Tuesday, 30 September 2008
John Gardener in his book on writing a novel says that you shouldn't write anything but your books - no letters to the paper, no notes to friends, but to save all your energy for your work. It does make sense, but I think I've been getting on better since I started keeping this blog - probably from a sense of shame! I don't want to admit to not working!
At the weekend my sister showed me the first part of my book, which she had turned into a film script using Final Draft software - it looked so wonderful! Somebody said the best way for a British writer to sell a film was to have a bestseller, and I truly believe that - but it can't hurt to have a script knocking about - paperbacks have such short shelf lives these days. How else could anyone see it?
My email is dead. A quick look on the Internet informed me that the 'enter your network password' bug is well known. I tried three of the many cures on offer, but they haven't worked. I might have to call my IT savvy friend and hope he's willing to come over.
Monday, 29 September 2008
What would you have done?
I decided to finish my degree - there will be other jobs, and I'll be properly qualified to take them and then move on into even better jobs. But I got so stirred up that I haven't written a word today. My email has died as well. That doesn't help.
Friday, 26 September 2008
But last night my hairdresser, male, and another client, male, asked me what I was working on. I took a deep breath and said: 'It's a story about a female chief executive who takes over a company and the bad guys use voodoo to try to get rid of her, but she doesn't believe in voodoo (of course not: she's a CEO!) so she thinks she's going crazy.' And they liked it! They both said things like: Wow, so it's like is she/isn't she crazy? and yeah, something spooky happens and it's like: do you believe the scientific explanation or not? And what if not believing gets you killed? I told them it was called the Glass Cliff - I know this is not a very well-known concept, but they hadn't come across the glass ceiling idea either, which did surprise me. They are both bright guys, so I will put a an explanation of both concepts somewhere in the text.
It looks as if I only did 100 words yesterday - but I did quite a lot of work - I cut a lot of dead wood and cut a lot of woolly descriptions. To start with I write down a lot - there were pages about illegal immigrant workers swarming over the fence of the building site and running away, and the police just watching because they have nowhere to put all these guys if they arrest them. I condensed that to half a page and a couple of good images - but I couldn't have selected the important stuff if I hadn't written it all out first.
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
And despite the lurgy I wrote a thousand words today. At last I know who the hero is - now I have to decide what kind of love story theirs will be. Romance is very, very hard. Here I have two fabulous, lovely people who are exactly right for one another, and I have to keep them apart until almost the last page.
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
What's triggered this sudden avalanche of gloom? My Virgin statement. Admittedly it's about 10 years ago now, but I wrote two erotic novels for their Black Lace imprint. The royalty statement came today - and I owe them £2.97. Add this to my ALCS result of £11.90, and I'm averaging even less than my usual penny an hour.
I'm stuck in the poverty trap of needing to have a day job, which takes time, energy and attention, which slows my writing, so I don't earn enough money to support myself, so I have to have a day job, which...
But, day jobs do have advantages, and one of them is paid leave. I can have a whole, glorious week at home, with pay! And, over the last ten years, what with foreign sales and reprints, my Black Lace titles did pretty well. So, I'll have a holiday and cheer up. I might look into getting Final Draft software as a kind of holiday project, oh, and do my books. I know they've extended the deadline, but they still need doing.
750 words today. Jen Black sent her critique of chapter two back, so I rewrote that again and then began chapter three - where the hero walks in. I know who he is now - he's the site manager of the only well-run site in the company.
Monday, 22 September 2008
Thursday, 18 September 2008
I stopped at the building site last night - much to the chagrin of the security guard. He noticed me straight away, and came out of his little cabin. I could see him wondering why I was walking around the perimeter of the site making notes. I was making him so unhappy that I didn't go all the way around. I've been reading so much about migrant labour that I began to wonder if he was worrying that I was checking up on him. He looked so miserable that I went away.
