Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Lost days...

Word Count: 44,080


I’ve spent the last two days feeling incredibly sorry for myself. I even had two days off work, which is really unlike me. This cold turned into the most savage bug I can remember having in years. Slept all day then couldn’t sleep at night, on account of my head feeling like a Damien Hurst sculpture, constructed from frozen snot.

Oh and then my boiler decided to stop working. But luckily the nice men from British Gas came and fixed it. The second guy said he recommended drinking lots of water, reckons it’s the best way of avoiding a cold. It comes to something when you get good health tips from a heating engineer.

It’s only late this afternoon that I’ve started to feel OK. As in, still pretty rough and coughing loads but more like my normal self. Frustrating to have sat around/done nothing for four days though. On the plus side, am really looking forward to going to work!

And it does pale into insignificance compared to the death of John Peel, one of those broadcasting legends. A real shocker and how strange/wonderful that he was such an important person in the lives of so many generations

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Cold or ‘flu – the answer’s in Lemsip Max

Wordcount: 44,072

Am feeling very sorry for myself today. Have spent most of the weekend in bed and NOT in a good way. I’ve got a cold but it’s one of those that feels like ‘flu, too weak to get up for very long, afternoon naps etc. Like being catapulted fifty years into the future to moaning pensioner status. Boyf has been very good, actually. I have decided you can tell how ill you feel by whether you buy ordinary Lemsip or the Max variety. Am on the latter…

Before I went off the boil, I did make progress with Book 3 but it’s stalled now. On the plus side, got the catalogue from Orion for April and I am on page 4 and 5 which is rather exciting. They’ve done a lovely job. Just hope lots and lots of booksellers will want to stock me. Um, it. That’s the weirdest thing about being a writer, the way you effectively become a ‘product.’
I could go on but frankly am too knackered.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Cooking on gas...

Word Count:38,388

Hey how’s about that then? (Jimmy Savile reference, circa 1976, for the unitiated)
True, I didn’t do much else today except:

  • Whinge about having a cold that won’t go away
  • Harass the builders upstairs who were throwing massive beams out of the 3rd and 4th floor windows that kept landing like nail-studded javelins on the front garden
  • Drink a lot of coffee and a lot of detoxing ‘hot water with lemon’ to counteract it
  • Try to decide between one strip and three strip flooring for my hallway. How come they don’t teach you about this stuff at school?

I also discovered the most fantastic source of enjoyment, thanks to Victoria Routledge. It’s great but it has set back word count progress by at least 2,000 words.

In addition, have been debating with some writerly friends the potential benefit of this: can it be true you can write any book in 28 days? I managed my first one in 3 months and that was a struggle.

Finally, I did receive my jacket mock-up through the post. And it’s true. It’s gorgeous. I am in love with the person who designed it. I keep stroking it. Though I have decided the ‘pensive’ author photo I chose actually makes me look dopey.

You can’t win em all…

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Two in one day... by 'eck

Word count: 33,457

Well, whaddya know? I managed a really decent word count tonight and I also got through an annoying reunion scene that had been proving a real struggle. It’s good to be out the other side. Weird, the things that hold you up with your writing.

I know other writers who recommend typing in stuff like: MARGARET AND RONALD FLIRT, SNOG AND HAVE SEX when they can’t be bothered to write up the scene at the time. But somehow to me that seems like cheating. So I plod on and write rubbish because at least then I can go back and fix it later. I use the Word comment function which is an ace discovery, recommended to me a couple of years ago by a writing friend, Russ, who will one day be joining me on the bookshelves. So I can just type something like ‘this is utter rubbish, improve it’ in a little speech bubble that appears alongside the text but doesn’t interrupt the flow…
Anyway… apart from that I’ve been watching What Not to Wear which is made in my department at the BBC and would be my worst nightmare to appear in, though it’s brilliantly entertaining to watch. Tonight’s was a classic, with one frump and one overdressed woman transformed. And actually the frump looked a lot like I imagine one of my new characters to look, so that means watching TV tonight counts as research. Honest.

Right, back to work. Am wondering if I can manage 4,000 words today. Though it hardly counts as a week off work, now, does it?

The daily blog

Word count: 31,672

So today it's cold and wet outside in London and I am writing. I've managed 1,602 words so far today and it's 3pm so I don't think I'm doing too badly. Until I remember with my first book, I managed 1,000 words a day AND I was working full-time.

I set myself a target of 2,000 words today so am nearly there and hope to exceed that. 3,000 would be good. What is it with writers and word counts? I suppose that in an uncertain imaginary world full of made-up people, odd situations and stranger endings, then words are a nice concrete thing to focus on. Never mind the quality, feel the width.

Had an email from UK editor yesterday saying everyone is raving about my cover/jacket design for The Starter Marriage, which is very exciting - can't wait to see a finished version! And also heard from US editor with the copy for the cover there, so it's getting closer. It feels such a long time between writing and publication. Book 3 is already listed on amazon.co.uk for publication in March 06... talk about signing your life away.

But then there's all the trivia of the day to sort out - must go on my exercise bike to get rid of all the flab. There's deciding what flooring to have in my hallway (oh, single plank or three-plank?), there's deciding which home contents insurance to buy, birthday presents to get for people, there's all sorts of trivia that occupies my mind.

Oh yes and then there's this blog, the best method of procrastination I know. So I ought to stop now and get back to the WIP...

Great link of the day: this is an amazing collection of articles about the business of writing, aimed mainly at women's fiction authors, but relevant for anyone starting out . I think they're excellent and I got to them via Wendy Wootton's blog.

