Wednesday, February 28, 2007


The freelance agency woman replied saying it's just a quiet month. But then, hooray, e-mail in from newspaper giving me double the usual monthly quota of work. Phew and double phew and rescued from the jobs board I was browsing at the time:

…..this exciting opportunity will suit candidates of a graduate calibre who are client focused natural networkers….

....of key importance is the pro-active and solutions oriented management of work time…..

....You will need to be a great team player who is not afraid of long hours and hard work!

! - ha ha.

And here is job advertisement as lottery ticket:

Tough under pressure, you will need to keep your wits about you at all times…Please only apply if you meet the above criteria. Good luck!

As well as a non-fiction submission it might be worth making, I found one possibility:

This an excellent and rare opportunity for self-starting beginners and more experienced individuals alike….

The 'more experienced individuals' bit made me look twice. Perhaps they're not only looking for 14 year olds with honours degrees who'll work for job experience zero £s? It's the TV work I used to do for most of my life but on a smaller scale, on one of those gambling channels, based nearby. They'll take you as an assistant and train you up to studio directing. As I was an assistant but did do directing and proper grown-up studio directing courses and all, and loved it actually, there's a remote possibility I might even get as far as being sent an application form. Only 80 people have applied so far after all.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting come again soon.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Another grey, miserable day. I have sent another reminder to the freelance agent. If nothing comes in by the end of this week I will have to dig out my O level certificates from the garage of my parents' house, demolished about 25 years ago, and start looking for work again. That leaves me this week for a couple of coffee meet-ups with old friends and final, final re-editing of novel 4.

Yesterday I started my re-edit at chapter 42. The first and last chapters are the most important to get right. After hauling the reader in, you've got to try and leave them with all those feelings of satisfaction of a book well read; that they loved the story and the characters so much they want to go back to the beginning and start it all over again. I've also just read in my Writer's Little Helper that agents & editors will often check that chapter out after C1, which would make a lot of sense. Maybe it's just because I haven't done a how-to book for so long, but each one seems to throw up more ideas and this one is full of techniques I've never come across before. Does anybody else use the Flesch Reading Ease tool in Word grammar for pacing? It recommends you split each scene into beg, middle and end. Then put each through the tool to find out its pacing. Then you can see if it's flat, or fizzles off to nothing, and adjust. Then you can do it with whole chapters for the entire story to make sure there are ups and downs and all. I've never paid any attention to the grammar tool, thanks all the same. But am amazed to discover it also winkles out the passive voice for you as well. How does it DO that?

Ooh, Zokutu wordcounter is back. Good... filling it up the joy of my morning.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, February 26, 2007


No of words novel 5: 8,724

I took a post down over the weekend. I was talking about the book I was reading, a biography of Assia Wevill, and put in a quote from Ted Hughes about Sylvia. A comment from Leatherdykeuk made me realise I'd been trivial where I shouldn't have been. Instead of leaving my insensitivities for all to see, I blitzed it all out & told myself to stick to stuff I know about, like liquorice allsorts, in future.

Novel 5 storyline has been developing. I have doubled the allocation of time to one hour each morning and spend the first half hour correcting. A brand new development has got me through a credibility hoop at the same time as adding a new wow factor. Now all I've got to do is control it somehow. The rest of this week is for novel 4, rewriting, adding the extra chapter near the beginning and examining the rest of the pacing.

Still no sign of any work coming in. If I stop and think about this for too long I get very scared. I'm still hoping it's a temporary glitch. This is so typical, though. Every freelancer dreads turning commissions down in case the flow stops. But I was strict, I had to finish the novel, and I did. And the flow of work did stop. So it goes.

