A Day in the Writing Life

A Day in the Writing Life

 

(Following on from the previous post, a day in 1 minute)

I, am a writer.

I am, a writing writer.

I am a writer, I am. 

Today I…

Dressed the kids, took them to school, attended a school meeting, shopped for groceries, unpacked the groceries and sat in front of a blinking screen, I had 30 minutes to spare;

Uploaded new fragments of novel for a friend in Benin who is reading the latest draft;

Chips MasalaResearched what potato chips cooked in a Kenyan slum alley might taste like (to no avail).  Would they be masala, or plain, I wondered?  Plain.  Ate a chip, still could not get further than the bulky ‘salty potato-ness’.

Then…Cleaned the house of mess, drove to the airport, collected a car load of refugee donations, drove home and put them in my garage/warehouse;

Checked my email and researched the origins of far right wing party Casapound in Italy;

Then…6358978799962263061835043493_Barbie-Wallpapers-Cartoons-Disney-e1405610118291 Picked up the kids from school, brought the kids home, snack time and homework, took one kid to his friend’s house, cooked and served dinner, cleaned up the kitchen, sorted washing, picked up debris from the floor (dirty socks, a wet pair of swimming trunks, a drawer-full of sweaters, sleeves tied together, a school bag of books scattered across a room, a box of Barbies, tipped upside down);

Sat down to edit 4 pages, adding 3 words and removing 5, taking out a comma and putting it back in, 6 times;witch

Researched witchcraft in Rwanda for protection (and read an article about magic ‘medicine’ found on a championship goalpost where the Rwandese/ Ugandan national football match ended 1-0, leading to accusations of witchcraft);

Checked the blue peril (facebook) 5 times;

Checked my email, sent emails, responded to several messages;

Edited another page of writing (for the 40th time);

Debated whether to begin another fragment of novel, a missing piece of the structural puzzle… thoughts don’t count as writing, though one could make an argument they should… and sat down to write this blog post.

I am keenly aware that:

1) I have not done much editing/ new writing today; hair

2) When I edit my novels, I spend up to 6 hours each day but have little to show for it, nothing that a reader would notice.  Worse, my publisher will take this book, my baby, and make changes, scrapping the hours spent into little balls of disregarded metaphors, adverbs and descriptive passages.  I wonder, therefore, is all my literary fiddling worth it?

3) Housework and motherhood justify this existence, even though (2), the magical 6 hours, is the personal achievement of each day to which I aspire when I wake;

4) I will publish again, if only to know that the time spent researching, reading and writing over the past 16 months led to something more tangible than an invisible file measuring a paltry 43KB on my C Drive.  I take comfort in knowing that in round 2, I am still ahead of myself in round 1. The Disobedient Wife took 4 years to write, 2 to publish.  Luckily, hair grows back; thicker, stronger.

Only do it if you love it.  This is a writer’s life.

disobedient_cover draft 6

 

 

 

 

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Writing Point of View – The Search for a Voice

Writing Point of View – The Search for a Voice

This week I spent hours rewriting sections of my draft novel – working title. This book is about a young, privileged teenager.  She is at Catholic boarding school, but lives with her Grandmother in the holidays.  The novel is set in a Central African country in the Great Lakes with a troubled inter-ethnic history.  It is on the verge of civil war, but the teenager tries to ignore this out of deep-seated fear, hiding in pop music and school work.  During her Easter holidays, the situation boils over and she finds herself the target of violence and persecution, fleeing to become a refugee in Kenya.

This week, I was worried that in the third person omniscient narration mode, readers will not feel they are sufficiprocessently inside the protagonists head to care enough about her to read on.  While writing ‘The Disobedient Wife‘, my debut novel, one of my editors told me to increase the voice of the British expatriate character as she was more ‘relatable’ to my ‘market’ than the Tajik. In this new book, my non-Western character will be going it alone… and will have to hold the reader until Chapter 8, when a French aid worker gets her voice.

She needs to be compelling and three dimensional, especially as she is a character from another cultural world than our own.  It is up to me to ensure that the readers will feel an emotional bond for this young woman that overrides any prejudices or assumptions about her based on nationality, race or age.

voice

With this in mind, I decided to embark on an experiment in Point of View (POV), transferring my novel, chapter by chapter into the 1st person immediate narrative.

There were results almost straight away. As I wrote in the ‘I’ format, I found myself relating to the character more as a teenager, a girl on the cusp of adulthood who is about to befall a huge, life changing calamity.  I answered my own questions (how could she have been kept in the dark so long, how did she handle the increasing danger in her situation) and I discovered new facets to her personality and upbringing, including a rather snobbish attitude towards her fellow villagers and her politically extreme Aunt, the ‘peasants’.

She emerged from each scene as a fully fledged human being, with defined flaws and faults, insight and emotions.  Those insights, moments of thought and reveals in dialogue have been reinserted in the third person omniscient narrative, with excellent results. In the end, I prefer the literary quality of this more traditional writing style, it suits me better as a story-teller. I find 1st person difficult to read and sometimes ‘slightly jarring’, as my Mother has put it.

Now, time to stop blogging and get nikewritingback to the task… 100 pages down, 200 more to go.

Have a great week, bloggers 🙂

Annika Milisic-Stanley