Archive for January, 2012

The luxury of choice.

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Peace! There is peace in my house! The girls have gone back to school! And I had a treat this morning because my husband did the school run so I didn’t have to get dressed. Hence I am sitting in front of my computer at 8:30am in my pyjamas. Fun and lazy though the holidays are, I do appreciate the time on my own when the girls are at school. It’s such a luxury to want/need to write and then be able to choose to do so with no interruptions. They have only been back three days and already I’ve managed to complete the prologue and first three chapters of my WIP (work in progress for the uninitiated) to my satisfaction and send them off to my agent for her opinion. This is absolutely a nerve-wracking thing to do; if she likes it then that means I have someone waiting to read the full manuscript when it’s completed and quite possibly handle it for me if she thinks the time and the market are right, but if she doesn’t then that means she will not show any interest in it ever again. Which rather leaves me in the position of writing it solely for myself or deciding to write something new. And this WIP is still such a fledgling manuscript, I’ve only written 15,797 words, it feels like a real baby of a work. The plans are there but little else, I have no chapter outlines or detailed notes yet so I feel very protective of it. I think if I had written more and had a better sense of confidence about it I’d be more relaxed and able to accept whatever judgement comes back to me. But it isn’t until around 25,000 words that I really feel like I’m properly holding the reins on the manuscript. Until that point I don’t know my characters as well as I might, all options are open for the plot and I just don’t feel in control or properly bedded in. Therefore, if she comes back to me with a negative opinion (which has happened in the past) I know I shall feel crushed and uninspired and struggle to gather the enthusiasm to write on regardless. Which is wrong because you shouldn’t write for a market, or for one person, but I respect her opinion so much and if she says it’s rubbish or not marketable then I shall believe her. However, with this particular manuscript  I love writing it so much and I’m so involved with the story already that I hope I would be able to overcome any negative feelings in a very few days. Hopefully I won’t have to wait too long, she’s generally very good at getting back to me quickly. There will no softening of any blow however, if she doesn’t like it – she’ll say so!  I did ask about the fifth and final response we’re waiting for on Daisychain but apparently despite chasing nothing is forthcoming. Ah, well. It will come eventually.

I was very excited (and jealous) this week to read an interview with author Joanne Harris about her writing shed. See here: http://www.shedworking.co.uk/2011/02/exclusive-interview-with-shedworking.html?m=1 This is what I aspire to! This lovely, talented lady has been able to create her ideal space to write in, in her garden. This strikes me as the ultimate luxury. Most people write wherever (and whenever) they can. Furtively at work, on trains, in cafes, in bedrooms whilst small children are doing homework, etc., etc. I remember reading about Catherine Alliott who wrote her first novel under her desk at work – what dedication! Or boredom, perhaps. If you are a new and aspiring author it’s unlikely that you can cater to your every whim about where you’d like to be creative; I consider myself pretty lucky because I have a desk that is mine and mine alone and I can shut the door to keep my marauding husband and children out. The privacy is invaluable. But I did wonder where and how I would choose to write given the absolute choice. And I think I agree with Joanne Harris in that I would leave the house to work in some structure elsewhere, but alone and in total silence. I certainly couldn’t write in a library or anywhere. It would be a massive psychological step to get up and walk out of the door to start writing. As she points out, it can be very difficult as a writer to find that mental working space because whether in an office or at home you are continually surrounded by the accoutrements of normal, daily life and it can be hard to switch off. If the phone rings, you answer it. If someone comes to the door, you answer it. If you glance at the laundry basket and it’s full you’ll probably think – it’s time I did some washing. All of these things, and more, cut into the absolute focus it is possible to achieve elsewhere. I am very bad at abandoning my housework to sit down and write. If I do I find myself thinking about what awaits me afterwards and I get distracted. The only time that I can switch off properly to everything else around me is when I know that there is a reason for wanting to get something written. The prologue and first three chapters for assessment, for example. However if I had a writing shed I think I’d find it very easy to get up in the morning, make a cup of tea and head out there, regardless of the mess in my kitchen or whatever. My shed would have to be warm, there would be no radio, I would have a very comfortable, supportive chair, a large desk to write on because I tend to plan on random sheets of A4 paper and spread them about the place, it would be very well lit but no glaring overhead bulb, I’d have lamps dotted around and I probably wouldn’t take my mobile phone. Or if I did it would be silenced. And the word ‘shed’ immediately conjures up images of spiders and I definitely couldn’t have any of those so I’d also need a cleaner. Which is another luxury I don’t currently possess and would like to. Apparently writing leaves me plenty of time for cleaning……according to my husband. I also doubt that I would get dressed to write. I’ve been meaning to tweet about this for a while – what does everyone else write in? Clothing wise? Do people get up and get dressed as normal in jeans and jumper or whatever, or do they have special loungewear, or do they just stay in their pyjamas? I’d adore to know. I don’t get dressed especially to write but seeing as I have a school run to do six days a week, I’m normally dressed already. I do have to be comfortable when I’m writing though, I can’t be cold or have waistbands digging in or anything.

My training for the half-marathon is not going particularly well…..I’m managing to get to the gym most days but it’s usually just to play racket ball which I’ve discovered a love for, or to use the gym in general, not specifically for training. The problem I think is that the further I am able to run, the longer it takes – and the more bored I get. If I run 5.5-6 miles on the treadmill it will take me an hour – and that’s a long time to be in one place, running. Several people have suggested returning to road running as an alternative but I have problems with my knees and it would really hurt them, and also I like to know exactly how far I’ve run and at what speed and I also run on an incline. So my new plan is just to run a shorter distance, but faster, and then do some work on the cross-trainer afterwards. That’s what I did on Tuesday and I felt absolutely exhausted afterwards so hopefully that was some decent CV training.

