Archives for August 2010

Editing- pushing boulders uphill

There are times when writing comes so easily to me its breath taking. I sit down at the desk, only to rise up again a few hours later with a couple of thousand words written. The next day I sit down and again the words flow like water down a fast moving stream gliding over river stones.  And when I go back over my work several days later, I realise with a strange sort of pride, that all that flowing was really pretty good.
And then there are times – like right now – when writing and editing a novel feels like the hardest thing ever I have ever done – and I’ve given birth!  This past week it has felt like I have been pushing boulders uphill only to get close to the summit, stub my toe, loose my grip and watch the boulder roll back to the bottom of the ravine where I know I have to start all over again. Cue much frustration.
This edit has been agonisingly slow work. I’ve read every word written and tried to justify its existence in the final product. Except that I don’t want to read my own work.  And my inability to concentrate the past week has only added to my frustration. And I keep thinking, why can’t I concentrate? I think it’s because I’m having oh look… there’s a fluffy cloud shaped like a teddy bear…..
I have a writing group meeting this Wednesday; maybe dealing with four people critiquing my work will pull my head back into line. I have the deadline of September 1st as to when I hoped to have this edit finished.  When the work should be complete enough to give to a few trusted friends to read and give first opinions at the very least.  And if you don’t have a mathematical mind that worked it out in a nano-second, September 1st is eight days away.

Eight. Days. People. 

Currently I’m working through page 133 of a 177 page manuscript. Sounds like I’m close, right? What am I belly-aching about, right?  So now is where I confess that there are several scenes that need re-working or just waiting to be written for the first time. There are a few timeline mix ups that I need to sort out. In fact, the more I edit, the more convinced I become that my novel is pure gobblty-gook.  The Itty Bitty S(h)itty Committee in my head have been raising their objections (loudly) for the last few weeks too. Telling me that I’m wasting my time, that this novel will end up stuffed under the bed keeping only the dust bunnies entertained, and wondering at the absurdity of my belief that I could ever be a writer.
So whats a girl to do when she hits the wall and can’t bear to look at her own manuscript any longer? She writes a blog post of course.  And now that that’s done, I really have no excuse. So please, feel free to entertain yourselves for a while as I go back to my work and push on for September 1st.

Excellence in Dumb

When I set my mind to something, I generally aim to excel at anything I turn my hand to. Take my final subject for my post grad work – another High Distinction. I’m really thrilled that I got 88% for the essay, but secretly I’m wondering how I lost the last 12%. And my current novel? In yet another round of edits as I polish it up a little more.  See – its all about the excellence. Because I want to be the very best at anything I do. Which obviously including being dumb.

I mean, reeeeeeally dumb.

Today Matthew asked me to call him after he finished at 4pm. OK. Admittedly I wasn’t so gracious about the idea of having to change my afternoon plans so I could be around to call him, but as I aim to excel  in being  dutiful (there is a word I won’t use too often about myself in a relationship!)  at 4:05pm I started to punch the numbers in the phone keypad.

613 – 123-4567
Beeeeeeeeeeep of the busy signal.

613 – 123-4567
Beeeeeeeeeeep – get off the phone already!

613 – 123-4567
Beeeeeeeeeeep – mumbling under my breath.

613 – 123-4567
Beeeeeeeeeeep – openly calling out curses from the heavens in front of the girl child.

613 – 123-4567
Beeeeeeeeeeep – Fine! Bugger you. I’m not wasting any more of my time.

Flounce into the family room where my desk is set up, flip open the computer and sit down to start editing my current novel.

Realise that I’ve been calling 613- 123- 4567, that being my own home phone number instead of his mobile phone number.

And tonight, as his chest puffed out, wearing the hardly ever worn “I Am Right” shirt and he bragged about my stellar ditz moment to his friends over the phone, I confess I had tears of laughter streaming down my face all over again.

Oh my Lawd.  Talk about dumb.

Cassandra and Jane (A Jane Austen Novel) -Jill Pitkeathley

I am a history buff from way back, even studying it at university level.  I confess to a strange little quirk in that I hold onto objects from times past and think about all the people during history who have held the very same object before me. What were their lives like? Where did they live and what did they do? What was their favourite colour and did they live lives that allowed them to have such an extravagance of choice?

So it seemed like the right thing to do in starting the Everything Austen Challenge by reading something of the history of Jane.  Of course, trying to discover the truth of the historical figure that is Miss Jane Austen is hampered somewhat by the lack of primary evidence available to the serious student of history now. According to reliable secondary records, her sister Cassandra destroyed a great deal of the written correspondence between the two of them from the course of their lives so that only the right kind of image of her sister would be portrayed after her death.

The fire is burning well now. I fed the letters on to the flames in small amounts to be sure they would catch   …. As I threw each bundle into the fire, I kissed it.

Enough remain to give me and others pleasure, not none I hope which show Jane as she once described herself, “If I am a wild beast, I cannot help it. It is not my own fault.”

Indeed it was not her fault and no one will ever be allowed to think so. No one will ever be allowed either to see anything other than the perfection of our relationship as sisters. I am seventy years old now and my life may not be very much longer. I should not like to be suddenly taken ill and unable to make the arrangements for the disposal of Jane’s personal effects.   Page 253

Jill Pitkeathley has written a biography of Jane Austen through the eyes of her sister Cassandra in her book “Cassandra and Jane – A Jane Austen Novel”, a clever twist.  It is obvious that Pitkeathley has done her homework. She has read widely, searched for the truth and used it well in this ‘fictional memoir’.  The historical accuracy of the story is as close as we can be sure of, as has been documented from her family’s telling of her life.

Our brothers have an image of our dear sister which is of someone clever, quick witted, a little sharp in her tone sometimes but loving, warm, daughter and aunt who was in the whole content with her life. If they sometimes saw, as I did, the low spirits, the anger, even the bitterness in her, they have forgotten it now in revering her memory. I am content with that.  – page 84

I very much wanted to rave how much I adored this book. But perhaps the book fell flat because I didn’t set aside a whole day to read it from cover to cover; instead I broke my reading up into chunks to fit around the daily reality of life with a five year old on summer holidays which could have been an impediment to my enjoyment.

Yes, it was clever in execution and true to historical fact, but something holds me back from gushing. Personally I felt it hard to connect with Cassandra and Jane. They lacked warmth, which may actually be tribute to Pitkeathley’s ability to write so convincingly in the voice of the era, where there was little openness to strangers, and a certain aloofness and restraint.  I admired the writing of this book, but I did not adore it. In my opinion it’s not a ‘not to be missed’ read.   I will say it is worth the read to gain a better understanding of the reality of Jane’s life, because it makes her ability to write such timeless works all the more remarkable.

The copy of this book came from my local library

Publisher: Harper
Pages: 270
ISBN: 9780061446399
Language: English
Notes: First published in Great Britain in 2004