Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Fodder



Ah, it's all over for another year.

Being newly single, this was the first year in a very long time that I spent it with family (without the guilt associated with WHICH family I decided to see etc). I must admit, I had a lovely time. Missed Mummy who's started a new life in the States but it's not like she missed out on a white Christmas or anything. It was bizarrely mild in Manchester.

Anyway, I'm not on here to write about the weather.

I'm writing about the realisation that my writing, to other people, is quite a big deal.

My grandmother asked me repeatedly whether I'm published yet.

"Gran, when I'm published you'll be the first to know, I promise."

My dad's friend in the working mens club on Christmas Eve even asked whether I'd had any luck and what the book was about.

"Erm, no luck as yet....and the book....it's...well, it's a girly book."

I really need to stop saying 'girly' book because I think people are starting to think it might be some kind of erotica judging by the raised eyebrow reactions and the clearing of throats whenever I say this.

I'm still apologetic about the whole thing. I just don't think I can talk about writing a 'book' or being a writer when all I've done is sit at my computer and bang out a few thousand words in my spare time on the very self-indulgent topic of live music (and the journey of self-discovery...and maybe a teeny bit of romance...you know the score).

"No!" My friends and lifelong supporters cry whenever I share this opinion with them. "Em, you ARE a writer! It's in your heart!" Ah, gotta love friends.

But hey, it's a good thing I've got my aforementioned grandmother to keep my feet firmly on the ground in a series of fabulous little pearls of wisdom that, I swear to god, you just could not write. No one would believe me if I included a character like her in a book.

My favourite had to be when I told her I was going to the Manchester United game on Boxing Day, bearing in mind this came straight after a conversation about my writing and getting published:

Gran: "Oooh, well I'll tell you what you need to do - wear a low-cut top."
Me: (fork raised halfway to my mouth) I beg your pardon?
Gran: You know (nudges me), wear a top that shows off your cleavage. You need to bag one of those footballers.
Me: (Looks desperately at Dad who just carries on eating) Erm....
Gran: Think about it, you'll be set up for life. All the money they've got. Wear something tarty, they'll like that.
Me: Are you kidding?
Dad: She's got a point...
Me: WHAT?!

Ladies and gentlemen, my staunch feminist grandmother.

Unbelievable.

Sitting around the table having Christmas dinner made me wonder whether I did have some comedy gold right there under my nose. As I said, the reality just wouldn't be believable but maybe diluted versions for upcoming books is a goer...

I'm not the only one she offended. She referred to Bruce Springsteen as Bernard Brucesteen and made a hilarious (yet totally unprintable) comment about a certain young male popstar that brought tears of laughter to my eyes.

I still haven't got started on the last scene of the Side Project as I left my laptop at the flat but tonight is the night I'll get it finished. While I was eating Christmas dinner at my aunty's house, I caught sight of a book on her cabinet in the dining room.

"Is that Point Horror?"

My cousin, who's the same age as me, raised his eyebrow and made a face. "Yeah, its mine. Been there for years."

"Really?" I asked half-heartedly as I dived out of my chair and practically over my dad to retrieve it, turning it over in my hands to read the blurb.

"Do you...want it?" He asked, still looking at me as though I'd landed from Mars.

"Oh my god, yes please!" I knew I sounded about seven years-old but I didn't care.

So, over the last day I've been making my way through the Point Horror Diane Hob collection, consisting of The Fever, Funhouse, and The Invitation. It's really whet my appetite to get the Side Project finished now.

As I left my Aunty's house, hugging the book to my chest as though not wanting to be parted from it, my cousin appeared at the door.

"You can have that book on one condition," He said sternly, pointing at me.

"What?" My heart actually sank thinking he'd changed his mind.

He hadn't. Instead he grinned, "Promise me I'll get a signed first edition of your book when it's published?"

So, I left with my new book, feeling well and truly stuffed from all of the food and also happy that at least one member of my family didn't want to marry me off to a footballer.

All the best folks,

Em

x

Sunday, 18 December 2011

The end is nigh...



No, this isn't a cry for help.

It's about what's known to be the toughest thing for a writer to complete when working on a novel.

The end.

I once saw a really interesting tweet from a literary agent who was working their way through a slush pile where they made a public complaint about how authors never seem to be able to get the ending right.

