Thursday, May 25, 2006

Conf 194: Teeth Bills

Wordcount: 35,188
Target for the day: 34,271

Not a brilliant week post and teeth-wise: postbox full of bills and a long, lost stray rejection. A standard form letter which is always depressing. Even though the story's changed beyond recognition now, it doesn't do well for a day.

Also dentist this week, new crown needed and horrible bill to be paid. Am into second half of story though, and the 1307 words a day thing is calming. Have used up most of wordcount credit on time out doing work work. Transcribing comedy writers talking about creating characters. It could be worse.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Conf 193: Cup of Tea Time

No. of words, final draft: 33,145
= No. of words total: 71,407

13.00 & have reached the end of Act 1. The location shifts now, and onto a new document with the less-written stuff tomorrow, euff. But will leave it there for the day and move onto some new ideas writing this afternoon.

Workshop last night, here at mine, so I cleared clutter, polished the loo and cracked the wine and twiglets. Daughter and partner vanished upstairs with DVD player and a Harry Potter movie. Heard 2 novels in progress and we all acted out a radio play. I read work-in-progress outline of the children's story. General nods of approval and some ideas in the feedback. It's way off the wall, though, and am taking their advice to develop it further before sending out, as much as I'm keen to get a reaction, MUST resist this urge to send stuff out too soon.

Amazed to see last week's Independent edited by Bono already being flogged on e-bay for a buy it now of £10. I enjoyed the Eddie Izzard interview, but the best bit of all for me was Deborah Ross's front row take on it all.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Conf 191: Not Always A Beach

No pressure to get started today. Leisurely bike ride and pilates to Darcey's DVD followed by breakfast and yesterday's Independent. Whilst Darcey on the telly, she was also on Desert Island Discs (I only need the pictures to follow so listen to Radio 4). I am now used to her permantly positioned on this South African beach stretching away, so it was odd hearing her potted life story, including very nearly dying giving birth to her first child. Her luxury was eyelash curlers. I've never really got eyelash curlers. Maybe it's the kind of lashes I got, or maybe I don't do it right. Never sure if you should do it before or after mascara, have presumed before or they get black and gooey. Maybe it's the kind of lashes I've got, nondescript and certainly not long and fluttery gorgeous. In my present Darcey-guru-worship state, shall give them another go if I ever go out of an evening again.

Wrote half the treatment for new children's story, and made my list for the agent. Shall chew it over with the workshop girls on Monday, see if any naff ones need weeding out, and send on Tuesday.

A trip to the library hauled in the Wagamama cookbook. Am very excited to find the recipe for their salad dressing (2 teasp finely chopped shallots, 2.5cm piece of fresh ginger root, 1 small garlic clove, 1 and a half tablespoons of rice vinegar, tablespoon of tomato ketchup, tablespoon of water, 100ml vegetable oil and 3 tablespoons light soy sauce.) Have just discovered Wok in back of cupboard so intend to make full use of this. In recipé mood, but noodle-less and not hungry, made up some some air/curtain freshener instead. Boiled up some orange peel, cinnamon sticks, ginger, vanilla and lemon. Not sure if it's worked.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Conf 190: Into the Swing

Final draft:
Target for week: 29,043
Words: 29,317
Word credit: 274

Hurrah! It's 14.03 on a Thursday. I can take the rest of the day off, and tomorrow if I want to really push the boat out. It's been a long time since I really enjoyed doing this, and a long time since I've written any new scenes. The good thing about rewriting is, of course, that there are chunks that you can drop in. So it's like you instantly wrote 2,000 words, that's why the progress has been so good this week. But, still, a feeling of a sense of achievement every now and then is no bad thing.

It could be the key actually. When I started writing novels I'd have to break off at 3 to look after a small child. There was no way I could do any more that day. So the next day I'd go back to it at a point where I'd had to reluctantly leave it. (As Graham Greene famously worked, always leaving off in the middle of a sentence.) Instead, I've been rewriting myself out all day and early evening, wearing myself down, until giving up and doing something else.

I won't be taking time off writing, though, as I have to do a page of new ideas and written stories to send to agent. But right now am going to prepare plate of munchies (guacamole, tzatziki and hummus, pitta bread and vine tomatoes) so that I can gozz out in a moment with transmission of workshop friend Linda's TV play One Night In White Satin. (Now you know where the Willy Russell advice came from).

