Saturday, 27 June 2009

Chapter five in the bag

It was a dark and stormy day. The budding author squinted at the keyboard in the summer gloom and realised that somehow she had reached the end of editing chapter five. Yeay!
--Thunder crack--
--Lightening flash--
Why am I humming the theme to The Omen? Chapter five isn’t that scary, is it?

Scary thunder sound track aside, I am not quite done with chapter five yet. Now I will read over from chapter four and see if it all keeps the tone. I will then probably pick a little at the end paragraphs to make sure everything stays tight and there are no unravelling threads, and then – finally – chapter six!

Chapter six at the moment (on only three redrafts) stands at 13 pages. Technically this should be quicker to sort out, as a lot of the work I have done in chapter five will stand me in good stead.

The reason chapter five took so long is that I had to change a crucial scene. I kept coming back to it and wondering if it was a little under-whelming, and finally I decided that yes, it was dull, and yes, it needed to change. And then I got The Fear, and sat on my hands and wibbled for two weeks, until I just plunged in and went for it – and now the scene feels punchier and more dramatic – which is exactly what I wanted it to be. Phew.

And now chapter six!

--Thunder crack--
--Lightening flash--

Frankenstein awake!

Monday, 22 June 2009

Video Jukebox Omnibus

It was general election night in May 1986, and while the main channels scrambled for coverage, BBC2 decided to roll with a documentary on the history of rock video. It was an Omnibus special called ‘Video Jukebox’, and was presented by two gentlemen sadly no longer with us – John Peel and John Walters. It was excellent.

My memories of it on the actual night are a little sparse, mainly because it started late (after 10pm) and I wasn’t allowed to stay up. So I made my older brother promise to tape all the bits with Madonna in it (my new idol and the reason I unfortunately wore lace in my hair) and was sent to bed, presumably in a slight grump. My brother meanwhile stayed up until the early morning hours with his finger on the record and stop button of the remote control, ever mindful that he only had two VHS tapes and that he might run out of tape before the long documentary ran off air.

So I actually got to see it the next day, which was thankfully a Saturday, and that meant I had control of the TV before dad took over with Grandstand. So after watching various mad people roller-skate around children’s morning TV show Number 73, I no doubt eagerly put on Video Jukebox.

This was the first real chance I had to see the videos to the music I loved at the time. TotP occasionally played videos when the artists couldn’t make the studio, but it was really hit or miss if you would see the actual video. And this documentary charted the time when video had begun – the musicals and jazz sound films of the 1940s, the rock 'n' roll films of the 50s, the television pop programmes of the 60s and finally to the first true pop videos of the 1970s and the 1980s. It covered The Beatles and The Stones, had lengthy interviews with David Bowie and Madness, and charted the rise of MTV. You can look at the running order of the show here.

But the main thing I remember was my brother doing a dive Ronaldo would be proud of in order to grab the remote when the ‘banned’ video of ‘Relax’ by Frankie Goes To Hollywood started playing. This of course meant that I watched it as soon as no-one else was in the house in order to see what all the fuss was about – ooo… it was rude! Fab.

Video Jukebox remains one of my favourite music documentaries of all time. I still have the two VHS tapes although I am scared to play them too often as I fear the day the tape snaps. They are on my list to upgrade to DVD just as soon as I have the spare cash for such things, but ever so occasionally I will put them on and enjoy these young-faced pop bands and directors talking about the wonderful new world of pop video.

Edit: It was the second transmission of Video Jukebox that was shown on Election night - the original transmission had aired a year earlier.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Steady Edit

Managed 2000 words today on the editing front – wow! Actually that does feel like a huge achievement, so I will not be too harsh on myself, although I am still on chapter five. It’s like the chapter which refuses to get off the stage. Six pages left to go of it, but I can’t carry on now, not if I intend to get up for work tomorrow.

I have decided to try at least to stop being over-critical with the editing and to start just plain old writing again. My editing is mainly more rewriting than editing anyway – what I am mostly doing is going over paragraphs and making them flow better – in most cases this means a whole rejig, hence taking so much time. So it is nice to cut loose and just go where the words take me. This morning they were taking me to the delete button mostly, and I had a short paddy around 2pm when I thought I couldn’t write for toffee, but by 7pm I had rewritten around seven pages and everything suddenly seemed brighter.

I then re-read the whole thing up to that point in chapter five, just to see how it all held up, and that also felt good. So that is 22,467 words I am happy with so far. Not bad! I am ignoring how far there is to go yet, and my goal of August. If I think of all that I might wibble into my pillow.

Even though I have said on my profile that my aim is to get this ready to go for August, my real goal is for September, my birthday month. I absolutely refuse to get another year older without having completed this. I wrote the actual story a while ago now – September 2007 to February 2008 I think it was – and I can’t believe I am still not happy enough with it to let people read the whole thing. I know there have been ups and downs money wise (and career wise and home wise and generally everything wise) but this part is taking me far longer than the actual original writing! Madness. I obviously spend far too long talking in the bathroom mirror pretending I am being interviewed by Jonathon Ross as the next big author person. Ahem. But it is so much fun!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Writing backwards

One thing I have come to realise during the course of writing and editing this book is that I tend to jumble up sentences. I am forever coming across sentences where I have constructed them the wrong way around. Take this one for an example:

She triumphantly pointed up to a painted road sign on the wall opposite.

Now this reads perfectly ok to me, and is pretty much how I think and how I speak. But it really should be:

She triumphantly pointed up to a painted road sign on the opposite wall.

This is a mild example – there are worse! (And probably you will notice them in this blog long before me). But it does illustrate what I mean, and I find I have to pay double attention to everything I write in case it really should be the other way around.

