Thursday, 31 May 2012

Off to the Seaside!

St Ives coast by Ali Corder

In just one more day it'll be half-term and we'll be on our way to Carbis bay. It only seems five minutes ago that I booked it - but I know it was January, there was frost on the ground and I was about to go down with a rotten cold!
I've been looking at the photos of us there last year and feeling increasingly excited. It's so beautiful!

The five (soon-to-be-six) year old in St Ives

These are from a photo album I've been browsing through.
 I did have dozens of gorgeous digital photos of this holiday...until my husband did something
 insane (that I still can't quite believe) with the computer. Sigh... 

I've been remembering the coastal path that was over-grown with flowers and subtropical planting...the train that wound along the wooded hillside overlooking the sea...the soaring (occasionally dripping) viaduct arches over the entrance to Station Beach...the lights from the ships out at sea in the darkness. And St Ives, of course...the shops, cafes and coloured beach huts...the lazy seals, boat trips round Godrevy lighthouse, crabbing on the wharf...and buying shell bracelets, toe-rings or coloured dreadlocks to weave into our hair - until we got them home and wondered what were we thinking?

One of the prettiest train rides ever.

Lighthouse tiles...

...that I bought in a shop in St Ives...

And stuck on the wall outside our back door!
(Much better than postcards or sticks of rock!)

This year I can't decide whether to take my laptop and work-in-progress or not. I've left it behind on every other holiday and always enjoyed the break from thinking and plotting and constant self-criticism (not to mention the news and celebrity gossip, Facebook and emails). Holidays ought to be about getting away from routine and habit, friends and certain family members, work and hobbies - from everything really. It's wonderful. But this time I'm strangely reluctant to leave my writing behind. Not sure why. Maybe the habit of writing each day has reached the point of being too hard to break. Or maybe I'm too close to the end (only a handful of chapters left to go now). I might even be a little bit worried that if I stop now...I'll never pick it up again.


I'm around 80,000 words and slowing down all the time. I've read about people getting stuck around 12-15,000 words, because that's when the plot has to be thought about in more detail. 30-35,000 also seems to be a common tough spot because too much has been written to stop and give up, but there's still no end in sight. I passed both these wordcounts without faltering, but it's the end I'm having trouble with. Because when it's finished, I'll be in line for all those crushing letters of rejection again - and that's a horrible, horrible business. I have a lot less confidence in my writing this time round and I think my subconscious is trying to protect me from failure by preventing me from finishing. My subconscious is an annoying jackass.

Well, I won't have time to write in the day when we're at the seaside - the boys'll see to that. And there are lots of books I'd like to read in the evening - if the sea air doesn't knock me unconscious first. So the sensible thing to do is to take a notepad and a pen.

Look - I've chosen a pretty sundress for every day of the holiday. As always, I will end up wearing shorts and a vest on each day of the week and having to iron the suitcase-creases out of all those unworn dresses upon my return. Yep, every time...


The boys have been wearing their swimmers every day to slide into the paddling pool. I'm trying to get them dry enough to pack. Just the sight of them on the line puts me in a holiday mood. To the sea! To the sea! 

Last week, one of the writers in my writing group received the freelance editing report on her full-length novel. It's something that several people have advised me to do, so I was interested to get a look at it. Although it was expensive - it was also very thorough; pages and pages of encouraging remarks and suggestions for improvements. The areas it covered were - Style, Beginning, Plot, Denouement, Pacing/Tension, Characterisation, Marketability/Next Steps/Conclusion etc...
This order allowed the editing to start small - typos, mistakes in spelling or punctuation (misplaced apostrophes and so on) - which was all fairly unalarming. Then it moved on to slightly bigger fish such as POV breaks, examples of overwriting and those dreaded attributive verbs -  'she spat'...'he sighed'...'she laughed'...'he nodded'.
Followed, of course, by the pace-killing attributive adverbs - 'she spat angrily'...'he sighed wearily'...'she laughed hysterically'...'he nodded psychotically'.
In his book On Writing Stephen King says: 'I insist that you use the adverb in dialogue attribution only in the rarest and most special occasions...and not even then if you can avoid it.'
(Mark Twain famously said something rude about adverbs too, but since he's responsible for this quote about Jane Austen:  'Every time I read "Pride and prejudice" I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.' I'm not going to bother with it.)
After lulling the writer into a false sense of being able to edit their book without too much pain or hard work, the report reached the macro edit stage. Is there too much back story at the beginning? Well, move it, but don't put great chunks of it anywhere else - or it'll slow the pace. Is this character really necessary? Or could he be combined with these two over here? Does every character have a firm sense of goal? No? Well, give them all an agenda or kill them. Do these scenes really need to be set in Slough - or could they be moved to Bolivia?
Terrifying stuff!
I think most writers necessarily get too close to their own work to be able to see the big changes that would improve it. So my conclusion is that - if you can raise the cash - a freelance editing report is probably a good idea.
I want one now. But I also want some Cartier spectacle frames, a dozen pairs of Irregular Choice shoes and a new treehouse. So I'll just have to add it to my list.

