Gawd Bless Us...Every One

The 'gawd bless us every one' turkey was a huge success. What it lacked in stature it made up for in taste and, thanks to the festive soup and some homebaked cheesy-nibbly-things and straight-from-the-bread-machine bread, nobody went hungry. Frosty the Fan Oven did splendid work after the electrician chap came out and declared that the previous electrician chap had connected it wrong. A couple of minutes of tinkering and Frosty was Toasty once more. Hubby escaped the grips of man-flu just in time for Christmas, the parental units were jolly and we had a festive truffle of a day.

So, with stockings packed away, my thoughts bungee back to writing. There is still no word from the agent but January is only a couple of days away now so I am excited. I promised not to approach anyone new until January so I have only a few days to wait before I can send off the manuscript to the next few on my list.

Can't wait to get back into the old writing routine. January and February are going to be great. I don't expect to emerge from my writing room at all until my first draft is buttoned up. Maybe I'll break in a new candle to celebrate. By the end of the first week, I will have waded through the tricky middle section of the novel and be scampering down the hill towards the finish. Love this bit!



The First Week

It's the end of my first week as a blogger and it's gone quite well. The blog's up. I've blogged every day. I've put up some gadgets and I've even earned myself a follower. It has been refreshing to sit down and write whatever stream-of-consciousness nonsense came to mind without worrying too much about grammar, style and what-not so I think I'll keep at it. From now on though, maybe I'll blog every week or just when really substantial things happen because that countdown gizmo is scaring the whatnot out of me and I am horribly aware that I need to get a move on with my novel if I hope to hit my deadline. The 'writers write' thing (first post) is nagging at me. If I want to be a successful novelist, I need to be disciplined about my deadlines - even if they are just B.S. self-imposed ones.

So, thanks for reading this far. Please click 'follow this blog' and I'll be back when there is something interesting to report - or in 2009 - whichever comes sooner.



Mid-Book Crisis!

It's that middle bit again. I wondered why I was in such a state. Have a look at my first post if you're not sure what I'm on about. That middle bit is a pain in the rear.

Yesterday, my Writing Spa Day was moving along well until I sat down and tried to tweeze a chapter out of my brain. At this point it became clear that something was wrong. I never need to tweeze chapters out of my brain's the middle of the bloody novel isn't it? Why yes, it is. Grrrrr! Unwilling to admit defeat, I pulled out my plan for the novel and attempted to shoe-horn my characters through the right doors and into the right conversations but they simply wouldn't play by the rules. Their petulance sloped off the page like goo from a bled radiator. It was cruddy writing. Unwilling to let go of the reins, I tried harder and it got worse so finally I just let them do what they wanted and things got interesting.

Plot Renaissance
It turns out that the characters don't want to go madly off piste, they just want me to revive an idea I had in the very early planning stages of the novel - an idea I had when writing my first novel in fact. The moment I started to write it down, my characters came back to life, the dialogue snapped back into place and I was rolling. I'm not sure if I'm quite past the annoying mid-book crisis stage yet - I've got to get all the characters back on board - so I'm going to stop setting myself 4,000 word a day deadlines because it's just not going to happen for a few days. Instead, until January, I'm going to try 1,000 words a day. Not only that, but I'm taking Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day off. I'm such a rebel! By then, I should be over the tricky bit and I'll be in the magical zone of '4,000 words a day? That's nothing. I did 5,000 today.' Fingers crossed.

Man-Flu Update
Hubby's man-flu has got uncivilized. He's getting through environmentally destructive quantities of tissue paper. I've been coughing and spluttering too but my body seems to be fighting it off. His folks are still coming over tomorrow although I'm fairly sure that neither of us will be great company and Frosty the Fan Oven is still giving the freezer a run for its money so I've no idea what we will be eating.

Will you Help?
A few hundred more words, and endless housework, to do before the end of the day so I'd better get on with it. Hope you like the little gadgets I've put up on the blog. I plan to put an acknowledgement at the front of my first novel when it's published to thank everyone for promoting this blog and my book so if you'd like to be one of them, just copy a banner and link back here so I can spread the word.

Ta Muchly x



Writing Spa Day

Today is my Writing Spa Day - give or take - I've got to get some chores done but other than that, the day is my own. Hubby is braving the world and carrying his man-flu out with him where it will roam free amongst the locals and move in with them all in time for Christmas. This makes him, momentarily, not my responsibility so I can focus on other things. Time for me and my guru to snuggle up together in my writing space and get some chapters down I think.