Tune in for more hardcore word count action later.... x

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Don’t call me madame

Word Count: 30,070 (skiving over weekend)

Age. Don’t believe the hype. It sucks. This weekend I went for a romantic break in Nice on the Cote d’Azur with the bloke. Apart from the gorgeousness of the Belle Epoque buildings, the menus, the turquoise sea, I was pre-occupied by two things:

A: How fat I feel compared to Frenchwomen
B: How old I feel compared to the last time I was in Nice

Point A: how do they do it? Cheese and patisserie and wine and even the vegetables (oh, aubergine, you oil-soaking spongey delight) are all a disaster for the women who wants to me mince. And yes I know they spend most of their take-home pay on anti-cellulite creams, but they don’t work…

Point B: last time I was here, Inter-railing with a boyfriend, was fifteen years ago. I was flakier and slimmer and I was definitely a mademoiselle. This time, universally, I was a madame. No wedding ring or anything, but I am now worthy of respect. I feel like a scary Les Dawson lookalike with a post-menopause moustache and a Yorkshire Terrier in her Louis Vuitton bag. Oh gawd. How much worse this must be for French women, the day when that happens for the first time…

Apart from that, we stayed in a far nicer hotel than the place I stayed in last time (when I was raving about what good value our accommodation and boyf of the moment said ‘ah so you didn’t see the cockroaches then. One of the benefits of extreme short-sight).

Actually, I also spent a few childhood holidays on the French coast, including several in Eurocamps (I hate camping but the swimming pools were lovely) and around Menton, Ventimiglia etc, so this area is close to my heart. And it was much better for vegetarians than I expected, thanks to the Italian influence…

Came home to discover I have to fill in impossible American tax form. Oh the glamour. Right, time to write…

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Wearing away the letters…

Word count: 28,317 (not bad at all)

Standby for another laptop lament. How come the letters wear off laptop keyboards – and what exactly is the significance of which ones disappear? So far A is a distant memory and W is fading fast. Z is looking perky, for obvious reasons.

So, what have I done all week? Well, have managed 4,000 words which ain’t bad (though it’s not outstanding. I managed to write about 20,000 last Christmas, which was a record). Went to an appalling Mexican restaurant in Camden on Friday night to see my friend Jenny: there were the LOUDEST Americans in there you have ever heard. Why do people need to shout so loud that you can’t have a conversation. We were so desperate to have a good old chat that we ended up in the Holiday Inn bar, the most soulless (and chilly) watering hole in the area. I really don't like Camden at all. Tourists take note: this is not Real London.

Had my first story published in Woman’s Own magazine, which was exciting, though they had an odd unrelated picture next to it of a girl reading a book, which seemed odd as the story was about a bride-to-be and her vicar.

My sister’s had all her passports and documents and stuff stolen in Buenos Aires so if you’re reading this, Toni, chin up! She’s off to NZ soon where hopefully everything will be a bit less ‘edgy’ though she’s loved Argentina.

Oh and guess what folks, chick lit is dead again. You heard it here first (not!). Now I’m very glad that Jenny and Jane will survive but what about all the others? Sophie Kinsella, Lisa Jewell, Chris Manby and lots of other talented writers. Where are their readers going to go? Will they really start reading Andy McNab and Frederick Forsythe?

Right, must go and do something Sunday-ish like going to the pub. Boyfriend is currently reading Woman’s Own (an article entitled I sold all my fat clothes on Ebay) which is not altogether healthy.


Saturday, October 02, 2004

Darker days ahead

Word count: 24,106 (God, that’s terrible. But I have been working hard this week on other things)

After six years as a bottle blonde, I have gone back to my roots. Well, if anything, darker than my roots. It’s a long story, but I got a bit tired with the trips to the hairdresser (though mine, Sarah, is great fun and has enough stories every time for me to write an entire novel around) and also the little Mallen streak of grey that has been appearing on my right temple, so on Friday afternoon I went ‘OK, let’s go brunette.’

Haven’t seen my boyfriend and as he’s only ever known me as a blonde, I am slightly curious/nervous. In a good light, I kind of look like Louise Brooks with longer hair. In a bad light, it’s more like Morticia from the Addams' Family, only with a fringe. Mind you, I used to look like Dougal the dog from the Magic Roundabout after having my hair done, so it’s all relative.

It’s also a good excuse to buy new make-up! Red lippy is much better with brunette hair.

Did I have more fun as a blonde? Hmmm, yes, maybe, though actually hitting my 30s might have helped more than the highlights. And the awful tidemark wasn’t much fun. Am trying to rebrand myself as sexy, confident grown-up with the new look. Rather than scary woman.

Have gone off into a little reverie about the Mallen Streak. Amazing that Catherine Cookson managed to define a whole hair phenomenon. I wonder if I will ever manage that with any of my books. Unlikely, I would have thought, although in my new novel there’s a whole sequence where the heroine finds a grey pube. Perhaps this might be known as the Harrison Streak? Oh God.

Reading: have just finished Jenny Colgan’s Do you remember the first time? which is my favourite of hers. Great fun and very thought-provoking as well in a, would I do the same again if I was a 16-year-old with all the worldly knowledge of a 32-year-old?

Um, almost certainly not.

In writing terms, it’s not been an awfully productive week. Have mainly been recovering from work as this week marked the end of our busiest period. But everyone at the BBC is really nervy about what happens with Charter Review – almost certainly shedloads of job losses. I’ve been through all this before, but it still feels very uncomfortable.

On the plus side, had a lovely chat with my editor about new synopsis and also a great email from my new American editor at NAL about their plans for the book - they're bringing forward publication to July 05 which is exciting.

Right, as soon as the rainy deluge is over, will be off to Richmond. Main task for the weekend: I have to write my acknowledgements…