Monday, 31 March 2008
I thought I'd write something for the Harpers Bazaar short story comp (entries need to be in by 11th April) but the theme (ambition) isn't sparking a thing. Actually that's not strictly true it HAS sparked an idea but it's far too ambitious for me to complete in 10 days (I'd need to do quite a lot of research before I could start writing).
Quick...give me your tips for sparking a short story idea!
p.s. Knee still hurty. Stoopid alcohol.
Thursday, 27 March 2008
From the Save the Children website:
"A newborn baby can't regulate its own body temperature. It loses lots of vital body heat through its head which make it more prone to pneumonia - a disease which still kills around 2 million children each year.
Your hat can help us save a life. When you knit a hat and send it to us at Save the Children, we'll send your hat to mothers and babies in developing countries who desperately need your help."
To help (and for the knitting pattern) go here:
There's also a label for you to print out and attach to your hat that urges Gordon Brown to do something about this situation.
(NB: Don't knit an all white hat as it symbolises death in some African and Asian communities according to the knitting guide)I've got some soft wool under my bed that I was going to use to knit a teddy for my niece's birth. Seeing as she's 18 months old now I think I may have missed the boat there (!!) but I can still use it to help other, less privileged, children. Blog photos to follow when I'm done!
p.s. Hmmm...herb growing, knitting and interior decorating. If 19 year old me knew that those are the tantalising snippets of my life I'd choose to share with the internet at age 34 I think she might just have topped herself there and then (head first in a bucket of cider and blackcurrant!).
Now where's me zimmer? ;o)
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
I know that some people (hello Nichola!) think that plotting and outlining is a really, really bad idea but something writing novel #1 taught me is that I need to plot. If I don't I grind to a halt when I don't know what happens next and I have to pause and wait until a solution appears. I need to think novel #2 through before I write anything (as proven by the opening I already had to scrap!).
I need to think about making each scene count, about increasing the intensity of the MC's crises as the novel progresses, about incorporating unanswered questions that stick in a reader's mind, about making this book a real page turner. I also need to think about the balance between the plot and the subplots (something, I admit, I didn't actively plan for novel #1).
I was reading Holly Isle's pdf on plotting a novel and started thinking about the 'candy bar scenes' (scenes that you're really looking forward to writing) in novel #2. That's what the coloured index cards are for. I've got four different coloured cards and, co-incidentally, a main plot and 3 sub plots (okay, one main sub plot and two lesser sub plots). The idea is to write down as many different scene ideas as possible on the cards and, when I've finished, go through them to see how they fit together, discarding any scenes that are rubbish.
If you look at the bit of paper in my photo you'll see I've drawn a line down the middle with 'beginning' at one end and 'the end' at the other. It's divided into 3 Acts (I used the same structure for novel #1). All the scribblings beneath that line are the ideas I've had for scenes so far. The beginning is fairly straight forward - as it was with novel #1 (I knew exactly what the first few chapters were) and I know what the first crisis point is but, unlike novel #1 I've got quite a few scenes for the second Act and none for Act 3. In theory the scenes I scribble onto the index cards will help me structure Act 2 (I know what the crisis point is at the end of Act 2 which is a help).
Act 3 however...
is a problem.
I don't know what happens!
There's a big mystery to be solved in novel #2 and, at the moment, I have absolutely no idea whodunnit! I'm not even very sure who the suspects are. I read an interview with a crime writer recently who said that, when she starts her books, she has no idea who dunnit until the end. That way, she argues, the reader will be as surprised as she is. Fair point. I'm hoping my subconscious will fill out Act 3 in the next couple of weeks but, if it doesn't, I'm not going to worry. If I've got Acts 1 and 2 planned I'll just start writing and see what happens.
But first, on with the fun stuff. Thinking and scribbling and shuffling.
Am I the only one that finds this bit more fun than actually writing the novel (candy bar scenes aside)?
p.s. If anyone has found any helpful hints online about writing a mystery/whodunnit please feel free to point me in the right direction!
