30 June, 2011

The Good and the Bad

Bad first? Well, I haven't started my novel this week thanks to a dose of pertonsillar cellulitis (a bit of a sore throat to you and me). I thought I was just making a bit of a fuss, but went to the GP in the end and ended up needing intravenous doses of antibiotics and things like that. So I am looking forward to a week of destroying my stomach lining with copious amounts of aspirin, on top of two different strong doses of antibiotics. The thing I'm finding most distracting today however, is that my throat is too swollen to allow my soft palate to lift when I swallow. This means that when I drink, a large quantity of the fluid goes up my nose which gives that fizzy"just jumped into a swimming pool without holding my nose" feeling. This is almost certainly made worse by the fact that I'm one of those 1-2% of people with a bifid uvula hanging at the back of my throat, instead of a nice normal one (see picture*).

Anyway, more importantly - the Good. I can't give any details for another three months, until the organisers announce the results officially, but I have been informed that I have won another short story competition. Apparently there were over 150 entries in this one, so I'm very pleased with that. I also received my first assignment back from my tutor. It was very straight-forward so I wasn't expecting any trouble, but it was still nice to recieve positive feedback. Now I just need to find time to crack on with Assignment Two in between taking tablets and trying to get my fuzzy head in gear to write my novel!

*This is not a photo of my throat. If it was then you would see the left side of my throat being bright red and swollen so it nearly touched the uvula!

26 June, 2011

Of Weddings, Earthquakes and Revving the Engine

I didn't think I needed a holiday. I live in a beautiful place and do a job that I love and my responsibilities barely extend further than making sure my hard-working husband has his dinner on time and a clean t-shirt to wear. However, having just come back from a lovely week in the Yorkshire dales, I am definitely feeling ten times more revved-up and ready to go with the final draft of my children's novel, so perhaps a total break from writing was exactly what I needed. It certainly helps that, just before we went away, I sent some ideas for the re-write over to the author who critiqued the last draft for me and she really, really liked them. I was worried that e-mailing her was a bit cheeky but she has told me that she is willing to be there throughout the re-write to bounce ideas off. It's such a great position to be in - to have new ideas that are entirely your own but also have someone professional to reassure you that they're not rubbish! So I am rested and relaxed and ready to re-write...

Our holiday started in the most perfect way, with the Durham wedding of Paul's sister, Naomi. I was honoured to be a bridesmaid for her and it was a fantastic day. Now I may be a tad biased as, in the two and a half years since she became my sister, I have grown to love her tonnes, but she made the most beautiful bride I've ever seen. Her husband is a top man as well and God really blessed them by taking a weather forecast of heavy showers and turning it into quite respectable day with even a little bit of sunshine. I know some of my blogging friends are planning weddings themselves, so here's praying for sunshine for you too.

The rest of our holiday wasn't quite so exciting, but lovely all the same. Paul and I continued our steady decline into middle-age by looking round castles, eating damp picnics whilst huddled in our raincoats, playing speed-scrabble in the evenings, making good use of our National Trust membership - and loving every minute. Nothing however, aged us quite as much as the moment when we were climbing on the rocks in Gordale Scar and heard an enormous roar above us. It turned out to be a fighter plane going over, but sounded exactly like what you would expect a massive rockfall to sound like if it was crashing down on top of you. Took years off my life, I can tell you! We did plenty of walking too and climbing on the amazing rock formations at Brimham Rocks (see picture) before returning to our equally wonderful home in another of England's national parks to find there had been an eathquake in our absence! It ran along the fault line across Dartmoor from Sticklepath to Torquay and sure, it was only 2.7 on the maginitude scale, but it was enough to unnerve some people.

The only negative side to holidaying is all the driving - I hate being on the road. But it did at least give me the chance to study the map and pick out potential names for future characters. The villain of my children's novel is Hinton Blewitt - named after a tiny village in Somerset - and I intend to use village names for many more characters in future. Unfortunately, our favourite Dales names of Giggleswick and Blubberhouses don't make for good characters, but how about Kirk Langford or Martin Hussingtree (yes, there is a village called Martin Hussingtree!)? What wonderful place names do you know? Any that I could use as character names? I have a couple up my sleeve but suggestions are always welcome!

10 June, 2011

The Blogosphere

Isn't blogosphere a horrible word?

You can probably tell that I am having an unproductive writing week by the fact that I'm posting on here for the second day in a row. But it is for good reason. When idly browsing my blog stats yesterday (told you - slow week!) I noticed that several visitors had clicked through to my blog from a link on someone else's blog. It got me thinking about my fellow writing bloggers, how I "met" quite a lot of them through other blogs and how I am enjoying being connected to a few other writers in this way, even if it is only occasionally and online.

