Friday 29 August 2014

Serious about a writing career? Then get comfy...

I was going to write a blog about patience. I was going to start by saying writers need infinite patience because each step of the process requires months of waiting. But I've changed my mind. I've realised that unless you're planning on being a one-hit wonder, then you should NEVER be waiting.
So many of us writers dream of the book that will change our lives. We dream of getting an agent and signing that publishing deal. We dream of the launch and book signings and seeing it in the window display at Waterstones. For many of us the dream stops there; that one book we've poured everything into finally getting published.
Do you know how much money I made in royalties from my first book? I don't know the exact figure, but it certainly wasn't enough to pay more than a month's rent.
But why was I disappointed? My dream had been to get a book published. It had happened, so what was the problem? The problem was in actual fact my dream hadn't been about getting one book published, it had been about earning a living as a full-time writer. In my day dreams, this one little book had been enough.
I've learnt a lot since Shop Girl Diaries came out. I know now that for my actual dream to happen, I can't think in terms of one book. I've got to think about five, six, seven books.
Yesterday I found out the release dates for my new novel, The Temp. I say 'release dates' plural, because it's going to be serialised over 3 weeks, the full version launching on the 23rd October. After my predicted launch date being in August, October sounded like ten million years away. I felt impatient. I was so fed up of waiting.
Waiting for what though?
Did I now think this book was going to change my life? Was I now entertaining the possibility this book was going to generate a frenzy of excitement and sales like the Harry Potter series?
As much as I'd like that, I think I need to manage my expectations here. The reality is having two books published won't be enough to earn a living from writing. I'm not being negative, I'm being realistic. It's not even that bad either, because I don't want to stop writing anyway.  

I'm still going to daydream about hitting the jackpot with The Temp. But if it doesn't sell a million copies, that's fine too, because I'm in this for the long term.  

Saturday 23 August 2014

In search of happy stuff...

Can someone tell me how I'm supposed to write a light-hearted comedy while all around the globe people are massacring each other? 

I can't decide if the news is worse than normal or it's just that I had these great expectations of the human race evolving and so I'm badly disappointed. 

I'd hoped that the penny might have dropped about us all being fundamentally equal. About us all feeling love and loss in equal measure. I guess I'm an optimist. It appears we're off again, charging back to the middle ages to burn witches, kill children, behead journalists, with the pathetic excuse of: God told me to do it, and, the neighbours started it!  
I've just reached 70,000 words of my novel Please Retweet with only about 15,000 words to go. The problem is this first draft isn't half as funny as it should be because I keep watching the news. I tell myself not to read anything until I've reached my daily word count, but then something heart-wrenchingly sad will pop up in my Twitter timeline, followed by a helping of prejudice and a side of hate... and then I'm imagining it was my own family being persecuted and having a cry and signing campaigns and donating money and my mood has gone from sunny yellow to black. Hopefully I'll be able to bring out the giggles in the second draft, but right now, I feel like I'm writing in a desert. It's all so bloody heart breaking.
I never set up this blog to rant about politics or religion. There are plenty of people better qualified to give their opinion on the many horrors unfolding right now. I have no intention of depressing you, my lovely readers. We all need to laugh and escape for a while. So here's a little collection of things that have made me smile this week. I hope they make you smile too.  




Courtesy of 9GAG




I know it's not much, so maybe you can help. What has made you smile recently?

Friday 15 August 2014

Get thee to Rhymes with Orange! (For anyone who thinks poetry is a bit sh*t)

"I didn't even like poetry until tonight!" I cried.

I was feeling elated after an evening at Rhymes with Orange. My friend, Rachel Malham had invited me because she was performing her poems. 

I met Rachel ten years ago at a creative writing course. I knew she'd be great, but I assumed she'd be the only relief in a line-up of anxious mumblers allergic to eye contact and happiness.

Too harsh? Maybe. What's also harsh is being subjected to endless abstract sentence uttered in the monotone of a humming fridge.  Because that had been my overall personal experience of poetry evenings, until I turned up at Rhymes with Orange.

The theme of the night was 'Work'. Why does work make me think of spreadsheets? I don't even use spreadsheets. The point is, it was a potentially dull theme... right?


As soon Stevie Tyler opened her mouth, I sat up in my chair and thought, Hang on a minute, this is actually going to be good! She oozed confidence and wit. Her poems were entertaining and also made a point. I felt a rush of excitement, which grew as the likeable host, Thomas Muirhead, led the night on.   

