Claire King

Author
Claire King Edited Choices (10 of 10)

Posts Tagged ‘Wrangling’

The Order of Things

Posted on: January 21st, 2014 by Claire - 16 Comments

As I write this blog post I have the head of a very fluey eight year-old on my lap. She hasn’t wanted to do anything for days – not read, not go out and do this:

Feeling full of energy

 

…not sit on the sofa and watch TV even. Nothing except sleep and be hugged. It reminds me in many ways of when she was very new indeed. We spent hours each day attached to each other, while she fed or dozed or did both. Sometimes, when I’d had all the endorphins going I would use the quiet time to type one handedly and write stories.

It is, of course, lovely to just sit and cuddle your child. Unfortunately there are usually other demands on your time – supper to be cooked, bills to be paid, laundry to hang out, another child to help with their homework… And if, like me, you work from home, then there is also work to be done, and in my case also a book to be edited.

For the last few months I’ve been getting more and more wound up about finishing my new novel (the nth draft – the one I am happy to show my agent and publisher – for more on this dilemma see Emma Darwin’s post here). Partly because it is taking so much longer this time around, partly because I have an exciting new one I want to crack on with, partly because it would be nice to answer this question, which people ask me a lot:

“How’s your new book coming on?”

“I finished it!”

And mostly because recently life has conspired to make writing time even thinner on the ground. Sometimes it just does. And unfortunately there is an Order of Things. Work demands have to be dealt with. When the roof leaks a fix has to be found, and builders have to be chased up and eventually sued (long story). Children have to be taken to school and extra-curricular activities. Christmas must be laid on, or delivered elsewhere in suitcases.

Writing, even though it is absolutely a priority for me, gets pushed and pushed by these other things. And there is only so far you can push it until it tips off the edge of today and into ‘Tomorrow’. My ‘Tomorrow’ sometimes seems to be like the universe –  constantly expanding, with galaxies of edits accelerating inexorably away from me and my very limited gravity.

This week was to be the first of a delicious looking block of three weeks following the Christmas holidays when I could finally be home with nothing (it’s all relative) to do except Finish The Book. Instead, I am being Mummy to a sick and miserable little girl.

“But if you are writing now, why are you writing a blog post when you could be editing?” I hear (some of you) cry. I know! But one thing I have learnt about myself this last year is that whilst I find it relatively easy to use the gaps in between all these demands to write a first draft, I’ve found that I can’t edit properly when I don’t have long uninterrupted stretches of time. I can’t get my head around the whole novel when time is thinly sliced. Cue a blog post on this in the future when it’s all done and dusted.

So, I was feeling frustrated this morning, I’ll admit. Then my publicist sent over a scan of an interview that I did last year, which was published in this month’s Writers Forum magazine. One of the questions was why we moved here, to France. It was nice to be reminded (by myself) that we wanted to create time to have children and be parents, as well as time to write.

We wanted to be there with – and for – our children as they grow up, to ensure there was always one of us at home with them. I feel strongly about that. I remember vividly the way my own mother cared for me when I was sick as a child. No matter how busy she was, or how sick herself, she made time to sit with me and did as much as possible to make me more comfortable. There’s nothing better than being looked after by someone who loves you when you’re feeling sick and miserable, is there? When you’re eight there’s nothing more important than that.

So I am glad today, for being reminded of the Order of Things. And fingers crossed, assuming I don’t catch the flu next, the next blog post will be an excited one.

 

A writing retreat with the whole family?

Posted on: June 26th, 2012 by Claire - 15 Comments

Our travelling companion  - Jung.

So, I’ve been working away from home a lot for the first six months of this year. It’s my job, it’s a good job, maybe one day it will give way to actual income from writing but for now that’s how it is.

Summer, though, is about spending lots of time with my family. That’s the payback. And summer is here and we are all very happy about that. We never go away on holiday, because summers here are very smashing, so we do things in the region instead: visit places, have day-trips, that kind of thing.

But…summer is also the time when I can really get into the zone with writing. And this year that means editing the manuscript of my second novel – Candice – which I want to have with my agent by autumn.

The Canal du Midi and a houseboat upon it feature prominently in this novel, and whilst I had done plenty of research I had not actually set foot on a houseboat in over 20 years. And never one in the south of France. I was missing something – the smells, the textures, the sounds, the sensations, the peculiarities that an author needs to know about if you are really to transport someone into that world.

So, somehow I had to combine my need to get myself away onto a canal boat for a couple of days (and be inspired and make notes) with my need to spend time with my family (and just having them in proximity while my husband babysits doesn’t count)…

I needed to organise a writing retreat with the whole family.

Cue the Magical Mystery Surprise Family Weekend Away.

List of things required:

  • Internet to find suitable boat owner willing to accommodate leggy, exuberant family of four.
  • Own chequebook and email account for secret booking of smashing weekend on the canal.
  • Teasing build up to surprise trip, including maddening hints and knowing smiles.
  • Something for everyone to do:
  • Claire – Pencil, Paper, 5 senses.
  • Husband – Camera.
  • Small daughters – pencils, paper, puzzle books, reading books, travel board games (draughts, chess, back-gammon, cards etc)

And off we go.