The only shopping I do these days is for food, but even that is now going to be rationed. It will make me feel like I am contributing something to this leaner than lean time. I will see it as a creative challenge rather than yet another slide down the slope. Fortunately daughter is mad for pasta and noodles so will just have to put more thought into it.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Wordcount Novel 5: 7,455

Does this say All Sorts to you?? If it had been the sandwichy ones, or the goo-filled sausage ones it would have been a Result. Not this glut of the Horrible Coconutty Always Left At The End Ones.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


No. of new words novel 5: +7


It is half-term however, and had to stand back this morning whilst partner fiddled with Photoshop - finally getting to grips with digital, all the lovely Leicas and Nikons virtually worthless now. Meetings have been had with photo agent and first digital job the other day, using a borrowed camera. The agent was a mine of information, there's a site where anybody can load up their photos & sell them if they're good enough. (I will find out what it is and insert here later.) The pixel ratio is massive for professional shots, though. Even those smart SLRs aren't anywhere near good enough. It's an investment of several thousand, which we don't have multiplied ten million times over right now. We're also told that all the interchangeable lenses from the old cameras aren't such a good idea either, if you get any dust inside a digital camera you could screw up the works and be in for expensive repairs. So the inbuilt zooms much safer. So it goes. Life moves on. Catch up or get off as they say.

No writingbusinessese today. This afternoon daughter and friend had a bit of a Sim-fest and I scribbled plot plan diagrams for Novel 5. By an extreme wayward excursion, have stumbled across a possible ending, a new scientific discovery I can pick up and make useful. I also got a fun How To book from the library on Friday. It's called The Writer's Little Helper by James V Smith. It advocates a simple 10 point plot plan where you diagram out your ten major scenes:

1) opening
2) beginning stuff (with Point of No Return)
3) middle stuff (with major complication and 4) climax scene)
5) end scene.

You fill those 5 scenes in first.

Then, for the other 5:

you have 2 other complications that lead up to the point of no return


3 other complications that lead up to the major complication in the middle stuff.

And that's it.

This, James says, is your template that'll keep you on the straight and narrow and, he suggests, you can write out the major climax scenes if you fancy and then fill in the gaps.

Until today I hadn't filled in the end scene. I did a second diagram as the first one got messy but it looks OK I think. It is useful nailing down the major dramatics. I've also done cards for the 4 main characters, very simple outlines but now I've got them up and running I thought it was time to nail down their fatal flaws and saving graces. Speech patterns still forming as I go.

Oh dear, the co-writer of my favourite hard times ditty (sung about 8 times a day at the moment) has died, hope it's not an omen. The winner of China's Pop Idol Supergirl Li Yuchun has just started a blog. Her win was seen by 400 MILLION viewers, now, how to get a Mandarin link going here?

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


No. of words novel 5: 6,389
No. of rejections for novel 4: 1
No. of requests for more chapters of novel 4: 1

Am just back from walking with a labrador, a labradoodle and 3 children in Richmond Park. A grey and overcast day, but out there it evaporated into open space with the dogs going berserk with happiness and the girls building houses in the woods. I had done my 500 words first, so no guilt about that, but back here this afternoon and still no contact from freelance agency. The sky's so grey it's almost black out there. It feels very, very dark in here.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Wordcount: 5745

Right, that's enough feeling sorry for self. Time to leave the business of writing well alone. Novel 4 took a year and a half to write, I can't expect it to sell in a couple of weeks if at all. Most new books don't sell, that's the bottom line, so it's back to writing for the sheer pleasure of it and if it happens it happens. Must do some more serious plotting on novel 5, before it carries me away to somewhere else, and continue the tweeking of novel 4. Over the weekend I decided it really needs a new chapter near the beginning to slow it down a bit and provide some extreme contrast. Fortunately it's mainly there in one I deleted a long time ago (on old computer not connected to net). Novel 5 is existing very much on the edge of my days rather than being so central to everything I've been trying to achieve these past few years. It's a different genre for a start, so if I did sell novel 4, I'd then go back to (half-written) novel 3 as a follow-up or start something fresh. I also need to start begging for work (still no sign, yeowch) and get myself more of a life as far away as possible from anything to do with writing before I go nuts.

