Monday, October 30, 2006

Temporary return to normality…

So, now I can do Other Things and I feel slightly at a loss. Other Things done so far:

- Taking cat to vet for her jabs where I was told she’s OBESE! No! Will post a pic if I can and then you can judge for yourself. There - is that a fat cat? Just a touch of Middle-Aged Spread, maybe...

Who are you calling fat, Mr Tubby Vet?

-Sending an official letter of complaint to rubbishy Hillarys Blinds who won’t reply to my emails asking for my money back.
- Buying ingredients for Malay Veg Pickle.
- Trying to find out whether I can get clearance to use the 99 Red Balloons lyric without it costing me an arm and a leg.
- Getting man in to build our cupboards in the bedroom.
- Going clothes shopping in my favourite boutique aka Sainsbury’s. I think I’ve posted before on how much I love clothes buying in supermarkets. I especially love Sainsbury because they do short-arse trousers which means they fit me off the hanger rather than messing with needles, thread, that stupid glue you get that’s meant to hem things but is more faff than it’s worth. Today I bought a lovely soft brown pair which fit like a dream, plus another smarter grey pair and a brown/white t-shirt. Brown is the new black for me since I’ve gone back to brunette-dom, and I am v. pleased with my purchases.
- Beginning to study A176, Start Writing Plays, with the Open University. Tutors get a free course and I loved the look of this one. So far (one whole mini module) it’s very interesting: where else do you read MacBeth and Edward Bond’s Saved (eeeek! Baby battered to death – very horrible) in one afternoon?

Not bad, actually, considering I only finished edits on Saturday. And a good set of distractions while I wait for the Verdict.

Lovely Link of the Day:
They’re all coming out of the woodwork, these agents. Here’s another American blog, where they’re taking more of an ‘essay’ approach which is interesting. Check out the chick lit discussion.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Done and dusted for now

Word Count:117,608

HOORAH! Sent it off! I have finally finished this set of edits, which means life will return to normal for a while...

I finished yesterday afternoon, after tweaking and polishing and losing track of where on earth I was. I am still not 100 per cent sure about some aspects, but it's much better than the first draft. Of course, the moment I pressed send, I thought of about 100 other changes I could have made, and spotted a couple of missing words, but it would have looked daft to send another copy so soon after that one.

I'm never quite sure how much info to put on emails to my editor when I'm attaching a typescript. I'd love to be able to go: Here you are, enjoy! And yet, I always seem to need to mention a couple of things, perhaps that reflects my lack of confidence. This time I mentioned that I have sought permission to use a lyric at the beginning, but have alternative plans if it doesn't work; explained what I plan to do with a few more mad statistics I will add; and mentioned my prologue ambivalence (which is because it's a flashback to an incident in my main character's childhood, and therefore arguably isn't as immediate as a present-day opening...I think prologues need to have a very good reason to be there, and my reason here is that my main character's life at the beginning is defined by its limitations - which is funny, but by its nature not all that dramatic).

Of course, the worry is that by drawing attention to possible flaws, you're focusing your editor's mind on a problem which may not exist. But, on balance, it's the right thing to do, I reckon. We shall see. If there are changes, I suspect they'll be to that opening.

PS: I actually felt quite tearful with happiness for my main character when writing my last chapter. Is that sad or rather nice?

Lovely Link of the Day:
The Rejecter is DEFINITELY going onto my favourite links as soon as I have the energy to get my head round HTML again.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Coming soon to a blog near you...

Word count: 113,165

In order to remind myself that there is a life beyond book 4, I thought I'd list some of the forthcoming attractions on chicklitworkinprogress, in the manner of a rather amateurish movie trailer. So...

Thrill at my account of the undoubted brilliance of my fellow panellists at the Guildford Book Festival!
Marvel at my ability to turn root vegetables into an incredible Malay pickle!
Wonder at my incredible ideas about the importance of the right title and cover...
Share the joy as I press send on my final version of the manuscript...

And the sooner I stop blogging, the sooner that moment will come. Hopefully by the middle of the week.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

My to do list

Word Count: 112,756
Open University End of Course Assessments Marked: 18 (but have queries outstanding on 5 of them):
Number of recommendations written for soon to be published novels: 1
Number of eyebrows to be plucked before Guildford Book Festival: 2

I've finished Draft 3 of the novel, but it's not quite the cause for celebration that it might sound, because I don't plan to send this to my editor yet. Mainly because this 'finished' draft doesn't have a prologue or a chapter 37, both of which I've decided it needs. But also because I have about 200 Word 'comments' I've embedded in the text to deal with, everything from queries about chronology, to doubts about descriptions or about the emotional state of my main character.

I also plan to:
- skim read the non-fiction book on Fear again and re-read the Greenham Common book;
- watch the 1980s videos about nuclear war again (these are so grim);
- go through all the big chunks of text I’ve edited out to check that there’s nothing there that should go in (a good description or memory, for example).

