Friday, 31 December 2010

New Years Eve - Buenos Aires, Argentina...

have been settling in here..have found a flat share with a bloke who does massage - and colonic irrigation! - he has cleared out his treatment room for me to use as a writing space.I may have the same writing routine as Virginia Woolfe but I bet she never wrote in a space where people had their bottoms evacuated! The room has a desk and seems quiet as its at the back of the apartment so I can sit in solitude. Have agreed my schedule of tango lessons with my teacher Lorena - they will be later afternoons so I plan to get into a routine as soon as H and I move to the flat on 4th January - writing after breakfast for 2-3 hours - then tango then another 1-2 hours then dinner then sometimes tango..BUT I will need to flex this when I settle on tango class/es aswell as Lorenas lesons , and practicas and acount for some late milonga nights.. Ive worked out I have then 3 blocks of 20 days until we go back to the U.K. for me to complete the re write start to finish of Sweeping up the Village. I hope work work remains manageable within this - but it should I think fit around everything else. Relaxing in our B and B until next week . I think here it will be difficult for me to write as its SO hot with no air con and our room is stiffling . I cant concentrate unless I can completely detatch and shut away in a special writing space. We will see.The B and B and Maggie - an expat Brit - is wonderful and a font of information on about anything and everything you might want to know about this amazing city.
Happy New Year to all my blog Followers!


Monday, 27 December 2010

The day after Boxing Day

H and I have had a quiet and very relaxing time in Aldeburgh - doing a decent walk each day and yoga or meditation and watching DVD's of favorite films. I have not picked up my pen for atleast 2 weeks and have takne Emma's advice to have a break and then start up again with the re write from the beginning when I get to Buenos Aires (we fly out tommorow night!). Yesterday walked atleast 9 miles to Snape and back . The land was frosted and crisp - trees with their bare branches sillouetted against the backdrop of a georgeous sunny day. Back to London by cab this evenning. About to do the Thorpness walk agiain. Have been thinking about bits of my novel - and trying not to be overwhelmed by the fear that I wont be able to start up again. Ive thought a little more of bits of plot development in certain scenes which need more work - so everything is joined up for my reader.Have also been thinking how I need to use my 3 months in Argentina productively - for both my writing and tango - I will need to settle into a routine fairly early on.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Something borrowed?

Went to the pictures last night and saw Loose Cannon - a beautiful Italian "gay"film - uplifting and full of humor. I was interested in the opener - which is a flashback to the past...the end scene looped back to the opening scene. Like my novel - the tale is "bookended" and it worked very well. The final scene in the film reminded me very much of an "AIDS" movie from the 80's called Parting Glances -the idea of having the past and the present, the dead and the living all mingling at a social gathering happily had an moving and uplifting effect. I wonder if Loose Cannon's director borrowed this idea from Parting Glances? Its useful as a writer to observe how storylines are structured in good films - particularly beginnings and endings - to see what can perhaps be borrowed in structure and technique to achieve a certain desired emotional impact .


Sunday, 19 December 2010

And last night(Saturday) tangoing at the Crypt was fabulous!

Led and followed - great atmosphere, people and music - which just goes to show that the right ingredients are always necesary if you want to create something special! London is hushed by the heavy snowfall that came yesterday. Magical.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Cant just turn the tap seems almost sacreligious

At a certain central London venue on last night I had a lousy tango experience- and I was So looking forward to it. It was mostly about me - I need to feel inspired by the people, the music and the atmosphere and none of this was forthcomming so I didnt dance once. One poor woman came to me and asked if I'd just walk her round as she was a beginner but Id seen her with some other leader earlier on and I couldnt face being complicit in a repeat performance.Selfish?Guilt trip?Angst!!!
The creative inspiration needed for good tango dancing is the same as that needed for good writing. I cant just turn the tap seems almost sacreligious. But I did watch and learn - from the good and the bad - sat alone at an elevated corner table. When I cant turn on the writing tap - then I read, watch, listen and mull it all over in my head until I am ready to begin again.
Ive just finished watching DVD set of Dennis Potter's Pennies from Heaven - now there is inspiation a plenty. What a bloody genius that man was!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

You Tube for research

I have been researching setting for my novel - to help me where my protagontist reflects back on his former life in Kosovo. I found some really good You Tube vids showing life in the town he comes from and also his village. This is perfect for me in creating his memories of growing up, moving from village to city and then fleeing back again during the Serb shelling of the city at the start of the war.I also unearthed a city plan showing it's division on ethnic grounds and major landmarks and layout.

Went to Forest Writers Christmas party last night - low key but friendly. Also put an email out to the four agents who've said they want to see my novel when its completed - letting them know how I'm getting on well with the writing of it and how I am heading for Buenos Aires for 3 months where I plan - alongside taking tango instruction and SKYPE working-to go for it and tackle to start to finish re write - now I have amassed 60k words, reviewed the chapter plan and know what I need to do. Well - thats the plan...


Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Squirm session and mincey pies !

Waited more than an hour beyond my alloted appointment time to be seen at the Hospital today...the usual overbooking of appointments I asume unless its done so us patients have a chance to dwell even longer in limbo worrying about where the outcome of our test results might lead us...(oncology,cardiology,lipid doctor etc etc) I know its for my own good and they do a good job but I HATE having to go there every quarter and go through this predictable squirm session. Well - all is ok - and I got a pat on the back from my Consultant who threw in a comment about me being " a really good writer"(yes - she has read some of my short stories). When it comes to posiive feedback- like the dreaded Tesco phrase -"Every little helps" - particularly when one is about to emark on the final rewrite of ones debut novel, don't you know.So it was pizza from Belize Park Emporium Bakery eaten on the tube ride home to Walthamstow and when got home I polished off the last two remaining mincey pies with cups of strong tea!

I'VE GOT BACK INTO "If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things "by Jon Mcgregor - which Emma recommended some time back. Its got some of the most beautiful descriptive prose I've ever read contained within its pages...though am not too amoured of the plot. The author writes in an unusual style where dialogue is merged within the main body of text(not an inverted comma to be seen)within an unconventional structure.

Tonight H and I are off to the South Bank BFI to see 4 early 1950's documentaries about London life - then may hike it over to Oxford Street to see if I can find a case for my three months in Buenos Aires. I bravely bore my local Argos yesterday and selected 1st,2nd and 3rd choice suitcases only to be told sorry, we dont have any of them in stock. I hate the way these robot buinesses always say"have a nice day" regardless of the fact that the encounter Ive had with them has been a complete and mind numbing waste of time. In REAL life - no one would actual say such a thing.Progress?I don't think!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Just back from Tutorial with my writing mentor

who says its all comming along very nicely . But much there is to do now with the rewriting...Julie will now not be given a POV(we will see everything throught A and R...Trudie will be zapped entirely from the story(but thats ok by me as the story has now outgrown her). More references to Virginia Woolf and my approach to writing the novel(similarities)...well lets hope I don't come across a river with a pile of stones lying on the bank. Ive had a mental week with work and thinking about going away soon and getting everything ready. Nothing much to conclude here and now except that scoffing another of my sister's homemade mincey pies definately makes everything seem better.


Sunday, 5 December 2010

Never turn down the opportunity for a good walk....

BUT don't go online late at night if you want to sleep!
Yesterday had good intentions for a writing day - well - all weekend really BUT it didnt turn out that way. Saturday turned into what I call a "London day" -taking advantage of the lady and all she has on offer. Went to th Tango Tea dance at Hop Gardens which was friendly considering I knew no one. Had some relly nice dances. After - meet up with my old City course mates for dinner in Garrick Street then after that , walked over the river in the rain(but it was still magic!)to meet H at the BFI. we watched a silent film -from 1923- "Salome" which was accompanied by live piano. When it finished, I said to H, let walk aong the South Bank and over the Millenium bridge to Liverpool street - and we did. There werent that many people and the views of St Pauls and and all the familiar landmarks were stunning. On Sunday we went for a short walk locally but as it was a lovely sunny morning I suggested we walk down across Hackney Marshes to Springfield park.I thought about my novel and whether R and A might not take this walk. Its so intersting as its a bisection through the vilage, the market and evry language but English, the poor end and then the marsh nature reserve with bull rushes, roaming cows - the lot. When we arrived at the Park I suggested to walk on to Victria Park and we did. Past the Olympic site with its giant flying saucer stadium. Hadnt been this way since 2003 when I got M.E.and its changed so much(for the better). Had our sandwiche and a cuppa at Victoria Park as it got dark and then walked back via Hommerton, Chatsworth and then very traffic laden Victoria Road.9 miles round trip.

Spent a quite evnning in front of anothet great episode of Every Human Heart on the telly then went onto my notebook and rediscovered the compilation file with all my work so far ...well most of it. I thought it had vapourised lat weekend when I was pulling it all together. The temptation was to great and I finished coping everything into it and came up wih a heartening word count of 56k. But it was after midnite and - guess what - I couldnt get to sleep. So here I am now at 8am waiting for my yoga teacher to arive and only wanting to go back to bed!

