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Sunday, 26 January 2014

Writing Advice. Basically, it's all about prunes...

Gather close on this wild, winding day... oh, except for you, you smell funny so you'd better sit at the back.  No, not bad, just funny, I'm thinking that cut-price aftershave might not actually have been Aramis that the label fell off, it just might be sheep dip.  But, on the plus side, you won't be getting Scroobie or Maggot-Damp this year, and you will be irresistible to entire flocks of Swaledales, so, you know, swings and roundabouts.
Don't fancy yours much...

Why am I asking you to gather close? Apart from the fact that it's cold and I haven't got my cardigan on and I'm hoping that the body heat from you all squishing up against me will keep me warm and any restraining orders which might ensue will have been worth it... Actually, I want you close because I am going to offer you Writerly Words.  I know I don't do this often, but that's mostly because I'm not very writerly, I'm mostly chaotic and it's just that as I fling my arms about randomly, sometimes books result.  But, at the moment, books are resulting quite a lot, and I am writing things, you know things, so I feel if not qualified, then at least bursting with things (other things you understand, not the things I am writing) and fit to offer some Writerly Words of Wisdom(ish).  And you all know that I tend to whisper these words, so I need you close, besides, I think it might be snowing out there and we all know that a huddle is the best defence against snow, don't we?

1.  Ideas are like prunes... Yes, they can be consumed straight away, if you absolutely must, but they are far better for a little marinading.  With ideas, marinade them in time...soaking for at least a few days, if not weeks, renders them tender and far more usable.  With prunes, I recommend brandy. Actually, you can marinade your ideas in brandy too, if you want to, it makes them all floppy and you tend to think that they've turned out brilliantly, although in reality, all you've really got is some little brown things and a lot of juice.

2.  Your finished manuscript is the opposite of a prune.  It's more like a bar of very expensive chocolate.  You know, the sort you don't want to leave open because of people just breaking a bit off every now and again and eating while they are watching Eastenders, which is a crying shame because it costs like £10 per square and is definitely NOT to be consumed during soaps but rather at the end of a delicious meal as a sort of petit fours or something.  This manuscript must, like the expensive chocolate, be hidden away.  Completely hidden, you don't want the dog to get at it and leave you nothing but the wrapper..(Kate Johnson once told me a traumatic story about her dog eating an entire box of expensive chocolates and it's had such a profound effect on me that I now find myself hiding bars of Cadbury on inaccessible shelves).  Leave your manuscript in that hidden place for at least six weeks.  Like expensive chocolate, it is all the better for waiting.  Hopefully, you will have forgotten all about it by the time you rediscover it sitting there, all innocently, and can gobble it down in one sitting when nobody is looking. Probably they'll all be watching Eastenders, and wonder what you are doing sitting in a corner going 'mmmmmmmmmmmmmm'.  Unless you do that sort of thing all the time, of course.

3.  Edits are, not prunes. Plums.  When you first get edits (or critique, any form of commentary on your manuscript, it's all much the same) you may well feel that they are bitter.  Well, if they are to be of any use, that is, critique that gushes about how marvellous and wonderful and thoroughly awe-inspiring your manuscript is are also like plums, but they are more like those over-ripe things that are no good for making jam or anything else, really.  There is not a lot you can do with them, except stare at them and wonder about wasps.  The ones that you get that start out 'I loved this'...but go on with 'but...', those are the ones that you can use to make really nice jam, or even just stew them with custard (she said, getting her metaphors mixed because of a deep and abiding love of stewed plums). Yes, these start out bitter and making your mouth go all cat's-bum, and you ignore them because they're far too green to do anything with.  Put these away too.  Only for a little while though, or you'll get wasps.  Then get them out.  They will be starting to turn purple, and you may find a bit of sweetness in there.  Put them away for a little bit longer, and I guarantee, when you get them out they will be juicy and you will be able to use them to your heart's content.
Your book and your edits. No, I'm not totally mad.  Honestly. All right, maybe a bit.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

I fall out with hashtags. I thought there would be recipes and...well...far more Sherlock, to put it frankly.

#OscarNoms said the little sidebar thingy on Twitter that tries to get me interested in things, mostly in vain.  Oooh, that's nice, I thought.  I was expecting recipes, nibbly things to eat whilst watching the Oscars ceremony.  Not that I do, of course, it's far too late at night and filled with people with beards that I've never heard of, that's the people, not the beards, of course I've heard of beards, I don't live in a bucket.  But it's the principle of the thing - the thing, obviously being food.

Well.  Apparently in this instance, 'Noms' was short for 'Nominations'.  So instead of a hundred things to do with a piece of cheese and a dollop of mayonnaise, all I got was a list of names of people (probably all with beards) that I've never heard of!

These, for the record, are NOT Oscar Noms.  I've hardly ever been so disappointed.