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Conf 189:189 Different Ways to Write a Novel

No. of words: 23,773

Quite fancy this Radio drama competition but too much to do. Have worked out need to do 1,350 words a day to finish by end of term. This is leaving weekends and half term clear, so if I slack anywhere have some catching-up points. Some new work in today ('Violent Women!'), though, so it won't be slacking exactly. Also trying to write mini-treatments for 2 new stories.

Louise Doughty's Novel in a Year piece this week was about character development. Contrary to Willy Russell's advice, she suggests writing a full CV for your characters. I have a page of notes for each of my people, and several for leading lady. Virtually all of it, though, put together after the first draft. The best way for me to get to know my characters is to make them speak - as quickly as possible. I've even tried writing a first draft with dialogue only. It's interesting to see how some of them shape up on the page, whereas others don't. That's not interesting though, but bloody annoying. My listing goes like this:

whether protagonist/antagonist/obstacle etc

Birthdate and star sign.

Attitude.

What does s/he want?

Great strengths.

One glaring weakness.

Hidden depths and fears

What does s/he think of other characters?

Voice

What happens to him/her at the end:

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Conf 188: Puffed Wheat

No. of words: 10,452
No. of e-mails from magazine ed: 1

Thankfully out of the firstthreechapters mud of it all. Need to do a time chart now. Count how many days I have until the end of term and work out a schedule. It's swamping at the moment. Can't do anything else, other than work work. Doesn't feel good stopping for lunch, not working in evenings, weekends etc. If I get my targets sorted can measure it out.

Got the 3 Guardian pieces done and sent. And a lovely In-Box moment afterwards:

perfect, all three.

you are a star

Did some research on new story last night, got my G&T ice and slice ready for 6pm sundowner in the garden (feeling horrible guilt as above, but what the hell) but had to come inside again. Hoodies playing rugger on the ('No Ball Games') meadow. Or more like football with a rugger ball, am not sure, but this is Twickenham. Ball kept on bashing into our garden fence, and, on the other side, the Miserable Neighbours were at full throttle, 3 kids arguing, screaming and crying. Stayed inside, worried the ball wld come over followed by the boys, they wouldn't hesitate to climb in. Then if I went out and yelled at them would be sitting target.

Unusually fruitful Google of self today brought up, after years of nothing, SIX new releases of novel 1 on Bookcrossing. Had quite forgotten how strange it is reading about people reading my stuff. Even some tiny reviews, one gave it 5/10, skipping on brisquely (but at least they didn't elaborate on the reasons) - another 7/10 'very readable' 'entertaining light summer reading for those days on the beach' and another 8/10 'very easy read but a very annoying mistake near the end. The host of Countdown is not Richard Madeley but Richard Whiteley (I never watched it but even I know that!)'. Am fan of both Countdown and Richard & Judy, must have proof read that passage a dozen times, too.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Conf 187: A New Writing Award

No. of words: 6,072

Bought my friend Kate Harrison's new novel Brown Owl's Guide To Life today. A crispy fresh hardback. The first thing I looked at was the Acknowledgements. Very glad to see have been awarded an honorary brownie Writer badge.

See my word count going well then. 20 more than yesterday, at this rate only another 4,000 days to go.

Lots of writerly evenings out lately. Well, 2, plus a workshop, which is a lot for me. On Monday, very good night out at the White Cross . Local writers meet up once every couple of months in a pretty riverside pub. Riverside is an understatement, it's regularly in the river rather than beside it. If you time your trip carefully, you can arrive just as the tide is rising and get trapped in there for hours. Probably why it's popular with authors. I did once forget I had a bicycle parked outside. It disappeared completely. I had to get the bus home and collect it another day.

Instead of the usual writerly topics, grumbling about money and wordcounts, I've been boring everybody rigid, quizzing them about themes and hidden narratives, conscious or sub-conscious. One writer, in the middle of a novel that's going very well, preferred not to talk about it whilst things are trucking along so swimmingly. Fuelling my fear that I'm probably well and truly stuck rather than honing my story. Though she did say she'd noticed only recently that all her stories, plays and books relate to time. Another author has spotted islands in everything he does; another states her themes as 'being a wimp and childhood influences'.