The visit was worth it in terms of information and scene setting. I was interested in the safety structures - the scaffolding had coloured safety barriers on the higher platforms and safety nets were strung below as well. The last scaffolding that caught my attention was bamboo scaffolding in Hong Kong - rickety beyond belief. This was before 1999 and we were looking for work. I think they paid £3.50 an hour for casual labour. I said 'How about that scaffolding, Andy? Add to your building experience?' He said: 'Being a film extra is the same money. I think I'll sit around all day pretending to be a journalist instead.' Definitely the right decision, because we heard later that the scaffolding was as unsafe as it looked and often collapsed. Hurray for health and safety!
Wednesday, 17 September 2008
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
Today I did 800 words on the Glass Cliff (end of chapter two) and feel fine. I have increased the view on all my computer screens and increased the font in Word to 16. Hopefully this will help to prevent eyestrain.
I didn't stop and do my relaxation exercises - and I got tense and cross when I had to spend 45 minutes getting into the new version of Blogger - but I will do 50 minutes yoga now before I go to work.
PS: That is one sad horse, right? I promise that my hero never, never, never rode his lovely palomino, Sunshine, into the ground that way.
Monday, 15 September 2008
It is freezing! I had to give up and put the heating on (despite socks, long skirt, cashmere vest and sleevless down doona). I got up and had frequent breaks. And tried to relax as well. Can you try to relax? Or do you just relax? And if you can't try to relax, how do you relax if you aren't relaxed to start with?
I'll have to work on that one, along with the idea that less is sometimes more. If I can stay fresh and relaxed, then my writing productivity will increase. A regular 500 words adds up to more than mad creative highs followed by months of writer' block.
Today I read more about raids on construction sites. It only took about an hour. The most interesting source was an article in the Guardian - the journalist considered all the human issues which are so interesting for a novel.
I've never written like this before - it's like stitching a patchwork. First I have an idea, then I go hunt up some info, then I turn the info into fiction.
From this week I need to finish writing at 11:30. This is so I can exercise after writing and before I go to the day job. I'm hoping it will act as a break between mental states.
Sunday, 14 September 2008
Saturday, 13 September 2008
I now need to look up how the police get a warrant for a search of a building site, and how much notice, if any, they would give to a company suspected of employing dodgy workers. And who would lead on an joint operation - the DWP or the police?
Friday, 12 September 2008
I've written nothing, so there's nothing to blog about. It's wonderful - because there is the evidence of how hard, or otherwise, I'm working.
Although I suspect that the eyestrain I get comes from working too hard - straining and pushing my muscles, which is counterproductive. Today the Bowen Therapist taught me a relaxation technique to use at the computer. Tomorrow I'll try it and see how it goes.
Can you guess what book the mind map above is illustrating? No? Well, mind maps are very personal records! (I'm a huge Tony Buzan fan. I don't think he'd mind that my mind map looks nothing like a mind map - I started off with the little spider structure, but this mind map wanted to be a jigsaw.) The book is 'Think and grow Rich' by Napoleon Hill. Initially I flicked through it idly, because it's not just money I want, but then I got interested and feel that actually, the process for becoming a good writer is exactly the same. At the moment I feel like a large heavy bird - trying to lift off towards successful strata and splashing back into the bottom mud.
Sunday, 7 September 2008
- Suppose a secretary wasn't quite a whistle blower, but forgot on purpose to cancel the boss policeman's visit. In retaliation, the gang will kill her father. I have an image of a man floating in a bottle of whiskey with pins stuck in him. He's an alcoholic, then. It would make a screen saver too.
- Suppose the police boss was the hero? Now there's a thought.
- And for sure in the row about the raid, the heroine can make her position clear - she's on the side of the law.
My eyes are too tired for much writing - have made an appointment with a Bowen therapist to see if they can help. I'm sure it's muscular.
