Friday, 19 May 2017

The Rollercoaster Ride - Up we go...

So, today has seen a better day with the view on the old writing.  The reason for this is two fold.  The first is I decided to :

TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF OF MY SELF - I write because I love to write.  I enjoy it, I adore it.  But I was sucking all the joy out of it, worrying that I had to make something of it.  Now one thing you can be sure of with writing is you cannot guarantee to make something of it.  And if you do, it is even less of a guarantee to make you any money.  I lost sight of this.  And with this stress came the instant drain of creativity and adoration.  So, my husband had the foresight to think around this problem.  He pointed out, if I trained in something that I also enjoyed and could certainly make a career out of then I might take the pressure off of myself with the writing.  Then it would again become that thing I do because I love, not because I needed to 'be' something.  If I do make something out of it career wise then that is just a bonus.

I HAVE A WORKABLE PLOT - I quickly ascertained when I started writing my current WIP that the plot was not sustainable.  I lost words and time and to be honest I felt a bit defeated.  But, after persevering, thinking, thinking and thinking some more I sat down and reworked the plot.  I sent it to my tutor, who came back with queries and questions about plausibility and pushed me to think deeper and explain.  I did this and she came back with a big fat, yes, this is now a very plausible plot.  Start writing!

Now the firing gun has been shot.  I can crack on.  I have scheduled writing sessions and although they may not be at my optimum creativity slot I need to make them work.  I read an article in the week by Carrie Elks (see post here) that made me realise, you can't write if you are not sat down to do so, and although it might not feel like it suits, basically you just have to suck it up and do it and once you crack that pain barrier, the words will come.

Whether they turn into words that please an agent or publisher or reader is a whole other matter, and not one to be worrying about right now, all I need to worry about is writing, getting the drafts down and learning, always learning.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Epic Fail

My writing timeslot is while the children are at school.  There isn't a gnat's chance in hell it is going to get done at any other time given that at any one moment the decibel levels in my house hold could generally wager war with a Guns and Roses concert.  The good thing about this is that I actually get a set time to write, the bad thing about this is it seems to be my least creative time. 

I am quite a sleepy head.  More than that, I love my sleep.  However, my children - both of them - are not the best sleepers.  In fairness to the eldest he can't roll or reposition himself in anyway, so someone has to get up to him in the night - could you sleep in the same position all night?  No, didn't think so.  Of course, sometimes he can just be a plain little sod that won't sleep because, and I quote,

"I just don't want to ok!"

But that's by the by. 

The youngest is just plain needy at night, despite being Mr Independent on the lead up to it.  He goes off to sleep in his own bed but you are guaranteed to wake up in the morning with his foot in your back / stomach / face as he spread eagles himself across your space, leaving you balancing like a tightrope walker on two inches of what is left.  But I digress.

The point is I do not get enough sleep and what I do get is broken.  So when I get up in the morning at the crack of a sparrows fart in order to get said non-sleep loving children off to school, the energy I had has been spent by the time I return at 9.30am.  But this is the time I should be raring to go with my school work (if you are wondering why my writing is my school work see this post).  But my brain is mush, in need of coffee (decaf - had to phase the caffeine out when I realised if I had a blood test it would be pure caffeine) and food.  Even after this my energy levels and motivation are low and it is a struggle to remember my own name, let alone work out where I am going with a complicated plot.  I liken it to imagining my ideas sitting in the bottom of a large cauldron of thick, sticky porridge.  So the idea of doing a mundane task like ironing or mopping the floor or sewing on yet another round of Beaver badges (but yay - go boy!) is just easier. 

Sometimes I can fight against this, occasionally I will have had a good sleep - then woohoo its like I am sliding into 'creative world' glass of wine in one hand, chocolate bar in the other and I can bash out 5000 words like I am the champ!  Ahh they are good days.  Rare but good.  Then there are the determined days, I trudge on and can churn out a little, which I usually don't feel good about, but can salvage something out of upon closer inspection.  Some days I sit in my writing space and just stare at a blank screen while my lists of chores, phone calls, and things to do whirls around my head very loudly, drowning out any hope of creativity fighting through. 

Until about 2pm.  Then all of a sudden, I seem to click.  I can get going and go and go.  Until about 2.45pm when my alarm goes off and I have to go on the school run.  Then the spell is broken.  Sometimes I try and sneak back to the sacred space, if the boys are occupied safely, but without fail one of them will need me for something super important that absolutely, definitely can not wait like telling me WWE is touring and can we get tickets? (Unlikely - the tour is in America - cue 30 long minutes of explaining why we can't just 'go to America').    

