Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Lost Edit

I'm not prone to losing things – words perhaps, marbles certainly, but not actual 'things'. I'm far too obsessed with time wasting to be able to cope with 'looking'. Tick, tock, that clock goes, tick tock, another few seconds of valuable life spent in the futile search for a key, only to be repeated tomorrow. Nope, that's not for me. My key goes in my bag, maximum time spent on life – I quote (yes, I'm a joy to live with.) But sometimes, very occasionally, I lose something. Properly lose it – not, in the car, under a pile of papers, in a different bag, under a cushion, absent mindedly placed in the fridge instead of the cleaning cupboard, kind of losing it. No, proper losing, the, I am going mad type of losing.

The object in question? Half a ream of paper. The half is filled with scribbles and post-its and ticks and smiley faces. I have lost an edit, or more precisely, half an edit. The half with all the comments I haven't yet typed up onto the document, the half I've pored over for hours, the half which will have to be entirely re-done.

It isn't even my own writing. Although I'd like to be clear at this point, just in case the writer in question is reading this, the edit never left the house. It will appear again, of course, just as soon as I have re-scribbled the final remark which brings me back to the point when the edit first disappeared.

Meanwhile, I am cutting my losses and moving into damage limitation phase. The search has been officially curtailed at two hours and fifty minutes*. I have printed out a new hard copy but, ever the optimist, I will start from where I left off, kidding myself that the fairly-elves will flutter by, wink as they drop the offending missing extract into my lap and whisper, 'Hey, we enjoyed that,' moments before I finally admit defeat and re-commence editing the fated first half.  

*Now, when I say, two hours and fifty minutes, it isn't strictly accurate. Yes, my Saturday morning slipped between 10am and almost 1pm and I am no further on with this editing task, and a whole lot further behind. However, a few choice items did appear as I threw my study upside down and it would be a little misleading to pretend a few moments hadn't been spent marvelling in them. There's the photo – I have so few – of my half-brother and half-sister from over twenty years ago. One of them may have recently celebrated their 30th birthday, but I still think they're cute. And oh, how proud were we all of that snowman, standing almost up to my knees.


Next up were four packs of pen refills which had slipped inside a ruled notepad. I thought I'd bought a lot lately, but assumed I'd been working hard. There were the inevitable coins (although disappointingly, no notes, not even in the pockets of coats I found myself looking through which would barely hold a folded sheet of A4, let alone 250 of them) and a girl can never have too many emery boards, hand lotions and cuticle softeners, uncurled paperclips (it's a dreadful habit, along with chewing my nails when I'm really concentrating) hair bobbles, old diary pages (now shredded) new books - ahem – which I'd forgotten about (do NOT tell the hubbie or the authors) and chargers. I'd had a big cull in the summer, clearly not big enough.

And then I found this. I didn't find it exactly, everything in its place, of course, but I had forgotten it was there. There were letters from my school friends when I'd taken a 'year out' in Germany as an au-pair and they'd gone to uni while I was seriously questioning what I'd done. It's hard living with a non-English speaking family when, A-level in German notwithstanding, you're barely able to say your name let alone ask for theirs. Suffice it to say, the disconcerting beginning had been all but forgotten but thank you Helen and Rachel for cheering me up in the early days.

I did a couple of seasons of tour guiding 'in Europe' in my early twenties. (I wrote about life as a tour guide with no sense of direction, here) and some of the American holiday makers sent me beautiful, long and lyrical thank you letters after their trips. They were a short story in themselves, and remain mementos of a by-gone age I've long since discarded. I'm glad I kept them. Although incredibly touched by their efforts, I'm sure I didn't appreciate back then how precious they would grow to be over time.

There were even some letters to myself. I wrote a diary from the age of 13 which was wonderfully cathartic. I wrote it until, aged 23, I had a Forrest Gump moment, deciding that my diary and I had been through a decade of loves and loss together but suddenly, I didn’t want to write it anymore. And I never did. But sometimes, very occasionally, I'd write a letter to myself instead. They were how I found some calm in a few iconic moments in my early adult years.

