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Matt said yesterday that he couldn't work out how we've come to be in this position (ie. having a mortgage agreed, and actively looking for a house to buy). Neither can I. We can't remember whose idea it was to visit the mortgage advisor in the first place. I suspect it was my mum, goading us into it. Either that, or something clicked when we were in Paris.

Cut for sheer dullness of it all, except for the picture of the steam train at the end. )
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posted by [personal profile] madelinekelly at 09:59pm on 22/09/2009 under
I have writer's block. I've had it for the last four months. I generally haven't been posting here on my LJ unless I've had pictures to show you, because thinking of words without pictures is just too hard.

My sister thinks I should "simply" start another story, and forget about the pig. But the poxy pig story has to be completed, otherwise it will fester in the back of my brain until the day I die.

For the first evening in a while, I've had three whole uninterrupted hours when I could've got a bit of writing done. Instead I've been sitting here, trying to work out why the block started in the first place.

Two things.

I got depressed at the beginning of June, for reasons entirely unrelated to writing. But the pig story is supposed to be funny. Turns out I can't be funny when I'm depressed. This knocked my confidence, which made me more depressed. Etc.

Time. During April and May, Matt took on an unfair share of the household nonsense, because he was as keen as me to see me beat my deadline. The deadline swooshed by, as deadlines do, and I felt too guilty at the continuing domestic inequality so I started doing my share of the chores once more. Chores are wonderfully distracting, and you feel like you've achieved something at the end of the day. Much more satisfying than trying and failing to be funny in a story.

The good news is that I'm not depressed any more. I've been generally quite perky since we went to Paris (if you don't count my recent mini meltdown over property prices and income).

Time is still an issue, though.

Cut for boring details. )

I've tried (briefly) getting up much earlier in the mornings so that I can get some quality writing time in at the start of every day. It didn't work. I can't go to bed early. The evening teaching routine messes it all up. On the bright side, that means I have at least 2 useful hours after 9.00pm on weeknights.

I should stop feeling guilty for not writing during the day, maybe. I could spend the free daylight time doing other stuff instead. Evenings could be writing time. Come home. Have tea with Matt. Write. Go to bed.

There's no point trying to write on Sundays. I declare Sundays a writing-free zone for me. I'm inclined to keep Saturdays clear too. It'd be nice to have a day each week where Matt and I can just spend time together without feeling like we should be rushing off to visit someone or do something useful etc.

Okay. Weeknights, after tea. No word quota. No angsting. 250 words is better than 100 words, but 100 words is better than no words. If too knackered to write hilarious prose, I should at the very least read over what I've already got and try to tighten it up.

Ha. That was actually useful! I was going to ask you lot for advice, but I think I've got it all sorted out now.

Right. I'm going to have a cup of tea and then I'm going to play a few of the Goldberg Variations. Huzzah!
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posted by [personal profile] madelinekelly at 10:55pm on 28/05/2009 under

There's a fundamental error in the story I'm writing. So fundamental that I'm going to have to re-write the last 20,000 words. I'm an idiot.
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posted by [personal profile] madelinekelly at 12:09pm on 31/01/2009 under , ,
There were two books I forgot to mention in my last "what I've been reading" post: The Plot Against America by Philip Roth, and The Sixth Seal by Mary Wesley.

Both books disappointed me for reasons that I find very interesting. You might not be quite as enthralled, however, so I shall put it all under a cut.

Read more... )
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posted by [personal profile] madelinekelly at 10:58am on 23/06/2008 under
The new story grabbed me eight days ago. True to my fickle nature I've spent the last seven days thinking about the old pig story. (This is at least an improvement on not thinking about it at all.) It's so very broken, you see.

Two of the characters were supposed to be hilarious stereotypes at first glance but prove to be something else entirely when you got to know them, but it didn't work out that way -- they just stayed stereotypes right through to the end. Also, there was no basis in the folklore for either of them. They didn't fit. And in order to get my protagonist to meet one of them I had to basically repeat a scene from earlier in the story where she'd met someone else. Weak weak weak.

After a week of thinking, I have solutions! One character will no longer be what I thought she'd be. The beauty of this solution is that there are suddenly a lot more opportunities for humour and misunderstandings and incluing (thank you, [ profile] papersky, for that word!). The other character must be removed entirely and parts of their story given over to someone else. This someone is a spare sympathetic character who didn't get to do very much except be sympathetic. Now they'll have a chance to be heroic, daring and ambiguous. And, best of all, I won't have to do that awful scene repeat to get them into the story.

There was a problem with the ending too. I had a time/magic issue going on, but I didn't follow it through to the logical conclusion. And someone got hurt without a really good reason, with melodramatic after-effects that didn't fit with the tone of the story. I've worked out how to bring those two things together so that the injury will have an impact on the time and the magic, which will make it funnier and more appropriate. Hopefully, the new final chapters will be satisfyingly confusing.

It's tempting to think that I was right to leave this story fallow for so long. If I'd tried to re-write it without having these fixes in mind then it would've been a waste of time. But I suspect that these solutions would've occurred to me a year ago, if I'd put a bit of effort into thinking about it back then.
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posted by [personal profile] madelinekelly at 04:20pm on 14/06/2008 under ,
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posted by [personal profile] madelinekelly at 09:13pm on 09/06/2008 under ,
Via boingboing, J.K.Rowling's commencement address at Harvard:

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.


