Friday, November 23, 2012

Warning: Rant Ahead

I try and steer clear of politics. It's a bit of a minefield and an unpleasant one at that. I distrust the three main political parties, they've all made reasonable promises and broken every one.  They are morally and ethical vacant and will never see any of my votes ever again.

I don't know why I'm surprised at today's article in The Guardian.

When I first got to England in 1988, Single-Parent bashing was the favourite past-time at Tory conferences. Girls were getting pregnant to get a council house. The world was going to hell in a handbasket because of single-parents on benefits (and off benefits).

The fact of the matter is: I'm a single-parent.

I divorced my husband in the middle of my Development Studies degree. Without benefits and state support, I would have had to drop out and we would have been homeless. So, what did I do while I was on benefits? Well, I finished my degree, raised my son and looked for a job. I got a job. In Economic Development. I paid my taxes, bought my flat and helped small businesses access support to make them more profitable and helped people with business ideas to make their dreams a reality.

I can see why Tories hate children of single parents. Boy is a disgrace to society. He's kind, loyal, hardworking and willing. He's also looking for a part-time job to be more financially independent. Oh, and he's well educated. He can spell 'fuck'. He's in the process of applying to university.

I wouldn't mind so much, but I take exception to Lord Freud, who earns £300k a year to saying that people on benefits are making a lifestyle choice. They don't take enough economic risks.

I suppose when one has to scrape by on £300k a year, it's hard to understand the stomach-dropping moment when one is looking at a pile of red bills and you start weighing up the choices between eating, paying your gas bill and buying shoes for your child. Tell me again about taking financial risks Lord Freud?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Organised

Yes, it's true. Today, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am organised.

I have my To Do List all written out and I'm wading through it.

I wonder why I waited so long to work like this. Sometimes, I don't think I'm very bright.

When I'm in the office. My To Do List is the first thing I write out after I've checked my e-mails. If I don't write it down, chances are I'll forget. At the office I can be juggling 10-16 things at once and a dropped ball is inevitable. Plus, it's a real pleasure to cross stuff off.

I'm approaching my writing from a work perspective. Something I've never done before. I've always been fairly fast and loose with writing and blogging, so taking this more serious and organised approach has been a huge change. One which I use at work when copywriting big projects. One which I hope will have me fondling my completed manuscripts soon. 

Today, I've been working on Project #1 - genre novel, urban fantasy. I'm getting all my structures in place. Whilst I can just sit down and write; which is certainly how many a short story and blog post got done, this doesn't work with a big writing project. I start and then run out of steam. Working through the story arc, getting the character sheets done, general notes, all of that is part of the process. It may be a few days before I actually start writing Chapter One, but that's fine. All of this is the work.

And yes, it is work.

It's slow going at this point, I want to get all my ducks lined up properly, so I know exactly what I'll be doing when I come to actually sit down at a keyboard and start typing: Chapter One. I suppose it's all theory to start with and I'm finding it somewhat scary. This is unexplored territory for me. But I've started and I mean to finish.

Wish me luck.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Plotting

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is what I'm currently doing. Plotting. Otherwise known as 'getting your ducks in a row'. 

In 2004, I embarked on a Creative Writing degree. There I got to experiment to my little heart's content with different styles, genres and I got to play with art. Good times. Then I needed to pay my bills. I've been putting off writing my own stuff with some rather excellent excuses (if I don't say so myself), but as it's turned out, in the meantime, I've learnt some rather good things from copywriting.

The first, most important thing for me, is to know what I'm going to write. 

I've currently got 3 chapter 1's of stuff I've started and then run out of steam. I didn't know where to go. I know how to begin, but to complete a big writing project has eluded me. 

People bring the most amazing set of baggage to writing. I have been no different. Ultimately, what distinguishes the wanna-be, from the writer is 50,000 words or so. It's not a romantic or an easy way to spend one's time. Marion Zimmer-Bradley always said, writing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration and she's not wrong.

Copy-writing has beaten out quite a few of my excuses. Telling your manager that you're not 'in the mood' to write that website copy she needs yesterday, is not conducive to paying the gas bill before the second red letter. I can write copy in a noisy open-plan office, with a To Do List with 16 things breathing down my neck like a serial killer, curled around my jumper fighting off stomach cramps and with tissues stuffed up my nose. It doesn't have to be great copy, that's what editing is for, it just has to be words on a page.

I can do this now because I plot. I create a structure, I then make it more detailed, and then I write it paragraph at a time. Because if I know what I've got to write, I can sit down and transfer it from my head to the page.

Plotting.

Plotting takes me most of my time with small projects. I've learnt to create pages and pages of notes. I do these long-hand on loose bits of plain paper. I keep them clipped together with bulldog clips. I then transfer them to digital when they're done. By the way, deforestation of the Amazon is my fault. I'm considering taking out shares in WH Smith. I'm fussy about the pens I write with, the paper I write on and the bulldog clips I keep everything together with. A stationery store is my idea of a good time.

I digress. Plotting is the unseen work. Plotting happens when I'm driving to work, doing the dishes, making dinner, standing outside staring up at the stars. 

I have 3 writing projects, all with different rules and needs and my plotting needs to be tight. 

Project #1
Romance. Yes, I am writing a Mills and Boon. For those people who think it's easy, do it and come back to me after you've got 50,000 words to your name. Readers of romance have very specific requirements for the type of experience they're after. They are some of the most discerning and demanding audience a writer will ever have to face. There's a very tight structure, without much room for manoeuvre and it's a difficult market to break into. 

I read a lot of romance. It's my feel-good reading of choice. I love a happy ending. It's the glass of gin at the end of a hard day, kind of reading for me.