Speaking of which, today is definitely a proper gym training day, and I have housework to do as well before meeting a friend at 2pm for coffee. And all of this before I can get any writing done :) If you don’t already follow me on twitter I’m @SoVerySarah and that’s where I post all news immediately so keep an eye on there to find what the verdict is on my new manuscript…..

A New Year – and a new decade.

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Right! I am seizing the very last minutes of my brain function today to write this blog. I popped on to my website to find a link for someone on twitter and I was horrified to discover that the last blog post I wrote was on October 18th!!! I mean – SO many things have happened since then and now. Mostly in the last week; I have had a fantastic Christmas and New Year and I am very sad that it’s over now. I had got quite used to drinking champagne at breakfast time, staying up till 2am entertaining friends every night and sleeping till 10am. I even lay in bed for an entire morning one day and read my signed (!) copy of the Peter James novel ‘Perfect People’ in five hours, cover to cover without stopping. That may have been my biggest festive treat. I adore Peter James, I cannot recommend his writing highly enough. He researches so thoroughly and writes so skilfully that it’s an absolute joy to read his work. But it’s back down to earth with a bump tomorrow as my husband goes back to work, yet the girls are at home for another week. Childcare will be solely my domain again. I love looking after them, spending time with them, playing with them and entertaining their little friends and everything, but at this stage of the holidays I just yearn to write. I’m ready to stop partying and start eating and sleeping properly again and along with that focus comes the need to write – and if I can’t I do get a bit grumpy and intolerant. It’s difficult to describe but it’s like the creativity needs to escape and I’m far too tired by the evening for it to escape properly. The only thing it manages to do is creep out a bit sometimes, look around half-heartedly and crawl back inside.

Christmas Eve Eve

At the time of writing the last blog I had just received my third publisher rejection. Hot on the heels of that one (I think it may even have been the next day) came news of the fourth, which wasn’t such a nice rejection and that one got to me a bit. I think it was having two so close together, it made me feel a bit despondent. However I got over it quickly enough and I haven’t heard from the fifth and final publisher yet but I am not expecting good news. With each day that passes that manuscript goes a little bit further away from my heart – all my attention is now on my new one. My new, new one. What I am about to say does not fill me with pride, I’ve done something that I don’t approve of and broken one of my own, unbreakable rules. It’s not a very harsh rule, it’s simply that if you start writing something, you finish it and yet I’ve abandoned the manuscript that I was working on the last time I blogged. It was an easy decision in the end. I was struggling with it and avoiding sitting down to write. I didn’t have a clear idea of the whole plot, never mind individual chapter plans and I was getting myself tied in knots about it as might be evident from the fact that I couldn’t even decide whether to write in first or third person. Eventually I accepted that it just wasn’t working for me at the moment and decided to draw a line underneath it. I will probably go back to it…..probably. But that’s simultaneously one of the most wonderful and most awful things about being a writer – you never know where your career is going to take you. Daisychain was on the back burner for a long while before I resurrected it so I know I’m not necessarily writing the manuscript off completely.

Anyway – the new one. I am tremendously excited about it. I’m about 11,000 words in and unlike the previous manuscript the words just flow and flow when I write. That’s how I know I’ve made the right decision about what to work on at the moment. When I was feeling so fed-up and uncertain about how to write I suddenly thought – I know, I’m going to write what I want to write. With all the things that I love mixed into it. And something that I originally wrote when I was fifteen shot into my head and it was perfect. It’s a different style for me, it’s part historical so it requires some careful research but it’s just a pleasure to write and I see myself finishing it quite quickly. Unlike the previous one I know exactly where this plot is going at all times, it’s quite simple, but the threads are very different so I hope it’s not dull. My lovely husband agreed to read it the other day and he said he enjoyed it so much it was like watching a film rather than reading a story, i.e. I’d brought all the characters to life sufficiently for him. And then a few days later he told me that when he felt like sitting down to read it wasn’t his current book that he wanted to read – it was my manuscript! Such a compliment, I was so touched. I’m reasonably certain that he meant it as well. I haven’t sent any of it to my agent yet but hopefully it will meet with her approval too. Watch this space.

The other thing that is taking up a lot of my time (and money) at the moment is training for the Brighton half-marathon on February 19th. I am very scared. As anyone who knows me will say, until recently I was more likely to fly through the air than run thirteen miles and yet I have agreed to do this. All for a good cause, obviously, and I do like a challenge but I wonder if I’ve got a bit ahead of myself here? I’m training religiously three times a week, I can run six miles on the road or on the treadmill easily now and I play a fair bit of racquetball too on my ‘off’ days just to try and increase my fitness. I was unable to face training outside during the winter in all the rain and the dark so I had to join a gym; it gives me no excuse not to exercise. I had to buy some expensive new trainers as well because my ankles weren’t stable apparently, which I found a bit alarming, I’d like to keep them intact if I can as I get older. And speaking of getting older – it’s my birthday in less than three weeks and I’m going to be thirty! THIRTY! I am ridiculously, childishly excited. In true Sarah Haynes style I have a big party organised and I am very much looking forward to seeing all of my guests and dancing the night away with plenty of champagne. I’ve bought my dress, arranged my hair appointment and the countdown is well and truly on. I’m not sad to leave my twenties at all and I don’t feel old, I just feel ready for the new phase of my life. I’ve done my twenties, bring on my thirties! A whole new decade…..I wonder what will happen?

Well I feel a bit less guilty now I’ve written a new blog post. I don’t tend to make resolutions but if I had to one would definitely be to write blog posts more regularly. I don’t think frequency necessarily matters, I follow blogs because I enjoy them and even if the posts are months apart I would still keep checking, but it is nice to know that someone is going to write every week or every month or whatever. So that will be my resolution for 2012. HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! xxx