Heckled by Guinea Pigs

September was a fairly quiet month – working mainly on the novel with the help of my mentor who has BROKEN my addiction to twitter and Facebook, and all for the good of the work as the pace is cracking along nicely now.

This month’s session involved drawing a really big graph with highlighter pens and mapping the arcs of the two main stories in the novel. The ‘across’ axis was time – and that was easy enough. This novel has two quite well defined time-scales – six weeks in 1998 and one night in 2008.The ‘upwards’ axis was ‘drama’ or ‘excitingness’. I’ve read about these kind of tasks in creative writing books before, and always been a bit dubious about them – but when in the midst of editing and mired in choosing exactly the right word, getting a visual grasp of the bigger picture really helped.

The only problem is that I still need to find some kind of quantitative measure for the upwards axis. What do we measure dramatic interest in? I’ve called it ‘good antics’ but I want to find something better before my next appointment. I think that’s called procrastinating.

My only trip out was to the village of Waverton, in Cheshire. I’ve done lots of readings now, but this was a special one and is probably going to turn out to be one of my favourites. Several years ago, Gwen and Wendy in Waverton decided to get all the bookworms in their village together to read lots and lots of debut novels, decide which one was best, and give it a prize. They meet up several times during the course of the pre-prize reading to discuss the books – and sometimes they’re kind enough to invite these debut novelists along to plug their work.

The reading itself went well – disturbed only my some very rude heckling from a pair of guinea-pigs that shared the school assembly hall with us. I don’t think they liked Annie much, but after they were wheeled away to the peace and quiet of a darkened classroom, we got onto the questions and I had a lively discussion with the audience about Annie, my writing process, unreliable narrators, fitting writing in with mothering, creative writing courses, teaching and blogging.

The list of books the Waverton readers will be working through this year is very long – sixty-three novels were eligible for the prize, and arrived in crates and boxes and bags for the audience to look at and pick out what they fancied to read and report on for the next meeting. Previous winners of the Waverton Good Read award include Jonathan Trigell and Mark Haddon – here’s hoping Annie will take their fancy.

So September was fairly quiet, and October is going to be frantic. I need to finish this draft of the novel, do a heap of festivals (you can read a bit about Lancaster Litfest from Sarah Hymas by clicking here – she seemed to like Annie a bit more than those guinea pigs did) keep up with the freelance work and be nurturing and motherly towards Small Fry and Him Indoors, who have both started new terms this month and are bound to come down with Fresher’s / Reception Flu at some point over the next couple of weeks.

It’s all going to be packed in extra tight because I have only three weeks to work in October. On the 24th, I’m off on my holidays to Whitby (what is it with me and sea-side towns?) and while I’m there

I’ll be getting married… and I don’t even have any shoes yet.


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