I was flicking through some of these letters when I found a scribbled note on Mr Men headed paper which looked like a letter but was merely a few rushed bullet points. They were based on an exasperating experience I had getting back from Birmingham train station one day, and the people I'd met along the way. Those notes were all I had of an idea for a novel.

Until today.

I have since written over a thousand words and am seriously considering bringing the current manuscript I'm working on to an abrupt halt and working on this instead. My instinct is telling me to do this and my instinct told me to stop what I was writing once before and write Glass Houses in its place…

I shall leave it there for now but let's just say, far from a lost morning searching for my lost edit, my Saturday is turning out to be very fruitful indeed.

Although, forgive me, if I have just one more look in the 'edit in progress drawer.'

*Update* I scribbled this blog post down a few weeks ago. The edit is now done and submitted. The Lost Edit has still not returned. Meanwhile, there is a fault on my phone line and, unrelated apparently, we lost Wi-Fi for three days and four nights and all that precious time saved in not searching for missing keys was lost in a whiff of 'one-more-go-trouble-shooting'. Forget fairies, we have Gremlins. Or perhaps, ghosts. Maybe my 1890s house is creaking in protest against our technological world. I don't blame it. But that's another story.

What is another story, is that the Birmingham inspired novel has become all-consuming and I now have 15,000 words of the first draft under my belt. I cannot tell you how happy I am that the Gremlins stole my work that fateful Saturday. 

Thursday, 9 March 2017

'Free' Books

I'm not sure how I feel about books being 'bought' for free, zilch, gratis on Amazon (or anywhere). I feel for the authors who have put their heart, soul and billions of hours into writing the book in the first place, not to mention into finding a publisher. And let's not forget them. Trust me, it's not long lunches and sparkly launches (at least not every day), my publisher is the person who emails me latest at night and if my work account pings at me at the weekend, it's most likely to be the irrepressible and fiercely devoted, seven-day-a-week working, Matthew Smith of Urbane Publications.

The argument is that free reads increase readership and the more people shout about the book, the more copies it will sell overall. If I'm anything to go by, I should also add that much as we'd all love our books to be in the front window of Waterstones – not that I'm complaining about Glass Houses being on a shelf much further back, you understand – being a bestseller is not the only or even the principal driver of becoming an author, it's the urge to tell a story. If that story is being read for free, that has to be better than it not being read at all, doesn't it?

I also acknowledge that freebies are standard practice for most organisations, particularly new ones, which is what every book is when it's published; it's a new business all in itself. Money-off vouchers encourage us to try new products, free test-runs allow us to try before we buy. When a book can be read for free, however, it just feels a little like a clothing company giving away the whole suit including design, fitting, tailoring and yes, we'll throw in free delivery, instead of offering a free tie, or a restaurant giving away the whole meal, rather than a drink and an enthusiastic welcome.

So, I remain undecided on whether it's a good thing or not for a book to be 'sold' for free and I'd welcome your thoughts.
Meanwhile, I don’t see a system changing anytime soon and for the next few hours only, Glass Houses is free on Kindle. I can't pretend it isn't exciting seeing the cover of my book at #2 in free Kindle bestsellers in Psychological Fiction and #6 in Contemporary Women's Fiction, so lovely to think people are interested in my story. 

It would be even better to think that some of the people who downloaded Glass Houses went on to read the book and that they were delighted they had. And, if those people felt inclined to leave a review, well, that would make me very happy indeed😊 

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Phone in the Back

I'm not an evangelical do-gooder. I don't think my way is the only way to live. I don't even think my way is the best way to live (although it works for me).

But there is something I want to say.

After the research I did for Glass Houses, after thinking about both the lives of my characters and the stories of real people involved in life-changing incidents - victims and perpetrators, their friends and their families - I put my phone in the back of the car when I drive.

Because it takes a perfect storm for an accident to happen, and a perfect storm can happen to anyone, at any time, and without warning. And that perfect storm can change everybody's life forever.

The law is changing today. The punishments are harsher for using the phone while driving.

The greatest punishment however, is to kill someone from behind the wheel.