Thursday, August 30, 2007

The second wave

I've done a hatchet job on my prologue and first three chapters to try and make the story a bit more immediate. Tomorrow I'll re-work my synopsis and CV and then it'll be time for a new batch to go out - maybe only four or five this time.

It's the next day and A is "working from home" so I've got some time to sort this all out. He's taking business calls on his mobile whilst pretending NOT to be at the park with the kids.

I just don't know what to do. I re-write and re-write but where do I stop? I can make it different and different again but how do I know what is better than what? And is better really important? For example, I liked how the book began back in April/May, before I got to the end and began the big re-working, but the two people I showed it to said it was too slow and needed more spark to catch the reader's attention, so I speeded things up. I got rid of some of the more lyrical bits and some descriptive passages and added more hints as to the darker things (i.e. sex and violence) that would follow, should the reader persevere. That went down well with my audience but I wasn't happy with it. If Heathcliff had ravaged Cathy within the first three chapters, who would have bothered reading the remainder of Wuthering Heights?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Must try harder

This morning I received the 7th and final rejection of my first batch of submissions. I could have kicked myself when, on flicking through the pages, I discovered that the printer had cut the top off one page completely. I was so sure that I had checked and double-checked every single sheet before posting. Never mind. I must manage somehow to get this forthcoming bank holiday Monday all to myself, so that I can re-write my synopsis thoroughly and draft some more letters.

On the upside, I was reading aloud to the girls in Horbury Library a couple ago and one of the librarians stopped me on the way out to say that she had been listening to us and might I be willing (and available) to read stories to their toddler group on Friday afternoons at 2 o'clock? I said I'd love to. I'm taking up the literacy/storytelling post in T's Thursday morning playgroup from September anyway (also unpaid of course) as another woman is leaving, so at least if I've prepared any materials, props, etc. they will be put to better use. I'm really looking forward to it.
One small irritation is that the Thursday playgroup have saddled me with their accounts too, as part of a 'you win some, you lose some' package I suppose.
I'm perfectly numerate but I've never done 'accounts' before. I'm assuming it's a simple case of money-in vs. money-out but I had terrible trouble with my tax return.
It was my first ever one, because I did some paid technical writing for an environmental consultancy in Otley last year, so I had to register myself as self-employed (even though it was only £500). I knew that 99% of the questions weren't relevant to me but I had no idea where I should be putting zeros and where I should be leaving blank or simply repeating the one and only number I had: 500.
The form was composed of familiar words (attentuation, output, profit, benefit) but this new context somehow rendered them practically unintelligible, even with the help of the explanatory notes. I ended up making full use of the final box (any other information) to explain, in plain english, my financial circumstances - hoping that my form would at some point come into contact with a real human being who might take pity on me. I felt like such an idiot. I could have asked my dad to help, but he would only have made me feel like even more of an idiot. It would be me, aged eleven again, struggling with my maths homework, reduced to tears by his kindly-meant entreaties to 'try doing it HIS way - it doesn't matter what the teacher says as long as the answer is right'. Me, trying to explain that I'd lose the marks set aside for 'working', that if I didn't do it the teacher's way I wouldn't be able to understand the next piece of work that would inevitably build upon what had gone before. Me, finally realising that my dad didn't understand these new ways of doing things and was drowning along with me, in deep denial. I know this because I am occasionally baffled my my daughter's maths homework, which is madness because I did achieve top grades in the end, despite all the tears and trauma.
A x

Monday, August 20, 2007

Summer reading

Quarantine by Jim Crace - some lovely descriptive passages but, on the whole, extremely tedious.

True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey - fascinating, if a bit repetitive. (I had it on audiobook - poorly read - probably didn't help.)

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III - faired better of the 2nd attempt and really enjoyed it, although it wasn't particularly literary.

Towards Zero by Agantha Christie - an interesting one in that it worked backward (or rather, forward) from the planning of the crime towards its execution. Very good.

Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh - heavenly.

Still mightily enjoying Borges' Ficciones, albeit in small doses.

A x


I hate this inactivity. My fingers have begun to feel clumsy on these keys. Up until now I've always enjoyed the forced break from writing that came with the school holidays (I can't write in the evenings after a full day with the kids - my brain just doesn't work that way). Before I've used the time for 'spring' cleaning, decorating, catching up with my children, painting, maybe writing the odd short story or poem as the mood took me but this time it's different. Everywhere I look there are ideas for stories. I'm daily scribbling on scraps of paper and shoving them in to my desk drawer for later, but they never mean as much to me when I go back to them - the impetus is gone. You could say that perhaps they weren't good ideas in the first place, but I think some must have been.
For the first time I can't switch off: I feel this creative impulse (for want of a better phrase) simmering constantly, just beneath the surface. For three years now I have enjoyed being a full-time mum but now there are times when I feel that the girls are in my way and I find myself short of temper - then I apologise and feel guilty for the rest of the day.
I never wanted to go back to work but now I'm really beginning to feel that I can't go back. If I'm getting bad-tempered when I'm prevented from writing now, what would I be like after an eight-hour day at the office? When I went back to work after my first child was born I made every possible effort to make the minutes I was at home count, to the point that I did nothing whatsoever for myself - my personal grooming routine consisted of the daily 5-minute shower and nothing else. Occasionally I would have cause to glance down at my toenails and discover that they were literally beginning to curl back into the flesh of my toes, it had been so long since I had even thought of attending to them. My post went unanswered, even unopened. My sex life was virtually non-existent. And all the time I felt like I was missing something, like I was racing against the clock and something important was getting left undone - something more important than paying my credit card bill or arranging to get my hair cut. I don't want to go back to that.