Breaking backs

Just a short one. I am setting myself the challenge this week of writing 15 000 words (by midnight Saturday), thus taking me to 40 000 words, which is a significant number and should constitute roughly a third of the book. This blog will function as my public accountability. Rather than posting a new blog each day, I will just edit this one so check back if you want to see how it’s going.

Up at 2.30 today, tending to the sick infant. Couldn’t sleep after, so came in here to write. 2407/15000 (total word count: 27465)

Finally had a good night’s sleep and wrote just over 3000 words between 5 and 7.30am. 5438/15000 (total word count: 30496)

Didn’t write this morning. My neck was stiff from too much key-mashing in WoW last night. Just sat down to do daily quota now. 7193/15000 (total word count 32251)

I would like to be going faster, but I had to write a whole chapter I hadn’t planned on;  had to stop and research in between scenes. 9990/15000 (total word count 35048)

Feeling very tired today, and I can hear Mirko playing hide’n’seek with the kids and certainly don’t want to be here at my desk anymore. 12738/15000 (total word count 37796)

This morning was the hardest morning yet. One a.m. wake-up call from 6yo with nightmares. Hardly any sleep after that. I’m exhausted, but I made it. 15042/15000 (total word count 40100)

End of post.

The best laid plans of desperate novelists…

I am at home. I am not in Tasmania, where I was supposed to be. Instead, I am stealing a few minutes while the children watch a Yo Gabba Gabba DVD, to catch my thoughts.

Astrid came down midway through the week with a violent gastro bug, and Mirko and I have been cleaning up vomit and diarrhoea pretty much around the clock for a few nights (they are all starting to blur into each other, so don’t ask me to be any more precise than that). She was certainly not fit to travel, so we have cancelled the whole trip. (Can I just say that I was mightily impressed by Virgin Blue who bent the rules to save us losing our entire fare, and to Europcar and Curringa Farmstay, who were so bloody understanding and didn’t charge us any cancellation fees whatsoever: so rare for companies to show such good will). The cancelled trip means that my crucial research will not get done; this means that my plans for my novel are in turmoil.

Between bouts of irrational fury (for surely it was some careless parent who sent their still-sick child to daycare who is to blame for my work being disrupted) and teary despair (now the book will never get written), there is one hugely important lesson in this for me. I have a sick little zombie girl, who’s all floppy and still, and all that matters is that she gets better on her own time, with lots of cuddles and love (and a mattress on the floor in front of the television). My current predicament is the embodiment of those wise words by Stephen King in On Writing: life is not a support system for art; it’s the other way around.

Workwise, I’ll try to turn this week into a positive. Ordinarily it’s impossible for me to write out of order, but perhaps I’ll just have to do that, and save the scenes that need the most research until a time when I can get away to Tassie. I’ve pulled out my notebook, and I’m going to break the story down, scene by scene, and see if I can set myself the goal of writing 15000 words this week (thus reaching 40000) by just plugging away with what I can do, rather than moaning about what I can’t.

I can hear a little squeaky laugh from the other room; she’s getting better. What is there to be miserable about?

My magic trick

It works like this. I get up in the early morning, while it’s still a little dark. I tiptoe past the kids’ room and shut myself in my study. Then I start wA family at the beach in 1930riting. And words come. They don’t sit dammed up in my brain behind that invisible forcefield. They come out of my head, down my arms, into my fingers, out onto the keyboard, and appear on the screen. They come in their hundreds and sometimes in their thousands. Then I stop at breakfast time and get on with my day.

I’ve always been an early-morning writer, and I’m so pleased to be back in this space. Having suffered horrifically through the editing process (see below) it’s such a wonderful feeling of liberty to be writing forward again. The settings and characters are coming alive in my imagination, seeming more real every day. I have certainly written my way back in to this story.

Next weekend I’m off on a research trip in Tasmania. This is the first time I’ve researched Australian history for a story, and I’ve surprised myself by how fascinated I am. I managed to get hold of a book called E. A. Hoppe’s Australia, which is a collection of photographs taken over one year (1930) by a German photographer, and I’ve spent many hours poring over the pictures, soaking up the feeling, looking for those little details that will add the feeling of “realness” to the story.  In most photos, there are people looking back at me, and I’m trying to imagine them in those moments. What they were thinking, feeling; how each of their senses were engaged in that split-second when the shutter-eye closed and opened again. Slowly, but surely, I am falling under this story’s spell. And it’s wonderful.