Thursday, 29 April 2010

Angry Jeans

I spent yesterday being slightly out-of-sorts and came to the conclusion it was because I was wearing Angry Jeans.

Angry Jeans are the sort of jeans that only skinny Minnie’s can get away with, and if you get conned into buying any you spend the whole day feeling like a sausage, especially if you are not in fact a skinny Minnie. (Creative licence with the feelings of a sausage, okay?) I made the mistake last year of trying to be hip, and went into a hip sort of boutique in order to find the perfect pair of jeans. I knew it was hip because the thump of bass was making the buttons rattle.

I must explain that since the whole nearly bankrupt business in 2008 (giving up work to write novel using savings, finishing with £10 left at the start of a giant recession) I am a bit careful with money, and don’t often treat myself (although slowly getting back into the swing of it, haha). Hence going out to buy a pair of good jeans was a Big Deal. But let’s get back to the tale...

I explained to the giant fringe (all I could see of the assistant) that I wanted boot-cut jeans, as my sumo calves are not quite built for drainpipes, unless it is a drainpipe with a ferret caught somewhere ungainly. Fringe told me that boot-cut wasn’t very fashionable. I held firm. Fringe pointed a few pairs out. I accepted them (wondering why the hell I was still in the shop, but grimly determined) and spent twenty minutes wrestling and hopping around the dressing room in a fetching manner. After explaining none of them actually fit, I was handed a pair of skinny Minnie’s that did sort of fit, at a push, and was so desperate to leave that I bought them on the spot.

I now call them my Angry Jeans.

They are too snug in the ankle and calf department, and are seemingly only for females who have three centimetres separating their crotch and their waist. Hoist them up and ouch. Let them hang and those are your knickers.

Every so often I forget they are my Angry Jeans, and wonder why I feel slightly cross all day. So yesterday I sifted through my entire jean collection (six pairs) and separated them into Angry Jeans, Tatty Jeans and Acceptable Jeans. Two were Angry, three were Tatty, and only one was Acceptable (and sadly ten years old). It was time for new denim!

So today I sallied out at lunchtime. Forget hip boutiques with thumping bass – I went to Next. I now own two new pairs, and am really hoping they will both be Happy!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Beside the sea


Are much better for me...

If they can be beside...

The sea!

And actually I think...

On this we all agree...

So let's have a Royal decree...

Make all conferences beside the sea!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

How do you take yours?

Breakfast that is? Today I am having porridge…. with a crumbled chocolate Twirl bar swirled around, and a sprinkling of sugar. My Saturday breakfast! Do you have treat breakfasts at the weekend?

Hm. Has this Saturday breakfast contributed to my recent dentist visit? Surely not…

After breakfast, during which my cats will plague me like they have never been fed and make me feel like Goldilocks haunted by two small furry bears, I will attempt the Grand Reconstruction of the House. An hour whirl of general tidying mayhem, in which things get flung in the washing machine, things get flung in their rightful places, and things get flung out of my way. After that hour, I will look around and decide I like the new look, regardless of what is hanging where, and make a cup of coffee.

I shall then begin redrafting chapter 21. Blimey… basically it is a nice chapter, but doesn’t move the story onwards, and I feel I may have to get rid of it altogether. The main thing I like about it is the insight to the characters - their interaction is very good in this chapter, and I want what happens in chapter 22 to feel all the more… final, because of the warmth built upon in 21. But really 21 doesn’t do a lot apart from the nice insight and the humour, so maybe I can distil what actually happens to a paragraph in chapter 20, and insert the character insights and humour to an earlier stage, and then perhaps get rid of chapter 21 as it stands at the moment. It is a big decision, and one I won’t take lightly, but I think it is probably the way forward. Wish me luck!

Friday, 23 April 2010

Awards and Contests

The sun is shining through the window - it is Saturday tomorrow, and I have awards and blogs to share! So let’s start with the love...

Prolific Blogger

Thank you for this, T.J. Carson!

So who do I think is prolific at this blogging malarkey?

