Thursday, January 25, 2007


Yesterday afternoon I discovered the opening chapters could not be edited down any more. The rewritten, shortened synopsis was complete. Time to start selling.

I've almost given up hope on Favourite Agent. Although she hasn't said no, she's still being reticent so time to move on. I had the name of an agent another had referred to, and the name of an agent at an agency some friends were at. So I went to Everyonewhosanyone for their e-mail addresses. Scrolling down I found a friendly note from an agent saying she welcomed e-mail submissions. I wrote a query e-mail, pasted the synopsis and off it went to 4 agents. Two replied immediately, the first saying it sounded interesting and to send the first 3 chapters, preferably hard copy. The other (from e-mail friendly discovery) said it sounded really interesting and could I e-mail the whole novel.

Slight problem. I said I was nearing the end of the final draft but I'm not actually there yet. So I wrote back and said I had a bit more work to do and would get it straight off to her as soon as it's done. She e-mailed back again and said thanks, she's looking forward to it. So now it's full steam till the end. In between clearing up outstanding Guardian pieces today, I spread all the chapters out in hard copy and clipped a page to the front of each. I've been through the synopsis in detail, marking up each chapter with additional bits that aren't there yet. I've been through each and every character and nailed their speech patterns and made a master-page of notes. Now it's through to the end. See you on the other side.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Conf 303: MY DESK

Kate put out a call for us to fess up our desks, so here's me:

The hyacinth is now an ex-hyacinth (do you keep the bulbs? I don't bother any more we move house so often). Freebie newspaper poster and CD have also been binned (can never bring myself to do it immediately). The letter is from the rugby people, telling me I've got tickets in the residents' ballot for the England vs Scotland 6 Nations game (but it's still £55 a ticket! I'd love to go to a match, just to see what it's like, but quite out of the question at the moment). I did think about putting them on e-bay, but you're not supposed to transfer them, and am such a wimp I'd just live in permanent fear of being found out. The little telly I use for my post-production work (which has gone very quiet for nearly 2 weeks now, if it weren't for PLR and having a novel to finish I'd be panicing). Screensaver is daughter, put up by herself.

And here's the exercise yard. Erm, those shoes, OK - skipping shoes. They are not allowed out of the front door under any circumstances. The chair is from a junk shop in Brentford and badly needs replacing, cushion has to be scrunched up into small of back to avoid twanging spine.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Year 8 English homework, make up a proverb:

(it says: A book is like a butterfly, you don't experience its glory till it spreads its wings.)

A South American interruption this morning as old Venezuelan pal drops into London via a vodka-tasting in Poland. She used to work on a fashion magazine but now has her own travel mag - managing to get ritzy vodka commissions. She spent 3 days Warsaw-side, downing the white stuff day and night. Here I was today, all ready for a day at the screen, too. As this isn't Poland it was bagels and coffee and then to the shops with us. Her desired destination - Borders, for calendars. The last time I went to shops that didn't sell food was Christmas. Turned out to be good idea, as all down to £2. I had to choose between Pirates of the Caribbean II (for daughter), Kylie (for partner) and old photos of London (for me). I could have bought all of them but then would have been in 3 diary hell for rest of year, and the profit-margin shrunken. Not what I was expecting to be doing today. We talked about partner and I possibly doing some articles for her, based around his lifetime of photojournalism pics.

I have been rewriting the synopsis as I may as well start sending it out again now. The rest of the rewrite will speed up. Deadlines are difficult when there are unavoidable interruptions, but I think I'll have a crack at revising a chapter a day, until I get to the end, and then close-edit those chapters. I need to feel progress. It's so difficult when there's no editor, no agent, no feedback, and you're only concentrating on the parts of your writing that you don't like. The feeling you're doing something so pointless that nobody's going to want to read anyhow is heightened. But there we go, onwards and onwards. Writing group tonight. Dare I read?

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Conf 301: MINUS 200

A bit of a minus day today. Daughter was going to youth club with 2 friends tonight, but after one pulled, she decided to pull, and the parent of the third is well miffed that telly has been chosen over social interaction. Of course she's right, but I reckon the club will be empty anyway.

Yet another day on the first 3 chapters. The re-reading was down to just one alteration here and there, and I have finally, finally, FINALLY done it. The first 3 chapters that is. I shall now be going on to the synopsis to put in the small but significant changes to the storyline I made outside guitar lesson yesterday.

