Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Novel number 5 - all at sea?

So I'm 36,829 words into what I'm hoping will turn out to be my fifth novel. Almost halfway through maybe? So how's it going? Well......

1. I have a bunch of characters who I like working with (and one that I don't but that is kind of the point of him.) They are not quite there yet. Most of the time, they react to the situations that I place them in as I would expect. Every so often, they react like I would. That's no good and sometimes quite hard to spot. I need to work on washing away the last vestiges of me from their thought processes. I get in the way.

2. I have a story that I like. Obviously, I still have a long way to go but so far, it is still holding my interest. Can't get bored with your own plot! That would never do.

3. I have time. During the holidays, I can always find an hour or so to hammer out that day's quota of words. Writing every day not only keeps up the momentum but helps me to remember where I've hidden those sneaky little foreshadowing points that get lost if I have too big a gap between writing sessions.

So that's it then. Simples. All I have to do is keep going and I have a bestseller on my hands.

I wish!

The trouble with being half way in is that it's an awfully long way to the shore. Imagine me, cast off in my little lifeboat. I have enough resources to last me for a while but they won't stretch indefinitely. I need to keep rowing or things will start to get difficult. I can see the sharks approaching.

I'm not alone in my little boat. I'm there too. Not the me who came up with the idea and spent months thinking it through, researching, talking to people. Not the me who started with such high hopes and has managed to maintain that for nearly 40,000 words.

No. It's the other me.

Have you read this rubbish?
Why are you writing it in that tense? It's not really working, you know.
Those sections when you're in her head - they are self indulgent and repetitive.
Where's the emotion in this story? Are they all made of cardboard?
You really think that subplot is worthy of the  name?

I'm not that keen on her, to be honest. She nags away at me. She undermines me at every turn. She can reduce a great idea to pulp in a matter of minutes if I let her.

I read through what I have so far yesterday. Until that point, the words were flowing from my fingertips faster than I could type them. Now? Well, I didn't write anything yesterday and today I'm doing this and tomorrow there may be another excuse...

I know what I have to do but doing it with all the noise that she's making in my head? That's hard.

But I have a secret weapon. There is something that I know though and that she always forgets. I am stronger than her. I never give up. I always win. It takes time but I always get there eventually.

So whilst she's there, nibbling at my self confidence, I shall sneak up behind her and push her overboard!

Did you hear that splash!


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Changing Schools

Child number 3 is between schools. Primary over and secondary not yet begun. Exciting times ahead.

I remember the summer when I was 11 so distinctly. Our gang marauded around on bikes and thought we were untouchable. We had it all planned out. If anyone tried to report us for being bad and asked where we went to school, we would just tell them that we didn't. How cool was that! Needless to say, we didn't do anything naughty enough to lead to the question being asked.

It was all so exciting, starting secondary school.  I had a uniform for the first time. (Bottle green and lemon yellow - quite foul!) I would have a new class and a timetable and lots of lovely new subjects to learn about. But best of all, I could reinvent myself. I liked this idea a lot. I'd practise new ways of moving, a new smile. I spent hours deliberating on which particular shortening of my name I would encourage amongst my new friends.

Over the years, I got quite good at these chameleonesque (spell checker is hyperventilating) transformations but then I had a lot of practise. I went to five different schools in eight years. Each time, I would leave a little part of myself behind, a bit I didn't much care for and try and add something new. It was kind of fun at the time.

Now though, I wonder how I would have turned out if we hadn't moved so often. I might have been better at Chemistry, for example. I could have had stronger friendships if I hadn't had to keep abandoning them.

However, there are some disadvantages to staying put. That girl who didn't like you in the Infants because you nicked her crayon may well still have it in for you in the sixth form. And woe betide if you step out of line because someone is bound to tell your mum!

My children won't have the advantages of reinvention. They are likely to see out their childhood in the same house and with just two schools under their belts. However, what they will have is a sense of belonging, an understanding of how things work in their environment and the confidence that comes with being secure in a place that you know.

But they'll only get that new school buzz once so they had better make the most of it!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

The Virtues of Virtual Travel

Travel broadens the mind, they say.

What about virtual travel? Does that count?

I only ask because I've been having great fun hopping round the internet as Cara, the protagonist in my new story, whizzes up and down the country. Last night, for example, she went to stay with her brother in Wimbledon. I have only been to Wimbledon once about a million years ago but no matter. A quick couple of clicks and I'm looking at a sample of the houses that are there. This is the one that I picked for Michael.

Looks nice doesn't it? I wonder whose house it really is? For my purposes, it is the well appointed family home of Michael, his mousy but capable wife and their two daughters.

And now that I have the house in my mind's eye, it makes it much easier to describe it, to write how Cara feels when she approaches the front door, what Michael's wife might have growing in the garden.

Later, the siblings had to leave the house to go for a drink as Cara had news that she didn't want overheard. The Good Pub Guide took me to The Fox and Grapes which, with the aid of a picture, I was able to refashion until it suited my purposes. I might go one day but in the meantime...

I heard a story about JK Rowling recently. Her character, Cormoran Strike, often enjoys a full English from a cafe in Smithfield Market. Being not far away, JK decided to go and sample the atmosphere for herself. She wore a dark coat and a hood and was sitting there scribbling away incognito when a man burst in and said that he'd heard that that famous writer was in there. JK's heart stopped.
'But I wouldn't know her if I fell over her,' the man said and left.

Unfortunately, I am not a real writer and so can't go off at the drop of a hat to pick up a vibe. So that's where the internet comes in. After writing Beyond Belief for example, I got to know Bath really quite well. I spent hours on the virtual tour of the Roman Baths as I tried to piece the geography of the building together so that I could write a climax that actually worked. Did anyone notice that I hadn't actually been there recently? I hope not.

Later in this story, Cara goes to LA to find her aunt. And rather handily, that's exactly where I'm going at the end of the month. I shall be taking a notebook!