Monthly Archives: August 2007

Being motivated

I finally finished typing up the handwritten sections. I don’t think I’m going to handwrite any more: it’s nice to get away from the screen, but I can type so much faster than I can write that it makes sense just to get it on to the computer straight off. (When I say ‘type’ I don’t mean copy-typing, at which I am atrocious for some reason – which is why the whole transcribing exercise took so long. Not to mention that my handwriting is almost illegible after the first few lines! Second-guessing myself didn’t exactly speed up the process.)

I’m going to print out what I’ve got so far and have a look through it while I’m on holiday. Or that’s the plan, at any rate. I want to make a list of all the characters, names, what they look like etc so that I can be consistent through the book.

I was writing my morning pages today, and I suddenly had an insight about motivation. I’ve always believed that to achieve a goal (say writing a novel) you need to focus on the goal – but I realised that often the best way is NOT to focus on the ultimate goal, because that ends up being a distraction. If I sit down to write and think about getting the book finished, I find it hard to write, and anything I do write doesn’t really work. But if I let myself focus on just telling the story, the words begin to flow. By not trying to get the book finished, I actually progress further!

(I got this insight because I realised that focusing on my ultimate goal of ‘getting my three pages written so I can get breakfast’ was actually working against me. Once I let go of getting the pages written, and focused on writing them, before I knew it, I had finished.)

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Filed under Motivation, Self sabotage, Writing

For every force, there is an equal and opposing force

Like, I want to finish getting the typing done so that I can start writing the next section. It’s a simple plan; what can possibly go wrong?

Well, for a start I got into an argument with Josh before bed – and it was a late bedtime anyway because I’d let him stay up late to finish watching a film. (Yes, that was entirely my own fault.)

Then I had to call my parents about next week’s holiday.

Then I found out that my brother’s feeling down. He’s in the toxic situation of having just split up with his girlfriend while still living in the same house. And, to top it all, she’s already seeing someone else and flaunting it.

No matter how important getting this typing done is to me, making sure my baby brother’s ok is always going to top it. Not sure I made him feel any better, but I’ve offered him my house for the week I’m on holiday if he wants it.

So now, I’ve typed about 50 words, and my eyes are so tired I can hardly see the screen.

It’s a times like this that I think, ‘why didn’t I do the washing up straight after tea instead of leaving it?!’ That’s something to look forward to…

Right: 15 more minutes typing up, then I’ll tackle the washing up.

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Filed under Children, Housework, Motivation, Time, Writing

I hate typing up!

I’m still typing up my handwritten sections but I’m determined that I’m going to get it finished by the end of the week. In some ways it’s good: it doesn’t matter if I’m a bit tired or if Josh is awake until late and keeps coming in to speak to me because typing up is fairly easy-going on the mind. You can start and stop every five minutes and it doesn’t take too long to get back into the swing of it.

And very boring. I wish that I’d just typed it straight in and got it over with! I’ll know for next time.

I’m going on holiday next week, so I won’t be getting any writing done then. I’m going to be doing some research (I hope): CWRD Moseley’s Reach – a brief history; Trevor Bevis – Water, water everywhere: The draining of the fens and Joan Lennon – The Wicket Chronicles. The last one is worrying me slightly as it’s a children’s novel set in the fens during the middle ages, which sounds horribly familiar. I mean, that’s my idea! Ho hum.

Oh – and I’m back to the old Harry Potter series (number 5, The Order of the Phoenix). I came into the living room and found Josh sitting in the middle of a pile of the Harry Potter books. ‘What you up to?’ I asked. ‘I’m reading them to myself,’ he said, and sat studiously looking at the pages for ages while I washed up. Then he said, ‘Can you read me the next Harry Potter book?’

‘But I thought you’d had enough for a while?’

‘I had, but now I really miss Harry.’ And how could I refuse that? I’m sure a lot of these later books will go over his head, but he seems to be enjoying them.

If only the chapters weren’t so long!

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Filed under Children, Fenland, Harry Potter, Middle ages, Research, Writing

Getting on top of it?

I had a good writing session last night. I’ve got most of the handwritten sections typed up: only the last (and longest) section to go! I enjoyed writing longhand, but it’s just not practical. It takes too long because I need to go back and type it all up and my handwriting is just too illegible!Good news is that I’m no longer being influenced by the JK Rowling’s style. The bad news is that I’m taking on the style of the book I’m reading to Josh at the moment (Star Raiders by Donald Suddaby). It’s florid and wordy – real 1950s stuff – but an excellent story for all that. (I had it read to me when I was Josh’s age and loved it, which is why I’m reading it to him now.)

