Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Greased Lightning

No, I'm not thinking about Grease today (though it must be in my mind somewhere) but about writing  time. I've posted before about trying to find time to write - a puzzle for every wannabe writer. I've read plenty of articles about how to make the most of your time, and how to prioritise, work to deadlines, conquer the demons of procrastination....

But lately I've been thinking about it from another point of view. When I write, I lose time. I lose myself. I come back to reality and find that an hour, two, or three have disappeared, while I have been unconscious of them. I've always taken it as a sign that I was utterly absorbed, and doing something I loved, but I'd never realised before that the hours and days could slide away, slippery as spaghetti. When it's just an hour here and there, it's a stolen pleasure, but when you start to write regularly, and lost time regularly, you begin to realise that one day you'll find that years are passing in a blur...and it's a bit scary!

I suppose this is why it's important to change pace in your writing life as well as throughout a story. When a novel is done, some marketing, editing or beginning to structure the next novel gives you a break from the all-consuming joy and absorption of writing. And meanwhile, my word count is rising, so who am I to complain even if the time is going like greased lightning?

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Watching the word count rise

We're back into the swing of school runs and pre-school mornings in our home, and despite the annoyance of sandwich-making, bag packing and homework, it's a joy! It's true that I have more work to keep up with in my evenings, but I also have some more time to myself again, and can begin to write regularly after the upheaval of Christmas.

It was so exciting to be back at my keyboard, and it was also a useful reminder that the longer you stay away, the more distracted you have to be by re-reading and editing before you can start again.

And with that in mind, I'm going to waste no more time here just now, but I'm going to try to squeeze in half an hour with my novel!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

How do you find time to write?

It's true that I use my busy life as an excuse sometimes. After all, I have four kids, a part-time job that seeps into the unpaid days and also those other responsibilities I accidentally collected along the way. Finding time to write isn't always prioritised, even though I'd like it to be...and underneath, perhaps it's because I'm afraid that if I found more time, I'd also find out that I'm wasting my time, and will never be as good as I want to be.

I had a kick up the backside last night. I'd bought myself Jane Shemilt's debut novel, Daughter, which is very good so far. Before I settled to read it, though, I read about the author. And it turns out she is a GP with five kids. Despite that, she's made time to chase her dream and corner it. That's commitment and perseverance, and it's so true that this is often the difference between published and unpublished writers.

I have to confess that on reading that, I took a deep breath and paused before I was able to sink into the book itself. It was a reminder not to let excuses stand between me and the things I want in life. If you can't find time, you have to make it... bring it on!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Reading Writer - or The Writing Reader

Once you get past a certain point in the journey to becoming a writer, reading loses it's simple pleasure. It becomes a multi-layered experience.

I can still lose myself in a book if it is good - if it isn't, I don't stand a chance. In a good book, I tend to find myself looking for the strings and trying to peek behind the curtain, though, which does spoil the fun of being a reader. Even the best books are unlikely to surprise me lately, and I miss that uncomplicated relationship with story, where you're along for the ride.

But I love trying to work out how my favourite authors have achieved a sleight of story, or created the emotion or flavour that I've enjoyed. Being able to combine two of my favourite activities - reading and writing - in pursuit of a single goal is pretty wonderful. How often does that happen in life? And reading consciously means you really appreciate a book, and all that the author has done...although, perhaps you're no longer enjoying the book as the author intended.

I may not have time and money for a creative writing course at the moment, but I have masters of the craft at my fingertips, and through some self-initiated study, I can learn a lot. So when I ask Santa for a pile of books for Christmas, it's all in the name of self-improvement and work, and nothing at all to do with escapism, widening experience or the joy of a good story......honestly. Maybe you should ask Santa for some new reading material too, and spend the holiday with your nose to a page...?

Happy Christmas!

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Crazy Christmastime

It has been over a week since I last found time for writing. It hasn't stopped me keeping my ears open - I had a particularly good idea for a short story while having my hair cut on Wednesday, while listening in to the conversation next to me...eavesdropping sometimes does pay off!

But it's a busy time for everyone right now, and extra busy for school teachers, and extra busy for mothers so I'm going to be kind to myself and not get the guilts about not writing....but I'm also going to be kind to myself by making time tomorrow.

In the past week, I've had two ill children, an extra day and a half in work (the extra money will be appreciated in January, but both days happened to be Thursdays, my morning when Chick Pea is usually at pre-school and I have time to write), swimming lessons to squeeze in between nativity performances, carol services, and all that writing of cards and wrapping of gifts (especially the children's which I'm trying to do while they're out at school. I'm not a big fan of Christmas Eve wrapping - I want to be stress free and enjoying the evening with the kids on the day).

