Training Day: 2013 365 Challenge #197

Team Day: I wish my bum still looked like that!

Team Day: I wish my bum still looked like that!

Today I gave myself a training day. Just as a good marketer or manager needs a day out of the office to refresh her knowledge of the essential aspects of the job, so a writer needs to brush up on craft.

However, I found it as hard to have a metaphorical day out of the office today as I did when I had a ‘proper’ job. Whenever it was suggested, I used to whine about workload and deadlines and productive use of my time. Particularly if the day out was for quarterly strategy updates or *shudder* team days.

Oh what I wouldn’t give now for a day riding quad bikes and shooting clays, or pretending to do a school sports day (see photos) with a barbecue lunch and a free bar and – best of all – getting paid to do it! How our perspective on life changes.

I did at least get lunch made for me on my training day today, as hubbie’s contract finished on Friday and he’s at home again. So, when I should have been writing Claire installments or chasing the proofreader for an update, I read through Nigel Watts’ great craft book, Writing a Novel, which I discussed last week.

It’s a chatty book, full of great little quotes, which I have been adding to Twitter and Facebook today. The advice is neither new, profound, nor extensive, but I like the book all the more for that. I read through around half today – before the muggy heat sent my brain to sleep – and I’ve been mapping the advice on structure against Baby Blues, Class Act and Two-Hundred Steps Home.

School Girl Amanda (six years ago!)

School Girl Amanda (six years ago!)

It’s interesting to see that Baby Blues contains more of the necessary components than I realised, although I suspect I don’t have conflict and resolution in every chapter – I know that’s a personal weakness in my writing thus far.

I also struggled to verbalise Helen’s key motivation or pinpoint the exact nature of her character change. I came up with ‘finding a purpose in life’ or ‘creating a happy home’ as her motivations and her main change in terms of character growth as ‘takes her own decisions rather than letting life dictate them’.

For Class Act I had more detail in some places, less in others. I’m still not happy with the name of my lead protagonist and that is actually hampering me. The fact that I don’t have a name means, to me, that she isn’t fully formed in my mind.

The main reason for my training day was to figure out what to do with Claire and Two-Hundred Steps Home. As I’ve said before, the story is finished. She’s been through most of the stages of the eight-point structure. She’s made crucial decisions and dealt with the climax: assisting Josh to reunite with his wife even though she fancied him, looking after Sky despite her fear of children, standing up to Carl, and freeing herself from Michael.

All the early mystery has been revealed and the suspense answered. However, as Rinelle pointed out in the comments, Claire still hasn’t resolved her work situation. I know she has the strength to do it, but she needs a reason. Maybe that will be driven by love or lust (falling for Mitch and leaving for NZ, though I don’t think that’s likely as they didn’t hit it off), or maybe it’s the job offer in NZ (again, unlikely). Her motivation has always been pride – saving face, not being out done, not letting people (Carl, Michael, Josh) get the better of her. Now, though, she’s ready to move beyond pride. I need to figure out where to.

I effectively need to start a new plot, with a new trigger and a new quest. I just have no idea what that will be!


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:


Claire hung up the phone and grinned. It had taken a dozen phone calls and not a small amount of patience, but she had managed it. Now for the difficult call. She stared at the piece of paper in front of her, with the all-important name and number on it, and resisted the urge to put the call off until later. Now. It has to be now, or I’ll chicken out.

Tapping her pen against the table, she waited for the phone to connect, the contents of her stomach doing the hula.

“Good morning, Ruth speaking.”

“Hi, it’s me.” She heard the wobble in her voice, and wondered what was causing it. She was helping, wasn’t she?

“Hello, why are you calling? Is everything okay? I thought you were on your travels again. Did you speak to Mum?”

Claire swallowed. She’d forgotten about her conversation the previous evening. “Ah, yes. She and Dad are away, at a spa or something.” She prayed her sister wouldn’t ask any more questions. There were mental images that were best forgotten.

“What? She didn’t tell me she was going away. Who is going to collect Sky from school? It was all I could do to get her there this morning.”

Ignoring the stab of irritation at her sister’s attitude, Claire reminded herself that she was sick and needed all the help she could get.

“That’s why I’m ringing, actually. I’ve been thinking about it since I left. Mum and Dad need some time to rebuild their bridges-” She heard her sister’s intake of breath, and rushed on, “-Not that Mum minds helping you, but it must be frustrating for you, to always have to ask her for help. I thought about what you said – about needing a child-minder – and I’ve found one.”

“I told you, I can’t afford childcare.” Ruth’s tone made it clear what she felt about Claire’s interference.

“You don’t have to. It’s my gift to you. I should be helping, but I’m stuck doing this stupid challenge. The least I can do is let Carl fund a child-minder for you. They’re still paying me, and my outgoings are minimal. Anyway, it’s all arranged. It might be a bit make-do this term, but Jenny assures me she’ll have plenty of space next term.”

“That’s September, Claire. Four months away. I can’t make-do for all that time.”

Claire inhaled and tried not to react. She’d known it wouldn’t be easy to help her sister.

“All Jenny means is she will have to share the childcare with Mum, as she doesn’t have space every day. But she lives near you, so bringing Sky home won’t be a problem. Even if all she does is walk her home from school, that will help. Won’t it?”

Silence followed her words. Sensing it would be a concession too far from Ruth to admit that, Claire shrugged and let it go. “I’ll text you the details. I’ve asked Jenny to call you about collecting Sky from school today. I’m guessing you’ll have to get it authorised. And Ruth,” she hesitated, then decided nothing ventured. “Try and accept the help, okay. Think of it as recompense for me still doing this awful challenge when I’d rather be playing with my niece.”

She hung up the phone before her sister could respond. Realising she was breathing hard, Claire was about to head down to reception to check out and continue to the next hostel, when the phone rang. Oh, Ruth, don’t be a dummy. Take the help.

Glancing at the phone, she realised it wasn’t her sister calling back, but a withheld number. Hoping against reason that it was Kim, Claire answered the call.

“Hello, is that Claire Carleton?”

“Yes, speaking.”

“Ah, Claire. My name is Linda Small, I work for a recruitment agency. I have a position that might interest you, if you’re in the market for a change of role.”

Claire sank back onto the bunk bed, and listened with wide eyes to what Linda had to say.