Saturday, December 30, 2006

Conf 292: Must Work Harder

Michael Stelzner's Top Ten Writing Blogs, Miss Snark's incredible Hook marathon and Deborah Ng's freelance writing jobs all pressing my must try harder buttons. In the Telegraph, Louise Doughty has announced her novel writing competition, first 1,000 words required. But can anybody enter?

No progress. No attempt at progress. Pipping up at parties, to the inevitable question, 'still writing then?', 'I'm just tidying up, it needs about a full week's work & it'll be there.' A full week in a dark room not speaking with or seeing anybody. Or a full week of getting up at 5am and going through to 10am. Do-able. But not quite yet. It'll have to be a week without socialising or swimming pools.

After all the festive of loafing, took daughter and her friend to Kingston pool yesterday, blissfully empty amidst the swarming sales nightmares. I decided to treat myself to a sauna & jaccuze in the Health Suite. I've never done public saunas before - I mean ones that aren't attached to squishy hotels or health clubs you have to subscribe to. And didn't give it much thought beyond ooh hot and steaming out all those toxins and cold showers and a tiny bit thinner and hot and steaming and cold showers and even thinner, well, it works for jockeys, and then all glowy and bubbly and frothy and lots of my delishing Neal's Yard smellies rubbing in and I'll be all gleaming and refreshed and ready to party. But it was all a bit, well, I go in, and there's the jacuzzi with this big black guy in it. Now, do I hop in and sit next to him? Right off Kingston High Street to leaping into a bath with a stranger? So I have a cold shower, rearrange myself and go into the sauna. Three women in there, flopping about. I join in. Silence. Lots of silence. Hotter and hotter. Cold shower. Hotter and hotter. Someone gets up to leave and says to me she's hot. When the co-ordinates have all changed I take another peek at the jacuzzi, there's 2 women and a man in there now, not as attractive as the last one. I step in and take my seat and feel really, really silly, doing all I can to keep my knees and toes to myself. Nobody's talking. This is England. We're all sitting there, just our heads showing. So unrelaxingly opposite to what it's supposed to do. So I get out & go for swim. Never Again.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, happy new year.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Conf 291: Erm

Wake up at 9. Don't feel like facing machines in small, dark rooms. It's sunny. Perfect day for riding. Go to the woods. I run. And run. And run. And walk. On the island I stand still for a very long time looking for water voles. Daughter and I set up chocolate fountain (this is back home now). Decide to wait until we're feeling more chocolatey evening timeish. Instead, we unpack pasta machine. I've never done this before, daughter shows me how. It's fun, like washing in the olden days except then you shred it all into slivers and eat it.

Later on, though, I do get a page and a half done. Rewriting. Cutting the teeny crap. Any single word that has any hint of dubiousness goes. Then I print it. Because I have the two computer thing going now. Which is going to be like having two diaries unless I keep printing. Drive to Wimbledon. Drive back home. Now I have to drive to Wimbledon again. Some days are like that.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Conf 290: Looking Busy

A mention on the intriguing visual thesaurus has made me think I'd better start looking like I'm doing something here.

Since we moved to this house I've been working downstairs, mainly because of the internet connection, and the proximity of the fridge and the garden welcome distractions. The new Apple arrived a month or so ago and the sidetracks have just got silly. I'm really itching to have the whole manuscript word perfect now, done, dusted and put away. I'm way behind schedule, unavoidables, namely work, but there are always the early hours of the day, and it's so much about getting into the rhythm of the story, the daily visits feeding on themselves, I really have to get back to that. We did move the old computer upstairs today. I've been having visions of the little room as haven, getting up at 6am and writing solidly for a few hours. The next one is snapping away, I got a sensationally wonderful, timely reference book for Christmas and I'm longing to get down to it. So - tomorrow morning, let's see. Back to the old computer, NO internet connection, NO tinkering with the google image labeller, and back to the rewrite, only the rewrite, nothing but the rewrite.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Conf 289: Super Agent Responds

Amongst the cards, a letter in the postbox. From Super Agent. My novel is fun and feisty but extremely similar to one of his books due to be published next year. Extremely? How extremely? That should really get me in the dumps. Instead I'm pleased that there really does seem to be a new corner of the market emerging. Publishers are slow on the uptake, if this genre does take off, then there's still plenty of time to get it right. Does this response make me a dumb optimist or fiercely determined?

