Wednesday 30 January 2013

Pep talk to self

It's been a gloomy January in the U.K with icy roads and cold dark nights with the prospect of lying on a beach months away.

At this time of year it's easy to become disheartened, to wonder: will I ever get published? I've been writing for ten years in August (although I've had two children during that time) and I don't want to be sitting here typing the same words in ten years' time.  I'd rather my blog post at the end of January 2023 was entitled 'How I got published...'

If I don't get Book 1, The Grandson published before I'm happy with Book 2, The Painting then I'll rewrite it. I put my heart into The Grandson for a long time and thought carefully about its plot and structure, so ideally I don't want to cast it aside. At the moment The Grandson is written in third person from three points of view: the heroine's, the heroine's mother's and the hero's ex-girlfriend's (who knows if those apostrophes are in the right place). Part of The Grandson includes excerpts from the heroine's grandfather's journal written during WW2 in Italy. I may rewrite those journal excerpts as scenes and make the book up to 120,000 words so it has a similar structure to The Painting. At the moment The Painting is part eighteenth century, part present day.

On those days when I can't think of where to take draft 1 of The Painting: I need to scan the word file I've created and zoom in on a section, expanding it; increasing the word count until I come up with an idea on where to take the story next. My outline for The Painting is a spreadsheet with key scenes loosely mapped out. I can't decide on all scenes in advance because as I write and research, the plot takes on a mind of its own. Then there are those minor characters who appear out of the blue with subplots which mirror the main plot all by themselves.

Has this January been good for your writing?

Thought I'd include the beach photo just in case you want to imagine yourself lying on it, the sun warming your skin: as you sleep, read, eat ice-cream or stare out to sea...the waves jostling against the shore.

And if that isn't enough, here's a motivational tune:

Wednesday 23 January 2013

What's in a letter?

Shed in the snow
It's been snowing in Surrey (U.K). There have been photo opportunites and I've been doing a bit of baking. But driving on slippery roads hasn't been much fun and I can't wait for it to melt.

Recently I've been reading letters from the eighteenth century as research for Book 2, 'The Painting', so I thought I'd blog about letter-writing.

The first letters I wrote were to my grandparents as a child.

We moved from Yorkshire to Cambridgeshire when I was fifteen and I exchanged letters with friends I'd left behind. This is when I began to write proper letters; where I included thoughts and feelings as well as news updates. Those letters between good friends were almost diary-like in what they revealed.

Résidence du Rabot in Grenoble
At university and when studying in France and Italy, letters to and from family and friends were pages long and receiving one would brighten my day. When I was living in Grenoble, halfway up a mountain in a Hall of Residence during the winter, my friends and I looked forward to the sound of a letter being slid under our bedroom doors.

I don't write letters anymore. When I send a birthday card to a faraway friend, I scribble a couple of paragraphs of news. Thank you letters usually only say thank you and 'We look forward to seeing you soon' or something along those lines.

Writing letters during my teenage years (and diaries) marked the beginning of being a writer for me. I wonder if the next generation will learn the same skills. Emails are usually shorter, possibly because a quicker exchange takes place. When writing a letter, especially from abroad I knew there'd be no reply for a week or two.

All the letters I've received since the age of fifteen are in A4 envelopes on my bookcase. Occasionally I sit down and read them. They're an insight into my life at the time and they bring it back a little like a photo can, but with more depth. I wish I'd made copies of the letters I wrote, so I could read them with the ones I received. That's one good thing about email.

Do you still write letters?

Rylan reading out Claire from Steps' letter on Celebrity Big Brother

Monday 14 January 2013

Do you write in cafés?

Last week, I ordered a new pair of boots online. When I put the boots on for the first time, the zip came off one of them. The choices were: wrap the enormous box in brown paper and take it to the Post Office, then wait for a new pair; or drive to Guildford to exchange them. At first I was fed up because another item had been added to the 'to-do' list. Then I realised it was the perfect excuse to put off post-Christmas housework for a bit longer. When I arrived in Guildford, the shop hadn't opened yet, so I dropped into my favourite café for a cappuccino and two slices of toast with marmalade.

First I tweeted where I was and what I was doing (why do I feel the need to do that?!), then I got my exercise book and pen out of my handbag. In an hour I wrote drafts of two flash fiction paragraphs I planned to send off this week. Then I scribbled thoughts on the scene I'm working on in The Painting. These thoughts gave me the idea to get more books from the library round the corner. After exchanging the boots, I found two hefty biographies about people from the eighteenth century. My writing plan for 2013 will now incorporate: working in a café once a week.

Do you write in cafés?

Wishing you a (belated) Happy New Year!