Maurice and Man-Flu: 2013 365 Challenge #104

Poorly Little Martin

Poorly Little Martin

Today is a day when I wish I’d done less cleaning on my last nursery day and remained a Claire post ahead. Because – although the clean house is nice – Family Martin has Man-Flu.

All of us.

We’ve never ALL been struck down simultaneously before. I’ve had to write drug distribution on the chalk board because my brain is fuddled. It hasn’t been divide and conquer so much as Divide and Survive.

Still, being the heroic one who took the kids to the Farm – after a quiet morning and some calpol meant they were too full of beans to be indoors – I got to go back to bed mid afternoon and finish my book. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. A marvellous book. I love Terry Pratchett. I love the sophistication of his world building and the insidious nature of his social commentary.

This children’s Discworld novel discusses morality and religion in a way that hasn’t affected me since Granny Weatherwax in Carpe Jugulum. I’m not very good at reviewing books because I can’t tiptoe around spoilers (and I hate spoilers). All I’ll say is this is a book I really hope my children read, as it approaches philosophical questions of what makes me me; ideas and beliefs, shadows and darkness, in an accessible and compelling way. It also deals with Stories: what constitutes a story, the difference between stories and the real world, including a ‘real world’ rather than ‘fairy tale’ ending. Terry Pratchett at his best.

I don’t think it gives anything away to include this quotation, which I believe encapsulates what religion should be about (as someone who isn’t particularly religious):

If there is a Big Rat [God], and I hope there is, it would not talk of war and death. It would be made of the best we could be, not the worst that we are. No, I will not join you, liar in the dark. I prefer our way. We are silly and weak, sometimes. But together we are strong. You have plans for rats? Well, I have dreams for them.

Love it.

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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:

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“Auntie Claire, look!”

Claire turned her head at the unexpected sound of Sky giggling. After an hour moaning in the car that the iPad battery was flat and twenty minutes of shoe shuffling and whining in the queue, Claire had forgotten that her niece could laugh. The decision to come to Merrivale Model Village already seemed a bad one, and they’d only been inside ten minutes.

We should have done Sea Life. I could have bought a coffee and left her to it knowing she couldn’t damage anything. If I leave her in here she’ll probably trample on the exhibits or start playing with them. Seeing her niece still waving and jiggling up and down, Claire swallowed a sigh and went to investigate.

“What is it, Sky?”

“Look!” She pointed at the scene in front of them. “That little woman is…” she lowered her voice to a whisper that probably carried to the edge of the village, “showing her boobies! See?”

Claire peered at the tiny model people. Oh god. There’s a half-naked woman being arrested at a football match. Seriously? Don’t these people know kids come here?

As if confirming Claire’s worst fears, Sky took a deep breath and said, too loudly, “why is she showing her boobies, Claire? What are the policemen doing? Did someone steal her clothes?”

Looking round wildly for assistance or guidance, all Claire could see were other parents trying not to smile. Avoiding eye contact, Claire wrapped her arm around Sky’s shoulder. “Don’t talk so loud, darling.”

“Why not?” Sky’s voice would have filled the O2 Arena.

“Other people are trying to enjoy their afternoon out, that’s all.” She hoped her niece had forgotten the interrogation about the streaker, but she was out of luck.

“Why didn’t she have a top on? Was she sunbathing? Sometimes Mummy sunbathes without her top on in the garden.”

“Um. I’m not sure. Why don’t we go and look at the train? Or the high street?” She pulled at her niece’s hand and led her away from the traitorous football match.

“Oh, look Sky, the hospital, let’s go there.”

The Whys didn’t stop: It turned out the hospital was full of realistic details, like some poor man having his leg sawn off. “Why are they cutting his leg, Claire? Is he poorly?” Then, “Why is there smoke coming from that house? Is it on fire? Why haven’t the firemen put it out?” Even the castle let Claire down. “Why does the princess have a pointy hat, Claire?” Unable to remember whether it was called a wimple or a hennin, Claire once more resorted to her stock phrase, “I don’t know, darling,” all the while cursing the quirky nature of the model village.