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Conf 288: Favourite Agent Responds

A kind, friendly e-mail, prompted by my nudge yesterday. She remains interested, but non-committal. The title isn't right. Ran it past everyone in the office but there was a very negative reaction. Too negative a message, not boosty. It's very tough out there and she thinks something like an amazing title could make all the difference. SO - brainstorming sessions begin. Finding a new title isn't like rethinking the plot or character. But getting the right one is no stroll. My old friend S, as always a star, blasts back Hot or What? The Insane Ramblings of a 48 Yr Old; Shaken, Stirred and Knackered; Mature My Ass... And brainstorming superwoman pal H suggests 50 Ways to Tease Your Lover... L brings up the rear (Bringing Up the Rear?) with Ditching the Decades.

However, that's not all (That's Not All? It's Not All Over Now; All Over Now: Not). FA also thinks the novel lacks pace and focus sometimes. She still likes my writing, it's very good, she says, but the novel takes a while to get going (Get Going?). If I worked on that, she suggests, and perhaps focussed more on emotional issues than sexual ones it would be easier. I had started to see this already. The problem was as I was writing it I was so determined to stay on the commercial side of things and not get too wordy and all. But I've gone too far, and it's all gone a bit too far down the tacky route. Fixable, and better that way, adding emotion and depth is luxury. Still, enough of that, am off down the pub. MUST not talk in titles all lunchtime.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Conf 287: Woops & woods

Have taken to running in the woods again, and finally have my own digital pic thingy worked out. Just as well as we're going in for a mighty e-bay clearance in the new year. Have bought from them before but not sold. Any tips?

An e-mail in today from agent saying she couldn't open the attachment, please could I send via post. Opens up possibility other attachment to Agent 1 (of 7 weeks' waiting) didn't open either, so had to send a nudge just checking to her, which I hate doing, feels pesky and annoying.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Conf 286: The Long Haul

I always find other people's how I got published stories fascinating. Louise Doughty's Novel in a Year in this weekend's Telegraph about her many false starts as a novelist shows how tough it can be.

I've been going through a doubtful phase and Louise's story of her determination to keep going was inspiring. My trajectory, from casually enrolling in a beginner's writing class in an attempt at getting my brain back after having a baby; to writing short stories and the thrill of winning little competitions and seeing them in anthologies; to writing a novel and getting an agent after only writing 3 chapters; to getting the 6th publisher to take me on, has been fairly cushy in comparison. Thanks to the writing classes and all the friends I've met through it, also very enjoyable. Apart from the 5 rejections, which nearly finished me off, a continuous upward spiral. But then comes the slipperly slipway that most writers have to deal with at some stage or another, trying to keep onwards and upwards as agents get fewer scripts accepted; as editors have tougher marketing departments, only after the next Chantelle or Jade, to convince.

Debi Alper's report of her positive rejection (the worst of the worst kind of rejection letter) is only another confirmation of how bloody hard it is to get back out there. Dave Hill, meanwhile, has managed to get his new third novel on the rails & has been having a little ponder about the state of play - interesting comments too. Time to enrol on another course and go back to those enjoyable, stress-free hobby days maybe.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Conf 285: Nativity Negativity

Hard work, and more hard work, a positive attitude, keep on going, etc etc. But these past few weeks have not been good. Tried to shake the glums out of myself this morning, started with a pilates session, then a run through the woods, then 100 skips, then e-mailed 2 new submissions to agents before skipping off for coffee and good natter with writer mate.

Was going to wait before submitting to any new agents until I'd heard from the 2 who have the material already, but the silence just got too loud to ignore any longer. It isn't just the novel, it's other things as well, not least things like Asda ads suddenly leaping into the living room between Simpsons shows. I have only ever been into an Asda once and am not likely to go again, which is also annoying because I can't boycott them for choosing the vilest music on the planet.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Conf 284: I Join a Fan Club

It's a gloomy business, applying to agents. Thoughts that the story and my writing is good enough aren't allowed. Instead you go around feeling like a deluded idiot who's emptied the bank account into the lottery. I continue to write and enjoy writing, fitting it around workaday commitments, but the sinking feeling is hard to ignore.

