Cappuccino dreams

On the 8th of September, straight after returning from FantasyCon, I sat my ass down and started bashing out a new novel, The Silvergreen Sea. Now, just under four weeks later, I’ve passed the 20,000 words mark, and I’m confident at least half the time that at least 25% of what I’ve written isn’t total dross. So it’s going pretty well so far *crosses fingers and toes, backs up document*. Writing is not, of course, just a numbers game: it’s a voyage in your own imagination, a tour of your very own castle in the air. Even if nothing tangible ever comes of it, you can enjoy the ride. But most of the time, the reality of it is not terribly glamorous. It’s essentially sitting in front of a computer all day staring at words on the screen (or, worse, blank space), then tapping at the keyboard to make more appear, then deleting half of them, then going to make a cup of tea.

Sometimes, it’s good to remember why I’m doing it, to remind myself of what this dream I’m pursuing really is, why I’m getting up each morning and sitting at my desk. Now, it’s easy to fantasise about becoming ‘the next J.K. Rowling’, selling millions of copies, ascending the heights of the best-seller lists, getting a series of star-studded movie adaptations, sparking bitterly fought online shipping wars, being condemned by the Catholic Church. But there are other dreams, of slightly more attainable things, which I can indulge in with a sliver of hope that some day at least one of them might actually come to pass. Such as:

1. Seeing a book of mine, an actual book made of paper and glue, sitting on the actual shelf of an actual bookshop. Of course, if physical bookshops are on their way out, then this might be a dream with a limited shelf life (pun intended) but I’ll keep dreaming it for now.

2. A stranger telling me they’ve read my book, and then saying one of the following: ‘How could you kill that character? He was my favourite!’; ‘I don’t think that character would have done that, she’s just not that kind of person.’; ‘What are you doing here talking to me? Why aren’t you getting on with the sequel?’

3. Getting to sit on a panel at a convention and be all like ‘yeah, I’m a writer’ like it’s no biggie. Then getting asked questions about the stuff I’ve written. Even if they’re stupid and/or awkward questions. Hey, they’re showing an interest!

4. Being interviewed by Radio 4. As above, but with added ‘whoa I grew up listening to this station and now I’m on it and people are listening to me while they potter around the house.’

5. Hearing that my characters have been shipped and slashed. Especially if there’s a fierce online argument about who is *really* destined to be with whom.

6. Being condemned by The Daily Mail.

7. Buying a round of drinks with money I’ve received for something I wrote. Even if the amount is paltry, it’s still payment for words which have spilled out of my brain, and there’s no better encouragement to go and write some more and maybe get a less paltry amount next time. And even if my royalties never stretch to anything more than coffee for one, you know what, that cappuccino is going to taste So. Damn. Good.

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Pyjamas and Gin

A fortnight ago, I announced that I was taking a leap of faith by quitting the day job in favour of taking up writing full time. Since then, it’s been a time of transition. I’ve had an emotional last day at work, and been treated to a parting gift of a beautiful pen set. I’ve had a leaving do, a hangover, some old friends for the weekend, and some more gifts – a bottle of Bombay Sapphire from an old university chum and a surprise bunch of flowers from an old colleague. It’s been a good time for getting presents. And on Monday, I pulled on my pyjamas and got to work. Yes, I wear pyjamas to work now. Because I can.

This picture sums up my life right now quite well. #livingthedream

This picture sums up my life right now quite well. #livingthedream

How’s it gone so far? Well, as Helmuth von Moltke the Elder once said (and I find 19th-century Prussian generals make the best life coaches) ‘No plan survives contact with the enemy’. I had originally intended to try and get my daily dose of writing first thing in the morning, and then have the rest of the day free for such activities as going for walks, drinking tea with friends, cooking dinner, and looking for a part-time job. Disappointingly but entirely predictably, this hasn’t quite worked out – the writing has spilled over into the afternoon several times, and my health hasn’t co-operated either. But hey-ho – chronic pain is part of my life now, and I just need to manage it as best I can, and hope it gradually improves. And the good news is that, by making writing my top priority, the thing I do before I do anything else, I have so far managed to achieve my creative goals. Which was, after all, the whole point.

What were my creative goals for my first week as a writer? I reported here back at the end of May (https://ruthdehaas.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/at-the-crossroads/) that I was considering various options for what to write next. I had been hoping that, by now, I would have a steer and be able to get on with churning out the first draft. As ever, things haven’t quite gone to plan, but I have received some feedback on my ideas which has enabled me to refine the list of options, and this week to revise the outlines for the two leading candidates. At the moment – and of course this could change – the front runners are Forever 27, a tale of sex and death and drugs and magic and rock ‘n’ roll, and The Silvergreen Sea, a fantasy novel about a heavily-forested land facing ecological disaster.

The Silvergreen Sea is a fairly new idea, currently very much at the planning stage, with nothing actually written so far. In contrast, Forever 27 was started back in November 2011 and I’ve spent quite a lot of time – albeit intermittently – on it since then. This week – with a little help from my friends at my writing group – I finally wrestled the outline into a shape I’m fairly confident will actually work as a novel, while remaining true to the original concept. The bad news is that this has changed it so radically that I’m going to have to chuck out everything I’ve already written. Oh well. So you could say I’m currently working on two projects, both with a wordcount of zero. Put like that, it might not sound like a great deal of progress, but I figure it’s better to have ideas and no words than words but no idea.