I guess you have to have a sense of humour to run a place like this. Claire looked at the Boggitt and Scarper builder’s sign and the Lord Help Us Hall and smiled. How much time does it take to put all these people in position? If you couldn’t have a laugh you’d go bonkers. Claire read a tiny sign declaring, “Keep off Grass, Guard Ducks Patrol this Garden, Survivors will be Prosecuted,” and laughed out loud. Maybe the sick humour is to keep the adults amused. God knows it must be boring to be a parent at a place like this. Or anywhere.

She tried to tune out the Whys, but discovered if she didn’t answer quickly enough, Sky’s voice became louder and more shrill. As the question was usually one Claire didn’t want to hear echoing amongst the milling families she had to respond swiftly and with detail. ‘I don’t know, sweetheart,’ had apparently lost its effectiveness.

Claire felt drained and defeated, as if she’d been wrangling in a Board Meeting for two hours, rather than wandering with a six-year-old for twenty minutes. In desperation she gazed round the site, longing for something safe to distract Sky’s inquisitive mind. She caught sight of a sign and her heart lifted.

“Oh look, Sky: A Penny Arcade, why don’t we go there?”

“What’s an arcade?”

Claire thought about the rare visits to Uncle Jim when she was Sky’s age. He would take his nephew and nieces to the amusement arcades, a bag of tuppences hanging heavy in their pockets, gleaming highlights in their eyes knowing their parents would definitely not approve. They would gorge themselves on candy floss and stand at the machines for hours, feet welded to the sticky floor, the smell of cigarette smoke in their nostrils from Uncle Jim’s rolling tobacco.

With her mind and heart full of happy memories, Claire shone a sparkling grin at Sky.

“You’re in for a real treat.”

***

No Excuses – the 2013 365 Challenge Day #19

Snow Monster - Kara loves the snow

Snow Monster – Kara loves the snow

I’ve always had bad knees but, since I took a Learn to Row course back in the summer, my right knee has been so painful sometimes I can’t walk on it. Rowing used, or tried to use, a heap of muscles that haven’t been needed in a while and I ended up pulling my knee cap out of line. (That’s how I understand it anyway, I’m sure it’s nothing like that if you ask a doctor.) I had physio until we couldn’t afford it anymore then I had some free physio with the NHS. Very different experiences but both came down to the same thing – I must do daily exercises to retrain my muscles. I knew that – I’ve been told that before.

But I’m rubbish.

I do the exercises religiously three-times-a-day for a week or two then I forget or am too tired or whatever excuse I use and that’s it. I hobble in pain for a while and another opportunity to fix it is gone forever. I think the problem is that no one notices or cares whether I do the exercises or not so it’s easy to be lazy. I just can’t seem to get the exercises to become a daily habit, even though it means I spend a lot of time in pain.

But, until recently when my husband took over the task to give my knee a rest, I walked the dog every single day I could. Only when I had the kids all day did she just get a quick play with a ball in the garden. Rain, hail, snow, tired or not, I walked her. Because that’s what I signed up to by getting a dog. In Terry Pratchett’s Thud! the lead character, Sam Vimes, says something like ‘if I miss it for a good reason even once, I’ll start missing it for bad ones.” He was talking about reading a bedtime story to his son but the theory is the same. He made a commitment.

I’m walking in a snow storm as I write this into my phone. And I’m glad I came out. I didn’t have to come – falling snow and poorly knee were excuses enough. But the dog looked at me, then longingly out at the fresh snow, and I had to come. And I’ve enjoyed my walk.