Tuesday, 25 March 2008
Unfortunately I still need to do a second coat in the bedroom but I can't be bothered so the hallway will remain cluttered until this weekend when I'll brave the paint pots and roller again. Am I the only person in the world to get completely spattered with paint when I use a roller? When I finished the first coat yesterday it was in my hair, on my face, all over my black top and down my jeans. Even my toenail varnish turned from blood red to polka dot style.
And don't get me started on the dinner plate sized splodge of paint on the bedroom carpet. I backed into the bookcase and knocked the roller tray onto the floor. Gah! I scrubbed and scrubbed the carpet with warm water and washing up liquid and there's still a big magnolia-coloured stain. Looks like I'm going to have to add 'replace bedroom carpet' to my list of things to do. What a pain!
Anyway, enough moaning. Other than my decorating hell yesterday I had a great Easter. I polished off my Thornton's Easter egg on Friday and spent the weekend either shopping or watching DVDs. Great!
Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium
I can't even begin to describe how much I loved this film. Some films try and capture the essence of magic and fail miserably (too twee, too stoopid or too sickly sweet) but not this film. Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium is about a magical toyshop run by 243 year old Mr Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) and managed by struggling composer Mahoney (Natalie Portman) and frequented by a friendless, hat-obsessed little boy (Zach Mills). The film's theme (about believing in magic and the value of play) isn't a subtle one but this is a children's film.
What really touched me was a parallel I couldn't help making between Mahoney's lack of confidence in her musical ability and my lack of confidence in my writing ability and how grey the world can (literally) become when you stop believing in yourself. It sounds cheesy but the end of the film (I won't spoil it) made me well up. If you're struggling with self confidence you could do worse than watch this film. If nothing else it'll transport you back to your childhood when you believed in magic and miracles (unless your heart is made of stone). It's also a film that will, I'm sure, delight children.
It's not a perfect film by any means. I found Dustin Hoffman's Mr Magorium a teeny bit annoying for a start but it's the best film of this type I've seen for a long time.
Two Days in Paris
I just looked at the reviews of this film on Amazon and was surprised to see that opinion is very much split. It seems you either love this film or you hate it. I loved it. Written, directed and starring the very talented Julie Delphy (Marion) and co-starring Adam Goldberg (Jack) the film explores 2 days in a couple's 2 year relationship. On holiday in Europe the couple travel to Paris to explore the city and visit Marion's parents. So far so uninspiring right but I was hugely amused by the interaction between the French family and American, neurotic, germ-obsessed Jack who doesn't speak French. Delphy's keen eye for family dynamics and excellent use of dialogue made me laugh out loud several times.
What she does even better, if that's possible, is the relationship between Marion and Jack. She's so spot on she made me cringe several times as the couple goes from light hearted banter to full blown argument. This is a couple so insecure and jealous they constantly second guess each other and push each other's buttons. During the course of the film several of Marion's exes appear out of the woodwork causing Jack to become more and more possessive and more and more obsessed with her past. Your sympathy switches from Marion to Jack and back as you try and work out who's in the right (if either of them are). You might laugh, you might cringe but you will feel like a voyeur, watching someone else's relationship play out.
If you've even had an argument with a partner about your exes or your past you'll be able to relate to this film. Probably one to watch to with the girls rather than your partner though!
Away From Her
Julie Christie was nominated for an Oscar for this film and I was really looking forward to seeing it...BUT...I couldn't help but compare it with Iris  (starring Judy Dench and Jim Broadbent) which is one of my favourite films ever...and this film really suffered in comparison.