Also on my urgent list is: pay National Insurance, clear my study for the men to come round and put down wooden flooring (the timing couldn’t be worse but otherwise we wait months), read the meters for the transfer from one ludicrously expensive gas/electricity company to one that’s slightly cheaper, send some apologetic holding emails to friends who I have been neglecting (I’m sure I’ve missed a couple of birthdays), and make vet appointment for cat who seems to have a few nasty flea bites on her tummy. She’s a delicate soul with very sensitive skin, bless her, so a single bite will blow up and make her lick her tummy raw. The fur’s grown back over the last few months, so I want to nip it in the bud before she goes bald again.

I also plan to post here about the importance of titles but that’ll have to wait a few days.

As for my list for ‘after the edits’ it just keeps on growing.

Lovely Link of the Day:
Lorainne asked: What advice would you give to someone with not much spare time who is looking to begin writing a novel, has a tonne of ideas but doesn't know how to start?!? ie me.

Well, I don’t normally plug my own site but that might be worth a look, Lorainne. There’s a whole Writer’s Toolkit on there. And have you considered signing up for NaNoWriMo? Basically it’s a whole load of writers, worldwide, trying to finish a first draft in a month. The good thing about this kind of challenge is that it forces you to get writing, rather than procrastinating, and as a process, is a great way of discovering what you REALLY want to write about. Plus there’s lots of support and plenty of resources to help you along the way!

Might even try it myself to get Book 5 underway...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Not moaning, but drowning

Word Count:112,933
Chapters Deleted: 2
New Chapters to Write: 2
Open University End of Course Assessments Marked: 6

I'm now slightly paranoid that you're all reading this thinking, dearie me, what a misery guts. She's got the best job in the world, a room of her own to write in, and she's still complaining.

I'm not, honest. I've done a range of jobs in my life and I am incredibly happy to be doing this one, though having only been a full-time writer for three months now, it's a learning curve. Right now, it reminds me of my first ever holiday job, in a factory in Congleton, where they washed imported Iranian sultanas for cereal companies. Oh, it did other fruit too: diced apple, currants (which had to be coated in mineral oil by hand, yeuch).

Anyway, in my second summer stint, I graduated from throwing handfuls of sultanas onto a metal bench (to check for tooth-breaking stones), up to working on the production line, i.e. sitting next to the conveyor belt while billions of sultanas travelled past, en route to Sultana Bran. We had to check for foreign objects and generally keep an eye on things.

Usually it was fine (apart from the fact you went home every day with indelible sultana stains on your hands), but about once a day, the girl who was loading the machine with 10kg boxes of fruit would go into overdrive, and great avalanches of brown sticky vine fruit would come rippling towards us, faster than we could possibly cope with. We put boxes at the end of the conveyor to catch and re-pack the fruit, but we weren't fast enough and eventually we'd have to cry 'STOP!' and the machine would go off and the girl at the end would give us a triumphant smile. She was permanent, and therefore entirely within her rights to give the temps a hard time.

And that's what it feels like right now. Except I can't turn the machine off because all the deadlines are there for good reasons. Especially the book one - apart from anything else, writers need a deadline otherwise they will spend a lifetime tweaking ONE novel, hundreds of drafts-worth of changes. And it probably wouldn't get much better than the fourth or fifth draft.

So there we are. Not moaning. Just drowning in words.

Lovely Link of the Day:
Apologies if you've seen this already (get with the program, Kate!) but this unsolicited advice to authors is great, especially the bit that reads: do not 'make excuses about missing a deadline via a 1000 word blog post about the horrors of writer's block.'

Ah....Time to go, I think.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Facts (and Figures) of an Author's Life

Word Count: 113,577
Number of Open University End of Course Assessments Marked: 3.5
Number of enjoyable laid back authory coffee shop visits: 0
Number of Links I Love that obstinately refuse to show up properly since I fiddled with them: 7
Number of fun shopping trips to buy new winter coat: 0
Number of days before OU Assessments need to be posted: 10
Number of days before I said I'd return my book edits: 11
Number of days before men arrive to rip up floors and build new wardrobes, creating huge dust and noise: 9
Number of fantastic suppers at trendy restaurants to celebrate continuing Indian summer:0
Number of minutes spent posting this: 8
Number of minutes attempting to sort out the links index: 32
Number of swearwords uttered during that 32 minutes: approx 64

Still, I wouldn't have it any other working for a living, eh?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Happy endings...

Word count: 115,638

My word count is creeping back up again but this time, as it's the third draft, I am making every word count! At least, I hope so.

Every time I get more pernickety, which ought to mean my writing is improving. But the proof of the pudding...

Talking of things food-related, I did indulge in some pretty blatant procrastination yesterday and made Sweetcorn Relish. I think I overminced (?is this a new word to use about Graham Norton?) the veggies, and the bubbling liquid was distinctly volcanic, but it was good to do something practical after hours of keyboard faffing.

I expect to have some title news soon, I promise.

Lovely Links of the Day:
It was Frankfurt Book Fair last week, and there seems to be a bumper crop of bloggers getting book deals.

From Petite Anglaise, to Struggling Author …I love stories like these (though, OK, I confess to a little envy at the size of some of the advances!!!)