Wavy Lines: I am loving Laura’s blog – she always has fun and interesting topics. Really enjoyed the recent: 9 writers prove that age is just a number

Coming down the mountain: from reclusive writer to published author
If you are a writer, thinking about writing, or just like some friendly chat head over to Karen’s blog now! Favourite recent post was: The Wrong Demographic

Talli Roland
Brilliant fun posts, current favourite must be Writer’s Arse. Oh dear (checks mine in mirror)

Have been doing a fab New Zealand based A – Z for the last month – worth scrolling through her posts if you have missed any! A snippet post here: P is for...

Elana Johnson
I am quite new to Elana’s fantastic blog, but 1050 of you got there before me, so she is definitely worth reading! Favourite recent post was: Throwing up that first draft

A Cat of Impossible Colour
Andrea is a beautiful writer, with her debut book coming out in 2011. Her vintage style is exquisite, and her posts are friendly, fun and always fabulous! Favourite recent post: Three Exciting Things

Sunshine blogger

Thank you for this, Tuppenny Tales!

*Climbs on desk. Warbles.*
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,
You make me happy, when times are grey...

A Rose Beyond the Thames
Thoughtful observations, evocative posts on perfume, tales of London, and anything groovy that catches her eye – Rose’s blog is a treasure.

If I could sum up Milkmoon’s blog in one word I would say Inspiring. But I am a writer, so will also go on to add her beautiful photography and magic with words pull me out of my messy time into hers, so that I may linger and feel refreshed for a while.

The Magpie’s Fancy
Gigi at The Magpie's Fancy has also been doing an A-Z, teamed with fantastic writing and photography that makes you want to get into her blog and roll around for a while.

Being Me
I delight in Fran’s blog at Being Me. She is a brilliantly witty writer – one of those folk you rush to read as you know she will make you smile (and snort with laughter, usually when I am at work and shouldn't be Having Fun)

Pretty Far West
Absolutely loving Mise’s blog. She is a very talented writer who knows how to simply play with words, as well as sharing some fab photography of things that catch her eye.

Stuff I Make, Bake and Love
How can anyone fail to be inspired? Go over and look at her lovely blog header; you will be impressed! Her blog is pretty fantastic as well.

Supportive Commentator Sunshine Award

Thank you for this, On ‘n On ‘n On!

Every blog needs these people - they must be cherished!

Wannabe a Writer
Linda never fails to be encouraging, and offers brilliant advice. Her blog posts are thoughtful and interesting as well – pop across and say hello!

I’ve mentioned the lovely Karen before, but she is as generous with her comments as she is with her blog posts, and deserved another award!

Music Obsessive
My first blogging buddy! If you like music and great writing then please head over to Martin’s blog. Always supportive and encouraging.

Kit Courteney Writes
Kit is a lovely bloggy pal to have – her blog posts are humorous, thoughtful, and topical - and her comments are so fun, supportive and generous.

Fairly new to blogging, but her comments are always encouraging, and her posts make me smile. Do pop over and wave hello!

Wow - lots of folk there for you to discover! But really I wish I could give all the folk on my blog roll an award, you are all fantastic. Also - if you are following me but I haven't yet followed you back - can you pop a comment below to let me know? Much appreciated!

And now some contests (drum roll)

Writing in the Wilderness has a contest to celebrate hitting 150 followers, go Sarahjayne! If you pop over there do mention you came from my blog - thank you!

Susan Fields has a contest to also celebrate over 150 followers - yeay Susan!

And let me know in the comments if there are any contests I have missed that need a shout out, as after all this I am about to creep home to start my weekend with a lovely naughty takeaway. I fancy noodles... Wish you all a lovely weekend!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Five things you don't want to hear at the dentist

At your own peril...

1. Oops.

2. And here comes the drill.

3. Your mouth may feel a little numb (meaning you'll be sent home drooling with your tongue lolling out)

4. How would you like to pay?

5. See you next week.


And yes, I do feel a little sorry for myself!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

On My Desk

Haribo Tangfastics

These are bad things that shouldn’t be on my desk, but they are as I got suckered in the Sweet Tunnel of Death that is the W.H. Smith’s queue for the till. I only went in for a magazine, and came out carrying half my body weight in discounted chocolate and sugary goo. At some point in the day I will make the bad mistake of reaching for a Haribo ‘tangfastic’, and get a little sweet/sour sugar rush. Ooo, I will think, blood racing, let’s go for another one. And there, my friends, is the moment where my tongue will fizz over and I will retreat, whimpering, until another day.


