Wednesday 29 June 2011

Day 60

Apparently it's Day 60 of MYWYN and I should be happily swimming around in 60,000 words. But I'm not. I'm paddling about in precisely 39,103 of my novel plus 2450 words of a short story. A grand total of 41,553 words since the beginning of May.

Ummm.... what happened?

Well, as I said at the start, I didn't expect to write 80,000 words for the same novel. I've never written that much. That would be akin to writing a saga, with sequels, for me - because I write very bare prose. It works well in short stories, and I've found it can work well in longer length pieces, including novels, if I plan it right and don't ever expect to sell it - because unless the font is very large and the paper very thick, it would look very slim on a Waterstone's bookshelf.

Not that it hasn't been done. I own novels that are less than 150 pages. But to manage publication I think you need to be a tried and tested author who fancies a bit of a change.

But that's beside the point. This post is to ask myself where I've been going wrong - not gone wrong, you'll notice. The challenge still has another 20 days to go, and I fully hope to get over 45,000 words. The first problem is I've done a lot of research - not too much, which is a different problem altogether. I do what I need, when I need it. But I didn't fully understand how much research I'd need to do to write maybe one or two paragraphs. This is more a problem with the planning, and not realising the full extent of the story I was hoping to tell.

The second problem is starting with a distinctive voice. It fitted the opening chapters well, but has become forced and stilted as I continue. I'm having to revise as I go along to keep the voice true. Now, I have no idea which bits are still in voice and which aren't. Hopefully that will be clearer when I read the whole thing, but I have no idea how I'll resolve it.

The third problem is simply trying to write 1000 words every day. Although, that is also the joy. I started full of hope and expectation. But life does get in the way. A child is off sick from school for a day. Suddenly the house looks as though it's never been cleaned. All the clothes in the world need washing. A husband changes jobs and is around the house all the time. (Admittedly - in case he reads this - we've been able to keep out of each other's way quite well, but sometimes it's nice to go out for lunch, or have a coffee, or go to the DIY shop, or do DIY or...)

So, the problems have all been my own fault, to some extent. Not terminal, but certainly something I can learn from.

Well, now that's sorted, I'll get back to it. See you in 20,000 words (-ish)!

Sunday 26 June 2011

The Ideas Fairy

I haven't spent much of my blogging time talking about the process of writing, and a lot of time talking about me writing. There are a couple of reasons for this, predominantly most of my early followers are my friends (coerced here from Facebook), and most of my friends are not writers so the process wouldn't be that interesting to them.

Another reason is the fact that I don't think there's much I can say about writing that would add to the myriad of more competent and professional writers. I am not a professional, although I long to be so. Maybe my blog just doesn't have a place on the interwebby thing, but - tough! - I'm enjoying myself :-)

Today I've been thinking about where ideas for stories come from. I remember years ago reading someone (and I have no idea if this was a writer, publisher, agent or interested other) say that the majority of first novels are autobiograpical. (I think, in this context, majority implied all). I've written 3 complete novels, and I'm half-way through a fourth - all unpublished, it goes without saying. None of them have been autobiographical. I'm reasonably proud to think I haven't fallen into the first-time author trap.

So, if not autobiographical, where have my ideas come from? Mostly from what-if scenarios. From a young age my imagination was very active. I remember wondering what would happen if my dad didn't come home from work, if a plane crashed into my garden, if I discovered a long-lost cousin was the singer for the latest boy band. That last one turned into my first novel, as I mentioned briefly in the comments of this post.

I used to lie in bed at night trying not to have these thoughts, especially the ones about family members dying horrible deaths. I thought I'd tempt fate - my mother was always talking about tempting fate, and this seemed exactly what I was doing. Over the years, I've figured out I'm not likely to cause the end of the world as I know it by having a few daydreams, but it's still one of my most lucrative sources of ideas!

Monday 20 June 2011

Memories of writing, part 2

So, from having a lovely desk in a freezing cold flat, we bought a house (after several months back at home with my parents), and we had babies. I put my desk in the second bedroom, amongst all the boxes that never seemed to get unpacked from the move, but I didn't write for months, possibly years. I missed writing, but not that much - certainly not as much as I would miss it now. I suppose I was just too busy changing nappies.

And then, finally, I ended up in my beautiful study, with grass green walls, 2 pictures of flowers on the walls, shelves, books, a three-drawer filing cabinet and - best of all - my large beech corner desk from Ikea. I loved decorating it; I loved buying all the accessories like bins and an in-tray!

I hide away in there, I close the door and waste time on the Internet and play Sudoku... But inbetween that, I write reasonably prolifically. More prolific since I gave up a job in a library, working Monday-Friday, and became a fitness instructor. I now have the ultimate luxury of at least 2 clear days every week just for writing! I put on music - still Aerosmith and Meat Loaf, but also a lot of new music, and without having to change it around every 45 minutes.

