Friday, 30 October 2009

Death & The End

Today I woke up feeling a bit like I look in the picture. (The picture is from the morning after a party back in September.) I don't know what brought on this feeling. I've been on a real writing high lately and I really enjoyed last night - went to a Halloween event at the Marlborough Theatre called Fear of the dark hosted by James Burt and Glue Gun91 with special guests Kay Sexton and Bernadette Cremin. I saw a swan and a woman dying on stage. Among other acts there was also a a sinister dog walker, a story about a gang of brutal clowns and a harp player.

Maybe my miserable morning is due too much alcohol.
That's not true though - only three pints over the course of four hours.

Maybe my miserable morning is due to spending too much time in my own little bubble writing. That's not true either. I had a great time Saturday with Sue Pearson, walking about in town at the White Night. Sunday I met up with Sue again for our regular "creative meeting" where we encourage each other and exchange ideas. Monday I went to a new event as part of Write Club at the Skiff, hosted by Ellen de Vries and James Burt. Really refreshing! As I'm so serious about my novel work it was nice to do some exercises to get back into play mood. First we wrote for 15 min, then 10, 5 and finally 2 minutes. As inspiration we looked at four different pictures. I found it quite a challenge to write about the abstract ones ...

Maybe my miserable morning is due to that I found out that someone I thought was travelling died before she even left the country ... and that was a year ago. This might be true. I didn't know this person very well, but it still shocked me.

So ... I have to get myself together. The final feedback on Replacing Angel has arrived from my editor (who was one of the people in the show yesterday!). I've worked on the first two thirds, so that leaves me with the third third - the end. I'm happy with the end, but again there are some gaps to be filled in. I need to write about a bittersweet goodbye. And one of the characters who's in the background most of the story now needs to get a lot of space - as she plays an important role in the end ... Apparently I also need to work on my sex scenes ... Tough as my interest in sex is as big as my interest in the life of frogs at the moment.

Friday, 23 October 2009

This week : research and staying in

This week I've taken care of my time:
Monday: (all day off)researching a very special event for the novel, writing about the event
Tuesday: research in the morning by doing an interview, writing up notes, work, edited novel

Wednesday: work all day, edited novel in evening
Thursday: edited novel in morning, work, edited novel in evening
Friday: edited novel in morning, work, edited novel in evening

Yes, I've stayed in every single night and been up early every morning. The editing of Replacing Angel really feels like a drug at the moment. I can't stay away. I turn off my phone. I ignore the feeling that there are some friends that I "should" contact. I have to take advantage of this mood. Even if I'm disciplined it's rare that I'm disciplined and inspired at the same time.

I can't tell you about Monday's research as it would give away too much about the novel. But I can tell you about Tuesday. Natalie, the main character in Replacing Angel meets a girl who lives in a squat on the seafront. Some of you might know it. Medina House in Hove. The squatters were evicted a couple of years ago, but that's O.K. as my novel is set in the beginning of the '00s. I met up with Yvo, a woman who used to live there and she filled in some gaps for me. Even if I visited the squat a couple of times my memories were fuzzy. Yvo was kind enough to draw me a map of the interior of the squat so given this exact information I had to re-write a whole chapter. I know you've got poetic license, but I still like to include some real life facts.

Tomorrow I'll break my pattern by going out and celebrate the White Night in Brighton. Museums, galleries, bars, clubs are open extra late to defy the darkness ...

p.s. I'm not really a goth anymore ... I value LIGHT more than anything, so I try to pay the sea a visit almost every day. And it's amazing how there's something new every day - like those balloons ...

Friday, 16 October 2009

The importance of backstory

The second lot of feedback on Replacing Angel (my English novel in progress) has arrived from my editor. (She's sending it in three parts.) There are still a few questions to be answered. One scene I'm working on is the birthday of my main character Natalie. She's having a drink in a pub with her flat mates and Deanna (a friend of her best friend Angel who used to live in the flat before Natalie did). At the birthday drink it's the first time Deanna meets one of the flat mates and now the question is: if she was such a good friend - how come she's met one of the flat mates and not the other?

I have no answer. Yet. That's what I have to work out and that's where backstory comes in ... It's not like I have to write a whole chapter about how Deanna met one of the flat mates and not the other, but I still have to know to give a satisfactory explanation to the reader. So I've just dedicated an hour of "stream of consciousness"- writing to find out. (I don't like setting my alarm - so I used Nick Cave's album "Tender Pray" as a timer even if it's "only" 54 minutes.)

It turns out one of the flat mates is very controlling and doesn't like visitors. But the reason he's met this Deanna is that they use the same drug dealer. I hope this will work! I'll do some more free writing and see what I come up with. In the first writing workshop I ever went to (I was 16) I learnt that you have to know EVERYTHING about your characters, even how much change they've got in their pocket - it doesn't matter if it never gets mentioned. You still have to know - otherwise there will be gaps in the story.

p.s. the picture is supposed to represent a stream of consciousness. but in reality it's a sea of consciousness ... that's how I think of the English channel anyway!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Interview with myself

I read an interview on a Swedish blog and thought the questions were quite good so I decided to interview myself!

