Wrong Place. I get the guilts whenever I buy from Amazon or a supermarket, but the bottom line is about price. I'd rather buy two or three books somewhere cheaply, than one at a place where they hand a virtuous feeling to you along with the book. I can't help it; the addiction is stronger than my principles. I'll have principles again when I can afford them.

Then I noticed The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey. I wonder if you've ever had the experience where you meet someone, and then see them everywhere (or so it seems!), or learn a new word, and then see it several times in quick succession (this happened for me with 'hinterland' recently). We toyed with the idea of naming Chick-pea Eowyn, and decided against it because of the complications of pronunciation and spelling it to everyone for evermore, though I love it. And very shortly after that, I first saw this book reviewed, thought it sounded intriguing and enchanting, and then noticed the author's name. Since then I've wanted to read it, but been deterred by the cost, but Sainsburys were offering it for just £3.99... How could I resist?

I checked no-one was watching and nonchalantly dropped it into my trolley. Then my gaze ricocheted past a new Adriana Trigiani novel--I tore myself away, and marched into the meat aisle, away from temptation.

When I got to the checkout, smuggling my contraband (well, my husband would ban it if he had any sense, instead of just tutting disapprovingly) I watched it go through with satisfaction and then the cashier frowned at her screen.
"Oh," she said, "It's not done that before."
She continued to squint and poke at it, in a way that struck me as being experimental. I quickly shoved the books into an orange carrier, determined to keep them, whatever the problem.
"That's sorted it," she said with a self-conscious little giggle. "It was just asking me to ID you so you can buy the Cheddar."
If I'd known it was the cheese that was going to cause hiccups, perhaps I'd've added that Trigiani novel, too...Oh, well, I'm sure I'll be visiting the supermarket again soon...

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Bending language any which way

There is such charm in the speech of a three-year old. This week, my little horror has asked me to make 'fish biscuits again, please' when I think he really would prefer fish cakes, and in a continuation of the fishy theme, pored over a picture of seahorses with me and said 'Look at that sea-saw!'

Quick, pass a notebook: these little gems are bound to come in useful sometime...

Ill Children

We are harbouring a few germs (or a few million) at the moment, as the children are tag-teaming illnesses. The seven-year old has an on/off temperature, the three-year old and the baby are both intermittently sick, and the five-year old has a bad case of wishful thinking. (It goes something like this: My tummy feels squirly, so can I stay at home and watch a film, too?)

If mopping up vomit, anticipating toilet trips and administering Calpol weren't enough, there's the lost sleep to contend with. I'm so tired I feel like there's ground glass in my eyes, and I keep falling asleep at odd moments of the day. I'm fairly sure my immune system is revolting, too ... not in the urgh way you might assume, given the bodily fluids I'm surrounded by, but by succumbing to a force 10 cold.

So I can't even muster the energy right now to feel guilty that all my writing this week has been as wishful in execution as the five-year old's illness.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Pitfall of Reading

You'd think that, since an addiction to reading is such a vital element for anyone of a writerly persuasion, I shouldn't complain about it. After all, author after author advises, "Read, read and read some more!"

I'm happy to oblige. You might as well urge me at gunpoint to 'breathe'. But, assuming you escape the discouragement of realising  that  a/ you'll never be that good, b/ you'll never come up with any original idea, or c/ you'll never please all your readers, all the time, there's another pitfall for the reading writer.


This week I have written approximately 1, 000 words.

This week I have read approximately 20 gazillion words (mostly during my timetabled writing times. Refer to low wordcount above).

Oh, dear. I'm going to have to refrain from picking up a book for a bit...after I've read the two by my bed, that is.

Friday, 14 September 2012

The fear of a non-story

Amongst all the other ongoing projects, I was pondering my completed novel as I showered away the day yesterday. I say completed, but truthfully it's only on the third draft or so, and I lack confidence in what I've done.  At this distance, having stewed for a few months, I'm concerned about it in a few areas. The pace and strength of the storyline are issues for me.

It's so easy to pull your punches with your beloved characters. For instance, in this novel, my protaganist abducts a child. At the moment, her plans are quite vague (perhaps a reflection of my certainty in plotting?), but her intention appears to be more to draw attention than to 'get away with it'. The more I consider it, the more I think her intention should be darker, more decisive.

I'm afraid I'm creating a non-story, like the ones you find in local newspapers - "Bridge nearly closed on Thursday" - that kind of thing. I suspect that my protagonist and I both need to put some more effort into getting away with the abduction; without the courage of our convictions, she and I will not create a story that grips.