The Spring Cold of Doom is upon me, cried the Jayne of Shalott. Sadly it is so – I have one of those pesky colds which foist upon their host a pathetic cough and the look of a crumpled Kleenex.

Mini muffins

Ah yes. How did they get there? Life, such mysteries.

Mobile (or rather, swooshy photo thing)

My iPhone no longer lives in a white tennis sock. My friend, after laughing quite hard I must admit, said there was no way I could go around fishing my mobile out of a sock so gave me a proper one. It is black with a diamante skull and crossbones design. Much more grown up.

Tatty hair band

To accompany the tatty hair. Oh I am so cruel to myself. It is not tatty really. It is free-range.


Someone else’s chewed bic. Don’t you just love inheriting pens? Memo to self. Don’t chew.

Work diary

I am a bit lost without a work diary. Important work stuff goes in here (labelled of course Important Work Stuff). Also I try and schedule evenings that are just for writing – this week Thursday and Friday evening, and Saturday (day) are sort of set aside, and I will be redrafting chapter 21. Oh yes.

Coconut Water carton

I read somewhere it is healthy. Not sure that a gallon of it is healthy though, especially if used to swig down mini muffins.


Mugs go quicker than gold dust around this office, so I will cling onto this one and slowly layer it with coffee.

Pre-Raphaelite postcard (John William Waterhouse, Miranda)

Miranda gazes wistfully off into the middle distance, waiting for her ship to come in. Metaphor, what metaphor?

What is on your desk?

Monday, 19 April 2010

The Sound of Silence

Last night I looked up at the sky and heard the silence. Thanks to the erupting Icelandic volcano, all the aeroplanes have been grounded, and it is a strange thing to look into the sky and see not a single plane. No jumbo jets taking passengers on an exotic holiday, no private planes zipping its wealthy occupants across the counties, no gliders, no helicopters, no nothing. The skies are once again a domain for feathered friends. They must wonder what has happened to the strange metallic objects that usually tear loudly across the blue. Jubilant birds – take back your heritage!

It is strange not to see a plane, but stranger still not to hear them. We’ve become attuned to that distant rumble of displaced air, a sound so commonplace that we barely notice its vibrations anymore (unless you live under a flight path of course). Maybe when air travel starts again the noise will be over-whelming, and people will protest and write to their local newspaper (as that does wonders, Disgruntled of Dorset.)

My first experience of air travel was a holiday to Spanish island Majorca with my parents when I was eight years old. We flew at night, so I’d be shaken awake, blinking, at some yawn-inducing hour, and we’d sing in the car on the way to the airport. It was incredibly exciting to go somewhere ‘exotic’ that wasn’t an English holiday camp, even though the minute we landed (or so it would seem) I’d be shunted off into the children’s prison (the dreaded mini-club for 7 – 11 year olds) and realise that no matter whether we were in England or Spain, my days would be grimly filled with organised 'fun'. I’d still be required to find a pebble with a hole through it, fill a matchbox with a number of objects beginning with ‘s’, make some sort of tutu, and at some point have to wear a slightly sweaty crepe paper fancy dress costume and do a 'turn' on stage.

When was your first aeroplane trip and where did you go?

Picture by

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Book worm: March 2010 - part two

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This edition published by Penguin Books, 1974. First published in 1926.

I dashed out of the March rain into a second-hand bookshop down Charing Cross Road (what chance, you say. A bookshop? How extraordinary for you to have been passing!) and decided to buy this book on account that I knew the title but had no idea of the story. So what was so great about The Great Gatsby?

The story is told from the point of view of Nick Carraway, a young man home from the First World War, and who settles in a millionaire neighbourhood with a vague idea of ‘going into Bonds’. His rich friends drift through life with a weary cynicism and only a tenuous grasp on the real world. They party every night at the home of the rich Mr Gatsby, an enigmatic figure, and drink his wine and eat his food with gay abandon. Rumours abound about his background, his wealth… this just adds to the drama. But in reality Gatsby is not great at all, and only interested in his already married lost love, Daisy, and when he tries to win her back everything goes wrong.

