Tuesday, 20 July 2010

So girls, here's the plan...

The summer holidays are upon us. You can tell that because the sun has suddenly disappeared and the sky is all leaden clouds and weird yellow light, and my kitchen is liberally smeared with jam and filled with the sound of CITV warring with Jason Derulo. In spite of all that it feels great to be freed from the tyranny of the school run and the need to iron uniform, although this year the 'end of term' feeling of relief is tempered by the fact that, for the first time, I’m embarking on the summer holidays with an unfinished book all spread out messily in my head. Back in May, in a moment of optimistic delusion after I’d submitted the last book, I pledged to have this one finished by the time the kids broke up from school, to a) make up some lost time, and b) allow me to morph into Doris Day Mummy for the summer. Back in reality, where it takes me an average of 5 months to write a book, I’m a woman in need of a Strategy.

Luckily, thanks to my writing guru Michelle Styles I have one...

Generally I’m an all or nothing person – a ‘shut myself away and turn into a hero-obsessed, sleep-deprived, what-day-is-it?’ type person, or someone who thinks “oh well, only three more hours until I need to make a start on dinner, so there’s no point in switching the computer on today" so writing during the holidays was always going to be tricky. A while ago Michelle blogged about a method she was experimenting with, of writing in word-chunks. She’d found that 750 words at a time worked for her, but suggested I try a smaller number, like 250. And because she is wise and wonderful and I was prepared to give anything a go, I did.

And ladies, so far I have to report that it’s working like a charm. I wake up, write 250 words (which takes about twenty minutes) Go get breakfast, while my mind ticks over the book not the squalor in the kitchen, then go write another 250. Have a shower, while dialogue and details go round in my head, and write another 250, and so on whenever I can through the day. I’m hardly breaking any writing speed records, but I’m not completely neglecting the little darlings either and am keeping the book fresh in my head and moving on the page. Of course, we’re only on Day 4, and I still have the challenge of keeping it up while packing for a week’s camping in France, dealing with the washing when we get back, getting ready for the next trip (which involves both camping and fancy dress costumes) and simultaneously providing amusement (well, providing food and clean clothes anyway) for the children. (Deep yogic breathing and smile of forced serenity....) But I think it might just keep me sane.

Is anyone else juggling the roles of writer and Person I.C.O Junior Entertainment this summer? How are you managing, and do you fancy giving the 250 word challenge a go? Let me know!


Francine said...


Simple Answer: NO, juggling days ended long ago! ;)

Am more or less a free spirit these days, the only kid on the block hubby! And as said before choccy cake or C&W keeps him happy.

Dust! What's dust? And I've taken the hint from hubby - what's a tea cloth for? Oh, and the silver looks kinda dull grey with black bloom. Do have a great crumb hoover though = dog! Just wish he knew how to plug in the real thing and suck up his own white fluff.

I'd go bananas if I couldn't get in a good sexual romp with a hero, 250 words would have to be a quickie, oh no no, can't be having that with someone like Orlando Bloom (Kindom of Heaven movie. I'm such a sucker for goatees (historical) and designer stubble moderns. Off now, to do battle!

Best of luck with camping trip France - take a boat ;)


Morton S Gray said...

Hi India,

I'm used to working like that. I write at Daniel's piano lesson, swimming lesson and when I have a coffee out. I find the story percolates in my head the rest of the time so that I am bursting to write the next phase when I get chance.

Worst time is when part of the story becomes clear in the shower. I have a lot of written on toilet tubes in my study!

Do suffer dreadful guilts if I leave D watching TV to write - he's as happy as a bird, it's just me! I am working on having a less structured holiday for him and more time for writing. Having said that he is on tennis camp next week, 10 till 2 every day. Bliss. He's happy and I have time!

Find the "chunk" technique only works if I really focus on one story.

Morton x

Rachel Lyndhurst said...

Dear India,

I think this 250 words thing really could be the answer you know. And I have my poundland notebooks looking all nice and fresh and unsullied (and all the bic pens HIDDEN!).

Now the next problem is what to do with Mr Branson & Co who seem to be cavorting like mice in a pantry all over my email today. Will have to start a blog just to communicate with the outside world at this rate!

