Me and Mr G…and Voodoo Dolls

25 Apr

In the past year I have been in the privileged position to work closely with a writer whilst he wrote his entire first novel.

From the first chapter, i provided feedback on plot, characterisation, language, continuity…proofreading. Not your typical way of doing things, but that is what we did. Last month, I received the final installment of this first draft. Much to both mine and the writers surprise, the word count exceeded 137,000 words.

Why am I telling you this?

Well obviously once this novel has gone through the full editing procedure it will be the bestseller of our time. It will rival the sales of Harry Potter, its series will be found in libraries in hundreds of years, hailed as a classic.

No not quite (although it is quite brilliant). This journey I have been part of has taught me a lot about dedication, commitment, and being in the real world as a writer.

You see, me and my writer friend, lets call him Mr G (ha) started our ‘writing careers’ at the same time. Where as I have embraced blogging and networking, Mr G has continued with his commitments away from writing, held down a part time job, and has just been accepted on a post graduate degree programme in creative writing.  Mr G does not have a family to care for, the need to work full time, the desire to have a career today as the years are passing by quickly. Other than wanting to write, mine and Mr G’s lives are very different.

So, what I did find surprising then, was that Mr G, with what to me seems like an eternity of time, did not write to a daily word count, did not measure his success on how much was achieved in an overall time scale, did not, well did not have any rules.

Mr G would take a couple of months off, then he would churn out multiple chapters on a daily basis. Mr G in September told me that he had to continue, he had got so far after all, and then didn’t produce anything until January. Mr G did not beat himself up.

Whats my point? Well, I have been pondering this whole blogging malarkey. I know, FACT, I don’t write like I should as I write my blog post when I get time. I also know, FACT, it is blogging that spurs me on. remember No Way Out, well nothing kills me more than knowing I haven’t written the next installment, eventually the guilt becomes such that I find some drive.

This is not a post of oh I have no motivation, oh I will write soon, whats the world coming to, not at all. This post is about embracing the diversity of our own approaches, to do things our way. We shouldn’t feel guilty for not writing. We should feel smug if we manage to churn out 5,000 words in one day. We should just feel how we feel, and not allow the pressures of the blogging community/twitter etc to make us feel we are doing something wrong. we should be pleased for fellow writers when they achieve something, not secretly stab pins in the makeshift dolls we have sat on the shelf above our computers….oh just me?!

(If you were the blogger last week chatting about writing goals give me the heads up – I wanted to include a link but can’t find you!!!)

Creative Chaos Award – I Got That!

24 Apr

Much to my surprise and delight on Tuesday the 17th, I was honoured to receive this (first ever in over two years blogging) award from Virginia of Poeta Officium. Scream! Eek! Huge thanks! Okay, deep breath and apologies ha!

 

Now, as always, there are rules to follow when you are given an award so here goes…..

THE RULES

1. Thank the person who gave you the award and provide a link to their blog.

The amazing Virginia – thanks!

2. Answer the 3 questions/scenarios provided

3. Pass the award on to at least 6 blogs who have recently started following you and let them know

OK. Here is my take on the questions and scenarios.

NAME 3 STRANGE THINGS YOU DO:

  • Blow dry and straighten my hair and then tie in a scruffy knot just to clean the house
  • Turn my pillow throughout the night to make it ‘fresh’
  • Eat my sandwiches REALLY quick at work so nobody can smell the salami filling (maybe the fact I have salami every day in my sandwiches should be the point here)

YOU MUST TELL WHY YOU LOOK AT THE GLASS HALF FULL AND ASK, ‘WHAT? NO COFFEE?’

  • No instant? Oh well, trip out for a large frothy cappuccino

3. YOUR CAR BREAKS DOWN IN A DESOLATE PLACE. NO PHONE SERVICE, NO NEARBY SHOPS AND THE NEAREST TOWN IS 150 MILES AWAY. YOU ONLY HAVE A CHOCOLATE BAR FOR FOOD. WHAT DO YOU DO?

