Friday, June 30, 2006

Conf 211: Another No

No. of words: 57,039


Even though am sitting tightly on hands and am not submitting novel again until it's completely finished, this morning's e mail managed to produce another little negative whomp in stomach to start the week.


Dear Amanda,

Thanks for sending over your suggestions; however I regret to inform that at the moment this type of material is not in our priority to market and promote.

I am sure we can try it in future,

Thanks for showing us your good material.

Kind regards,


This was the mag article syndication agency. I wasn't holding out on anything wildly wonderful but still another no for the gathering.

More work work over weekend and today, so wordcount on hold again.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Conf 210: Playtime

No.of words: 54,661

Summer's here, the words are done, time to
play.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Conf 209: Changing Books

No. of words: 53,297

Over and above daily tally. This is down to reaching a chunk of writing that didn't need much reworking, rather than demon tapping. But still had that rare feeling of a sense of progress and accomplishment as I switched the computer OFF at 11.30 this morning. Instead of early morning biking, biked in the other direction to the bank, shops and library. I even considered lounging about in a coffee bar and relaxing, but haven't quite reached that state of achievement yet. Brown Owl's Guide to Life has restored my faith in fiction & was hungry for more. So instead of the usual biographies I've been schlepping about with lately I came away from the library with Zadie's The Autograph Man, I know it didn't get great reviews but several people I've come across have rated it; Paul Auster's The Music of Chance plus Undiscovered France (in the hopes of finding somewhere so undiscovered that it's cheap enough to stay at on our slow ramble back from Perigeaux). Looked myself up on library computer, they have 1 of novel 1 in the borough (OUT) and 12 of non-fiction (2 OUT). Have dumped Novel 2 and other non-fiction.

Received invite to a friend's book launch this morning. This is interesting, a self-published book that's getting lots of attention, a page in The Telegraph and a slot on Radio 4's Midweek, already, chattering to Libby like an old pro he was, and the most interesting guest on. This just goes to show really, that if your story is special enough the DIY route is possible. It doesn't matter how well-connected or glitzy the marketing and PR is, at the end of the day it's the story that does the talking.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Conf 208: Free Teeth Freelance

No. of words: 49,265

Postman brings a brown envelope brrr. However, it's good news - my National Health Service Tax Credit Exemption Certificate. As a worker who earns so little I am entitled to free prescriptions, teeth and eyes. At first lots of stamping of feet and mega-screams when I realise I needn't have paid nasty dentist bill. But the small print states I can claim it back within 3 months of treatment. A couple of phone calls have confirmed. Also means I can go and get some new glasses, long overdue. They'll probably look awful, NHS glasses veer between being a national joke and the height of hip, and no way am I going to be part of the cool and gorgeous. But for reading and working they'll do. If you're a writer not earning much (i. e. most of us) it really is worth checking your eligibility. I only discovered it last year when a friend happened to tell me in passing. I always thought in order to claim credit you had to be paying tax in the first place. Not so.

After fulfilling wordcount duty, did some research into the freelance magazine marketing world. I really should be exploiting my national press domestic guruness status more & trying to earn a proper crust from it. The NUJ site full of inf, including these really useful freelance guidelines plus a list of what magazines, newspapers etc have been paying per 1,000 words. My fee is spot on actually. So can't ask for a raise there. But might be able to flog the words worldwide or do other pieces. This was all brought on by yesterday following up a link to a syndication agency given to me by a friend who edits a womans mag in Sweden. I've had a positive reply and they're now checking out my work so it's all fingers crossed time again.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Conf 207: Murder by Musical

No. of words: 47,008

Off the map all week with work work. An utter marathon, worst was 6.30am - 8pm nonstop on Friday. Then a quick shower and off to party for all the helpers of the charity cricket match we photographed. Immediately started guzzling wine, & got quite drunk. The vicar sat next to me at dinner & we had long chats about photography, levitation and Tibet. He's quite an old hippy at heart & I enjoyed his company. I think I might have gone too far though, the way it's so easy to do with vicars when you're drunk out of your brains, quoting the Father Ted episode where the bishop is converted to a hippie and falling about laughing. I haven't actually seen it either. We learned that one of those glossy estate agent type free mags is doing a feature and using 6 or 7 of our pics. Wonder if any of them will be mine?

