Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Rosie/Rachel thing

Very late tonight, I sat at the table and talked to my husband about my difficulty with the careful balance of the Rosie/Rachel thing. He is a sensitive and an astute man who, okay admittedly, has not read the books thus far, but has LIVED THEM!!!

Get the picture?

So, when he said, after I'd trucked up from a few hours of happy writing, 'What's up pup?' I knew my cover was blown.

He, who has lived with me for 21 years and been a writer's widower for much of those years, has my number.

'It's girly stuff,' I say.

He has just watched Kick Ass and Piranna (the youngest is away so he is being naughty) and I can tell by his body language that he is actually open to listening.

'Well,' I say. 'It's just that I need to ensure that the reader is okay with both Rosie and Rachel and - '

Eldest has come in from her date.'Hey! Well, what a night. It was great in the end but phew...' Cue, end of discussion. 'What are you guys doing?'

I start to explain what we were talking about and she rolls her eyes. Not that she is disinterested in the story but that it's so uncool to find her parents awake at 11pm talking about a fiction which hasn't been published yet.

There is the rub. The final part of this story has not been published but it is consuming my mind and those who have invested time into it: the babes, my agent, my family, those who have read and loved it, fellow writers......

So, the short answer to the pithy quip from the teenager. 'I'm writing. Na!"

And, just as both my daughters are as different as (excuse the cliche) chalk and cheese but I love them both, so it is with my writing of Rosie and Rachel.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

this is a first

I've stopped reading the crap historical novel I was given by my loved and adored friend. It is really really boring. Well written - no question about the technique but I am bored! bored! bored!

Hubby said: read the ending to find out what happens. I did. Okay. Boring.

Sorry but beautiful cover and first time author but I have better things to do during my holiday than read boring fiction.

So, I'm off to pick up some Anita Shreve.

And, spend some time writing.

What I don't get is how something as BORING as this book gets published.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Organising the family. Organising a historical novel. It's pretty much the same thing for me

Though I am a words person, I'm also visual. I need to see words written down, map directions or the cartoon. I need to see. See. See.

So after a wonderful time writing yesterday, I came to the realisation that I needed a map for this final book.

The same was as important as I organised the roast lamb, vegetables and dessert for the family Christmas lunch. I wrote down a map: of the menu; of the things I wanted my husband to do; a list of what I wanted each of the girls to do.

After the opening of prezzies and going to church and having Christmas lunch, I set about 'mapping' the story of Birthright.

It has been an exciting past couple of hours because it has exposed gaps in the narrative. No, that's not bad. It shows me what I need to do to take what is imbedded in my mind out into the type face so that others can truly appreciate this story.

I do not have a story as laiden and complicated as Dianna Gabaldin's but I also do not have a tedious story weighten with atmos and detail which I have found in a number of 'historical fiction' books of late.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

writing takes seventeen times as long as reading

Ok. I made up that statistic but it feels like about right.

I'm reading a fabulous book at the moment during the day (along with running around after family and looking after pets) and writing in the evenings and early mornings. I have written heaps and it's taken me HOURS! I've progressed 11 pages. I sat in the doctor's waiting rooms and read 38 pages of the fabulous book I'm reading and it took me 15 mins!

Needless to say, the comings and goings of Birthright are in good hands (I say this with arrogant confidence) but this is becoming a huge book. There are characters who are pushing their way into my story who demand they have a significant part.

William Graham
the Thane of Cawdor's son
and others who I haven't met yet but I feel are just lurking for their chance to burst into the story.

Sheesh. Can't a writer have some control?

Anyway, it is a few days before Christmas where the whole world turns gaa gaa. Me, I'm a bit of a ba humbug. The only special days for me are birthdays. And, I have friends and students struggling with the European disasterous weather so I don't really feel inclined to be particularly festive as I worry about them.

Here in Dunedin, it is unseasonally hot (and windy).

I wish all who read my blog a happy holiday because, damn it, we all deserve it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Like shooting a movie is the writing for me

I am not writing in chronological order but rather the scenes as they come to me because these are the strongest ones.

I wish I could draw the technique I use as my way of writing. I've said it before that I see the novel as being like a large canvas - maybe sort of like even the Bayeux Tapestry. I've sketched the overall outline (where the horizon is, what's in the foreground, background, the shape of the terrain aka the synopsis) and drawn in the rough of the details for the entire piece (people, trees, large objects and notes on action aka chapter synopsis). Some parts are already in coloured detail - perhaps needing a touch or two when the whole is finished. Some parts have more detail or some colour but need more layers.

I come to the canvas, look at it, and begin to work on the section which is upper most in my mind - like painting the details of the leaves of a particular tree.

And, always, I'm mindful of why I am writing this (apart from the fact that I have a contract with a deadline *grin*:

I am writing Fleance into life-changing events which will grow him into the man his father and even Magness saw he could be.

And, a happy ending of course.

Once the entire story is told, I will go through the manuscript in the same way at the continuity editor of a film does.

And, who knows, sometimes the ending surprises and if it does then I will have to go back and look very carefully at the start.

I gave myself four days off writing. Worked in the garden (blerk!) with eldest daughter and her boyfriend, took the dogs to the dog park every morning, baked cakes, cooked (yeah, really!) because my husband was away in Sydney for the week, helped youngest with her sewing (I hate sewing but I am reasonably competent having learnt at school and then worked Uni holidays in a sewing factory).

But, have been in email discussions with the talented Helen Lowe who is being very disciplined to finish a chapter and agreed that writing 100,000 in three months is do-able but tough going.

If she’s going to be beavering away, then I have no excuse. And, I did it once with Banquo’s Son.