Blogging was the same. When I didn’t have a living beast to care for it was easy to make excuses not to post. I didn’t have anything to say, I had other commitments, I was doing NaNoWriMo etc. Now I have my daily challenge there is no room for excuses. Apart from the time in Italy when I had no laptop or internet I have written every day since 1st January because it’s a thing I must do. And that’s made it simple, and fun. Even when I’m shattered and I know it’s the writing equivalent of throwing a ball in the garden I have to write my daily post.

Now if only I could find the thing that would make me do my knee exercises every day…

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“Hello there, Good Morning. How did you sleep?”

Claire flinched at the bright voice and wondered if she could ignore it. She didn’t recognise the wrinkled face beaming at her, but a vague recollection of the night before threw up a name card.

“Hattie? Yes, I slept okay, thanks.” Years of training allowed Claire to be nice when what she really wanted to say was, Sod off, I’m not here to make friends, I’m working and, even if I weren’t, I’m not about to be best buddies with an octogenarian.

A quick glance round the café showed Claire a surprising number of bodies tucking into breakfast. Hattie patted the seat next to her and Claire had little choice but to sit with her new friend.

“Is it always this busy?”

“Yes, dear. The hostel has a dozen or so rooms and it’s very popular. The locals come too, although not so often for breakfast. Between you and me…” she leant in close to Claire and a cloud of talc and perfume wafted over her, “…their dinner is better. I think the chef doesn’t like mornings.”

“But you eat it anyway?” Claire looked at Hattie’s plates of bacon, eggs and other Full English delights and shuddered.

“Not every day, only at the weekend. They have a lovely little kitchen on the top floor but it gets a bit mucky on a Friday night, what with takeaway boxes and late night munchies.”

Claire smiled at hearing a word like munchies coming through pristine false teeth. “You sound like you’ve been here a long time?”

“I have, dear, on and off. At my age there’s little point spending money on rent and bills. Besides, it gets lonely. There’s only me and I hate cats.”

Claire turned round in her chair, taking her eyes off the laminated menu to stare in wonder at the beaming, line-patterned face. “Let me get this straight. You live here? In a hostel dorm room?”

Hattie nodded enthusiastically. “Not always here, although it is a lovely hostel. Where else could I stay with all my bills paid for £7 a day? It used to cost more than that to heat my flat. I don’t have to clean and I meet some lovely people.”

The words entered Claire’s brain but made no sense. Why would you choose to give up your apartment and live in a hostel? Share a room? No one could be that poor, surely.

“Have you been travelling long?” Hattie spoke around a mouthful of sausage and her chewing gave Claire a chance to choose her answer. In the end she decided honesty was probably easiest. There was no need to impress this garrulous old biddy.

“Not really. This is my first day actually. I’m… I’m writing a blog about hostelling.” Well, that’s true enough.

“Oh how charming. What will you write, will you include me?” Claire was touched to see how delighted Hattie was at the idea, like a small child being offered a tremendous treat.

Claire shrugged, why not? I have to put something in the damn blog.

 “Of course. Would you like to tell me about your travels? Why did you choose the YHA? Do you feel it promotes a healthy lifestyle?” Her voice grew stronger as she spoke and she realised at last she was back in her comfort zone. She might not know about making her own bed with a flat sheet or how to start a car with a manual choke but she knew about social media and she knew about fulfilling a brief, however stupid it was.

As Hattie began to talk, waving her hands and nearly knocking over the vase of flowers on the table, Claire sipped at the coffee recently deposited in front of her and scribbled notes on a napkin.

***

Day #4 of the 2013 365 Challenge…

My refreshed website - still needs work but I was up til 1am getting it this far!

My refreshed website – still needs work but I was up til 1am getting it this far!

Okay so I am finding this challenge more challenging than I expected. I did my initial calculations on wordcount and figured I could easily write a thousand words a day and post them. I didn’t take into account needing to ensure each scene makes sense by itself, or the time required to tidy up spelling and punctuation. Nevermind how long it takes me to choose an image, upload it, add tags and categories and format the blog post!