I do this sort of thing with nearly every sentence – my natural inclination is to write things slightly in a jumble. I wonder if it is me being incredibly bad at typing… or thinking, perhaps. Or maybe it is a form of dyslexia – I have never been tested for it, and yet there are plenty of things I do that seem to be related – if writing I may write words backwards, or join the wrong words together. I may get the sentence order wrong, or the structure of the paragraph. I absolutely hate being under pressure to write and come up with something original – e.g. birthday and Christmas cards, cards that do the rounds in offices, wedding guest books. I can never come up with something witty, and I will invariably spell something wrong. Several times I have had to go and buy two or three cards for the same person’s birthday as I made a mistake with the first card and it looked too awful when scribbled out. I nearly always keep a drawer full of cards for this reason.

And spelling! I used to be the world’s worst speller – until I started writing every day. But if asked to spell a word out loud I always have to write it down first to see how it looks – possibly as I have learnt my spelling from reading lots of books – so the appearance of the word, not knowledge of how words are structured. This also means I know a great variety of words that I have no idea how to pronounce – which is probably my biggest confidence buster. Nothing worse when talking to a room full of people and the next word you want to say is ‘superfluous’ and yet you grind to a halt as you cannot pronounce it. So then you have to think quickly for the next word down the vocab food chain, and it ends up dumbing down to ‘extra’. This then doesn’t have the same power or connotation as originally wanted and the whole thread of conversation is lost. It is my worst thing in the world. But there is a way out – I am trying to listen more to talking books so I get an idea of pronunciation. It was either that or reading the dictionary to get an idea of where to stress letters – (soo-pur-floo-uhs) - and just hoping you will be near one when you need it.

I actually just did an online dyslexia test (as online tests are surely the beacon of accuracy) and my result was a ‘likely indication of dyslexia’. Apparently it would help if I speak to a specialist (them, handily) for a small fee to help me out further. Codswallop, I feel.

If I do have dyslexia I do think it must be a very mild version as I have always loved reading, my handwriting is generally neat (when really trying), I religiously write down messages, and I know my left from my right. Actually thinking about it I am a vigorous note-taker – is this because I think I won’t remember clearly? And I have to secretly waggle my hand to know which is left and right. And I am ambidextrous… AGH! What does it all mean?!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Home run on first strike

When the London tube strike was announced, it sounded like the whole underground system would be in melt-down. I knew full well that all of the solutions Boris and TFL had outlined (free boats on the Thames, cycle-buddies, maps for walking etc) meant nothing to me making my way from the far North East to the far North West. It looked like I would have to circumvent London via one long train and four buses, and a conservative estimate of that journey had me arriving at my desk by Christmas. But lucky for me, lovely job said I could work from home, and so I did.

I love working from home. There are so many things you can do – work AND run the washing machine, work AND use the dishwasher, work AND tidy room (I was waiting for software to load, honest), work AND watch catch up TV of The Apprentice (it was lunch-time, ok?). But the best thing is the day meant I had a lovely day breathing space. Ok, it wasn’t quite hiding under the duvet, but it was a respite of sorts, and I think I needed it. Tomorrow looks a whole new option, as careful study of the TFL website throughout the day shows there are tubes if you know where to look (behind that plant pot, under that bridge) and I might be able to do some random type of tube hop-scotch to get in to work. Although, I still suspect that the last jump on the hop-scotch will be a bus. This is where I examine maps from all angles and decide that I should wait at 'A' and catch bus 221, when I really should be waiting at 'C' and getting bus 17.

The only problem with negotiating a skeleton service is that even though you know London is crammed full of people, it is only times like this you realise just how many people live and work here. It hits you in the face, you cannot avoid the fact it is desperately overcrowded, and yet somehow usually we all sail around each other, lost in our own little bubbles. Strikes mean our bubble bursts and we are left bleating in pens (stations, as we usually like to call them). Oh well, bed beckons.

Monday, 8 June 2009

When Technology Goes Bad

Today the sky swirled with grey and the greyness leaked into my mood like old paint water. I nodded on the tube, lulled by the clickety-clack of the wheels in motion and the fact I had a seat all to myself. I came home and ate, and tried to write, and my words ran out before… yes, just like that.

So this evening shouldn’t have been the night I tried to install a wireless printer. What is it with these things? Why are the instructions so obtuse? The first thing I had to do was move a little yellow bit of plastic from one slot to another slot. No explanations, no clue what on earth that means in printer world, just a grown up version of matching shapes. And from then on it all spiralled down – Ethernet cables that wouldn’t do what I wanted them to do (work, mostly), wireless not actually being wireless, things hidden behind settings panels hidden within small print navigation, CD-installing software that doesn’t install, printers that don’t recognise they are printers (what would it be instead – a sheep?). I appear to have the first printer in the world with multiple personality disorder.

I gave up after nearly 2 hours of fiddling around, and felt very small that I haven’t managed to complete the set up. I think my brain is too frazzled from grey-infected Monday. It didn’t help either that it was all for mum, who is now increasingly thinking that technology is all a Rather Bad Idea when I want to say no it is good… when it works, that is.

And now before I know it, it is 10pm and that means bedtime. I’m far too tired and grumpy for anything else. But then that just means work tomorrow, and then another bedtime, and then work and then bed… I always get like this when working full-time and not writing. The days just meld into one. Maybe it didn’t help either that I tried to do a bit more on chapter five at lunchtime and me and the printed pages just looked at each-other with no understanding, like teenagers and parents. Maybe it doesn’t help that I feel stressed and tired. I feel I need a day of just hiding under a duvet.