It's a bit of a weird one. With Driving Exile, I had the ending planned right from the start, before I even had most of the plot in place so, for me, it was writing the middle of the book and still managing to keep the momentum going that was the challenge. The most taxing decision I had to make was whether I went for the cheesy ending or the super cheesy ending. My reading panel opted for just the cheesy one (apart from the out-voted Uno who likes her books with a large chunk of cheddar).

I'm now drawing the Side Project to a close and writing the last few scenes. I think it'll still take me several solid days of writing so it will probably be complete over Christmas some time and because I've written it in sequence, I'm now feeling the apprehension of writing the ending.

You see, with the Side Project, I do have a very clear ending in my mind which is great. But it's quite...final. Well, for one character it is anyway...The problem is that I've now grown close to all of the characters and I'm starting to get cold feet about it.

I think this stems from my lame-ass phobia of saying goodbye to people...

I know what I need to do but bloody hell, the feeling of responsibility is bearing down on me. I was up until one o'clock in the morning last night, no mean feat for someone who's full of a cold and I just sprang awake at seven thirty after dreaming about my characters. It was one of those cliched dreams (well, it is in Emma land anyway...) where someone is shouting my name from a different room and I can't get to them. I could see them all through a window but I couldn't reach them. My heart actually sank when I clapped eyes on the character who's going to meet a rather sticky end and I felt like a murderer.

I might as well have been dressed as the Grim Reaper, clicking my fingers at the poor soul and shouting, "Come on, love. You're with me."

I'm also finding that the end of my book and the unfolding of the 'mystery' in the plot has had to be moved along by dialogue between the characters. There are no huge chunks of descriptive texts or massive mind monologues from my lead character. No, just a hell of a lot of conversation as they all figure out what's going on in their creepy town.

It's times like that, when I read back over what I've written, where I wonder whether my strength is in scriptwriting rather than novels. You end up running out of ways to make 'he said, she said' sound interesting and new.

So, now I'm worried that a literary agent might think the same about the Side Project. Is the ending already weak before it's even completed? I suppose that's what several rounds of editing is for....

That'll probably be me over Christmas, sitting there with a red pen and trawling through the Side Project while I make a New Year's Resolution to get Driving Exile in front of more agents.

Soon I'll have two books doing the rounds. Then what?

Actually, I've been thinking that I might dive straight into Side Project Part Two...

Jesus Em, shut up and concentrate on your ending.

One thing at a time and all that.

I think this rambling blog post serves nothing but to prove the point that I struggle to end things.

And say goodbye.

Wish me luck,

Em

x


For my Side Project characters...

Monday, 12 December 2011

Goodbye Mr Moonshine



"Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking." Airplane.

I wasn't intending to broadcast to the whole blogging community that I'm ditching the booze but I think it's worth mentioning given the connection it's always had with my writing. 

You see, in the early days of writing Driving Exile when I hated my job with a passion, I used to sit up at night, long after Dos had gone to bed with a bottle of wine or vodka and plough my way through it while I furiously typed away. 

With this an amazing thing would happen, I'd forget my crappy job and all of the idiots in it and I'd become absorbed in the words on the screen. Not just the words, but the world I'd created. 

"Sod work!" I'd giggle to myself as I topped up my glass. "I don't care!" 

10,000 words later, I'd stagger to bed at about 3 or 4am and then get up in the morning and cry in the shower because I was so hungover and had to go to work. 

Now, this wasn't a nightly occurance. Probably happened once a week, maybe even once a fortnight. I'd console myself in the fact that I'd written some really good stuff (albeit stuff that required some serious editing...) and that I was a Writer! Capital W! That's what us arty types do. I'd found my true calling and the day job just funded it. 

I still very much believe that's the case. I was born to write and I'll do my very bloody best to make it a career for myself. 

However...

Aside from the novel I wrote whilst I was in alcohol heaven (honestly, I wonder why my characters always have booze in their hand in almost every scene...), I've actually made some terrible errors in judgement while hitting the bottle. All of the crap things I can associate with 2011 have been largely due to how drunk I've been. 

Like I said, I don't get drunk all the time but when I do...I do. 

I went to several concerts this year and have got to say, don't remember much of the fabulous bands I saw. I've tried to wrack my brains to remember the Iron Maiden gig in Manchester but I can only remember bits of it. Know I had a great time but that's neither here nor there when you can't recall it very well. It's not like I can regale people with tales of it in years to come. 

At least I could always console myself in the fact I wrote some of my best stuff when I was under the influence. 

