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Sunday, 24 January 2016

What it REALLY feels like to write a book...

Ooh, got an idea...well, more of an outline.  Need characters.  Got characters, now need actual story... Okay, first line will have to do.

Spend hours wondering what the cover will look like, reading Facebook and posting 'STARTED NEW NOVEL!!!' on Twitter.

Write first chapter.  Realise characters don't work. Delete all of first chapter except two lines which I really like, sit on Facebook, go back and delete those two lines as well.
writing a novel largely looks like this. With added sweat (not pictured)

Talk to anyone who will listen about idea for new book.  Whilst aimlessly telling perfect stranger the outline, hit accidentally upon perfect character and new storyline. Dash off in middle of conversation to the relief of stranger.  Sit and write like a lunatic for three weeks.  Get three quarters of the book done.

Suffer crippling performance anxiety and sit around the house in grubby pyjamas eating Nutella out of the jar and complaining that my art is being stifled by the need to work/wash/think of actual storyline. Moan about this to anyone who will listen, including perfect stranger who, I now begin to suspect, might have been original perfect stranger because of the way they back off at my approach.  Sit on Facebook.  Moan on Facebook.  Decide to give up writing and become a car park attendant.
Honestly preferable

Wake up in middle of night seized with inspiration.  Forget to write down inspiration.  Wake up in morning seized with desperation. Fill in job application for car park attendant - in middle of form decide car park attendant will make perfect antagonist in DIFFERENT novel.  Write that down (lesson learned last night).  Lose piece of paper on which it is written.

Pick up unfinished novel and re read.  Decide all is not lost.  Write two more pages, then go back to Facebook for more despair.  Drink much tea and go for long walks, trying to look moody and artistic but actually looking muddy and odd because have two different wellingtons on.  Friends give pep talks and gin.

Eventually, writing at the rate of one page per day, limp to the end of book.  Decide on title. Hate title but have run out of brain to think of anything else.  Send dodgy book plus terrible title to beta reader.  Beta reader loves book and title.  Fill in application for car park attendant again.  Drink more gin, eat more Nutella, decide to write completely different book, possibly the one with car park attendant main character.  Spend ages imagining cover for this book.

Eventually pull first book out of file.  Read first line. Laugh at first line. Go back and read whole book.  Decide is not as terrible as first thought, and begin editing process.

Finish editing, submit book, start writing about car park attendant.  Be mildly surprised when book comes out, having forgotten entire content.

Rinse, as they say, and repeat...

Sunday, 17 January 2016

All fun and games until someone loses an i...

I used to play Scrabble a lot.  Serious, competitive Scrabble, with words like Ky and Hackamore, which always seemed to get on triple word scores and drive everyone mad.  As I've been producing more novels though, playing Scrabble seemed a bit like a busman's holiday.  I bet builders don't spend their downtime making Lego villages either.

Our Scrabble set, while I was growing up, used to belong to my parents.  I mean, technically it still did, they were still there and they played, or rather, my father played with my brother and I and my mother hovered in the background (not literally, she is as bound by the laws of physics as the rest of the family) and 'advised'.  We also inherited their 'Game of Life' which is nothing like the new Game of Life; in this one you had to collect diamonds or hearts or...other things which I can't remember. And you had to fill in bits of paper with how many of each thing you wanted...look, anyway, we liked it and it would keep us busy for hours on a boring Sunday afternoon.  Remember those?  When the shops were all closed and there was no television?  And you'd read all your library books and had to spend the morning cleaning your bedroom?

Forget endless repeats of Big Bang Theory, in the old days, it was this on a Sunday afternoon, or pumice the bath.

Secretly I wanted 'Mousetrap'.  A friend had the game and I used to spend hours round at her house trying to persuade her to set up the board so we could knock the little man into the trap.  But there were, apparently, 'too many pieces' and I was never allowed a set.  I repeat, Too. Many Pieces...whilst we were encouraged to play Scrabble and do jigsaws, to the extent that I could finally complete one of our puzzles (I think it may have been the Queen Mary in 500 pieces. Or maybe it was just Queen Mary, I am so old that she was practically current) in about five minutes, with one eye closed.

So my vocabulary was trained up on Scrabble games, played round the dining room table, with my father and my two-years-younger brother (whose star turn came during a game of I-Spy..'something beginning with C' was seagull.  So you can imagine him playing Scrabble), where I learned the art of spelling, increased my range of words, and also learned the value of a well-placed two letter word. Plus, having a horsey turn of mind, I had a whole range of words at my fingertips..crupper, surcingle, pelham...
In case you were wondering. Or were mid-way through a particularly competitive Scrabble game
So, if you want a writing tip... play more Scrabble! It's great for picking up new words, and for filling in the time until you have to go upstairs for a bath and to do your homework...