Kicked off on Friday with The Last King of Scotland which was as good as everyone is saying, I was genuinely frightened, quivering in my seat at the end. Very few films have hit the spot so hard, yet it's entertaining too. Yesterday, to celebrate friend D's birthday we went to Trafalgar Square to welcome in The Year of The Pig. Crowds aren't our thing, so most of our time was spent in a Chinatown restaurant, sucking in the atmosphere of dragons and firecrackers.

Seeing the statue of Lapper reminded me of Laban Tall's classic blogservation:

"Once upon a time, if you wanted to see a naked lady with no arms you'd have to go to the Louvre. If you wanted to see a naked, pregnant lady with no arms you'd have to go to places like this (possibly not work-friendly).

Now we can all rejoice that you can see one in Trafalgar Square.

Ms Lapper, who was born with shortened legs and no arms because of a congenital disorder, has travelled to London for the ceremony. "I’m very excited about it. This is history in the making," she said.

"Never before has someone with a disability - let alone someone with a disability who is naked and eight months pregnant - been put in such a public place and portrayed in such a positive way."

Tragically Ms Lapper appears to be not only disabled, but blind. Or ignorant. Or both.

It's easy to miss, I know. But Trafalgar Square is dominated by a 180-foot column.

With an 18-foot statue on the top.

Of a man missing an eye and half an arm. "

After reading about her on the front page of the Sunday Times yesterday, have already bookmarked the Wife in the North, who has just got a book deal which all started with a link!

Assuming my car passes its MOT (waiting for the call now, don't you hate that time of year?) I'm out on a girly night tonight. Another on Friday to celebrate P's Big One. She and her sister are taking themselves off to Venice on the Orient Express but they're raising a few glasses before they go. I can't possibly begin to imagine how excited she's feeling, the trip to Waterloo yesterday had me peering out of the window like a kid let out of school.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, February 16, 2007


Yesterday morning a short e-mail from one of agents I'd queried asking why I'd left my lovely agent. I didn't. She dumped me. But I replied, going into long explanations about how she loved novel 1, wasn't so keen on novel 2, was enthused by novel 3 initially but then went off it, feeling it wasn't strong enough as a breakthrough book. How I stopped writing novel 3 at about 50000 words to concentrate on novel 4 which I felt had more marketablitity etc etc etc blah blah bleuuuuurrrraah. When all I should have said was

She was just not that into me.

As it is, he hasn't replied, which is sad-making. It has been my experience that some agents simply don't reply if they're not interested. This is fine by me, they're inundated with queries. I think writers have to understand that if an agent wants to know more, they'll ask to see more. If they don't, you move on. But when you get someone responding but then they don't reply to your response to them makes you feel a bit empty, which I could do without at the moment. It's bad enough being in a permanent state of anxiety where fears are rubbing up against hopes in toxic concentration.

However, novel 5 (FIVE? I am insane) is progressing well. I am keeping to the 500 words before breakfast. Three chapters in I felt I had enough there to sit down and examine the plotting in more detail. Yesterday evening I transferred this hero with 1000 faces summary to word, left gaps in between each part of the journey, printed that out and wrote in some storyline from a previous plot plan I'd done ages ago, working with the book. Obviously it's only an extreme rough guide, but it's a very useful way in, especially as this story is very myth oriented anyhow.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

PS A happy hope note to end the week on. E-mail just in after I posted this from agent who wants samples of books, sales figures (which were OK for small publisher) and sample chapters. Interestingly from assistant to one of agents I had e-mail queried who didn't respond, so backing up with the postal was worth doing. The printer is burring away now.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


A little late on the wordcount this morning as presently exchanges were made. I was given a very wrapped up box which contained something wrapped, which wrapped a silvery thingy, which was in the shape of a heart which opened up to reveal - wax. Very, very smelly wax though of perfumed delights, I have it alight now, next to my screen and my nose to cheer the manuscript and send voodoo notes to my In Box.