I've been using a couple of new working titles and decided to test them on Favourite Agent and tell her a new version was now available. I wasn't sure, but I HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE, and a writer friend continues to tell me she thinks this is the agent for me. So I did. And she replied straight away with an 'Ooooooh I don't think so....' Doesn't think there should be a 50 in the title. It's not a sexy age, which is one of the main points of the story. Though she was as friendly as ever, and, most importantly, didn't tell me to f off and never darken her in-box again, I did have a sad and lonely THIS IS SO F-ING HARRD! moment. This is only one agent, I know. I just have to keep on getting on with it.

The Guardian has sent me double the number of commissions this month, which is great. That'll be the next thing to do after the synopsis.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Gloomy days. Concentrating on digging out the wrong writing means I've been swilling around in my own waste for days now. The printer is chugging away now, churning out what I hope and trust will be the final drafts of chapters 1 and 2. It's been heavy going. Each time I print I think that's it, then I read and find more to change. I took the main structure/character file with me for a quick half-hour's reading whilst I waited outside guitar lesson yesterday, and went back to the bigger picture. So much of the story thread seemed to slot into place, it was extraordinary, like it was waiting to happen. This from a Martin Amis Q & A in the Independent on Monday:

Writing is less mental and more physiological than is generally understood - decisions and calculations, matters of reason, hardly ever come into it. It took me years to find out how true this is. When I was younger, I would come up against a difficulty in the narrative and I would beat my head against it for hours and days at a time. now I feel prompted to leave my desk and pick up a book; and I don't return to my desk until my legs take me there, and I find that the difficulty has been resolved. Your unconscious does it. Your unconscious does it all.

A A Gill is thinking of compiling a short volume of best/worst/vainest web pages and has kicked off with his vain vote going to this anthology writer.

As well as eliminating the wrong words, I'm concentrating mainly on emotion and character in the detail. John Baker's Learning to Write XVIII yesterday was about characterisation.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Telling a writer friend about superagent's warm rejection letter the other day, she thinks there are enough positives in it (fun and feisty; simply haven't got room on my list for it; extremely similar to a book I have coming out next year) for me to attach a copy of his rejection to the next submission! i.e. because he took the time to read it, which is usually done by minonette of the minion, gives proof that there is definitely a market emerging for this kind of stuff... am not sure, but will give it some thought.

My new system worked well this morning, with me locked away in the little room and daughter free to carry on editing her movie down here (premiere tomorrow so time is pressing). But what was I saying about rhythm and style yesterday? Buff. Have just come across a load of epic rubbish - and this all the submitted work as well.

There's something very comforting reading about Louise Doughty's miseries of kicking off and her procrastinations into chocolate and caffene.

Lots of 'on writing' pieces around at the moment. Fiction Bitch has a summary of The Guardian's Zadie Smith interview; The Paris Review interviews have just come out in book form, but there are lots of wonderful ones online already, some interviews are there in full, others just a tantalising paragraph, but including their original MS's. Loved this snipped from the Hemingway interview in the paper this morning:

Q: Why did you have to rewrite the last page of A Farewell to Arms 39 times? What was it that stumped you?

Hemingway: Getting the words right.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Reasonably successful start. But it's only Chapter 1, which I'd rewritten to pieces anyway. It's extraordinary how, going back to it yesterday, after about a month away, I managed to find so much to change/delete.

Writing novels is about bouncing between the big structure/story/character picture and the tiny comma versus full stop picture. Mine, at the moment, has become so tiny it's almost abstract. I'm taking each printed page in isolation and studying it. If anything even hints at a jolt or a jar, it's out, if any tiny phrase can be simplified, it's simplified. Then I type up the corrections for that page, reprint and put it in the folder. Why didn't I do this last time? I think the last fine-edit was more to do with the flow and rhythm. I only have to do this another 256 times and I'm done.

The internetless old computer strategy is working, almost. 2 games of Free Cell and a quick dive downstairs to check e-mails just the once.

Am considering dropping Big Brother and disappearing up to my room for the hour. Last night was such total rubbish. I couldn't understand the mass Jackiey adoration after she'd been so evil to Shilpa, and now, it seems, pathetic Jack is going to take over the bullying. The show has got me cooking macrobiotic again, though, after I looked up Dirk Benedict's
book, and last night made an old favourite from my Practically Macrobiotic Cookbook, wholegrain rice salad with melon, apple, celery, carrot dressed with apple juice. Yum. Just had it for lunch too. So Big Brother can be good for you. I doubt I'll be able to stay away from the gloating if companion to the Beatles and the Stones Leo goes tonight, either. Whoa! He's gone already. What a shambles.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Conf 297: Starts Where?

