Thursday, May 30, 2013

Working and writing–can it be done?

I’m going to throw this little post in while I have the chance. It’s half term and I’ve been at home for two days, yet I’ve still not gotten much done. I swear, the day goes by quick even when you’re not working (I can’t imagine how quickly it goes with kids at home too!)

So, how do we find time to write?

I have an extremely narrow attention span. I can focus on only one thing at a time. (Right now, juggling driving and listening to the radio is an attempt if I don’t know where I’m going.) When I teach, I just don’t have time to think of sitting down to write at the end of the evening. There’s planning and grading, and even when I’m doing supply teaching, just being able to have time to paint my toenails and watch TV for an hour is crucial. Plus, I have to get to bed on time. I’m not one of those who can function on five hours sleep at all.

But I, like everyone else, want to do it all.

I left some ideas in a new notebook before when I wasn’t working. I’d been reading Outlining Your Novel, and I’d had some good ideas to work with. Then I got the car, then started getting supply teaching offers again, and I just did not open that notebook again. Actually, it wasn’t until last night that I was able to get back in the mode of what the project was about, and this morning I jotted down some things before I took Steve to work.

I only have the rest of today and tomorrow for my “me” time, so even if I get more on that outline done, I’ll at least have something to work with when I get less busy outside of the house. I at least have a little writing notebook in my purse that I take along if I think of something.

Anyway, if I’m MIA for a while, that’s what I’m up to. Some days I barely touch Twitter because I just get caught up in other things. I know writing is a choice and requires dedication, but having a career and a pay check is important as well. I guess that’s where the juggling comes in. I just wish they had some kind of natural ADD medicine I could take. I’m lucky if I get a chapter of a book read before I fall asleep most nights.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The driving begins

It’s almost June and it’s gotten cold enough to switch the space heater on in the living room. Surely I will live to be a ripe, old age because I’ll never thaw out. Where is summer?

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I have been busy living this thing we call, “life.” On Wed, the 15th of May, I passed my Practical Driving Test! Changing instructors was the best thing I ever did for myself. It only took 3 months of driving with her and I passed my test on the first try after the switch. She’s awesome and while I’m relieved to have that stupid test over with, I’ll miss my lessons.

So, after passing my test, I was exhausted emotionally - the whole process is a 40 minute drive that renders you mindless because you’re so freaking nervous. But I went to search for cars as I had been doing for a year since I started learning to drive.

Let me tell you what an absolute pain buying a car can be. First, I wanted to try the Kia Soul because it’s so stinking cute. They had a used silver one at Benfield and I took the Metro, then walked all over creation, including a busy highway, just to get to the car lot. The salesman was nice, and I drove on some quieter roads, just to get the feel of the car. I drove it pretty well, and I would have bought it, but Steve assured me that I should try out some others. I asked about the promotions they have for the Nissans there, but was told that the £115 a month sales on the Micras were only if you put down a huge £3000+ deposit. No thanks. I told them I’d be back for the Kia once my husband was available to look on Saturday. Of course the salesman wanted to drop the car off at the house to ensure we focused in on the one car, but I declined the generous offer.

I moved on to Evans Halshaw because we had looked at new Hyundais a while back. The salesman there was nice and he had to shoo off another salesman as we were looking (to which he apologized for his co-workers actions.) We really thought we’d get that i20, even after we looked at the Vauxhall Adam which was too small, but very cute. The salesman at the Vauxhall branch leaned in the window very intrusively as well, and we wanted to get out the minute we got in. Well, when I went back to Evans to look at used Hyundais, I noticed that few cars had any info on them. When I asked for the mileage on an i30, some super pushy salesman came out, stood in the door of the car so I couldn’t get out, told me all about how Evans was the best place to buy because people always come back. After sitting in the stupid car for 1 minute, the pushy salesman goes, “So, do you want it?” I really should have laughed at him, but instead I had to push past him to get out of the stupid car, and told him how I wasn’t going to buy anything until Saturday. He tried to get me to buy some weird looking Peugeot too which was and never has been in my consideration list. (No offense to Peugeot.)

After escaping the pushy salesman with the, “yeah, yeah, here’s my number, I’ll be back Saturday,” b.s. the salesman went, “Well when you come back Saturday, don’t talk to anyone else but me!” He also gave me his card twice within the minute I was there, and printed off info about the i30 and said Peugot for me to take home. I threw them out at the gas station next door. He’s called at least 20 times since that meeting as well. Next time he calls, I’ll tell him to bugger off.

Aside from being full of pushy salesmen, Evans also is in a really crappy area of town. On my way back to the Metro station, I also got accosted by yet another drunk who was being looked for by the police and wanted to pretend he knew me. I talked to Steve on my mobile as I walked to the Metro with a drunk dude with a shopping sack full of wine. I was ready to buy that Kia and forget ever taking public transport again after that. Good Lord, I must just look really nice or something.

Anyway, I went home and looked online for other cars I could compare with the Kia at Benfield. When you use their online chat, there’s one rep who contacts the local dealership about the car you’re interested in. When I went to chat the second time, they threw the original rep at me who was questioning me about the Kia. “Yeah, yeah, it’s fine, but can I see another car to compare it with?” Their site indicates that any car on any of their nationwide lots can be brought up to another dealership for viewing. I mentioned this in my previous posts on the history of my car ownership and my speculative U.K. car purchase that I have had 2 Toyotas in my past and both of them served me well. I asked Benfield if I could take a look at an Auris they had listed. They said they could but it was in Leeds and I’d have to pay them £100 to have it brought up to look at. What? No. I could go to the local Toyota dealership and look at hundreds of them for free.

