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I’ve just spent two months in a new city, where I knew no one except my lovely housemate and colleague, Julie.

My theory was as follows: that my social life in Edinburgh is an obstacle to my writing, and that if I transplant myself to another city where I know no one, I will write loads in the evenings and become uncharacteristically productive. I planned to edit the whole 60,000 diary monstrosity into a lighthearted, humourous and linear narrative worthy of submitting to agents, and I planned to do it all in six weeks in Belfast while continuing to work full-time in a bookshop.

Did that happen? No, of course not.

Here’s what actually happened: I cut down on drinking, stopped smoking, embarked on Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred, waking up at 6.30am every morning to exercise before work, and going to bed at 10.30pm every night in an attempt to sleep for eight hours. I read lots of books, watched lots of films, and did A LOT of much-needed thinking.

I’ve returned to Edinburgh feeling a little bit clearer, and a little bit like my brain has been through a washing machine: it’s a bit battered, but it’s cleaner, too.

Most importantly, I’ve realised that it’s really hard to work full-time hours and write in your free time. I know many people do it, and they manage high levels of productivity and good quality writing. Yes, it’s possible. But it’s okay that maybe I find that tough. It doesn’t make me a terrible, feckless and hopeless writer. I don’t have to feel guilty or useless, I just have to accept that I’m going to have to face some obstacles, and maybe find a way of (job) working which can allow me to write a bit easier. And that’s OK.

I’ve been tagged – twice – in a strange Internet meme for writers, which reminded me I have a blog, so I decided to visit this derelict, abandoned excuse for a blog and see if I can remember my login details for wordpress. It turned out my clever laptop had stored the login details, but it took me quite a while to remember how to create a new post.

I have noticed that, through not using the internet or television very often, I’ve actually regressed in my knowledge of computers, popular culture and the internet. Instead of merely pausing in my understanding of technology, I’ve actually (almost willfully) moved backwards, finding myself saying “I’ve been tagged in a… meme thing” and “What’s The Wire about? Is it good?”

I’m being contrary, because I think it’s ‘cool’ to step back slightly from these parts of life. By asking these silly questions, I’m showing I’m too ‘cool’ to go on the world wide web, tweet at minor celebrities and watch University Challenge on iPlayer (I still love you, Jeremy).

Seriously, though, when I do spend an hour or so on the internet, I rarely gain anything, but I do waste a lot of time. If I spend that time reading a book, or writing (ha! One day), then I will have made progress, learnt something, or felt that I have achieved something.

So, I have a neglected blog, and a GoogleReader bristling with unread blog posts from some great blogs. And I have a LOT of emails and Facebook messages which have been ‘marked as unread’ for the day when I do eventually sit down in front of my laptop. And many, many missed story submission deadlines and incomplete job applications… there are disadvantages to this. But I feel like I have a richer life, lived mainly in the real world with face-to-face encounters, instead of one-dimensional interactions in the virtual one.

Having said all that, I’ll be back soon to complete this chain-letter/meme thing about writing, because it actually sounds quite good. Expect a little more information about my current project, coming up!

Dear Diary…

02.12.01 (Age 15)

            Dear Diary,

There are so many sexy blokes in this world, how come I don’t know any of them? And when I do, how come they don’t know I exist? I go for older men. They are so much funnier and easy to talk to then younger men. I just can’t wait till I get older + they can look upon me as an equal. But even then I won’t be attractive. I’ll still be flabby and unfit, with a sticky-out chin, hooked nose and gappy teeth. I don’t understand how some people manage to be so pretty + have a personality, while some people manage neither.

              I admit, I may have more personality than many bimbos, but is it their good looks and being told how gorge they are that has made them slow in the first place? I suppose (and hope) that everything is evened out in some way or another, but I wish it were more obvious. Cosmetic surgery. Hmmm. Boobs. And a normal nose and chin. Need money. Hmmm.

            Going to get ready for bed + school now. Night night.

Love, Rosie

 

Before I knew I wanted to write, I wrote. From the age of eight until eighteen, without even realising I was doing it, I shared my thoughts with a diary on a semi-regular basis. It’s painfully embarrassing, occasionally cruel, frequently self-indulgent, arrogant, self-pitying, and ABSOLUTELY hilarious.