At another pub night I quizzed Charles Palliser about his tutorial on the BBC Get Writing website I mentioned the other day. He sits firmly on the pre-planning side of the fence. Doesn't go for Stephen King's On Writing methods (finding out what happens as he goes along) at all.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Conf 186: Having What It Takes

No. of words: 6,052
No. of new rejections: 1

E-mail in late last week:

Dear Amanda,

I did enjoy these pages very much. But I didn't love the concept and think it's not quite distinctive enough to compete when so little is being commissioned in this area at present. Do let me know if you come up with any other ideas; feel free to float them by me before you get too far into the writing. You have what it takes I am sure. It's just a case of coming up with the perfect idea.

All my best

Well, that's good then. This was in response to my abandoned Novel 3. She'd already rejected Novel 4. Wasn't too thrilled with the idea of going back to the old one right now anyway. Must get novel 4 finished above all else. Better progress today. Had made decision that if the bit I was worrying at still wasn't working out I'd move on anyway. But it did. I think. So steaming on with chapter 3. It's a good feeling to know the plot points are worked out and ahead of me, and being able to put in little foreshadows here and there, some of which are cropping up all by themselves.

Have to confess I'm feeling a bit self-conscious here because, in my reply , I told her about this blog. Can't help wondering if she will be taking a look at this and deciding whether I'm an OK person or a nutter on the bus type.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Conf 185: Lilac Time

Wordcount: 1,500

1,500 words in a week. Not good. Too many distractions:

May Monday was a Bank Holiday. After a busy weekend we did nothing but go out for a pizza in the afternoon, a very noisy pizza, which reminded us how wise it is to stay home on bank holidays. We talked about my next book idea, a children's fantasy. Good input from partner and daughter had me scribbling notes on bus tickets and restaurant visiting cards.

May The weather has been sensational this week. Have ditched the pilates DVD and instead am cycling to the island first thing before breakfast. It's so beautiful, feels like being in a permanent Rupert Brooke poem. I'm usually the only person there, too, which adds to the joy of it all. This morning was in a full-blown nature programme as I tracked mysterious, loud, deep-throat quacks coming from the ponds and streams. Thought they were ducks at it, well-hidden ducks, but a big splash in the centre of a pond I approached too noisily told me otherwise. Quacking fish?? I lurked until the answer revealed itself. Frogs. Dozens of frogs calling to each other. I want to be outside every day, all the time. I want to live in a tent in the woods. Wish I could take my files in a rucksack and be there all day, but it doesn't work. Have tried sitting in garden and working on structure ,then rushing inside and typing it on computer, and rushing outside again for the next bit, but, as the wordcount shows, this isn't really a very satisfactory way of getting on.

Blog Not really so, though, as I haven't even done much of that (this) this week.

Pedicure Valentine's Day beauty voucher was only valid for 3 months, so had to get some pampering in. Was saving it until I felt I deserved it on the wordcount front, but just shows that in 3 months I never reached that happy state. Have never had a manicure in my life and this was my first ever pedicure. It was OK - I was so engrossed in the Heat and Elle magazines I forgot to notice what was happening down at the toes end of things.

Work Was going to write today, but last night an e-mail came in from The Guardian. Three more pieces to do, good, better than that script malarky, but this is now what I'm doing today, leaving NEXT week clear to make some sustained progress.

Coffee and Chocolate Coffee and a fine selection of mini-Crunchies, Twix and Cadbury's Dairy Milk with writer friend on Friday. We are both at about 60,000 words and have decided to swap manuscripts, which led to conversation along lines of

'AK, you must accept, though, that my first drafts are terrible'
'not as terrible as mine'
'wanna BET?'

I know I'll win that one though.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Conf 184: Theoried Out

That's it, am completely theoried out and ready to go into the final draft.

I have a file divided into structure, plot, scene analysis, characters, synopsis (due now for a heavy rewrite) with a reminder at the front of what I should be looking at before embarking on each chapter. On my desk I have a red, folded card. On the front are the themes, hidden and visible, plus two reminders:

NEVER let S know she is going to succeed
NEVER let the characters disclose their own personalities.

Inside is a list of the 8 main characters, on the left a sentence they'd say that sums them up, that lets me hear their voice, on the right their ATTITUDE. Willy Russell recently confided to a writer friend that he should forget all those 'how to' character charts with their hopes and fears and favourite chocolate bars, bugger that, he says, all you need to know is their attitude.

I saved creating the perfect scene till last. This is one of Kate Harrison's lovely links of the day. I'm not sure it's going to work for me, sounds a bit too good to be true, but I'll give it a try on some of my creakier sections of early draft.

Now's the hard bit, getting started again. Eufff.

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