It was brilliant! We had an absolutely wonderful and relaxing weekend, taking the boat down the Midi and onto the étangs (salt-water lakes) of the Mediterranean where we moored in a little port for the night, and back again. We spent much more time with the children than we would on a normal weekend, and yet I got much more writing done too. Our hosts were friendly and laid on wonderful food and good conversation. We all came home inspired, zen and somehow exhausted. I declare a success!

What are you writing about now, and how do you fit in research with your other commitments?

Want to see our photo album?

5km an hour is fast enough. You have to imagine the cicadas and the smell of the pine.


Yes, I am writing.

Like mother, like daughter.

Fresh water on one side, salty water on the other!

Arriving at the étangs.

Moored in a port for the night, playing hangman and drinking aperitifs on deck.

15km of oyster beds on the étangs.

Nothing to see here.

Captain Jean-François allowing a 4 year old to take the wheel.

And the 6 year old!

(In fact, the forty-somethings also got to drive, but we’re not quite so picturesque)…

Thanks to the photographer!

Note: If you’ve come across these photos through a search and would like to use any of them, please ask us via the contact page. Thanks.

Note 2 (tiny plug): If you like the look of our region, come and stay. We run gîtes, excellent for writers wanting to retreat, discounts given to readers of this blog.

Gone Fishing (Again)

Posted on: April 5th, 2012 by Claire - 6 Comments

The Night Rainbow is edited, has a jacket and Advance Copies are being printed. Hurrah!

The first draft of Candice, which will become The Next Novel, is done, and now needs editing into a second draft.

Mr King & I have been busy earning our crusts in Hamburg & Toulouse over the last few months.

Spring is here and the girls are on school holidays.

So this is just to say.

I’ll be offline for a while.

Living in real space.

Taking a breath.

Gone fishing.

(again).

10 Things Children Don’t Say to Writers

Posted on: March 4th, 2011 by Claire - 39 Comments

This is us watching you write. We can only see the back of your head.

I was just reading Alison Wells’ post about self-confidence/self-doubt where she makes the point that her children accepted the fact she’s a writer without question. I believe this is because (at least with small children) they have not yet forgotten that Mummy is a super hero.

If I told my daughters that I’ve decided to be a spaceman, they’d probably say, “Good idea, that sounds exciting!

The kind of things my children do say about my writing are:

It’s good you are writing books. Books are important because they tell us about things that happened when we weren’t there.

and

Will you write a story for me? With a zebra in it?

On the other hand, the kind of things my children don’t say include:

1. Have you written anything I might have read?

2. Have you got an agent yet?

3. Just short stories? So you’re not actually an AUTHOR or anything.

4. It’s all going digital anyway.

5. Have you had anything published? So you write for, like, a hobby?

6. Literary Fiction? What exactly does that mean?

7. Can you get me a free copy of your book?

8. Have you made, like, millions?

9. I don’t read much.

10. I’m going to write a book too, when I’m not so busy. (If children want to write a book they just go and get on with it).

These are the kind of things that only grown-ups would say. Because grown-ups have forgotten that we can be whatever we want to be. Because grown-ups may have become just a teensy bit cynical. Now, this is just my hypothesis, so I look forward to your comments!

It’s wrangly.

Posted on: May 12th, 2010 by Claire - 7 Comments

You’re reading this blog, but chances are you have hundreds of other things competing for your time. So first of all, thanks for coming.

I’m a greedy person. I have filled my life up with tasty morsels – an interesting career; a husband; some children; a big crumbly house in France (regrettably far from our parents, siblings and best friends); a gîte to renovate and run. Cooking, lots of home cooking.  And, of course, writing. I just keep adding things to my plate because they look so good. And then there is life, serving me up side-dishes. Eat your greens (taxes, accounting, chores…you know the drill). And of course hygiene. Even mothers need to make time for showers. And sleep. No, really. So, how to wrangle all of this? I have two key strategies for keeping my sanity:

1 : Macro-Wrangling, or “Fill your plate”
What is it you really want on your plate? Put the big, important things on first. Make room for them. Don’t start with aperitifs. Skip the hors d’oeuvres. Get right to the main course. There’ll be room afterwards for the bread, the sauces and the condiments. You can have the cheese course later. See, I told you I was greedy. I start with family, earning a crust and writing. How about you?

2 : Micro-Wrangling, or “Taste your food”
Don’t put everything in your mouth at once. Don’t think fish and chips, think wine and cheese. You want to taste both, one at a time. For example, when I’m looking after the kids, there really is no point sitting down to write. Personally I need to get into my writing groove to produce anything worthwhile. A dedicated hour of writing solitude yields much more than a frazzled three hours broken into five minute slots, punctuated by toilet trips, looking at drawings (‘beautiful, Sweetheart’) etc. And it feels bad from a motherhood point of view too. The children deserve real focused attention. So separate it out.

What are your wrangling strategies?

P.S. If you are an agent or a publisher reading this, please note: I am not too busy for book tours. My plate may look full, but I still have room for dessert.

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