Some thoughts on doing courses and writing process

I think that it depends WHERE you are as a writer...I know for me getting started with creative writing as something completely new, signing up for a few creative writing workshops initially was helpful. A bit like doing parenting skills classes. Although I'd written professionally for many years in my vocational field (journal articles,masters disseration, conference papers) Id never atempted anything like writing fiction. I started this originally out of a sort of deep urge to express my self creatively - after comming out of a very challenging period in my life - the feeling was almost primal; quite "from my guts" infact. This was the absolute beginning for me and that was done alone and had nothing to do with being taught on a workshop or any course. But then I felt I did need something within which to frame what I was doing. Not having any kind of literary background(my father was an electrician not a famous novelist; my mother a cleaner - not some Pulitzer winning journalist) - unless you count a grade B in O level English in 1975! completing a few basic "creative writing workshops" was both inspiring and informative I found. But also then I realized what real writing is about - hard, soul searching slog working alone...though I'll come back to this later because its not just this, its far more than this infact- and- met some of these writing course junkies who were always seeming to be dreaming about the next course rather than actually about geting down to compleing a project of their own. I think therefore that workshops can be useful for learning the basics through writing excersizes - often these might generate ideas for scenes/charaters/a story. Endless worksops and short courses are not helpful in my view.
What I found helpful is being selective and choosing when you need to do these and what outcome you are expecting. The first course I did was six weeks long, two hours every Thursday night. It involved writing and then performing a 4 minute monologue. The next course I took about 6 months later was the excellent London CityUni 12 week evenning course in Short Story writing with Katy Darby. In this I was expected to complete one short story by the end of the course - which I did and it ended getting published in Decongested Tales and being read at their Foyles monthly short fiction event. A few months later I took another 12 weeker at CityUni - Intermeadite fiction writing - which was really more like workshopping with a small group. This gave me an idea about how to go about writing a longer piece and the level of skill required. Then I enrolled in the year long Graduate Certificate in Novel writing - a mixture of taught and experiential modules looking at various genres and reading alot( for me especially I developed at art of readng with a writers eye )and also encouraging a writing habit - a regular routine. The course also has links with the publishing industry who look at graduates for new talent.

I 've done also a couple of led writing residential retreats and would say these are useful for different people in different ways. Some use thm to overcome block or for inspiration or to see how the "masters" do it. But I found networking with other writers(as others have pointed out, writing is mostly something done alone)and having an environment supportive to write..whether its to produce new ideas or begin a new piece or move something started forward. Out of the two I did I produced two short stories again which were published(eventiually).

Joinng a good writing group I think can be extremely important - nothing beats airing your work and guaging its impact , although its important that you pick a group that is supportive and right for you. Now I've embarked on my first novel I am finding haing a mentor is really helpful to me. A montly check in, written and verbal feedback on new material Ive produced and small excersizes to stimulate new ideas for scenes, characterisation etc are all helpful.

But as Emma says - it really does always come back to you, producing new material and for this you need discipline and a regular habit. I personally cant write non stop all day for days on end. I just find it counter productive , I get bored and dont create .For me its 2 1/2 hours from 11am then STOP and pick it up again in the evenning for no more than 2 hours. That way I may produce 1000 1200 (sometime half that!) words but good words and am satisfied not by the word count perhaps but by the material.
The word count goes up over weeks and months.
Research is a good way of maintaining interest - investigating things that flag up and take me down paths Id never have imaginged which then bring me back to a different place in my writing perhaps.
OVERALL, I find its most important to ENJOY the process. Yes it can be hard slog , is usually slow and longhaul - but it must be something you learn to love .

OMG - how I've gone on.


Friday, 3 December 2010

Back from a tutorial with my mentor

in the cafe of the Welcome Centre Library. London is oddly vacant with all this cold and snow - like a perpetual Sunday afternoon - I quite like it inspite of people constantly moaning about the weather. Tutorial went well - and Emma brilliantly helpful, positive and constructive in her support.Did a couple of short writing excersizes which generated new scene /chapter sketches. Need to do a plot /chapter plan review for next time. Nice food in the Cafe. Packed as usual.


Wednesday, 1 December 2010


another two hours of work and Ive finished this latest chapter - R and A out at a club in town. Ive experimented with leaving out graphic descriptions in an atempt to show more by saying less, rather, focussing more on subsequent actions/behaviour and thoughts to up the strength of this chapter.Lets hope it works!

Wrapped up and writing again!

This afternoon at my kitchen table began writing again after a break of a couple of days. It took me ages to get the first couple of paras but now its flowing. Last night braved the snow and cold and ventured into Oxford Street and did a great tango class - the last of this term at tango movement - and came home knackered and slept like a log. Been reading A. Maupins Mary Anne in Autumn - latest of his Tales of the City novels and am almost finished. Its sureal as H and I have been also watching concurently episodes from the first tv series of T.O.T.C. - so - I have Mary Anne visually as Laura Linney the actress who played her in her mid 1970's mid twenties version , whereas the latest novel has her written aged 57 with uterine cancer and I cant picture her as any older.

A great yoga session today teacher - Mistress Heather -is driving me hard with two new alternating routines but I'm already feeling the benefit of this in terms of muscle strength and stamina improvement. She says my body is getting younger(what about my mind!)We wont go there - and I shall go back to my writing now...