Tuesday 27 March 2012

Does good weather distract you from writing?

Now that spring is here, it's tempting to skive and enjoy the sunshine. In the U.K. there is the general feeling that when the weather's good it's worth making the most of it as you don't know how long it will last.

Spring brings more distractions from writing than usual. I suddenly feel the need to put on sandals and go for walks, catching the sun on my face. Weeds appear between paving stones in the driveway and in the flowerbeds. By the time I've managed to clear them all, they've grown back again. Lambs' tails drop from the hazelnut tree onto the decking asking to be swept away. The lawn needs to be mown (my husband takes care of that when the lawnmower is working). Foliage quickens the pace at which it grows and has to be cut with secateurs and pushed into compost bags. Washing demands to be pegged to the line. It seems silly to throw it over an airer inside when it can take on the scent of spring in the garden. I wanted to do this today but I couldn't locate the pegs.

The last thing I want to do is sit at a desk when I can see the blue sky through the window. My way around it is to walk somewhere with an exercise book squeezed into my handbag and find a café to sit in. Tree surgeons sawing off branches at a neighbouring house, like they were today is enough to make me do this. This way I get to enjoy the weather and write. Otherwise there are evenings. The house is quiet, it's dark outside and I don't feel that I should be doing stuff around the house. And it means my husband can watch what he wants to on TV (ie. sport!)

Does this weather distract you from writing or do you have any other comments?

Tuesday 20 March 2012

The Lucky 7 Meme challenge

Today, the lovely Melissa Gardiner who writes a blog at My Unpublished Life tagged me in The Lucky 7 Meme challenge. Thanks Melissa!

Here are the rules:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP

2. Go to line 7

3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they're written.

4. Tag 7 authors

5. Let them know

Here are 7 lines from the latest draft of the MS for my novel, The Grandson. They are taken from the heroine's grandfather Peter's journal written during WW2.

Our fate has been decided by Churchill and Roosevelt during their meeting in Casablanca and we’re on a ship headed for Algiers in Tunisia. Conditions are cramped but I have enough to eat. I expect that this is nothing compared to what we have to come.

     Leaving Eleanor was never going to be easy. She’s the first girl I have loved. I was lucky enough to see her alone last night. Mother made a splendid going away supper. She’d saved up all of her points and managed to get some sausages. I’d been expecting Woolton pie, the vegetable pie being promoted by Lord Woolton, the Minster for Food.

The 7 fabulous ladies I am tagging are:

Laura E. James
Michelle Flatley
Clare Wartnaby
Debs Carr
Rebecca Leith
Debbie White
Lucie Wheeler
By the way ladies-I totally understand if you're too busy to do this or if you don't want to reveal any of your WIP/MS!

Thanks again Melissa.

Saturday 17 March 2012

The shoebox

This is a poem which I wrote for a writing exercise a few years ago. The task was to write a poem about a box. I chose the yellow shoebox which I keep things in to remind me of my mother.

I've found Mother's Day difficult to deal with since she passed away ten years ago. I didn't get to say goodbye and I miss her so much.

It's a way of remembering her

When it happened I gathered

Everything I could find

Associated with her

Photos, letters she'd sent to me

A letter I wrote to her after she'd gone

Sometimes if I want to think about her

I take off the lid and remove the contents

Sifting through

My favourite photograph is the one in France

With me, her and my sister

Smiling as we stand on a bridge

The letters make me laugh sometimes

Telling me what she's been doing

And telling me what I should be doing

My favourite piece of correspondence from her

Is a 21st Birthday card I recently found

I'd been searching for it since she'd gone

It said what I needed to hear

I am very proud to have a lovely daughter like you.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

How do you write?

I read a rare interview with one of my favourite writers, Anne Tyler in the Culture Section of The Sunday Times on Sunday. She will be appearing at this year's Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival on 1st April to accept the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence. It will be her first public event in Britain.