So I'm going to let circumstances dictate tomorrow. The five year old is ill - currently trying to breathe through a blocked nose while sucking his fingers, with a temp of 39.9 (which is fairly impressive, but I've seen worse) next to me on the sofa. There is no way he will be in school tomorrow, nor will I be able to do the shopping I needed to do, nor run the errands I've been desperate to fit in this week. So I'll be housebound with him and the little one, but they will occupy each other a bit; or sit and watch TV, which I allow more of when they're poorly. Which means I'll be free to write....sometimes the spanners in the works are in your favour after all!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Point of View and Subplot

Do you think each significant character in your plot needs a subplot? 

I haven't really thought about it like this before, but I have been overdosing lately on a favourite author, and realised that one of the ways in which she creates a multi-layered plot, and also makes all her main characters three-dimensional, is by creating subplots that eventually collide with the main one.

Now, I have subplots. But they're not usually specifically targeted at a character like that. In my last novel (which is not ready for the light of day) the subplot belonged to the police officer investigating my main character's crime. Then there was a very lightweight little plot which doesn't deserve to be called a subplot, which just fleshed out Mr Love Interest a bit. But perhaps Mr Love Interest needed a bit more going on.

In my current work, there is a triangle of characters, who I will name (somewhat misleadingly, but tough, I'm not going for a synopsis here) Mrs Main, Love Interest 1 and Love Interest 2. The conflict is between Mrs Main and Love Interest 1, so he doesn't really have a subplot. There are side issues arising, which Mrs Main doesn't know about immediately, but they're still part of the main plot. Love Interest 2 is crucial to the main plot in every way, but doesn't have his own subplot. 

He has a backstory - career, family, failed engagement, hobbies - the lot. The relevant parts will be in the story. He is a point of view character - I have written scenes through his eyes.

But does he need a subplot of his own? Would it make him more believable? Or would it complicate the story too much? 

I feel as though the lack of one may be undermining an important convention in the kind of books I read (and want to write). 

There is another character who is also vital to the whole, and the threads of her story weave into the main, underpin it and provides a different voice, told in a different tense and person. She is also important, and brings texture to the whole....but I'm not sure her story can really be called a subplot, either. 

So is this story too slim? I'm a long way through to be having doubts, and I think I may have to plough on and just see...it has felt good so far, and it already needs serious pruning to make it a sensible length, so it isn't  as if it's flimsy in terms of length. But perhaps it lacks depth...

What do you think? Should all the main characters have a serious problem of their own going on 'on the side'?

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Kindle and Paper

I love my Kindle. I love the way I can buy books at the click of a button at any time of day or night and be enjoying them in seconds. I love the fact I can take a huge pile of books on holiday without filling a suitcase. I love being a book consumer on a grand scale without running out of bookshelf room.

But I'm never going to be able to live without real books. An ebook can't replace a real one. When I read an ebook, there is a dimension less to the experience. It makes the experience shallower, and more forgettable. Frequently now, I don't know if I've read a book, even after reading the blurb. I recently got to the last paragraph of a book that I'd bought at the supermarket before realising I'd already got it on my Kindle!

I miss being able to handle a physical object - feel the weight of it, the thickness of the pages. I miss navigating through it - especially if I lose my place, or want to flick back to something - such a simple place-finding exercise is time-consuming and irritating on the Kindle. I don't get to read and savour a blurb before I open an ebook; I miss the aesthetic pleasure of the front and end pages - that delicious anticipation as you approach page 1. (Perhaps I am a bit of a book geek..?) I miss seeing the cover and title each time I reach for a book - that subtle reiteration of what I am reading, which is crucial, apparently, if I want to remember what I've read.

Are these things insignificant? Not for me. I find it incredible to cruise Amazon and realise that I don't know the name of a book, or what it looks like - that the plot is floating, fragmented and untethered, in my mind. It unsettles me. And rereading a book without realising it -  I'm sure this isn't just my age; I'm sure it's linked to this Kindle syndrome of reading text out of context - out of the context of real pages, a cover, illustration, blurb...

I've embraced the ebook revolution; I do love my Kindle. I've been excited about the power that authors now have to publish their own books with such ease. But now I'm wondering if there is a downside. If an unknown author publishes with KDP, and is lucky enough to have their book in great demand, it is disappointing to think that the memory of that book is likely to slide greasily out of the readers' memory within a week or two of reading. It doesn't bode well for that author, trying to build a fanbase when the very form of their book discourages memorability.

What do you think? Do you find it harder to retain digital text?