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Sunday, 22 February 2015

So, Mr Public, you really want to be an author, do you?

Ah, Mr Public, good morning.  Welcome to the job centre.  Now, I hear that the job you want most in life is to be an author, am I right?  So, what qualifications do you have for the job? 
The Authors' Job Centre is somewhat behind the times...
Oh.  You've had a really exciting and interesting life and you're pretty sure that everyone would be really interested in it.... and you really want to write a book one day.  That's fine, if you'd just like to fill out this JB734 form, which enables us to take away your television in order to give you the time to write, and also this NQ76 form, to sign up for a pathetic low-earning job which will barely pay any of your bills, but will give you plenty of time to write, since it's a zero hours contract...

I'm sorry, Mr Public?  You don't really want to give up watching television and you quite like the job you have at present?  Ah, in that case you want form 900213C.  Yes, if you just sign here... this form ensures that you will give up all hobbies, social life and interests outside the home...oh, I see.  You'd like to still be able to go out for the evening occasionally, and you have several demanding hobbies... hmmm...

How are you fixed family-wise, Mr Public?  Is your significant other aware of your desire to become an author?  They are?  Oh, that's good.  Then, if you could make sure that they sign this NJW27 form, because they will need special training on how never to interfere with you, or even speak to you for at least nine months of the year, how to run the house single handed because you won't be able to give much input whilst you are writing, oh, and if they could fill in this bank form 8RF67 - never you mind why, but writing is an expensive business what with the workshops and conferences you may wish to attend, and the various meetings you may want to have with other authors, to say nothing of upgrading your computer and then, of course, you will want to invest in all the latest software won't you?  Ah.  You think you already know enough about writing without attending any workshops?  Fine, fine...

And what about your health, Mr Public?  Writing involves quite a lot of sitting down and I can't help but note that you are a little...ahem, forgive me Mr Public..a should we put it, a little on the well-fed side?  Never mind, eventually living on a writing income should sort that out, but in the meantime perhaps you'd like to invest in some slightly bigger trousers?  And, perhaps, prepare your taste buds for a life of Pot-Noodles and Quavers, these are readily available at the Pound Shop and you can stock up with a year's supply for next to nothing, which is just as well, as per my remarks above about living on a writing income.

I beg your pardon, Mr Public?  Let me get this clear - you don't want to give up watching television or any of your hobbies or your social life.  You don't want to give up your high paying job in order to have more time to write, you seem a little upset at having to spend quite so much time away from your Significant Other, you don't wish to spend out money that you may never get back on workshops, or mixing with other authors, you like proper food, and the thought of being quite sedentary for long periods of time appears to distress you.

What's that, Mr Public?  You thought that being an author meant scribbling down some words which would then be taken on by a publishing house, requiring no further input from yourself?  And that those words would make you millions of pounds, a household name, and probably be turned into a film, possibly starring Jennifer Lawrence or Daniel Radcliffe?  And that you would only have to do this once?

Mr Public, it appears to me that you don't really want to be an author at all.  What you want to be is J K Rowling or Stephen King and I am afraid that those vacancies are already taken.

Have you considered being a lumberjack, at all...?
Where a healthy, outdoor life with barely a single Pot Noodle awaits...

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Why is my postman in the Seychelles with a bottle of Prosecco with my name on it? And why Romance is more of a backing singer, than Jared Leto

Yesterday was Valentine's Day.  And, once I'd reached the conclusion that I reach every year - that obviously my postman is some kind of crook who is stealing all my gifts and flowers and burying the enormous quantity of cards that are en route to my address in some rubbish tip somewhere, where they will baffle future archaeologists into thinking that Jane Lovering was some kind of deity to whom supplications and offerings had to be made, which, come to think of it, is pretty much my opinion too - and stopped sobbing, I began to ponder Romance...

I like to imagine this is what he sees, first thing on Valentine's morning, all bearing my address and a simple, yet effective, heart shaped sticker...
I mean, I write Romance.  I should be able to define it, without recourse to 'it'll all end in tears', or 'the thing men use to get women to have sex with them'.  But what actually is it?  Is it hearts and flowers and chocolates, or is it a cup of tea brought at exactly the time at which you were starting to think of getting up and making yourself a cup of tea?  You see, the whole Valentine's Day thing makes me worry a bit, that all over the country partners are thinking that all they need to do is hand over a token of their esteem once a year and everything will be hunky dory, without noticing that there are another three hundred and sixty four days in which they could be doing something to make life just that little bit better for their chosen one, but not bothering. 

So I concluded that Romance isn't grand gestures, because all the weekends in Venice in the world won't make up for not noticing that your other half has lost a stone, or has been slaving over something and hasn't had time to make themselves so much as a sandwich all day.  Romance is quietly checking the oil in the car and sorting out that strange 'ticking' noise that has been coming from the understairs cupboard and which you both suspect is a mouse building a bomb.  Romance is that lovely, background hum that keeps life going, not the huge, explosive, showy thing that wants to be noticed and congratulated all the time.  As it says above, Romance is a backing singer, not Jared Leto.
Although, quite frankly, if he shows up with tickets for a weekend in Venice, I am prepared to compromise all the principles I have...

