Sunday, 25 November 2012

Farewell, Friend

I was engulfed by a wave of nostalgia when I heard that the last British typewriter
has been made in the Brother factory in North Wales.

I remember, as a teenager, attending an evening class in typewriting because my mother was convinced a typing qualification would guarantee me a good job when I left school.

I remember the teacher playing a record of marching music on a gramophone (another piece of ancient technology), and slapping her hand on the desk as she called out the letters while we trainee typists tried to – press – the – right – keys – to – the – rhythm – of – a – brass – band

I remember struggling through a timed typing test as part of a job interview, and the relief I felt when I was told it was only a formality as the job mostly involved writing by hand.

I remember the sinking feeling I had when I read in the Writers & Artists Yearbook that magazine editors and publishers would no longer consider handwritten manuscripts. I had given up paid work on the birth of my first baby and even a second-hand typewriter seemed an unaffordable luxury.   

I remember the thrill, after months of scrimping and saving, when I became the proud owner of the cheapest portable typewriter I could find.

I remember the frustration of spending hours carefully typing out a short story only to discover I’d made a mistake! 

I remember how modern I felt when I swapped the manual typewriter for an electric word processor, and then how nonchalantly I gave them both away when I progressed to a personal computer!

I wouldn’t want to go back to the old days of carbon paper, stuck keys, and the messy business of changing ribbons, but discovering that the last British typewriter has been donated to London's Science Museum has made me wish I’d kept my little bit of history. 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Word of the week (6)

What shall I call this strange, old woman who has wandered into my novel? An eccentric vagabond? An aging hippy? A tatterdemalion!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

NaNoWriMo progress (of sorts!)

Bad news: I’ve only managed an average of 701 words per day so far (I should be aiming for 1,666).

Good news: I think there might actually be the beginnings of a novel in here!

In accordance with the rules of NaNo, I began writing on November 1st with no plot, no title, no list of characters, and not even a particular genre in mind. Some kind of mystery perhaps? With a bit of romance? And some humour? Plus hints of the supernatural?

My starting point – eventually – was a vague idea about how two very different characters might meet each other for the first time. So I spent the first couple of days letting them introduce themselves to each other (and to me). Then I had a look around the place where they live, dropped in a ‘strange happening’, introduced another couple of characters, and worked out what they all think/ feel about each other – and why.

Now I’ve got to the stage where they all have problems to solve and I’ve lined up several more characters in the wings who will either help or hinder them. Best of all, I now know what the theme of the novel is and, very roughly, what needs to happen at the end. How I’m going to get to that end is something I have yet to discover.

Back in the real world …

At the same time, I’m also trying to follow the Guardian’s How To Write a Book in 30 Days series and that’s not going so well. Day 1 was supposed to be spent doing character sketches: detailed descriptions of each character including their histories, likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses etc. This seems a perfectly sensible idea for conventional novel-writing but in my NaNo novel I still have a lot of unanswered questions about my characters. For example, I haven’t even decided on all their names yet! But I have started a worksheet for each character and, as instructed, other worksheets for various settings and story threads, although they mostly consist of blank spaces and lots of question marks!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Word of the week (5)

‘Of course I don’t begrudge EL James her fame and fortune,’ said the impoverished writer. ‘But I wish I’d thought of that!’

(Wondering what my Word of the Week is about? Click here for an explanation.)

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Just a note …

Although I would class my computer as an essential writer’s tool, I still do a lot of writing the old-fashioned way with paper and pen. I use:
  •  A4 pads of lined paper for very rough first drafts, research notes, character sketches and working out story plans
  •  A5 hardback books for jotting down story/ article ideas, fragments of dreams, funny signs, unusual words, surprising facts or anything else I find and want to keep because it might be useful or inspirational one day
  • Small notebooks with flexible covers that fit into my camera bag when I’m travelling light
 When I need to buy another notepad or book I only look for one thing – the price. The cheaper the better! I don’t care what colour the cover is, or if it has a brand name. I just want something I can fill with scribbles without having to worry about spelling mistakes and crossing-outs and doodles in the margin. Nobody else is going to see it.

But look what my sister gave me 

I love these little books with their embroidered covers – they’re just under 4 x 3 inches – but I have no idea what to do with them. They’re much too beautiful for ordinary writing.

They’re certainly books I want to keep, so perhaps I could fill them with some of my favourite poems or quotations. I’d have to use my best handwriting, of course.

The pages are made of smooth, unlined paper that would be perfect for drawings – or even miniature watercolours – although I don’t think my artistic skills would do them justice.  

An address book? Woe betide anyone who moved or changed their phone number because I wouldn’t want to make any alterations!

A mini travel journal? It would have to be to somewhere very special …

Until I decide, I’ve put them on display on a shelf. They’re too lovely to be shut away in a drawer.

Do you use notebooks? What kind? Do beautiful designer books inspire or inhibit your creativity? 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Word of the week (4)

A phrase flittered through her head. She’d found a title for her NaNoWriMo novel!
(Wondering what my Word of the Week is about? Click here for an explanation.)