Thursday, 30 December 2010
We just got back this afternoon to find that we DO have water and we DO have heating (sort of) but there's a crack in the oil filter and it's dripping oil into the grass. At least it was - it's now dripping into the mop bucket.
The weather here was just shockingly ferocious by our standards and it makes you realise how much it affects everything. We weren't really very well-prepared for it.
When the boiler broke just before Christmas it made me think a lot about Evie's situation in The Watchers. Her life is pretty tough and there's never much money for things like heating. It's easy to write about it but actually sitting in the house with no heating has given it a whole new dimension. If I was writing those scenes now they would probably be a lot more miserable...!
Thursday, 23 December 2010
The cats will have to be loaded into the car. The picture was taken 2 years ago of our cat Charlie. She's a great wee character but she didn't like the costume much! She absolutely hates the car so as soon as we put her in she will start yowling. She will then yowl every 30 seconds for the hour and a half it takes us to get back. Yeah. Ho ho ho...
Hope you have a fantastic, peaceful, festive season wherever you are!
Monday, 20 December 2010
Sunday, 19 December 2010
I got another thousand and something words done today, after skiving a bit the last couple of days. I'm really enjoying writing Book 2 when I actually sit down and get on with it. I feel like I know the characters well and know how they will act as I'm writing them into scenes.
Today I finished chapter 4 and started into chapter 5. I loved finishing chapter 4 as one of my favourite characters came clean with a big revelation. He's absolutely gorgeous and he's one of Evie's best friends. In chapter 5 he's going to have a lot of explaining to do and he's desperately hoping Evie won't walk out the door and never come back! It's a big fork in the book that changes a lot of things - hence the picture.
I feel like I have loads of ideas for books just simmering away in the background. In the past I would stop writing one thing, getting distracted by the new idea. Now I'm being ruthless. I don't mind a bit of subconscious stewing but I've learned now that the book only gets finished if you actually sit down and finish it! So write, Debbie, write!
Saturday, 18 December 2010
We went for a walk this morning and came home for hot sausage and egg toasties. Very glad we have our Christmas shopping done. The advice is to stay off the roads so aside from one foray to the garage for milk and biscuits we stayed tucked up at home. It was the perfect excuse to spend an afternoon on the sofa watching Christmas films, while the cats snoozed and the Murph read his way through the newspapers.
We were prepared this time and had plenty of food in so I spent this evening cooking roast chicken and parsnips and making chilli for tomorrow night. Also made a big pot of soup. Don't be fooled - I'm no domestic goddess...
I feel a little guilty not writing today but the Murph has told me I need a break and I didn't need much persuasion... So going to heat some mulled wine and watch Bridget Jones's Diary on TV at 9pm. Incidentally, Aitken Alexander (my new agency) represents Helen Fielding who wrote the Bridget Jones books. Was almost more impressed by that than the fact they represent Germaine Greer!
Tuesday, 14 December 2010
Anyway, I digress. The reason Hannibal sprung to mind was because a plot twist came together today, a big one, which has not only brought the end of Book 2 into sharper focus but Book 3 too! I was able to write the last few lines of Book 3 at lunchtime and have a vague sense of the last chapter.
It's a tricky balance to get right. On the one hand I don't want to know too much at this stage - I've written before that it starts to feel like a 'join-the-dots' exercise when I do that. On the other hand, you have to lay down ground rules for a trilogy, especially when it's fantasy. It's making me look again at Book 1 because there may be a line here and a line there that needs changed for something to happen later.
Anyway for today, I shall just enjoy the moment... "I love it when a plan comes together!"
Monday, 13 December 2010
So tonight, in my quest for 'fun' exercise, I purchased 'Just Dance 2' for the Wii. Stuck it on when I got home - and it was groovy! I was amazed how quickly I got out of breath messing about on it. Not sure I'm holding the controller right as it sometimes doesn't seem to register my (flailing) arm - obviously it's nothing to do with my dancing...
On a serious note I need to sort out my wretched desk posture. Any tips? Anybody tried yoga / pilates etc?