Project #2
Genre - Urban Fantasy. Good genre fiction is hard to find. It also has its own rules and much of the good stuff, comes from across the Pond. There's more dross than bears thinking about and many books that should be apologising to the tree that went into producing them. I'm letting my imagination run riot. I want to produce an excellent genre novel, based in the wilds of Norfolk. It's going to be a bit of fun.

Project #3
This is my tour-de-force. My serious bit of writing. It's ambitious and I am battling the worry that I am not able to do it justice. Based in Trinidad in the late 1960's -, it's been rattling round my brain for the last 2 years. This is going to be the hard and painful labour. 

Three writing projects is a bit of an ask. It's hard enough working on one piece of writing.

However, I am good at chopping and changing, hopping from one project to another. Faced with one thing, I tie myself up in knots. With three, when I get stuck, I can move on to another, where I can be productive. I can let my unconscious sort out the stuck bits as I work on something else. It's very easy to get sick at the sight of a piece of writing and when copy-editing, it's incredibly important to remain fresh - your brain will automatically translate what's on the page, to what you meant - the two are guaranteed not to be the same.

So here goes. Wish me luck.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Ads and Shiny Things

Recently, I've found myself spending more time in front of the Idiot Box. I've been keeping half an eye out for the occasional programme...but I don't slavishly watch anything. Anyway, this ad came on and I loves it very, very much. I don't know why. I just do.



Happily, Boy really likes it to and looked up the music that was used. It turns out it's Willy Moon, Yeah, Yeah.

We've been bopping around the house to it.

Hope you enjoy it too...



Thursday, November 01, 2012

Adventures in a Pub on a Cold, Wet Sunday Evening

Ladies and Gentlemen, what follows is why I had to start blogging again...

Last Sunday the clocks went back. I was still feeling a bit wrung out and the weather was diabolical and then of course, it was dark by 5 pm. I'd put on my comfy clothes, snuggled down on my favourite corner of the sofa, got my Shiny Things nearby and basically got ready for an evening in reading a trashy book.

When I started hanging out with Lawrence last year, he introduced me to Norwich's gig scene. We'd go down to Jurnet's Bar in Wensum Lodge for their Acoustic Nights, listen to acts play their funky music. We'd go to Olives on Magdalene Street for Penguin's Acoustic and Eclectic evenings. I've seen some amazing bands and my music collection has grown because of it. What I've really loved is getting to know the museos in the bands, thanks to the power of Facebook and the fact that Norwich is actually a small village really. 

One such band is Das Fenster and the Alibis. Voodoo rock'n'roll with a dangerous edge. I am pretty sure we were at their first ever gig and we've been following them around ever since.

Lawrence was working over the weekend, and I was not feeling up to much, so we agreed that Das Fenster's gig on the Sunday evening was probably a no-go. I snuggled down, got my iPad out and then it started.

A poet, who I will call H asked if I was going and then there was a quick flurry of exchanges with another poet J, joining in. In the end, I got up off my butt, changed and picked up J. Off we went to the pub, very early as it turned out.

Now the Edward VIII advertises itself as a 'live music venue'. It's not in the most salubrious area and it's not the most well-heeled establishment, but it's fun. In we go. I sent a text to Lawrence saying I was there, with poets.

We caught up, drank and waited H and her husband M to rock up. There was much kissing of cheeks when they did.

Das Fenster and the Alibis are a trio. There's Das Fenster on lead vocals, guitar and occasionally piano, Pearly Gates on double base and Stagger Lee on drums. The pub soon filled up. What the poets and I hadn't realised is that it was published as a Halloween affair, with loads of people turning up in fancy dress. The walls, pictures, beer pumps were draped with cobwebs, spiders and bats. Witches and pumpkins adorned the windows; all illuminated by UV light which made the whole thing a little bit creepy. Think luminescent cobwebs...

They got up, introduced themselves and started playing. In the year since I've known them they've only got better, adding new material and they are great show men. I won't go into too much detail, but click on the links for a taste of the music. I'm nagging for the album they're busy recording.

So anyway, they start and so do two hecklers. I'm not sure what it is about drunk men, they think they are so funny. At one point I wondered whether this was going to be my first ever pub brawl. Happily, they reigned it in a bit, with the occasional comment from the floor. The poets and I sat in the corner up on bar stools, which meant I could see. What we hadn't realised is that we were sitting over the smoke machine, which enthusiastically set to work. Unfortunately, it did it's job too well, getting to the point where I couldn't see a foot in front of my face.

There's a certain cool factor to the lead singer saying from the stage, between tracks "Lawrence, Roses is sat in the corner over there!" Lawrence had arrived and couldn't see me in the smoke and darkness. My night was complete as far as I was concerned...what did I know? They played my favourite song "I won't go back" and it was stonking. I had to have jiggle.

When the gig ended, Lawrence accompanied me outside as I had a nicotine break, the pub secures the doors once the gigs start and it took us a minute to realise we had to lean on the front door to keep it open so we could get back in. We were joined by one of the hecklers and his girlfriend. Both were well in their cups. I smoked in silence whilst they slurred their way through their conversation and then I unwisely I looked at Lawrence and pointed out how patient he was being.

The heckler's girlfriend peered at him and then looked me straight in the eye and announced "It means he's crap at sex!" 

WTF?

"I wouldn't say that at all." Was my mild reply. My first job was in my dad's pub. There's very little that can shake, rattle and roll me. I've seen it, heard it and frankly, if she thought she could shock me, she was disappointed.

"Oi loik you. You're nice people." She puts her arm around me, squashes me to her net jumper and introduces herself and her boyfriend.

"What's your names?"

Quick as a flash, without even a pause, Lawrence says he's 'Eric' and I'm 'Louisa'.

Lousia? Really?

If I'd have stayed home on my sofa, I'd have missed out on this experience. Definitely worth getting dressed for.