It's lunchtime and I have yet to start filling my little wordcount tube. So far coffee & muffins at D's and a quick nip into Tesco on the way back, but I still have 5 hours because daughter's going to a friend's after school.

Everything is printed and ready, new notes have been gathered, and, upstairs on scrap of paper beside the bed, some new thoughts ready to fire off on. Good Sign. But. Big Decision. Which computer? The old internetless rustbucket upstairs in spare room/my study/daughter's study/partner's dressing room; or beloved new iMac down here next to two fridges full of nourishing and a garden to skip in? It has to be upstairs, I know. Then I can go deep into the night and early mornings and not go leaping off to e-mail every time the postage stamp thingy down below lights up.

Last night did some research into mag, onlinezine editors. Am going to try and expand on my journalese side. This will bring in a mountain of ignores and rejections, but perhaps one will stick. Timing and luck, if they happen to be looking for the sort of content I can offer at the time, unlikely but not impossible. The Guardian came from such a trawl and that's been going a few years now. Discovered a new Writers and Artists UK writing competition on the way. The rules don't dismiss you if you've been published before.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Conf 297: The Final Draft Starts Here

After a run of the blackest, lowest rainiest days, the sun is out and it feels sensational, the first hint of spring and am feeling this may be my favourite time of the year, ever. I've been out for a walk and done some posting stuff, annoyed now, because I forgot the new Beatles stamps were out & instead bought a strip of dreary old queens.

The work work is done, dusted and sent. Lots of street talk, I made some notes:

Go out and tear it up
Dog rough
Can't be assed
I like his trainers, I've got them in black
On the same page as (American)
Oh what the fuck
I've kicked off a few times
You know what? (may use this as repeat speech pattern for R)
a bit of a nonce, like
A bit random
f-ed off
well wrong stuff

The decks are now clear to begin again on the final rewrite.

I'm so tempted to take a day out before I begin, because this time it's really going to be head down stuff, once I've started I'm going to nail the rewriting through to the end. As I've said many times before, stopping the work in progress is lethal. It takes me so long to psyche up again. I want to see In the Darkest Hour there May be Light at the Serpentine before it closes. But it wouldn't feel right, scampering into town. Would quite like to take daughter, too, so perhaps at the weekend.

Enough. My lovely new counterthing over there, looking all virginal and empty, is starting to haunt me already.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Conf 296: BLOW ME DOWN

I left the PLR envelope in the mailbox all morning, preferring not to know, and just got on with the script work.

It arrived with another letter, a form-like rejection slip from submission 3 (of 4, leaving one reply outstanding). The first pre-printed no feedback, no acknowledgement rejection I've had for a long, long time. Fortunately it barely registered and went straight in the bin as I continued to stare, unbelievingly, at my statement.

Novel 1 4086 loans £244.34
Novel 2 6214 loans £371.60
Non Fiction 1 755 loans £45.15
Non Fiction 2 957 loans £57.23

Good news I can barely believe. The paperback novels were published in 2003 and 2004 , I was convinced they'd have been withdrawn from the library shelves by now. Hopefully the 007 turnaround begins. Yesterday I went to the shops and bought things. A hyacinth, some fish food, a book (Lisa Jewell's One Hit Wonder) and, from same charity shop, a pair of Enorme, lined powder blue velvet curtains.

I looked at the opening chapters of the novel yesterday evening, considering whether to read something or not at the workshop. So much to improve and decided against. Looking forward to getting at it. If I don't hand over the dosh to partner for rent, as I did last year, the PLR will buy me enough time to finish, I should give myself a deadline. Kate Harrison and Lucy Diamond have set up a wordcount race which anybody can join. Good motivation for first drafts but it'd only give me the jitters. I might download the little thermometer-like countdown thingy, though, and might get hooked on watching it fill itself up.

Minimal problems compared to some, this e-mail in just now from old friends in Venezuela.