A Writing Spa Day is an immersion experience. The idea is to be surrounded by writing; so I won't leave my writing space for most of the day. My main goal is to finish some of my book and get into a slightly obsessive state about it so that I continue to write through Christmas and don't just forget about it until a couple of days before my self-imposed deadline in February. I also plan to read some writing magazines I bought with the clothes budget, prepare a competition entry or two and watch some relevant telly. It's research! I will be watching as a writer not a couch potato.

I write competition entries every month. I never send them. Well, that's not true actually, I sent one last year and won, which was a nice surprise. I never write them planning to send them anywhere - I can't afford the postage and entry fees for one thing - I write them to tone my writing muscles. I write all sorts of stuff: poems, short stories, biographical pieces, children's stories. It makes my writing fresher when I go back to my novel.

On an ideal Writing Spa Day, I drive to the local library, throw loads more books than I could ever read into a cloth bag and drive home feeling virtuous but I'm feeling a bit run down today so I might just stay at home and make use of what I have to hand.

Pressure's Off
The oven may be broken for Christmas but at least I now have a 'Plan B' - my folks have said we can go over there and cook. Not sure quite how this will work. Does that mean we're hosting Christmas at their house or just that we're bringing the Turkey and doing all the work? I'm sure all will become clear on the day. Who cares? There will be an oven, a turkey, a table and smiling people. That's Christmas sorted. I've been thinking about those poor people at Woolworth's who lost their jobs just before Christmas. How depressing is that? At least a bunch of people I love will be around a table somewhere and one way or another the 'gawd bless us, every one' turkey will be consumed. Also, I can stop feeling guilty about pasting the in-laws' chicken dinner to my manuscript (see earlier post) as the oven is broken so it has to be soup or nothing. Hurrah!

The morning's getting old. Time to light a Cafe Au Lait candle, grab a cup of tea and spa myself silly. Luxury!


P.S. There are some extra bits and bobs up now for you to look at, including the countdown for my self imposed novel deadline. It says '1 months' because someone programmed it that way so please ignore that bit. Not much time left now. Tappetty-tap.


The Pen is Mightier Than the Oven

The moment I declared that I would write 4,000 words yesterday I knew something would happen to knock me back down to earth. Of course I managed fewer than 2,000. I have a delicious excuse, however. It is nearly Christmas and, for the first time, the clan is descending upon us and our new abode. The turkey has been ordered. It will cost the entire week's food budget. Times are hard and much rides on the perfectly roastedness of our 'Gawd bless us - every one' festive bird. This is the point at which our oven breaks.

Frosty the Fan-Oven

We bought the cheapest oven. We had to. We'd just moved to the first place we'd rented that didn't have an oven... or carpet... or curtains. It was an expensive time and we are povs - a temporary state I hope but a state none-the-less - and as such, we couldn't afford an all-singing, all-roasting oven but we thought, or at least we suspected, that even with a humble price tag an oven would still be able to cook. We were naive. I see that now. A cheap oven will warm your food for a while, then go on strike. In two months, it has broken twice. Will it be able to roast a turkey? What do you think? Much of my time between now and then has been spent on the phone to the shop, supplier, electrician etc begging for a box full of turkey-roasting heat by Christmas Day. The rest of the time has been spent mopping the brow of Hubby who arrived home last night with man-flu.

Non-Stick Flapjacks
Fortunately, the slow cooker had just delivered the latest of my home made soups so we can still eat. The flapjacks I had planned to put in the oven fared less well. The hob still worked and I was very enthusiastic in my attempts to 'bake' on it but we ended up with a kind of clumpy granola and the pan lost some of its non-stick. Still, broken granola-flapjacks and non-stick flakes made a fine supper (Hubby refused soup and insisted it was kept back until Christmas Day, in case the oven isn't fixed.)

I can see my parents' faces now when, the first time we host Christmas, they are presented with a delicious bowl of festive chicken and vegetable soup. Gawd bless us - every one!



From Post Office to Publisher

Waiting for the First Reply

Well, it's been a couple of days since I handed over my words to the chap at the post office. The agent will definitely have received them by now. I wonder if the envelope has been opened yet...intriguing...

Wonder who will read it first? I have read all the usual horror stories about manuscripts being returned unread. I believe that, actually: I worked as a casting agent for a minute or two in the nineties and actors' letters were constantly being thrown away unread. I hope someone does read it though: I took the postage out of the food budget. My in-laws are coming over for roast chicken and I've stuck their chicken dinner to an envelope - monetarily speaking. I hope they will forgive me if I bung something cheap into the slow cooker and light some festive candles.