We're going from this...

...to this!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Drama


I heard from Myslexia yesterday.
I entered their short story competition months ago and tried to forget all about it, but somewhere in the back of my mind I couldn't let go of the knowledge that the winners would be notified by post mid-May. And it was this same knowledge that leapt to the forefront of my mind in one almighty bound when an envelope from Myslexia arrived yesterday. In mid-May! Hurrah!
I opened the envelope with trembling fingers...my heart was in my mouth...I was hot and cold all over...yes, I was a giant mass of cliches...
It was a form letter suggesting I might like to take out a subscription to Myslexia. I had to stare at it for some minutes before I realised this - and even then I sifted through the accompanying adverts and pre-paid envelopes, in the hope of finding my cheque for two thousand pounds.
The disappointment was far worse than it would've been had I not received this piece of advertising.
Isn't the timing alone pretty bad PR? This letter could've been sent to me months ago. Or in another month from now. Or any time other than mid-May!
Along with the six lucky winners - who read their letters and whooped, there must've been thousands of unlucky entrants who (like me) thought that they'd won...before it was snatched away again. Surely this is the one exact moment at which they (and I) are all least likely to buy a subscription to Myslexia.
What? You're asking us to donate more money to the magazine that has just played this cruel trick upon us? You want us to buy the same magazine that does not consider our stories good enough to win actual prizes? Why? Why on earth would we want that? Were our thousands of ten pound entry fees not enough for you?
Humph.


I didn't really have time to dwell on it, as I'd opened the post on my way out the door. We were all heading off to a nearby church hall where my nine year old was due to take part in a prose reading competition for the Cheltenham Festival of Performing Arts.
This is a boy for whom the term 'selective mute' was used in pre-school.
This is a boy who stood alone in the playground - too shy to make friends with anyone - during his reception year. I'd pass by the railings and see him standing there while a hundred others played around him. One day I got upset and told him how sad it made me. The next time I passed by the playground, he was no longer standing still. He was walking around in a small circle with his eyes on the ground and his hands behind his back - like Prince Charles inspecting some sort of production plant. For some reason, this attempt to blend in did not make me any happier.
Underneath his invisibility cloak of shyness, he was actually very bright and funny, kind-hearted - occasionally charming - an excellent mimic, a talented artist with an infectious delight in the ridiculous (I could go on, but I'm biased.) And nobody else ever got to see any of this.
He did eventually make friends, although he continued to be known as the shyest boy in the year - and there were always problems due to his reluctance to tell the teacher when he didn't understand the lesson, or when he needed the toilet - yikes!


At the start of his third year, his official teacher went on maternity leave and was replaced by a supply teacher (Hello, Miss Ford!) who managed to write off almost an entire academic year of his education. On Parents Evening, I asked her why his grades had all dropped so dramatically and she seemed to panic. She said she was unable to teach him because of his shyness - she even suggested he needed Special Needs teaching or perhaps psychotherapy. And she told us this IN FRONT OF HIM!
So we were all pretty upset.
The headmaster came as close as he ever does to apologising for his fuckwitted member of staff, and my son was assessed by two SEN teachers who said that they couldn't help him, because he didn't have any Special Needs. He was just shy - which is not a Special Needs problem.
In the end, it was not the headmaster or the SEN teachers who suggested that drama might help, but the school secretary. She took me aside and told me her own son (now grown up) had suffered from dyslexia, which had made him painfully introverted and drama had really helped him. She even gave me the number of his drama teacher, Jodie Underhill.
Jodie has been coaching my son for just over a year now. Yesterday - although he was shaking with nerves - he went up to the front of a crowded church hall and read an extract from 'Horrid Henry and the TV Remote'. As the adjudicator noted afterwards in his remarks, he read firmly and clearly and with great expressiveness. He made regular eye contact with the audience and was wonderfully comic during the amusing bits.
His face was glowing red as he made his way back down to us - and he couldn't stop grinning for ages. Neither could I. My hands are still sore I clapped so hard!
He didn't win, but he came fourth out of twenty-two children - and I think it probably cost him a lot more to go up there than it cost many of them. He has a certificate that reads 'With Honours'.

