Monday, February 27, 2006

Conf 152: Chapter One Again

No. of words: 64,745

Yesterday's go at starting all over again was fairly successful. This morning, still scared of not being able to do it any more, I got into it at 8.30, foregoing morning run and breakfast for a couple of hours. This seemed to work quite well. Had end of the month domestic bills to sort out, and partner hovering around computer trying to make colour printer work for ages, so all in all quite happy with progress today.

Hopefully this next draft will SOMETIMES be a tiny bit pleasurable as I bin every word that isn't doing anything constructive and tighten the rhythm.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Conf 151: Procrastination

It's a sunny Sunday afternoon. Partner and daughter have gone to ice cream bar in Richmond then to a movie. I am stopping back to GET GOING on chapter 1 rewrite (well, it's only Chicken Little. If Brokeback Mountain had been on at same time would have gone).

Procrastinating looking up procrastinating websites NOT a good way to start. Or will it help?

I must...(or) have to...(OR something awful will happen) NOT Where is the best place to start?

I'd like to...(or) choose to... NOT I must do well (fantastic, perfect).
I've gotta finish...NOT I'll do okay; I'll give it time.
Oh, God, this assignment is enormous.NOT When can I get started on...
I have no time to play. NOT It is important to play one hour.
I see life and work as a grind. NOT Life and work can be fun.
I can't succeed. NOT I have a better chance of succeeding if I...

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Conf 150: Mid-Winter Mini Break

When it's cold and snowy and windy and your ancient car has to go in for its annual MOT check, the only thing to do is drink coffee with good friends, eat chocolate, lighten up and sing a little. Now for a whisky soda...

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Conf 149: The End

No. of words: 63,707

As if, not really.

As much as it would be lovely to reach that wonderful state of complete completion of the first draft. It's not going to happen. After a day of timewasting today, trying to nail the last couple of chapters, have decided it's time to go right back to the beginning. Prepare the next draft and go at the ending with a run. I'm abandoning my wordcountfest to get down to some seriously serious final nailing of the characters. And then it's all in from C1 for the fine-tuning.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Conf 148: Bye Bye Sybille

No. of words: 63,562

My stomach did a great big lurch when I got to the obits page of yesterday's paper today. Sybille Bedford has been and gone and died. I've been a fan every since my friend Jean bought me Jigsaw as a birthday present. I was in Italy on my own at the time, and literally didn't put it down. I went around Rome totally in the South of France.

I've written here before about how I have been one of her stalkers. She's the only author I've ever written to c/o their publisher. She didn't only reply, in shaky handwriting on green paper, she rang me up! which came as a shock. We had a long conversation about writing & I'll never forget her saying to me "you're a writer now", very bossily when I kind of crept around the possibilities of making a documentary about her. We had been to visit the setting of Jigsaw in the South of France, Sanary-sur-Mer, and I wanted to know where the villa she lived in with her mother and Alessandro was. We returned for a holiday the following year, it's a very pretty place, and I happily set off in the mornings on my Sybille trails, delighted to find so much that was in the book still there: the old cinema, the Café Marine Bar, Les Cypres, her house (without her directions I'd never have found it), even the chemist shop by the mayor's office where she bought her mother's morphine as a child. Also, La Pacifique, the Le Corbusier home of her glam idols, the Desmirals (named, she told me on the phone, after a wine) just down the road from her villa. She hadn't told me that this still existed, so it came as a wonderful surprise to find it. And a typically Sybillian thing to leave something like that for me to discover on my own.

I did pursue the doc idea and put it to Roly Keating, then controller of BBC4, who we happened to bump into in a French market on the same trip. He said he'd look into it, but he never got back. I hope he's kicking himself now. Though maybe it should be me kicking myself ("you're a writer now" - maybe not.)

I like the last para of the Telegraph obit:

"She refused to be swayed by fashion or to pander to popular appeal: "No one," she once said, "has ever done anything worth doing who thought about the reader."

Hmm, trouble is you can't not think of the agent and the publisher first or there won't be any reader not to think about.

As my friend, Jacqui Lofthouse, also a fan and who interviewed her years ago, said in an e mail today: 'Isn't it amazing, how a really wonderful writer touches lives?'

