Wednesday, 17 September 2014

What I'm Writing

At the start of September, I declared that this would be the month I started writing my novel. I set myself a goal to reach a word count of 6000 words, based on using the hours I have when EB is at nursery to write.  To date I have written nothing.  My head is as empty as the page in front of me. I have been struck by self doubt and a crisis of confidence.

I started the week positively. On Sunday, I attended a workshop at our local book festival appropriately entitled, ‘How to write a novel’, the speaker, a published author and tutor on the MA course on creative writing at UEA was engaging and motivating.  She talked about her own ‘organic’ approach to novel writing, the fact that she doesn’t always have a fully fledged plan when she sits down to write, and this made me feel better about my own slightly haphazard approach. As luck would have it, she writes timeslip novels, which is what I am attempting to do. I really enjoyed listening to her speak and the insights she offered.

I left the session feeling buoyant and ready to write, I couldn’t wait to get to my laptop and get started. Yet my allotted slot on Monday was thwarted by the presence of various people (builders) banging around the house.  I decamped to the local coffee shop only to find the only available space was on the communal table and it impossible to write as an elderly gentleman, clearly in need of some human contact, continued in his attempts to make conversation until I gave in.  

Not that I needed much to distract me, because at the back of my mind there are niggling doubts.  I do not have a fully fledged plot or even, half a plot.  To date I have 4000 words, written some time ago.  I have a half chapter of the story set in 1860 and a couple of chapters set in modern day.  The link between them is still not fully formed in my mind and I’m struggling to work out how everything is going to come together.  I’m not sure I’m the next Kate Mosse  and I’m wondering, am I being too ambitious? What in it’s inception started off as a clear idea is now confused and muddled. I worry that I may be writing two separate stories and forcing them together. Whilst there is no doubt this would be a challenging writing exercise in itself, I have so few hours in which to write each week, I don’t want to waste time on something if I am forcing it to fit.

When I re-read what I have written so far, I am pleased with it. I feel the desire to craft the characters further even though they are barely established. Yet, I can’t seem to get past the road blocks in my head; the plot is just not coming together.  However many hours I lie awake at night, I can’t fathom it. Perhaps I need to just write the scenes of the story that I am clear on and see if this ignites other ideas that I can develop further.

My hope was that I would use September and October as strong planning months to put myself in a place where I could attempt NaNoWriMo in November.  Instead, I am prevaricating - largely because I can't see a way forward. I am minded to spend the next couple of weeks researching the historical background to the earlier part of the story more and writing out a few more scenes. If I am still struggling after this, then I am tempted to put this book to one side and revisit it at a later date,  following up on a new idea instead for NaNoWriMo. I all sounds terribly flittish - doesn’t it?

I am clinging to the words of Iris Murdoch as my shining beacon of hope.  ‘Every novel is the wreck of a perfect idea’.    I hope so.

Is what I’m experiencing just part of the writing process or is it a sign of more fundamental issues with the book idea?

Writing Bubble

NB: On a separate note  - I am doing better on my September goal of limiting wine consumption to 3 nights a week…and despite my creativity output being poor, I am feeling better for it.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Good Intentions for September

Yesterday, I marvelled at the sunflowers blooming in our garden. They’d taken their time to open up but, were worth waiting for; summer’s last hurrah. Later, walking through the park, I saw the first conkers on the ground; the irregular spheres of polished chestnut gleaming in the sunlight reminded me that Autumn, my favourite season, is now on it’s way.  The dichotomy wasn’t lost on me.  I feel life is at a gentle crossover point right now.  We are almost at the end of one phase and focusing on the beginning of the next; the return to school, the autumn season, the busyness and hustle and bustle of life in the run up to Christmas.

Today, the 1st September, I am full of good intentions, brimming with enthusiasm, looking forward to getting back into a routine after my carefree approach during the summer holidays. There is much I want to do; and much as I will miss Pip when he returns to school on Thursday, I can’t wait to get started on new projects and plans.  Experience has taught me that it is better to put my own projects to one side for the summer holidays;  I find I get frustrated when I can’t get on with things. Better to give myself up selflessly and wholeheartedly to the kids, instead letting my thoughts ferment and develop here and there.  I find, that by the end of the summer, usually ideas have developed to the point that I am itching to get started.

I am writing my goals down here in the hope that committing them to virtual paper increases my chances of successfully implementing them. (It must be said, I let myself off the hook far too easily.)

September goals

Limit the wine consumption

I have drunk far too much this summer. Not particularly in vast quantities, but just with increasing regularity - a glass of wine or two each night.  Most nights. Sometimes for weeks without a break.  I love nothing more than a glass of wine with my dinner at night, at the end of a long day it feels like a reward.  Yet, it makes me lethargic, it is the enemy of getting things done - and for me, the hours between 9 and 11pm ( I tend to eat at 8.30pm) are valuable time when I could be working on projects; or writing; a hobby I love but find little time for.

Goal: To drink wine no more than 3 nights per week.  (This is realistic as it allows me to enjoy the various parties and calendar commitments we have in the diary - but also gives me the opportunity 4 nights of the week to do more than crash on the sofa at 9pm.)

Start exercising

I feel sluggish, like something is clogging up inside me and needs to be blown away.  Since having my second child I have found it hard to find the time to exercise but with EB now attending nursery two mornings a week I have some time to do this.  I am all too aware that as I hover on the cusp of 40 that I can’t rely on the fast metabolism I’ve been blessed with to keep me slim forever.  We have recently bought a cross trainer and an exercise bike.  All I need to do now is remove my bottom from the sofa and start using them.

Goal: Use the home gym twice a week.

Start writing (more)

For as long as I can remember, it has been my dream to write a novel.  I have started a couple of novels previously, but 10,000 words in they have both been abandoned in a file on the desktop. Life gets busy, I end up prioritising other things...or I drink wine ( the enemy of my creativity - hence goal one.) A while ago I said to my mother, “ I’m going to have finished the first draft of my novel by the time I’m 40.”  That gives me 7 months.  It’s time to stop procrastinating and start writing.

Different approaches work for different people. I have been following the writing journey of Maddie at Writing Bubble, another busy mum with 3 small boys. It makes for inspiring reading. I like her idea of setting word goals for each week /month. I think this could work for me so this is going to be my approach for September.

Goal: Write 6000 words in September.  Attend the workshop on ‘Writing a Novel’ at the local book festival.

Tickling our taste buds

Years ago (pre-children) it was not uncommon for me to spend my whole day thinking about what I would cook for our evening meal.  I would think nothing of coming home from work and spending two hours preparing a gastronomic feast. Not so these days. We have fallen into a quick and easy recipe rut. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just our repertoire of meals has become rather limited and dare I say, boring. Responsibility for this lies firmly at my door as I’m the one that buys the ingredients.  Colourful, wholesome food is what I want us eating more of and as autumn approaches one pot dishes and root vegetables come into play it shouldn’t be that difficult.

Goal: Cook one new recipe per week. (Starting tonight with Spanish Chicken Casserole.)

It is tempting to set myself more goals for this month, there are so many other projects I’d like to attempt; sorting out the interiors for the front room and our bedroom, sorting out the front garden (currently a dust bowl), revamping and refreshing my blog. But this is enough for now - small steps.  The rest can ferment until October.

How are you feeling about September? Are you marching into Autumn with energy or sad to say goodbye to the summer?