Empty Places

Blogging, in general, comes in waves. I’ve seen it many times as I pass through the halls of other people’s websites, and I know it happens here too.

Life is strange. We carve a routine out of the many chores – good and bad – we have, yet something is always thrown in front of us to trip us up.

Last weekend, I created a new writing space for myself. Since then, this blog has been quiet. You probably think I’ve been keeping that new place warm and creative. You’re wrong. I haven’t sat in that chair since last weekend. I haven’t written a word of my chapter book, but I have been writing. In fact, I’ve been coding web pages – special web pages that few of you will ever set eyes on, but they are the hardest pages I’ve ever coded. In fact, tonight, I threw up my hands and ran to my writing group for help because several people there no computers inside out, and I’m desperate.

If help isn’t forth coming, I think I will go crazy. PHP is not my thing. *sigh*

That’s my excuse for not posting. What’s yours?

New Writing Space

I’m lazy. I admit it openly. And it’s because I’m lazy that I made a decision on Saturday afternoon concerning my writing habits.

You see, I have a desktop computer, which is connected to the internet. I used to be really, really bad and became easily distracted. To put it bluntly, I spent more time talking about writing and actually doing it. However, last year I set a goal for myself and weaned myself off the many writing communities that I belonged to (including my own). Weaning wasn’t enough, so I turned to my laptop computer for anything writing related because there’s no internet and no games. It was safe.

What’s all this got to do with being lazy? It’s simple. Those of you with a laptop know that it’s not a case of sitting down and typing with a laptop. You have to drag it out of the cupboard, unpack it, find a solitary place to sit and then you can boot it up and start writing. Too many steps involved, and the laziness quickly stepped in.

On Saturday afternoon I was home alone. The plan had already formed earlier in the day and I set that plan into motion. Who would have known what would happen next.

I dragged a spare computer table through the house and into my bedroom. I moved a bookcase to make room for the computer table. Dust everywhere meant I then had to drag the dreaded vacuum cleaner out and do some housework prior to setting up my new writing space. (I wasn’t impressed with that part of the day. 😉 ) Then the desk was put in place, a chair was found and tested to ensure it was comfortable, pen holders, dictionaries, writing pads and all the other essentials were neatly placed in the immediate vicinity. Finally, I unpacked the laptop and placed it on the table. It looks wonderful.

I sat at that table for almost four hours and merged chapters 1 and 2 of Cat’s Eyes. It was more difficult that I imagined but I managed to include all the important elements and feel I have a stronger first chapter as a result.

By this time it was around 8pm. And it was about then that I went crazy.

Sitting in my bedroom after I’d finished the writing, I noticed all the junk laying about. It’s a bad thing to notice something like this, especially when you suddenly get the urge to go through everything. I ripped up old manuscripts, I went through 20 years worth of “important papers” only to discover that most of them were not important in the slightest, I threw out paid electricity and telephone bills going back to 1988 (can you believe it, I can’t). By the time I got to my clothes I was in “if in doubt, chuck it out” mode. I found letters my sons wrote to me when their father had taken them out of the country without my consent, letters from great aunts who had died many years ago, photos of family members I didn’t know I had, certificates and awards my children received over many years of school. I removed the dust from one corner to discover four pairs of shoes I haven’t even thought of in five years.

At midnight, I went to bed – exhausted. This afternoon I resumed my “chuck out” mode. I found a first draft of a manuscript I wrote twenty years ago. Not being wealthy, I used to take used paper home from work. The date is on every single page. It’s amazing, it’s shocking to read, but I didn’t throw that away.

In the end, I had filled three giant bags with ripped up paperwork and old manuscripts, and two giant bags with clothing. I filled the recycle bin with brochures and other paperwork that didn’t need ripping up. I also have a pile of tax returns that I will take to work for shredding. Best of all, I have several empty drawers, which I can now start filling with more junk.

I’m not a hoarder. I’m not! 😛

I now have a lovely new writing space, with no excuse for laziness… and …a neat and tidy bedroom, with lots of extra space for the new clothes I have to buy now that I’ve lost lots of weight. And…a brilliant new first chapter too. What a weekend I’ve had. It’s great.

Tripping Over Hurdles

During the critting process I received two comments regarding the same thing. Although everyone else said nothing about this “issue” (which I’ll get to soon) and were willing to accept the story as it is, I believe that these two people are right. Because of this, I have come to my first real hurdle in the editing process of Cat’s Eyes.

The issue?

Person One said: 1) the first chapter made my MC sound mean and nasty, and that readers might not form an attachment to her because of this, and, 2) there is no hook at the end of the first chapter. Both of these things could mean that I might lose the reader.

Person Two said: 1) the first chapter made my MC sound mean and nasty etc etc, and 2) where was the action? Again, I might lose the reader.

Both of these people are basically saying the same thing – chapter 1 isn’t as strong as it should be. And I agree.

The first chapter of any book should open with a hook, which this chapter does, but then things have to move right along so that by the end of the chapter the reader has to keep reading.

The problem with my first chapter is that I have to establish the relationship my MC has with her family (her half-sister and stepfather, in particular) because this is the crux of the MC’s inner conflict. However, in doing so there’s no action to grab the reader’s attention. Person Two said they would have preferred it if I’d started with the action, because they didn’t care about the family interaction. When I ask myself why that is, it takes me back to what Person One said about not forming a bond with the MC.

Two people out of a couple of dozen had a problem with this, but for me, that’s enough. I have to fix this and I know that if I do, the manuscript will be better and stronger because of it.

Upon thinking about this dilemma I realised that the first three chapters need rewriting. At first, I sat back and thought this couldn’t be done, but I made a list of what has to be in chapter 1 and now believe I can rewrite the first two chapters as one short chapter and still have all the elements I need to make the ongoing story complete. By doing this I will have the opening hook, the much needed interaction between the family members, the imagination of a young girl and a great hook at the end of chapter 1. All necessary ingredients when writing a manuscript.