Writing in the Freezer

I'm quite excited to receive my first rejection letter actually. I hope it will have loads of handy suggestions in it. I'm leaving my manuscript with this first agent exclusively until next year when I'll start sending it out to all the suitable agents I can find. My printer is almost out of ink though so I'm hoping for some cash from rels at Crimble so I can buy ink and stamps. We can afford to keep the house heated until mid-January so it would be great to get some good news by then: I don't mind taking money out of the food budget for stamps but after a brush with hypothermia last month I'm too much of a wimp to steal from the heating budget too. I'm just going to have to get really good really quick: it's the only affordable option!

Jilly's Jolly

Wouldn't it be great if there were no rejection letters at all? I can hardly allow myself to imagine such a world. I spoke to Jilly Cooper about preparing myself for this bit of the journey: the bit where you send out millions of manuscripts and receive millions of rejections and she looked at me as if I were potty. She said that I will be published immediately and then said some really sweet things about why that may be the case... modesty forbids. She's nice like that. It would be wonderful if she were right though.

From what I gather, the important bit with an agent is that they know their stuff, love your work and you get along swimmingly so maybe rejections aren't a bad thing after all because they just help you cross people off the list and get closer to your perfect agent.

Well, I'd better hop off and tap out some words. I plan to finish the first draft of my second novel by mid-February so I need to get a wriggle on. I'll try to get 4,000 words down today. Wish me luck!



From Brain to Post Office

Writers write. Who said that? I should probably have looked that up before I started this blog shouldn't I? Clearly writers don't merely write: writers research then writers write. Never mind. The point I was planning to make was: 'writers write and now I know that.'

Bet you're thinking 'thank goodness I clicked onto this blog, it's so very insightful. Now I can face my day,' but before you go off and make some toast, let me explain why I am such a big fan of the 'writers write' thing.

The 'Writers Write' Thing

I have lost track of the number of novels I have started to write. Having read about a bit - magazines and such - I am tempted to believe that this is a common malady. In drawers and boxes around the world lie the very early stages of great works of fiction, stashed away for possible future development by hopeful hoarders. I like to think that Shakespeare's earliest (unpublished) work, 'Beryl and The Impatient Shepherd,' will be found any day now and make us all feel better. Until then, my advice to any writer would be to pull the early stages of a book out of the drawer and turn it into the later stages of a book: this is where the magic of 'writers write' will be made known to you. Starting a novel is easy but, and forgive me for allowing myself to sound like an expert on the subject having cranked out a single novel, finishing a novel is tricky. The reason? The middle bit.

The Middle Bit

It's not so much the beginning of the middle bit that did my head in. It was the absolute middle of the middle bit. You know when you're on a journey - maybe in a car or even on a boat or plane - in horribly dodgy weather and all the time until you get to the middle bit you are thinking 'it's OK, we're not far from home, we can go back if it gets REALLY bad'? Well, you know that middle point, before the bit where you think 'it's okay, we're past the half way point, we're nearly there'? That's the bit I'm talking about. There was a point in the middle of my novel when I felt completely out of control. The characters that I had so lovingly created started to turn on me. It wasn't that they jumped off the page and throttled me exactly, it's just that they became the decision makers in the novel. Suddenly I was no longer monarch and president-for-life over the world of my book. Suddenly, the characters owned it. There had been a revolution and none of them thought to tell me until the middle of the novel, when I was too far in to run away.

The Revolution

Partially sighted panic tackled me onto the floor and sat on my chest for a while until I got my breath back enough to decide to write through the fear, even if it meant I had to throw my very detailed plan out of the window and go where my characters led me, which is what I did. Gradually the clouds cleared and the homeward journey was actually a wonderful experience. My characters had been absolutely right to drag me somewhere else and were kind enough to allow me to steer them back through a few of the lanes I had planned for them to meander down on the way home.

The Post Office

So yesterday, after about a billion years of agonising over the letter I wrote to the agent, I walked to the local post office and handed across my precious work. When he asked whether it contained anything valuable and I replied 'only my life's work,' he looked disdainfully at the slender package so I was forced to add 'only the first three chapters of it.' Fortunately, as people were queuing behind me, I stopped myself from adding 'and it's not my life's work as such, I've done lots of other things' before handing over my C.V. He wished me good luck, I came home and had a cup of tea and now my future lies in the hands of someone in an office in London.

The Blog

This brings me to the blog, which I just decided to do on account of the fact that, however convinced I am in the brilliance of my own work, the statistics don't make chirpy reading. Evidently getting published takes a while, so while I wait I thought I'd share the process and we could all have a jolly good giggle at my rejection letters.

I haven't a clue how this thing works, having not done it before, but I guess there's some way in which you can leave messages of a hopeful or interesting nature and if I'm right and you can then please feel free to do so. In the mean time, I will blog back whenever there is anything to blog as I'm pretty sure the rule applies: bloggers blog.



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