Posts Tagged ‘time’

The beginning of a long road.

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

As anyone who follows me regularly on twitter will know I have started writing Manuscript Number 3! It does have a name which I will keep to myself for a while; suffice to say it is one of my favourite words in the world. As the title of this blog says it is the beginning of a very long road so I thought I would write a post about each stage of it because I find the creation of a book a fascinating process. You can never predict what will happen or how it will happen, and right now I am at the very, very start of it all.

If I have one aim every time I start writing something new, it is to plan better than I ever have before. The number of times I look at my screen and just wish that I had detailed notes about what’s going to happen written down next to me is huge. But that would be a massive luxury and I am slowly learning that this isn’t how I work. And when I say slowly, I do mean very slowly  – it’s taken me approximately 440,000 words and six years to learn. I should have realised before, really. I aspire to be an organised person and I’m not. I would love to have set routines every day, but I don’t, I behave very much as the mood takes me. And my writing is no different. I spent about three solid days planning this manuscript and poured hours and hours more of thought into it. As I commented to someone on twitter I felt like I never stopped ‘working’. No matter what I was doing I found myself shifting ideas around in my head, peering through the tangles of potential plot lines, ruthlessly scything away anything that was superfluous and seizing upon all inspiration. It had to sort itself out. Once I had the bare outline of a plot I wrote it down. But I struggled here too; I mean, how do you create one, coherent document of what is going to happen in your book when it necessarily involves relationships between all the characters? I found that I couldn’t. So these are honestly the tags I have taped to my planning notebook (in order):

  1. ‘to remember’
  2. ‘main female character’
  3. ‘random details’
  4. ‘main female character and secondary female character’
  5. ‘main female character and main male character’
  6. ‘secondary male character’
  7. ‘plot construction’
  8. ‘secondary female character’
  9. ‘main male character’
  10. ‘PLOT’

And in between all of this well-behaved preparation the only thing I wanted to do was to start writing and bring the characters to life. And of course once I did the whole thing was out of my control anyway. I will never cease to be amazed by just how much a book constructs itself. Within a very few hundred words I had changed the POV which was a huge gamble for me but it seems to have paid off. I always email my sister chapters of my manuscript as I write it and she critiques it for me.  When I did so this time I deliberately didn’t mention the fact that I was writing it in the first person rather than the third person  and she didn’t  mention it in her reply so I’m assuming she didn’t notice and if she did she felt it worked. I sent her on this occasion the prologue and the first chapter and her comments were: “What’s the character’s name???? And what does she look like, I have no idea what she looks like! And the conversation between X&Y is too long and too boring.” Which wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear but it did make me realise that I had made a grave and fundamental error which I instantly corrected and rewrote the chapter which she much preferred.

The characters do honestly bring themselves to life, decide their own names, where they live and so on and so forth. I have but the barest influence on them. I know that sounds delusional but it’s true. I’d named my characters before I started, nice names I thought, but whilst I was writing the correct names presented themselves to me and of course they were better. And once I had the correct names the characters themselves leaped and flared to life and once they’ve done that they start telling their story far more accurately than I can. It’s an amazing process. And it does feel like having a secret world to creep into. The best analogy I can think of is when you go camping, crawl into a tent and zip it up behind you. That’s what it feels like when I start writing in the morning.

And obviously now the girls are back at school I have plenty of time for writing. My manuscript currently stands at 5,211 words. Most of which was written in one day. I can’t keep that output up, my brain feels exhausted, but I hope to produce an amount of writing every single day. Apart from the weekends, maybe. I haven’t decided about those yet. My eldest daughter has Saturday school so technically I shall some free time but perhaps it would be better to try and stick to a traditional working week? My husband doubles over with mirth every time I tell him that I am ‘working’. But I am. I am sitting down and applying myself and not being distracted by Jeremy Kyle or Radio 4. Disparate potential distractions, I grant you. But I do feel like I’m constructing a new life for myself, I have never had this sort of time before. I’ve either been at school, Uni or had one or the other of the girls at home with me. This solitude and space to write is an absolute novelty to me – and I am loving it. I’m still wondrous every night when I put my younger daughter to bed that in the morning she’s going to get up and go back to school. Every day. I do miss having her around sometimes, but on the whole I feel everyone is going to be a lot happier with this new arrangement. She is thoroughly enjoying school and having a lot of fun, and I am able to be very creative and produce a lot of words, which is great. I wonder how long it will take me to write this book? Another interesting point is that I always feel that the current manuscript I am working on is the best thing I have ever written. I always feel that, and I don’t know why. Is it because I am filled with enthusiasm for the current project? Or is it really the best thing I have ever written because my writing is improving with time and practice? I don’t have the answer yet.

I have no more publisher news.  Which is partly nice because it means that I have no more rejections. It’s an odd feeling to be so far removed  from something that is so personal to me. Out there, somewhere, in some editor’s inbox my manuscript is sitting. And when it is commented upon it won’t be me that receives the news, it will be my agent. There’s a whole step between me and it. Which is nice in some ways; I can get on with writing the next one without having to worry about dealing with the previous one.