I never really believed in the relationship between Fiona and Grant in the same way I did between Iris and her husband. As a result I didn't feel as distraught as I thought I might when Fiona goes off to a care home and, while Christie's portrayal of an Alzheimer sufferer was certainly subtle it didn't make me ache in the same way Dench did. With Dench I felt her confusion and fear with Christie it all felt so wishy washy and just...I don't know...fine (like having Alzheimers wasn't the worst thing in the world). There were some touching moments in this film but it was too slow, too gentle, too meandering to pull me in. In Iris the two main characters constantly interact, they bounce off each other, they argue with each other, they cry, they scream, they're human...in Away From Here they're constantly at arm's length, two stranger in effect and, as a result, there's no dramatic tension.
Maybe if I hadn't seen (and loved) Iris I might have liked Away From Her more. Shame.
Oh! I did do one thing writing-related. I edited a short story to send off to a woman's magazine. That makes two subs this month. Better than nothing I suppose!
Friday, 21 March 2008
Thursday, 20 March 2008
Particularly scary was the revelation that 200,000 books are published each year and your average branch of Waterstones can only stock 30,000 books (and that includes the classics) so, if if your book is listed on Amazon that doesn't guarantee it's actually in bookshops.
And what of the supermarkets? How do they decide what to stock? The discussion on the importance of a novel's cover is an interesting one...
Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Friday, 14 March 2008
All 80,024 words of it (originally 89,000 words).
DONE DONE DONE DONE.
God I'm going to enjoy the next few days.
Then on Sunday I'm going to print the whole thing out and read it through.
And then panic about what the agents think about it.
But until then...
HOORAY! I've finally finished!
p.s. The feedback on novel #2 is good. A few comments/tweaks I need to look at but otherwise encouraging. Phew
Thursday, 13 March 2008
Will have to re-pot the marjoram soon as it's grown too big for the plastic greenhouse but that leaves a bit of a problem... what to do with them all? I've cooked with basil, thyme, coriander and parsley before but never marjoram or chives. What do I do with them?
In other news the rewrite is coming along well. I'm on 86% at the moment and the best part of a weekend to do the final 14%.
The trouble is I've got a terrible attention span so need a take a couple of hours break after every 2%! It all depends on the scene I'm rewriting too. Some scenes are a joy and I speed through them, enjoying every word. Other scenes...well...I just have to read the opening sentence and my heart sinks and I think "Gawd, this one is going to need some serious work". That's when I take a break. It's like I need to go away and build up the strength to return to it!
Still, not much more to do. I swear here and now that this is my last rewrite of this novel. No more. Well, unless an agent signs me and asks me to make changes or *cough* I get a publishing deal and the editor asks me to make changes. I really, really, really want to get back to novel #2. I miss the bit about writing that's to do with imagination and excitement rather than grammar and sentence construction!
69,202 / 80,015 words rewritten (86.4% of novel)
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
BUT she does mention she doesn't think it's a good idea to talk about your agent/editor hunt in a public weblog.
Another good reason why I moved my blog to a more anonymous URL ;o)
p.s. After yesterday's debacle I was up, out of my seat, coat, hat and scarf on and ready to go BEFORE the train pulled into Brighton station. As soon as the doors beeped I was out of the door!
Tuesday, 11 March 2008
This morning I was reading Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips on the train to work.
I'd just got to the part where two of the characters take the train to the underworld with the souls of the dead when my train pulled into Victoria station. I'm normally pretty slow at getting ready to go anyway (need to put on coat, hat, scarf, put mp3 player in coat pocket, put handbag over shoulder, grab other bad) but I was even SLOWER this morning and by the time I moved out of my seat my carriage was empty. No worries, I thought as I walked toward the door, it just means there will be less of a cram at the ticket barriers.
The doors were closed.
It's fine, I thought. Just open them.
Press Open again.
The doors remain closed. The open button wasn't lit up.
Shit, I thought. I'm locked in.
I stood there, frantically pressing the button for several minutes until I realise the doors WERE NOT GOING TO OPEN.
So I walked to the next carriage. The open button wasn't lit up.
So I walked to the next carriage and the next and the next.
I was locked in the train!
I started to feel a bit frantic and hurried through the train searching for a way out. And then...