After a very bleak day of no e-mails yesterday, not even from my Viagra spam friends whose made-up names - Alayna, Rosie Morales, Lorie Payne - fascinate me, because I am easily fascinated and the more trivial and nonsense the better to delve. One day I will take one and use it for a character who will be blank and meaningless and speak rubbish words, and keep on interrupting important business, but will be very up for it. So, this morning was delighted to see 7 messages to start the day. Some friendly friends, including Clare who is inviting more people to the bloggers with book deals party if anybody's interested. And even an agent. But no it was a really very sweet response from Favourite Agent, who, although I said I wouldn't darken her in box again, I tried just one more small time with the final title, which she hadn't seen. She's sticking with her instinct to say no on this one for the moment, but said what she liked about the book, and what she didn't like (sex, change of location) and sent lots of luck and good wishes and to call on her any time for advice. As for the 5 query letters posted 2 days ago, nothing, not one. So some of them had read their own e-mail in boxes and weren't taking. I am now back to tweeking, haven't been able to stay away any longer, and when it's fine combed once more will do some more query letters. One friendly friend reminded me this morning of the advice she used to get, before she found her own:

You just need ONE champion who likes your work and has some influence.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


It's 9.oo.

500 words done in half an hour. Positive start to the day.

Positive dreams too, funny attitude dreams. I was in a sun-dappled restaurant laughing with friends and not so damned WORRIED about everything. That'd be nice. There was a fetid, bubbling melon involved, but in a van outside the restaurant. I am trying. I am doing my Zen mind clearing and working and exercising and eating and trying to keep positive. Submission time is hellish, there's no two ways about it. Kind Meg left a message saying but hey, she said it was good! She liked it! Maybe she did, I can't help feeling she may well not have read it all, that she chucked it in after a few chapters. The story is very pacey, too pacey though? There are some more tweeks I want to make, am trying to keep myself away from it for at least a week though to give me more distance when I go back.

Have switched from e-mail querying back to letter querying. The problem with e-mails is that so many companies have a no e-mail policy you can never really know if the e-mail reached the agent before it was deleted by a junior employed to do just that. So I letter-queried to the agents who didn't reply and a couple more, making 5 new submissions in all. I also did some work on the journalism; contacted the script typing agency to tell them I'm free again - more work later in the week - and did a pile more research on new novel.

It is now 9.15. Am now going to have breakfast, read the paper and go running in the opposite direction to Simba and the wild woods. To the neatly trimmed park with ducks and little white bridges and onwards to the shopping end of things.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, February 12, 2007


Agent e-mailed on Friday afternoon. Enjoyed it. But not enough. Fun and feisty but she tends to like more spare narratives. To have hit it with the first complete read would have been amazing and all, but there you go. What a process. This is only the agent end of things, if you do get through this stage it starts all over again with the publishers.

A real rainy Monday February here. Coming back from friends' yesterday evening, the car started making horrible kerlunking noises, it's in for MOT next week and now I know it needs exhaust work. Didn't sleep last night, cricked my arm this morning, feeling tired and grumpy and fed up. But then it is Monday, at least I've done my 500 words, now to do some touting for work.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, February 09, 2007


Day 3 of waiting for the verdict. I've decided I'd better get it out to the other agent who showed interest and not just be waiting on the one.

Assuming no more work comes in, which it hasn't, which is scary, I'm also going to change my routines. This is partly to stop the regular morning meeting with Simba the puppy who is enormous and every morning bounds up to eat my foot which is a bit too close to my ankle for comfort. Also partly because it would be so easy for me to disappear inside a mound of research and actually not get very far for a very long time on new novel 4. I love research but it is very easy to do too much and I find myself left with a pile of notes too big and cumbersome to be of much real use. Mental note to self is to make more mental notes, there is a theory that the best ones will stick anyway. From the little bit of teaching that I've done, I've noticed that research is by far the easiest way to feel you're progressing and actually working on your novel without actually facing the page and getting on with it.