It seems my most creative time is the evening, even without attempting to my mind starts to sort through plot holes, ideas and solutions can come from nowhere, characters can leap up and start jumping about.  All I can do is jot it down (thank god for the notes section on my phone) and hope I can get the excited feeling back when I actually have the chance to sit down.  If I can get the kids to bed and I don't feel like I am literally keeping my eyes open with matchsticks I try and handwrite some stuff, scenes or dialogue, but then I find my mind wakes up so much I can't get myself back off to sleep, which doesn't bode well with the early start the next morning. 

So I need to work this out this time / creative optimum conundrum, one way or another because an epic fail has occurred - during month three of my writing course I should have been cracking on with 10,000 words but two things collided and created a crisis :

1. Easter happened. 

Two and a half weeks of full on parenting time (which don't get me wrong was great and we had an awesome time but I don't get time to scratch my arse let alone sit down to write) but then following that I had two very busy and full on weeks which included trips to the children's hospital in London for pre-op assessments for my eldest son (an S shape spine is the latest fall out of his condition, they are looking to straighten it - yes it is as horrendous as it sounds) and agreeing to do my best friend a huge favour that I can safely say takes out half the week (but she is the best friend you could imagine and she never asks for anything).  But this meant a month without writing.  I was out of the routine (need dramatic music here).

2. I just couldn't work with my current plot.

I realised the reason I was feeling more and more reluctant to sit down and write was because I couldn't work with my plot.  So I took a few days and put myself in the maze of it, walking around trying different avenues until I found a potential way to the exit.  But that meant a whole big plot change.  

It also made most of what I had already written unusable.

I realised I was going to have to start from scratch.

Yes, this could have made me cry, but, I try and be a positive person and the silver lining is I have worked this out early on.  Being almost 20k behind is better than being 50k in and realising it - eh?  Now I know, when I want to I can bang out some words, I am a fair old typist (thanks mum - forcing me to learn to touch type on a traditional typewriter did in fact pay off, even though my bleeding fingers didn't realise it at the time) but I have to know where I am going and what I am writing.

So, although I am now effectively two months behind with school, I suppose I am further on in a way.  I have re-written my plot and resubmitted it to my tutor who is going to come back to me with her thoughts and questions.  I know I can use the first 3000 words with some tweaking and then hopefully once I get the nod from the powers that be I can crack on and hopefully the next post will be a more positive one.

If not then ....


Am Writing

The aim for month two of the Retreat West novel writing course is to get down 7,500 words.  This is a manageable target and a gentle start to the writing process.  We have been encouraged to write, in whatever way suits us.  For some it is to start at the very beginning (can't help but hear Julie Andrews sing this to me when I read it), for others you may start at the end, so you know where you want to end up going.

I wasn't sure where the hell I wanted to start, but the organiser in me said the beginning.

But I didn't know where that was.  So I had to think about the end.  Now the end I know.  I am just not sure how to start to get there.

This has caused much back and forth.  On many days, to the point of such confusion I give up.

But, our course gives us prompts for days like those.  Days when you can't get going.  You can use these prompts to help write your story, or just to get you going with some writing exercise.  Thankfully these days haven't been wasted, because I have found when I am unable to write and work on my novel these prompts have guided me into some flash fiction and short story writing.  It has been lovely, instead of thinking long term, where sometimes it feels like you are wading through treacle, you just take a sentence, or a collection of words and start writing fresh, unhindered.  Now, obviously sometimes at the end of these sessions you have written complete tosh, but other times there is a nugget of decent work, something malleable that can be developed and formed into something you are proud of.

I have, naturally, started a new folder for this stuff.  It's pink (I live in an all male house - all I have is pink so leave me alone).

I just about managed to complete my word count for the month and selected my 3000 words to send to my tutor for feedback.  I was pleased with my feedback, no matter how much you may have liked what you have written one day, at some point, usually the day after you submit it, you suddenly decide it's complete rubbish that you are going to get burned at the stake for coming up with it.  So for someone to say there is good writing there, well, it kind of lifts you up.  I need to work on the showing and not telling aspect, which is harder than it seems but essentially my teacher liked my stuff. 

Now for 10,000 words...


School days

After winning my place on the Retreat West novel writing course came the wait for it to start.  I had tried to explain to my children what I was doing and the youngest essentially thought I was going to be going back to school so that is what we call my writing work now - my school work.  It works for us.

I was excited on my first day of 'school' and after ushering the children off to their schools with more urgency than usual I eagerly awaited at the laptop, steaming cup of coffee to one side, snacks on the other, for my log in details and first section of the course to be accessed.  Armed with a lovely new shiny diary, embossed with name (a gift from my very proud husband) I jotted in my deadlines and scheduled out my week.  I joined the course networking site and waved a virtual hello to my fellow writers.