I saw a cleaner. Hooray!
"Excuse me," I said.
The cleaner ignored me and continued collecting newspapers and stuffing them into her clear plastic sack.
"Excuse me," I said, louder.
Still no response. Not even a flicker that she'd heard me.
"Excuse me," I said again, nearly shouting.
The cleaner reached into her pocket and pulled out her mobile phone and started texting someone.
It was in that moment that fiction blurred with reality and for one teeny tiny millisecond I wondered if I'd actually had a heart attack in my seat, not noticed I was dead and was now a lost soul wondering the Brighton to London train for all eternity. It didn't help that in MY novel one of the characters wants to haunt a train station.
I ran back down the train. There HAD to be a way out somehow.
And found an Italian couple who were also locked in. And they smiled at me and spoke. Hoorah, I wasn't a ghost after all, just incredibly dozy.
After about ten minutes during which the Italian pressed their faces up against the windows and screamed (they were posing for photos for their friends who were on the platform) the overhead voice announced "This is the Brighton train, stopping at..." and finally, FINALLY the doors opened.
I was free.
Monday, 10 March 2008
Hmmm...maybe I should ditch novel writing and be a screenwriter instead? Or maybe not. It's an even more difficult industry to crack!
|You Should Be a Film Writer|
You don't just create compelling stories, you see them as clearly as a movie in your mind.
You have a knack for details and dialogue. You can really make a character come to life.
Chances are, you enjoy creating all types of stories. The joy is in the storytelling.
And nothing would please you more than millions of people seeing your story on the big screen!
On the plus side it's my neighbour's fence so they have to pay to have it fixed (if they get it fixed!).
On the minus side, that's my garden it's fallen into (bye, bye budding daffodils).
Have dragged the fence into my neighbour's garden and am hoping half a fence dividing the two gardens won't put off anyone interested in renting my flat!
If you missed this 5-part series on BBC 2 at 1.30pm this week hurry and get yourself to the BBC website to watch it again before they take it down:
At the time of this post there's only 12 hours to watch or download the first episode so, depending on when you're reading this you might have run out of time. But you can still watch episodes 2-5 (there's a length summary of the previous episode at the beginning of each).
I thought I'd hate a programme that teaches celebs to write a novel but it's actually quite good.
If you don't want to watch the programme but want to read Minette's crime writing tips go here:
But I've managed to inch the total up a tad. 77% done and I'm partway through Chapter 34 (there are 40 chapters altogether). It sounds like I'm really near the end so how come I've still got to rewrite 18,300 words?! Apparently the last few chapters of my novel are tons longer than the chapters earlier on in my book and I'm not sure whether or not that's a good thing. Aren't things supposed to speed up at the end of a book? Hmmm.
Anyway, just under 23% left to go. I'll know whether or not the balance is off when I come to re-read the whole thing at the end.
62,072 / 80,372 words rewritten (77.2% of novel)
Sunday, 9 March 2008
Part IV of the series of Write Stuff videos I've been posting:
For more of this kind of stuff (actually it's mostly about writers and their working day and their book recommendations, but it's still interesting stuff) go here :
Friday, 7 March 2008
That's an advert for my story! How cool is that?
Thursday, 6 March 2008
And how did I miss it during the last rewrite?
Rewriting that was hard work. It took HOURS and I only managed 3% of the novel (it felt more like 30%). Glad it's over.
Let's hope the last 35% is a bit easier.
52,070 / 80,065 words rewritten (65.0% of novel)
Wednesday, 5 March 2008
Win £100 worth of book tokens. Closing date 30 April.
But, ehr, it's slightly flawed (see title of this post!).
- Etchings magazine (Australian literary mag)
- Your Messages anthology (they sold out the print run and didn't have enough left for the people who couldn't make the launch!)
- Take a Break Fiction Feast (UK women's mag)
Monday, 3 March 2008
Bob Hoskins as "Saint Bob" (perfect!)
