It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m about to head down to the beach – not sure whether sand sledging or cricket are on the menu. Not sure I care. It’s misty but dry, and not cold. Our lovely friends should arrive about half-past three with the dog. We’ll mess around on the sand, then hike home (all of 500 metres) and cook the kid’s tea. While they’re munching there’s a cunning plan to nip down to the Bar Electric for a drink or two, before we wend our way back up the hill for NYE curry. Whether we’ll watch the fireworks from the house or the Woolacombe Bay Hotel is tbc. (In between I’m hoping to finish the copy edit of LABRADOODLE ON THE LOOSE, due on 5th January. Or maybe that can wait.)
Happy New Year to everyone.
I have a very nice decorator and his son doing the tatty woodwork on the outside of the house. The very nice gardener I bumped into in the road is coming next week to cut six foot off the Sleeping-Beauty-type hedge and pull all the ivy off the windows to give the decorator access. It will be like a whole new house, from the outside at least.I’m thinking a stone colour for the woodwork and navy for the front and garage doors.
I quite like the activity going on outside the house. I’m still on my own, working away at the Tribe series, but it feels like there’s someone here. Although we’ve only passed the time of the day, I don’t seem as desperate to stop writing and search out some company as I do by most afternoons after a morning of tap-tap-tapping. Maybe the three weeks or however long they’re here for will be a productive spell with thousands of excellent words added to the current book.
Next week I’m off to Bridgetown Primary School and it’s very exciting because as well as running some workshops with Years 5 and 6, I’m going to meet their Book Club. They read Tribe: Jonno Joins as their first book and I’m keen to hear what they liked, what they didn’t, and whether they’ve got any tips or ideas for the next Tribe adventures. The Shakespeare Bookshop is selling books and I’ll be signing, which I always enjoy.
I’ve got a few trips planned before the snow comes and everything gets cancelled and we all rummage around for ski-mitts and walking socks. There’s a visit to Clifton College, and then a return trip to Hull and one to South Devon, and St. John’s Primary have invited me back for the FOURTH time – I should be on the pay roll (only joking). I love going into schools. There’s always a child who says something that either astounds me, or makes me think in a different way – guaranteed. I wonder what it will be at Bridgetown . . .
Yesterday I was sent some photos from a school visit at Priory Rise school in Milton Keynes. I’m wearing some rather attractive night-vision goggles in one of the shots – I think that deserves a place on my website. The other notable thing about the photos is that I’m wearing the same dress as when I went to Clifton College, Western Primary, St. John’s, need I go on. The dress is very good for events, it’s loose which means I can move about easily, it has a pocket, in which I sometimes conceal a surprise for the end of the workshop, and if I have an attack of nerves, or it’s just plain hot, you can’t tell if I’m sweaty. But, unless I want it to seem as though I did all my events on one day, or I made them all up, I think a second dress may need some airtime.
The word count of Tribe 3 is coming along nicely. I’m about a third of the way through, and as I’ve been editing as I go along, it feels quite finished. I may have to unpick some of yesterday’s writing because I suspect I took a wrong turn, but I don’t mind that. It feels just as good to realise it’s wrong as it does to think it’s right. So, Goodbye Blog, Hello Keener Bunks Off.
The main character is called Ollie. Today was our second meeting and I’m getting the idea of him. I did another 1000 words (It’s a subliminal goal) and am still feeling good about the premise and what I’ve done with it. Could have carried on but my other life needs attention too. Youngest had art after school, middle had rugby practice, all needed feeding. Usual stuff. Watched House – eldest has the DVDs. Thought of so many things I could write in my new story that I had to get up and locate one of my many jottings books and scribble. I ended up reading back through some of the pages – it’s like a diary, but without dates, because I always remember where I had the thought and who I was with. If occasionally I can’t, the children can be relied on to fill in the details as they’re often with me at the critical moments. They also make sure my dialogue is in child-speak, so all in all, kids prove quite useful.