But after the highs, come the lows...

Today, he was entered into an acting class at the Town Hall. It was a grand marble-pillared room - and a higher age category than yesterday's class. My son was clearly the littlest boy there. His eyes got huge and he sank down in his seat as if he was hoping to disappear. Uh-oh.
The standard of acting was staggeringly high. These were obviously children who were aspiring actors rather than children hoping to overcome their shyness.
The first entrant withdrew and the second went on stage with tears pouring down his face. Despite this, he was brilliant. I think I would've given him the cup there and then.
Next a girl (who was as tall as an adult) acted a long and provocative scene from 'The Bad Seed' which ended with her confessing to the murder of a classmate - and all with an unfaltering American accent. I saw my son's eyes go to the cardboard box we'd transformed into 'Horrid Henry's Time Machine' and brought along as a prop - with extreme doubtfulness. Oh dear.
Another girl went up on stage and began to act out something long and complicated. Halfway through, she forgot her lines and dissolved into tears. Her parents did not go up and rescue her. She continued to cry in front of us all - and pleaded with the adjudicator to let her get down. It was horrendous.
The tension - or possibly terror - seemed to expand and fill the room. There was another withdrawal and then it was my son's turn. He did not want to go on.
And we didn't make him.

Neither husband nor myself could've asked him to do something which we would've been too afraid to do ourselves. I was worried that my dad, sister and nephew, who'd all come along to watch him, would tell me I ought to've made him go on stage. But as soon as I went up to them, they all exclaimed "Thank God you didn't make him go up and do that - we were all terrified for him!"
Not only am I not cut out to be a pushy stage-school mum - I'm from a family of non-pushies!



Instead of waiting to hear the results, Jodie led us all off to an unused conference room, where my son performed his 'Horrid Henry' monologue to all the friends and family members who'd turned up to see him. He was given tumultuous applause and ended the morning on a high (having played the Town Hall after all!)
Then we went to the Cafe Rouge for those traditional French dishes - fries and ice cream sundaes!


So it's been an exhausting weekend full of emotional ups and downs. This afternoon, when my son's lack of sleep started to kick in, he was a bit sad and insisted he'd let us all down. He said he felt like a loser. I disagreed and told him (for the hundredth time) how proud he'd made us all. But in my head, I thought of my form letter from Myslexia - which told me (in between the text) that they hadn't liked my story. And I thought of the interview my husband had on Friday - he said he thought he'd fucked it up...then he'd gone out for a long run.
I couldn't help wishing life didn't require us to keep on trying so damn hard all the time. In the words of Homer Simpson: "Trying is the first step towards failure."
Or, if you prefer: "Weasling out of things is important to learn. It's what separates us from the animals. Except the weasels."

It is now 7pm and I just heard my husband shouting, "Time to come and get in the bath, boys!"
Naturally they shouted back a long list of objections, including all the much-more-important things they were right in the middle of doing (rolling around on the carpet - to the untrained eye.)
Then he shouted, "Well, it's nearly time for The Voice. Don't blame me if you miss the start."
The Voice? The sodding Voice?
I was dismayed.
What has happened to my boys' childhood? What has happened to "Hurry up and get in the bath so we can all tuck up and read stories?" What has happened to hot buttered toast, warm milk, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the Faraway Tree stories?
Apparently the Voice has happened. Urgh!

(The other day my dad bought the boys some 3D paper to draw on. Although my five year old followed the traditionally approved children's theme of merpeople, my oldest went with 'Famos People' including everyone from The Voice - along with Katy Perry and Mark Ronson.)



Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Of Castles and Chillis


Today we went to Eastnor Castle where they hold The Big Chill. Today though, they were holding a chilli festival. (That wasn't why we went - it was incidental. No one in our family is much interested in chillis.)
The weather was changeable. As we approached the castle, there was a great dark cloud of rain hanging over it like smoke. All the turrets, arched doorways and windows were darkened by this lowering, raincloud in a way that would have been very atmospheric had it not been for the accompanying salsa music and huge inflatable chillis everywhere. England can be a bizarre place sometimes.


We made our way through all the people who were eating cartons of chillis in the courtyard (again bizarre) and went into the castle to look around. There were soaring, painted ceilings, antlered animal heads on the walls, suits of armour and chandeliers as big as that iceberg that sank the Titanic (possibly).



Husband appeared to be having quite a nice time, but this visit was his suggestion, so he had no choice other than to look engrossed. More unexpectedly, the boys liked it too. Not only were they interested in all the old furniture and random exhibits (boomerangs, elephant's foot umbrella stand, signed photo of Ant and Dec etc.) there were also pictures of chillis for them to find in each room. My five year old decided that he wanted a four-poster bed in his own room, and my nine year old, upon seeing the book-lined walls of the immense library, whispered that someone ought to tell these people about the invention of the kindle.



I went round with an abstracted air, owing to the fact that I was pretending to be on a research trip for my novel which is set in a castle. Since I'm unpublished, I have to regard my writing as a hobby - which precludes dragging the family on "research trips" - so my husband's suggestion was a nice surprise. I'm planning to mention all the secret doors I saw hidden in the panelling or wallpapered over - which were used by the servants (helping to make them more invisible to the important rich people they were waiting on) and their difference to the heavy wooden doorframes used by the family of the house (or castle). These were more like a short corridors between the rooms than doorways!
I'm also planning to refer to the Peninsula war, so I was interested to see portraits of some of the family members who'd died in Burgos. They looked far too young to have died. There were also some parts of their uniforms on display - which made them seem more real. Is it strange to have felt so sad about the deaths of men who would be long-dead by now anyway?



After I wrote the last post about my favourite comfort reads, I noticed that almost every one of them features a castle or a grand country house. These are romantic or intimidating or poetically-tumbledown - and they all have a deep sense of history. So I suppose this explains why I felt the need to include one in my own story - subconsciously I'd already noted it down as a plot-essential!


This afternoon I'm going to start plotting - and (hopefully) writing the final contemporary chapters of my story. After that, the last historical chapters. I have a pretty good idea of where my plot is going to go and I'm confident that I WILL finish it! I'm over halfway now and I can almost see the downward slope towards the end. I know it'll take weeks more work until I can type THE END - and after that, weeks more editing and polishing before I'm brave enough to send it anywhere. But all the same, I can feel a sort of slow, building excitement whenever I think about my book. This has to be the best stage of all, I think. I'm currently rushing back from the school run to get some more words down in the morning and staying up late at night to finish off scenes I've already played in my head. Even when I switch off the light and try to sleep, extra plot twists or bits of dialogue come into my head without me having to struggle for them.
Going to finish this post now - I've made myself want to go and get some more words down!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Are you sitting comfortably?


Then I'll begin...
It's a bank holiday weekend. The weather is terrible, the husband is tetchy and the boys are bickering. They're squabbling over the new cross-training machine I bought on Ebay to tackle the condition known as 'Writer's Arse'. I'm hoping it might also help with my 'Malingerer's Back' and  'Biscuit-Eater's Waistline'.  Who knows - I haven't been able to get near it yet.
It feels as if there's only one sensible way for me to spend the (long) weekend. As per the picture (which is actually me) - it's tucked up with a comfort read.
Comfort reads are the ones I've read before. Hundreds of times. I can hear the familiar words in my head almost before I read them on the page. They give me the same feeling as a hot bubble bath, a handful of paracetamols, a cup of strong coffee and a chocolate orange - all taken together!
So, in no particular order, here's my top ten...