This is how Anne Tyler writes her novels:

longhand over and over again

types into a computer

prints out

writes again in longhand

reads into a tape recorder

retypes into a computer

I wonder how long it took Anne Tyler to come up with that method of writing a novel. Although it must take ages, I can understand why she reads the manuscript into a tape recorder. It's amazing what can be picked up when writing is read aloud. I've found this a benefit of reading out work in writing classes to be critiqued.

This is how I go about writing a novel:

I write the first draft of each scene by hand. Then I type it into a computer, rewriting as I go and editing by printing, marking it up and retyping (a few times). When I'm as happy with that scene as I can be at that stage, I move onto the next scene and go back to writing by hand. Somehow writing the first draft in this way means I can plan the scene in my head more easily. I like writing in cafés as it's good to get out of the house for some of the writing process. Sometimes I end up writing more than I would at home because there aren't any distractions. I use exercise books as they're light and can be squeezed into any handbag. I also like disposable fountain pens and have several in different colours, pink being my favourite. Of course after all that there's loads of redrafting and editing to do.

I'd be interested to know if you write by hand at any stage in the novel-writing process or if you have any other comments.

The Sunshine Award

Thank you to Rosemary Gemmell for nominating my blog for The Sunshine Award. I enjoy reading Rosemary's blog and you can find it by clicking on her name above.

This is what makes me happy:

• my family and friends

• holidays-especially those in the sun near a beach

• good food and wine-anything from bacon and eggs to a Sunday roast. Also love pasta, Thai, Chinese and Indian food. Don't mind a bit of champagne but also like rosé (especially Pinot Grigio Blush), Chardonnay and enjoy a cold beer on a hot day.

• a walk somewhere scenic

like here:

This would make me even more happy:

• If I could just get my book published that would be really nice.

I'd like to pass this award to Laura Thayer's blog, Ciao Amalfi. I enjoy Laura's blog because as you probably know by now, I love Italy and she captures daily life in Amalfi perfectly. My husband and I went to Amalfi on our first holiday together in March 1999. The drive from Naples airport to Amalfi along the coastal road is stunning but it wasn't easy negotiating the hairpin bends! It rained a bit whilst we were there but we had a wonderful week and I'd like to go back one day.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Getting into a character's head

Sometimes it's not possible to experience what a character's going through but I think it's worth trying to where possible. It would be nice to go on a trip to Florence. I've been there before but it would be good to see the place from the point of view of my main character and her situation. That's not going to happen at the moment so I'll just have to work with Wikipedia and old photos.

This week I did Ashtanga Yoga for the first time. I went to a beginner's yoga class about ten years ago and pulled a muscle in my back so I haven't tried it since. My friend suggested we go and I decided to. I haven't been able to motivate myself to do any exercise since Christmas and summer is approaching.

This is what I recall from the yoga class:

The teacher was friendly and she approached my mat, shaking my hand from above before doing the same with other newbies. When the class began, I couldn't see the teacher demonstrate what to do because I'd placed my mat at the back of the room. The teacher told me and my friend to take off our socks. I'd kept them on because the room was cold when I arrived. I tried not to laugh when the teacher said we were going to practise 'alternate nostril breathing' where you inhale through one nostril and exhale out of the other. This apparently slows down your heart rate and relaxes you. As I worked through the exercises, the parts of me which were being stretched ached. I wondered how I'd feel the following day, hoping I didn't pull any muscles so I could return. The room was a calm environment to be in and I was surprised at how quickly the hour and fifteen minutes went. Towards the end of the class, everyone did shoulder stands and then put their legs backwards over their heads. I decided to opt out of this move as I worried about what I might do to myself. Afterwards me and my friend went to the café downstairs where we ordered cappuccinos and shared a pain au chocolat, noting in our diaries to return the following week. If we could we'd try to squeeze in an extra class every week as the teacher had said this would help sort out our spare tyres in time for the summer (as long as we didn't share a pain au chocolat afterwards).

