Sunday, 30 March 2008

Message in a Bottle

After quivering my way yesterday through what has been officially my worst hang-over to date, I have decided that it is either time to re-educate myself about alcohol, or stop drinking altogether.

I’m leaning towards the latter.

A popular misconception about me throughout my twenties was that I was a vegetarian, non-smoking teetotaller. I’m not sure how people arrived at this conclusion given that at the time I was very much all the opposite, I must look angelic. Although I can have one or two drinks and call it quits, on mad nights out with friends (we called them ‘benders’), we would drink vodka like there was a possibility of Russia running dry. None of us ever thankfully came a cropper, more out of luck than planning, as we used London as a giant after-hours playground, bouncing from pubs to clubs in a very merry fashion. My proudest moment was getting on a Night Bus with no money and asking the driver if he would just mind pulling up at the nearest cash point. It seemed perfectly reasonable at the time…!

However, I decided to stop smoking when I hit 30. I had never wanted to be a smoker, so it was something of a shock to realise that I had been a socially chuffing away for 15 years. So it was a good birthday present to myself to finally make that decision, and to stick with it. So non-smoking is now correct…

I don’t drink as often and like I used to in my twenties, but I have noticed that if I do have a few drinks and go above what appears to be an ever-decreasing limit, then the next day I suffer for it. This will mean a full day of being physically ill, and being about as energetic as a pillow. Even the day after that I will be aching and not quite on the ball, and I just don’t like alcohol enough to keep doing this to myself. I appear to be inadequate to judging amounts of alcohol if I go out for a large night, probably because of the binge drinking education I put myself through when younger, so I think it might be better to just stop. And you know what? I am really happy with that decision. I’m making no big promises, but am fully prepared to start exploring the soft drink option.

So all that is left is vegetarianism, it seems. I can just imagine J’s face if I tell him I've seen the future and it is a nut roast dinner...

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Or let Editing pause

Since submerging myself again in the real working world, the most taxing thing I have managed in the evening so far is cooking dinner, or at least assembling things in a bowl. Poor J - he is flat out with a new job as well, so we have been very much like ships that pass in the night recently, especially as his new role is based way out in the sticks. Oh well, I guess it has only been three days of me in the RWW after all, and in one of those I fitted in an evening meeting connected to books, so perhaps I am being a bit too hard on myself.

One thing I have noticed about writing a novel is quite a few people now want me to collaborate with them on book ideas. All start-up novelists if you like, no one officially published anywhere, but suddenly they all want me… which is nice of course, and also a little worrying as I am not sure how many ‘unpaid’ projects I can commit myself to without running off to eek in a corner somewhere. Let’s see – at the moment, I am (allegedly):

- editing my novel (which is spread across the table and has been sadly ignored the last few days)

- designing and building a website for friend P (and teaching myself Dreamweaver in the process)

- working with friend J on a factual book idea (only research bits and bobs for now)

- subbing/editing T’s factual book and possibly working further with her (not started yet, just said I would last night…)

Yet there are only so many hours in the day, especially when you need to earn a wage. Main importance of everything is of course my novel, oh how I look longingly at it as I flit by on the way to the train at 7.15! Soon I tell it. Saturday is looking good…

Monday, 24 March 2008

Let editing commence!

I headed out on Friday to buy four A4 folders from WHSmiths, imagining the print-out of the novel nicely nestled inside, and giving them to friends in what I hope will be a ‘nice gift/please read and feedback’ double edged sword. Then Saturday I headed out again, as the black ink cartridge had died mid-print. Finally I had one completed print-out, but I had to wrestle with my ‘7-page at a time’ hole punch, and then – yes, success.


There are too many pages for the folder to shut properly. In fact, it doesn’t shut at all. Darn it… This is probably because I have chosen the font Garamond, and point size 14. It sounds huge but Garamond is a serif type-face so needs to be slightly bigger, and besides, it looks good! Yet perhaps I should stick with something like Ariel, nice and easy on the eyes. Or Courier, and pretend I typed it all old-school on a typewriter. What font do editors like, anyway? Readable, I'd imagine goes down a treat. But then again, so does being able to turn the pages…

I have started editing in the other room, and it is slow going, I keep coming across passages that I am sure could be handled better, but my brain can only see the words I have written previously and refuses to accept anything new. And then there is editing for editing’s sake which is a bad habit to get into, and then thankfully there is the spotting of superfluous sentences that can be whipped out nice and painlessly and the novel sighs with relief.