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Conf 147: Hijacked

No. of words: 61,732

Racing towards the end now. Aim to get up to 70,000 by end of this week, and 80,000 & THE END by end of next week. This will NOT be the final draft by a long shot, not for the second half of the novel anyway, but all the scenes should be in place. This is ambitious, but if I write that here, it might make me stick to it more. I can then go back to the beginning and strengthen the characterisations all the way through for each person, at the same time refining the prose. Then there might be something. Or there might be nothing.

Handy Hi-jack Hint of the Day:

Having done my word quota today, I stopped for lunch & settled down to read a friend's MS about how he was hi-jacked on a Pan Am jet in the 1980s. He was taken out front and had a gun pointing to his head for 12 hours, totally sure he was going to die. 21 of his fellow passengers & crew were killed. It makes harrowing reading. Adopting the muslim prayer position probably saved him.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Conf 146: Fonting Around

No. of words: 58,485
Amazon Bingo: -1

Have stopped checking my books on Amazon so regularly, being as there haven't been any new ones for so long. Had a peek today, though, & the 2 novels nearly hit the bingo mark, just one Amazon point away from each other.

Got some more work from Guardian a couple of days ago. This should have been cheering but in present mode of utter lack of confidence, the first thought of course was I CAN'T DO THIS! However, I did, and it's gone, and no 'what is this rubbish?' feedback yet. Will wait a few days before putting invoice in, just in case am in for the chop. Confidence, really, it's all so much about confidence.

Worked on hard copy of novel at friend's house today, babysitting for her younger kids while she took the older ones to a pasta tasting. I changed the font from l4 point back to my normal 12 point before printing, and this may have done it, as whizzed off 1,000 words this evening. Let's hope so.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Conf 145: Time is Passing

No. of words: 57,408

Time is passing, the words are not building, ARGH.

This is not writer's block, because I don't believe in writer's block. It's flu and work. I finish one batch of work, a new batch arrives. This is good. This is normal. Tomorrow will send work and continue with novel. This is not writer's block, because I don't believe in writer's block. This is flu and work. I finish one...

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Conf 144: Valentines Treats

No of words: 56,943

Apologies for absence. Worst flu ever and the need to work for living has kept me from all writing activity. Then this week it's half term. Today, daughter and I took partner on ride on The London Eye as his Valentines treat. It was going to be a surprise, then I thought I'd better tell him way in advance so he could get his cameras ready. Taking a photographer on the London Eye when he hasn't got his cameras with him would be long, slow, lethal torture. As it was he took 3 cameras, & was eyeing up my bag for a possible 4th... I got quite wobbly knee'd about my life long association with London as it spread itself below us.

Am still not back to 100%, most people I know are suffering from the gloom and glum of an endless run of grey winter days. For me, topped by non response from agent, still, and the whole miserable lot of a wannabe writer. In the depths of all that flu-dom misery, partner turned up with MY Valentines present, a guitar! Real unexpected out of the blue biggie pressie stuff & restored faith that good stuff still does happen.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Conf 143: Culling

No. of words: 56,643

Have got flu. Took temperature this morning & it was 95.5, what does low temperature mean? Looked up NHS direct: Hypothermia or Anorexia (HA HA no WAY! said partner rudely). Then measured his temperature, and his was low too, so we chucked the thermometer in the bin. Sleepless feverish night. Today is a gorgeous blue skies day, have been lying down upstairs with strange memory flashes back to childhood home & the time back in pre-history when partner & I met. Think this is more to do with weather than fever, one of those gorgeous new-skies days full of atmosphere.

Am not writing today. Yesterday did some editing. Lots of editing to do, can probably lose about 10,000 words. Agent has had flu too, but said she'd be back to me in the next few days. This doesn't make me feel any better at all. Serves me right for sending it out too soon.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, February 06, 2006


No. of words: 57,790

We had the first parakeet our new bird/squirrel table yesterday. They're as common as robins in west London these days, but tend to stay way up in the trees screeching to each other. Friends who visit from out of London are totally amazed when they first see them, as we were to see one so close up. Seems they've been around for a long time, and the first may have been released by Jimi Hendrix!