  • Sit staring ahead, panicking about the worst things that can happen. If it is cold, I will freeze to death, if hot, I will become dehydrated. I check my phone. I try my phone. I panic. I cry. I check my phone, I try my phone. I sit staring ahead. Unknowingly the chocolate bar has been eaten. I get out the car and start walking. eventually I arrive in the nearest town with three novels planned and bursting to be written, only to later forget them as I recall my long walk story to friends.

MY MOST RECENT FOLLOWERS

Jan Bergman

Wild Night In

Nick Rolynd

Words Form Windows

Performing The Archive

Maggie May

So yeah, I am like a little kid in a sweet shop, and yeah I get the most recent followers thing, but hey, its my award and I will make it into whatever I want! Catch you all soon!

No Way Out – the Second Installment

13 Apr

Unedited first draft. Please offer your thoughts within the comments. First installment can be found here. remember this is your project as much as mine so we are looking for a) further plot developments b) inaccuracies c) HONEST opinions and anything else you want to add. If you haven’t been involved to date, check out the page above with a full list of related posts.

‘Take a seat,’ Charles commanded as Steve shut the door  behind him, before even reaching the round back chair, deliberately chosen to be uncomfortable and uninviting Charles said ‘I won’t dance with my words. We have to let you go.’

Steve finally sat, stunned. Surely Charles was having him on.

‘You may as well as clear your desk immediately. Your contacts have been transferred already. If you speak with Sharon, she has all your documents.’ Charles turned to his computer and began typing.

Steve tried to find his voice, ‘But..’

Sighing Charles turned to Steve. ‘Don’t make this harder than it has to be. Your sales record does not make you invincible. Our staff have to give 100%. Shut the door on your way out.’

Steve did just that. As he walked across the sales floor, he was reminded of the scene from Jerry Maguire. Tempted to ask who was him? But he already knew the answer. It was obvious. All of these people, the ones that had shared his champagne, frequented lunches with, they all smirked and turned away. It was laughable. He didn’t feel anything except pity. Pity for these people that worked for a company that didn’t care, and in turn had become soulless themselves. He knew their greed. He knew nothing mattered accept that next sale. He also knew they wouldn’t get it. There had only ever been one reason for his success, one reason why he stood above the rest, quite simply, he gave a damn.

Steve grabbed his jacket and keys, and left the office. No hugs, no farewells, and no regrets. They had done him a favour. It was obvious he and Poppy were entering a new stage, and what better way than to enter it without the trash of the past.

***

Steve ran down the stairs scooping Michael from the floor he ran from the house. Mindful of how sensitive Michael is, Steve bundled him into the car, with promises of a surprise.

‘What surprise Daddy?’ Michael beamed, the features on his face highlighted by a rosy glow.

Thinking on his feet Steve responded cheerily, ‘How does a play in the park followed by the nugget shop or pizza sound?’ Michael cheered and began to chat incessantly. Steve, as hard as he tried he could not listen, the images of the past few minutes crashed like a cannon ball around his head.

Pausing in traffic, Michael’s voice broke his thoughts ‘…and what about the shower Daddy? Didi the man fix it?’

‘What?’

‘Mummy said the man was fixing the shower. Did he do it?’

Steve swerved the car into the parking space. Snapping his seat belt he turned to Michael’ we’re here. Last one to the swings is a monkey.’

Sitting on the bench, Steve watched Michael play with two other children. He thanked his lucky stars that this was the case. He hated to admit it, but right now was not the time for him to be with Michael. He didn’t have the capacity to be a caring loving father, broken husband and recent redundee all at once. His luck couldn’t get any worse. But this wasnt his fault. He didn’t do all of this. It was her. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t rationale her behaviour.

It had taken him what now felt like a lifetime to realise what was happening before his eyes. Thinking rationally, he was sure it was barely seconds, but he wouldn’t stand in court and swear on it. The ruffled bed, the strewn clothes, the stranger with his wife before his eyes. When she turned, and realised he was stood there, on the threshold of the bedroom, she had smiled, a slow smirk of a smile, it hit him hard, it was the second time that day he had seen that look on the lips of those he was meant to be connected to.

