Monday, 25 May 2009

The Art Of Novel Writing

Have had a bit of an interesting week - tweaking my novel and trying to get it down to a blurb. This is murder when your head is full of novel and chocabloc with characters, scenarios, sub-plots, jokes - yes, I keep slipping in the odd one. Latest one I'm including is a Dusty Bin one - you'll have to wait to read it to see!

Anyway, is the sort of exercise I blithely give my novel writing students to do, so has been good for me in a kind of take-your-own-medicine kind of way. But you know, what it has done is to refocus me on just who my audience might be for my novel and just how it might be marketed. Because I'm not in it just for the fun of it. I do want to be published - oh, for all sorts of reasons - and yes, for the most crass reason of having the thrill of seeing it in a bookshop. I was bad enough when I got my collection of poetry into local bookshops - I kept popping in to see who was picking up, and rearranging the table so that mine was prominent. I even sidled up to some poor woman and said - That's good, that is. Which horribly shamed my children - who were there at the time. Yes. I look forward to the days when I stalk Borders and Blackwells to check that my book is on their shelves, and to rearrange their table, and try to get friends to phone up and order the book just to make sure that it stays there. Pathetic, you might think? But I prefer to think that it's the culmination of years of unseen (by the public) toil - am hoping that finally I get my moment in the sun!

Back to the actual process. I was thinking today about how writing a novel isn't just about weaving in various strands, nor is it really like juggling a line of plates atop sticks (although that's pretty similar at times) - I reckon it is more akin to painting with oils - dabbing on layers here, daubs there, standing back to see the whole, removing bits there, overpainting here, making sure the background isn't too much to the fore, and getting the main focus sharp enough.

I think I'm at the oil painting stage. Am on yet another edit and dabbing in the odd comment there, checking symmetry here, removing a whole bush which was threatening to overtip the balance.

So, am back to it in a moment. I forgot to check my to do list for last week. I hope I did most of it.

Oh yes, and I enjoyed Acoustic Night with my friend Lee. I did a brand new poem called Post-Coital (which apparently unnerved some of the men there ...) plus one I'm learning for the gig I'm doing at SWALK festival. That's

And here's a daft picture to brighten up this post.

This week my to do list is:

Finish writing blurb and get that off in time for Winchester Writers Conference and appointments with agents.

Wait with bated breath for agent to get back to me - she has sent me 2 holding letters so far saying don't contact anyone else, I'm enjoying reading it.

Send in a couple of poems and haikus and write a short story to send off

Fill out the 2 forms from Optimum Health Clinic and have a look at the fat pack they sent me

Read the other fat pack I've got from the OU

Stop faffing about on Facebook so much - that Helen Thomas is a big distraction!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Novels, reviews, performance

As usual I'm rubbish at this sort of thing and am trying to post a picture on here but not sure if and how that will work.

Anyway, I had a lovely time last weekend at the South Bank Arts Trail where I performed poetry on the Saturday at the wonderful 1 Allington Road - the smallest and friendliest venue in Bristol - and then went on to do some shopping. Buying some art work from the fabulous Alce Harfield who used to have the Silly Fish shop in Clifton and then in Bath. God, I'm such a shopaholic. I think I need a twelve step programme as I then went on to buy a Viv Westwood inspried dress at All Saints. I need to stop buying stuff as my gorgeous daughter Kate has just got into medical school. This is her third year of trying. It's appalling just how difficult it is to get into medical school - especially as she'll be not only a most humane doctor, but also is a feminist and socialist - my work is done.

On Thursday 14th May there was a party for us writers from Bristol Old Vic Writers' Room, and I'm frantically trying to change my evening for teaching Novel Writing at Bristol Folk House to the Thursday as I desperately want to go to some Workshops for dramatists (that's me too!). Anyway, it was lovely to see Crysse Morrison there, plus actually meeting an author who wrote one of my all time fave Women's Press books - Happiness Is A Dead Cat - Jill Miller. She's a darling and we chatted novel writing and I talked about an idea for a new book and she was great - especially on not needing to know everything about the person we are writing it about (mine would be about my mum) - but that we need to trust our writer's instincts that we will still write a true representation. I think she's so right. I had to leave rather sharpish as I was fast running out of energy. I also met a couple of old students there. One in particular is doing brilliantly - interviewing loads of celebs etc. - and we chatted about going to Southwest Scriptwriters, as I want to write a script next (for the stage I reckon).

One of my author chums - Lola Jaye who's doing brilliantly - has her third book out next month (that's 3 in just under a year - way to go Lola!) - called While You Were Dreaming. I'm hoping to go the her book launch, but have an Open University tutors thing to go to the weekend just before and have to be careful to not overdo things.

Speaking of which, have just signed up to do all sorts of things with Optimum Health Clinic - more in a panic as my current doc is retiring soon, and the NHS has still not caught up. Watch this space. But it's all money again. My friend Crysse says to ask the universe, and so am doing that now.

Actually, this blog (which I shall try to do weekly), I can now see is a great way to see just what you are doing and charting that. Great.

Oh yes, I finished the recording of The Beautiful Game and got that off to publishers. Have got the German text book coming out soon, and a great book review in Writing In Education, plus a great mention in June's edition of Writing Magazine p.31. And am still keeping my fingers crossed that I'm going to find a new agent.

I thought it might well be good for me to tell myself what I'm going to do in the week ahead, by writing a To Do list. So here goes.

1. Finish that poem re. Common Girl and perform at tomorrow's Acoustic Night at Halo's in bristol

2. Finish new short synopsis for novel

3. Carry on doing my final edit whilst writing on index cards details of each chapter of novel.

4. Have another think about the title

5. Finish editing my new website

6. Sewing labels onto all my Dad's new clothes

7. Visit Dad in care home.

8. Sort Dad's paper work

9. Write a summary of this year's course for the OU and ask students for feedback

10. Start to write paper for OU Research Event

11. Fill in questionnaire etc. for Optimum Health Clinic

There ya go. That should keep me busy.

See you all soon - hope I can work out how to post pix etc. soon.