Sunday, 17 January 2010

On Writing...

I've been incredibly frustrated this week trying to finish an article. Circumstances (and people)have conspired against me, so on Saturday I set off to an anonymous cafe where I could drink tea, and be undisturbed enough to finish my project.

The food queue was long and impatient. While we waited for chips to be fried, and bacon to be grilled, I got chatting to the bloke behind me. Just a normal, trivial exchange of pleasantries, nothing exciting at all (although he was quite cute, and I really wanted to run my fingers through his gently curling hair). But I digress. As I waited to pay for my bacon roll and mug of hot, builder's tea, words and sentences started streaming through my poor brain.

I rushed to a free table (slopping my drink en route) and pulled out a notebook. My bacon grew cold and greasy while I frantically wrote a short story based on our Brief Encounter. Words, and phrases flew from somewhere onto the paper, until the staff started throwing me funny looks. I left the cafe with the first draft of a story, and a still-unfinished article.

I've spent a good three days this week trying to write this damned feature, unable to find the hook, the right tone, or a decent angle for the piece. And that's how the process seems to be. For me, at least. Some days I have thirty-seven words to show for my efforts, and others are spent trying to prevent the sparks that are flying from my pencil burning holes in my clothes.

It's a bizarre way to spend your life.

I don't believe that any writer chooses to write (it's far too much like hard work); I think that writing chooses you. I may sound batty (I am), or pretentious (I'm not), but I write because I have to. Simple as.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Multiple choices...

Sorted! I've grasped the spiky horns of my dilemma, wrestled and tugged them into a manageable shape that now point the way forward. I am now, simultaneously, writing two books. Well, two versions of the same tale. Both with a modified plot, but one with farcical humour and the troublesome fairy, and one without. Voila! When an agent eventually reads one and cries, "Loved the story, dahling, but where's the magic/introspection/plot?" I can whip out the other version with a flourish and a grin, "Here's one I prepared earlier!"

And writing in first person is fun; 'I' can be thorough, thoughtful and threatened in one version, and a flirty, fanciful fairy-lover in the other!

I may even publish one under a pseudonym, and then sue myself for pinching my idea. Think of the publicity, the money I'd make...

Is this what a multiple-personality disorder feels like?

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

What's a girl to do?

My course has finished and I now have my MA - I've got a letter to prove it so they can't change their minds and demand it back! It's been like learning to drive: the seminars, workshops and assignments were the driving lessons, the final project was the 'test' and now we've all been cast out unsupervised onto the motorway where the real learning takes place. And by God, it's scary out there...

Suddenly there's nobody directing you through a series of one-way streets, or guiding you the right way around a roundabout.

Or preventing you from crashing into an oil tanker...

I'm definitely in a curious position right now. My part-novel has provoked conflicting opinions from the professionals involved in the marking process: The Fairy has to go versus The Fairy has to stay/ The plot's all wrong vs The plot's right for the genre/ The pace is too fast vs The pace has to be fast in this kind of novel.

I know these are only opinions, not holy commandments etched in stone, but one way may lead to publication, the other will leave egg on my face.

I guess the answer lies in trusting your own judgement. Using everything you have learnt from the course and everything you know about the genre. God knows you've read enough similar books. But where does this self-confidence come from? Can I find some on ebay?

Now, I know certain truths about the world: bullies will get their comeuppance - it's the law of the universe; too much chocolate makes your clothes shrink; only men with deep-rooted psychological problems find me attractive, but, strangely enough, none of these concepts are useful in this situation. What's a girl to do?

On a more positive note, Mr Bubonic Plague hasn't been back to torment me!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Knee-lenth boots from now on...

Okay, I have two addictive and unhealthy habits: one is smoking and the other is watching X Factor. I've had the therapy, tried the willpower method and even used the patches (one on the arm for nicotine and two over my eyes to block out the telly), but to no avail. I remain addicted.

I have a designated smoking-room - well, it's more of a front doorstep really, and I quite often share my space with the local wildlife. There's been a badger grubbing around for food, several snuffling hedgehogs and most of the neighbourhood cats. Once, I was so engrossed in the book I was reading, I almost stubbed out my fag on a coppery slow worm coiled lazily at my feet. And I thought that incident was terrifying...

