Monday, 17 November 2014

NaNo Never Again!

In the past, I have seen people on Facebook saying they were doing NaNoWriMo and I didn't know what they were talking about. It sounded like a weird form of religion. Then I learned that it stood for National Novel Writing Month and it happened every November and you were supposed to start a novel on Nov 1 and finish it on the 30th.

I have written under time pressure before. In fact, my first ever book, Sweet Temptation,(soon to be re-released as The Earl's Captive) was 85,000 words long and hammered out in just five weeks on an old typewriter, manual, not even electric. No wonder I have arthritis in my fingers! The publisher had given me eight weeks to write it in, but I split up with the man I was living with and had to move house and yet, despite all the tears and upset and a full-time job to boot, I still managed to finish it.

The second occasion, also back in the 1980s, was when Virago wrote to me about a new series they were starting for teenagers, called Virago Upstarts. They had a sudden gap in their schedule and if I could promise to produce a book in just one month, the slot was mine. I did, and it was called City Sax and featured a 16-year-old girl sax player's impossible crush on her teacher, a handsome, worldly-wise jazz musician called Lester. (I am updating this book at the moment as it's been out of print for years and I'm very fond of it.)

The third time was two years ago, when a publisher who shall be nameless asked me to alter a chick-lit book I'd written called Perfect Lives and turn it into a sexy teen novel for the New Adult market. I managed to write 90,000 words in about eight weeks, but, being a lot older and less energetic than I was back in the '80s, it half killed me. I had RSI in my arms and headaches every day! And then they decided not to bring out that particular line of books after all. Now, I wish I had stuck to the original older version and self-published that, but it's too late now.

After these experiences, you'd think I'd know better than to undertake to write 50,000 words in four weeks, without even the carrot of a publishing contract at the end of it. So why did I decide to take up the NaNoWriMo challenge?

The reason is that I needed a kick up the backside to get me started again after the rotten experience I had with Perfect Lives - the promises of multiple book contracts and lots of publicity and the chance to revive my writing career after ten years in the doldrums that just became crushed dust in my fingers.

I decided to leave writing for a younger market behind and venture into writing for adults, something I've wanted to do for ages. In the past, I sold dozens of short stories to magazines like Woman's Realm and Fiction Feast, but I'd lost heart. I actually think I've been suffering from depression. I ticked every box on the depression checklist on one website I visited. I have good reason to be depressed, not the least of which is the poor health of my partner and the fact that I freeze to death every winter in his cold, draughty house.

But NaNo gave me a way of writing a book before winter had set in, whilst I was still able to write without being muffled up in restricting thermal layers, scarves and fingerless gloves. It gave me a deadline, something which I was used to in my journalist days and which I find it hard to work without.

I am now 33,000 words into the 50,000 and I have to say I am thoroughly enjoying it! I feel rejuvenated, The creative juices are flowing and I feel like a writer again and what's more, I can go ahead and publish the resulting work myself, without having to wait for the rejection slips to arrive. I think I am writing well and that the theme of childlessness will strike a chord with a few readers, at least. Having had to give up my own baby for adoption and having suffered nothing but miscarriages since, I think I know my subject matter, though writing it in the context of a marriage required a big application of imagination!

When and if I finish it and decide to self-publish it, I'll let you know. Trouble is, once I've penned the final word, what am I going to do with the long, empty days then? Oh, of course. I'll write another book. Why didn't I think of that!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Books and boxes

It's an exhausting time. I'm trying to clear out my storage unit and go through every box to see what I can do without, and at the same time I'm trying to write a 50,000 word novel in just four weeks. My days are falling into a pattern of walk to the shops in the morning, then sorting through, re-packing and labelling boxes till lunchtime, then writing in the afternoon.

Here is the heap of boxes I have been through in the last three days. I've had to carry everything right round the house, from garage, to kitchen and finally, to shed. My biceps are starting to feel like Popeye's.

Here is the stuff I've got ready to go to the charity shop, as soon as some kind person agrees to take me and it in their car, as we don't have one any more.

As for the book, I started NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) late, so between November 4th and today, the 10th, I have written 14,700 words. The website says I am on target to finish by Dec 5, which is five days past the deadline. Oh dear! We'll have to see about that. 

I shall bring you another progress report in a few days. Now for Grantchester and a glass of wine!

Monday, 3 November 2014

#just sayin'... and other annoying phrases.

There is something about the phrase,'just sayin', that has become such a popular Twitter hashtag, that really gets up my nose. For me, those two words used together conjure up a certain facial expression - slightly narrowed eyes, head a bit to one side, smug quirks to the corners of the lips - and are often spoken in a tone of voice that manages to be cocky, sarcastic, superior and challenging all at the same time: at least, that's how it seems to me. No current popular expression is more guaranteed to make me feel wound-up, put down and frustrated. I'm glad it wasn't around when my sister and I were teenagers because I bet it would have been coming my way every five minutes!

It is an expression that is not at all funny, but barbed, armed with a zillion spikes of unspoken criticisms, festering resentments and the unshakeable belief that the person who is doing the "sayin'"' is completely and utterly right. "Have you ever thought of changing your hairdresser? Just sayin'..." means they think your hair-do, which just cost you £75 plus tips, makes you look like a cross between Albert Einstein and Animal. "Ever thought of getting a cleaner? Just sayin'..." isn't a helpful suggestion but means your house-keeping techniques would be a disgrace to the average pig-sty.

As for, "People above a C cup shouldn't go bra-less. Just sayin'...", well, if it's spoken with a sly glance at some unfortunate passer-by, you can sigh with relief, but if there's a sly sweep of the eyes over your own embonpoint, then you know you're showing enough wobble and droop to make your interlocutor feel slightly nauseous.

There have been other expressions that have annoyed me for different reasons, from the nebulous 'many moons ago' - I mean, we've only got one, so which moons exactly? The moons of Pluto? - to the annoying and ungrammatical 'my bad'; is it short for 'am I bad', or what? It's always spoken coyly and has the effect of reducing the speaker to a five-year-old, even if they are a bearded fifty-year-old prof.

And then there's 'I'm not a happy bunny'. How does one tell if a bunny is happy or unhappy? They don't exactly smile, purr or whine. I suppose if they're busy doing what bunnies do a lot of, i.e. jumping on other bunnies, they might be very happy indeed. And which bunny? A wild field rabbit, or a tame white one munching a carrot? And why 'bunny'? What's wrong with 'I'm not a happy elephant/llama/axolotl'?

Back to 'just sayin': how should one respond? With a sheepish grin? By jumping to one's defence? By changing the subject rapidly? I know what my response to "just sayin'" is. An unprintable two word expression ending in "off!"