Honor Blackman as "Mrs Humphreys-Smythe"
So who would be in the movie of your book?
I've been thinking about books that are classified as 'page-turners' and what it is about them that propels you through the book.
And something I've realised, by analysing a few best-selling chicklit books, is that most chapters have a compelling hook at the beginning and another one at the end.
What's a hook? An unanswered question, an unusual situation, a dilemma, a revelation - basically anything that gets the reader's attention. It's all very well hooking the reader (or agent!) at the start of your novel but if you want them to keep turning the pages without falling into a coma you need to do the same for each and every chapter.
And when that chapters ends?
You need to give them a reason to move on to the next one.
Let's look at Can You Keep a Secret?by Sophie Kinsella.
Chapter 1 beginning
"Of course I have secrets.
Of course I do. Everyone has secrets. It's completely normal. I'm sure I don't have any more than anyone else."
Hook: What are her secrets? I have secrets too. Are her secrets abnormal? Has she got more than me? What are they?
Chapter 1 end
"His voice is dry and has an American accent. I'm about to ask him politely where he's from, but he immediately turns back and stares out of the window again.
Which is fine, because to be honest, I'm not much in the mood for talking either."
Hook: Who is the man sitting next her? Is she going to try talking to him again?
Chapter 2 beginning
"OK. The truth is, I don't like this.
I know it's business class, I know it's all lovely luxury. But my stomach is still a tight knot of fear."
Hook: Is the main character going to survive the flight? Is something going to happen? Is she going to freak out and do something weird?
Chapter 2 ending
"I'd love to move in with you, Connor," I whisper, and to my utter astonishment, burst into tears.
Hook: She's just agreed to move in with someone she's not sure she's in love with. Why did she burst into tears? How's he going to react to the fact she's just burst into tears? What's going to happen next?
And so on and so forth. Of course not all the chapters start with a hugely compelling opening line. The questions/dilemmas/mysteries the author has raised within each of the chapters should propel the reader onwards, desperate to find out the answers, but too many dull, unimaginative chapter openings and their attention is going to start to wane.
But you get the idea.
What I found interesting when I analysed my chapter openings and endings is how dull the ones I haven't rewritten yet are. Out of the 10 chapter (or so) I've got to rewrite 4 of them open with the main character waking up and one of them starts with a comment about the weather.
Cut, cut, cut and start with the action. Give the reader a reason to read on.
On the plus side the ones I've already re-written are tons better (which is a relief).
Hmmm...maybe I'll do a bit more rewriting tonight after all.
Sunday, 2 March 2008
Go here: http://www.videojug.com/tag/writing-and-publishing
Some of the Jonny Geller ones I've linked to before but there's some good stuff there. Nothing about rewriting unfortunately but...
2nd March - 54% of novel should be rewritten
9th March - 61.7% of novel should be rewritten
16th March - 69.4% of novel should be rewritten
23rd March - 77.1% of novel should be rewritten
30 March - 84.8% of novel should be rewritten
6th April - 92.6% of novel should be rewritten
13th April - 100% (okay, so it'll be 3 months and 3 days altogether!)
As of today I'm ahead of schedule!
60.8% rewritten and I'm just about to start Chapter 29 of 38 (it doesn't sound like too much more work written like that!)
And I got some more glossing done too.
I think I actually deserve this award that Karen gave me
And I'm going to pass it on to JJ because she doesn't seem to stop! :o)
And now I'm going to have a nice, cold G 'n T and watch some TV (and find out who was kicked off Dancing on Ice. I was so busy writing I forgot to watch the results show. Doh)
49,208 / 80,889 words rewriten (60.8% of novel)
I've felt slightly uncomfortable about how googleable I am for the last few months (for various reasons) and decided today that I didn't want my blog to have my name in the address.
So here we are. Same blog, same name "Writing About Writing" but without my name in the title.
Normal service will be resumed soon!