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“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice. “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Berlin April 10

Catching up on my stored Instapaper* articles, I found a piece describing some of the (often strange and ritualised) ways in which acclaimed writers write.

Having spent the last few months twisting around myself, trying to organise the ideas and plans for my novel without going crazy, wondering if it was normal to spend so much time planning that the actual writing of prose seems to be the thing I do least, sitting at a desk buried in layers of post-its and index cards, writing in notebooks overrun with more arrows and crossings out than words - breathe, Rhian, breathe - to read about Ishiguro’s flow-charts, Mantel’s showers and Atwood’s scribbles has reassured me that I might be sane. Or, rather, normal. For a writer. Maybe.

Sounds like I have the ‘create whichever system/state of chaos you need in order to beckon and then trap your ideas’ part of novel-writing right, so all I need to do now is try not to flinch at the prospect of getting my prose anywhere near the level of those masters.

(Um, yes. I only want to read really bad fiction at the moment, stuff that makes me feel superior. Badly punctuated, excessively descriptive, heavy on the speech tags? Bring it on! Cliched or nonsensical characters in overwrought settings? Yes please! I’ve had to put my Maggie Stiefvater* backlog to one side, as I can’t handle the prettiness right now).

The article is here, and if you enjoy reading about the writing process then I recommend the Paris Review interviews – a fascinating collection of interviews with artists and writers, in several volumes. Volume 1 is my favourite, featuring Hemingway, Capote, Dorothy Parke, Joan Didion and Kurt Vonnegut.

*Instapaper ROCKS. Especially if you’re trying to reduce your time online, but don’t want to miss out on good reading. It’s especially useful for me because it syncs with my Kindle.

When I see something online I want to read, say an article about literary agents or a blog post about female YA writers, I click to send it to Instapaper and then The Magic Instapaper Fairies compile everything I’ve saved and email me a mini-newspaper made up of them.

So, I can give myself five minutes to scan Twitter, send any interesting links to my Instapaper account, wave at my friends and then get back to what I was supposed to be doing offline. The next morning, my Kindle receives a document containing anything I tagged, and I read it on the train. I don’t find myself online for hours reading when I should be writing, but I still get to keep up with interesting articles at a time I choose. LOVE. IT.

*the beginning scene in Linger, when Isabel comes into the bookshop? It slayed me, it was written so well. So much is conveyed without ever being explicit – I had to stomp around the house, loudly Giving Up Writing, before I could pick up either the book or my writing again.

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Are you there, Yahoo? It’s me, Flickr

Have fallen back into Flickr this week. I guess it’s an outlet for my snot-brain to get involved in something creative while I’m too ill to write much, even if getting involved simply means looking at other people’s pictures or uploading my old ones of Berlin. I tried to finally watch S2 of The Walking Dead, but I keep dropping off and then spoilering myself  by waking up at the end of an episode. So, the laptop wins over the tv for now. For all that I love Pinterest, Flickr has an edge in terms of showcasing images people have actually created, vs passive pinning, and it’s been fun to hang out there again.

Here’s a collection of some of my recent favourites. Lots of sun and beaches, fancy that.

flickr faves 190712

1. ., 2. Untitled, 3. Nā Mokulua, 4. Lemons & Garage Doors, 5. sweethearts just before the plunge, 6. Burst, 7. Space Sindy, 8. Stewy, 20 SIGNED John Cooper Clarke silkscreen, 9. grand central.

Flickr is where I used to live before Twitter, before Facebook and even before Myspace, and it feels out of place next to those modern belles of the ball. Kinda like that old friend you’ve known since you were 14, the one with no social skills and a terrible haircut, the girl you still love but don’t invite to parties for fear of what she might say.

I wish it had more finesse, options to set up wider filters than ‘friends’, ‘family’ and ‘contacts’- this is one place where the circles which infuriate me on Facebook and G+ could make sense. In many cases I’d rather subscribe to select parts of someone’s stream than their entire output. For example, I might choose to see everything a user tags with ‘film’, ‘beach’ or ‘graffiti’, but skip the photos of their children and their motorbikes.

I like the way casual snapshots sit alongside pro photography, and prefer it to the poncy show-off slickness of 5oopx, it’s just that there are better ways of handling that variety of content and every other social site since manages it better.

The Tumblr interface almost does what I want, in terms of sharing images and following other people’s streams – but it’s too heavy with teens and Manga porn gifs to work as a Flickr replacement. Nowt wrong with teens and Manga porn gifs – man, if Tumblr had been around when I was an adolescent I would have been obsessed with it, and my Plath-Gatsby-JMascis-Kerouac-Nirvana-Suede-badpoetry solipsism would have been a wonder to behold – it’s just not what I’m looking for right now.

C’mon Yahoo, please put some money and some new life into the site, I fail to see what else you have going for you as a company right now.

UPDATE – have just been sent this damning, detailed, depressing article on exactly How Yahoo killed Flickr.  Maybe it really is too late?

