I’ve been trying to get Two-Hundred Steps Home back on track today. I’m definitely at that middle dip part of a first draft where, in a normal length novel, I’d be counting the chapters to the climax.
Although the challenge was always about trying to write something every day, knowing it was first draft standard, I do feel a responsibility to the c.300 people who have downloaded volume one.
It is noticeable that the download numbers drop off, and the reviews dry up, as it gets to volumes four, five and six. I haven’t re-read any of them but I know that the story stuttered once Josh left.
Anyone still reading the daily installments will see that I have um’d and ah’d about sending Claire to New Zealand or maybe killing off Ruth, but it hasn’t seemed right to do either. Claire’s journey needs to happen without too much external force. The problem is, I don’t know what Claire’s journey is anymore. I’m nearly at 150k words and I feel Claire has developed nicely into someone who thinks about others, who wants a more meaningful future. Someone who isn’t going to be walked over by a man, or treated like a little princess. But, like real life, she’s drifting between her past and her future, waiting for something to happen.
Writing in small installments every day, and needing an element of sense in each scene, the book has dragged to a halt and has taken my imagination with it. I’m stuck.
Do I write a happy ever after, where Claire meets a man she wants to have babies with? Do I send her to NZ for more adventures, hoping that a new environment will allow her character to grow? I am feeling my inexperience as a writer, in this period of inertia. If this were a manuscript, this is the point at which I’d shelve it for a few months and come back with fresh eyes.
I’ve also noticed a change in my writing style, following feedback on Baby Blues. I’m trying not to write too many thoughts in italics. As a result I feel more distanced from Claire, which makes it harder to keep interest in what happens to her.
So apologies to any faithful readers who have followed Claire from the beginning. Sorry she doesn’t have quite so much fun and there are fewer laugh-out-loud moments (which hubbie assures me there were in the first volumes).
I’m hoping to find some energy to put back into her story. Here’s hoping for some inspiration!
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:
“Do you have to go? It feels like you just got here.”
Claire looked askance at Ruth, wondering if she was joking. The week with her sister and niece felt like a month. The weekend had been okay. She’d taken Sky to a museum and then the cinema and was surprised at how much fun it had been. But the four days of school – getting Sky up and dressed in the morning, making it to the school gates on time, and then remembering to collect her six hours later – had been more challenging than any week back in the office.
Even though she hadn’t had to travel and change accommodation every day, she found she had less time to write her blog. Between taking care of Ruth – ensuring that she ate and dressed – cleaning the kitchen and helping Sky with her homework, the day was chock-full of tasks that numbed her brain and left her exhausted. Instead of writing her blog in the evening, she fell asleep on the sofa with one of Ruth’s awful reality shows blaring in the background.
“Sorry, sis, Carl was quite clear he would only let me have a week.”
Ruth’s face fell, and Claire felt the guilt pierce through her exhaustion.
“It’s been great, having you here. Mum helps, but it’s not the same. I feel bad that she’s spending so much time away from Dad. It’s been nice, knowing you have no-where else to be.”
The words hit Claire like a slap. Her first thought was, how dare she? I have a life. Then honesty forced its way through the lie. No I don’t. My best friend hasn’t contacted me in a week, since I wrecked her wedding and possibly her career. Michael, thankfully, has got the hint and the only other person I consider to be a friend lives 10,000 miles away.
Dragging her thoughts back to the present, Claire inhaled; the scent of coffee and daffodils awakening her senses.
“What you need is a child-minder. To take Sky to school and collect her, and have her in the holidays.”
“Yes, and a bloody lottery win to pay for it.” Ruth stopped abruptly, before continuing in a softer voice. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to bite your head off. I would love a child-minder but I just can’t afford it. I’m only getting statutory sick leave and, even assuming I get back to work anytime soon, my wages barely cover the bills.”
Not for the first time, Claire thought it appalling that Ruth’s salary as a teacher was less than one of the marketing execs that used to work for her. Before she’d spent any amount of time with her niece, she’d thought it fair: how hard could it be minding children for a few hours a day and getting long holidays?
Now she knew better. Not only was it exhausting and challenging managing one child, never mind thirty, she knew there was much more to it than that. Even now, signed off sick and undergoing chemo, Ruth still spent time compiling school reports and completing paperwork.
“Are they expensive, then? Child-minders?”
“Finding one that would pick Sky up from here and drop her back would be. Usually they have a dozen children under their care after school.”
The conversation drifted onto a new topic, but the thought stayed lodged in Claire’s mind. Maybe that’s what I can do to help, at least until Ruth’s better. If I’m going to carry on with Carl’s stupid challenge, money isn’t going to be an issue. She vowed to make some calls.
“Have you spoken to Mum?”
Ruth’s voice cut through Claire’s thoughts.
“Not since last weekend. I wonder if she had her date night with Dad?”
Ruth giggled and Claire joined in. The idea of their parents going on a date was both weird and a bit icky.
“I’ll pop over later – say goodbye – on my way to Oxford.”
“Is that your next stop?”
“Yes. I want to head south, but there’s no point driving straight to Cornwall. I’ve actually mapped out a route, for the first time. I’ll head down through the New Forest, Dorset and Devon. Hopefully I’ll get to Cornwall in time for some decent weather.”
Ruth’s face twisted, as if she wanted to say something nasty, about how lucky Claire was, but knew it would harm their new-found cordiality.
“Don’t be jealous,” Claire said, interpreting her gaze. “It’s not like I’m travelling round New Zealand. One hostel is pretty much like another, and it is really just a job. Besides, I’ll be finding new adventures for the blog. You can enjoy me chucking myself off high things, even if I don’t.” She shuddered, only partly an act.
“Oh, Claire. No one’s life is perfect, is it? I used to envy you, but it must be lonely on the road, having to move on every day. At least I have Sky to talk to and cuddle with.”
She reached over and wrapped her sister in a huge hug. Claire swallowed the lump in her throat and willed herself not to cry.