So each morning I have from 8.30 to 11.00 to do 500 words, then I go for my run. This in theory is plenty of time. When I reach the 500 I stop and rewrite, enhance, put in atmos, colour, sound etc. I then move on to writing up my research, which will feed back into the story. The only way I can get my characters up and running is to write them, it's no good planning them for me, I have to just leap in there and make them talk and grow.

I then have from 11.00 to do Other Things with that 'having written' feeling in place. Namely, right now, trying to expand the journalism side and get some more income flowing somehow. But today it will also be posting the 3 chapters to 2nd agent; buying more noodles for the ongoing stirfryfest that is my kitchen; going to the library and getting on with more boot sale bag filling. Friend E and I are aiming for either March or April, depending on her commitments, at the Chiswick Community School which has a good atmosphere and is spacious and fun.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Those of us who don't have to commute very excited this morning. We simply don't get snow like this in London any more. Instead of my morning run it was a stroll through the woods & onto island. As usual, my foot attacked by Simba the puppy & I growled at the owner.

I hope daughter's old school sees sense and lets the children out. When it snowed a couple of weeks ago (V. unusual to get two lots so close together too), her new school sent everybody onto the playing field for one enormous snowball fight. Her old primary school, however, kept the children IN at playtime because of Health and Safety. My friend's 6 year old was totally gutted. Especially as when they got let out in the afternoon the snow had melted away. I spoke to a teacher friend about it and she said it was because of insurance. BAH! That's why riding schools are closing down all over the country too. BRRR!

Lots of BRRs today. Independent journalist John Walsh begs us to please sign an online petition to save one of London's oldest markets, Borough Market, from over-development.

I said I wanted to start reading novels again. I haven't actually stopped reading novels, I just haven't been able to get completely absorbed and involved and in love in that unputdownable carrying book everywhere including the loo kind of reading. And I feel I may be able to do that again now. When I'm in the middle of writing and I'm reading a novel, I'm scanning for technique and homing in on individual words that I like, and thinking 'why didn't I think of that?' instead of getting lost in the story that's behind all that.

Last night it was Zoe Heller on armpits:

'Better the full body French woman's growth than that squalid sprinkling of iron filings.'

Miles Kington in How Many Books Are You Reading At The Moment? reckons we're all reading about 10 books at once these days, and challenges us to go and look at the tottering piles on our bedside tables. He has a point. He says:

'Go to your bedside table and honestly tell me what books are there. All of them. Not just the books you would like people to think you were reading'

As well as Zoe Heller I have:

WHAT DO YOU CARE WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK? by Richard P Feynman (finished)

KAFKA ON THE SHORE Haruki Marakumi (at p124, Milky Bar wrapper bookmark. fear I won't get any further)

TRADE SECRETS EVERYTHING YOU WILL EVER NEED TO KNOW ABOUT EVERYTHING FROM COOKING TO CAMPING, DECORATING TO DOG BREEDING AND GARDENING TO GOLF Katherine Lapworth & Alexandra Fraser (showing that I do take my domestic goddessese journalismo status seriously enough to do some homework)


THE PHOTO BOOK Phiadon (This is how bad it got, when I couldn't read any words I'd stare at pictures instead. Lovely, actually, must do more.)

WOODLANDS Oliver Rackham (on p85, research for next novel, sheer joy)

CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? Sophie Kinsella (on p288, bookmark a sheet of blank paper with

DON'T SWEAT THE AUBERGINE by Nicholas Clee This is the cookbook that tells you what others leave out. FANTASTIC, this one I am carrying around with me. Last night I did a stir fry recipe which starts:

"Having ignored the instructions on your noodle packet, you need also disregard the many stir-fry recipes...." which is my kind of cook book. In case you're interested it goes on:

.... that tell you to heat the oil to smoking point before adding your ingredients. Why would you want to eat degraded oil? A wok will work better than a frying pan. Put it on a medium to high heat, wait for it to get very hot, pour in the oil (groundnut, sunflower or a vegetable oil that can withstand high temperatures are best), swirl it around, and immediately throw in the spring onions, garlic and ginger...."