Then I find #StoryofmyLife.  This will be interesting, I thought.  People writing the story of their life in 140 characters or less... Wondered about trying to sum up my own in 140 characters.  But I pretty much started out as an innocent with a porridge fixation, like Goldilocks and have ended up as a high-functioning sociopath, ie, Sherlock.  So, that's pretty much my life story in just two characters.  Although, for a while there in the middle I was a bit more of The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, so I suppose we should call it three characters, for completion's sake.

From this...

Via this...
To this. I think I turned out all right, but, by heck, that scarf does itch...

But do you know what?  When I went over to #Storyofmylife, filled with eager expectations of people trying to sum up their lives with nothing but recourse to fairy tale characters or, of course, people with beards I'd never heard of, do you know what I got?

It's a song, apparently.  Not an interesting discourse on expressing one's self through tropes.

Twitter, you are far too open to misunderstandings.  I demand that all hashtags be properly expressed. Although I think that #StoryofmylifebywhichImeanthe1Directionsongandnotafarmoreinterestingproposition might be more than 140 characters.  Sigh.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Things suck. Or, rather, things which are meant to suck but don't...they suck. If you see what I mean.

You know that feeling of disappointment, - the one where someone has given you something you've been waiting for for ages, something you are just desperate to get your hands on, then it arrives and you are sooooo happy and excited and you start using/wearing it only to find that after a couple of weeks it breaks/the sleeves fall off/it unravels?


Oh, nothing to do with Christmas, obviously. No, all my prezzies there are just delightfully going strong. Apart from the ones I've eaten, and most of those were meant to be eaten, so that's all right.  No.  Remember several weeks ago, when I got indecently excited about the fact that I had bought myself a new hoover head for my birthday?

Yes. I know it was sad. But, let's face it, if you don't buy a hoover head for yourself, then who else is going to buy one for you?  So, anyway.  I bought a lovely, brand-new and inordinately expensive new head for my Dyson Pet.  That's a hoover that is especially designed for picking up pet hair, not that I've got a pet with interchangeable heads,  that goes around sucking bits off the, actually, all my pets go around sucking bits off the floor, particularly if those 'bits' are cheese or biscuit related.  It looked like this...

for a while. Then it got sort of dirty and chipped, and the bucket-opener stopped opening, but it still sucks like a cat that's found some old Stilton down the back of a sofa cushion.

Six weeks later, the head stopped working.  Yep, in the midst of the Christmas clear-up, it just made a brief, funny noise and ceased its rotation. I am poor, and that head cost me a week's food money! And now I am poor and annoyed and without a working hoover! Of course I have e-mailed Dyson!  In fact, a brief exchange has been continuing since Thursday, but so far all I've had from them has been a computer-generated e-mail asking for the serial number of my hoover (which is fairly irrelevant, since it's not the hoover that is broken, they supplied me with the new head and have the order details, and I'd quite like to speak to a person not a computer).

Well.  If this situation continues much longer they are going to feel the wrath of the comedy blogger!  Not, I hasten to add, the comedy wrath of the blogger, which is something different and involves me hitting people with a squeaky bladder on a stick whilst wearing tinsel.

Yes, I am cross, people. Cross. You may wish to avoid me for the next few days until this matter is resolved.  If the matter has to be resolved with the old 'squeaky bladder on a stick' routine, you may wish to avoid me for even longer...

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Shut up and get on with it

And what, I hear you cry, is your New Year's Resolution, Jane?

Well, thank you for asking!  Most of the things I make resolutions about are the subject of restraining orders, so probably best not talked about, but this year I've got a real one.  And it's clean and everything, so I can actually talk about it, which makes a change, because it doesn't include the words ***!! , ##&$, or Tony Robinson!

Restraining order, restraining order....

For this year I resolve to actually get my head down to do more writing.  Actual writing, that is, not all the peripheral stuff like Facebook and Twitter and reading amusing blogs or looking at pictures of kittens, which is what we writers spend long hours doing, while convincing ourselves that we are doing publicity/networking/research.  One day we're actually all going to write books about kittens just to prove that it was real research, and then where will you be?
And they all lived happily ever after.

I have no excuse really.  The day job occupies my life from 6am until 1.40 (getting out of bed and getting home times, actual time spent 'working' not shown).  Afternoons are, therefore, extended periods of time in which I could be banging out handcrafted words on the anvil of my laptop, well, if you take out the necessity of dogwalking and food preparation, and the non-necessary tasks of hoovering and dusting and generally making sure that the house doesn't become something like Sleeping Beauty's Castle, only without the beauty and usually without the sleeping either.  More like 'Dozing but jerking awake every ten minutes average looking but scrubs up well on a good day's castle really.  Which is a bit long to go on the nameplate outside, now I come to think of it.

The problem is that the lure of Being A Writer is often stronger than the lure of actual Writing which, while it isn't alligator-wresting, and can be done in the warm with a plate of HobNobs, can be Really Hard Work, particularly when Time Team in on  or there are kittens to look at.  But then, I guess it's not much of a New Year's Resolution if it doesn't involve a little self-sacrifice, is it?