This is only my second day without the children and my time seems to have been eaten up by buying birthday gifts for my little one’s 4th birthday (which is actually not until the end of January!), finding a Baptism card (it’s all Christening cards here, I found one in the fifth shop I tried) and updating my website so it ties in with my new business cards for the Art in the Heart Gallery (read about it here).

What’s keeping me going (apart from stubbornness, an unwillingness to humiliate myself in front of an audience and a desire to learn more about Claire) is a blog post I read from the lovely Kristen Lamb about taking yourself seriously as a writer. The blog was fabulously called Lies that Can Poison Your Dreams–Don’t Eat the Butt in 2013 It included a great quotation from Stephen King:

Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us get up and go to work. ~Stephen King

If I want to be a Writer and sell my novels I need to get on and write. So here is Day 4’s installment of my postaday novel. I’ll be scheduling Days 5, 6 and 7 today too (hopefully, although I have to go get the kids in under three hours) due to family commitments in Italy. I’ll be back in person next week!

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“Claire, it’s Ruth.” Claire held back a sigh and walked into the kitchen to put the coffee machine on. A phone call from her sister was never over quickly.

“Ruth, darling. How are you?” As she waited for her sister to start spilling forth her latest disaster, Claire mulled over how much to reveal about her new assignment. Her family would have to be told something, of course. Not that they ever came to visit, or called her home phone, or sent her letters. Still, it seemed only right to tell them she was moving out for twelve months. Tuning back in to the phonecall, Claire realised she had missed some key information and tried to catch up with what her sister was talking about.

“So the doctor said it was probably lack of sleep. You know Sky is a bad sleeper and her nightmares have been worse since she started Year Two.”

Claire worked out that someone was poorly, but was unsure whether it was her sister or her niece. Probably Sky. Silly, spoiled, overly-dramatic child. As if having her father run off with her ballet teacher gives her an open-ended excuse to be a brat forever. Surely they outgrow that nonsense once they start school?

Claire thought about her own schooling. Her parents had paid for the best, obviously, although Claire often wondered whether that was to ensure their three children didn’t hamper their lifestyle, rather than to give their off-spring a good start in life. The school had encouraged independence and character but had no time for tears and tantrums. Claire had learned quickly to work hard and stay out of trouble. More than could be said for Ruth. It had been a constant mortification to her parents that, while their first and third children both achieved academic success, Ruth only acquired notoriety.

Ruth’s next sentence cut through Claire’s reminiscing like a knife through brie.

“The tests are week after next. That’s why I’m calling. Is there any chance you could come and look after Sky? It’s half-term and most of her friends are going skiing. Of course we can’t afford that…”

Claire inhaled deeply and forced herself not to rise to the bait. Ruth was always poor and begrudged Claire her success. Claire accepted that looking after a child on your own probably hampered your career options, but look at J.K. Rowling, it hadn’t held her back. She was convinced Ruth could help herself if  only she’d try harder. Claire’s irritation at the badly-veiled hint nearly overshadowed the first part of the sentence, but not quite.

“Have Sky? How long for? When?” Claire could hear panic in her voice and forced herself to breathe in through her nose. Once she was sure she was back in control of her emotions she said in a slow voice, “I start a new work assignment on 1st March, and I’ll … be on the road a lot. You know. Meeting clients.”

“Wining and dining on someone else’s credit card.” Ruth’s voice cut in.

“There’s more to it than that,” Claire responded quickly. Then, before Ruth could start the age-old argument, Claire inhaled through her nose again and consciously lowered her voice. “Tell me the day you need me to have Sky, I’ll check my diary.”

“Well, it’s two days, actually.” Ruth sounded embarrassed.

As well she might. I don’t want to look after her brat for two hours, never mind two days.

Claire had, thus far, avoided spending too much time with her niece, or with her two nephews Jack and Alex. Her brother and his wife lived in Geneva, so that was understandable. Ruth lived near their mother in Cambridgeshire, so her lack of involvement caused considerable friction. Kids just aren’t my thing.