Rebecca. I think this was the first adult book I ever read. My mum suggested it when I was twelve or thirteen and every so often I would pick it up and read halfway through the "Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again..." pages, before putting it back down and wandering off to do something else. All my Enid Blytons had started with instant action, so I didn't have the patience for an endless description of an equally endless driveway. One night when I was having trouble sleeping, I thought I'll read that driveway scene with all the nettles and rhododendrons one more time. I had no expectation of getting any further than that, but the next thing I knew it was 4am and Manderley had burned down - and I was still sitting up in bed with eyes as round as dinner plates. God knows how I managed at school the next day. It was one of those moments when it wasn't enough to have been transfixed by the story - I wanted to be Daphne du Maurier.



Persuasion. There was a time when I wouldn't have believed I'd ever prefer any other Jane Austen to Pride and Prejudice - and it's still a close run thing. But oh - all that quiet longing in Persuasion! "You pierce my soul, I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own, than when you almost broke it eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you." (Answer - 'Fuck, yes!')



Stardust. Well, what could be more comforting than a fairy tale for grown-ups? I love all the vivid descriptions - the colours, the scents, the sounds of Faerie. I especially love the little hairy man who isn't entirely human. "I knowed a man in Paphlagonia who'd swallow a snake every morning, when he got up. He used to say, he was certain of one thing, that nothing worse would happen to him all day. 'Course they made him eat a bowlful of hairy centipedes before they hung him, so maybe that claim was a bit presumptive." (Shortly after telling this tale, he and Tristan narrowly escape being killed by a forest of murderous trees. Brilliant.)



Venetia. I must have at least fifty Georgette Heyers, but I think Venetia is my favourite - closely followed by Black Sheep - for all the same reasons. They are later books, with older and wiser heroines and far more easy-going heros. Although there is less melodrama (fewer highwaymen, duels and abductions) the characters are more subtly drawn (Aubrey and the despicable Mrs Scorrier are so good) and their relationships to each other achingly believable.
As a sub-category -  my favourite Heyer Heroine is golden toe-nailed Bad Bab from An Infamous Army. And my favourite hero is the irresistible Freddie from Cotillion.



Enchanted April. Well, who doesn't appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine...? This one's particularly good for reading in wet weather because it tells of four women's escape from "extremely horrible sooty rain on the hurrying umbrellas and splashing omnibuses" to a "mediaeval Italian castle on the shores of the Mediterranean". (My other favourite story to read in cold, wet weather is Treasure Island - for obvious reasons.) Here, Lottie also escapes from her husband Mellersh - who is a wonderful character... "Mr Wilkins, a solicitor, encouraged thrift, except that branch of it which got into his food. He did not call that thrift, he called it bad housekeeping. But for the thrift which, like moth, penetrated into Mrs Wilkin's clothes and spoilt them, he had much praise." I'm going to have to include the bit where Mrs Wilkins opens the shutters on her first morning in San Salvatore. "All the radiance of April in Italy lay gathered together at her feet. The sun poured in on her. The sea lay asleep in it, hardly stirring. Across the bay the lovely mountains, exquisitely different in colour, were asleep too in the light; and underneath her window, at the bottom of the flower-starred grass slope from which the wall of the castle rose up, was a great cypress, cutting through the delicate blues and violets and rose-colours of the mountains and the sea like a great black sword." The only thing more beautiful than the descriptions of Italian scenery is the actress who plays Caroline Dester in the film (Polly Walker, I think.)



Cold Comfort Farm. Yet another story with a fairy tale quality to it. It's sunny and funny and charmingly rustic."So muttering, Adam crossed the yard and entered the cowshed, where he untied the beasts from their hoot-pieces and drove them across the yard, down the muddy rutted lane that led to Nettle Flitch Field. He was enmeshed in his grief. He did not notice that Graceless's leg had come off and that she was managing as best she could with three."  The Starkadders are all more or less mental, but Flora, the young heroine goes to Cold Comfort Farm and calmly sorts them all out. Alongside all the sarcasm, there is romance, a transformative dress, a ball and a wedding at the end!



Love in a Cold Climate or The Pursuit of Love. I find it almost impossible to choose between them. The characters are all wonderful, glamorous and completely insane. In the end, I opted for Love in a Cold Climate because of the wonderful Cedric Hampton. "There was a terrible scene on Oxford platform one day. Cedric went to the bookstall to buy Vogue, having mislaid his own copy. Uncle Matthew, who was waiting there for a train, happened to notice that the seams of his coat were piped in a contrasting shade. This was too much for his self-control. He fell upon Cedric and began to shake him like a rat; just then, very fortunately, the train came in, whereupon my uncle, who suffered terribly from train fever, dropped Cedric and rushed to catch it. 'You'd never think,' as Cedric said afterwards, 'that buying Vogue Magazine could be so dangerous. It was well worth it though, lovely Spring modes.'"  Nancy Mitford writes in her own delightful language and it's impossible to read her books without going about for weeks afterwards exclaiming 'Don't tell me!', 'Sharpen your wits!' and 'Do admit!'



