Saturday, 31 December 2011

Working Writers

                                                  How do/did YOU do it?

We all know that perennial term ‘Working Parents’ and the diverse opinions that fly around on the subject: their poor progeny, driven to delinquency or freed to foster independent life-skills.

But what about Working Writers?

They come in all varieties: full-time writers, part-time writers with part-time employment and the full-time employed who write only in ‘leisure’ time.

How do the latter group manage? Presumably their output must be severely curtailed? When one hears of writers completing 2,500 words a day (I know! You do so much more/less – delete the extraneous), it must surely be discouraging for those who work full-time and can never compete on an equal footing?

With such prolific writers (Barbara Cartland, notwithstanding) of three, four (MORE?) published novels a year, might it make those, not so time-fortunate, want to throw down their pen (OK laptop – but frankly, who is likely to throw down their laptop? They’d have to work an extra week to replace it. Let’s keep this real!).

Bad enough to have to wage-slave in any employment, that detracts from the passions of a writer (books!) but what of those working in particular professions? Those all-consuming, “it’s a vocation” type employments?

Doctor:  72 hour shifts, on-call, keeping up with medical developments...

Teacher/lecturer:  lesson prep, marking, exam assessment, Outdoor-Ed trips, CPD...

Police:  all leave cancelled, sleep-disrupting shift patterns...

Army:  deployment to war-zone, Green Goddess coverage for Fire-Service industrial action...

Inn-Keeper:  Late licence, Sky Sports Coverage Saturdays, Karaoke Nights...

Working Mothers:   OMG Eeeek!!

You get the picture... Another hour, day, week, month without putting         (m)any words to paper. No time to write the first/next blooming novel let alone blog, tweet, pester agents, publishers, anyone that might read your book (if it ever gets written) PLEEESE... (pretty)

Many published authors started off in this working category, even if they have now successfully thrown off the shackles of servitude. Or at least swapped service to others, to that “free servitude” to the one-eyed, hypnotic lap-dweller, that demands you tap its keys constantly with your creative little digits.

Help us all by revealing just how you did/do manage your time in those darkest of days? Then return to see how others do it! [comments gratefully received]


Friday, 2 December 2011

Plus Ça Change?

1st December

This was the date in 1830 that French novelist, Victor Hugo, had agreed to submit Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) to his publisher. However, he allowed himself to become distracted with other projects, extending his deadline several times. Sound familiar? The book was finally published (happily for Disney) the following year.

As Hugo wrote a number of plays in the 1830s and met his mistress, actress, Juliette Drouet, at the same time, presumably his distractions were artistically valid!

One interesting consequence of the novel was that the City of Paris undertook restoration of the neglected Cathedral of Notre Dame, which attracted thousands of tourists as a result of reading it.

Hugo also began planning a major work about social injustice as early as the 1830s. It then took seventeen years for Les Misérables to be fully realized, whilst he was living in exile in the Channel Islands. The novel was finally published in 1862 with only the first part, “Fantine” released initially. Publication went to the highest bidder and the Belgian publishers undertook a marketing campaign unusual for the time, issuing press releases six months ahead of launch. Note to publishers – instalments sold out within hours!

Allegedly the shortest correspondence on record is between Hugo and his publisher. On the novel’s release Hugo telegraphed ‘?’ to which his publisher replied, ‘!’   Keeping an eye on profit margins presumably? And Hugo must have been rightly exhausted after producing the 1,200+ page novel. And keeping a mistress.

Hugo concerned himself with artists' rights and copyright and was a founding member of the Association Littéraire et Artistique Internationale. This led to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. Hail to Victor Hugo.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Carriage Driving

Today, I went carriage driving and what a wonderful experience! 
For any writer who writes historical (especially 16th to 19th Century), the experience is invaluable.
It has certainly given me an insight into the difficulties of travelling in this manner. 

The condition of roads makes the journey extremely variable. Nicely surfaced modern roads are bone-jarring enough, but as soon as you go "off-road", you really get the real deal.
Unsurfaced country lanes toss the carriage all over the place and the skill of the driver comes to the fore in avoiding the worst of pot-holes, stones, verges, ditches and similar such hazards.
There are no safety belts in the carriage, any more than there would have been back in the Regency, for example, and you find your body working very hard to maintain your posture and position - and keep you in the carriage and in your own seat! No wonder heroines sighed with relief when the overnight stop at an Inn came into sight! It makes for a very exhausting form of travel.

We went off the lanes in places and over the stubble fields which was not to be missed - particularly as the land was very muddy and flooded with run-off from the surrounding hills and the many days of rain we have experienced this week in Perthshire.
The horses laboured to pull the carriage through the mud into which we alternately sank and were heaved from, in somewhat ungainly fashion. When the horses cantered, the speed and rhythm was exhilarating, enhanced, no doubt, by the thought (mine) of imminent overturning at every moment.
Travelling by carriage is certainly a hazardous pastime, made so much more tolerable only in the knowledge of the experienced driver in whose "in-hand" skills you totally rely. No wonder heroines thought twice before accepting a drive with just any male!
At times (such as trotting over rough ground) it became quite difficult to talk through the rigorous bouncing action and noise of the carriage and the driver certainly had to maintain concentration on the position of the carriage and the reactions of the horses to their surroundings at all times.

The photograph shows me, happily, in the safe hands of British Carriage Driving competitor, Jock MacFarlane, who is trying out a new pair of horses in preparation for competitive driving at National and International level, next year.
Jock has had a measure of success with single driving previously, with his super horse, Wodka, and is now bringing on this lovely pair of well-matched horses in anticipation of next season. He has owned 6 year old Peanut for about 2 years and 9 year old Vladimir for a scant couple of weeks. They need time to learn to work together, and to overcome problems, like skittish behaviour in traffic - both have only been used to single carriagework before. It makes you realise just how easy it was for carriage disasters to happen in busy Regency streets.

I am a very lucky girl. Jock has invited me to try my hand at single carriage driving with his steady 'gentleman' Wodka. I hope I won't need a Wodka of my own, afterwards!

If you ever get the chance to experience a drive in a carriage, then jump on in. For an author of historicals, it is useful research for authenticity. I know it will help me to bring that extra flair of truth to my writing about those carriage "moments".

Friday, 4 November 2011

M&B New Voices 2011

I entered for the first time, in the Historical Section getting some fantastic feed back, including from published authors, like Louise Allen and Nikki Logan. M&B also published their own very positive critique of my entry:

Here is an excerpt -

by Selma Leung on Wednesday 19 October, 2011, 5:25 PM

Cat-House Kate by Susan Bergen

  • The authentic Western voice really shone out in this entry, and added real edge to the witty, sharp dialogue – we felt instantly transported back in time.

  • We were also impressed with Kate herself - this is one feisty heroine! Her total lack of self-pity allows the reader to sympathise with her tough start in life whilst also respecting her strength in surviving it.

  • Overall, you have a fabulously unique voice – in your future writing, we’d encourage you to embrace the strengths of both your characters equally