Anyway the work very unhealthy, fingers worn to shreds, tempers frayed and periodic bouts of feeling very sorry for self. Only break was collecting daughter from author friend who is in the midst of serial author-moments of launches and lunches, signings and interviews and all the razamatazz. Amazed to see on her hall wall a print of painting by my new artist friend I met at that party last week. One of her favourite painters! So a pleasing interlude with a little bit of synchronicity reminding me that it CAN happen and DOES happen and it can all be worth it in the end. And off I stomped back to my countdown of the 100 top musicals, FINE when lovely Busby Berkley, Judy Garland etc, but having to sit through CATs and the opinions of Toyah Willcox and Tara Palmer T. enough to want to chuck it all in and live in a tent. THEN on Saturday morning couldn't believe it was actually all over and I could lounge in bed and read my book and have cups of tea and biccies and long lazy day until out in evening to dinner with good old friends: thump thump on the door, postman with MORE tapes, four of them, and, just to top them off, my credit card bill with the nasty dentist fee added. UGH! and Ugh and Ugh. I could have thrown hissy and not done them, but actually they were more comedy character analyses, and 2 by Dave Gorman . He is very, very wonderful. Hugely intelligent and funny and... phwor, yes, I confess. So there you go yet more work keeping me down, but discovering the Gorman and learning about comedy characters. However all done now and they're paying me fifty quid extra for being such a good little worker.

Now this coming week is clear apart from finishing the novel. I still would really love to get this draft done by the middle of July. 30,000 words to go. 10,000 words a week it's not really on, is it. Except I could do it. My best ever was 5,000 in a day. And this is a rewrite. If I could get into that marathon-mentality. Equally fancy retiring. Taking a complete holiday from it all and polishing taps and pruning tomato plants and cooking different recipes and pottering and talking to fish and being a normal person. But then, who doesn't? And who can?

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Conf 206: Cooler Pools

No. of words: 47,008
Target for week: 52,817

Weekly target beginning to look reachable, mobile bleeped this morning. Four hours of transcription coming in tomorrow morning. But - Work. Rejoice rejoice.

Good workshop last night. The chapter with hidden depths I read went down well. The overall standard was really high & was glad to come away feeling like I'd kept up. Unlike last time. But the work I did after that last workshop has changed the whole premise of the book! So bad readings can be just as positive as good readings sometimes.

We discussed our methods a bit. I'm currently using The Writing Coach's "Before writing each scene, spend l5 minutes thinking what to focus on. What is the intention for this scene. What is the suspense to build at the end of this scene? how does she grow as a character in this scene (underlined by me that bit). Direction? Fluid? Keep action moving, strong, flowing." That was a rough note-taking translation of her words anyhow & it's helping. L's method of visualising each scene as a movie script, and even writing each chapter as a screenplay first, helps her to keep down all the explanatory waffle it's so easy to get tangled in as a novelist.

I was a real lady who lunched today. Was taken to

The Hurlingham Club
by BBC producer I used to work with. She had suggested the Chelsea Arts Club but e-mailed to say at this time of the year the Hurlingham grounds at their best and it'd be more fun. Partner also said this more of a lig opportunity, because of its setting and the impossibility of becoming a member. It was surreally wonderful: lawn tennis, croquet, a tennis tournament, Pimms, fab fab pools, empty (of people) and, unlike our saucepan efforts here, full of water. (Thanks so much Julia by the way for the news that paddling pools are exempt from hosepipe bans!) Squashy sofa flop corners in the grand white mansion etc etc. What most impressed me was, on our walk around the grounds, one of those gardener's tuck tuck vans was coming towards us along the path. I was about to step out of its way, in Kew Gardens you have to leap out of their way as they thunder by, but this one stopped way way away and waited all the while until we'd sauntered past before moving forwards. I had to give him a motorist's cheers mate, thank you wave. It was good to catch up with my friend, who was a generous person to work for. The last author she made a film about was Edna O'Brien. I gave her a copy of my first novel & I look forward to the 3-part series and the feature film.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Conf 205: Cool pool

No. of words: 45,569
Target for week: 52,817

The work work didn't appear on Friday evening or Saturday morning, so the weekend had an unexpected playing truant/holiday feel about it. Even did some writing on Sat and Sun morning. The hot weather helped, as did our new paddling pool. As there's a hosepipe ban in this part of the world right now, we had to lug quite a few bins-full of water, but it was worth it. Yesterday friends came and we had long, boozy lunch beside the splashes. If I had a real pool I don't think I'd go anywhere ever again. This is what always happens when we stay with friends in France. We have such a good time flopping and reading and swimming we never explore.

There was a French market in Twickenham on Saturday. These are springing up all over the place. Went to one last year but it was rubbish. This one much more authentic, with creperie, and 500 different types of olive stall, and 30 different types of salami stall etc etc. Bought a handbag, (replacing Primark synthetic model of at least 4 years vintage) and some Breton biscuits.What's happened to peaches this year? They go from nasty hard to shrivelled. Completely inedible!

