Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Spring, paragraphs and Moomins

Hello again, and how are we all doing? Hopefully Spring has sprung in your part of the world - it's another lovely sunny morning here in Bath, hurrah. Eldest daughter's daffs (potted up at Brownies last year) are finally blooming little yellow trumpets, the crocuses are out, the tulips have pushed up tall green leaves, and there are the first signs of life on the magnolia tree: tiny furry buds. (I love magnolia trees. We only have a small 'Stellar' in a pot but my dream house (wherever that may be) will definitely have a huge magnolia in the garden absolutely dripping with those gorgeous creamy-pink flowers. Oh yes.)

The novel is still coming along, slowly but surely. I am up to 42,000 words now, and have been aiming for 2,000 words a day this week and last, just to keep it ticking along. Of course, that will go out of the window next week, as I've got to switch onto the second draft of a children's book, and need to come up with a new synopsis for something else... and then of course, the Easter holidays will be looming and NO WORK WILL BE DONE. But anyway, this week, I'm aiming to get as close to 50,000 words as I can. I always feel better once I've hit that halfway point.

Book-wise, I've just finished reading The Group by Mary McCarthy for my book group. I could have sworn I'd read this before back in my student days (I think it is that kind of book), but when I came to start reading the other week, it was completely unfamiliar. (This has happened twice to me lately. I was convinced I'd read 'A Patchwork Planet' by Anne Tyler too, largely because it had been sat on my book shelf for years and I just assumed I must have read it at some point. I hadn't though. I think that's what you call a senior moment, which is a bit worrying, seeing as I am still 39. Doesn't bode well for my old age, does it?) ANYWAY. So it turned out I hadn't read The Group after all, and I must confess, I started reading it, feeling very disappointed. The cover has glowing quotes from Sarah Waters, Marian Keyes, India Knight, all saying how wonderful they think it is, and at first I thought I must be reading a different book. It felt really heavy-going, I couldn't keep track of who the hell everybody was and, REALLY ANNOYINGLY, the design and layout is awful, frankly, with page after page of dense, solid prose, with hardly a paragraph break in sight. Perhaps this is very shallow of me, but I find that sort of page layout really off-putting. Even when there is dialogue, there was no paragraphing, the speakers just run on from each other in one great lump. Call me an old fart, but I JUST DON'T LIKE THAT.

Anyway (she says, hurriedly breaking up a rather long paragraph), once I'd got over my fit of pique and got to grips with who everybody was, I did really enjoy it. In fact, it's the sort of book that you want to re-read, so that you can appreciate the early chapters more, knowing what you do about the characters by the end of it. Lots to talk about too - a perfect 'book group' book.

I've just started reading 'A Tale of Two Cities' which I've definitely never read before. I'm finding that quite heavy-going too - maybe I was tired and befuddled by my streaming cold (did I mention my streaming cold?), but I had to read the first few chapters twice over before I could make any sense of them last night. Happily I am interspersing Mr Dickens with lots of eldest daughter's books, all in the name of research. I would really like to write a slightly older children's novel for girls next, mainly because my eldest is too old to read the books I'm currently writing and I miss being able to try them out on her and get her feedback. I've got an idea for a book anyway, but have told myself I need to research the market, so have been thoroughly enjoying myself snuggling up with all her recommendations. She is loving it too - "Mum, you must read THIS" etc, although she is terrible for spoilers - ie, "Have you got to the bit where she.... yet?" I have to put my hands over my ears: "Don't tell me ANYTHING!"

Finally, as a treat to us all, I'm reading 'Finn Family Moomintroll' to the kids for their bedtime story. I read it a couple of years ago to eldest daughter and son, and now I'm reading it to son and youngest daughter, although eldest keeps joining us to listen. It is one of the most perfect books for children, and I am enjoying it every bit as much as they are.

Right... nearly 9.30 and I'd better crack on with the novel. Time to throw in some major angst and drama, methinks... with plenty of paragraph breaks, of course!

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