Monday, 27 August 2012

Something Else

I'm bored of these weekly updates on how my writing is progressing (or not progressing) and I'm sure my very few readers are tired of it too.  I must have written about something else in these blogs before - something other than how many chapters I've completed or whatever - before I became so obsessed with the idea of progress.  I must have done something constructive... I must have move forward...

I feel like I'm at risk of losing the fun in the whole process.  I love writing, and I don't want to stop loving it.

So this week, instead of stressing about chapters and agent letters and that damn synopsis, I'm going to talk about something else.  Anything else.  Because being stressed is not why I want to be a writer.  I've got a job for that and it can provide plenty enough stress by itself, thank you very much.

Alright then.  What else have I done this week?  Well, there's Mottisfont.  I volunteered as usual on Wednesday cataloguing the archives, but during August I've also been working on Tuesdays as well, cleaning statues in the grounds.  I think we're terming it 'statue conservation' because it sounds more professional and would look better on a CV, but I essentially spent several hours scraping moss off concrete.  It's probably seventeenth-century concrete, but concrete nonetheless.

There's something quite therapeutic about it though - doing a physical task and seeing the results afterwards.  Plus my poor little OCD-riddled brain gets rather a lot of satisfaction from making something all neat and tidy again.  In previous weeks we'd worked on a statue of Apollo, made of a much more glamorous marble, with one of the other ladies frequently asking passing visitors whether they agreed that he had very nice legs.  He did, but I still found it amusing.

Working in the archives has more potential for tedium, what with it essentially being me and a spreadsheet for hours on end.  But there's plenty of stuff to spark my interest, particularly the photos.  Looking at photographs (many over a hundred years old) of these magnificent places is really as close as I'm going to get to travelling back in time and it doesn't take much for my imagination to conjure something more.  A personal would have walked here.  A conversation could have taken place there.  Plus the odd little gems of Victorian photo-bombing are always great to find.

I'm working on Hinton Ampner House in the archives at the moment, and there's a great little ghost story which is connected with the old (now demolished) house which stood a metres from the present site.  I don't get spooked by stuff that easily but that one chilled me.  It's funny how stories about the dead can make a place, like a house torn down centuries ago, really come to life.

And there we go - no matter what I do, I'm dragged back to the stories...

But I need to remember to focus on other parts of my life because apparently they matter as well - in terms of being an author, I mean.  Look at the agents' letter that I was growling over this week - they need to know about me, and unless I make myself into more than just my writing, they're not going to want anything to do with me.  I am a product almost as much as my book is, which is quite frankly frightening.

Wow, that seems like a depressing thought to end on.  Or maybe it's a positive one?  Live life and all that bollocks.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Bits and Pieces

Chapters Five and Six were this week added to the imaginary list of 'Book 2 chapters I've done but am not necessarily completely happy with but will do for this draft'.  I should probably keep my imaginary list titles shorter.  Or perhaps stop using my time to imagine lists.

Chapter seven is over halfway there, with bits and pieces already floating about for eight, nine and ten.  It was one of my aims to have the first ten chapters done by the end of the summer break and I'm hoping that I might just be able to get it done, provided I don't get another attack of the grumps which leads me to believe that I'm useless at writing and that I'll never get anything published so what's the point.

My second aim of the summer isn't moving along so well.  I started work on my query letter today, using an earlier version which was originally written for a module on the MA.  I was pretty convinced that it was shite then and reading it today hasn't really changed that mindset.  It's alright when it gets going I suppose, but the first paragraph makes me want to pull my metaphorical teeth out.

I also need to find a shed-load of agents to write to.  So far I've got a grand total of one, though that's really just because I was only required to find one for above-mentioned MA assignment.  Whenever I read a book in the genre I'm writing in, I always look at the agents they mention but it seems to me that they're always US- or Australia-based.  I don't know much about the rules of agent-begging but I should imagine we have to be in the same continent.