Or did I? 

Probably not, actually. I bet I wrote most of Driving Exile when I saw sat having a nice cup of coffee in my favourite Caffe Nero in Liverpool. Or when I stopped at the Starbucks at the services on the way home from visiting friends in Manchester. Or when I was just sat in my flat, sans vino. 

I tried to write after having a few to drink about a week ago but I found I couldn't do it. With the Side Project, I've written it in sequence rather than all over the place like Driving Exile and found that my brain couldn't process the linear story so I gave up and listened to Nights with Alice Cooper on Planet Rock instead. 

It's Christmas and there's booze-a-plently but I have to say, I'm not feeling tempted at the moment. 
 
I went to see Steel Panther, Motley Crue and Def Leppard last night at a gig in Manchester and was determined to remember it. Glad I was sober or else I doubt I would have met Michael Starr from Steel Panther or remembered the (excuse my French...) fucking awesome drum solo from Tommy Lee, or perhaps how surprisingly good Def Leppard are and how much I actually like them (I was unashamedly there for Crue). 

I'm not at a stage were I feel like I need to empty the cupboards and drain every drop of alcohol down the sink, which was rather beautifully pointed out by Uno yesterday. "Em, I don't think you're quite at the AA stage yet but perhaps work on exercising some self-control first. I'll help you with that," She said to me yesterday when I ploughed in with my usual all-or-nothing-bull-in-a-china-shop approach to anything in life. 

"Yes, cutting down is a good idea. You're just a...terrible drunk," Was Dos' response with a small wry smile. 

Both correct. 

I made a comment yesterday that people sometimes find confiding and keeping promises to strangers is easier than with those you're closest to. I firmly believe that, despite how messed up it is. 

So, with that in mind, I'm telling all of you and making a promise that I'm cutting the Sauce, Giggle Juice, Canned Heat, Red Eye, Hooch, Tipple, Hard Stuff, Poison...whatever you want to call it. 

It'll make me a better writer and a better person in the long run. 

Wish me luck. 

Em 

x 








Saturday, 3 December 2011

Comfort in failure?


Where the hell have I been? God, I've been off the radar for far too long. 

I feel like a broken record but work is still stressing me out. I'm doing a good job apparently but I'm certainly feeling the strain. In PR you're judged on a month-by-month basis and some clients have good months, some have bad. Got a couple with bad months that I have to report on and it makes me feel sick to my stomach. 


I wish I didn't care sometimes but I suppose it’s a bit of a comfort that I do.

I'm still hammering away on Side Project, which is rapidly taking shape, and I reckon I'll be done by Christmas. Need to get Driving Exile off to more agents as well. In honesty, I quite like waiting for the rejections. Weird, I know. I suppose I just want to be sat one day with a pile of my own best-selling books next to me and be able to say, "I was rejected 6,321 times but look at me now!"

In fact, I don't know whether this is a good or bad thing but I like reading success stories that started with failure. They help to scrape you up off the floor when you feel as though you're just not good enough. 

Here are some really good ones: 

Theodor Seuss Giesel: Today nearly every child has read The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham, yet 27 different publishers rejected Dr Seuss's first book To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. 

Stephen King: The first book by this author, Carrie, received 30 rejections, finally causing King to give up and throw it in the trash. His wife fished it out and encouraged him to resubmit it, and the rest is history. 

Jack London: Writer of White Fang and Call of the Wild. His first story received six hundred rejections before finally being accepted. (Wowzer!) 

And my favourite....

Walt Disney: When trying to get funding for his first Walt Disney theme park, he was turned down and rejected by 302 bankers before someone finally believed what he had to offer. 

You see, comfort in other people’s rejection is inspiring. Rather than doing the ‘English’ thing and wallowing in other people’s failures, it’s finding the positive from their determination not to give up.

With Christmas rapidly approaching and then the hope and expectation that a New Year brings, finding positivity in the seemingly…blah, is important. Especially as this is the first festive season alone for me.

Not that I’ll be alone. Turns out there’s quite a lot going on at Christmas when you’re not cocooned in couple heaven
:-)

All of that aside, I’m still enjoying writing from the perspective of a moody teenager. May have found my niche and I’m really not sure what that says about me!

I’ll keep you posted on the progress of Side Project and also one how the next wonderful rejection is worded.

Enjoy opening those advent calendars.

Thanks for reading,


Em

x