We also had the Eagles playing in the stadium. I quite like living near a stadium. Was going to go up and have a listen, like we do sometimes for Welsh rugby, but couldn't be bothered in the end. We have the Stones coming in August. I wasn't going to go, tickets are silly prices, but have entered the residents' ballot. So fingers crossed. If I don't win, I'll definitely be taking the camp chair and wine up for a closer listen. No way could I stay indoors watching same old telly when a couple of streets away, a crankier version of Get Yer Ya Yas Out was being acted out. One of those teenage albums I played so much the grooves wore out.

Grumpyoldbookman had a link to
Susan Hill telling about her experiences judging the Orange prize. Sent me upstairs for my Penelope Fitzgerald The Means of Escape this morning; and another novel to add to the wish list. Now I have helped to judge a short story prize, I know how she feels! Though I did quite well, apparently, getting 3 of my selection through to next round.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Conf 204: The Weekend

Wordcount: 43,299


"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." Thomas Alva Edison

More work work coming in this weekend, here's hoping it won't take up too much time.

Reached daily wordcount target today and completed nasty dentist treatment. Dentist wasn't nasty at all but the bill was. Discovered that the scene I was writing had a hidden depth double meaning. When they happen on their own like that, a bonus and a clue that you might actually be getting somewhere.

Fab evening at Debbie's yesterday. I now have a new wardrobe. Much-needed jeans & lots of trousers, dresses, skirts & tops. Also discovered Virgin Radio and introduced D to The Streets, though I know she'll know them when she hears them.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Conf 203: Wordcount Panic

No. of words: 42,060
Target for today: 48,648


Feeling a bit overwhelmed trying to catch up with self. It doesn't really massively matter if I finish 6 days later than planned. So have decided to go back to the 1307 words a day tactic and stop this awful feeling of getting nowhere. Searched fruitlessly for Steinbeck's piece about self love, but found this instead.

Off to tea with old friend D now, who has a bag of clothes she's throwing, wooo.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Conf 202: Artist's Block

Final draft - no. of words: 38,199
Target for today: 43,420
No. of tapes to transcribe today: 2
No. of children off sick from school today: 1

It's running away, but mustn't panic. I will catch up, somehow. And 2 tapes just arrived, wonder what they are... oh good, more comedy characters, not some mindless Mums on Strike rubbish.

Went to a good party at the weekend. Big Birthday for J one of the BBC's top lighting cameramen, now semi-retired. I bumped into the Bookmark producer I worked for on the Alice Thomas Ellis programme. She's been trying to write a novel & is taking me to lunch at the Chelsea Arts Club, wooo. Also met a lovely artist who has been suffering from artist's block. Made me realise again how lucky writers are to have such an established literary agent set-up. Telly parties are usually networking nightmares, people you're chatting with suddenly seeing someone more important and walk away whilst you're still mid-sentence & things like that. TV business has always been done at parties and in the bar, the old BBC buildings each had their own private boozer. I was rubbish at the standing next to people who could further my career stuff & couldn't work through it at all. Anyway that's all mellowing now most of us are out of work and have been for so long the 'what are you working on now' question is seamlessly avoided. And yes the artist. Quite a famous one John had made a film about and stayed friends with. Their agents are the galleries. Art Dealers - dodgy Dennises with posh voices. This guy had an exhibition of his work a couple of years ago and the gallery treated him so poorly it really did set him back in his work. Like, he presented his pictures for the show and the West End gallery turned their noses up at the frames. Got them all reframed and billed him £36,000. Then their percentage of sale is 50%. They sold one of his paintings for £4,000 and credited him £1800. A discount, they explained. Taken from his side of the profits? he queried. But of course!

Daughter off school today. Came home yesterday with sore throat & heat rash. We had the hottest June day on record yesterday, 30C or something like that. And the stupid games teacher made them run 800 metres.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Conf 201: How To Sell Your Novel Part II

No. of words: same

Dilemma: work on novel, swim or watch football?

Fully intended getting back to novel today after work work took up all of the Tues-Fri, like it does. However, found myself weakening on way back from dropping daughter off at her old school fair. It's a gorgeous day, the trees in full rustle & just made for lazing about with the papers and a long lazy breakfast before joining in the England madness. The first game's at 2pm. On way back dropped by in Tesco to get beer and guacamole. I have to have guacamole if I watch football, don't really know why. Probably because first ever match I enjoyed, and I only ever watch these big ones, was babysitting for friends who left me big pot of it and some doritos. So, the guacamole having spoken & chilling nicely in the fridge, will have to work extra hard next week, hmm. Other thought is that the local outdoor pool, a No Go area usually on boiling hot weekends because of yob takeover, would be blissful.