......As for us here, I am afraid Chavez is with us for a long time now. It is
really awful, since the consequences of his reelection will be seen in the
future. Several things concurred for his winning, but basically giving away
money in gross amounts, and tampering (right word?) with the electoral
register. I know I have told you so many times things will only get worse,
and here we are, but I still firmly believe that Chavez is destroying our
country. As a result from the elections, he is well anchored, so we are
expecting acceleration of his authoritarism. A few days ago he just
announced the closure of an opposing TV station. Uncertain future I am

Their son has left to live in the US and their daughter will follow.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Conf 295: PLR DAY

It's PLR day today, every author's city bonus-type day when the letter arrives telling us how much we've earned from library lendings over the year. Last year I got the biggest shock when I opened my envelope to discover a much larger divi than I'd ever imagined - £800-odd compared to the fifty quid (if I was lucky) I was genuinely expecting. Second shock was it came from obscure 2nd novel of all things. Now, of course, this year I'm thinking naaah it won't be anything, I've had no new books out after all. The novels will have been withdrawn, they were paperbacks, and I really will be lucky to get enough for one month's rates. BUT goes the hope bit, on the other hand, the 2 non-fictions have come into play, and they have to be worth something, but not as much, not nearly as much, naah. But something? Tsss.

Am up fairly early for a Saturday, wanting to get some work work done before the day kicks into fragments of taking down the Christmas decorations; cleaning out the fish; bacon, egg & marmalade toast brunch flop with the papers; catching up on Big Brother (Donny has escaped. And didn't Jade look good?). I was disappointed with the line-up at first, esp with twitty facsimile Donny. I was hoping for the rumoured Derek Acorah or Jeffrey Archer, but already this lot are starting to take hold. The Indian actress is my favourite at the moment.

It's our first writer's workshop meeting of the year on Monday. So looking forward to seeing everybody. I still don't feel confident enough with Chapter 6 to put it to the read out loud test. Was thinking I would probably use my 10 minute slot to discuss titles. I woke up this morning with one I am so very excited about, I really think it might be the one. Have Googled it and Amazoned it and nobody's nabbed it yet. Unlike last favourite, Fear of Fifty, which a certain Erica Jong collared many years ago. Question is, if it gets the thumbs up from the girls, do I send yet another e-mail to Favourite Agent who didn't like the last title? Or do I accept she's not going to take it? 'I remain interested but not committed,' were her parting words. Adding, 'Apologies.' The first bit sounds positive, the second bit doesn't.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Conf 294: Grumpy Writers

Susan Hill has been complaining about complaining writers. I hope she doesn't mean me. She probably does. Thought I'd better say that it wasn't the writing that made 2006 bad, but other stuff. It was one of those years where everything seemed to simply be getting progressively worse, that's how it's been. I've not written about it here because it's to do with other people and I do try hard not to winge. I'm such a bloody optimist I'm even thinking now that the pit of the trough must have been reached and any moment now there'll be a turn for the better.

Meantime back to normal days. Lots of work has come in which is, as always, great for the survival prospects and puts the writing on hold for a little longer. It's comedy, though, the best of Fools and Horses, which means I'm getting to examine the genius of John Sullivan's writing at close quarters and laughing out loud every so often. Just what's needed.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Conf 293: Success for 2007

About half way through the clear-up, from daughter's cameraphone.

The last hour of 2006 saw much of the year begone sensationally symbolised when our chocolate fountain exploded. At about 11.15pm hot, liquid chocolate spat far and wide as the machine suddenly went berserkly out of control and started spinning, like the Dr Who Christmas Tree, someone said, the top twizzler thing screwing upwards - spurting the brown stuff onto clothes, walls, every kitchen surface, burning and sizzling the cooker hob, inside the toaster (forcing the smoked salmon toast accompaniment to be abandoned). Fortunately skin and eyes of 2 children & 2 adults were spared. Cleaning up the shit was just done in time to crack the bottle and the poppers, watch the fireworks on TV and say GOOD RIDDANCE to 2006, well, I did, in my head. Not a good year. A Bad Year. BUT it's gone, thank Christ, and here's all positiveness for 2007. Started well with the grooves of 3 string guitar player Seasick Steve on Jools. Yesterday began with a run in the sun and some good hunkering down on Chapter 6. Then, with that wonderful 'having written' feeling back in place at last, the movies (girly girly The Holiday) and long, late lunch with old friends. Chapter 6 has been a bit of a marathon, due to so many interruptions, but also because it is the first real look we get at 2 main characters, which is so important to get right. I feel this is the chapter where the reader will either engage or throw the whole thing to one side. It's been a bit like writing a short story, honing down every word. Last night I continued work on the printout in bed, and the Graham Greene thing worked in that I woke up with fresh new ideas freebased from the subconscious.

As Damien Hirst said on last night's Sth Bank Show, confidence breeds confidence, & determined to build on the quiet positiveness I'm currently feeling about the novel. The story of Marc Cherry's turnaround after a serious bout of of failure stench, a heartening start to the new year.