Maseratis and keeling over

My problem: unless I am under enormous pressure and have Satan breathing down my neck, I am the laziest and most unmotivated chick you’ll ever meet in your life. And this is just it – my life is too damn comfortable. It’s just too easy for me to bob along, have everything come easy, live the good life and just enjoy doing cool stuff with my husband and son. Don’t get me wrong – I am so happy it’s just… …STUPID. It’s really quite ridiculous. Then again, joy is my default setting, I get it from my dad I think (the guy is  unbearably cheerful) and it just seems to be my nature to look on the bright side of life. Now, that’s not a bad thing. I’m just saying.

So I wake up every morning feeling happiness and gratitude, and how could I not? I’m truly blessed. No, I haven’t bought a Maserati yet (a GranCabrio in midnight blue, per favore), nor do I own a holiday home on Waihi Beach (YET!) but that’s just a matter of time and until then I have everything I could ever possibly need or want as things stand. But what I have discovered is this: as wonderful as it is to be emotionally fulfilled and have these two (B and Monkey) along with living where we live, blessed with amazing friends and family and have the life that we do, I need something else to fire me up. Hence I have hit a point where I feel incredibly restless and a little flat. I need a focus, goals… ….what I need is PRESSURE! I want to achieve. It’s one thing to strive to be a good person (and for the large part I believe I am), to be kind and empathetic and so on, but I think we all to some extent want to do well beyond our personal qualities whether it be having expert knowledge in some field or coming home each day knowing we really made a difference somehow. Just be able to say: “I did that”!

Before I met B I spent some years as a single mother in this insanely expensive city that is Londinium, so I know what I can be and achieve when I’m under tremendous amounts of pressure and stress to make things work. I know that I am a BADASS when I have to be.

There it is! When I HAVE to be.

So, the time has come to set some goals and targets and form a plan for the near future. B and I have been together for four years and a few months (and yes, we still celebrate every month – we just celebrated 51 months – cheesy, eh) and so we are ready for the next stage. These first few years were building stones and we’re currently cruising on a comfortable plateau having last year bought a home and this year got hitched.

My goal: in two years from now make a nice little income from making jewellery (I will in three month’s time be able to call myself a silversmith, and after that a Diploma course awaits and progressing on to more precious metals and stones) and the rest of the time focus on writing. That should nicely bring me back into an existence where I once again feel productive, that I’m achieving and that I’m doing something really worthwhile. That and getting super fit! I think at 41 I’m still at a stage where I am probably able to achieve something pretty awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I like ME, but I’m curious to see if I could go a little drastic and tickle the fitness fanatic in me (if that fanatic exists – perhaps I’ll just discover that I just LIKE exercise but won’t LOVE massive amounts of it). I don’t intend to turn bodybuilder or aim for no body fat or be a size zero or anything stupid like that, but just see what I might be able to do within reasonable limits. After a summer spent celebrating, my first two runs this week felt like death. Actually, they were not as bad as I thought it’d be but death nonetheless. I know it won’t take long though and hopefully in the next couple of weeks I’ll be able to run, say, 5k without keeling over. We’ll see. It’s a start.

Our goal: we’ve set up a budget, which was pretty scary as it showed not only how much we could (and should!) save without forsaking random trips, holidays, nice clothes and several date nights every month, it also showed how we fritter money away like it’s confetti. So a bit more focus and if we just hold back a LITTLE – honestly, there are no big changes required, just a few small adjustments – we should with good margin be able to buy a decent holiday home in Sweden within five years should we choose to. I’m more keen on NZ, but no need to decide. Who knows what, when or even if – all we know is that if we just keep to this little plan, the ‘how’ isn’t going to be an issue.

For now, I will continue to appreciate a lovely Plan B job that I do enjoy and that the people I work for are lovely so there is – as I said before – no reason for me to complain, I simply don’t have anything to complain about, but I just need stuff to happen! I’m no good at this cruising phase we find ourselves in. What to be careful about also is how fired up I get starting things off – I’m so awesome at that bit! What career would allow me to do that? Be the proverbial firestarter? Anyway, it’s applying the plan, follow it and stick at it I suck at. Feeling very, very determined so time will tell… It usually does.

