I had stuff on 4 nights out of 5 this week. I know, what madness is that the first week back at school? I also fitted in a car accident where some idiot drove into the back of my car (from parked! FFS!) BELIEVE me I am feeling it.... never again. On Monday, after a day of my usual weekday glamour (going backwards and forwards via numerous hills to school or preschool, a visit to the library, changing one of the children in my charge into 6 fancy dress costumes in quick succession, reading stories, making food and changing nappies) I left it all behind to go to a Red Network event in the smoke listening to three novelists talk about writing bestsellers.
I sat on a train feeling that strangely guilty anticipation of going to 'do something for myself' the prospect of which seems oddly to excite people I know more than me I find: "oh wow! Some time to yourself! Well done you!" But I can't argue that becoming an autonomous human being for a matter of hours in a week when small people are entirely dependent on you is like the oasis in the desert.
Thoughts of self were quickly dashed when I realised I was sitting across the aisle from a man eating AN ENTIRE BAG OF CARROTS and managing to sound like a noisy dog. Who eats an entire packet of carrots on public transport? Did I move? No! That would be easy! Did I turn to him in shock and say 'oh my! You eat like AN ANIMAL AND YOU DISGUST ME' - of course not! I simply spent half an hour with my earphones in, listening to music and silently seething in the most self defeating of ways. I tried to discern if I could actually hear those slurpy, slappy nasty noises in amongst the bass (interestingly I could) and I also had slippy Ally McBeal style daydreams where I threw the bag across the carriage or out the window, got him by his neck and screamed 'EAT NICELY!!!' that kind of thing. It wasone to remember. I also read this which redeemed it somewhat.
After navigating the swarms of commuters in Victoria, clutching my bag like a nervous tourist and once again THANKING THE GODS I don't commute in London anymore I ended up in the drizzle nervously waiting for the doors to open. These kind of things where over a hundred women come together sort of alarm me, largely because I would say more than 50% like myself come alone and there's this whole beaming smile, stilted conversation thing going on. I'm not very comfortable with it, but it's kind of mandatory to start conversation, well, I force myself to, I just find it all a bit of a lottery if you know what I mean (what I mean is that whilst on the one hand it's all very unifying and encouraging that people have come together to be inspired, it's also, inevitably going to mean some moments where you could potentially imagine pulling out your own teeth would be more preferable than struggling to think of something else to say) If you go, be brave, it's very likely you'll meet someone you really get on with if you talk to enough people.
All things considered I did meet some interesting ladies, people with day jobs that ran blogs and self published their work on amazon. All of us were joined in wanting to eventually (sooner rather than later let's be honest) publish a story for the masses. Quite alot of the trouble in the first instance was that some of us weren't writing whatsoever, 'writers that don't write' (me) and the other lot were writing stories agents wouldn't take on. This has got to be a crushing blow when you've invested the time in writing 100,000+ words. Of course that's what the first lot of us are afraid of, going to all that trouble for nothing and on top of it being told it was a waste of time.
We sat and listened to Tasmina Perry (Daddys girls, Golddiggers, Guilty Pleasures) Flic Everett (The only friends you need) and Lisa Jewell (Ralph's Party, The House we grew up in) talk about how they write their books and this is what I took away:
- Write a story you are passionate about, and write the whole thing, all this rubbish you read about submitting 3 chapters for your first novel is just that, you need a full body of work.
- The magic number of words to hit each day seemed to be about the same for each writer: 1000. An achievable amount.
- Sometimes you have to hit delete if it's not working. Even if that is 25,000 words and you have a matter of weeks before submission.
- Sit down, write it. Get on with it. No amount of sitting listening to how other people do it is going to help. Do the work.