How to do this is another matter...and the thought of going back to chapter 1, page 1 and beginning rewrite number 345 (I exaggerate) makes me feel like turning my back on my poor little novel, and focusing on my new creation, instead. What a traitor!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Scattergun approach

I'm in a content little writing routine at the moment. Having the 3 year old at pre-school for three mornings is lovely, although I feel guilty about all the other things I'm shelving in favour of writing. It's not a long session, by the time I've fed Chick-pea, and tried to persuade her to sleep so that I can write, but it is something.

Meanwhile, an old opportunity to write a column regularly has resurfaced. The governors at school weren't too keen, to my deep disappointment, but there is a flicker of hope. Flatteringly, the newspaper are enthusiastic...although if I go ahead with it, I don't want to end up using all my writing time on that. But it would be good training, and improve my writing skills...not to mention helping me to produce more effective, pared down prose rather than my usual wordiness.

This week, I bought the latest Writing Magazine, which has the annual competition calendar with it. There were a couple of articles about planning your comp entries for the year, and I was intrigued by the idea of entering one competition a month.  Sounds hard, doesn't it? But I thought back to the days at school, when I used to be endlessly excited by my English homework, and realised that if I tackled a project a month as if it were an assignment, I might be able to do it. It would force me to write things that I don't, normally; it would force me to widen my writing experience; most importantly, out of my comfort zone, I would be forced to explore my creativity more fully.

As with the column opportunity, my deepest concern is whether it would dilute my energies, when I'd rather be using them on my older Work In Progress (which I can't find a name for) and the book I'm currently conceiving, which has the working title 'The Web'.

 It's just occurred to me that I've rather inaccurately used the word 'energies' as if the plural applies. I don't think I can scrape together enough energy after the school run or the teatime tantrums to make one whole energy, let alone a collective of them...

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Greenest Grass

So: the children are back at school and pre-school. The delightful hassle of having them all under my feet all week are over. For two mornings, there was just me and the baby in our little castle. Surely I had a productive and happy time, typing with one hand and casually running the vac round with the other, while rocking the baby in her chair with my foot..? Not so. I hate to burst the bubble of my own little fantasy, but it's been a tough few days.

I have done some writing on two evenings, after the blessed relief of bedtime, but generally the uncompromising routine of school has taken over my life.

The school run is more like a commute; our home lies midway between the infant school which the 5 year old goes to, and the junior school which the 7 year old just started at. The three year old is now going to pre-school for three mornings a week, and his pre-school is near the infant school, so we have to organise our route to encompass all three locations, dropping children at the right place at the right time. It's a forty minute round trip, which we're doing at least twice a day - fabulous for my weight-loss aspirations, but difficult on the three year old, especially in the afternoon when his legs 'get out of breath'.

By the time I get home, I'm about ready to collapse - I probably would, if I weren't trying to ring-fence my sleep. I'm forcing myself to go to bed at 10pm (a quick check of the clock now says I'm lying; it's ten-thirty, so I must hurry...) so I can get up at 6am - how can I squeeze writing into this day? Usually clearing up from the bedtime/teatime chaos takes until 9 or so, and then there might be ironing or emails or the need to just sit down and refrain from hyperventilating...

I've had a few panicked moments, wondering what I can cut in my life, but I'm convinced that shortly the routine will fall into place, and I'll be wandering through it with my eyes shut (especially if I keep neglecting my bedtime)....when that happens, I'll be able to get back on track with the things that are important to me. I'll be able to write in the day when the older children are out, and maybe for an hour or so a night after the sandwiches are packed and the towels picked up from the bathroom floor.

Apparently my fantasy bubble is still intact.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Making characters live

The problem with writing while the children are sleeping, which is exactly what has happened this summer, is that I'm shattered most of the time. It's classic burning the candle at both ends and I'm nearly burnt out...but happy.

I'm really enjoying working on my character biogs, with the hard work and disillusionment still ahead. Jurgen Wolff's excellent book, "Your Writing Coach" has a lot of helpful guidance at this stage of creating, and I'd recommend it if you're in need of any advice.

For me, this stage is a bit like being in love. My main character is in my mind nearly all the time; she came with me today to hang my washing out with me, and we had an interesting discussion about euthanasia (which is funny, as it's not an issue that will arise in the book, I don't think). I find myself dwelling on incidents in her past that will probably never come to light; I'm tempted to write episodes from her backstory, just to ground her in my mind. I think I dreamt of her last night. I feel like a a fictional character's life. And now it's time to move onto her husband...ha ha ha.

Love this writing lark....don't you?