At the moment I'm in a sort of weird writer's limbo. I used to get in this when I'd finished working on one manuscript and was thinking about the next, now it is tied mainly to that period of waiting for some kind of response on your work.
I'm not the kind of person who can not write! I've tried to take a break, to concentrate on something else like reading a book but stories keep coming to me and it would be a crime not to do something about them.
Last night I bought one of my favourite pads of paper - and despite already being a short way through a new draft - I decided to make some book notes. One of my absolutely favourite parts of writing is getting to know my characters, making them all three dimensional and turning myself into a crazy person who sees imaginary people. I love working out what they listen to on their ipod, the kind of phrases they repeat without even realising it. I love finding out what their favourite drink is or the movie they wish they'd never watched. The thing about characters is that they become real people and their story is exactly that - THEIR STORY - not yours anymore.
At the moment I'm learning about someone called Mercy Taylor. I've been writing some notes, finding some images and generally asking her lots of questions in my head. I want her to be a strong lead character for my novel, someone who can show me her story without waiting for me to point the way.
So far the plan is working. Mercy Taylor is becoming flesh and blood. She has told me all her secrets, and the things she is most embarrassed about.
As a writer we have to accept that the time when we're not writing is usually the time when we're gathering informtation to use in a book. We never aren't writers. Even at a Bon Jovi concert on Saturday I was hit with the idea of a book and just had to keep making notes.
On Saturday I went to the British Museum to see the Pompeii Exhibition. I haven't been in about six years, I don't know why. After watching a television programme on Pompeii I decided to bite the bullet and book some tickets.
I think its easy to forget how huge the Museum is. We stayed for about five hours (90 minutes in the Pompeii exhibition) and still hadn't managed to see everything.
The exhibition itself was well worth a visit (but on a quieter day than Saturday). There was a very naughty statue in one of the rooms that might need censoring around small children but apart from that it would be an amazing family day out.
Having an obsession with Alexander the Great I was a little bit disappointed with the room named after him, and we couldn't get anywhere near the Ancient Egyptian exhibitions.
Note to self - pick a quieter day next time!
Bank Holiday weekends are usually full of lazy time for me. I like late mornings, watching DVD box sets and eating meals I've actually been bothered to cook from scratch. This Bank Holiday weekend was different I actually packed every day with things I really enjoyed.
On the Saturday we had a friend round to visit and had a barbecue. The weather was beautiful - I saw actual real life sun!
Sunday we went to a huge Garden Centre near to where we live. If you're ever near Warrington then definitely visit Bents. The coffee shop is amazing and the cakes are ridiculously good. They recently added a Bird of Prey Centre for rescued birds. What was the most refreshing to hear was that they rescue any bird in trouble, so they actually had a baby magpie that had fallen from its nest along with its five siblings. Unfortunately only the one survived.
On Sunday afternoon I led a critique group in Manchester and the lovely Jan Pearson gave me a wonderful book as a gift which I'm halfway through reading.
Monday - I'm not ashamed to say was a totally lazy day, although in the evening I had my first taste of the Opera at Haigh Hall.
I want more weekends like that one!
Firstly I thought I'd drop in a photo of Heathcliffe. It is rare that I actually manage to capture an image of him where he isn't mid-movement thereby resulting in blur.
I have been working on some major revisions of my novel Sanctuary (previously Tattooing Angels). It's kind of like a game of jenga in some ways, you pull something out and desperately hope the balance will settle. In other ways its like building a house, everything has to be supported, so if you're adding something in then you have to lay the foundations and then follow it through.
I recently decided the best way of plotting for someone who never plots was to print off a storyboard template (the kind people use to mock out films etc) and then put my chapters into each of the frames. Some frames are highlighted because they are action chapters, others are down time chapters to focus on characters and relationships. I then have to make sure that they balance out, that the reader isn't going from one mad action sequence to the next without being able to catch their breath, and they aren't getting bored waiting for something to happen.
The good thing about storyboarding is that when you want to add a new theme or storyline you can plot it through the novel, weaving it into the different chapters and watching its journey to make sure it works. You don't have to remember everything because its all laid out for you and you can tell where it would work.
You can download these templates from the internet, if you google 'storyboard templates' you will literally come up with hundreds of them and then its up to you to pick the right size, number of frames etc.
For a non-plotter like myself they are pure genius.
So last night was the Best of Bolton event at The Octagon Theatre and the prologue for Tattooing Angels was about to make its debut (although retitled for the event as Blood Brother).
All weekend I had felt sick. What if people didn't get it? What if nobody applauded? What if everyone-else's was so much better that people just sat in baffled silence while mine took place and then stared at each other open mouthed?
In my initial excitement I had told people about it! I had purchased tickets for my family to go and see it! What if that was the biggest mistake I had ever made?
As it turned out the event was really enjoyable. Professional actors read and acted out the work of the chosen few. There was a wide variety of poetry, prose and scripts. Some were funny and others were terribly sad -it was a perfect balance.
When mine was delivered I held my breath through the whole thing, sneaking glances at my Dad who has never really heard my work before and sat with his head in his hands. He said it was so he could concentrate and I'll take his word for it.
Now our photo will appear in the Bolton Evening News and then (for now at least) my moment of fame will be over. Let's just hope they didn't pick a picture like the one below because I look like I'm a member of a show choir mid song!
It has been a tough few months, mainly due to ill health. Having an immune system that needs a good kickstart every Winter means that I spend at least a month of my life in bed at some stage during the year. This year it seemed to stretch out for as long as it could, manifesting itself in various new and interesting symptoms to keep me guessing.
After several blood tests and enough medication to either cure or kill me I seem to be getting back to some kind of stability. I have recovered from my broken foot, the muscular injury to my back caused by incessant coughing and the dizziness that meant I spent the majority of my time lying on the floor.
In all the bleakness writing seemed impossible. Lying in bed with my laptop on my knee was about as close as I got to actual writing, my fingers never actually touched the keyboard but it was a start. My manuscript, Tattooing Angels was giving me writer's block as it sat just short of perfect and I had a number of new ideas fighting for supremacy in my head.
Suddenly I got some good news.... I had entered the prologue of Tattooing Angels into the Best of Bolton, an annual event when The Octagon Theatre chooses writing from local writers and performs them on stage. My submission had been chosen and I was going to see it performed, albeit briefly, on stage. Not only that but I got invited to watch the rehearsals (something I can't wait for).
So this morning I'm sat in Starbucks with my usual bucket of coffee feeling slightly more positive. I have edits spread out around me and I'm starting to accept that despite all the rain there are always going to be rainbows if we keep a look out for them.
A week ago today my tiny little Syrian Hamster muse, Spartacus died. I had only known him for two months but his loss hit me harder than I could have imagined.
We spent nearly an hour together every evening. I would type on my laptop while he sat on the keys watching the screen fill up with words.
Sometimes he'd go to his playpen and watch me from there, where he could hide in his tunnels and eat the treats he'd buried the night before.
I'd always wanted a hamster from being little but I'd never really thought they would have their own little personalities like they do. Spartacus was in my life so briefly but he made a huge impact. He never grew tired of listening to me talk about my writing; he never bored of hearing about Agents and Publishers and the big book launch I was one day going to hold. He would sit there, watching me like I was the most interesting thing on the planet, like every word that came out of my mouth was gold.
At his sickest he would lie against my chest wrapped in a muslim square to keep warm. He would take his antibiotics and then close his eyes while I read to him or just cried over his head.
Spartacus is a little star in heaven now, and as one of my friends said on finding out about his passing: maybe God needed cheering up and Spartacus made you so happy now he's doing the same upstairs.
RIP my little warrior xxx