Archive | April 2009

The Writing of ‘The White Cuckoo’

I’ve taken two days annual leave to tag onto the bank holiday weekend so that I can get this novel completed by the end of Sunday (3rd May).

I’m expecting the first draft to come out at about 95-100k words, but it might be a little more or a little less.

Well, I’m about to hang up my computer mouse at the end of a solid day’s writing. It’s now 8.20 pm and I’ve been writing since 10.30 am, with about a couple of hours off at lunchtime and then time off to cook tea, etc and do the domestic bit.

At the beginning of this session today I’d completed just shy of 70k words and my word count now stands at 77,855 words.

I hit a small problem though. Yesterday, my ornithological adviser (thank you, councillor – you know who you are if you read this blog) informed me that the species of cuckoo that the entire book is based upon has never been seen in the British Isles. It is native of South Africa, India and the southern hemisphere.

I was gutted. I’d been putting all my eggs in one basket and the white cuckoo now appeared to be a white elephant.

Isn’t it funny how things happen? I’ve changed the plot ever so slightly to accommodate the elusive Jacobin Cuckoo’s very inconsiderate migratory habits and it’s now woven a very nice sparkly thread through the entire tapestry of my novel.

My targets:

Tomorrow (1st May): 85k words

Saturday (2nd May): 92k words

Sometime on Sunday (3rd May): Enter the final full stop with fanfare and a theatrical flourish of the hand.

Monday: I’m having a day off!


My fourth Novel

Have I gone just a little mad?

This novel really is a Cuckoo in my life at the moment. It’s shoving everything else out. At lunchtime on Saturday, 4th April I wrote the opening paragraph of ‘The White Cuckoo’. At the end of the following Monday early morning writing session I’d written 14k words. Two weeks later I was on 37,209 words and this morning (22nd April) I shut down the document at 45,788 words. It feels as if the story is draining away a part of me that has always been there – I just didn’t know it.

I feel exactly like I do when I’m reading a novel I can’t put down – I just can’t stop writing. I’ve gone from one extreme to the other. I’m constantly turning over and examining the plot in my mind. There’s a strange kind of synchronicity going on – loads of odd coincidences that are eloquently presenting me with answers to questions I have about aspects of the plot.

I thought I’d share one of these moments with you all.

I’ve been asking around since I first had the idea for the plot to try and find someone over the age of 70 who was born prematurely. I wanted to get some first hand anecdotes about what it was like to look after a tiny baby with no access to modern technology or incubators, etc. Yesterday I gave someone a lift to a meeting. I nearly didn’t offer the lift, because it was during the day and I am really, really busy at work at the moment. On the return journey we hit traffic, delaying me even more. Then, this 78 year old lady, who doesn’t know about my writing, completely out of the blue told me that when she was born she weighed just over two pounds and was a ‘seven month baby’.

Voila! In one ten-minute car journey I’d all the information I needed. There was only one problem. You can’t write it all down when you’re driving. So as soon as I got home from work last night I made some notes.

The first draft of this novel will be written in just four weeks, and it is the most magical writing time of my life. Will it get published? Who knows, but it will certainly land on my agent’s doormat with more unique selling points than she can shake her hat at!

Cuckoos and Loos

The Cuckoo in the Nest

I really do love getting up at 4.00 am or thereabouts and savouring the purity and peace of the dawn hours. I write so much better at this time of the day. I’ve just had my cup of tea, I’ll write until seven and then go back to bed for an hour or so before getting up and going to work.

Two days of bank holiday freedom has seen the word count for the cuckoo of a book I’ve very unwisely embarked upon soar from around 13.5k to a smidgeon over 27k.

I’ve asked around a bit for people’s opinions and tips on writing in the 1st person present and got a mixed bag of responses. It seems to be a bit like Marmite – people either love it or hate it. It’s either spectacularly good to read, or like wading through treacle.

