Thursday, 7 May 2015

Ideas like buses

I had an idea earlier on today.  I was in the middle of writing something - I was concentrating, and then this idea sneaked up and wanted my attention. I pushed it away, fobbing it off with ' a minute...' and it was so offended that it disappeared and hasn't been back.

I knew I should have written it down. I should have made a mental (or physical) note of what I was doing, suspended that thought process for a moment or two and scribbled down the idea before resuming task one.

Silly me.

Now I'm left with a nagging sense that it was a Great Idea. One of the best. And now it's gone.

Two ideas came at the same time, you see, and I was flummoxed. Like waiting for ages and ages at a bus stop (in the rain) and then two buses come at once. As I clamber on the first, fumbling for my bus pass, the second sails on by. I will never know what it might have been like to ride on that bus; who I might have met, what I might have seen - because I got on the first one.

That's what happened to me this morning.

Can't think why I didn't make a note. I am such a note-writer that my desk, every handbag I own, the kitchen counter and bedside drawer all house multiple notebooks. I have scraps of paper all over the place. I keep a notepad by my bed and several nights a week I attempt to capture something that comes to me in the hours of darkness; a dream, an idea, a snatch of dialogue, or some vague and random thought that I don't want to let go of.

This Notebook By The Bed technique has been met with variable degrees of success. I have tried not putting the light on, to avoid waking the husband, or indeed to avoid waking myself up too much, but this is not to be advised. You can very easily find that you've written a paragraph, but with each line overlaying the first and rendering them unintelligible. Or the first three words are on the notepad, the rest on the bedside table. Or, as a friend of mine shared, it turned out that the pen had no ink and you're left trying to decipher the indentations.

Very often my nocturnal scrawling are illegible come the clear light of day; whatever it was that was burning in my brain did not translate well to my hand. Of the messages I could read, however, I have captured some remarkable insights in my night time notebook. Consider the possibilities of the following:
'The lard in the bushes is too eggy. But THIS WILL BE ALRIGHT. It will be ALRIGHT.'
'Try putting ALL of them in.' 
Alternatively, this could be a fascinating story prompt:
'He asks her, and she just stares at him. It was too late.'
No idea who he is, or who she is, or what he asked her, but the drama of those two sentences. Breaks your heart, doesn't it?

For sheer frustration value, I can't beat the following:
What?! What?! I really need to know..... Or then there's the terror of waking to find this written large on the notepad next to you:
"Don't do it."
On a lighter note, my husband once told me that I stirred as he came to bed after watching a late film. Without waking completely, I grasped his hand and said with some urgency:
'The blue ones. You've got to watch the blue ones.'
He wrote that one down, after he'd finished laughing.

Then there are the myriad of notes that I can't read. Excerpts include (and this is just what they look like - could be accurate, knowing my propensity to scrawl things that make no sense):
'Lemons. All of them used to be fussy lemons but now they're aggressive, unpleasant.' 
'Get your act together.'
Yes indeed.

My absolute favourite, however, is the time I awoke and reached for the notepad, and wrote the following:
'No worries.'
I even underlined it, and added a smiley face. It was clearly discernible as a smiley face, even though the eyes were slightly offset in a cubist kind of way.
'No worries. :-)' 
I like to think that one was from God.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Getting into gear

I was following a thread on a Facebook page for authors the other day and the discussion was about daily word count. Several people aim for a number of words each day - 1000 seems a popular number. Others don't count words at all but aim to write for an hour. One day this might produce a paragraph, other days a chapter.  When they've done their allocated word count, or time, they might carry on to exceed it, or do something else, but it's a measurable, organised way of ensuring that forward progress is made regularly.

I like organised. I like forward progress as well.

What's my method? What do I do?


I need to do some thinking about this, especially as I have such limited time to write. I have two days a week that I try to protect for writing, and that's just the hours between school runs, say, 9.30am until 2.30pm.  Some days I find that I can get down to things straight away and manage a blog post, a couple of scenes from the book, and still have time to surf Facebook and check out the headlines. These days are rare.

More common are the days where I start with the surfing (bad idea), try to appease the irritable Blog Monster and then find that I can't get my story into my head at all. I am distracted, and distracted by the most ridiculous things, like the need to clean windows, or check whether I should put out the black bin or the green one for the bin-men in the morning. I make endless cups of coffee before deciding that there is insufficient time left for actually...ahem...writing. Too late.

Then I sit in the car waiting outside school berating myself for wasting such wonderful empty hours with trivia when I want to get this thing written.

I'm told this is not uncommon, but I need to get over it. It's not going to write itself, and I am determined that I'm not going to give up on it. I need to be more disciplined. Maybe the 1000 words a day would do. One thousand words each day and I'd have a 90,000 word first draft in three months.

May, June, July. In time for the summer holiday, I'd have a draft to begin working on.

Except that there's no way of writing every day. There simply isn't time, or peace. I so envy those people with lots of space and time to spend on their work in progress, but at this point in my life I have school runs and a husband who is only home at weekends and more than enough swimming practices to deliver my children to every weekday evening and Saturday and Sunday too.

One thousand words twice a week when I do have the opportunity, and it'll take the best part of a year.

What I do know is that when I get in the right frame of mind, in the zone, I can write 3,000 words in a couple of hours. So I have hope.

Well, it's like this. I'm revving in neutral. I'm not getting anywhere. Time to get into gear.