If, like me, you find yourself idle sometimes, why not visit some of my companions at their home blogs, using the list I've added over on the right. Currently, you'll find the lovely Nari, who is writing a young adult novel; Freya, whose life is freakishly similar to mine in lots of ways; Derek, who's just posted the great first chapter of his work-in-progress; artist as well as writer, Tom; the author of the Sir Gadabout books, Martyn; Andy, who is posting his novel up on the blog, tantalising section by tantalising section; fantasy and sci-fi fan, H C Clarke; short-story writer and flash fiction guru, Dan and the refreshingly candid, Paul.

These are the people I take comfort from - there's always someone who is having a lucky break, an attack of writer's block or a slow week (my turn this week). It reminds me that, as it says in the bible, "Time and chance happens to every man."

PS: while I'm giving a few shout-outs, I would like to draw your attention to the stock exchange where I get most of the pictures for my blog. It's a great resource of images that are free for personal use. Good news for those of us who like pictures but don't like stealing.

09 June, 2011

Oranges, Storytelling and Reading

So, I see that the Orange Prize for fiction was awarded last night to the youngest ever winner. Well done Tea Obreht. And of course I'm totally not jealous in any way. Obviously. I mean, I still have some months before I'm her age (25) - plenty of time to become a celebrated writer, right?

This week I have come to something of a writing standstill. I did manage to finish my first assignment and have got within a couple of exercises of the end of my shorthand workbook, so that's something at least. Actually, shorthand is having an interesting effect on me - it's making my longhand terrible! My handwriting is getting worse and I find I really resent having to write long words out in full when there is a easy Teeline outline. Work on my short story though has stalled. Partly, this is because I found out that I didn't get anywhere in the Exeter Writer's competition. This in itself wouldn't deter me - I don't get anywhere in a lot of competitions - but, I read the three winning entries. They're good. So very good. Much better than anything I think I could ever create. With that downer in mind, I don't want to rush a story to get it out to a deadline I've set myself, knowing that if I spent longer on it, it might be so much better. So no Bridport for me this year I think.

I really believe in the idea behind my current short story. It's just the storytelling that isn't working. I think I am going to have to do something drastic like completely change who the main character is and try writing it in a different POV - I think 3rd person might work best after all - and maybe even play around with tenses. Obviously, these changes won't happen overnight and as I have a fairly urgent need to get on with the final draft of my children's novel, it may be some months before this little literary baby is ready to take its first steps in the world.

On a different note, I am currently reading A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. I am enjoying it but still feeling rather daunted about how long it is - think Lord of the Rings plus another book. After a couple of weeks I'm about 20% of the way through. I am also trying to be good and finish it before I move on to Carrie - Stephen King's first published novel, which I've wanted to read for ages. What are you reading at the moment? And what do you wish you were reading?

01 June, 2011

Is it Really June Already?

Not posting for four weeks? How terrible of me! My excuse for this unforgiveable lapse in blogging is that I have had nothing much to write about. Instead of writing a tedious post about how hard it is to think of something to post, however, I will at least update you as to what I've been doing over the last month.

Firstly, I organised myself with folders and spreadsheets and notebooks and all sorts so that I can at least pretend to be a proper writer who is expecting to get commissions and be published and things like that. I like organising. As I have quite a lot of different projects going on at the moment, one of my new organised-writer techniques is to write down what I am going to achieve on each of them, each week. This gives me a pleasing sense of achievement when I can cross them off - why is crossing things off lists so extraordinarily satisfying?

My main project has been writing a short story about an artist, which I hope to have finished in another two weeks. It's longer than any of my other stories (5000 words) and I found the length quite hard to get right - it's long enough that something has to happen, but too short for anything much to happen! I'm quite pleased with it, although annoyed that the only way I can get it to work is to write it in the first person from the point of view of a teenage girl, which is highly fashionable at the moment (if you read competition winner's work), but hardly original. In addition to this, I have been working on my shorthand, on the first assignment of my writing course and on planning the changes I need to make on my novel. The first assignment isn't very interesting but it will be good to get it out of the way so I can make contact with a tutor.

Hubby and I are going on holiday in a couple of weeks to see my lovely sister-in-law get married and I would like to be able to focus on my novel re-write after that, so the race is on to finish my shorthand workbook and this short story before we go. The only thing I will still try to do at the same time as my novel is the next assignment, oh, and maybe a txtlit or something, just for fun. Ooooh, that's just reminded me that I forgot to enter the May txtlit and it's now 12 hours after the deadline. Damn. I had written an entry and everything. So much for being organised...

PS: I am pleased to say that my author profile is now online at Bamboccioni Books, in advance of the anthology I was commissioned to write for being published later this summer.