My brand new idea from last week refused to shut up so I've decided to go with it, to some extent.  Nothing substantial, just notes and so on, but I couldn't be bothered to argue my brain into submission and make myself bad tempered in the process.  So I'm having a ponder about this new interesting bunch of characters and the world they inhabit (a whole new world, rather excitingly) and writing down odd and ends about them as they occur to me.  I'm sure there are plenty of people who would tell me that I'm an idiot for thinking about more than one story at once but I don't make a habit of listening to people.  I'm in my own little world over here.

I finished off reading John Green's Looking for Alaska yesterday in the lovely sunny garden and may - depending on where my head wanders off to this week - write a review of it.  Hopefully containing something other than 'Why do you do this to me John Green....?'

Monday, 13 August 2012

New Ideas Not Welcome

I tried to start this blog post off in a different way than normal, bored with my current format, but I ended up going into such a mind-numbing drivel of nothingness that I've decided to stick to form and just go on my merry ranting way as usual.

Or that's my intention, at least.  I've been sat here for over half an hour now and have very little to show for it other than a mounting level of frustration.

I watched a television programme earlier, recorded many months ago, about the women at the court of King Charles II.  It gave me lots of ideas, even beginning to plant the idea for a book in my head, giving me a few characters and then a plot and then some subplots and relationships.  All of this is simultaneously very exciting and very annoying.  Because now I can't seem to think about anything else.

Therefore I would like to say this to my brain: I don't need any more new ideas at the moment, thanks very much.  See all these half-finished works I've got going on?  Yeah, let's focus on that, shall we?  That would be jolly smashing.

But I don't think that's going to work somehow, not with the utter lack of logic my brain possesses.  And no, I don't know why I ended up talking to my brain in a very posh voice.  Nor, really, why I'm actually talking to my brain at all.

See, this is what happens when I force myself to stare at an empty blog entry for minutes on end and make myself put something, anything, down on the page.  You get insanity, people, pure and simple.

So I daresay the next few days will be occupied with me trying to ignore said new idea and trying to focus on Hide and See's sequel, still tragically without a name, the poor little thing.  I did make some progress this week, finally nailing down the first four chapters, although I am (predictably) less than happy with them.  Oh well, that's what second (and third and fourth...) drafts are for!

Monday, 6 August 2012


My early chapters are beginning to take shape.  Slowly.  There's quite a bit of re-jigging required because of my inability to shut up, meaning that I'm going to have to add at least one more chapter than I originally planned for.  This now makes me very glad that I only did the chapter-plan for the first third of the novel rather than the whole thing.

So most of Chapter Two has now become Chapter Three; Chapter Three becomes Four and poor old Chapter Five gets moved for the third time to become Six.  This all sounds very confusing and makes me wish that my chapters had names rather than just numbers.  Not that it would probably help with tracking where everything keeps moving to.  In fact, it might make it more complicated.

I'm hoping that I'll be able to cut a fair bit out of the (very rough) draft of Chapter One as it's rather horrendously over word count at the moment, and that's without any kind of continuous narrative structure to it.  It's just chunks at the moment: scenes and thoughts which don't yet fit together.

But I'm not too stressed out about that (even though saner people would probably say I should be) because that's what Chapter Two-now-Three was and filling that in proved to be quite an interesting - and dare I say fun - experience.  And very satisfying when it's done.

I also feel like I should be doing more reading at the moment.  Since my failed attempt at reading The Warlord's Legacy during my holiday, I hadn't picked up anything new.  Sure I've re-read plenty of books and bits of books but I felt that didn't really count.  And we're always told how important it is for writers to read and who am I to argue with the experts?

This week, therefore, I started a new book, chosen on the advice of my younger brother.  It's Looking for Alaska by John Green.  I've already read (and reviewed) one of John Green's books before, and I'm a follower of his youtube channel, so I'm already predisposed to like it, despite it being out of my genre.  Although it has also been proved many times that I can't force myself to like something however much I want to.  So we shall see.... *dramatic music*

And lastly, I'd like to point out that it's August.  This means that it's the oh-so-scary month in which I have pledged to start sending out begging letters to agents for Hide and See.  'Terrified' doesn't even begin to cover it.