The American dream here seems rather sour. I didn’t like the character of Gatsby and had no sympathy for him, so when things unfolded badly I felt no sadness on his behalf. Although the character of Nick is our narrator, because Gatsby is the centre of the book and because I dislike him, then already the book is flawed for me. Even worse, the other characters don’t endear themselves to me either, in the way that memorable characters good and bad stick in the memory. They are almost non-entities but that is how they are drawn – they don’t care much for living, they are shell-shocked, made stupid with wealth, as weighty as a rainbow.

As a portrait of 1920s America, of a rich 1920s America, it is an interesting slice of life to a manner of living that is alien to me. I have not seen the film with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, but can see how this could transfer to the big screen – all those lovely costumes, the glamorous setting. But I might still be a bit bored. I don’t think I will read this again anytime soon – perhaps I missed the point. Anyone else out there read it? What do you think?

The Doll’s House, by Rumer Godden
This edition published by Mermaid Books (reset), 1955. First published by Michael Joseph Ltd, November 1947

I had been searching for this book for some time, and was delighted to find this edition, one of the first print runs for Mermaid books. It is a curious little hard-cover, with colour illustrations inside by Dana Saintsbury. I actually think I may have got a bargain – as I bought it for a fiver, and a little delve online turns up copies sold for five times that amount. Not that I am selling this beauty any time soon…

We are introduced to Tottie Plantaganet, a small wise Dutch doll that lives in an old-fashioned doll’s house. It has lace curtains, a sofa covered in red velvet, and a lamp with a white china shade that was lit using a birthday cake candle. It is also home to the varied collection of dolls that form her family – her ‘father’ Mr Plantaganet, still suffering from nerves after years forgotten in a dark toy cupboard; ‘mother’ Birdie, who is made of celluloid and is as light as her thoughts; ‘brother’ Apple, a small plush doll who likes causing mischief – chiefly tumbling down the stairs, and dog Darner, who has a backbone made of a darning needle. He also has an unfortunate habit of barking ‘prick’ when he senses danger – something that was probably seen as cute when the books were written, but now… well… doesn’t quite suit the story, shall we say.

So far, so pleasant. But then everything changes – a new doll called Marchpane is brought into the house. She slowly takes over and influences the girls’ that play with the dolls – the Plantaganet’s become Marchpane’s servants and Apple her son. But Birdie doesn’t understand why she has lost her son and Marchpane exploits this, as the candle is so hot, so deadly to small dolls…

I seem to remember being in floods of tears reading this book as a child, and returning to it as an adult there is still something awful and sinister about Marchpane. I swear her name is where my dislike of marzipan came from (when very young I thought the word was one and the same!) As a social commentary this book is very clever - the dynamics between the dolls and their hopes and fears reveal very human frailties. The characters are very compelling, but it is the small throwaway details that make this book really come alive, the little asides in the narrative. Brilliantly done, but be warned – your child will cry!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Book worm: March 2010

In each monthly 'Book worm', I review all the books I have read the previous month, no matter how varied! I am looking forward to discovering what takes my attention in a year. Bit late with this post, and it will be split over two days as the printed word really caught my attention in March!

Every so often I do a grand second-hand bookshop trawl, looking for authors and editions that please me. The following was the result.

The House on the Strand, by Daphne du Maurier.
My Uncle Silas, by H.E. Bates.
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The Doll’s House, by Rumer Godden.
Mandy annual, 1982.


The House on the Strand, by Daphne du Maurier.
This edition published by Penguin Books, 1973.
First published by Victor Gollancz 1969.

I am somewhat ashamed to admit I had never come across Daphne du Maurier’s books before, but someone in blog-land (forgive me, I cannot remember who) mentioned them a while ago and since then it has been ticking in my brain that I had to read something from this author. So I pounced on this book, and scurried home to read with the same enthusiasm I had as a child with an Enid Blyton from the library.