And your children have clean clothes? Much poshness,darling. Again.

Lots of love,


Linda said...

Hi India

I've been lurking around your blog for a while now and have decided to pluck up the courage to comment. I did meet you once at Chester library at a talk you did with Penny Jordan and I thought you were lovely. Love the books too.

I can appreciate your dilemma - although I don't have your deadlines I am trying to fit childcare and writing around a job which isn't always easy but is worse during the summer.

I really like the idea of 250 words at a time because mentally this is much more manageable. I'm definetely going to give it a go and see if I actually get something written this summer.

Thanks for the advice!


Catherine J said...

Sounds like genius. I was thinking of retiring for the summer to avoid parental guilt. I shall definitely give it a go.

I've just finished my 2000 word (with the strategic deletion of 88 words) entry for the National Trust/Mills and Boon/The Lady competition. I took my daughter and a friend to Lyme Park last week to conduct a bit of research for my story, and we got to lurk in the courtyard while Rebecca Hall, Dominic West and Imelda Staunton were filming scenes from a thriller where Lyme Park plays a spooky school in the 1920s.

So, I'm not feeling too much guilt over Girl Two's hours in front of "Friends" today.

Bon voyage.


Leah said...


I'm another long time lurker :) I have no kids (yet), but do have a really full on job, and a tendency to be very much "all or nothing". Without the pressure of a deadline, I faff around not doing much, and the somehow squeeze out 2000+ words in a sitting at the last moment. Sadly my deadlines are just for writing contests as yet :)

So I'm definitely going to try the 250 word chunk idea. Thanks!

Kate Hewitt said...

Word chunks is a great method--I've definitely written that way, whether I meant to or not! I've never had the luxury of more than an hour of writing time in one chunk, so my max is usually about 1500 words. But like you, I think about the book all day, so when I actually sit down in front of the computer it's pretty easy to get right into it. But this summer is proving pretty tricky--I have a book due October 1st and haven't even started it yet!

India said...

Francine - I like your style! Oddly enough I'm finding the sexual chemistry is increasing with the slow-burn approach, although I haven't actually done a knickers-off scene yet (nor will I anytime soon, sadly. The nature of the conflict in this book means it's going to be off-limits until quite near the end - wahh! Am fully intending to make up for lost time when it finally happens...) Hope you had fun with Orlando!

Morton, what is it with showers and inspiration?! If only I had half the flow of ideas when I'm sitting at my desk as I do when I've got shampoo in my hair and soap in my eyes I'd be a happy little writer. And a much quicker one.

Rach, clean but not ironed. Does that still count as posh? Hope you've seen off that pesky Branson - I can't be doing with virgins in the pantry. (Or am I getting confused?!)

Linda and Leah - how lovely to hear from you both - so glad you decided to step out of lurk!! Linda, I remember that library talk - it was the first event I'd ever done, a good few months before my first book came out, so it's v kind of you to say something positive about it! Having a job to add into the juggling act must be really difficult, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the 250 word method works for you. Keep me posted on your progress.

Catherine, I'm so glad you got a competition entry together, in spite of everything else you've had on - well done. And thanks for the tip-off about Lyme Park! I feel a little day out with a picnic and some binoculars might be in order next week. How exciting!

(My girls are all addicted to Friends at the moment too. 9 year old seems to be making it her summer holiday mission to learn Phoebe's entire back catalogue of odd songs...)

Leah, that's exactly how I write - a lot of procrastination followed by a last minute panic. As methods go it does work, but it isn't exactly conducive to a stress-free life, so anything we can do to introduce an element of pacing has got to be good, I reckon. A side benefit for me is that I'm deleting much less, I suppose because I'm thinking more about where I'm going next before I write it. Anyway- hope it works for you. (There's a new contest being launched soon,by the way. I'll put the details up next week!)

Kate, I'm honestly in awe of you for getting so much done on top of looking after four young children - you totally put me to shame! I might just about reach 1500 words an hour in the final stages of the book when it's buzzing in my head and my fingers can't keep up, but it's the exception rather than the rule. You'll make your October deadline, I know you will. And what's more, the book will be fabulous!