This morning I was out there with the usual book in one hand and a ciggy in the other enjoying the winter sunshine and the waft or newly hacked grass when out of the corner of my eye, I spied movement. Not flippy enough to be reptile, but too small to be badger cat or goat. There, in my front garden, looking me squarely in the eye, was a rat. Yep! A rat! It wasn't even an alpha-rodent but a scrawny, scabby furred, chewed ears kind of creature. I leaped to my feet, hopped around a bit and let out a banshee wail whilst flicking my book ineffectually towards the beastly bastard.

It stopped, bared its sharp ratty teeth in a gesture of contempt and slowly turned before ambling its way down the path. I, meanwhile, was still doing the hot-coal shuffle on the doorstep and hyperventilating so much that even the black spots before my eyes had gone all fuzzy.

Oh, God, oh God, not again! I can't bear it!

Heart beating wildly, I stumbled inside gasping for breath. Suddenly the sound of click, click, click surrounded me - the sound of claws clicking on the laminate floor! On God! It's inside! My poor heart ricocheted around my rib-cage as I turned, wide-eyed, to face my tormentor...

That bloody dog!

Honestly, how much more stress can one person stand? Why can't those damned rodents keep to the drains where I don't have to see them? I'll be jumping every time I see a spider, or hear a scraping noise. They'll be carrying me, stiff-limbed, to the looney bin, because abject terror will have me flat-packed against the wall, glassy eyed and drooling mouth frozen in a Munch scream.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

There's a rat in the kichen...

You all know about the noisy neighbours, right? The ones who stay up all night partying, drinking, singing Girls A-bleeding-loud songs, and then try to kill each other. I've had to put up with this for nearly three years', and before you think I'm just an old Moaning Myrtle, they do this most nights.

Well, about two months' ago, the miserable gits started stripping wallpaper at 3am. Scrape, scrape, scrape against the wall behind your bed isn't much fun. This carried on for a week, until the proverbial penny dropped; they weren't scraping - there were mice in the adjoining wall. I rang Environmental Health the next day. You know you're getting old, when the mouse-catcher looks he should still be in school.

The problem turned out to be RATS in the wall schnucking in from an outside drain. Yes, RATS. Sewage-stained, filthy, dirty, bubonic plague carrying RATS.

"Oh Christ," I shrieked. " Please tell me they won't get into the house!"

"Well, that's where they're heading, love; they're looking for a food source."

He obviously hadn't caught on to the diplomacy part of the job...

Three bags of raspberry-coloured bait down the man-hole cover, and Bob's your uncle. Not.

Three weeks, and seven bags of bait, later, they'd eaten through the cavity wall, up the cavity wall, and along the floorboards. They were planning on dropping, SAS style into the kitchen on ropes, filling up a goodie bag and scampering back under the floorboards.

Not on my watch.

For two nights, I chased them around the house, banging the downstair's ceilings to scare the nasty little buggers back to the drain.

On day three, I was exhausted, irritable and neurotic; these had to be Super-rats - the size of small hippos, at least.

By sobbing and wailing into the phone, I managed to get a workman in the same day to cement up the drain pipe (luckily, not the one collected to the loo...). For the first time in weeks, I relaxed; the rodents were well and truly cemented out.

Until the rat-man came later the same day, sighed in frustration, and pointed out that I may now have trapped them inside the house.

Double eek!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

And so I face the final curtain...

Oh, this bad; I'm thoroughly ashamed. I can't believe all this time and decent bloggable material has passed...

Well, on a quick update: eldest son is just a couple of weeks away from taking his driving test - eek! He spent last weekend at some music festival in Knebworth. He said it was awesome, but I endured a slightly less enjoyable weekend; there was just so much to worry about - mosh pits, circle things, drugs, knives, underage sex, alcohol poisoning and whether anyone had vomited in my tent. It was such a relief to collect him from the train station on Monday night and know that the tent had made it back in one piece.

I'm in the last stage of the MA - trying to write the start of a novel. It's been hell. I think I can safely say I've been cured, once and for all, of the writing bug; it's so much more fun to read a book than it is to try and write one, and faster too. I don't lose the will to live when I'm reading, either.

Okay, the next post has to be about the rats - that's a really amusing story. Not.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Shame on me...

I can't quite believe it's been nearly TWO months since I wrote a post - shameful!! And so much to tell! There's the neighbours, the assessments, the sewage-stained rodents, the continuing illnesses and the mounting hysteria as I prepare for the final MA project...

But right now, I need to catch up on some well-deserved sleep...zzz...