After my 50 lengths, porridge and coffee I planted my seat in front of the computer and did a very rare thing – made a plan. Normal people probably wouldn’t consider the random words a plan, but it wasn’t bad for me. Usually I start a novel with no more than a vague idea of the beginning and the end. But I’m thinking of embarking on a rather grand thriller and feel the need for more than a ‘vague idea’. Trouble is I’m too eager to start, so as usual, ten minutes planning and she’s off. I wrote 1000 words and felt really quite pleased. So much so that I returned to the hot seat several hours later and reread, intending to crack on with another 1000. But, as happens, it didn’t seem so compelling a start on the second read. In fact, it threw up too many questions and when consulting the plan I found no answers whatsoever. Try again tomorrow. Starting is hard.
So I’m back, after weeks of silence. Just when my blog could have been full of edits and contracts and plots for new books I stopped doing it. I’ll recap. The second Tribe book is undergoing a mini-edit – thank you editor for not finding much to improve. It does wonders for both your confidence and your busy timetable. Thank you also, kind Piccadilly Press, independent publishers of my series, for the contract for the third book. The thought that my first book wasn’t published until July but I’m already working on my third feels good.
Today I did two workshops at Clifton College with Year 6. The ideas for stories using my now rather tatty box of props were fantastic. There were a few teachers watching but I ignored them in case they were making disapproving faces at the more random and over-excited contributions from the children. Book sales were tremendous and at the end there were a few fans unwilling to let me leave. All very affirming.
In the gap between sending off my second book and receiving it back with red scribbles I’ve decided to rewrite an adventure book that didn’t go anywhere. I’ve got ideas of how to make it better, longer, and hopefully publishable. More importantly, it will stop me treating the lull in the Tribe work as time off. There’s always plenty to do around here so I’m conscious that I don’t want to break the habit of sitting in my study every day in favour of blackberrying, coffee with friends or downright lounging around. Got to go, coffee with Trev and Amerah.
I had a nice surprise on Friday, finding out that Tribe: Jonno Joins has been shortlisted for the Heart of Hawick Children’s Book Award 2010. I was very impressed that my book had even reached Scotland as I’ve only done publicity events in Bristol (and my old school in Buckingham). The nice thing about the award is that the voting is by children, and that is who we’re all writing for.
I’m having a couple of days off as I sent the manuscript of Tribe: Goodbye Copper Pie off to Piccadilly Press this week and it’ll be a wee while before it comes winging back with ideas from my editor to make it better. I don’t mind editing, in fact I’ll go so far as to say I like it. It seems easier and more enjoyable than writing the first draft because at least you have a shape to work with. It’s like doing the knitting after you’ve spent ages spinning the wool.
The first two school events of the autumn went really well. I was at an all boys school so I dressed accordingly, pretty dress swapped for trousers, waistcoat and boots. I also included some more boysy stuff in my story-making: bombs, crashing, speed, chopping heads off. The extract I read from Tribe was the bit where Copper Pie gets Jonno in a headlock. I’ve learnt a lesson from the last time I had a boy-dominated event. The kids were great, and so were the book sales. As usual I had my box of props but it’s getting quite tatty so I’m going to find something else – I fancy velvet as winter’s drawing near. When I find the perfect thing I’ll put a picture on the website.
It’s been 23 days since my last blog. It’s amazing how a habit can just as easily become a non-habit. I’ve been head-down, getting to grips with the next book. It was going all right until I had one of those thoughts in the shower that you wish you hadn’t had. I decided the last third of the book and the middle third should swap, except for the dog bits. Don’t bother trying to follow my thoughts, just understand that unpicking stories is difficult, like unpicking Fair Isle jumpers and reworking as a yurt. The novel is now unpicked but whether it’s new shape resembles anything readable I know not. That’s where my trusty readers come in. I print, pack and deliver and then have a few glorious days off while I await the verdicts. So, it’s cake-eating and tea-drinking for me, and back to the slog tomorrow.
Am storming along with the second book in the Tribe series, see www.tribers.co.uk if you don’t know what I’m talking about. The mystery character, brought in all the way from the Algarve is spicing things up. Have invented a deadline of Sept 4th to complete the first edited draft, leaving three weeks to agonise over every little issue before I send it off. Would have finished it all by end June if I hadn’t had so many publicity events. Note to self: balance time between writing and AOB.