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Having a hygge's not rude, honestly. Although, the way I do it, it might be.

I'd heard about 'hygge' a few times, (it's pronounced 'hooga', but more like 'Huga' than 'Who-ga' and there was even a programme on the radio about it, just before Christmas, which just reinforced what I'd thought up until then.

...I am secretly Danish.

'Hygge' is a Danish concept, which translates (very roughly) to 'cosiness'.  Only, of course, if you're Danish you have the added inbuilt advantages of long dark nights and snow, which we all know add to the general 'cosy' factor.  But, what with all the rain and the general 'blurghness' of the weather lately, I have been trying to indulge myself in hygge, and I have found it to be a most satisfying thing.  It's not just 'being' cosy, near as I can understand, it's more about 'experiencing' the cosy.  You know that lovely moment when you snuggle down into a warm bed on a cold night and listen to the wind howling around and think 'I don't have to get up in the morning'?  I think that is hygge.
Two of my dogs, getting the concept.

So, for the unititiated into the whole 'cosy/hygge' thing, here is a small list of things I have found necessary to fully immerse myself into the experience:

Onesie - or other garment unsuitable for actually wearing outside either for reasons of practicality (ie, totally made of fleece or some other fabric that lets the wind in) or decency (bits of food, general tattiness)

An open fire - if you don't have one, try setting fire to the curtains.  It gives you long enough to toast a marshmallow, if you're quick.

A good book - can I recommend one of mine? Or a magazine or something on the telly.

Hot chocolate - this must include whippy cream, marshmallows and a flake.

Cushions - honestly, how did I spend so much of my life not knowing about cushions? Anyway. Cushions, Loads of them.  If you don't have any, use a cat.  If you don't have a cat, I'm not entirely sure what you're doing reading this blog, but anyway.

Now.  Just lie back and indulge yourself.  Listen to the wind, preferably outside, but, you know... embrace the snuggletudinosity of the moment.

Yes, I know it won't last.  But, we tried...
Picture from Yes, there are whole blogs about hygge! It isn't just me, for a change.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Come on, 2016, do something...just not that.

All right, so I'm a couple of days late, but I'm just surfacing from the rigours of Christmas. In this house, Christmas is a little bit like white-water rafting, only with more turkey, so it takes a while and a lot of deep breathing to shrug off.  And anyway, I hate to judge anything on first acquaintance, so I felt it was only fair to give 2016 a few days to get its feet under it before I started making judgey-pants comments about its weather and general demeanor.

So....  Here we all are, then.  How is everybody?  I know some of you had truly dreadful 2015s, so I'm hoping 2016 will be an's a lot curlier, so that bodes well.  I like curliness in my dates, so I'm really looking forward to 2018, anyway, we're all here now, and there's that to be thankful for.  Anyone for a marshmallow?  Or some cheese?  I seem to have seriously overbought this year, probably due to the transitory nature of my children, who sometimes descend all at once and stay for weeks, rather like locusts, and at other times they sort of hover in and out of view, like ghosts, manefesting only occasionally to lick the middles out of cherry liqueurs and drink the milk. Since this year has been more of a manefesty year, I have a serious backlog of foods that it's going to take me well into March to eat my way through.  Sigh.  I'm sure I'll manage...

Now I feel that 2016 and I are sufficiently well-introduced to one another, I do need to take it round the back and ask a few pointed, Jeremy Paxmanesque questions about what it's doing with itself...I mean, I hate snow and cold weather as much as anyone who can't afford to put the heating on, but, honestly?  On Christmas Day it rained so much that the dogs shrank, (I know that I have 2015 to blame for that) but now we've had three days to get a bit of chilly winter sunshine into the house, and what is it doing?  Well, nothing, is the answer to that. There is a total absence of any weather at all, and, as someone who spends the majority of their time working behind a till and making conversation in thirty-second chunks, a lack of weather is simply not good enough.  What am I meant to say?  How can I chat about the weather when all there is to say is 'I see it got light again this morning'.
It's not thick enough to be fog, it's not raining, there's no sunshine, it's just sort of...hanging there.  And this means I shall be forced to make conversation about my Christmas socks and my Christmas Eve rendition of YMCA (with moves), whilst standing behind the till and fully spotlit.

Hang on...a branch moved!  I'm sure I saw a branch move, and it wasn't because a rook was doing its New Year exercise regime...oh, thank goodness!  I am saved! 

"It's getting a bit breezy out there again, still, good for drying the washing..."