Sunday, 12 December 2010
I've been thinking about weather recently and how it affects writing. I've realised that I have a tendency to start books set in Autumn, putting the characters through the trials and tribulations of Winter, finally resolving the story in Spring / Summer. I'm wondering is this a universal thing or something peculiar to me. Obviously Spring and Summer are much more hopeful and optimistic times so it makes sense to end on a high. Maybe I'm just a sadist to my characters - throwing bad weather at them as well as everything else they have to endure!
For example The Watchers has a very short timeline in its current form - the whole book occurs in a ten day period in October. Book Two begins around 6 weeks later, just a few weeks before Christmas, with the threat of the weather changing and the temperature plunging.
This probably wouldn't seem like a big deal to a reader in Canada or Switzerland or anywhere else the entire country doesn't go to hell whenever there's a bit of snowfall. Here though, it's all people are talking about. The snow and ice are bringing real misery to some areas - the novelty has long since worn off. A reader from the UK / Ireland will see a potential menace here. It's interesting that readers from other places might think, "What's the big deal lady? So it's snowing. And...?"
I'm trying to think about books I've read where the weather almost becomes a character in itself. Any ideas?
Saturday, 11 December 2010
Friday, 10 December 2010
Thursday, 9 December 2010
So I can hardly believe I am writing this but I now have a literary agent! I spoke to Gillie Russell (Aitken Alexander, London / New York - might actually pass out writing that!!!) on the phone tonight and she sent a contract (agreement letter) through by email. So now I just have to sign on the dotted line and send it back - and hey presto!
It hasn't really sunk in yet but I do feel really happy. Of course the book now has to be sold but I feel like I'm another step along the long, long road to getting The Watchers published.
Just looked back at some of my first blog posts in the summer and grinned, remembering the days when I really wondered if my head was cut spending my precious holiday writing a book. But, as they say, no pain no gain. There were lots of times when writing the book was great fun but there were other days when it was like having teeth pulled without anaesthetic. I think that's the bit you don't realise when you read books. You assume it was effortless. I now know better...
Wednesday, 8 December 2010
There's a kind of magic when a character arrives in your head with flesh already clinging to the bones. J.K. Rowling famously said that Harry Potter arrived on a train she was travelling on. She had to rush and write things down before she forgot any details.
Certainly I've had this experience of someone appearing in my head fully-formed. It's like a kind of magic or a gift from a strange little corner of your mind. One of them was Evie in The Watchers. She arrived, complete with troubled background, one night in February and I scribbled some notes in a book. She caught my imagination but I didn't get a chance to write about her until June. There was a sort of urgency about her that helped drive me through writing the book. Interestingly the few people who have read The Watchers in draft have all cared about her and found her likeable and believable. Gillie said that she has a kind of integrity that makes her compelling. Maybe this is because she felt so real when I was writing about her.
I can think of two other characters I've written about in half-finished books who 'arrived' fairly randomly. One appeared in a 'picture' in my head - a man sitting in the woods around a fire, with a teenage boy and girl beside him. The other arrived as a name and a sense of who she was and who her opponents were. They're both characters I want to come back to in time.
Of course the problem, as ever, is time. So no more blogging tonight! Time to do some storytelling!
And if anyone is feeling bored... who is the girl in the picture? What's her story?
Thursday, 2 December 2010
Tonight the Murph and I risked life and limb driving along the icy roads to Flowerfield Arts Centre for a special evening. "Say the Word" was a gathering of writers from all over the area, including local writing groups. The standard was intimidatingly high.
It's hard to know what to read in public sometimes - something short is usually good! That's easy to say but when you're picking an extract from a full-length novel it can be tricky finding a scene that is complete in itself, especially when it's 'fantasy'. After all, the audience haven't had a chance to read the book - they don't know the 'rules' of the world you've created.
I kept it as simple as I could and read from the Prologue to Book 2. It's a nice scene with Javan as the central character. He plays a much bigger role in this book than in The Watchers so I wanted to start things off with a bang. It got a fairly good reaction as it has a scary twist and got some "Oooooooh's" at the end - always a great sign! Job done and back home in one piece - all is well!