The House on the Strand tells us about Richard Young, the publisher bored of his life with lively American wife Vita, and his two step-sons. He goes to Cornwall to stay in the house of his scientist friend, and experiments with a drug his friend is developing, a drug that takes him back as an unseen wanderer six-hundred years into the history of the house and the surrounding area. The dramas played out over the chilly fields of historic Cornwall embrace Richard, and draw him like a moth to a flame, for how can you fall in love with a time so long dead?

Oh I loved this book. The dualities of the two dramas enfold and overlap one another, and yet the historic tale is very much life as it was, and the modern world is very contemporary for its time. Both stories are equally compelling, and all the characters ring true. There is a love of language, a vividness of description, which makes me long to up sticks and move to Cornwall, to research bygone times, and, worrying, to stride around in a late 60s lounge-suit. I didn’t want it to end.

But sadly it did, abruptly, and I had to check I hadn’t missed a page. I won’t spoil it but it is a very enigmatic ending, and it’s left to the reader to summarise what had happened to the protagonist. I would have preferred a more definite clue as it feels very veiled, but this the beauty of it.

I am thrilled there are lots more books by Daphne du Maurier for me to discover!

My Uncle Silas, by H.E. Bates.
This edition published by Penguin Books, 1958.
First published by Jonathan Cape, 1939

The reason I picked up this book was two-fold. One - I recognised the cover illustration as being by the great illustrator Edward Ardizzone, and two – it tickled me in a way that good friend C would understand. I also had never read anything by H.E. Bates before, and decided that now was as good a time as any to begin.

Reading this book is like the equivalent of sitting with your back to a tree in a meadow, warm sun dappling through the branches, bird song in the air, and a cool glass of lemonade by your side. For some reason you are wearing a wide-brimmed hat but ignore that for now. It is a real comfort read, and even better is split into bite-size short stories, all about the rapscallion Uncle Silas.

Uncle Silas is a scoundrel, a bounder, a rascal in every way – and yet he is charming, with humorous tales that span nearly a century, from the ‘hungry forties’ in the nineteenth century to 1930. He is coaxed to tell his stories to his small great-nephew, and weaves fact and fantasy together in order to beguile and delight the youngster (and us). Although I found this book in a children’s section, I am not convinced it is a child’s book – some of Silas’ tales concern love and courtship, with hints of forbidden romps behind helpful haystacks. But they all delightfully describe the countryside of days past, and the many ways an elderly gentleman can still cause mischief in his twilight years.


Part two to come tomorrow, and a warm welcome to new followers! I am so excited to see you. Virtual hugs!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Aunt Aggie

Does anyone else hear the nagging voice of self-doubt and self-recrimination? I hear it so often that last night I decided to give it a name.

Meet Aunt Aggie.

Aunt Aggie is a small misshapen woman who will never ever admit her goblin heritage, despite her love for mischief. She has a fondness for garish flowery smock dresses, the brighter the better, and a wispy chin. A cigarette permanently dangles from her red-painted mouth, scattering ash like blessings. She constantly knits - tumbles of grey greasy wool tangle around her belly and by her feet. It looks as though she is knitting chainmail, or perhaps nothing so fancy. Perhaps just chains.

We grew up together, Aggie and I. I have a fancy she was younger once, slightly thinner, more hungry. She was always knitting though.

Her usual perch is on my shoulder. She likes it there. She may be small but she is devilishly quick at spotting my hesitancy, and will scramble to her seat. Once there she starts speaking – no pleasant how-do-you-do for Aunt Aggie. Her knitting needles will flash and click and her voice will be a low rasping monotone with no break, no pause, no respite.

This is what she was saying last night.

You were hopeless in that presentation. Didn’t you hear how you fumbled that sentence? Let’s re-play that again, but picture everyone looking bored by the very idea of you. That’s right - look at their faces; they hate you really. It’s because you looked like an idiot. Maybe you’ll be sacked. And what makes you think you can write anyway? You know you can’t. People who say they like your stories are just being kind. They pity you. No one believes in you really, you may as well not bother. You should give up before you become even more of an embarrassment.

She never looks at me as she speaks, but addresses her words to the rather long, rather sharp, clacking needles. I try to block her out but her voice seeps into my self-conscious, until I fall asleep lulled into nightmares where I am lost and failing.

But not last night.

Last night I gave her a name.