1. Do you have a writing schedule? E.g. every day an hour between 7 and 8 or do you write sporadically?

I'm very disciplined! Usually I write in the mornings between 9 and 12 before going to work at the library in the afternoon. Sometimes, if I feel inspired, I write in the evenings after work as well, but then I'm happy if it's only an hour. On my days off I tend to live in my nightie and I move between my bed, the kitchen and my PC all day with a break for a long walk or a coffee with a friend. All in all I manage to write about six hours on those days - and some of that writing is done in my head. Focused thinking is also writing.

2. Do you suffer from lack of inspiration sometimes or is it the other way round?

Sometimes I suffer from complete exhaustion. I don't want to write a single word, not even in my journal. It happens when life around me is too hectic and I haven't had enough time to chill out. Usually it happens when I've finished a big chunk of work, like completing a draft or a part of a draft.

3. Do you work on several projects at the same time? E.g. a thriller, some short stories and a childrens book etc.?

When I work on a novel it tends to take over my life and I find it very hard to work on other projects at the same time. However a couple of times a month I feel inspired to write a poem, it's a nice break from the tedious novel work as you can finish a poem in a week or a day even. There's also the satisfaction of performing poetry, of reaching out and showing the world that you are alive. So writing and performing poetry is my hobby. If I try to take the poetry too seriously I lose interest. It needs to be a fun thing.

4.How many books have you finished and sent off to agents/publishers?

I finished a novel called Mötet med Malva (Meeting Malva) in 2004. Then I completed Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd (Punk influenced hard rocker with attitude)in 2006 and it was published in 2007.

5. How many times have the same book been rejected? If so did you receive any constructive feedback?

Mötet med Malva
was rejected by 11 publishers, but yes I did receive a couple of nice letters with relevant feedback. One publishing director even took me out to lunch and told me he was very impressed with my writing, but encouraged me to write something else. He gave me the useful advice "write what you know". Mötet med Malva was a novel I wrote pretty much to impress both myself and my friends, but there was no heart, no true feelings in it.

As most people know Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd got accepted, but by the time the book was finished the publishing director who had encouraged me had passed away and his company had gone bankrupt! Luckily I found another publisher. Again I sent it out to 11 (my lucky number) different ones and after a month one of them phoned me and offered me a contract. So I contacted the 10 other ones and said that my manuscript had been accepted. I'll never know if those other 10 would've said yes or no.

6. Do you feel bad if you haven't written for a few days?

Yeah, I feel restless in my soul. Something is lacking from my life. I feel boring, not my normal self. I get controlled by my feelings when I don't get that emotional release and a chance to step into another world for a bit.

7. Why do you write?

Because I can't help myself! It's part of who I am. As I'm originally a shy person I find it hard to express myself in day to day life, so the writing helps me with that expression.

I also have a need to work out certain issues and explore certain topics and I love doing that through my characters.

Another reason is that I've got an interest in documenting the time we are living in, telling people "this is what it's like", "this is my reality".

8. Have you had anything published that is available for reading?

Well, you could have a go reading Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd if you are willing to learn Swedish. I've had a few poems and a short story published in anthologies and magazines, but most of them are out of print. Sometimes I post poems at MySpace - at least that's something to read while you're waiting for my English novel Replacing Angel. At the moment I've just finished editing the 1st 3rd of the 4th draft ... I'll begin editing the 2nd 3rd as soon as I've received some more feedback from my editor.

9. Do you have anything you'd like to add? (my own question)

Yes, I saw Nick Cave (him and his lyrics have been a great inspiration while writing Replacing Angel) at Palace Theatre in London yesterday. It was a very nice surprise when P.J. Harvey entered the stage and did a song! There was no photo permission, but I managed to get one picture ...

Monday, 5 October 2009

Ginger hair and toilet chairs - the joys of re-drafting a novel

I'm so excited! So excited I almost don't want to blog about it or talk about it. I'm afraid the excitement will disappear if I share it with too many people. Besides it's only my personal excitement. There's nothing like a breakthrough in writing, when it happens it feels like your whole world is falling into place ...

Between the 16th of August and the 2nd of October I hardly wrote at all. Apart from a bit of journal and letter writing and some other random bits and bobs. A break for a month and a half was just what I needed to find the motivation to start the 4th draft of Replacing Angel (my English novel in progress). Thanks to wonderful constructive feedback from writer/editor Kay Sexton I felt I finally had something to work on.

For example one of my characters who's supposed to be very sexy and attractive has ginger hair. Even if ginger might be sexy in my eyes, it's not considered sexy in general so I have to find a better way to describe this person's hair. Fiery. Shimmering. Like a sunset. Suggestions much appreciated!

I also realised that because I tried to make the novel shorter I left out events that are crucial to the story and I had to go back to the first draft and add a couple of scenes ...

There are a few language mistakes as well. In Sweden we say "toilet chair" when referring to the actual piece of furniture you sit on when you're having a piss or a shit ... I didn't know that in English toilet is both the room and the chair if you know what I mean. Oh dear, I didn't realise that I'm still writing that much about toilets ...

For the past four days I've been totally engrossed in my writing, feeling tense and stressed every time I'm away from it ... If I'm meeting someone for a drink I can't wait to get back to the sound of my fingers tapping the keys. If I'm at work I put down my thoughts on pieces of paper when nobody's looking ...

I'm bursting! I'm bubbling! I'm alive!

p.s. If you're wondering about the picture ... I couldn't get the right feeling sitting at my desk, so I had to work on the floor to feel more grounded :).