And that’s what I did. I looked at two Aurises from Hodgson Toyota and chose a black one that I took through Northumberland on my test drive. (I didn’t realize Northumberland was that close because I’d never driven a car through there before.) The salesman was nice and not pushy at all. He drove me back and forth to the bus station as we went through my paperwork visit too. I like my Auris because it’s pretty much set up like my old Corolla that I sold when I moved to England. I picked it up on Saturday the 18th, just before they closed (we took a detour to the Toby Carvery and then slugged through traffic in the taxi.) Now it’s sitting out front with my “P” (for “passed my driving test” – my U.S. friends were confused by that) and my Hello Kitty magnet from EPCOT on it. It’s been well taken care of and I’m extremely happy with my executive decision to buy what I know.

As for the roads and the actual driving – oh my. Steve bought me a Garmin which helps me immensely, but I still get nervous and freaked out about getting in the wrong lane or taking the wrong exit. It’s not like being in Orlando and knowing, relatively, how to get back towards the coast to get back home. But now that I have a car, the supply teaching jobs have been pouring in. I’ve also been driving myself to teaching jobs, which is way better than taking the bus for an hour. My first assignment was to go up the highway/motorway to Alnwick (pronounced “Annick”) which was a 40 minute drive in the country. Basically it’s Virginia, just on the opposite side of the street up there. I was scared to death to do it, but I did. I took wrong exits and just followed the Garmin’s instructions to get back. Sometimes I get confused by what lane/exit to take because once you get in the roundabout you have options. I hate that. Tell me to go here and here for the A1. That’s all I need to know. Sometimes the exits aren’t even marked, you just have to hope that you followed the roundabout sign 50 feet ago and the lane markings correctly. (Yes, we have signs and writing on the lane. Confusing!) But I’m really enjoying working in Primary Schools so maybe they’ll hand me a job next school year or something. At least I can drive to it.

But anyway, I’ve been driving Steve back from work, and we’ve been able to do more, as I predicted. Yesterday we went back to Beamish. It took 10-15 minutes but I had to go on these super windy, tiny, hilly, narrow country roads to get there. I’ve seen roads like that in Ohio when I was little, but back then I wasn’t in charge. I had no intention of going 60 mph as the speed limit indicated. I took my sweet time and made it without having too much of a heart attack.

So that’s my story of the driving. I am still in the not 100% sure of what I’m doing mode but I’m not going to be too hard on myself – I’ve seen plenty of people who don’t look like they know what they’re doing either.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Pantsers, plotters, and a trip to Liverpool

Until today, I didn’t realize there were actual terms for people who plot and outline their novels before they write them, versus those who dive straight in and let the book tell itself. I’m sort of in the middle of the road on this one. I put together ideas for scenes and how things will link together but I’ve never plotted out a whole story on paper before writing it. (During and after, yes.)

I started reading books about plotting novels because I have two half projects that are waiting to have a crescendo and a resolution. So I need to get some ideas on how to start making a good outline (not just a bunch of notes in bullets or Roman numerals) to get at least the current project’s first draft finished.

My question is, do you plot or fly by the seat of your pants? What do you think about either method?

I know King said he doesn’t plot, but he had The Shining solid in his mind before he started to write it. I’ve read books about formatting novels that were so dry and formulaic that there was no sense of artistic creativity at all. But a couple of books that I read the free samples of both were saying that plotting helps you be more productive (Lord knows I need help with that.) It can save you a ton of messy editing (I hate editing) as well. If you have the plot ready, scene by scene, then you know what to write. I’ve also been trying the method from 2K to 10K that suggests at least writing notes about what you should write for the day before actually going back to the novel. That helps.

Here are some books and articles that I’ve found on the subject so far:

PD James said, “Don't just plan to write – write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.” I agree that just thinking about writing doesn’t do the job, but isn’t planning worth something?

I also found this quote from Ten rules of writing fiction article too:

Only bad writers think that their work is really good. ~ Anne Enright

And our trip to Liverpool was great. We visited more of the Pick family, saw the beach, saw the Irish Sea, saw Wales (in the distance), and the wonderful City of Liverpool itself. The ride on the train was fine but, as usual, stupid people ruin the whole experience. (Why are people so loud and obnoxious on those things? Do they just not care?) Anyway, each day was sunny, warm, and perfect for a holiday. I’ve added my photoset here:

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Beta readers and writing thieves

I think a lot about Henry Miller’s writing commandments about how you should finish what you’re working on and not think about the other things you can write later. I know it’s common to just get bored, or stuck, or burned out on what you’re doing. I have great ideas, then stop and second guess myself (this goes for a lot of other things I do as well as for writing.) But I’m trying to read more and get myself through the project even though I admit to dabbling in something else yesterday.

Of course, I wrote a bit, felt guilty, and will go back to the current work in progress.

So, I was reading an article on beta readers at The Creative Penn. I don’t really talk about what I’m writing, except here and there to my husband or immediate family. I’m a fairly private person to begin with, so spouting off ideas to the wide world of Twitter makes the magic seem to disintegrate. (Stephen King had a quote about that in On Writing, but I can’t find it anywhere.) But I asked Twitter about it, and people said they’ve found their beta readers in old friends in real life as well as on Twitter.

I distinctly remember a girl on Twitter a while back saying that she had a “good friend” steal her book idea. It was something about how she would talk to this friend about writing, told the girl her ideas for her next book. Later on the friend has a new book with the same exact plot line as the first author. Of course the first author was appalled and hurt by the whole betrayal, but what could she do? Especially in the realm of self-publishing if you had someone read a draft of a novel, couldn’t they feasibly life the whole thing and make it their own? Would there even be any kind of way to copyright that (not like you’d get any money from it, but the whole idea is pretty wrong so you’d want to get the thing off virtual shelves.)

My questions today are:

  • If you have beta readers, how did you find them?
  • Have any beta readers or even supposed friends taken your ideas and used them as their own?