‘Oh Aggie, shut up’, I said, and the instant I had her name I saw her. Even better - she saw me. There was a pause as we eyed each-other. I had the feeling Aggie had never seen me before, that my giving her a name had broken whatever spell bound us, and released me from a contract I had never signed.

I could see she knew it, too. She had even stopped knitting.

‘What did you say?’ she asked eventually, and I felt like laughing, as for the first time I heard hesitancy in her voice, and it gave me power.

‘Just stop it,’ I said. “None of what you are saying is true.’

She peered at me, beady brown eyes trying to determine if I was serious. Then she raised her needles to continue.

Think about how you stammered that sentence. Really fluffed it didn’t you? They think you are awful...

‘No they don’t’, I said, interrupting her. ‘If they thought I was so bad, why did they congratulate me?’

‘They were lying,’ she said, but I could see she was a bit desperate now. I wasn’t supposed to be talking to her direct. I was supposed to be trying to sleep in anxious dismay.

‘Why would they lie? Don’t be absurd,’ I told her, enjoying her disquiet. ‘My boss thanked me. I even had people queuing to speak to me afterwards and asking me questions. People don’t lie about things like that. If they didn’t like it they would have gone for their lunch and not bothered.’

She glanced around, clearly discomfited.

‘And while we are here, if I cannot write, why would a magazine editor tell me I was a good writer? Why would people I admire who are already authors tell me the same? Why would I be asked to write for other people? Why would I get jobs based on being a good writer?

‘In fact, Aggie,’ I said, pressing my advantage. ‘you’re talking rubbish and always do. Go away. I don’t believe in you anymore.’

To my surprise she went.

I’m not saying she won’t be back. Aunt Aggie forever waits for her chance. But the greatest thing is I now know her name, and because of that I have brought this fear down to something I can control – maybe not all of time, but finally I have discovered her chains are not unbreakable.

Do you have an Aunt Aggie? And if you do try giving it a name – take the power back!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Maintaining the balance

Thank you for all your wonderful comments on my last post! It was really interesting to read your thoughtful advice about how you balance your creativity with day-to-day living. I’m not one to hoard (apart from Agatha Christie books, chocolate, and random old tat), so this post is all about sharing the wealth! Also please do click through on the names – lovely folk, all of them.

1. KarenG mentioned about keeping a notebook handy when commuting as the people I see, conversations I hear, and descriptions of life around me could all be valuable research in the future. I always used to carry a notebook around with me but this has recently fallen to the wayside thanks to the acquisition of Jaws (my new handbag’s nickname; I swear it is after my skin). But it is time to reinstate the notebook again, as the most important thing it did, regardless of my scribbles, was it made me feel and think like a writer just by carrying it around with me. A positive mindset towards the right direction is invaluable for unpublished writers, and so the notebook will rise again (and Jaws will be left behind to terrify and snag the clothes in my wardrobe).

2. Melissa gave a great piece of advice, which was to stuff your writing in wherever you can! She also suggested trying not to ‘think’ when you are writing, but just let yourself go with the flow as you can think later on when you go back to edit. I have definitely been over-thinking the last two chapters of my novel-to-be, and it has really hindered my writing ability. So I shall try and adopt this process – a bit of free-form, just-get-it-on-the-page, good honest ‘you-go-girl’ writing. Fran also agreed with stuffing the writing in – it is definitely the way forward. I might do a bit a stuffing today in fact!

3. Sarahjayne said that she jots down notes and snippets of dialogue whenever and wherever she can, even if she accumulates scraps of paper. This was something else I used to do – I’d always have bits of the story typed into my phone, scribbled in my work diary, written on the back of my dentist appointment card. I decided to buy a small emerald green notebook to carry around with me and put all my story ideas into instead… and irrationally but instantly developed the fear that I’d lose the notebook to a Plot Nabbing Pilferer. They are out there somewhere! (Hang on; is that the motto of The X-Files?) But pilferers aside, it is a good idea to write down ideas when you get them, small little seeds can grow into big treacherous man eaters. Or roses, of course.