Thinking about minding a six-year-old for two days made bile rise in Claire’s throat. She gulped down her coffee and wondered if she could use the new assignment as an excuse. There was something in Ruth’s voice, though, that made her pause.

“Can’t mum take her? I thought Mum and Dad were the perfect grandparents?” It seemed odd to Claire that two people who had no time for their own children could go dotty over someone else’s, even if they were their grandkids. Maybe they were going soft in their old age.

“Er, Mum’s coming with me, to the hospital.”

Ruth’s words slithered into Claire’s brain, freezing where they made contact. “Just what tests are you having exactly?”

“Weren’t you listening? I said you never listen to me, you and Robert, you’re both the same.”

Claire almost smiled at the petulant tone in Ruth’s voice. For a moment they were twelve and fourteen again.

“Sorry,” she admitted, saying nothing more.

“The headaches, the ones causing spots in my vision. The doctor thinks it’s tiredness but they want to be sure. I’m having a CAT scan or an MRI or something, I don’t remember the details. I’m not clever like you. That’s why Mum’s coming.”

Claire took the two steps from her kitchen to her lounge and sank into the white leather sofa. “CAT scan? Ruth, are you serious?”

“Of course I am. I wouldn’t joke about something like that. So, will you take Sky? I don’t think Dad could cope with her for two days on his own. You can stay at my place or at Home, whichever is easier.”

Claire rubbed a hand across her forehead, as if scrubbing away unwanted thoughts. “Of course I’ll come. Text me the dates. I should probably come home before I start my new assignment anyway, store some things in the attic…”

She thought Ruth might ask her about the assignment, but she didn’t. After another ten minutes elaborating on her headaches and trips to the doctors she said that Sky was calling for her and hung up the phone.

Claire slumped back into the sofa, cradling her iphone in her lap. Darkness seemed to engulf the room. A gloom that had nothing to do with the rain hammering against the window pane.

***

Revision blues

I have revision blues. I was so excited about starting to revise my WIP but I still have no real understanding of how to go about it, and when I can’t do something it makes me sad. Not very helpful or grown up, I know. If my daughter said such a thing to me I’d tell her it just takes practice and it’s okay to ask for help. She’s three. It’s okay not to know how to do something when you’re three!

I like to think it’s the impossible deadline (combined with a killer cold) that has sucked my motivation, but that’s just an excuse. I’m good at excuses. If I’m honest (in a way you can only really be with yourself at 1am) the difficulty with revision is that it exposes how little I truly know about writing.

I hate being a novice.

I nearly sobbed in rowing today because the coach was telling me I was doing it all wrong. It was only my fourth lesson but I’d done so well the week before it was crushing to be told I was rubbish. No one is more critical of me than me and I get extremely frustrated at myself if I can’t do something. To the point that – like my stroppy three-year-old – I stomp my foot, yell “Can’t do it!” and chuck whatever item I’m holding across the room. (Did I mention I’m more of a child than she is sometimes?)

I read another instructive blog by Kristen Lamb this week, this one was about structure and how it separates the beginners from the professional writers. I confess I didn’t completely understand the blog which probably puts me firmly in the not about to be published anytime soon camp! I do at least own the Plot and Structure book she quotes from: I just need to read it.

So, as well as trying to polish a first draft in an impossible six weeks, just in case I’m shortlisted for the Mslexia award, I’m trying to learn how to write and how to revise all at the same time. It’s no wonder I’ve picked up Garth Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom again. I’m already on Drowned Wednesday. I may not know much about scene and sequel or Goal – Conflict – Disaster but when it comes to displacement activity I’m a master.

The one positive I’ve had so far is discovering a useful revision summary by KittyB78. It doesn’t tell me how to revise but it does give some things to look for, such as scene flow and characterisation. I like the idea of highlighting different parts, like dialogue, internal thought, characterisation, in different colours. There are also some other great revision tips in the comments.