Blimey, I have to say this spare room where I have the computer is FREEZING! It is the side of the flat that gets no sun, there is a heater but you'd be hard pressed to get a dribble of warmth from it and soon I shall see my breath hang before me in the air. If only I had a laptop! We got stung with a huge electricity bill recently, and I am sure it is connected to me hugging heaters during the day, so now I am scared to turn them on and have instead taken to wearing all my clothes at once. This does not do wonders for the morale or ego.

But – I return to the working world tomorrow! Yes… back to the commute, back to getting on the train by 7.30am and back to stress – woohoo! Actually this job is like a superhero racing in to save the heroine from a burning building, it has come literally in the nick of time for the overdraft, so for that its praises shall be sang from the rooftops. It’s only a month contract for now, and I’ll still get time to edit around it, at least that is the hope. I’m a bit blooming nervous about working in an office again though, and more than a bit nervous about the role I'll be doing. Ah well - only a month, real people to interact with, and a nice pay check at the end can't be bad.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Text Celebrations

"Well done baby i look forward to reading it xx" - J

“Yay! Put me down for a first edition! Xx’ – Z

“Wow congratulations! Bet you are chuffed to bits. You should be super proud of yourself. Hope the edit goes well. X” – R

“Yeah! Well done. Congrats! Please don’t forget me when you are famous!” – SR

“Woo hoo well done I’m very proud of you.” – SB

“Well done. I am so proud of you sweetie. I can’t wait to read. My boyfriend also wants a copy, darling we must catch up soon to celebrate.” – G

“Well dun honey, thts so gr8. Uv dun it yay! Hpe ur celebratin rite now. Go on th girl! Xx” – AC

“Yay. That’s fab cant wait to read am away will read when home am very proud.” – JG

“CONGRATULATIONS! Can’t wait 2 read it!” – N

“Congratulations! I am so pleased for you, hon. Now you have felt what it is like to complete a book – the natural pathways have been set. I can’t wait to read it. I feel like a proud mother duck!” – I

“How is the pruning going with the book?!” - AH

"Honey pie i am so very proud of you! Well done :-) best we meet up soon and talk about marketing and agents! Well done! xxx" - C

"Congratulations - my pal the writer!" - P


Friends are ace!

Friday, 14 March 2008

The End

I typed those words nearly an hour ago, oh my God, I’m in shock! I just celebrated with a cup of tea and a slice of toast (dinner) – hahaha, am all out of champagne, although I could probably crack open the random bottle of real ale we have had in the cupboard since Christmas. However, I value my head, so think will leave that to the more hardcore of the household.

I didn’t shout eureka or anything like I thought I might do. Instead, I walked away from the computer (first pressing save, oh yes), and sat watching a bit of comedy on the television, munching my toast. I did skip merrily over to the big heater though to recklessly switch it on – why not?! Let there be heat! And now I have just finished reading back the last three chapters to see what they scanned like, before emailing it over to project manager friend C, who will no doubt drop her lap top in alarm when she gets her 'new mail' icon flashes.

Stats for you:
Chapters: 22 (yup, always one more than I thought there was going to be!)
Word count: 104.551
Time spent: Approx five months (discounting December, as really did nothing that month!)

Blimey… I really want to print it all out now, and see the full extent of my labour. I feel a bit giddy to be honest, I’ve finished!! Of course, now comes the editing, adding, subtracting, pruning part of it – but hooray!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Still hanging

Sorry to leave you on such a spectacular cliff-hanger! While Saturday seemed to go well (with a break for a coffee and catch up with good friend I), the rest of the time my writing seems to fluctuate between flurries and flumps. I think it is solely because I am scared to finish because of the unknown future, what happens next, type thing, but I will get there, I just need to push my nerves away. The worst that happens is no one likes it, right? And if I like it, then that is all that matters, really, at the end of the day I have wrote this for me. And the getting a job, back to real world – well, that was always going to happen, so not sure who I was trying to kid!