4. Joanne makes a to-do list of manageable goals each week so she can see what is ahead of her and what fits in with her schedule. I love this idea – starting each week with an achievable list for my writing. The key words here are manageable and achievable – I could put on my list that next week I will finish the redrafting, finish researching agents, finish my query and send the whole lot off by the next post, but all that will do is make me feel bad and sad (and no doubt mad) by Friday. I do believe in list power though, and if I keep my goals small then there will be the real joy of success by the end of the week. Thanks for this tip, I am definitely going to adopt it.

5. EmmaK writes in the afternoons when her kids are at school, and says this is perfect for her as she runs out of steam after three hours. Lilly also mentioned she sets aside 8 to 9 as her time to be creative. I think it is so important working out what time best suits your blend of creativity. After I was made redundant (a goodly while ago now) I found that my writing was at its best from 4pm to 2am. Now I work full-time, I try to kick-start that creativity early in the morning, especially at weekends, and it just doesn’t happen as well for me. But what I can learn from this is to do all my weekend chores in the morning, if I can, and then spend the rest of the day and evening writing.

6. Jen is usually raring to go when she gets in from work as her muse is angry she hasn’t had a chance to write all day… don’t suppose there is any chance I could borrow your muse, is there Jen?! Even without the forceful muse I think this shows I could frame my thoughts better. I need to be thinking ‘wow, now I can go home after work and write – how lucky am I!’ as opposed to ‘now I am really tired but I have to go home and write or die’ which is less than optimistic. Needless to say I am very impressed with this attitude already!

7. Roland puts aside fifteen minutes each night to type up any notes made in the day, and then those fifteen minutes often lead into a longer session. This makes me feel really good, as I guess I do put aside fifteen minutes already. It might not be strictly for novel-writing, but any writing I do can only help improve and build on what was before – it’s all practice. I’d love to make writing every day as natural as breathing, part of my daily routine, an imaginative work-out every bit as valuable as physical exercise.

8. Linda mentions a fantastic idea – doing daily pages. This is where you take a notebook and write spontaneously for three pages, and she uses it to tackle any tricky parts in her novel. I love this idea… one of my big problems is that I write straight into Word software, and sometimes I really feel the weight of that novel (currently 412 pages) pressing invisibly down on the little new scene I want to insert. Even if I open a new Word document I can still feel that pressure… but to take it completely away from the computer and just scribble, no matter whether or not it makes it to the novel itself… yes, I think I will enjoy this!

9. VR Barkowski carries a little memo tape recorder around for ideas, making sense of it all when she is finally in front of her computer. Janet also mentioned about something similar. This will be harder for me to do (of course, not everything suits everyone!) as I don’t have any privacy during the day, and feel awfully self-conscious even talking into a mobile via hands free. But I do actually tape myself with dialogue – I sit in the front of the computer and read parts out loud, and then play it back to listen to how it sounds. Sometimes I write an impassioned speech that just doesn’t translate to real humans. Speaking it out loud is another excellent way to edit. Roland also mentions he does a similar thing by speaking parts of his dialogue aloud in the shower for the acoustics - great idea! So now I am off to the bathroom, pages in hand…

10. Lilly mentions listening to inspiring music or audio books on the commute. I love this idea, Lilly! Although I can read books on the way to work, after a day staring at a computer I get eye-strain when trying to read on the bumpy journey coming home. At the moment I listen to music, but I never thought of audio books, and this is perfect for me. Not only do I get to be inspired by other stories, but I get to hear how vocabulary is pronounced, how language can sing, how words can be so visual. Fantastic – cannot wait! The only question is what book to start with…

11. TJ Carson makes an excellent point about taking time for yourself and not trying to push writing when you are really not feeling it. I think there is a lot of truth here – although we are told as writers we must work at it every single day, every single hour – all the time, in fact – there is a horrible guilt feeling that steals over me when I do something else, such as take time out with friends, go stand in the sun, or if I am feeling too tired or sick. No doubt this comes with learning that balance, and sure, there will be deadlines that have to be met, but as a beginner there is no urgency, no rush – just get that story as good as you can, and work when you feel at your peak.