The Man in the Brown Suit. Agatha Christie's stories are probably the ultimate in comfort reading. They include characters you can recognise immediately (country doctors, bluff colonels, maiden aunts, vicars and fast young men in sports cars) lots of sumptuous country houses or exotic foreign locations, shocking amounts of skulduggery and plots that are fiendishly twisty!  You can feel proud of yourself if you guess anything before Agatha chooses to reveal it. I think there's something particularly safe and comforting about the village-green-England of the twenties or thirties - I've no idea why, but most of my comfort reads are set there! (I love Dorothy L Sayers' Peter Wimsey stories and the Margery Allingham's of this time too!) "Something hard and unfamiliar in my sponge-bag puzzled me greatly. I untied the string and looked inside. To my utter amazement I drew out a small pearl-handled revolver. It hadn't been there when I started from Kimberley. I examined the thing gingerly. It appeared to be loaded. I handled it with a comfortable feeling. It was a useful thing to have in a house such as this. But modern clothes are quite unsuited to the carrying of fire-arms. In the end I pushed it gingerly into the top of my stocking. It made a terrible bulge, and I expected every minute that it would go off and shoot me in the leg, but it really seemed the only place."



The Secret History. Can a study of blackmail, murder and guilt really be comforting? Yes, I think so. After all, there are murders in all the Agatha Christies. And Rebecca. Oh, and Stardust too. (Murder is practically a prerequisite for being on my list it seems.) I always look forward to the scene in which a substitute teacher, whose Greek is crude and inferior, attempts to teach the five elite classics students. "He was one of those language teachers who rely heavily on mnemonics ('Agathon. Do you know how I remember that word? "Agatha Christie writes good mysteries."') Henry's look of contempt was indescribable. The rest of us were silent and humiliated. Matters were not helped by Charles stumbling in - obviously drunk - about twenty minutes into the class. His appearance prompted a rehash of previous formalities and even, incredibly, a repetition of the agathon embarrassment. Henry said, quite coolly, and in beautiful Attic Greek: 'Without your patience, my excellent friend, we should wallow in ignorance like a sty full of pigs.'"



I Capture the Castle. More yearning - I can't get enough of the yearning. This time a young girl is yearning, not just for romance, but for change. She wants to be older, wiser and more sophisticated. She wants money and clothes and nice food and...life. (And she wants to be a writer!) I remember wanting all the same things just as badly, when I was Cassandra's age. "The taxi drew up at a wonderful shop - the sort of shop I would never dare to walk through without a reason. We went in by way of the glove and stocking department, but there were things from other departments just dotted about; bottles of scent and a little glass tree with cherries on it and a piece of white branched coral on a sea-green chiffon scarf. Oh, it was an artful place - it must make people who have money want to spend it madly! The pale grey carpets were as springy as moss and the air was scented; it smelt a bit like bluebells but richer, deeper. 'What does it smell of, exactly?' I said. And Rose said: 'Heaven.'"



One thing they all have in common - apart from being brilliant - is that they all made me long to write a book that could make someone else as happy as these have all made me!

My wordcount (around 71,000) has actually gone down this week. Although I'm not officially editing yet - I've been tinkering with it a bit. I've cut and pasted the first chapter into my scrap folder and used a prologue instead. And I've been trying (unsuccessfully so far) to rewrite chapter three. Sigh. There are two important scenes that I haven't found a place for yet. And I've mentioned the Bristol riots of 1830 three or four years before they actually happened. So I've had to change an awful lot of dates. It has felt like a fairly unproductive week, but I was beginning to feel that if I didn't make some changes soon, I'd be in danger of forgetting to make them at all.
I like the way this book feels much more mouldable than my first one - which I plotted extremely tightly because that felt safest. This one's like clay - I can lop bits off, stick extra lumps on...and squish it a bit if I want!