I just have this fear that I am only Miss Average, not that there is anything wrong with the Miss Averages of the world, I just never wanted to be one. And every time I try to leap the tracks, I nearly always crash back (I have been watching some Planet Earth thing on salmon recently – it seems my brain has translated that to I am a salmon. Cheers, brain.). And then I want to slap myself, as Paul McKenna would say I am framing that all wrong, and need to frame it as the more you try the more you succeed, or something. Salmon get there in the end… unless they are eaten by bears. Bloody bears.

So, anyway – here is the plan. As soon as I finish, I plan to print the whole thing out and to remove myself from this little computer spare room, and instead to sit in the big room, next to the big heater, by my window that looks out onto the world spanning from Canary Wharf to Broxbourne.

This will be my view

This was taken one foggy morning in December 2007

I will then go through edits with a pen, like a real writer, and I am so looking forward to this I cannot tell you. Just to sit in a different room in the flat is pretty exciting – salmon these days are easily pleased. And then while I do that, every morning will be job hunt day – woohoo! I have the Pet Shop Boys song ‘Opportunities’ going through my mind – yup, sounds a good plan to me.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Count down

Every day it is the same. I wake, stretch, wash, amble around, make coffee and sit here. Around me is scattered physical evidence of this novel – pages of printed notes, family trees, books, empty glasses that once held water, lined mugs that once held coffee. My dictionary is within easy reach, a conker from autumn sits under the monitor. A free pen from Virgin Atlantic sits atop a much scribbled over chapter plan. Headache tablets, my glasses, Bach Flower remedies, chewing gum, hair band. Tired eyes, tired me, but I can’t sleep, I can’t focus on anything else apart from the story. I stay here until far too late at night, and get up far too early, hence the kick-start of coffee. But I’m on a mission now.

I woke up today with the ending sentence in my head. It is perfect. I lay there and saw it – my writing is very visual, in my head I see the images as a film. I watched the last scene play itself out and thought, yes, that is exactly how it ends. I always knew the ending, but never knew the order of words, but now all is clear.

And so up I get, and here again I sit, in the chair I left only 6 hours ago. Coffee to the side, the whole day ahead of me. Chapter 21 is the last one, and it is time to start the count down...

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Twenty years

I always find the start of March a little hard, as it is the anniversary of my dad’s death, and this year twenty years had somehow slipped past since the last time I saw him, waving goodbye to me on his way to work, and ducking behind the telephone box to hide and make me laugh (something that worked every time, I seem to recall).

We held a party to celebrate his life, and it was really great to see so many people that knew and loved him. A few brought photographs to show, ones I had never seen before, and I cannot tell you how much of a thrill that is… especially when you have grown up memorising the ones in the family photo albums. And special thanks to an Aunty who brought a picture of dad holding me when I was a baby – I used to carry that picture around everywhere after he died, and I lost it somewhere in Spain when I was 12 – I was so upset, as it was the only one… or so I thought! Thankfully now I have it again, and it has been triple scanned, not taking any chances this time around.

Last chapter

Well – is it or isn’t it? It’s started… but I have the feeling it might run to two. So perhaps I am on the penultimate chapter. Either way, I am not sure what is happening with my writing – one minute all is fine and on I gaily go, the next all is awful and my sentences are drowning in mediocrity.

I can’t seem to get their voices for some reason, everything sounds ‘off’ to my ears, and every little paragraph forward seems to result in a ferocious sea of editing, so I end up with a well-worn nub of a sentence. It’s… maddening, for lack of a better word. Doesn’t this novel realise I need it to be done? Doesn’t it care that the person giving it life is slowly sinking into an overdraft pit? Obviously not… the worse thing is I dream about it at night, I can picture the characters in various situations that won’t ever make it to paper, and yet for some reason they are remaining stubborn about being animated when I want to write about them. Could it be they now have a mind of their own? Could it be I need to get out more? Hmm… maybe the latter.