Then you add your bits, I put in chargrilled chicken bits from Sainsbury, peas and sweetcorn, add the noodles (which you shld cook like pasta first for about 5 minutes, not soak in a cup of hot water as instructed) shwossh around, take off the heat add soy sauce, sesame if you have it, and you're done.

Have made lots of notes from this because it's a library book - another new one on me was not to add ground pepper to stocks or stews, it turns acrid after long simmering.

Now I seem to have steered way off piste even more. Anyone else want to fess up their bedside tottering towers?

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


The Apple e-mail makes a very satisfactory schwoooosh noise when you hit SEND.

So. That's it then. Now I have to repeat to myself 500,000 times a day this is the first time it's gone out as a whole tweeked-to-bits manuscript. This is only one agent of many many agents in the world. If she doesn't like it, it is not the end of the world. It will only seem like it.

I've been working on this for about a year and a half I suppose. Now it's gone. There are draughty feelings already. I've already started researching the next one, and am looking forward to it, but op there's an e-mail in, excuse me.


Where was I?

First I need to get to the supermarket and buy food. We must eat fish, we haven't eaten fish for a week now. There's no juice, no fruit apart from a few manky satsumas. What's next in the fruit in season line? I need to clean the house which is getting all furry around the edges. I need to clear cupboards, drawers and garage for March car boot sale. Um, feel I need to do something fun with daughter, though she's looking after herself pretty well: off to Kingston, shopping with mates, making movies, going on MySpace and MSN etc. I also need to do some nourishing things for myself. I want to see Pan's Labyrinth before it leaves the cinemas. Maybe it's too late. This is after e-mail from friend S way back in December:

So, there's that. I'd love to have a day at a gallery but that still feels too luxurious when we're so paniced about income. While waiting for the next work work to arrive (if it ever does) I must get down to hunting out some more journalism commissions. And buy stockings. And update my sidebar thingy with all the lovely bloggers I met on Saturday.

I want to read novels again too.

It's at least five minutes now since I sent the MS and she hasn't replied yet. That means she hates it, it is a pile of cack, I knew it all along of course, didn't I tell you? Didn't I say?

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, February 05, 2007


Still not there.

New deadline is tomorrow night. It's 10.30 on Monday night now, partner and daughter are in bed and I'm about to burn the midnight. Missed writing group tonight, mainly because I didn't realise it was on I've been so sponged out.

I did reach the end on Friday night, but with the knowledge that there were still bits that needed fixing. The trouble is, when I go back to sort them out I can't avoid seeing other text I don't like, and so have found myself inside a pretty all-encompassing rewrite of the 2nd half. Which means all feelings of progress have halted as I get down to another bad writing elimination marathon, trying to keep down the gloom and doom thoughts that this is all simply not good enough.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


I have to say having an interested agent waiting for the copy really does concentrate the mind. Steam is coming out of my ears I'm working so hard. I went out yesterday, only a delivery and back again, but it was wildly exciting. I can't quite believe this rewrite is nearly there. It isn't yet, but nearly. My deadline to myself is tomorrow. Which will give me Sunday for tweeking and spilling over. It's going to be more than 80,000, so that little blue progress counter thingy at the side might splurge out of the end and get all mucky.

I turned down work work in the week, which is always scary. The worry I'll never be asked again. But this is it, there's no way out now until The End.

What am I thinking of it? The first half is there I think, commas and all. Chunks of the second half are more sparse, lots of dialogue, but that can be no bad thing. I think the overall story is a lot of fun and trots along; I like the main character; I think the settings work and I think the themes are good ones, some obvious some not so. That said when it comes to the read-through, I could still well conclude it's rubbish, that's the nature of this game.

On Saturday there's a blogmeet. I've never been to one before. It's for writers with book deals, which technically means not me of course, but the criteria include those who've had book deals, so I'm in there. One of my blogheroes is going to be there which is a bit exciting, let alone all that getting on big trains and going up to the West End of things.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.