Friday, 23 November 2012


I'm tired of Father Christmas.

Am I allowed to say that or am I committing some huge maternal faux pas? I have been embracing his funny little ways to the best of my ability for sixteen years now and I've had enough. It's too complicated, too easy to slip up and strangle myself in the web of porkies that I have spun over the years.

It crossed my mind this morning that Christmas is nobbut a hop, skip and a jump away and I am uncharacteristically unprepared. To be fair to me, I have been a bit distracted in what would normally be my pre- Christmas build up period but when I say I have done almost nothing so far you have to believe me. This is not one of those situations when you say you've done nothing but what you actually mean is that you haven't quite finished curling the ribbon on the presents.

No. I have baked my cake - twice (the first being a tad on the crunchy side) and there my Christmas preparations cease. I blame my kids. You may not think that that is entirely fair. After all they are just waiting for Christmas to happen to them. The trouble is buying things for my children is the main focus of my pre Christmas activity. It perhaps shouldn't be but there you have it. Gifts for other family and friends can be sourced in a couple of concentrated spurts of activity but stuff for the kids needs strategic planning.

So, to return to my original theme. My younger two children, despite what appear to be the massive odds stacked against this being true, do still seem to believe in the beardy chap. I know this may seem unlikely but I had exactly the same with the elder two who had earnest conversations with our teenage babysitter long after you could possibly have imagined that they might. I must just breed them gullible.

The trouble began about a month ago when child 3 announced her foolproof plan for testing out Santa. She would write her letter in secret and send it up the chimney without telling anyone what it contained. Clearly this is a highly risky strategy but what could I do?! I bleated a bit about disappointment on the day etc but I'm not sure the situation was resolved satisfactorily for either of us.

Then child 4 decided that he wanted the Lego Death Star. Have you seen how expensive that is? For a bit of lego? Well, a lot of lego actually but how do you explain that Father Christmas does not have an unlimited budget? Tricky.

But the worst of all is that I can't get any of them to button down what they actually want. 'I might like this but then again I might like that...' Now I know that they will be delighted with whatever they receive but I would rather buy things that I know are winners than take a chance.

What I really want to do is to tell them that it is me who chooses, buys, wraps and then hides all their gifts and that if they don't tell me what they want then all stock will be gone and they will have to put up with whatever's left. It's not awfully festive though is it? Not really in keeping with the magic of Christmas? I'm holding on to the hope that this is the last time that I will have to jump through this ridiculous, self-created Christmas hoop and that next year we can do the whole thing with a nod and a twinkly wink like I do with the Big Ones. But then I thought that last year. And the year before........

Sunday, 18 November 2012


So it's starting to get tricky now.  I'm just over two weeks in and so far I have managed to write the 1,667 words a day to keep on track but it's not all been plain sailing.

Firstly I had technical problems. I'm not good with computers. I do my best but I really don't have much comprehension. About a week ago I accidentally deleted the whole thing! All of it! Gone! Now I'm not entirely hopeless and I know that nothing is ever entirely lost at the outset so I stopped fiddling until my Husband in Shining Armour could come and rescue me. The irony of the fact that I was trying to back the book up at the time was not lost on me.

Then I had more technical issues when, in an attempt at clever restructuring, I managed to muddle all the chapters up. That wasn't too difficult to fix but it took up valuable writing time. A further consequence of that particular hiccup has also been uncovered. I discovered that in trying to sort it out, I had inadvertently copied an entire chapter so my word count was out by over a day's writing. I haven't actually lost any words but it did feel a bit like I had, knowing that I had to write 2,000 more to be back where I thought I was.

However, this coming week is when I think things are going to start to get tough. For a start I am reaching the climax of my story which, though incredibly exciting to write, requires full concentration. No filler words here. Every sentence is crucial and I need to remember what seeds I've planted as I've been going along so that my characters can harvest them all now. For this I need uninterrupted space for my thoughts to align.

But, in the way of these things life has a habit of getting in the way. I built myself a buffer on my course work before I began but this week I really need to do some serious study or I'll get behind. I also have lots of commitments coming up that mean that I can't just slope off to my computer and hammer out the words. Finally and of most importance, the children are all in a huge show next weekend and the one after and so all usual routines are thrown up in the air whilst we deal with technical and dress rehearsals. It will take all of my available energy to work out who needs to be where and when and what they'll eat. There's not much spare space for self indulgent plot twists.

I'm sure it will all work out - these things usually do - and I knew when I started this mad enterprise that it wasn't going to be a piece of cake. The main thing is that I'm having so much fun with my story and my characters and really, that's what it's all about.

And in my quieter moments I'm even starting to think about a title. I think I may need some help with that one. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012


I'm afraid that my life is being totally dominated by attempts to complete a novel in a month and so, somewhat self indulgently, I'm going to witter on about it here too. If you prefer my usual postings then you'll have to hang on until the month is over when no doubt they will return.

So it's day 7 and I am ahead. I have written 14,990 words so far against a target of 11,669. Here are the things that I have learned so far.

1. It's much easier writing to a clear outline rather than making it up as you go along. This may sound obvious but it isn't something that I've tried before. Up until now I have had the germ of an idea for a story, worked out some characters to populate it and come up with an ending. Then I've just set myself off like a wind up toy to see where I end up. This method (pantsing, it's called I gather) is terribly exciting but also a bit tricky when you get to the middle of the story. With my NaNo story I couldn't begin until 1st November so there was nothing that I could do whilst waiting to start but plot out exactly where I was going to go. Whilst it is slightly less thrilling to write like that, it is also much easier.

2. My NaNo story is written in the first person. This is new to me. I generally prefer to have some distance between me and my characters. This space acts like a kind of  security blanket to make me feel less exposed. But, throwing caution to the wind, I decided to immerse myself totally in the world of my character without having the luxury of being able to step outside her. This gives me a problem. I can only write the things that she sees or feels and I can't be inside anybody else's head. This would be fine except that she is 12 and so is a tad unreliable as a narrator. So I have been experimenting with ways of getting things across even if my character doesn't fully understand what is going on through dialogue and her response to the actions of those around her- particularly her mum. I'm hoping that by the time I've finished some things will be clear to the reader whilst my narrator still languishes in the dark.

3. Writing from the point of view of a 12 year old girl is harder than it looks. I've had to rewrite the whole first chapter (which is not really what NaNo is all about ) because when she spoke she sounded far too young. I think I must have been channelling Lauren Childs (she of Charlie and Lola and Clarice Bean fame.) This would have meant that I was unable to raise the more adult themes that I had in mind because they just wouldn't have been suitable for a reader of that age. This, in turn, would have rather ruined the point of the book. It's a shame because I quite liked that voice. Maybe I'll save her for something else.

So, that's the story so far. I'll post again in a week with an update as to how things are going. All tips gratefully received. Watch this space.