The words had stuck in his throat, the emotions strangling him. He had connected with her eyes. They wasn’t cold, or filled with hate. No love no compassion, just empty. Needless to say he had never seen such blankness in her, or anyone else for that matter. It was like the life was gone.

Maybe that was it. Maybe the loss of their child had taken everything from her. Maybe there was more to her grief than what had been on show. It was often said that you hide the most from those you hold most dear. But, the smirk, the very deliberate smirk, she knew what she was doing. The whys where’s and how longs were questioned to be answered later. For now, all he knew for certain was that she felt no remorse for what she had done.

****

Poppy sat on the bed, wrapped in her dressing gown, knees hugged to her chest. The silence in the house was just that, silent. Outside the clouds moved across, the dusk beginning to settle around the house like the dusk did every night. There was no comfort in the darkening skies, just as there was nothing to hear in the silence. The world was, at least within the house, just nothing.

Knowing steve would return soon, had to return soon, did not drive Poppy to move. The voice that still gave a damn told her she should at least get dressed , remake the bed, but the naughty voice, the one that she had indulged for too many months now told her to forget it, what was done is done, and finally so.

She could already predict the conversations that were soon to take place, both to her face and behind her back. It will be the shock of what she had done, how her and steve had always been such a strong couple, think of Michael.

Well it was Michael she was thinking of. If it hadn’t happened now, it would have happened later. If left they would have argued and Michael would have witnessed that. He would have heard the awful words, the terrible accusations, felt the tension. As for those that would argue she should have tried, well she had. But it was quite simple, if you didn’t love someone, then no matter how hard you try, you cannot wave tinkerbells magic wand and be in wonderland. There may be such a thing as happily ever after, but it would never be with her and Steve. Cheating may have been cowardice, but it will certainly provide the opportunity to escape.

Looking around the room, Poppy critiqued it. From the cream and brown walls, to the thick pile carpet, to the intricately wove bedding, Poppy knew she was surrounded by luxury that very few could afford. It was a risk she had taken, but she knew these things, as much as she adored them, were not enough.  She remembered, she had practically begged Steve for the hardwood shutters at the window, the thought of not having them , not having the perfect home had just been too much for her to handle. How shallow she had been. And yet, she had been online, she had spoken to women in unhappy marriages, and all they wanted was just what she had, just what she was leaving. She didn’t think any less of these women, she couldn’t even begin to imagine what life would have been like had her and Steve been hard up, but what she did know, even without money worries, steve was not enough.

Standing, Poppy walked across the room, and swung open her wardrobe door. Stepping inside she saw the plaque that still made her laugh out loud, ‘All men are idiots. Better to be married to an idiot with money than without’. This time however, she wasn’t laughing from the memory of the purchase, or at the saying men are idiots but just the irony that she was married to an idiot with money.

Needless to say Steve hated the plaque, he wasn’t too fond of the ‘what if the hokey cokey is all its all about?’ plaq either, but they were her guilty pleasure, and they could be found in her wardrobe only. Her little sanctuary. As much as she loved her house, and frankly, who couldn’t, sometimes she wished she could be brave enough to throw some colour or quirkiness in. Conformity was where she had been at since being with Steve, but today was the first day that was going to change all that. She could feel it, like a bubble of recklessness fizzing around her insides, it escaped in the form of laughter, freedom, her mouth salivated, her eyes glinted with mischievousness, this was it, the time had finally come, feeling breathless Poppy danced to the music in her head, pausing to chew her lip, suppressing the scream of excitement.

Just Because I Write It, Doesn’t Mean I Do It

11 Apr

Yesterdays post was about learning about what you don’t know, to write what you do know. Today we are talking about the fear of telling what you dont actually know, but your reader believing this is your experience.

(That was quite a mouthful for an opening paragraph, apologies for that).

This is, I believe, is a rookie writers fear. I say that knowing full well I still awake in the night panicking that I have written something that may make others think differently of me.

Who cares you say, what does it matter? You are a writer, your job is to tell a story, it can’t always be ‘truly you’. But you must write what you know, and you must give a certain amount of your self to each  story – at least one of the characters must be you.