I’m typing up these diaries with a view to editing them for publication, if I still feel like they’ve got potential once they’re done.

It’s a very entertaining process, and occasionally worrying: sometimes I’m reading the words of a selfish brat who has no concept of the wider world or even the feelings of the people closest to her; other times I stumble across the same thoughts and feelings which haunt me now, only when I was fifteen apparently I was able to express them with more clarity than I can at twenty-six. And if the same issues still crop up with alarming regularity, what progress have I made in the past eleven years?

The above consideration is secondary to the process, of course, but it’s certainly interesting to me. Meanwhile, is it possible to distance oneself from a diary, even if it was written by a ‘different’ you, enough to edit, cut and improve a piece to its full potential? I don’t know yet, but I think I might be about to find out. Wish me luck!

Current word count: 38,000 words.

Do Something

It’s been a very long time since I read a story in public.

It’s been a very long time since I wrote something new.

Both of these things bother me. But I’ve been having a lot of fun: going out, making new friends, working full-time, learning new things… And that’s important, too.

Two years ago, I gave up a well-paid job in a University, with future career prospects and more earning potential, to move to Edinburgh and study creative writing. I’m now working in a bookshop for minimum wage, and I’ve never been happier.

I have, however, been richer.

I need to write more, because otherwise giving up that well-paid job would have been all for nothing.

I need to write more, because that is what I want to do.

It’s all very well, talking about writing all the time… but if I don’t actually do anything then it’s a waste of breath.

Come on, Rosie. Do something.

Updates

In a previous post, I was furiously writing a long piece to submit as the dissertation for my Masters. That seems a like a very long time ago now! I submitted 21,000 words of a novella called Watching the Asylum, and I graduated with a distinction, so I’m very pleased!

Since then, I have been working in a bookshop and enjoying it a lot. I’ve also got a short-term (paid!) writing job connected with my previous employment at a university, so that’s fantastic news.

I have been having a great time during the past few months. But, crucially, I haven’t really been writing very much. So it’s time to knuckle down and really do this. Expect more posts.

Collaborative Writing

My friend Iain has got together with a fellow writer to write a novel. Both Iain and Heide are exceptional writers, and the process itself sounds fascinating.

Luckily for the nosy, they’re blogging about the experience. Wander over to the Idle Hands Blog to find out more.

Writing like a writer

NB: I’ll be reading an extract from the story I’m talking about in this blog post at The Midsummer Murder Mystery, this Sunday July 3rd at Cabaret Voltaire’s Speakeasy in Edinburgh. It begins at 8pm and is free entry. More information on the Facebook event page.

 

I spent the last three weeks behaving like a writer, more so than I ever have before.

After the kick up the bum that I needed from my tutor, I knuckled down and worked, worked, worked in the most functional way I’ve ever witnessed myself work.

At first, I had a character and a setting nestled at the back of my mind. Then I spent about four or five days researching around the subjects I thought were important to my germ of an idea, reading books and taking notes until ideas began to form. Slowly, I developed a list of five to ten scene ideas, pushing the story onwards.

I started to write, aiming for around 1000 words a day.

When I finished the first draft of each scene, I went back to the original scene summary idea and asked myself a few questions:

– How does this scene push the story forward?

– What does the reader discover through this scene?

– What questions are raised for the reader in this scene?

– Has this draft fulfilled the original aims from the summary?

Goodness, isn’t that functional?

As I continued writing, more scene ideas for further on in the piece emerged and I hurriedly wrote them down, until I had the bones of a  plot and a first draft which eventually reached the colossal heights of 14000 words. Goodness knows what that is: it’s not a short story and it’s certainly not a novella, but never mind.

Because I didn’t plan its structure meticulously before I started writing (and I’ve never written a piece of this length before), there are a few loose ends which need tying up, and one or two of the characters need to be given a firmer functionality in the plot as a whole to merit their inclusion in the story at all. But these issues are to be expected and I think (hope) those issues are nothing which can’t be solved by adding some new scenes here and there.

All in all, I’ve learnt a lot from this, and I’m really pleased with what I’ve done. It’s the longest piece I’ve ever written, and even if it doesn’t work out I know that I could do it again in the future.

I’m meeting with my supervisor tomorrow to discuss the piece. I really, really hope that I feel as positive after the meeting as I do now. Fingers crossed.