This fits too neatly with a few things I've been thinking recently. Oh well.
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posted by [personal profile] madelinekelly at 02:50pm on 30/05/2008 under ,
[ profile] miri_me linked to a little typing test yesterday. I had a go, of course, and got a flukey first-time wpm of 102. It fell to 95 on the second attempt, and 92 for all attempts thereafter.

I joked, on [ profile] miri_me's journal, that my RSA qualifications were the most useful things I took from secondary school. But I've been thinking about that all day -- remembering why I did the RSA course in the first place, and reflecting that you have to put manure in the ground if you want to get a good crop of potatoes.

First of all, the RSA course gave me something to do during lunchtimes twice a week. Lunchtimes were the worst part of the day during my last year at school. My best friend had deserted me. My other friends seemed to have turned shallow during the summer holiday. Lessons were all right because you had things to do. But lunchtimes? I hated them. If there wasn't some kind of band or choir or orchestra rehearsal on then I'd skulk in the library. If there were people in my hiding place in the library then I was stuck with nowhere to go except the sixth form common room, where the deserter and the shallow people and the nasty people would be. Joining the RSA course gave me a new place to hide -- the typewriter room!

At the time I thought this was the most depressing aspect to doing the RSA exams. I couldn't ignore that I'd rather mindlessly strike keys on a typewriter than deal with my friends. Looking back, there's a much more depressing aspect to the choice. I was 17, and I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I had no ambition. I didn't want to be a teacher (having seen how harassed and unhappy the teachers were at school -- especially the music teachers). I didn't want to be a housewife. I didn't want to be a vet (which had been my sister's ambition for most of her early teens). I didn't want to be a doctor or lawyer (too much training!). What else could I be? All my withered little imagination could come up with was office jobs of one kind or another. My mum worked in an office. Other women worked in her office. Women could work in offices. I could work in an office.

Looking at it now, that's the most pathetic train of thought ever. I want to grab 17-year-old me and slap some sense into her. At the very least, I'd like to slap some self-belief and hope into her. How could I think my future would be so constrained? I honestly thought that my music degree was just a frivolous delay before settling into some kind of finance-related office job. I thought, "I'll get my RSA qualifications, and that way I'll always be able to get a job, which will be handy after the degree."

Nobody had any better suggestions for me. The careers advisor at school -- and the one at university, where I was doing a music degree -- told me I should be an accountant. And I believed them, like the weak-willed, spineless little sap that I was. Oh, I never seriously considered taking up accountancy, but I felt like I was under-achieving by discarding it as a career. The head of music at my school told me I wasn't talented enough to make a living with the piano. I still see him occasionally, when I'm out and about being a professional musician. He acts as though he always thought I was great.

So I did the RSA course, and got a few qualifications out of it. They did come in handy at university when I had 5000-word essays to write overnight, or when my uni friends needed someone to type up their handwritten essays -- with a typing speed of 60wpm I was able to get it done a lot faster than anyone else I knew. And they came in handy after university, when I spent a couple of years temping as a secretary in York and Oxford. My typing speed then was 80wpm, which was impressive enough to make up for my lack of super-smart business clothes.

But it's been in the last five years that I've really come to appreciate my typing ability: it makes writing stories so much easier. Little 17-year-old me -- you had no vision, no ambition, no courage. But I do, and I'm going to take your weaselly little just-in-case fall-back dead-end qualifications and turn them into something I'll be proud of for the rest of my life. So there!
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posted by [personal profile] madelinekelly at 11:22pm on 23/05/2008 under
We were talking about literary genres last night. Matt wanted to know how you'd define each one, what the main thing was that drove the story onwards. I came up with a list. It felt good to figure something out for myself.

Litfic = character
Romance = relationship
Science Fiction = idea
Fantasy = world
Horror = fear
Crime = problem
Porn = porn!
Thriller = action

There are overlaps, of course -- most stories will have action in them, and characters, relationships, ideas, etc -- but there'll still be one main engine for the story.

Not so with children's and young adults' fiction! In that blessed realm, anything goes, and all genre conventions can be mashed together into a glorious muddle. The only thing you need to drive children's stories onwards is plot. Thank goodness for children.

On the SCBWI lj community, Candy Gourlay posted a recent quote from Jeanette Winterson (whose children's book, Tanglewreck, was the one book I couldn't be bothered reading to the end last year). Winterson describes children as "feral thugs" and "strange, sub-human creatures". [I've typed lots of sentences, in an attempt to comment on this, in the last twenty minutes, but I expect any sane person is thinking the exact same things that I'm thinking. What Winterson was thinking, on the other hand...]
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posted by [personal profile] madelinekelly at 09:53pm on 15/05/2008 under , ,
I had a little epiphany today. It's an epiphany I've had before, but apparently it's possible to repeat epiphanies (one of my adult pupils told me this on Monday, after he'd said he'd had an epiphany about minor key signatures, and I'd commented that he'd said he had the exact same epiphany in the previous lesson, and now I've used the word "epiphany" too many times). Anyway, my epiph-- revelation was that I should narrow my view when I consider impossibly huge projects, and that'll make them easier to tackle.

Like I said, I've realised this before, but I do seem to keep on forgetting it. Matt had the nifty idea of making a note of the cause, rather than just the conclusion, so that I could easily recreate the epiphanous moment in my head the next time I forget.

Read more... )


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