My biggest challenge this year might be resisting the urge to do NaNoWriMo again. I love it and several of my (unfinished) novels were born in November. However the last thing I need right now is another first draft to nag at me and distract me from actually finalising one of my existing manuscripts. Kristen Lamb is always talking about writers being distracted by the next new shiny.

That’s me!

Writing first drafts is so easy compared with revision and yet seems more like Writer work, so I don’t feel guilty for being unemployed as I do most days. If only they could do a revision equivalent of NaNoWriMo, to help and motivate you to beat a Nano first draft into shape. Now that I’d sign up to!

Anyway I think my darling son is finally asleep, despite the tap-taping of my mobile phone and the eerie sight of me up-lit in the darkness, so it’s back to bed for me. I haven’t revised more than a page in a week so must get a good day in tomorrow.

May the muse be ever in your favour.

Writing a Synopsis

I spent last night searching the Internet for agents that accept email submissions (I don’t mind being rejected, but I’d rather not use a tree’s worth of paper doing it).

During my search, I came cross a great page of tips on the 3 Seas Literary Agency website, which included this advice for improving your manuscript’s chances:

Write a Great Synopsis

  • The synopsis for fiction works should include the beginning, the conflicts, the resolutions and the ending.
  • It must be written in the present tense.
  • A synopsis represents you and your work. Take your time, make it interesting, read it out loud, and wherever necessary, improve…improve…improve it, until you are happy with the final result.

(There are also great tips on writing a query letter, which I should also have followed!)

I’m sure there are other sites offering more detailed help. In fact, I’m sure I taught a lesson covering the same stuff. It’s not rocket science, but I particularly valued point three, the reminder to “improve… improve… improve.”

It’s amazing how quickly you can forget the basics, in a rush of blood to the head. I spent six months carefully crafting and re-crafting my novel. When I finally decided to be brave and send it to an agent, I spent about 90 minutes writing a cover letter and synopsis.

This wasn’t just the usual laziness, lack of time or child intervention. I found writing the synopsis harder than writing the novel. Also, foolishly, I didn’t see it as that important: after all, the agent has my first 3 chapters, surely if they’re hooked they’ll want to read more and if they’re not, what difference would a good synopsis make?

Silly really.

After all those weeks pouring heart and soul into my novel, surely I could afford to spend more than an hour or two trying to sell it? That’s when I realised the problem: I find it impossible to sell myself or anything I have created.

Before commencing my life as writermummy, I worked as an abstract artist – leaving my “proper job” to paint full-time. After six months, I had to return to the real world to earn a living, because I couldn’t sell my work to strangers. It turns out there is only so much art you can sell to friends (even lovely friends with a farmhouse in Luxembourg!)

Now I face the same barrier. I have to sell something I have created.

So my challenge, should I choose to accept it, is to find some objectivity and learn how to sell my own novel. If I can’t convince you, or an agent, or a publisher, to read it, then I may as well not have bothered writing it in the first place.

Any Synopsis-writing Tips gratefully received.

Throw away the excuses

Gatorade Rain bottles lined up on a supermarke...

 “I don’t have the time,”

             “I don’t know where to start,”

                     “I just can’t write,”

“My writing is boring.”

Let’s explore the common excuses (the ones I said most often to myself) and how they can be banished.

“I don’t have the time”

To produce a 100,000-word novel in a year you need to write 274 words a day. Scan this section (down to imagination). It’s 274 words. That’s not much really, is it? To put it into context, it’s 10 tweets or 9 text messages. If you touch-type at an average speed you can type 274 words in 4 minutes (learn to touch-type if you want to become a writer, particularly if your you-time is limited.)

You’ll hear many suggestions on how to foster a daily writing habit. Anyone offering advice about writing will tell you that you must write every day. And of course, in an ideal child-free life, you could do that.