It’s made me begin to wonder about style. What is style? Why is one person’s style good, and another’s, bad? At the end of the day, it’s all just words. What you are trying to say has very little to do with style; it’s how you say it that matters. But what is it that makes me feel that I’d like to write like George Orwell or Phillip Pullan, rather than JK Rowling or Enid Blyton?

It’s all to do with little subtleties of diction and mannerisms/habits. But trying to pin it down, so far, has been impossible.

But I’ve started to wonder if I should choose what books to read to Josh more carefully. It seems that ten to fifteen minutes of reading out loud influences the way I write.

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Research

I went to do a bit of research today. Part of the trouble with writing the novel is I don’t know what the fens looked like in 1141. I’ve got a reasonable idea, of course: flat, wet, smelly etc; but that’s not enough for a description.

Wicken Fen is a nature reserve in Cambridgeshire and not too far from where I live. It’s a piece of fenland that’s been left to go back to a more natural state, so I went to take some photos, hoping that I’d get a better idea of what the landscape would have looked like 866 years ago.

Despite forgetting to take suncream and insect repellant, I survived the experience: although it was very hot and I should have not worn jeans and a black t-shirt…

FenlandWind pumpWoodlandWater and sedge

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Filed under Fenland, Middle ages, Nature, Research

Getting nowhere again – is it worth it?

Just as I’d begun to feel more positive about setting myself targets and focusing on writing for two nights a week, suddenly it seems to be breaking down again. Or maybe that’s just the way life works: as soon as you get over one tough patch another appears just to test you.

So last night, instead of making up for lost time on Monday, I find myself only getting in an hour of writing and again feeling too tired to really do it justice. Josh had had an afternoon sleep (which he did need) so he was very alert well into the night. I’d also promised that we’d read to the end of Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire without realising how long those last chapters were! (After reading the four books in a row, it’s a bit of a relief. I was beginning to write in the style of JK Rowling, which is not something I really want to do.)

And despite my promise to myself to focus only on writing on writing nights, there were still jobs that needed doing: washing to put in the machine, washing up, tidying (which I ignored in the end), sandwiches to make for lunch the next day, watering the plants (why won’t it just rain?! This is England!) and getting everything ready for a quick start in the morning.

So it was 9:30 before I started writing, and 10:40 when I realised that I had to stop so that I could at least get a decent-ish amount of sleep before getting up and starting all over again.

And I ask myself: Is it really worth it? My friends get home from work and spend the evening reading books or watching television. I’m tying myself in knots just trying to get a couple of hours here and there to write a book that may not ever get published. Is there a purpose to what I’m doing? If I want to be busy, why don’t I get the ironing done, or see about finishing off my kitchen (six months since I started to get it done)? You know, practical things that have a tangible result.

But a pile of nicely iron clothes isn’t really that much of an achievement. And would I really want to spend my evening deadening my mind with Eastenders or America’s New Top Model? Does the fact that I have no architrave around the doors in my kitchen really matter?

So maybe I’ll just keep on writing – even if it is just to be bloody-minded and not give in.

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Filed under Children, DIY, Harry Potter, Housework, Motivation, Time, Writing

Too hot!

How very British of me! As soon as we get a little bit of heat and sun, I begin to long for a bit of cloud and some rain. At least when it was raining I didn’t have to keep watering my garden in the evening.

I didn’t get very much writing done last night. It was too hot, for a start, and a knock-on effect of that was that Josh didn’t want to go to sleep (oh, and we were getting to an exciting part of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). I’ll make up for it later on in the week, though.

I’ve set myself a target for getting a first draft of the whole novel completed by the end of October. It challenging but not undoable if I can just get my act together. I’m now at a word count of 16,000 – which is an achievement of sorts, although it is all about quality not quantity.

Ok – who am I kidding? It’s taken me since January just to get the first few sections done!

I think that it should get easier the more that I write. It’s a question of pacing myself – a bit like running. I need to find a comfortable pace where I can keep adding the right level of detail without trying to sprint through important events just because I’m too excited about getting on to the next bit of the story. Of course, I’ll also have to be careful to not swing the other way and take pages and pages just to describe the simplest of actions. (I’m no James Joyce!)

One good thing – Josh has said that when we finish Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire he wants to have a break from the series. I’m glad because four Harry Potter books straight off was a bit too much for me, and also the books are getting to the point of being a bit too old for him. Not so much in their darkness, but more in the way they focus Harry et al beginning to grow up, which is all over Josh’s head at the moment.

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Filed under Children, Harry Potter, Time, Weather, Writing