I’m not making it easy for myself, am I? The plot makes me shiver with excitement. I hope I’m not wasting a good plot on a no-brainer of a novel, structured narratively in a way that hasn’t a hope in hell of ever getting published. I am so enjoying writing the damned thing, though, I really don’t want to burst my own bubble, especially after the disastrous three months I’ve just endured with the dreaded writers’ block and feeling like I write rubbish.

My uncle told me about a premature birth at the beginning of the 20th century and I was captivated. I thought to myself that if I was captivated by the story, then other people would be too and I resolved to write about it one day. Then I remembered that, in November last year, I overheard an interesting snippet of conversation behind me in the queue for lunch in the Natural History museum about someone researching a family tree that wasn’t their own.

I got the idea for the new novel from these two five-minute conversations. The conversations then dove-tailed (ha ha!) quite nicely into an abandoned novel I’d got bored with. Voila! ‘The White Cuckoo’ was born and now it’s growing so quickly, and needing so much energy, that it’s squeezing everything else out of my life until it’s finished.

Target date for completion of first draft, I hear you ask whilst scratching your chins pensively? End of May. Yes, really. I need to do it. I can only meet this target if my family help me, though.

Emily – stop rolling your eyeballs upwards: I need you to sit, quietly nursing Sophie, and listen to me reading out loud. Labradors – likewise. Rob – sorry in advance about the housework: you’ll need some new rubber gloves and a pinny. Tatie Katie – feel free to log-in whenever you like and tell me when you get bored with the story. Lee – likewise but from a male point of view. Garry and Nicky – coffee duty and amused tolerance/indifference is all that is required of you, but any (constructive) comments will be gratefully received. Tyler – when Granny is busy writing you really must remind her that, although you are sitting quietly pretending to play with your Nintendo DS, you are really watching Power Rangers on Jetix. You mustn’t wait until 55 minutes after it’s started to tell her that it’s on.

(NB: Tyler is not allowed to watch Power Rangers – his mummy and daddy have banned it.)

The only thing that will stop me now is seeing a pig flying past my window in the form of a publisher for the trilogy.

The Loo

Our downstairs toilet broke last week. It would not flush. After many mutterings of frustration at having to actually climb stairs to spend a quick penny, hubby investigated. It needed a new syphon, apparently. New syphon = £12.5o. I took the broken syphon to bits, being curious like I am, and it was just a piece of thick plastic that had gone. After telephone calls and visits to various DIY places and Plumbing Centres it was ascertained that said thick piece of plastic was not a spare part and new syphon was essential if flushings were to be restored. So I removed the plastic with the bread knife (no not really – I’m not that mucky), found a piece of similar thickness and cut a new one out with my dressmaking scissors. Hubby most impressed! Reassembled it works perfectly.

Now … how about a little change of career ….

Back on the Straight and Narrow

Yesterday I gave myself a ‘Writers’ Migraine’.

Some of you might know that I’ve been suffering from something of a writers’ block just lately, mainly as a result, I think, of the stress of anticipation, rejections, anticipation, waiting, wondering and generally just beginning to feel panic at the thought that I might be losing the pleasure of just writing for the sake of it.

I still have no news from my agent. The trilogy is still alive, I think. So I’m still waiting. Apparently it is very hard to get anything new taken on at the moment, according to my agent. Sign of the times, I suppose.

Anyway. Back to the writers’ migraine. It was those damned birds again! (See previous blog about magpies). Only this time it was a cuckoo.

I decided to go back to a previously abandoned novel and re-work it. In fact, I’ve re-worked it so much that I’ve completely changed the plot. And the title. Anyway I decided to try writing in the first person present tense.

‘Doubled Lives’ is now called ‘The White Cuckoo’ and I am on a roll. Nearly 14,000 words in a weekend (although about half of that could be classed as a re-write). Yay …….

(but it did give me a headache through too much screen-staring – ooops)

Any tips on writing in the first person, present?