French people also find the grey squirrel an exotic sight, which always makes English people fall about laughing, because they're as ubiquitous as the London pigeon. France still has the native reds, which we would go equally potty about if we ever caught sight of one. The greys have driven our native reds to near extinction, so much so there's going to be a nationwide cull. We have 2 permanent residents to outwit here (ref. bird table), people either think they're cute or rats with bushy tails. We think they're cute, but it is annoying the way they eat the bird table up so fast sometimes. Partner is going to try putting vaselene on the pole to stop them climbing up.

Did some writing over the weekend. Today daughter's off school with cold so have to go and do something creative with her now before her eyes go square. I'm working for 2 days from tomorrow, since saying I'd get novel finished, realised I can't let the contact go and have to keep my face in there as it's a lifeline at the moment. Today I also e mailed other agent, as she's had material nearly a month now, tricky one this, to pesker or not pesker, but there's a chance it got caught up in the slush pile or waste bin as she works for a big agency. I didn't enclose an SAE because I know she'd e mail if she were interested but the post openers might not have realised it was requested material - oh anyone who's ever submitted anything will know the crack. Went for polite but distant tone.

Dear V,

Sorry to pester, but as this was sent several weeks ago now just wanted to check it got into your system OK.



Who drives the scene, motivates it and makes it happen? Person or act of nature or inanimate object?

Look into text and subtext of this character or force. What does he (it) want? Desire is always the key. Phrase this desire as an infinitive, such as ‘to do this or ‘to get that’.

What force of antagonism blocks this desire?

What do the forces of antagonism want? Express as infinitive ‘not to do that’ ‘to get this instead’.

B: Identify the value at stake in the scene and note its charge. Positive or negative. Eg. “freedom”

C: Break the scene into beats:

First action – outwardly what character seems to be doing. And more important, beneath to what is actually doing. NAME the subtext action eg. Begging, grovelling, pleading.
Try and find phrases that not only indicate action, but touch the feelings of the character.
Not describing character activity in literal terms, they go deeper to name the character’s essential action with emotive connotation.
Now look across the scene to see what action that action brought and describe reaction with an active phrase eg ‘Ignoring the plea.’

D: Note closing value and compare with opening value. Examine value-charged condition of the character’s situation and describe it in postivie/negative terms. If same as at beginning NON EVENT! IF value has changed the scene has turned.

(mostly from Story by Robert McKee I think, though why it goes C D I don't know....)

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Conf 141: FEAR

No. of words: 55, 395

Am still procrastinating, but not so desperately, and far more productively I feel.

My friend J from my writing group bought me this great birthday gift

and this morning, when I'd completed the chapter by chapter breakdown of the central section of the book, I had a little play with it before getting on the computer. I ended up on 'Fear' and spent some time doing some character building which each of my main peoples' fears. They are becoming clearer, my characters, clear enough now for me to want to hear their distinct voices as they talk, so I did a bit of speech pattern as well.

From Observation Deck I like this, from one of my all time favourite writers, John Steinbeck: 'Say it aloud as you write it - only then will you have the sound of speech.'

Talking of fear, a bank statement arrived today. Always good for concentration of the mind. Thanks to PLR the scene isn't too bleak. I aim now for the final run at it, and will finish this novel before taking in any more work.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Conf 140: SNOW

No. of words: 54,166

It was snowing this morning. Big fat flakes falling down outside bedroom window. For once, daughter leapt out of bed. Wondered how many days could get away with this until she cottoned on. It didn't settle, rarely does in these parts, but skid factor good excuse not to go running or biking. Also, wanted to get some words in so I didn't feel guilty schlepping off for tea & chat with writer friend in her riverside apartment.

Printed up the entire middle section today and put it in a folder so that I can examine each chapter before I rewrite it and make sure THINGS ARE HAPPENING! The underlying themes continue to multiply so it really would be daft for me to send it out again at this stage.

We're going to the theatre tomorrow, to the National to see the Coram Boy. This is Christmas treat outing, which was completely booked until now. Having just read this review - better take hankies.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.