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Deerly Beloved

Well hello there, how are you? I am poorly, full of a cold and full of a tiredness that I totally deserve after a fabulous, fairytale weekend. I have a list of things to write about all queued up on my blog dashboard, stuff like YA dystopian fiction titles, some more bitchin’ playlists, other places I’ve been writing instead of here, posts about tarot cards and, oh, ever so many things. But today is not the day for those things. Today is a day for a picture of deer, taken this weekend while in Devon for a friend’s wedding. Beautiful wedding. Even more beautiful people. It was a day full of love. Aw.

dawlish collage

Rather than take pictures of the bride, or the castle, or the fireworks (!There.Were.Fireworks!) I snapped three men ignoring me (and looking very manly, don’t you think?), some deer from the castle’s deer park, and the train station sign. Dawlish train station backs straight onto the sea, which must make for a very pretty commute on sunny days. Summer being what it is, of course, we had moody clouds instead, but it was still pleasing for a tourist like me.

Devon was gorgeous, and reminded me of the smugglers story I want to write when Novel is finished, something with secret caves and barrels of rum and men with scarred faces but kind hearts. There will be some kind of mystery, and a storm. I can’t imagine writing anything but Novel at the moment, the work to do for this revision seems so endless and engulfing, but I know that someday soon it will be finished and so I keep list of stories to write once I emerge blinking into a post-revision world. Currently the top four items on it are “Smugglers, Sleeping Spies, Dragons, Romany”. I hope my notes still make sense when I refer back to them in a few months – though, some strange combination of all four could be a fun story in itself, don’t you think?

Enough typing – I think the cold medicine is wearing off. I#m going back to bed to watch Veronica Mars (managed three episodes yesterday, and we didn’t get back home until 4pm), eat pizza and trawl etsy for jewelry I can’t afford and maybe one or two things that I can. If you’re in Brighton, please bring me cake. If not, please eat some and think of me. Ooh, and put some clotted cream on top. I’d have photographed my cream tea, but was too busy eating it.

 

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The best kind of problem

I’ve been relatively quiet online recently, because I’m revising my book and it’s totally absorbing*. Right now, at least; I expect a sticky, scary stretch will come along, but I’m not there yet. I bought Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel course as a Christmas present for myself, and it’s GREAT. Cuts out a lot of flailing by giving me specifics to work on each week, plus the forums are really helpful. These things make me happy. Definitely recommended, if you’re looking to avoid flailing too.

(*plus, my iphone is still broken so I have to actually, like, get up and turn the computer on in order to be online. My laziness often overrides my social-media urge).

My only problem is that other things make me happy, too – especially books by Stacia Kane. Here I am, deep in revision, proud of my swotty, good-girl focus, and along comes a book I know I’m going to drop everything to read - Sacrificial Magic is out in the UK today! I read each of the first three Downside novels in a day and I’m sure this one will be as gripping, and as good. So that’s at least 24 hours of my writing schedule written off, while I catch up with Chess and Terrible.

Even worse,  Bring Up the Bodies is also out today – the sequel to Wolf Hall that I’ve been itching for since I heard it was being written. If I’d noticed when I pre-ordered that they’d both be released at the same time I would have kept my weekend free. Instead I’ve made plans and will have to leave the house and spend time with real people, grr ;-)

Any genre-heads who haven’t heard of these are forgiven for seeing ‘Wolf’ and ‘Bodies’ in the titles and assuming I’m reading horror. Nope – they’re the story of Thomas Cromwell, and Wolf Hall was exactly the kind of well-written masterpiece that puts one off ever trying to write anything at all, because it will never be as good. You know the sort of thing. Disgustingly excellent.

Also, I totally fell for Cromwell.  These aren’t romance novels, but he was so well drawn, so complex and real that I sigh every time I think of him. My poor Thomas.  Sigh. I am so looking forward to spending more time with him.

The only flaw with Wolf Hall was that there were about twenty other characters also called Thomas, who were invariably all in the same scene talking to or about each other, and neither ‘Thomas’ nor ‘he’ were useful signifiers as to who did what. One of the drawbacks of reading on a Kindle is the relative difficulty of flicking back a few pages or referring to the index to see who’s who. Still, better than having to haul a 600 page hardback around, and a useful writing lesson learned – not to give all my characters the same damn name. There, I’m gaining on Hilary Mantel as I write…

I don’t know which book I’m more excited about. The only reason I’m starting Sacrificial Magic first is because it’ll be the quicker read. The Downside books aren’t short, but they are fast-paced and I always inhale them in one or two sittings, whereas Wolf Hall – woah, that was 674 pages, and Bring up the Bodies is 608. Wolf Hall was the first book I ever read on my Kindle, and to be honest I probably wouldn’t have read it if I’d had to lug a book of that size around.

Instead, both of these new books weigh nothing at all (or not?) and were magically delivered to my Kindle by the Amazon fairies overnight, which was thrilling to wake up to, in the same way that eBay purchases always feel like (free) gifts when they arrive.

Back later. Gone reading. X

Source: last.fm via Jenni on Pinterest

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