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Quests and Shapes

Because I know me, now’s the time when I have the real challenge ahead – unlike countless other novels and projects I’ve charged at on full cylinders, only to end up by the wayside a few chapters in, this is the story I just HAVE TO TELL and NOW IS THE TIME TO DO IT. I’m at that dangerous half way mark, where I need to keep momentum and put my foot on it. Damn it, I will get Alice written even if it’s the last thing I do.

The call with the editor this afternoon was incredibly useful and I know I am very lucky to get this sort of feedback, as opposed to keep on gingerly feeling my way ahead with little guidance beyond my own conviction. Getting feedback on the first three chapters and brain storming the rest has helped massively and I feel even more positive and confident now.

Alice needs warming up several degrees, and I feel good about that. I think perhaps because I know my characters so well, I have probably at times almost assumed that the reader will know everything that I do. Except of course they can’t, unless I show them. John’s entrance I now also know what to do with and how to restructure without losing any of the pivotal details of his background and connection with Alice.

And then of course Karen. Sadly, she cannot be saved. I love her dearly, but her story arc doesn’t work and she doesn’t fill as much of a purpose as I thought when I wrote her into Alice’s complicated existence. As sad as it is to get rid of her, the silver linings on this particular literary cloud is that Tom and Britt get some of her ‘duties’, which will lend much more depth to the story as well as showing Alice and Tom at their best before I cruelly rip them apart, muuuuahahahahaaaaa!

Her advice was in line with my plan – keep on churning out the first draft with my new directions in mind and THEN head back over the early bits and amend them accordingly. My word count target is sound too, but she did say that it’s better to keep it lean and let my writing stay muscular than add padding for the sake of it, and of course! I’d much rather end up with something tight and solid, than something with pointless parts that don’t take the story forward.

If I were to just write as it comes to me (which of course is what I do 90% of the time – when I’m in “the zone” the words just come pouring out and I find it VERY hard to focus on shaping them as I write, they just sort of happen), I have a tendency to embark on inner monologues and endless telling the reader than SHOWING. So this is something I really need to fine tune. Because I was already aware of this, I think I may have swung a little too far in the opposite direction – the novel, as it stands, is quite crowded and a sub story line I’ve been developing actually needs to be completely axed: Lucy. Lucy, oh Lucy! I did love writing you, and in spite of how nasty and mean you are, it is with sadness I send you off the pitch to walk off into the sunset with Karen, having failed your audition.

What this does mean though, is that it gives me the chance to really let the characters that DO count shine, and I owe it to them.

The editor reckons John is pretty much spot on, in all his quirkiness, which made me really happy as I have taken such care creating him into a character I’m crazy about. To be honest – I wish John was my neighbour, I like him that much. Of course, he’s Alice’s neighbour, I just need to make the start of their slightly unlikely friendship develop in a more believable way that allows the reader to really see each character’s motivation and quest.

You win some, you lose some, but I feel that where I’m at right now is a pretty good place and once again I feel the air beneath my wings and ready to leap off and fly into what’s been my dream for as long as I can remember: seeing my words in print, bound together as a book.

One thing I forgot to cover on the call, was how I’ve very briefly introduced Jake the psychopath, who is one of Alice’s marriage counselling clients. Jake is the protagonist in the next book already simmering in my mind. It’s a bit of a risk, and I fear it might be a little confusing, so I must remember to run this over with her once I have the first draft in the best shape I feel I can get it. It won’t be a biggie if it doesn’t work – it’s just about a third of a chapter when Alice is at work, and really there to show how drained she is rather than focusing on Jake as such.

Gosh, perhaps I’m big headed or conceited, but I do feel so good about this – I no longer care that much if Alice ends up unpublished and gathering dust in a box somewhere, all I know is that I will give this all that I have and who knows where it might lead. At least then I can say I gave it my best shot, and that’s precisely what I intend to do.

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