See! 1,272 words and it isn’t even ten o’ clock in the morning. I said I was being productive :)  xx

The Importance of Being Reviewed

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Right, this is it. I have come down from the dizzy high of receiving my books and now it is time to get serious (I am mostly lecturing myself here). Things He Never Knew is going to be released in 24 days and I need to be prepared.

You would think that my time management skills are excellent, having juggled a baby and a Law degree in the past – not to mention my hectic social life at the time – and indeed they might have been back in the day. Now, they are lamentably awful. Clearly a lot of you will be used to working and running a household with everything that entails, but I am not. This is all very new to me and I am struggling a bit to fit everything in and get it all in the right order. For example, my house is quite clean but my children still look a little bohemian; this is not by design but rather through lack of ironed clothes. I can get away with this because as a writer it’s possible that I could be slightly bohemian myself, but as anyone who knows me will tell you – I am not. Headscarves and flip-flops and maxi dresses and coloured beads and string bags are not to be found in my wardrobe. I’m not very tall and I think I’d look silly in a maxi dress. Mini is more my style.

So obviously I am thrilled and delighted to be in this position of having a book published, not to mention lucky, but that said I had no idea that so much – well – work went along with it. I have a friend who is knowledgeable in the fields of marketing and promotion and things and I am exceedingly lucky that he has taken me under his very skilled wing, but along with that comes a task list which is longer than me. And enforced rigorously. Even from afar. For example, he is abroad at this moment on holiday in Florida which I thought might lessen his communication levels. Not a bit of it, in fact he’s become inadvertently more effective at nagging because of the time difference. Every morning when I wake up and check my emails, there is always a little one entitled “Task List” sitting menacingly in my inbox, and it contains tasks – obviously – and then the final, killer, line: “….and when you’ve done them, send them to me.” It is precisely like being at school and catches me at my most unaware. But I must admit that it has the effect of making me do things that I might otherwise prevaricate about. Like thinking of ways to get people to review my book. At this stage they don’t even have to be favourable; just someone reading it would be fab. No, I am JOKING. Let me tell you that the idea of getting bad reviews strikes a chill into my very soul. It would silly of me to think that I can avoid it forever but frankly, the longer the better. For those of you not in the know, good reviews are completely necessary to the success of a book. This is because they draw the attention of far more people than mere advertising could do and not only that, but it’s a very effective method of imparting the salient information about the book and then hopefully following it up by a recommendation. Which brings me onto my next point, it needs to be a recommendation from someone whose opinion could be respected. I could get one hundred of my friends to write nice things about my book but it doesn’t count so much if I could have bribed/cajoled/threatened/blackmailed them into it. Far be it from me to do that, of course. In fact I have offered it out for review to a couple of important people so far and happily they have said yes, but the caveat that I have given them is that they are under no obligation to deliver a good review. All I’ve said is that I’d love them to read it and if they have something nice to say would they mind writing it down for me to use in my promotional material? I think it’s important not to make people feel that they must say nice things, which is a risk if you’re doing it through a semi-personal route, as I have done. When I begin approaching people and publications in a more formal manner then I will include no such caveat; I will simply request a review. But it will be done in an artful and persuasive manner.

Featuring prominently in this morning’s email was compiling a suitable list of people to target for review. As it has been for the past sixteen mornings. When I say ‘prominently’ I mean number one out of approximately 164. I have never known a task list to breed so prolifically. And I have 24 days in which to complete it………I can’t help feeling that I need an urgent lesson in time management; the way I did it before was a little extreme. In my defence all the stuff that I need to do is necessarily creative, and you can’t just switch creativity on at the drop of a hat. But I am also easily sidetracked.

Damn you, facebook.

Compiling my final list will take careful research and time, of which I am perilously short. I think I know this sub-consciously because I’ve started waking up in the night wondering what I should do next – the minute I can translate this into useful output during the day I will be sorted. The target review list has become something of a hurdle, and even when I had my ponies I was never very good at jumping. It’s even harder to scramble over a hurdle when circumstances conspire against you – take Monday night for example. I was trying to write (and trying is the operative word) but every five minutes my laptop just shut itself down with no warning. And I’m sorry but I cannot write whilst having to pause every two seconds to save the blasted thing. This malfunction nearly caused a complete meltdown from me – my husband watched me out of one eye anxiously whilst I watched him to see what he was going to do about it. I effectively lit the touch paper by mentioning the words “buy”, “new” and “laptop” all in the same sentence, whereupon he leapt up, took the computer apart, cleaned five years worth of dust and crap from it (ooops….) and then, magically, it worked. And whilst all this was going on, I was trying to remember what I was going to write, do the ironing and watch Coronation Street.

It’s a hard life being a writer.