Wednesday, 1 December 2010
At the minute I'm plotting a bit and figuring things out as I go - the fun bit! I don't want to get to far ahead of myself though. I have a fairly clear idea of the first 6-7 chapters, the big moment in the middle and the ultimate end point of the book. I don't want to nail it down any more than that just yet, as it starts to feel like homework or joining the dots. Basically I wish I could write faster so *I* can find out what's going to happen next!
Pic came from here.
Monday, 29 November 2010
Thursday, 25 November 2010
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
Sunday, 21 November 2010
Thursday, 18 November 2010
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
If you like the look of it, you can get it here.
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
So guerilla gardening is new to me but I heard about it on a radio programme today (available for 1 week only I'm afraid). The idea is that people randomly plant things on public land that looks a bit neglected - grass verges, wasteland, the grassy bits in the middle of roundabouts etc. It's about bringing a little bit of colour and nature to the urban sprawl.
I really liked the idea of this. I'm lucky to live somewhere with lots of grass and lovely beaches but I used to live in a place that was all concrete and horribleness. In The Watchers Evie walks through a cemetery and finds it grassy and peaceful - because it was the only big, green space for miles. Well, six years ago that was me walking to work every morning, glad to bottle some of the calm before the storm.
It also made me think about where Evie lives. Imagine a Victorian house, with families crammed into flats from the basement to the attic. The path and stairs up to the front door are covered with chipped black and white tiles and there's a square of garden full of dead earth and weeds. Again, this is a house I knew in London. A bit of guerilla gardening in places like that might put a smile on lots of people's faces... and Evie's an artist so I know she would love the colour!
Sunday, 14 November 2010
Instead we both look around and think, "Oooooh, which room will be the writing room???" Two writers* in one house = fight to the death for best study / office... :-)
Needless to say, I didn't get much writing done. As Stephen King says you can write anywhere because art supports life, not the other way round. If I have to write at the kitchen table, that's where I'll do it!
* One journo, one aspiring novelist...
Cute pic came from here.
Saturday, 13 November 2010
Friday, 12 November 2010
Sean is desperate to find his girlfriend and won't stop until he does. We all want to believe that the men in our lives will never give up on us. Maybe that's why it was so easy to write The Watchers. After all, Evie trusts that the 'man' in her life will do whatever it takes to save her - even if it means sacrificing himself.
Thursday, 11 November 2010
Also feeling a little despondent on the publishing front but not really sure why. Hope it's not some spooky sixth sense... Patience is a virtue which I'm sorely lacking!!!
Either way, I needed cheering up - and this picture does the job nicely. Enjoy!
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
I'm starting to think that this is one of the nicest stages of writing. You have characters you like and a (rough) story that you want to tell. You start writing with a few sentences as a guideline. E.g. "Evie goes here and this happens, she's really annoyed and then she meets so-and-so."
What's amazing though is that as I'm writing, Evie starts getting her own ideas and bumping into people she doesn't expect to. In chapter 2 for instance she runs into Annette's younger brother Ben. We haven't met Ben before this point - until now he has just been a name. Now he's a living, breathing character, who's full of grief because his sister is dead. He's quite a forceful little bugger and seems to be shoving himself into a plot twist near the end - none of which I anticipated.
I think this is the bit that Stephen King describes as 'creative play'. Later there will have to be more sophisticated plotting - this will happen in this chapter, followed by that in the next. I found at that stage with The Watchers that it began to feel a little 'join-the-dots' as I wrote it and that it took some of the fun out of the process of writing it, until I reached the last six or seven chapters. On the other hand, it meant that the book was written fairly tightly and needed a lot less work in the revision stage than it might have done otherwise.
Anyway, I just have to enjoy this bit - and hope that The Watchers finds a home... otherwise I will have TWO homeless, urchin books to take care of!
(Cool pic came from here.)
