Saturday, 26 February 2011

Mother of the Bride (1)

It's seven weeks until the wedding and I have five pounds to lose. It may well have been a mistake to buy a dress last summer, which now doesn't fit but I haven't seen anything I like better. It's a fuschia pink, silk, shift dress from Hobbs. I have the shoes and the pashmina, both in black and am still to buy the 'fascinator'. A friend said to me that a 'fascinator' sounds like a sex toy but I can reassure any worried reader who is not up to date with wedding lore, that it is a feathery thing worn on the head at a jaunty angle instead of a hat. I am relieved about the hat because having rather a large head and lots of thick hair, hats tend not to be a good look. The question remains: what is so fascinating about a 'fascinator'?
My daughter's wedding has been easy for us because she and her partner are organising it themselves. We have been spared the responsibility of searching for a venue, ordering and sending out invitations and poring over the social minefield of the seating plan. They have chosen Hitchin Priory Hotel in Hertfordshire, which is close to where they live. The package comes with a wedding planner, so now that the flowers, the wedding car and the photographer are booked, there is little more to do except get nervous (her) and spend money (me). I am accused of spending more than the bride but my argument is that in order to look passable, I have to commit money and time to the project, whereas the bride could turn up having just got out of bed and still look wonderful.
The biggest challenge has been writing something to read during the ceremony. For those not yet involved in the wedding industry, there are pages of readings and speeches on the internet. Studying these gave me insight into the themes; some dwell on love and romance, others on the joy of the wedding day itself and some, not without an edge of bitterness I felt, dwelt on the trials and endurance ahead. In the end I wrote my own poem, which has been approved gladly by the young couple. It now has to be scrutinised by the registrar. After the wedding, I will post it here.

Monday, 21 February 2011

This Writing Thing (4): The Cuckoo

The editing has begun and I'm already into avoidance. Maybe this is how I behave in all relationships, enjoying the early thrill but not willing to put in the slog to shape something lasting. Now, there's a thought!
I have a day off and so far I've put my car in for a service, had coffee and read the Times in Cafe Mbriki, sorted the laundry and had a conversation with the Inland Revenue. I've also had a lie down, when the editing seemed too taxing.
It isn't pleasant re-visiting these early chapters. A big hurdle is that they seem only half written. Essentially, they are too short. So I'm having to do a fair bit of new writing. The next problem is character drift. By the end of the novel, the characters have changed (well they've been through such a lot) but in the early chapters I don't recognise them. They don't sound the same or behave as they should.
Another problem, caused by plot development as the novel progressed, is in the early chapters the characters appear strangely innocent of essential knowledge. I believe this novel was improved by the plot change that occurred half way through but I'm suffering for it now.
I may get three chapters off to an agent by next weekend but it's looking less likely.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

This Writing Thing (3): The Cuckoo

The Cuckoo is finished. The last word was 'enough'. Twenty four chapters and about 72,000 words are safely tucked inside my computer (note to self: don't forget to back up). I am five months behind schedule but it doesn't matter, it was a self-imposed deadline. I now have three completed novels and no agent or publisher. It begs the question whether it is ever possible to write a novel of sufficient quality as such a part-time writer?
I used to write every day but since the stroke I am so tired after work, evening writing has stopped. I can't break my late working habit since the 4.30 to 6.30 shift is often the most productive, as everyone else has gone home. In our new office, the 'airport hanger', the sensors don't spot me and I'm frequently plunged into darkness. I wave my arms but it's not enough; I have to get up and walk around and the lights spring back into life behind me. So I'm often not home until 7.00 and dinner isn't cooked and eaten until 8.00. After that, any old junk TV will do (Mary Portas, Lord Sugar, Phil and Kirsty).
Now I write at weekends and then only in the afternoons. The attractions of shopping and coffee with friends on Saturday and Sunday mornings cannot be ignored. I don't think about the novel in between but as 'writing time' approaches, I find the characters flood back and I can't wait to get started. One advantage of my life as a writer is that I never experience the avoidance syndrome that colleagues with more time seem to experience.
When I was doing my M.A in Novel Writing at Manchester University I knew how this felt. Although I still worked two days a week as a locum educational psychologist in Stockport, our contact time on the course was so minimal I did have whole days to write and it was an uncomfortable experience. I would do anything rather than get out my laptop; cleaning, daytime TV, even coursework in the library was more appealing. Although I protest that I wish it were otherwise, I suspect I prefer that the novel has to be 'shoehorned' into the rest of my week. It makes writing seem more desirable and precious. The question remains: is a novel written in six hours a week publishable, or is it fundamentally flawed due to the breaks?
I still have to do the synopsis (more difficult than writing the whole 70,000 words), then will send it out to a few favourite agents. These are agents I've tried before, who have read my work and although unable to represent me for previous novels, have asked me to send them any new work. My deadline is the end of February. Let's see if I make it!