My friend, Rachel, was next.

Rachel Malham performing her poem
Go girl! Don't be shy! I thought, wanting her to blow everyone away.

I shouldn't have worried. Her mockingly sexy and hilarious poem about boardroom meetings resonated with the audience and left me with my mouth open.   

Okay, I thought,  Is it wise putting your two best acts on first?

But the high standard continued. I wish you'd been there to hear Ellie Dawes' poem about poor old Ophelia (from Hamlet), who wants to be much more than a character who dies off scene. An English teacher came up to Ellie afterwards asking where he could find her piece as he wanted to use it in class.

"I finished writing it six hours ago," she said, and offered him her crumpled pages.

I haven't even mentioned there was a youth group who'd come to be inspired, or the limerick challenge which I ended up judging! Or, the ridiculously good open mic! Or, that I laughed so hard at Sam Wong's poem about working from home I just had to go find him to tell him... (Sam, if you're out there, where can I get a copy?)


This is what 'waxing lyrical' is, isn't it?

Well I can't help it. When I come across something wonderful I have to tell everyone about it.

If you are in London, and you love poetry, better still if you think you hate it, then get yourself to Rhymes with Orange!

Friday 8 August 2014

Writers and Cats - what's the deal with that?

Why do so many writers have cats?

But why?

I've never had a cat and can't call myself a cat lady. The definition of a 'cat lady' varies depending if you own a cat or not. If you own a cat, you might view yourself like this:

While those less partial to cats might view you as this:

I'm less black or white. For me, cat people are the ones with little hairs on their jumpers and more to arrange before their holidays. 

My brother and his wife have cats. Once one of them jumped on the table while we were eating. 

"It's only a cat!" his wife chided, when I flinched and shooed it off. 

What I don't understand is, why are cats considered so clean when they spend half the day licking their bottoms? 

Despite not being a cat person, there is a kitten in my new novel. Amber buys him because she thinks he'll be a YouTube sensation. She hopes the advertising revenue will get her out of the rut she's in. The kitten is called Rupert and he's based on this little fellow. Isn't he the fluffy-wuffiest thing you've ever seen?* (*I don't talk like this in real life.) 

But Amber's not a writer, so that doesn't help solve the mystery of why so many writers have cats. 

It's not like they make good assistants. When I looked after my brother's cat, it woke me up at 3am every morning. By week 2 I was too exhausted to write. When I did try to write, it would wake up from its nap just to walk across my keyboard. 

Perhaps feline friends combat the loneliness of the profession? As much as I love working from home alone, there have been times when I would have enjoyed sniggering over a bad line of writing with a silent companion. You know the type: A bolt of lightning ran down her spine when she saw him...

What do you think of that, flossie? 

Even a cat would know how stupid that line was.

In conclusion, I've decided to go with the flow and have got myself a cat too.

I know it looks more like a sheep, but it's a rare breed you only get in Wales.
It likes water, so I sit it in a bucket by my desk.

I definitely feel more like a writer now.

I just wish I was small enough to swim in a bucket too. 

Friday 1 August 2014

Not convinced it's art? - 5 DIY Homages

Are you a doubter? Do you walk around conceptual art galleries and wonder if you're being conned? 

It's okay. My main character, Amber, felt like that too once. Amber was baffled at how seriously people could take absolutely anything if it was on display as art. 

For instance, take a three legged chair. Don't take it, I mean just imagine it. It's lying on the floor of course, because it can't stand up. 

Art reviewers might contemplate whether the chair is mocking our illusion of stability. Perhaps hinting at the fine line between life and death? Highlighting our faith in the temporary? Juxtaposing weakness and strength? 

You and I, and Amber of course, might just wonder what happened to the missing leg. 

But there is hope for Amber, who goes on to embrace her inner artist. And there is hope for the rest of us doubters too. Today I thought I'd follow her footsteps and embrace my own inner artist by paying homage to five of the 'greats'. I think it will completely change your perspective.

1. Damian Hirst (Methoxyverapamil)

2. Malevich (White on White)

3. Andy Warhol (Tomato Soup)

4. Duchamp (Fountain)

5. Tracey Emin (Bed)

My new novel The Temp will be out very soon! Sign up to my newsletter if you would like to be updated. 

Thanks for reading!