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Writerly Dislocations - is writing like a dream state? And I attempt to come to terms with not being Mrs Tony Robinson.

There's a strange thing that happens when I'm writing.  It probably happens to all writers, but since I am not all writers, despite my many and varied experiments with rubber noses and different hats, I don't know.  So maybe some writers who are lovely and kind (the ones that take me aside and pat me gently when I am having one of my attacks of odd theories, or when I run out of chocolate, or when I'm just having a small, sob-laden moment about never becoming the next Mrs Tony Robinson or whatever)..
(can I have a quick chorus of 'It Should Have Been Me' please?), maybe some of them will come along and tell me whether I am the only person who suffers in this way.  Er.  I mean, the way about which I am about to elucidate you, not about the suffering because I'm not married to Tony Robinson way, obviously.  I am prepared to concede that I am one of a very small number of people who suffer in that particular way.  In fact, on a Venn Diagram of People, I fear I may be the only one in the middle of those overlapping circles, in that subset of People Who Are Upset that They Are Not Married To Tony Robinson.  I suspect that the contents of the other circles have actually crawled over to the far edges in order not to be associated with the subset that is me.
In fact, they all escaped.
But!  I did not come here to bemoan the fact that I may never get the chance to run my fingers through the hair of the delightful Tony! No! I came here to find out if other writers experience the same feelings that I do - and it's all right, I do not expect you to feel the same way about my beloved Tony.  In fact, if you did, I should have to hunt you down because I fear competition in the same way as I fear finding out that that the funny noise the hoover just made has coincided with the disappearance of a beloved, yet small, pet.

Writing.  It's a bit like being in a dream state.  When I am on a writing roll (not ham and cheese, although I do quite like smoked salmon and cucumber) I am completely immersed in the place and people I am writing about, and when I emerge, and for a while afterwards, I sometimes feel as though I am in the 'wrong place'.  You know like when you wake up after a particularly enthralling dream and you can't quite remember what is real?  As if, when I am writing, I actually am those people, in that place, and when I'm not I have to readjust to being me.  And still not married to Tony Robinson.  Huh.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

WARNING - THIS BLOG MAY CONTAIN TRACES OF ADVICE...and any sauciness is, quite simply, only in your head.

Yesterday I spent a very pleasant and happy day talking about the intricacies of writing with Lynda Stacey.  Well, we did other stuff too, there was playing with my puppy and the kittens (it doesn't matter how innocently I write that, I can hear you all guffawing and snorting and going 'yeah, right, puppy, eh?  Kittens...' snort snort' because I know how your filthy minds work.  I am writing in clean and you are reading in dirty and you should be ashamed of yourselves, quite frankly), generally chatting, eating a lovely lunch and - well, if you ever need to get your house really clean, can I recommend inviting a visit from someone whose own house is beautiful and immaculate, because I can guarantee that nothing else will have you down the back of those bath taps with a toothbrush quite so effectively.

So.  Now, here I sit (in my sparkling clean house, but that's temporarily irrelevant) trying to think of something about which to blog, and it came to me suddenly that I could use something I was talking about only yesterday...

Writing.  All right, you don't need to gasp like that.  I just wanted to share a few words of wisdomish that I have discovered through my many years of ...well, mostly eating chocolate and playing with kittens if I'm honest, but I do write the odd thing, now and again.  Sometimes very odd.

Characters.  We spent a lot of yesterday talking about characters, and how to make them real.  There's a huge temptation, especially if you are just starting out on your writing journey (take sandwiches and a clean hanky, you will need them, it's quite a long way and when you get there the shops will be shut) to make characters who are, what I call, 'puppets to the story'.  Characters who do or say or behave in certain ways, not because that's what a real person would do in the circumstances in which the characters aforementioned find themselves, but because that's the way the story makes them behave. It happens on TV too - how often have you shouted at someone going into the building which contains a murderer/ghostly creature AND NOT TURNING ON THE BLOODY LIGHTS!!! Come on, people, it's hard to hide from someone when you're gloriously lit by every 100 watt bulb in the room!  Let's face it, in real life you'd be groping around the walls and flicking every switch you came to!
Yes, Mulder and Scully, I am looking at YOU

So, in short, don't make your characters do what you say.  Write what they say. Let them be real.  No reader wants to see your strings.  Or your pants, as I can testify. 'Real' characters can lead your readers through the story, because they can relate to them. 'Puppet' characters can only react to the events of your story, and all the time the reader is aware that, behind them, is an author, jerking away.

If you are going to giggle like that, then I despair of you, quite honestly, and you can go and stand outside until you calm down...