Friday, 1 October 2010
Actually... tonight I'll be writing in red pen. The hour has come... Having finally written a complete first draft I now have to go back through and butcher it. No doubt this will be painful and involve a lot of forehead slapping, Homer Simpson sound effects etc - but c'est la vie, baby! The time has come!
However... as I am not Wonder Woman, first of all I am going to have a nice Indian ready meal from Marksies and catch up with the long-suffering Murph.
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
I am too weary and elated to write any more but I did have a cup of tea and a white chocolate chip cookie to celebrate. Nobody parties like a writer... ;-)
Sunday, 12 September 2010
I've only been writing since June but it feels like I've been going for a long time. I'm hoping that within two weeks I will have the first draft complete. If I work my a** off I might even get it finished by this time next week.
As the self-confessed queen of half-written novels this is an exciting moment! I'm looking forward to being able to email Gillie Russell to say, "It's finished! Just a few revisions and it's all yours!"
Tuesday, 31 August 2010
Today's post will be short and sweet but I'm hoping this website might prove helpful:
Monday, 30 August 2010
Have just finished chapter fifteen, and I reckon there are about six chapters to go. You would think at this stage it would be easy to get motivated, knowing that the finish line is just over the hill... but no! I am the master of the half-finished novel. I currently have around 200,000 words spread across five unfinished books. I'm determined to get this one finished. Bernie McGill is the person to thank here, as she encouraged me to send the sample chapters out to give myself a sense of deadline - and it's making a big difference.
So just carry on outside there without me sunshine. Another 500 words and I will be joining you in the garden.
ps: All the people who say they want to write a book, but they just haven't got the time... you're the ones lying in a deck chair with a beer at the minute. I'll be right behind you...
Friday, 27 August 2010
Don't get me wrong, I actually like my job most of the time - on the good days I LOVE it! But having the summer to write was an amazing luxury. Now my brain is having to re-engage with work there is less space left for the writing. Have only got a couple of thousand words done in the last few days, so will have to go for it this Bank Holiday weekend.
So the revised plan of attack is:
1. Aim to finish the book by September the 30th.
2. Spend October revising and re-drafting.
3. Send the whole lot to agent(who has told me to take my time).
4. Start praying, sacrifice goats, pace about a lot and generally do what any hopeful new writer does when waiting to hear if a book will be taken forward.
I shall keep you posted...
Monday, 9 August 2010
Tuesday, 3 August 2010
Monday, 2 August 2010
My clearest memories of being a teenager are:
- Having some really hilarious times, especially with friends.
- Feeling different , odd, overwhelmed or lonely at times.
- Being quite sensitive to horror / gore – I only got into gory books when I was a bit older.
- HATING being patronised.
These last two come into direct conflict while I’m writing. I want it to be vivid and immediate, but I don’t want it to be really disturbing. I also don’t want it to be some cartoonized version of a distressing event, all watered down. I imagine the teen equivalents of me rolling their eyes and making barf noises as they read it.
When you’re a teenager and you’re smart it is hateful when people treat you like you’re dumb. In THE WATCHERS Evie hates feeling out of the loop, or like she isn’t trusted enough to handle certain information. After all, she’s doing pretty well dammit!
It’s said that every writer puts a little bit of themselves into their characters. Maybe this is the side of me that ends up in Evie. I certainly got luckier on the family front!
What I contribute to Javan on the other hand... hmmm, scary stuff! I’ll leave that to the head shrinkers to figure out... ;-)
Saturday, 31 July 2010
Everybody knows getting a first book published is meant to be awesomely difficult.
So far the one author, one agent and one publisher who have read the sample chapters have liked them.
I sense a fall coming...
The problem is when I think about the fall I lose the courage to actually invest myself in the writing.
So, I need to tell myself it will all be okay. They will seize the completed manuscript from my grubby, toner-stained mitts, hand me a (miserly) cheque and publish my story.
I believe it and I don’t believe it. Believing it is essential – but dangerous. Not believing it will coat me in protective cynicism, which will unfortunately set like concrete and stop me moving forward at all.
In this situation, faith is the only way to go.