Saturday, 6 September 2008
A night's sleep coupled with yesterday's research has shown me the way. My heroine was stuck in the boardroom, staring at her new team, and I had no idea what they were going to say to one another. Talking heads are boring anyway. So, I'm going to send in a man with a gun. In this case, it will be a police and DWP raid on on of the company's building sites. At least 40 of the hundred workforce will prove to be illegal or benefit fraudsters.
But, I've spent too long on computers this week and my eyes are tired, so I'm having today and probably tomorrow off.
This is why I'll never be rich and famous.
Friday, 5 September 2008
I've only ever researched snippets of information before, not a huge subject like fraud. Thanks to the Internet I didn't have to leave home. Newspaper articles alerted me to several examples of different frauds, but law reports are the best - you get all the details.
It's depressing reading though! Especially the cases where public money has been stolen from hospitals or roads. I already know that I'm going to enjoy the scenes where my heroine catches the baddies. How dare they!
Thursday, 4 September 2008
Research, then. I'll have a look on the Internet for really great swindle ideas tomorrow.
Wednesday, 3 September 2008
The text books I encountered at my convent school were all printed before 1800 and something, and they had teeny-tiny print, foxed covers and a damp smell. The authors were all dead (preferably martyred). They were fixed, unchanging, and not to be argued with. This is way more fun.
Anyway, rather than staring at a blank screen, I'm going to see if I can lay out my plot over Blake Snyder's structure. Maybe some ideas will come though. In the meantime, though, here is my original paragraph:
It makes me cringe, now, to think how thrilled I was about my promotion.
I don’t have time for much socialising, or any close friends, come to that, but the day the news about my new appointment was announced, I took two colleagues to a bar overlooking the Thames. We chose a table with a heater because the autumn day was bright, but chilly. I splurged on a celebratory bottle of champagne. Nicola insisted on topping up her bubbles with Guinness. Her dark eyes met mine over the top of the fizzing glass as she saluted me.
‘You couldn’t pay me enough to live in Lancashire.’
I visualised the figures on my new contract and couldn’t stop a laugh. ‘I’d move to Siberia for this money.’
And here is the rewritten version:
I floated out of the boardroom, my heels brushing the plush carpet of the corridor and into my office. I closed the door carefully, then I flopped back on the wood and grinned. My secretary eyed me with a sour look.
‘You couldn’t pay me enough to live in Lancashire.’
I met her dark eyes. ‘You mean you didn’t see my salary when you read the contract?’
‘Are you saying that I’ve been snooping, Kari?’
‘No, but you seem to know all about my promotion.’
‘Oh, Come on, Sherlock! You spend all that time preparing to boss the Italian factory and they give it Matthew Duke. You don’t sue. They have to be throwing you a bone.’
‘Better than a bone,’ I said mildly. ‘Operations Manager of Cleggs Lancashire Builders.’
I may rename that company yet! Let me know what you think.
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
I once heard the composer Philip Glass on the radio saying that he refused to tell musicians how to play his music. The musicians were very disappointed with him, because they'd been looking forward to working with a real live composer - but so far as Glass is concerned, his ownership of the music finishes when he puts it out into the world. He doesn't mind what people find there, or what interpretations they create.
But he's a genius! And both my critique partner and my sister said similar things about my first chapter, so I decided it needed changing. One problem with writing in the first person is introductions. I wanted to avoid the cliche of our hero looking in the mirror, but I'd avoided it so thoroughly I'd left out her name and gender. But even though lots of vital facts were missing, I'd still succumbed to the sin of telling not showing. And that in turn led to another problem. How do you feel about people who tell you how horrible their parents are? Exactly! It doesn't help build sympathy for the character.
So, this morning I rewrote the opening scene of the Glass Cliff, where we meet our heroine at work and tried to put as much information into action as possible. And then I rewrote the next scene which takes place at her parent's house. I changed her 'voice over' type of narration for a family row over the dinner table, and you know what? I think both scenes are much better for it.
Every writer needs a critique partner!