I've read some articles suggesting that somehow bloggers-turned-authors are a flash-in-the-pan phenomenon, and that readers will tire of them (what, like they have of misery memoirs and celeb biographies?). But I think that is spectacularly missing the point: in almost every case, the web isn’t ‘creating’ writers in some magical way. It’s simply providing a platform for people with talent and a new take on life. Before blogging, and certainly before the web, it was very hard to get your ideas out there, to a wider audience. Traditional publishing is obviously largely (though, being a non-cynic, I would say not exclusively) motivated by profit margin. And self-publishing was a terrible faff and meant you risked a garage full of books without any way of distributing them.

Blogging changed all that…people with fascinating stories to tell could share them with the world without having to go on a computer training course, or spend thousands on printing. And word of mouth means these people soon attract the attention of the industry they might previously have struggled to access.

Nothing like a bit of democracy to shake things up a bit…

Oh and congratulations too to
Keris, who wasn't at Frankfurt but has just secured herself an agent. This is NO surprise to me at all but is terrific news. Go girl!

Time to update my links, I think. I wish all bloggers turned authors the best of luck.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Word count: 114,092

Yes, I am in slash 'n' burn mode! The edits are still slow-going, but satisfying at times. I know the characters so well now that when something doesn't ring true, it leaps out at me. And I am being ruthless in cutting a lot of the 'Harrisonisms' that have crept into the text. Whenever I read stuff out, people say I have a very distinctive style, which is probably a good thing, but I tend to overegg the pudding with too many random observations. The way I write is very much the way I am: not great at focusing on one thing at a time. I've definitely got worse as I've got older, and broadband doesn't help. There's always another cute blog to check, another news site to read...

Apart from my borderline Attention Deficit Disorder, the other main hurdle to work has been consumer rage. Hopeless Hillarys Blinds sending us not 3 but 1 blind for the big living room bay window. This mistake has pretty much confined us to the back of the house now it's getting darker, because otherwise people stare in to see us watching Spooks or eating a takeaway: it is very humiliating to have our rather dull domesticity on show. I have sent an email of complaint but they can't even be bothered to reply. Obviously, in the interests of fairness, if they do I will post it here.

Then there is the stationery company where I ordered my favourite pens. You can always tell a writer is in procrastination mode when s/he begins buying office supplies. Though it is almost justified in the case of the Pilot V-Ball Grip (no, I am not on commission) which virtually writes your stuff for you it's so dreamy. And which I haven't been able to find in the shops. I used one when the BBC department I worked for accidentally ordered a QUALITY pen for the stationery cupboard, and was hooked.

Anyhow, I found the pens online, and ordered two boxes, plus some extra sticky Post-It notes to use on my wall, to emulate those ultra-successful Hollywood types who plot their plots visually. Instead, I got a packet of Post-It index stickies, which I have never seen a use for. I rang up and - very efficiently - they sent two couriers yesterday. One to pick up the index stickies (retail cost: £6.80), and a completely separate one to deliver a tiny bundle of extra-sticky Neon Post-Its (retail cost: £4.50).

And they wonder why global warming happens, eh? I did tell them on the phone that the Post-Its weren't life or death - and couldn't they have sent me an SAE for the index stickies? Still, I guess you can't fault them for efficiency.

But I do love Lakeland Limited. They always deliver quickly. Their products are great (I ordered 12 jam jars with gingham lids as the edits have given me a strong desire to procrastinate by pickling) and everything works. The one joy of getting older is that I can finally confess to my Lakeland habit - it really wasn't cool to be buying jam jars and lemon zesters when I was 22.

Lovely Link of the Day:
I do like author and journalist Dave Hill's blog: I don't agree with it all, but he's injecting humour into politics, which is a good thing.

Monday, October 02, 2006


I definitely have word-ache, now, a strange condition where reading any words but particularly my own triggers a strange sense of despair and distinct discomfort... I'm on the 3rd draft of Nameless Novel at the moment but when I read my work it feels horribly overwritten and clunky and the paper MS is COVERED in big black question marks ???? which are my code for, what the hell did I mean by this?

I think this is normal but it's not much fun.

Anyhow, today I have finished going through the printed MS and I now return to the computer. This is going to be more very intense work, not helped by the fact that it coincides with a big Open University deadline, so much as I'd love to be blogging, I suspect I will be a little distant again. Sorry.

On the plus side, had a lovely time at Saffron Walden, with a very friendly crowd who asked some great questions and laughed in all the right bits of the reading. Though, to be fair, they laughed far more at Matt Dunn's brand new book, The Ex-boyfriend's Handbook which is WELL worth your dosh and currently on offer in Tesco. Though, of course, I can't get stuck into reading it at the moment due to the killer edits.

I have a feeling my social life for the next week will be limited to the man coming round to fit the blinds.

Lovely Link of the Day:
Via the fessingauthor, I clicked onto Non-Working Monkey which is extraordinarily funny but has made me feel like even more of a hack writer. Hopefully this feeling will pass.