I'm now practising writing on my lap. I'm writing this on my lap whilst also watching Simon Schama on the Hay Sessions which I recorded. It's warmer down here in the living room. It's lighter. It's closer to the kitchen. I'll be able to interact with my kids more; although they might not like that when I ban endless repeats of I'm in the Band. I'll also get a lot more distracted by the housework, mostly because I'll be able to see it needs doing.

But, I guess, that's the point of this post and the previous one: I adapt, people adapt, life adapts around us.

Sunday 19 June 2011

Memories of writing

I've started on the path to losing my study: I've bought a laptop. Soon we'll buy a new bed, decorate and install my eldest child in the room that has seen two and a half novels and countless short stories written. I know I've been lucky to have kept hold of this room for so long, but it's still sad to see it go.

The imminent transition to writing on my lap got me thinking about all the places I've written since I started writing.

First I wrote on my bed when I was thirteen or fourteen. I shared a room with my sister and I had the bottom bunk which meant I wrote hunched over and in semi-darkness. I listened to albums copied on to 90mins tapes, an album on each side, dodgy sound. I remember listening to a Poison/Meat Loaf combo, and an Alice Cooper/Aerosmith one. Over and over, turning the tape rather than putting in a new one. The height of technology came when I got a double tape player, which meant one would roll seemlessly into the other, then I could turn them both over.

My mum had an old electric typewriter, which I attempted and failed to use. I spent an awful lot of time Tipp-Exing letters out.

Around that time, my dad bought a printer. We'd always had computers (Vic 20, Commodore 64, anyone?) but finally we acquired a word processing programme and a printer. The printer, however, was a graphics-only one. It only had a certain number of dots, and they didn't go below the line of normal text - so the tails of the 'y's, 'j's and 'g's sat on top of the line.

That printer was replaced, and finally I had manuscripts I could professionally send out! Yay! Cue first sale, and second sale, happy writer... then a bit of a lull.

When I moved into my flat with my now-husband and a friend, I commandeered part of the living room for a brand new black-ash desk. I don't feel bad about taking up a large part of the room, because it was the coldest place in the whole flat. The room itself was so cold I was convinced there was a ghost (add that to the fact that our clocks never kept time, ghosts were a sensible explanation), but also my desk was against the wall that backed on to the communal - and unheated - stairwell. I would often be found writing dressed in my coat and a long red scarf. Cue, despite the frozen fingers, a couple more sales, a happy writer... and then nothing...

Next time... Moving into my current house!

Sunday 12 June 2011

The fun of research

Or in my case, the fun of choosing a subject you don't have to research. Alas, I have to research, and it's hurting my brain.

To recap a little: my current WIP that I'm writing for the 80,000 in 80 days challenge is heavily influenced by the characters' reaction to the news. Fine. Except, I need to go back to 2004. I'm currently trying to find out what happened in late 2007, early 2008. But, and this makes it worse, just the bad bits. I can find lots of news, but I need devastating news. (I know this doesn't sound like the most optimistic novel you'll ever read, but I'm sure there are more depressing ones out there.) I find myself disappointed when all that happened was an election or a state visit.

I normally don't research. I think I've mentioned this before. My characters all live in a tiny bubble for the duration of the novel/short story without any outside influence. This, I decided, probably makes them very 2-dimensional; and I wanted to fix it and make the characters in my new novel more rounded. The problem with this remit for research is it's so broad. Usually - I suspect, having never done it - writers research how to blow glass because a character is a glass blower. Or when a particular flower blossoms, so they don't confuse their seasons.

Researching everything that has happened in the course of a five year period is overwhelming to say the least. I'm starting to think my normal avoidance of the outside world is much more preferable.

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Back into the swing of things

I know when it's time to update my blog, because my meagre traffic reduces to zilch, zero. This has almost happened again, therefore I post now.

I say almost because, for some reason that I have never managed to fathom, this post about spelling  is the most popular. It has, since it was written had about 70 views (which for this blog is quite a lot). This week, it's had hits from Iran, Norway and USA. All from Google. So there must be a search term people are using to get sent my way, but I can't work it out. Maybe you can suggest why...?

So, yes, this post is called Back into the swing of things because I've had a week off with my kids for half-term, and - and - the 6 weeks holiday is upon me in seven weeks' time, I was reliably informed by a friend.

That gives me seven weeks to get the rest of my novel written (there's another 40 days to go on that), read and polish three novellas that I'm hopefully submitting in August time, and enter six competitions - therefore readinh and polishing those six short stories, or writing new ones.

Three, two, one... go!!!!