Tesco was a nightmare, with a Christmassy feverishness about it but I wanted some of their choc chip cookies. I stopped off at the books as usual to examine the lie. Number 2 in their chart is a book called Queen Mum by Kate Long. I read the first page & here we go again. Another one! Already blogged about Kirsty Scott's Mother's Day featuring the name Tesco in the first paragraph, and this one, also in the very first paragraph has "....huge row in middle of Tesco about that". I think we could be onto something. Perhaps if I called one of my characters Curtis Brown, and had him living in a flat above Waterstones and living off Tesco Ready Meals (Finest) the fasttrack would magically appear.

And here's me joining in, advertising their cookies, maybe that's the way in. Unethical novelist, I could live with that. Better than broke novelist.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Conf two HUNDRED: Priestly Interruptions

No. of words: 38,199
Target for today: 40,806

Woops.

Work work has intruded on the wordcount.

More of the comedy character transcripts, so although it is annoying to have to stop just as was getting into swing again, it is work and very welcome. Have just done Vicky Pollard and interview with wonderful writer of Father Ted, The Day Today and Black Books. If I ever get to the stage in life of being able to go into shops to buy things for self, after Seinfeld DVDs, Father Ted must be high on the list.

This piece, a portrait of an Irish Catholic priest working in the East End of London has stuck in my mind, especially his awful cooking. Have made a note to pack a John le Carré in holiday reading, one of the many authors I haven't got to yet.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Conf 199: Activity

Final draft
No. of words: 38,199
Target no. of words for this week (@ 1307 per day): 42,113

Something's gone funny with the linking here. Anyway, ploughing on. That rejection did throw me off pace, though I told myself I mustn't let it. I know now that though I'm on the final draft, there'll have to be another run-through for subtelties of character which could make all the difference. This feels like the toughest part of it so far, having had a small bit of recognition, enough to encourage me onwards, but not enough to know for certain that I can do it again.

Read a rather rubbish extract at the workshop last night. One of my old chestnuts, writing about a character getting from one place to another. Nine times out of ten this ISN'T NEEDED! I KNOW this yet am STILL doing it! Make them leap there and Get On With The Story. Or, as L said, 'in late, out early'. However, I did want this bit in as it was arriving in a new country. Anyway, it all ended well. I woke up this morning realising what I had to do to bring the scene alive, deleted the nuts & bolts of moving around and replaced it with a fight.

I've been moving around quite a lot recently. Not, sad to say, in the travelling sense, but in the moving body parts around in strange positions. First off, took daughter and a friend to Coral Reef pool last Thursday as planned. Aferwards we stopped off at a nearby forest and discovered

Go Ape

Under 16s have to have an adult with them, so there I was committing myself to climbing up and clambering on ropes through the treetops. You get a thorough training session before you're allowed on. If you follow the instructions you CAN'T FALL, if you don't it could be fatal. Then you're sent off on your own! No instructor breathing safety rules down your neck. But we soon got the hang (sic) of it and I felt chuffed for getting round the whole course. The worst bit was undoubtedly the series of dangling rope swings, talk about stepping off into space. The best bits were the wheeeeee massively long zip wires. The girls were in heaven and are desperate to go again and again and again. Major discovery of the day: 'don't look down' is extremely good advice and could equally be applied to writing or any other insane activity.

Another first last week was helping to judge a short story competion. Very enjoyable. I took my stories and a glass of wine into the garden and made my little piles of Yeses No's and Maybes. It was fascinating to be on the other side of the fence. My top 3 were a short story, an extract from a novel and, my overall favourite really though I put it second in my group, a memoir which wasn't brilliantly polished but had a ringing 'voice' right from the start. It really made me see what this 'voice' thing was all about; and the relief you feel when you find something good.

At the weekend the other dread was an adult Korfball match I'd agreed to take part in. Korfball's like netball & basketball except boys and girls play together. This did, actually, make it really much more fun as I found myself leaping around with teams of fit footbally type men. We chanted hip hip hoorays for the sides that beat us and won one game! I'd do it again. I am doing it again in a few weeks' time, unless they find more women, they're short of women. I'm not one of those popular types that'll get picked for her playing. Daughter said afterwards 'try not to look so scared every time you get the ball.'

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.