Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Writing from home - and surprise interruptions

I work full time, and write in my spare time. This generally equates to maybe 5-6 hours over the weekend, depending on where I am and how much time I can spend locked up with my computer. Thankfully, my fiance likes reading in coffee shops, so we generally manage a few hours there over the weekend.

But I've recently finished one job and am on three weeks leave until I start another. Bliss! I'm on day five of not being at work, and day three of having my fiance go off to work and leave me to my own devices. Yesterday, I wrote 13,000 words of my new book in one day. That's a record for me, and I'm feeling rather proud of myself right about now. I've worked out a fairly effective system, which consists of spending the first hour or two after he's left propped up in bed, 'under the duvet', Marian Keyes-style, I suppose. When either my rumbling stomach or my greasy hair forces me out, I shower and head downstairs to my couch, where I've set up a rather nice nest of cushions to prop up my neck. There I stay until my stomach demands lunch (I am somewhat directed by my hunger pains), which I eat while trying to do something other than writing - such as watching TV or reading. After lunch, it's time for my grand venture outside. This generally consists of a fifteen minute walk into town and a couple of hours typing while sipping a soya latte in one of the various coffee shops around the place. Around five-ish, I head home, do a few more hours then cook some food up for dinner. Yes, those hunger pangs again.

The thing is, today my schedule has been knocked off a little by various interruptions. In my duvet period, I was surprised to hear the doorbell ring. Smoothing my bed hair and chucking on a dressing gown over my extremely dorky pyjamas, I discovered the water meter man standing outside. Together we emptied out the cupboard under my sink to find my meter (I only moved in about six months ago so had never even thought about its existence before), and then I spent a good ten minutes after he left putting it back in order. My reverie interrupted, I headed for a shower. After the shower, I picked up my laptop and was heading downstairs when my smoke detector wailed into life. It doesn't like steam, you see, and I'd left the bathroom door open. Cue me jumping up and down, desperately trying to hit the off switch. Which lasted approximately two seconds before it decided that it really did detect smoke this time. I eventually found a long stick and used that to turn it off approximately 47 times before it finally stopped. Right. Then I headed downstairs, put the laptop on my lap and started writing, pleased to see on one of my obsessive word count checks that I had already done 5,000 words this morning. Perhaps 13,000 isn't my record, I told myself, hopefully. I was in the middle of writing a sweet scene, where two of my favourite characters first get together, and I was quite enjoying the ambience when my bell rang again. Two lovely old ladies were outside, hoping to interest me in their church magazine. Not really my thing, but they weren't pushy so I wished them a nice day and didn't mention anything about the interruption. That was my good deed for the day. Returning to my scene, taking a deep breath and starting to type, I realised I'd lost it. So here I am, writing my blog about being interrupted instead of writing my book.

I'd better try to get back to it. No doubt the cat's going to spontaneously combust any second and I want to get another few thousand words written first.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Am I a writer yet?

What is a writer? Is it a person who writes or a person who writes and is read?

On 30 March 2009, I finished writing my first novel, which I had started back in August 2007. I hadn't been working on it solidly during that time, but in bursts of activity. Finally, early this year, my fiance told me that he wanted me to finish it before my birthday, which happened on 1 April 2009. So I did. Thank goodness for supportive partners, right?

After that, I started sending it off to agents. The thing is, the agent concept is very confusing. Do you go one at a time? Some agents will reject you if you don't. But then some agents won't ever reply, so how long do you give them before approaching another? It's all very hard to say. I'm taking the gently-gently approach, but I might change that as things move on and no responses come back in. The only response I've had so far was emailed to me four days after I popped the letter in the post, and so I didn't feel that it had reached the desk of the powers that be. Of course, I discovered later that I'd forgotten to double space the last two chapters, so I'm telling myself that was why they rejected it. Hey, it works for me.

It also seems that cover letters must list one's publications. The whole point is that I'm not published, and it's my first book. Somewhere, in the process of writing my first book, I should also have been writing short stories and getting them published in magazines or winning competitions with them. So I've started on that as well. Nine of my stories, some of which are the kind of thing I enjoy writing, some of which are not, are out there floating in the ether being considered by various magazines. It seems that willing them to be accepted may not be enough, as I received my very first rejection slip today.

And, of course, in order not to focus on the success or failure of my first book, I've started another. And another. And another. And another. Yes, I have four new books currently underway, and it is making me feel a little unfocussed. One I loved the idea for, but just can't seem to get it going. The other I find pours out of me as easily as breathing, but I'm not really enjoying writing it. It's a bit more serious than what I usually write, and it's a lot harder to inject some humour into it to keep it readable. The third is just an idea at this stage, focussing primarily on the joys or otherwise of being thirty, and it's probably the closest thing to being autobiographical. And the one that is keeping me up at night wondering about it is the fourth one, a story about three women, told from various perspectives.

So, am I a writer? I write every spare second I get, and I love it. Writing puts me into a relaxed, energised and happy mood. But, conversely, I don't want to think that no one is ever going to read what I write. Part of the joy is thinking that they will. I know I have a long way to go, and probably thousands of rejection slips to read, but it would be encouraging if something positive came back.

Does being published make me a writer, or can I be a writer without being published? Do I want to be a writer without being published? Could I stop writing even if I wanted to? Am I overestimating the joy of being read and seeing my work slated on Amazon?

Anyway, enough questions. I gotta go write.