I think my head may explode with all the contradictory information out there.

Just because you write about an axe murderer, doesn’t mean you are slightly unhinged and could lose it and carry out your protagonists actions in the middle of the night – just because you think it, doesn’t mean you would do it.

Just because you write about airhead blonde girls who have a vocabulary of five words doesn’t mean that is a reflection of you.

Just because you write about a world where everyone has three hands and the sun is blue, doesn’t mean you have been there.

Just because you write about the death of a child and it makes your readers cry doesn’t show you are sharing a secret that no one knows about.

All of this, and everything else you can think of simply says one thing, you are a writer, and to be honest, if your reader believes you lived it, it means you are one of the best.

You can’t always write about what you know, as per yesterdays post, you can’t always tap into someone elses memory, but what you can use is your imagination, mixed in with a bit of empathy.

In my mind, all this leaves is our own demons, our own self doubt I guess. Can it be likened to our multiple personalities? You know, our face for friends, and our face for family? Is it the same demon that says I can’t post that on Facebook, I don’t want (INSERT NAME) seeing that. At what point, as a writer, do you have to accept by writing we are giving away more than the average joe. As a writer you aren’t tight-lipped, you are always talking, every time someone reads your work, your voice is speaking.

Have I lost you?

The point is, all of that contradictory information is correct. Writing is not like being a hairdresser. At best a hair cut lasts 4-6 weeks, a story lasts forever. You may have a good ability with a pair of scissors, but when writing you use your life, your experience, your memories, your observations, your heart your soul (add more cheese here). Every story is a bit of you, just not the whole you.

Writing What You Know?

10 Apr

Write what you know – Natasha McNeely spoke about this on her blog titled ‘Life Experiences: Why Not add Them To Your Book’.

Read the post, Natasha is very clever and has an idea to get you used to writing about, well, what you know.

I love writing about what I know, and for many writers that I have spoken with, we have in common a love for music for bringing past feelings back to the fore of our minds, to really encapsulate those emotions.

What if though, we need to write about something we have not experienced? How do we create those emotions, how can we make that scene not just real in our minds, but that it translates to the page also.

Obviously the first thing we need to do is research the particular topic. An example would be I was writing a YA novel with an autistic protagonist, not only did I need to have an understanding of autism, but for this piece, it involved a young offenders institute. I needed to know how such a place would affect a teenage boy with autism, reactions for both the protagonist, and those around him.

I have two full notebooks filled with information on this subject. It wasn’t enough though, my writing was limited as it was imagining an emotion, I couldn’t feel it, I couldn’t see it, it was just…bland.

This can be overcome by following step two, speaking with someone who has been in a similar situation.

There was one problem however, I neither knew a teenage boy with autism, or even just a teenage boy who had been in a young offenders. This particular piece has been put to one side. I may pick it up again one day, I like to think when I am a well-known author and people believe in my writing skills enough for me to ask them about such personal issues. as it stands, I’m just Ellie, wannabe writer but probably just a dreamer.

That doesn’t mean to say I havent employed these techniques elsewhere. Now I will share with you how you can steal those memories, those emotions, and make them your own.

I was writing a novel (unfinished, sigh) that involved a chase across Europe. I have visited many places, but to make the novel more authentic, I needed more experiences – I couldn’t afford to travel around for a while, so hijacking memories was my only option.

Fortunately for me, some friends of mine had found themselves stranded in Europe at the time of the Icelandic volcanic ash. On a mission to get home, they flew short flights, and took train journeys, spending each night in a different hostel.

Sitting down, I asked them to walk me through each hostel. From standing outside right through to the small little details such as the cracks on the wall. I wanted to know about staff, other visitors, the little tidbits of conversation overheard when walking by. It sounds simple, but this task can be somewhat tiresome. Some people just can’t get around to the idea of sharing every detail, thinking that, ‘it was tatty but friendly, oh and the walls were orange’ is enough information for you, but eventually they give you so much you couldn’t possibly include it all. Once you have gone through this process once, they are always eager to share, how many people truly want to hear another’s experience down to the finest detail? They get as much from this process as you, the writer does.