I doubt I'd have got this information without going to a yoga class. If I'd asked someone who did yoga, I probably wouldn't have picked up the minor details which could bring a scene to life.

We were talking about research in the writing class I attend last week and I realised that I need to go into an art gallery (the kind which is more like a shop) and speak to the staff so I can get into the head of Book 2's main character. I need to know what paperwork there is to be done, how the relationship between the artist and the owner of the gallery works and many other facts. If I'm feeling brave, I could ask to work there for nothing for a day or two (as long as they don't think I'm casing the joint said someone in my class!) I haven't done it yet, but it's the only way Act 1 of Book 2 is going to come to life.

Saturday 3 March 2012

The Versatile Blogger award

Anne Mackle has kindly nominated me for The Versatile Blogger award. Click on Anne's name to see her blog-I am a big fan and I recommend you have a look at her posts which are always interesting.

Thank you Anne for the support you give to my blog and for nominating it for this award (and sorry it's taken me a few weeks to post this).
On accepting the award, I have to tell you seven things you don't know about me and I have to nominate seven blogs to pass this award to.

1. I once had a job in the university holidays snipping the end off parsnips in a warehouse. A minibus picked me up from the end of my road at 6am and dropped me back at 7pm. We had to stand around a conveyor belt with a knife and snip the parsnips before putting them on another conveyor belt above. The people I worked with were great fun and we talked incessantly to get ourselves through the day, telling each other stories. Sometimes we'd laugh until we had tears running down our faces.

2. I lived in Grenoble for 5 months in 1993/4 as part of a French and Italian degree. Me and three girls from my university were in rooms next to each other in a Hall of Residence half way up what we called 'the mountain'. It was very steep and it would take a good half hour to walk up it.  Our rooms were damp and the only equipment in the kitchen was a hotplate. We could see Mont Blanc out of our bedroom windows and a cable car passed us on the way up to a castle on top of the mountain. We didn't have a fridge so we hung our food in carrier bags outside on the handles which opened our windows. We had the best time though and went out most nights to bars in Grenoble where we ordered jugs of beer with our student budgets.

3. I once did a Secretarial course but never worked as a secretary. After university I had no idea what to do with a language degree so I got a loan and did a three month course at a secretarial college in South Kensington, London. I learnt shorthand and touch typing.

4. I used to work in Investment Banking. Whilst doing the secretarial course, I registered with some recruitment agencies and was lucky to get a temping job at Deutsche Bank using my languages. Initially I had to chase confirmations. (Confirmations are legal documents used to confirm Derivatives trades.) I had to call my equivalents at French and Italian banks and ask them to sign and return documents. I got to know the staff working in these banks and we had a laugh chatting to each other. I also worked at Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse before returning to Deutsche Bank where I managed the Structured Derivatives Documentation team. I left banking in 2003, shortly after my mum died as the hours were long and the job was stressful. I needed time to grieve and I haven't returned as I've since had children (not that there would be a job for me now!)

5. I like handbags. My favourite is a Gucci pink and brown bag which my husband bought for me at Malpensa airport in Milan before we flew back from our honeymoon in the Italian lakes. I don't have any other designer ones (but I would love to own a Chloe handbag one day...)

6. I love cheese. My favourites are Brie, Gorgonzola and Manchego.

7. I am a fan of 'just being'. I love going out and seeing my friends but sometimes I think everything can get a bit too organised and hectic.

I am going to break the rules and pass this award onto one special blog (as the others I wanted to nominate have already got it.)

To a great new blog which has a variety of upbeat posts on different subjects - writing, funny stories, chat-up lines, technical advice on how to upload an MS to Kindle etc. The Romaniacs are a group of lovely ladies on the RNA New Writers' Scheme like myself. I wish them the best with their new blog. You can also follow them on Twitter @TheRomaniacs