The book is with 2 at the moment, Favourite Agent is into the 5th week; Superagent's second look is still in its first week. Plus 2 more responses to the 4 query e mails sent last Monday. Both saying yes, send it in, one says e-mail is fine, the other wants post. I'll do that when I've got one of the 2 rejections in. Although multi-submissions seem to be more acceptable these days, I'll keep it to a factor of 2 for now. Also received one rejection, reported last week, with a recommendation of a friend of hers to try, which was very kind. Still one shtooom no response from the agent who was so interested in novel 3. But then, on looking up the agency for new recommendation, I discover same agent is listed as a debut author. So perhaps it's not me, perhaps it's just her focus has changed. You always think it is you, though.

I've had a journalismo week, the editor has gone on maternity leave, always a writer's worst nightmare, but fortunately more work came in from her replacement. Along with reader's queries which I've never had before. And this morning I got a lovely reader's e-mail saying how useful one of my old columns was.

Have been investigating the wonders of WD40, or Water Displacement at the 40th Attempt as it shall be known in this house forever more. Have been into the garage to pick up a tin and gaze at it with renewed awe. This has to be the only cleaning gunk in the world with its own fan club.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Conf 283: Back to Notes

Once a week I have to sit in the car for half an hour outside piano lesson. I usually take whatever mss I'm working on for revision. This time I took the file of notes, the big file of notes I've made over the year. I wanted to revisit the character notes, but I didn't get as far as that. I've spent far more time on technical structure and theme and all that than I ever did for novels 1 and 2. Novel 1, none at all, just wrote out a story. This might well be the best way. Who knows? Everybody is different.

All these notes I've written I've barely looked at. I pulled out a few bits:

Chapter by chapter:

Emotions as colours.
Harmonise or clash?
Clash usefully or stupid?
One dominant emotion - grief? anger? bliss? Contentment. Melancholy. Passion.
Play these emotions like an instrument and think of overall structure as score.

(David Mitchell)

Be a camera.
Often people aren't saying what they mean.
One thought per sentence.

(Barbara Trapido)

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Conf 282: The Watching In Box....

Week 4 of waiting for agent. This morning I resubmit synopsis to those who have contacted me via e-mail re earlier drafts over the past year. This amounts to 4 agents. I therefore go into nervous tick mode for rest of day, unable to wait the 5 minutes e-mail download time. Trying to work is hopeless. Nothing comes in.

I go off to prim and preen ready for tonight's Richmond writers Christmas meal. On my return to screen, two replies in.

Agent 1 tells me she's sorry but not for her, she's been trying to sell a novel in similar vein for 2 years and the 30something editors aren't buying. She wishes me the best of luck and suggests another agent for me to try.

Agent 2 is Superagent who rejected it only months ago, but lots has changed. I say I've acted on his advice, new chapter one, new title, tightened dialogue and he wants to see it again. Hooray.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Conf 281: Back in Business

Elizabeth tells me she has the same linking problem. Now here on a Sunday afternoon, whilst I'm supposed to be writing, I can't help but fiddle with it, and finally discover it's the browser/Mac thing. So I've downloaded Firefox and all is well.

It's such a gorgeous day, sensationally sunny and golden I took my laptop (a lap, a pen, and a print-out of chapter 6) and biked along the towpath to my new spot. It worked OK, did some serious editing, nipped into The Shot Tower for a bit of tourism & came home refreshed ready to type up.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.


WH HW HW HW wwwHERE'S my linker gone?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Conf 280: Art Attack

Advent calendar for breakfast, yum.

Progressing onwards with rewrite to Chapter 5. Have also incorpoated latest synopsis changes into
final text. There aren't so many as I thought. Which is good news. Still no news from agent, though. Or
TV woman. You feel such a twat, sitting out in the void. Next week I'll do another couple
of query letters. Probably firher, explaining why I was abandoning it (oh dear, that's nearly a year ago now). Maybe if she likes
the new title enough.

I've lost my links & can't work it out. The little round button at the top has disappeared. But a strange question mark appears instead. Spooky.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.