Post 123. If only it was as easy as 123. I realised today that my word-well has run dry. I am teetering near the 100,000 word mark for the Two-Hundred Steps Home manuscript, and yet poor old Claire is only at hostel #26 out of 200 (well, I think it will be less than that overall, as some of the hostels are for private hire, but you get the point). I am a third of the way through the year and I still have around 150 hostels to go.
Actually, looking at it like that, there should be plenty to write about. Except this isn’t a travel journal. It’s meant to be a novel, with character growth and conflict and all that good stuff.
I’m learning, however, that it’s hard to write conflict in little chunks, particularly when attempting to make each ‘little chunk’ stand alone as a piece of writing. I’m not saying you could read a daily installment and get much enjoyment from it, without knowing the story. But you could miss a few installments and catch up. I guess it’s a bit like a soap opera, with lots of repetition to keep everyone on track.
I hate soap operas. I dislike a TV programme insisting I watch every day, or a few days a week. I find following the minutiae of people’s lives depressing. I didn’t use to. I watched Sunset Beach every day as a student, AND watched the five-hour omnibus at the weekend. But I was a student – life wasn’t really happening to me all that much, stuck day after day in the lower depths of a dusty library. Now, life happens. I don’t need to read about it or watch it on TV. I certainly find it difficult to write about it, twice, every day.
The diary/chatty/whatever-it-is segment of my daily posts is hard to make entertaining unless something great has happened or I chance to read a good book or interesting blog post. I’m spending so much time writing the blog I’m running out of things to write about! And poor old Claire is not getting the best of my writing skills at all. Editing every day has made my writing stilted and self-conscious.
Anyway, I don’t want to quit. I’m not a quitter, not easily. I’m just trying to figure out a different way.
This exercise was always meant to be a challenge, but also one that brought visitors to my blog and helped improve my craft. I can’t say that either aim has been a complete success! Maybe I’m not the writer I thought I was, or maybe I’m just better at locking myself in a cupboard and churning out first drafts in thirty days. Ah well, until another idea comes up I’ll do what I always do and just keep swimming, just keep swimming.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
“Over here, Jeff! Your ball’s in the grass.” Sky giggled and span round, making her skirt flare in the wind. As Jeff walked over to retrieve his missing golf ball she smiled shyly up at him, then ran forwards and hugged his leg.
“Blimey. Is she normally that forward with strange men?” Kim’s voice sounded disapproving and Claire raised an eyebrow.
“It’s not really forward when you’re six. She’s not flirting.”
“She so is!”
Claire laughed. “Are you jealous of a six-year-old, Kim? You know Jeff only has eyes for you.”
“Exactly,” she pouted. “He’s never flirted with anyone else before.”
“Kim, she’s six.” Claire stood with her hands on her hips, her head tilted to one side. Then both girls collapsed into giggles and linked arms happily.
“It’s great to see that Sky’s relaxed with Jeff. I wasn’t sure how she would be with strangers.” Claire remembered their meeting with Sky’s dad the day before. “And her life is pretty messy right now.”
Certainly Sky and Jeff had been giggling together like old friends since they’d started their game of crazy golf. It meant that she was able to relax for the first time since taking charge of her niece, and hang back with Kim. Hopefully she’ll spill the beans, with the other two out of the way.
They followed on behind as Sky tried to scoop her ball into a hole. It’s not really crazy golf, Claire thought. Where are the windmills and silly tunnels to put the ball through? She looked around at the pirates hanging from the rigging and the barrels of rum. Not that Sky seems to care. She is flirting with Jeff, little madam. Maybe that’s what you do when you’re six. I can’t say I remember. If I’d opened my eyes all wide and winsome like that at my Dad’s colleagues I’d have been sent to my room.
The sun shone down on the bright green fairway. If you call it that in crazy golf. Claire had no idea; it was her first foray into the world of the sport, crazy or otherwise. It had been Jeff’s suggestion and Sky had readily agreed, before asking the classic kid’s question, “What is Crazy Golf, Auntie Claire?”
Claire felt the weight of Kim’s arm through hers, and the wide gulf of space that seemed to separate them, despite the closeness. Maybe I am going to have to pry. After Jeff’s untimely entrance last night I don’t think she’s going to open up again. She searched her mind for a way to open the conversation without jumping to conclusions.
“How are rehearsals coming on? Do you have Puck memorised now?”
Kim nodded. “Yes, I think so. It’s been fun, and it beats some of the other roles I’ve done. At least I haven’t had to murder my way through a terrible Hull accent.
Claire thought about Kim’s last role, playing a Northern woman who worked at a fish factory and sang Tony Christie songs, and her eyes sparkled. “I thought your accent was quite good.”
“You have to say that because you’re my best friend. That woman from the paper said I was worse than Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. That is an insult!”
“Ah well, maybe you won’t have to do accents again.”
Kim lowered her head and sighed. “Maybe I won’t get a chance to do acting again.”
“What do you mean?” Claire tried to sound casual, but her heart thumped loudly in her ears.
There was silence, filled with the sound of laughter as Jeff’s ball skipped over the hole and disappeared from view. Claire tried to keep her breathing even and resist the urge to fill the void with words. Eventually the stillness was broken by a tiny sob and Claire turned to see tears streaming down her friend’s face.
“Oh honey, what is it?”
“Jeff and I… we’re going to get married.”
Claire reeled at the unexpected response. Struggling to keep up, she pulled Kim over to sit on some rocks and offered her a tissue.
“Is that a reason to cry? Why now? I thought you were going to wait until you could afford a lavish do?”
Kim nodded and gulped down more tears, scrubbing at the ones already staining her cheeks. “We were. But now…” She looked up and away, avoiding Claire’s penetrating stare. “Now everything has changed.” Kim glanced back at her friend, then sunk her head into her hands.
The words were muffled by her hands, but Claire was expecting them. Even so, having it said out loud made it too real. The words that sprang into her throat were the obvious ones – How? What happened? How could you be so careless? The kind of things her mother would say, and not at all helpful. She drew in a deep breath and tried to imagine what she would want to hear, if the situation was reversed. It was hard to think, knowing the situation would never have arisen for her, and seeing in her mind also how overjoyed Michael would have been if it had.
“What does Jeff think?”
Kim looked up, eyes awash, and smiled. “He’s thrilled. Look at him,” she jerked her chin over to where Jeff was teaching Sky how to putt. “He loves kids. And it’s not going to wreck his career or his body.”
“Ah.” As if the girls had suddenly become telepathic, Claire could hear the hours of wrangling debate that had already taken place – either in Kim’s head or with Jeff. Knowing she didn’t really believe it, Claire said what had to be said. “It won’t ruin either thing: plenty of women have babies every day. Actresses, models, long-distance runners. They go back to what they love doing afterwards. Or…”
She hesitated, not wanting to suggest what might be unthinkable. The telepathic bond held strong and Kim shook her head, red hair whipping round with the movement.
“I’m not getting rid of it. No way. It would destroy Jeff, and my mother would never speak to me again.”
Silence fell, punctuated only with happy chatter and bird song. Claire reached for Kim’s hand and squeezed it tight. There were a hundred things she wanted to say, to ask. She sensed that Kim’s head was full of the same questions and that they haunted her. Remembering what it was like to live with an argument in your head for any length of time, Claire forced herself to be silent and let that be enough.