A lot of people are hanging out for Birthright and I better not disappoint.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The curse of being a writer and an English teacher with a story to tell

Sometimes, I get in the way of Myself. I am best, as a writer, to just pour it all out and come back later to fix up the clunks. Trouble is, lately, Myself has been second guessing me and arguing with me and, frankly, Myself needs to go and do something else for a while so that I can go forward without interruption.

Currently, Myself has placed highlights and questions in square brackets all through the latest section. She's pushing my hands off the keyboard to add her comments and it's very distracting.

Why? It's because Myself recognises gaps and problems and places where she wants more for the reader and is not content to let me, the author, just run with the narrative.

At least, I suppose, Myself's comments add to the total word count. *grin*

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The 4am wake up call

It was so exciting. The middle of the final battle. Blood, sweat, screams. Men grunting and breathing deeply and, with all their might, using their failing strength, to save themselves or others as others lay dead or dying at their feet.

I saw it. I heard it. I could smell it as well. Then, the seriously clever interchange and I was going: what? cool! And then, more.

On it went and I was so excited I switched on the lamp (it was too cold to get up so I leaned over, grabbed pen and my note book and wrote this:
Battle Feild.
F fighting - injured.
C saves F
Rebel Leader: You are a traitor, C!
C: depends on whose side you stand.
RL You have betrayed your brothers
C Better that than my king or country.

F - lots of blood loss. Massive fight. Everyone watching
[censored - heh heh]

Then comes the questions. Questions about motivation and reasons and reminders.
I am so excited.
Squee (although my agent has asked nicely that I not be too mean to Flea.

The night before, I had a wonderful insight into an important moment between Fleance and his girl. Good stuff.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How to write an historical novel, work full and still run a family with teenagers.

Heh heh. I thought that would get your attention.

Quite frankly, I don't know how I have done it two times in a row. I'd rather be reading than writing most days. Currently reading the fabulous You Against Me by Jenny Downham, the author of the amazing book Before I die. It's so much easier to read a great story well written than to tell a great story and ensure the writing is perfect!

Here are my needed tools:
Publishing contract. Check.
Deadline. Check.
Fantastic story outline in detail. Check.
Chapter breakdown. Check.
Research sound. Check.
Motivation. Um. Well, I need time stretching out forever to get up the momentum. It takes me about three hours to get into the narrative and, apart from eating and sleeping, I really can't afford any other distractions.

And, the distractions have been wonderful weather, the needs of my children and husband (and the garden and the dogs; oh, and the cats). And the expectations of Christmas. To be honest, this a time of year I loathe. Never bought into the Santa Claus thing with the kids; hate the commercial nature of things; cringe at the family dynamics, the expectations and awkwardness of things. I think people (family) should behave in the so-called Christmas spirit every day of the year.

I would rather run away and write but that is not how things are and so I have to do what my title says: write a novel, (soon not be working but be on school holidays) and look after my family.

How to write an historical novel in a year? Do nothing else but the essential: eat, sleep, work, mother, write. The garden and the dusting just become ways to help me during my procrastination phrases.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I'm avoiding doing what I need to be doing

I have more time now. The kids have finished their school exams. My students have finished their school exams and I've written the final reports but. Um. But. The weather here in Dunedin is SO good.

It feels like a sin to be inside when it's so sunny and warm outside.

Also, I have nailed the first 21,000 words ie I've set up the first act really well and now I have to delve into Act Two. Which is hard, cos hard stuff happens.

I am such a procrastinator!

Sorry. Birthright WILL be out on time. Promise.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

research night

I walked home from my fav restaurant (yes, I know, two days in a row is a bit much but I was meeting with a visiting friend *TK waves to Belynda*) and my mind was working through a technicality I was having.

When I got home, I rang my friend Jo (Bloodlines is dedicated to her and her husband) *TK waves at Jo* who yet again, gave useful suggestions.
I've spent two hours researching this particular issue. Here are my notes:

aka St Anthony's Fire.

Symptoms: severe burning in limbs. Gangrene/loss of limbs. Hallucinations. Strong uterine contractions, nausea, seizures, unconsciousness

Monks applied balms containing tranquilizing ingredients and circulation stimulating plant extracts.

Controlled doses used to induce abortions and to stop maternal bleeding.

Hospital Brothers of ST Anthony founded 1095

was passed through lactation

red powder. Easy to miss in dark rye-flour.

Incubation period 2-3 hours after ingestion

Needs a cool wet climate.

1035 - Outbreak in France. 40,000 died. (Henri)

The wealthy not affected because they ate white bread

Farmers brought produce to market in the larger towns but poor people bought the dark bread. (Perth and Dundee)

Witchcraft blamed. See thesis on cause of Salem Witch Hunt

Yes, dear reader, we are in for one more wild and final ride. WAHOO

What is it about a national disaster and grief..?

In terms of the writing, I've been a stunned mullet since news of the Pike River Mine disaster. Yet, in the past few days, something within my mourning and my reading of others' grief as well as dealing with the day to day getting on with life of raising a family (of teenagers - Yes! please feel sorry for me) some gold has come through.

Some nuggets of universal truth of life has presented itself. So much so that I've actually gone - whoah. Who said that? Birthright, I predict, will be the book that will be quoted (*author squints and prays*)

It is a story which confronts, smack on, our worst scenarios: unexplained and unjustified death of children, spouses, parents. Disquiet justified or not about the responsibility of those who hold the power. The complexities of relationships and the allegiance to them.

I have shed many tears these past thirteen days - some of them in guilt that I am not qualified to grieve but such is the way the world works, there is never a license on grief.

Every man downed deserves his story to be told. It is my wish that the story-tellers among us grab a hold of them and put their place in the sun.