Sunday, 17 October 2010


Fretting over the dark space and the distance I kept between me and the computer, I’ve been frowning at my wip, actively refusing to work on it. 

I think I always knew what the problem was and it was not the shorter days, colder nights, or the boiler that doesn’t. When Clarissa asked if I wanted to read her thoughts on my current wip on her Blog or in an email, I panicked. I’ve been known to canvas the opinions of strangers in the street (well, library), so the strength of the feeling was unexpected.  I had begun to fear that focussed should be spelled selfish; dedicated reeked of fanaticism and that patient was just another word for foolish. Writing was an anti-social activity, not a great adventure.

So, the odds against finding an agent and getting published were long, I knew that rejection was part of the process, but that was the problem: I thought it would be one part of the process. Could rejection be the sum total of everything  I’d learned about writing, while writing? No.

  • written is not the same as completed
  • query and submission are multi-layered misery
  • being happy about others success is an oily and impure emotion
  • the competition starts with yourself in every doubt and misplaced comma
  • success is a struggle not a right

Done wallowing. Time to find backbone. I have notebooks full of ideas and they deserve someone who is determined and keen – brave enough to write them. Right now, I need to go and get some sleep tomorrow will be a long day of writing.

250 words  Elle's Blogfest is about the hook. The 250 words the average reader gives you to tempt them into the world you have woven. The blog has about that many words from several works. For a book I'm not writing I know now every twist in this convoluted line.


Chapter 1

“We can go tomorrow. If you are up early enough. On the train at ten o’clock.”
The boy who lay on the polished boards, moved the dinosaurs one at a time, from a circle into a straight line. This was not a quick task. He ran his finger from the claw, across the breast, up the neck. At the mouth he deviated from the line he marked, he raised his finger and placed it back on the plastic toy above the nose, the he continued. The trail was finished only when his hand ran down the empty floor board. Then he picked up the next model in his collection and moved it into its place in the line. The sensation pleased him, right and true. Unique, each time as his finger skimmed the surface of the toys. The rough surface, worn smooth in places amazed, amused him. How unexpected. The shapes: smooth, rough, gnarled: the light and shade loomed large. His head, in line with the top edge of each dinosaur maximised the difference between the here and the space beyond. The shapes form accentuated by the discordant jumble beyond. The here and the jagged edged toys filled his being. Provided warmth and companionship enabled him to maintain his stability, his place in the space that was not self. He: chest to hard board; stomach to chill-breeze blown line; knee to knot and digging nail: he was MARTIN. Mar and tin and floor. To him, the slow accumulation of possessions was peace, and an extraordinary joy. 


  1. "Multi-layered misery" is a fantastic phrase. It's OK to wallow. The pain of this business is very real. If we didn't do periodic wallowing, we'd probably snap and start running around screaming our query letters at passersby.

    At least you live in England. You have more intelligent readers there. I have a piece of Anglophilia up on my blog right now.

    That's a lovely opening for your blogfest entry. I like the last two lines, especially.

  2. I love anything with a mention of dinosaurs. I'm hoping Martin comes face to face with some real dinosaurs :-)
    This opening is very visual and descriptive. I like that you opened with dialogue, but would like to hear who spoke - his mother? I also prefer to keep my first few paragraphs fairly short, but I don't think there's a rule on that.

  3. Being happy about others' success can be double-edged. If it's great work, good for them, but seeing utter shite published makes for "oily, impure emotions!"
    Your descriptions really get into the head of the boy, but it may serve better a little further in than the 'hook.'

  4. Hi there-

    Saw your blog on donna hole's blogroll and thought I would stop by. This is an interesting post you have here. I love the honesty in what you have learned and find myself now thinking about what I have learned because of it.

    On to the fest post. (I did not post for this fest but one similar to it the week before- just thought I should mention that).

    I can't say I was hooked.

    I can say that a little white space mixed into the large block of black would be great. Large blocks are hard to read on the computer and in book form. I find myself skimming rathere than really reading them :)

    In my many attempts to educate myself in the craft of hooking (no not the female professional type - haha) I've read a few agent written books. But really who hasn't? The First Five Pages is a good one for what I am about to comment on.

    Everything after "his place in the space" is very lyrical and beautifully written. But the repeat in sounds sticks out very much. Its also something, that unless the piece is a picture book, should be avoided (at least that's what I've heard).

    Hope some of this helps. Thanks for the post and the read.


  5. Anne, Will, Charmaine and Jodi thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate it and will give a greater thought at some point in the future.

    Hi Anne
    I just avoided the screaming through the streets stage :) England is great - but we have only a finite number of agents concentrated in London.

    Hi Charmaine and Jodi - you have both picked up on the repetitious and impenetrable nature of Martin. The narrative follows Mum and Martin's lines, drawn and crossed.
    250 words doesn't allow Mum to get more than a word in edgeways.
    I'm forcing the narration to reflect their characters, and their responses to the world one one particular day.

    Hi Will
    I don't think you'd be much better off inside Martin's mothers head. We do need to know why she thinks it is such a good idea to make the trip.

    This was written during one hour - what would I write if I was feeling literary.
    Very early days.
    I think I would only want to write it so I can punctuate and write without following the constraints of standard forms. If it takes Martin 40 line's to get an idea out, I'm happy to let him go for it. ;)

  6. I love number two: "Query and submission are multi-layered misery." How true!

  7. I have a question for you, is the project I'm reading the first draft or the second or the ninety-ninth? Are you just starting it? I am still working on it currently but want to know what you especially want feedback on: characters, plot, POV? Let me know, either here or by email. I'm hoping to have the review done today but it may be tomorrow.


  8. Hi Clarissa
    I started FIRESTONES in September. It is the first draft of an obsessive re-editor. I have a Beta who is a harsh, but necessary, slave driver.She is working on active rather than passive sentences.
    I'll take whatever feedback you think needs saying. At only 25,000 words in changes in character, plot and the dreaded POV are easiest made now. (Sometimes my Irish speech patterns are more obvious than at others.

  9. Okay, I'll make sure I touch on those. I was going to anyway.