Tuesday 15th July
Busy day. Finished reading and annotating students’ work for short story tutorials tonight. Finished working on the ‘week three’ post, which I published at lunchtime, then edited after spotting errors. Spent time on Twitter and Facebook, replied to emails. I knew I probably wouldn’t get any writing done today because I’m busy finishing things off before I go on a writing retreat tomorrow. Typed up summaries of scenes I’ve already written to take to the retreat with me. I thought having an overview might help me decide how to move forward (if you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know I’m really struggling at the moment.) Email from my editor, asking if I could send over a para or two about the main storyline so she can discuss it at a meeting next week. Ooh ‘eck. Sent a garbled reply, admitting that I was feeling pretty stuck, then crossed my fingers and headed off to teach the evening class. So impressed with the progress students have made over the last few weeks! Word count 0
Lovely reassuring email from my editor, offering to meet up and chat through the problems. So pleased – talking it though is bound to be useful. Did some emails, updated my website and Facebook page with events coming up in September and October, then packed for the retreat. By the time I’d arrived and unpacked, there wasn’t much time before dinner, so I just wrote up this account of the day so far. This being my first night, I had dinner with my host, the writer and former Radio 4 newsreader Annie Mckie, who also offers writing support for those staying on the retreat. Annie cooked a lovely vegetarian meal over which we shared a bottle of wine while talking nineteen to the dozen about our novels. A thoroughly entertaining evening, but today’s word count? 0 (keep reading – it gets better!)
Started the day with breakfast on the balcony, which overlooks the Forest of Dean.
I’d told Annie last night that I felt sick when I thought about my novel, so this morning, we had a brainstorming session. Annie’s insightful comments and suggestions have set me thinking along a different route. Went for a walk and found ideas kept popping into my head. I actually feel quite excited about it again. Of course, this could all change by tomorrow, but at the moment, I’m feeling happy about my decision to lose a character and concentrate on the remaining viewpoint characters. The order in which to tell the story is far from clear yet – structure’s always tricky. I plan to do a bit more thinking now (lunchtime), then maybe start writing some of the scenes I’ve planned and see how it feels. 9pm – wrote over 1000 words of notes today, and started a new scene. Word count: 865
Good chat with Annie this morning about my new ideas. She was positive and encouraging and came up with a few useful suggestions. I‘m feeling I have a clearer idea of the story now. Worked on the balcony in the sunshine. Word count this morning 876, and wrote more after lunch. It’s so hot today I feel like going to sleep, but the ideas are bubbling now – this is the bit I love about being a writer! Went for a walk down to the village, triggering more ideas. The walk back – uphill in blistering heat – was more challenging. Wrote again when I got back, plus notes. After dinner, I stayed out on the balcony making notes, drinking wine and totting up the day’s word count: 3307 – that’s more like it!
Spectacular thunderstorms overnight but at least it’s a little cooler this morning. Got up at 6.30 to make tea and get started, but we’d had a power cut! Fortunately, laptop was charged, so I got cracking and wrote 653 words before breakfast, plus some notes. I feel ridiculously excited and energised. Heavy rain first thing and now there is a lovely mist rising from the trees and frequent rumbles of thunder in the distance.
Power back at lunchtime, then it went again. Arghh! Did some writing with a strange, stick-like object that bleeds blue when you press it on paper…
Word count for the day 4035 – now we’re cooking!
After doing so well yesterday, I hit another problem last night. It’s structural mainly – I always find it difficult to know where to start and leave a narrative. A couple of other minor issues, too – writing a novel really is a bit like a Rubik’s cube in that every change you make affects something else. But I went for another walk, and had another long chat with Annie. Think I may have at least partially solved these problems. Knuckled down again, and ended up with a word count of 3034
I won’t bother going into detail today, but knowing it was my last day here on the retreat, I really got on with it, working in chunks of about 90 minutes with breaks of varying lengths, depending on how tired I was. As it was my last night here, I joined Annie and her husband for dinner – lovely, lovely evening, justified (I reckon) by my word count for today: 4040
Total for week(actually five days, because I didn’t write anything on Tuesday or Wednesday): 15,281
Nice things that have happened this week: see above!
I am incredibly pleased with what I’ve achieved, particularly as I was feeling so bad about the novel this time last week. Of course it’s helped being on a retreat, away from the responsibilities and distractions of home, but it’s also been so useful having brainstorming sessions with Annie, who is incredibly good at stimulating ideas and making insightful suggestions. I’m not out of the woods with this novel yet – I can already see new problems looming – but I feel excited about it again, and that’s a wonderful feeling. If you think you might benefit from a retreat, check out Annie’s website
The coming week
Real-life will no doubt get in the way again, but for the moment at least, I feel I know where I’m going, so I’m going to aim for 7000 words this week.
New Amazon reviews
The Things We Never Said: Bumper crop! Four 5 star, one 4, one 3 and one 2 star
The Secrets We Left Behind: Two 5 star and one 4 star