Wednesday, 25 November 2009

What would you do?

I know it’s been so long since I posted about writing that many people who drop by here will have forgotten that that is ostensibly why I keep this blog—because I'm supposed to be a writer. I haven’t been mentioning it much, not because I haven’t been doing it but because of late I seem to have been doing it very badly, which is all highly frustrating and depressing. The book that I’m working on has been started no less than 3 times now, and each time I’ve trashed ten thousand words or so and gone back to the start, convinced that this time I’ve nailed the small plot/character detail that holds the key to the conflict and all is going to go smoothly from now on.

Unfortunately it’s not really working out like that.

I’ve been stuck on a particular key scene for the last week now, and no matter how I approach it I don’t seem to be able to make it work. The characters don’t seem to be able to relax and talk naturally in the situation I’ve put them in—it’s a bit like working with actors (and Abby Green would know a lot more about this than I do) who are reading the script and rolling their eyes and saying ‘but what’s my motivation?’

I’ve tried to explain their motivation endlessly, but there comes a point where endless explanation becomes a problem in itself. I’ve tried to tell them that they have to do this scene one way or another, or else there’ll be no story and we’ll all be out of a job, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference. So now I’m wondering, maybe it’s just because none of us know each other properly yet? Maybe I should pick up the story after the pivotal point and keep writing, and then go back at the end and fill in the blanks?

I find that idea logical but terrifying. Has anyone else ever done it? Does it work? Is it a direct route into another wasted week of sleepless nights and negative word count? And what would YOU do?

Friday, 20 November 2009

Today's comment on contemporary culture

I read with interest that the Advertising Standards Authority have received complaints from several viewers this year's M&S Christmas advert (sacrilege!) Apparently gruff Philip Glenister’s line about ‘that girl prancing around in her underwear’ is considered by some to be offensive and 'demeaning to women.' Gosh. Funnily enough, I don’t feel terribly demeaned when I watch that bit. Wistful, maybe, and slightly depressed. I'm sure lovely, bad-tempered Philip wouldn't consider it a festive highlight to watch me prancing (prancing? Not sure I even know how…) in my grim, workhouse undergarments.

I hope that M&S respond, with due responsibility, by making a second installment featuring Robert Pattinson stripping off to his (100% easycare cotton) boxers. Actually, I think I might complain too, just to add weight to the argument.

(Have just realized that this is the latest in a succession of TV-related blog posts recently.Oh dear, my cultural references are pitifully limited. Come back next week when I shall be analysing the use of dramatic irony in Harry Hill's TV Burp and discussing madness and morality in the X-Factor.)

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Home Truths

Happily settled myself on the sofa last night to watch the BBC 4 docu-drama on childrens' novelist Enid Blyton. Helena Bonham Carter was fabulous (and sexy Matthew McFayden was, well… not sexy, but fabulous too) and I deeply coveted her office, her clothes and her ability to write 6 000 words a day. However, the programme was not all sunshine and lashings of ginger beer, focusing as it did on the bitter irony that Ms Blyton was so busy writing about the endless joys of childhood that she ruthlessly sidelined her own children.

Gulp. Better get back to my own book, where the hero and heroine are lying in the afterglow of hot sex on a car bonnet and try not to dwell on the fact that the most intimate thing I’ve done with my husband this week is discuss car insurance.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Catching Up

A thick, grey fog is hanging over the garden today, like the frozen remains of the weekend’s bonfire smoke, and it’s obvious that Winter has really arrived (generously bringing with it a savage sore throat and vile cold. Thanks, Winter.) Seems like months, rather than just over a week since we were away in the Welsh Marches, having breakfast outside in the garden or walking through golden and sunlit woodland to picnic on the hill overlooking this view…

The clocks changed on the Saturday that we arrived, but instead of going back an hour we might as well have turned them back a century as mobile phones were left to languish and we all - even Facebook-fixated daughter #1 - forgot to miss screen-based entertainment. The house we were staying in was once a gamekeeper’s cottage and retained a pleasing air of Edwardian austerity (ie. there was no dishwasher) but the autumn colours of the woods surrounding it were utterly majestic. The daughters went off looking for sweet chestnuts to roast and racing around cathedral-like clearings trying to catch the leaves that spiraled down on each breath of wind. In a cupboard in what must once have been the head-keeper’s office we discovered a dreadful mud-coloured jigsaw of steam trains and they spent the evenings huddled myopically over it in companionable silence.

It’s taken me a week to ease myself back into modern life and into my current book, set in the high-octane world of Formula One and the glitter and glamour of the Monaco Grand Prix. A week, and an awful lot of comforting tea and chocolate. What's everyone else been up to?