Thursday, 25 June 2009

Isolated, bizarrely dressed and a little bit crazy

Apparently working from home can leave you isolated, bizarrely dressed and a little bit crazy. I tried to feel a bit affronted by this headline when it came out but failed as, secretly, I couldn't help agreeing, at least for myself. The isolation bit I find is offset by broadband connecting me to the writing community, a fact brought home to me as I've been positively twitching without it for the last five days. As for a little bit crazy? I'm not even going there :-)
And now for bizarrely/badly dressed, well... I used to manage to look quite presentable when I worked in London but my standards have gone slowly downhill to the point where I consider smart jeans to be my going out clothes and the mention of wearing 'something sparkly' for the RNA conference dinner brings on mild palpitations. 
Which is why I was slightly alarmed at the weekend when I visited a foreign country to me - yummy mummy land. You see while I'm all for remote I've reluctantly had to concede that my kind of Highlands remote isn't great when you're not well enough to drive, your husband is away a lot and you keep having bizarre accidents. To cut a long story short it's been decided I need another foray to the south while I can't be trusted not to burn the house down or knock myself out on a cupboard door in the husband's absence. Hopefully it won't be for too long.
So, a suitable house for short term let near husband's office has been found and I went down for a look. The presence of beauty salons, nail bars and high end dress shops in tiny villages (and absence of other shops) should have been a giveaway but it was only while I was walking the dogs that it struck me that it wasn't just the period cottages that were picture perfect - at every turn I came across glamazons in elegant attire and with immaculate make-up, accompanied by golden haired toddlers wearing Cath Kidston wellies. I suddenly became aware that I hadn't brushed my hair since I'd set out from Scotland and worst of all I was wearing no make up! Normally this is not a thought that would ever cross my mind but here I suddenly felt odd, like a barbarian interloper.
So now I have to decide whether for my temporary residence I attempt to camouflage myself to avoid scaring the natives? Or do I apply my recent approach to all things non-writing lately, namely the 'ah sod it' approach and just brave the potential 'woman spotted walking dogs in non designer jeans and WEARING NO MAKE-UP' headlines in the local press?
I think I'll probably just settle for making sure broadband is sorted out  for when we go down, now that's REALLY important.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

How NOT to write a hook

  1. Think of a catchy hook and then impose characteristics on your H&h to make them fit in with your hook.
  2. When you encounter inconsistencies in your characters' behaviour don't go back to the beginning and question your premise, simply come up with more backstory to force the fit, like a large foot into a small shoe (or should that be strappy sandal???)
  3. Once you've stuffed that foot in, ignore any niggles in the back of your mind and reassure yourself with the fact the strappy sandal does look quite pretty.
  4. On no account try to get a crit from a writer you really admire, like the fabulous Heidi Rice say, if you're not prepared to let go of that strappy sandal and put the work in to find a shoe that fits.
Well I did points 1-3 but thankfully was the successful bidder for a critique in the Brenda Novak auction and have now had all those niggles brought skillfully to the surface. Not only that but I can see how I can address them. 
The one thing I've most definitely learnt is DON'T IGNORE YOUR NIGGLES. Question why, why, why and don't be afraid to change your premise if it doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Other than that I don't have any wise advise about how to use a hook. Other than maybe try to address your niggles before you send your synopsis and first chapter to an editor. Ahem.
Still it shows I'm able to revise, right?

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Romance is Everything

WH Smith has launched a new promotion, this free canvas bag when you buy any four Mills & Boon titles. The lovely slogan made me think about amending it to 'Romance writing is Everything'. I've always found writing to be a wonderful escape when life is a bit crap and I'm certainly finding that now.
So, while in the waiting room to see the neurologist yesterday I dreamt up the beginnings of a new story (the ultimate indulgence when you have two WIPs waiting to be finished). Not much news to report on the head injury front - yet more waiting for an MRI scan and cognitive testing to work out exactly what's going on and some powerful drugs that I've been told will probably make me feel lousy for a couple of months but then might (and only MIGHT) bring me some relief from the headaches I've had every day since the accident nearly six months ago. During examination it became apparent that I've lost quite a lot of feeling in one side of my face and one eye which was a bit worrying.
So my new acronym of the day is NTAAEW (a new variation of Jackie's NTAI) - From now on I'm Not Thinking About Anything Except Writing :-)

Friday, 5 June 2009

Top tips

I had a nice surprise yesterday - a letter from a magazine saying they want to publish one of my 'top tips'. This was a surprise firstly because I didn't remember sending it in and secondly because I can't even remember what the tip was!
I'm guessing it wasn't one of the following:
  1. Don't bother laying flooring - bare concrete never shows the dirt.
  2. If you don't cut your grass then eventually it will get to such a height it hides all the weeds in your garden.
  3. If you don't invite anyone round then you don't have to tidy up.
  4. Do your building work over as long a period as possible then you'll always have a good excuse for your house being in complete chaos.
Well, it was a nice distraction from post emailing angst anyway. I pressed the send button on my chapter and synopsis for my M&B editor slot with Jenny Hutton. I then woke up the next day with the sudden realisation that I'd forgotten to give a hastily created secondary character any distinguishing physical characteristic (wooden leg, glass eye, severe facial disfigurement... that kind of thing).

Ah well, such is writing life. Overall I'm reasonably happy with it. 

I've also been having a very interesting conversation about smells with my tiler, (should have consulted him about the alpha scents debate :-) whilst forcing first aid on him. Eventually he accepted my nursing but only on the grounds that he "didnae wanna get blood in ya grout". His favourite smell is one that apparently came second in a poll of people's favourites - clean sheets fresh from the line being ironed or drying on the range.

Which reminds me I should go and do some washing and make some pretence of being the kind of domestic goddess who dispenses top tips...

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

One of THOSE days

Good news - I recently found out I can email the editors my first chapter and synopsis before meeting them at my  conference slot. This is a fantastic opportunity and I'm currently thanking the writing gods that I didn't do my usual steaming ahead to complete the first draft but have been working and re-working my beginning and synopsis. 
Unfortunately the brand new synopsis that I was FINALLY happy with is two pages long and I now have to get it down to one page. Not a task that would normally freak me out but today is synopsis day and unfortunately it's also turning out to be one of THOSE days - you know, when one thing after another goes wrong in a farcical way that you recognise might be vaguely comical if it wasn't happening to you.
I was on the phone trying to sort out the latest disaster with an unhappy plumber and a supplier mess-up when I noticed a couple of tourists standing in my garden peering in at me and taking photographs. Now our house is a long way off the public road so this struck me as, how can I put this politely? A little odd.
I rounded up my contract law spiel to the supplier and headed out ready to express my miffedness only to find the tourists had come all the way from California to look at my house as a distant ancestor had lived here! Obviously could not tell them to bog off, well I could have but it would have been rude so I chatted to them instead. All the while the builders were drilling in a way that sounds and feels like the drill bit is actually piercing my brain.
Copious painkillers and several cups of tea with the plumber later and I am now feeling calmer and able to start the synopsis prune. Am also considering getting a hotel 'do not disturb' sign for my door...

P.S. Wanted to say BIG thanks to those of you who've been giving me help and writing advice recently. You're all stars :-)