The course content for month one has been varied and intense at the same time and I was a little apprehensive.  But I have thoroughly enjoyed the work and with my new found sense of organisation I set off at great pace.  What seemed so alarmingly daunting at the beginning, taken in weekly bite size pieces via the course became manageable.  Even weeks when I haven't been able to put as much time in as I would like, as long as I get my head down for a bit to get my submission pieces written, in my head I am still working on character building (this is completely possible to do whilst; driving, cooking, vacuuming, cleaning the toilet, sorting washing, ironing and listening to ridiculously long accounts of how one wrestler beat another from a seven year old).

The course has made me really think in the mind set of my characters and various exercises have caused the whole group, according to our social chat site, to even feel uncomfortable to go so deep into the psyche of 'someone else'.  It even, dare I say it, has sometimes felt like betraying the characters, to write their inner most thoughts, secrets and desires out in black and white.  Sometimes I do have to remind myself of the following :


Upon completion of month one, I felt a sense of elation.  I looked proudly at my lever arch file (pink, of course) filling up with my work, my ideas, my sweat and toil.  And it was all so supremely organised.  All my things to do were checked off and ticked.  I have character sheets depicting, flaws, traits and personalities.  I have ideas about environment and how important it can be in setting the tone and mood.  I have learned about psychic distance and intensity and character arcs.  I have struggled (and I mean really struggled) to pull a ten point plot together.   

Now for the real hard work though.

Month two. 

Start writing.

(Again with thanks to Bridget Jones...)


Chapter one...

Okay, so this blog may have taken an inordinate amount of time to start working on since its design concept back in 2015, but I am eventually there - here?  Whatever, I am finally writing and thus the 'journey' has begun. 

In fairness I haven't been sitting around scratching my arse for the last 18 months.  I have a very hectic family life (who doesn't?) which consists of a Kevin the Teenager - my disabled son (physical disabilities aside he has no problems keeping up the moody angst of a teen), a WWE Obsessed seven year old - my wilful son (who currently has an answer for everything), and my husband who, quite frankly, should have a tachograph put on his car. 

Last year we decided (I decided) we had finally had enough of living on the outskirts of London with life passing us by at 100mph, and upped sticks and moved to a whole other country.


Where life passes us by at about 60mph.

And it rains.  A lot.

However, rainy days are the most ideal for writing so I don't mind that (my hair, on the other hand, does).

So, how have I embarked on my journey into the unknown?  Well, I saw a tweet (how often does it start with a tweet?) calling for submissions for a competition.  You had to pitch your idea (and yourself) for a chance to win a place on an 8 months novel writing course with Retreat West.  I looked at the website and decided I would like to do this course, having little faith that I could win a place, given the deadline was that evening, I thought I would perhaps pay for my spot.  Quickly determined that was out of the question and set the idea aside.

But as I basted my chicken, turned my roast potatoes and whisked up my batter mix that rainy Sunday I couldn't leave the idea set aside.  Bolstered by a glass of wine or two (ok, maybe three) I took charge of the kids (let them have their IPads) and sat down with my idea.  Zoning out the sound of a myriad of quiz show theme tunes from the eldest sons direction (he never actually lets an episode play, he just likes starting them off so you hear the same snippet of music again, and again, and again) and the roar of WWE contestants entering the ring from the youngest I started to write.

Suddenly I had a synopsis.  

I read it and sort of startled back from the table.  The idea I have had bouncing around my head for some years but a synopsis no.  Now it was there in black and white.  And that was a little bit scary.  So, naturally, I decided it was crap and I was crap and went to sort out the school uniform.  But when I returned to the kitchen it was still there, on the screen, and the deadline was approaching.  Throwing caution to the wind (by not ironing the school jumpers - daring!) I instead sat back down at the laptop to write a paragraph trying to sell myself. 

Now, it's a bit difficult to try and do that when you have been out of the workplace for a while and you no longer need to think about what makes you, well, you.  I have been wife and mum for so long that is what I usually say first about myself.  Wife and mother.  Not that it isn't a wonderful thing to be, it is, I just realised I had to think more about me.  Just me.  Then I remembered one of the key reasons I had postponed my 'writing journey' and this blog was because I started another one.  A book review blog called The Very Pink Notebook and to be honest, I am really quite proud of it.  My aim was to start writing regularly, to read immense amounts and to network and build relationships within the industry.  And that is exactly what I have been doing, was it possible I wasn't quite so crap after all? 

Armed with my synopsis and personal paragraph I plugged it all into the application and sent it off.  The next day cringing at the fact I had not done it several weeks earlier, where I could have written it and come back to it with fresh eyes etc, I decided to forget about the whole idea and next time be more prepared. 

So you can imagine my surprise when a few weeks later I received an email telling me I was in fact a joint winner and offered a place on the course.  After the elation came the realisation.

I was going to write a first draft and in the oh so eloquent manner of the fabulous Bridget Jones, all I could think was :