Saturday, 17 September 2011

Six Days Till Disney - The Meltdown

It’s a trip more than 18 months in the making.  18 months of planning and preparation, hopes and anticipation, making plans then changing them then changing them back again.  Tickets have been bought, reservations made, details checked and double checked.  18 months of planning on an epic scale and all held together by The Planning Binder…

So why, one week away, do I feel so completely disorganised?

Maybe it’s because the house, as ever, is in chaos.  Having carefully selected a trustworthy house/pet sitter (or rather our sort of trustworthy best man!), the race is on to put the place in some kind of order acceptable for guests.  I’m not just talking cleaning here – that would be easy.  Instead we now have less than one week to rid the house of The Curse.

You might recall The Curse from a previous blog post.  If not, here’s a quick recap:  in this house, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.  When you live here you sort of get used to it – if an asteroid was to hit our street and leave every home untouched but ours, it wouldn’t exactly surprise me.  It might be a bit of a shock for a house sitter thought!  So the plan was to pull every room apart and check for any hidden problems and head any disasters off at the pass.  Good plan, right?

The good news is that so far we have not found any leaks, breakages, ruptures or cracks.  Roof tiles appear to be where they should be.  The windows and doors are all working.  The taps are all still attached.  We even have working lights in the hallway.  The bad news, however, is that the house is in total disarray.  Ever notice that when you clear out one room, the others miraculously appear more cluttered?

It’s my own fault.  I would insist on keeping every CD, DVD and book I’ve ever bought, none of which I have the storage space to accommodate.  Keeping old movie magazines is also a bad idea – putting aside the clutter, every time I find one I have to sit down and read it again.  It's not exactly speeding up the process!

We’re almost there, though.  Another few hours work and we will have finished tidying the spare room, a room used for storing anything and everything that makes Hogwarts’ Room of Requirement look minimalist.  After that it’s just the living room, the kitchen, the hall…

We have six more days to go – plenty of time…right?

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Lost for Words

When people find out that I am writing a novel (I suppose I can now say ‘have written’, since I finished the latest draft at the weekend) the first question they normally ask me is the most obvious one – what is it about?

When I say it’s the most obvious question, it’s not a criticism of the person asking, but rather as one of me, because for reasons unknown, it’s a question I just can’t seem to answer.

It’s not that I don’t know the answer.  Of course I know what the book is about – I wrote it!  So why, then, does this question unfailingly produce little more than flaming cheeks and confused mumbles?

I’d like to think that it’s simply a case that I’m better at telling the story on the page than I am in person.  Is that in itself a bad sign?  Who knows?  Maybe it’s just that I find it difficult to condense what to me seems like a complex and layered story into a few conversational snippets. 

The book – which has been tentatively titled Afterlife – tells the story of twenty-something writer Amelia Morgan.  Her life has had the same ups and downs as most people – raised in a single parent family, estranged from her troubled but beloved brother, forced to share a home with her shrewish, newly-divorced sister – but she is content leading a largely uneventful, carefree life in her home town of Hayden.  That life is shattered by the brutal murder of someone close to her, but it’s only the start of the nightmare.  The confession of someone even closer set off a devastating chain of events, and Amelia finds that nothing – and no one – is what it seems.  As her home life descends into bitter recriminations and violence, and her oldest friends abandon her, Amelia must fight for her life, and retribution for the life that was lost. 

That wasn’t so hard, was it?  Why is it that it’s easier to write than to say?

Perhaps part of it is fear of feedback.  I’m facing that particular fear this week as a draft of the novel is currently with my first semi-impartial reader.  I had that moment of panic before handing it over, thinking that it might be best that if the story stays with me, but then what’s the point?  Happily that fear seems to have been momentary. 

I also came across an interesting exercise on Write to Done, where writers were invited to post details of their work and have other posters comment on it.  I loved this exercise and the way it was set up to encourage constructive feedback.  It’s also given me a lot to think about in terms of the direction I want to take with my writing.

So if it’s not the fear of feedback then what?  Why do I find it so hard to talk about what I’m writing?  The truth is it could be all of the reasons above, or none of them.  Maybe it’s just that writing is something I love, and it feels like mine.  It can be scary to share it sometimes.