12. Alexandra finds that she usually gets most of her writing done on a Sunday. I tend to swing happily between Saturday and Sunday as my favourite writing day. Saturday the house is quiet, and so I manage to get most of my plotting done, and sort out any big tricky scenes. Sunday the house is busier, but I tend to write like the wind on Sunday evenings – mainly as I have Monday work hanging over my head and know this is my last chance to get as much done as possible. I seem to work better when I hear that clock ticking.

13. Al mentioned a great piece of advice, which was simply to keep plugging away! Talli also mentioned for her it was ‘write or nothing’. I think self-determination is the key to getting things done in life, we all have to keep at it, keep that belief strong in our hearts and one day we will all be on those bookshop shelves. Bring it on!

14. Janet had some great tips – one that worked for her was entering her novel’s synopsis in a competition, as knowing there was a deadline really helped her to plot her novel and get the synopsis ready. I do believe that if you have won or been a finalist on a short story (or other fiction) competition then it is a great thing to mention on your query letter. It lets agents know that you have a track record, that you can actually write fiction! I haven’t entered any competitions, mainly because I feel I have so little time to write that any writing I do must be on The Big One. But the more tips from this list that I adopt, the more I might be able to create room for this as well, as I think working on a different story for a time might help me with the novel.

15. And last but not least, Melissa, Linda and T.J Carson all said about investing in a laptop or net book – something small I can carry about and type into when feel so moved. Oh I do agree… the cumbersome PC is lovely, but it currently is not in a great place for me to work. Roll on payday for this one!

Thank you once again – all appreciated! Any more tips and hints please let me know!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Finding a balance

One thing I struggle with is creating enough space to write around working a ‘normal’ full-time job. I worry that everyone else manages this with ease, perhaps with a child upon each knee, and in comparison I am disproportionately stupidly slow. I cannot seem to speed up, and so spend ages berating myself for being useless. The knock-on effect is that by the time I do actually try to write, I feel pretty sad about myself and so cannot think of anything to add to the page apart from ‘durr’.

As you can imagine this does not do me any favours!

At the moment I spend approximately around two and a half hours each day commuting to and from my job. Sadly it is the sort of commute where you don’t get a seat, but squeeze into corners on trains and tubes wishing you were somewhere else. So I cannot use that time to write, although I can use it to think – sometimes the best plot ideas come from times like this!

My job is in a busy office, with colleagues that sit fairly close by. I am very conscientious when working, and my job requires me to be on the ball and puzzling out various solutions. So I cannot sneak any writing into the days, and even blog posts (if long) are created at home and emailed to myself at work to whack online when I get a moment. Even that makes me feel guilt-ridden (it doesn’t take much, I admit).

At home I don’t have anywhere really to write. My computer is in an awkward place (the only spot it can go in) and I have to sit cross-legged on my bed in order to use it. It’s not ideal… but it is workable. The only thing that isn’t is me! I get in from work each evening, eat, fold myself into the spot in front of the computer, but no real writing happens! A few words, a few paragraphs… I know it is still all helping but it doesn’t seem to be that fast a creation. I also need my sleep… I get up early, so need to start snoozing at least by eleven, or else I am a cranky girl.

So there’s my big conundrum – am I really just going very slowly with writing/redrafting, or am I expecting too much of myself?

I think it is all about finding a balance, and I seem to be permanently teetering on one side or the other. Maybe I need to be more organised – leave the house earlier so I get to work and have time to write down the ideas / blog / catch up before work starts? And then only do that in the morning, so the evenings are just for writing. That sounds good… but is it realistic? In a way I suppose it is… set the alarm earlier, start the day earlier… there is really nothing stopping me apart from my reluctance to stir from bed!

How do you do it? Do you write full-time, or do you also fit writing (or being creative) in around a busy job or being a busy mum? If so how do you find a balance and make time for it?

And a big hello to all people following, and leaving comments. I appreciate it so much, thank you!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Easter Weekend: A Photo Story


Laptop: Virgin Trains
Hiking boots from Timetravel Britain
Cupcake photograph by ConsumedbyCake
Tea from Yorkshire Tea
Wine bottles and Motorway by
Scenery by BBC Radio Lancashire
Balloons by ShimmeeGrrl
Zzz's and Agatha Christie book by Me
Fry up from bobby stokes
Bar from the Coach House

If I have used your photograph in error please let me know and I will gladly remove it.