I don’t write every day. I get two days a week to do my writing, when my children go to nursery.

I am very lucky.

However, when I’m consumed by a new plot twist, I’ve been known to sneak in writing time on mummy days. I write when I’m walking the dog (being able to touch-text is handy), or I pull into a lay-by when the kids are asleep in the car and fire up the laptop. Or bribe the children with Peppa Pig so I can sit and tap out a few hundred words. (Did I mention this isn’t a blog about good parenting?)

I can’t tell you how to fit time into your day, as I have no idea about your schedule. All I’m saying is, if it matters to you, you can find the time. Sacrifice a tea break, an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or your twenty minutes of Facebook, and delve into the murky world of your imagination.

“I don’t know where to start,”

This is the excuse that scuppered me for the longest time. I owe it to the OU and their marvellous Creative Writing course that I ever got past it. I realise now that I fell into a very common trap: I was too self-critical. I tried to write whilst listening to the evil genius on my shoulder telling me how rubbish it all was, making me re-craft every line, every word.

Big mistake. Big. Huge.

The OU use a technique called Freewriting, the basic concept of which is that you tell your evil genius to go down the pub, and then you hurry up and get writing while he or she is gone. You can freewrite using a prompt, or just sit with a blank sheet of paper and write the first thing that comes to mind. I find working with a prompt is best. I’ll probably do a post on freewriting and prompts but, for now, I’ll suggest a couple of ideas that really got me going (my first novel came entirely from a freewrite using technique #1)

#1: characters from objects.

Get someone you know to write a list of random objects (a telescope, some tarot cards, a box of matches, an amber necklace, a seashell, it can be anything).

Now sit and think who might own some or all of the objects and why. Don’t analyse, just write for ten minutes without stopping.

#2: freewriting from prompts.

Take one of the following prompts and write for ten minutes without stopping (set an alarm. Do Not Stop until it rings.)

The sunshine makes me happy because…

When the kids leave home I want to…

He said it was all my fault…

“I just can’t write,”

Yes, you can. You do it already. Every time you tell someone about your day, relate a funny story you’ve heard or share something your children did this morning, you are writing.

When I first started thinking about this blog, I worried that I wasn’t one of those people who just had to write. You know, someone like Virginia Woolf, who wrote diaries, letters, stories because she was compelled to. Then I realised that I have always written; it’s just that much of it was in my head. I would retell my day, sometimes changing bits to make it the day I wished I’d had. I’d often write the conversation between me and my boss where he did appreciate all my hard work. Or, better still, the one where I told him to take a long walk off a short pier. I would construct amazing scenarios where the boy who had just dumped me drove across town and found me, just to tell me he’d made a terrible mistake.

Okay so maybe I lived in a self-delusional fantasy world, but it has given me amazing fodder for my fiction. Particularly when I tried to turn my hand to Mills & Boon. That’s for another time.

“My writing is boring.”

How do you know? Has anyone read it but you? If they have, if (like me) your friends or family suggested that maybe your writing wasn’t the most entertaining they’d ever read, then remember one key thing: you are writing your first draft.

I consider my first draft to be the rough pencil sketch that I will paint in with colour later. I hope, of course, that I won’t have to re-write it all, but I know for a fact I’ll have to work hard on some of it to move it from tedious bunkum to something worth reading.  Plenty of time to worry about that later. As I’ve said before, you can’t edit a blank page.

The important thing to focus on when you start writing is to just write. Go with the flow of the story, follow the twists and turns of the plot, and get to the finish line. When you’ve done that you can polish every sentence until it shines with brilliance. I guarantee your first draft will not be your last. And it won’t all be boring. Yes, bits of it will drag: those are the bits to shine or slash later. But parts of it will shine so bright you’ll wonder who drugged you and added them into your story when you weren’t looking. Those are the morsels that make writing addictive.

So, what are you waiting for. Get writing!