One word of warning, if they offer to show you photos, do NOT accept. It will completely ruin the process, that place you have just imagined will be stripped back to reality and the haze will be gone. Keep the haze, the haze is good.

5 Apr

No Way Out – The First Installment

20 Mar

After several false starts, I finally have the first installment of ‘No Way Out’ that I would like to share with you.

It has not received even what I class as a first edit, as I am not ready, nor have I written enough to begin that process. So take it as you will. I shall continue to write in this format and share it with you. remember this is OUR project so if you can see me heading in a direction that you don’t feel works, or perhaps my characters are unbelievable, please shout it out.

The tears poured down her face. The pain, or was it just discomfort was more than she had ever dared imagine possible. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Surely the guilt of her actions was enough.

The nurses were kind enough. If she allowed herself to think it, she may even say caring, but how they couldn’t be judging her right now she didn’t know.

As she was wheeled into the next room, she kept her eyes closed. Slowly they helped her into a wheelchair, and then pushed her into a lift upstairs to a room to recover. They all spoke to one another, jovially talking about their plans for the weekend whilst she sat there praying for a distraction. The distraction never came, but who would be listening to her right now. They had said when she came in she was lucky, normally the bible bashers were hanging around outside, but maybe, just maybe, that would have made her feel better. At least it would have been a sign that this just wasn’t OK.

***

Steve busied himself in the kitchen. He could hear CBeebies coming from the lounge; the jolly jingles a contrast to his and his wife’s feelings of despair. Gently stirring the tomato soup Steve berated himself. Just the day before, he and his boss had shared a bottle of champagne in the office. Once again Steve had made salesman of the year for the UK, and was shortly to hear if he had indeed been awarded the coveted international prize. Without mortgage, debt, but a beautiful wife, a three year old son and a recently confirmed pregnancy, Steve felt as if the world had turned on its axis.

The celebrations had come too early, just seeing Poppy’s face as he had walked in the door the evening before had confirmed this error.

Pouring the hot soup into a bowl, Steve felt a movement behind him.

‘Daddy’ questioned the small voice of his son, ‘why is mummy crying?’

Crouching down low, Steve pulled Michael into him, ‘Mummy is just poorly, she just needs lots of hugs to make her better’

Seeming to accept this answer, Michael pulled away and went back through to the lounge. Steve followed with the soup, hoping that these little gestures would help make everything OK.

***

‘Will you just go back to work?’ Poppy hissed at Steve, the frustration of the past five week’s nonstop companionship smacking the air

Steve turned to Poppy, confusion on his face, ‘But I thought you needed me here?’

‘Just go.’

Poppy was seething. Unable to return to work herself until Steve stopped fussing, Poppy felt as if the world had been torn away from her. Isolated, lonely yet always in company, Poppy just craved normality. Actually, she just craved her time to be the person she had always been, the person that was only ever allowed to escape at work. The person that since meeting Steve had been locked away. It wasn’t his fault, well, he never asked to change, but when she did, and she lived her life as he did his, he never commented, he never questioned why, he just allowed it to happen. Life was all about what he did and what he wanted. There wasn’t room at home for Poppy.

***

The message on the email read,

My office. Ten mins.

Steve looked through his own office window, across the sea of administrative staff and into Charles’ office. Catching his eye, Steve nodded at Charles.

Steve felt reassured. In the past Steve had fretted over this type of email, back in the day before the awards. Since then, Steve understood Charles had one way of communicating, good or bad he was never anything other than brief. There was no room for additional use of words.

Starred on his electronic calendar was an event one week ahead. It marked Steves ten years service with the company. Within the first two years, Steve had been awarded regional sales rep, by year five; he had won international sales rep. His figures stacked up. The only thing that stood between Steve and his promotion was Charles. His time would come, five years he reckoned on. Sure, he had been offered various positions, with worldwide locations. The type of position most could only ever dream of, but he had chosen to decline. His wife, the sweet, kind yet viciously ambitious Poppy had received her own promotion and there was no chance that Steve would jeopardise her career. They were a partnership and that meant both at home and work they were equal.