>In 9 days time I go to Ullswater for my writers’ retreat. I’m really looking forward to it but am starting to panic on what to pack. I don’t mean whether to take a tankini or a cossie or how much sun cream (although I am taking a bottle of Factor 50 and a bottle of After Sun) or how many pairs of sandals. I mean which of my extensive library should I take?

This is going to be my biggest wrench as my reference library, including writing books, is huge. There’s a comfortable feeling about knowing there’s a book on something just a few seconds away, but I also need to decide what I’ll be working on while there.

Voices from the Dearne Valley
I have a real bad feeling about the Voices book. It’s been jinxed for 5 years, ever since it was just plain old Barnsley Voices. I have tons of words, but when I recently found 2 more interviewees one of them sadly passed away and the other was hospitalised and no longer felt up to telling a complete stranger her life story. Of the 35,000 – 40,000 words I need, I probably have 70,000 – 80,000 to be going along with … I just needed a bit more variety in the interviewees. This book does not want to be written.

I need 80 – 100 pictures, and while I can take some myself, of those 80 – 100 pictures around 80 of them need to be old ones. And I have none. Zero. Nada. None. I had plenty, but they got wiped from my hard drive when my hard drive got wiped. I still have access to about a couple of dozen, but any more I keep getting asked to pay for, and without an advance I can’t afford to do that. I went along to the local history groups a few weeks ago as a last ditch attempt, and there they were gone. This book does not want to be written.

On top of this, this project has been like a millstone around my neck and I still believe it blocks me quite badly on occasion. The Voices book may not have much longer in this world … It’s a big decision, but one that needs to be made. This book does not want to be written.

Night Crawler
This one is at final galley stage and I need to get the galleys proofed, the artwork scanned, and the book published. This is an easy one.

Catch the Rainbow
Another easy one. This is at first draft stage and I keep getting the urge to write a bit more (must update the word meter soon), I just don’t often get time to do it.

New work
I’m going to be in one of England’s most beautiful spots that is also steeped in history. I should be able to get at least one article and one short story out of it.

I have a new non-fiction on the boil too, but this one I know who my subjects are and I know there are lots of photographs. What I want to do is get a proposal out for this one to an advance-paying publisher. I keep saying it but I can’t afford to work for free.

Writing books to take?
So, which writing books do I take?

I’m definitely taking Devon’s 5 Stories in 10 Weeks as I can do that one anywhere and already have loads of material from “week 1”. Everything is in a folder, nice and tidy and ready to go. I’ve already written 2 complete stories and outlined another 2 from this e-book. I’m also taking a collection of 3 anthologies of short mystery stories, for research and relaxation. I want to write stories for anthologies so I need to get into the groove.

Here is the list of others to choose from:

  • Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing by Don George
  • How to Write for Magazines in One Weekend by Diana Cambridge
  • No Contacts? No Problem: how to pitch and sell a freelance feature by Catherine Quinn
  • How to Write your First Novel by Sophie King
  • How to Write Short Stories for Magazines and Get Them Published by Sophie King
  • How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen
  • Non Fiction Book Proposals Anyone Can Write by Elizabeth Lyon

Other books
And then there are the other books, the novels, the non-fiction. Do I take a book on the IRA (Catch the Rainbow), or do I take a book on Pirates (new)? Do I take the 2 non fictions I’ve already started? I have 3 new books coming from Waterstones (ordered a few weeks ago, but dispatched now), and I have the 2 I picked up in Sheffield last week. How many of those do I take?

Do you see my quandary?

Day job
I’m still busy at work, but at lunch time I need to pop out to the bank. I can’t linger because I have to be back for a 1:30pm All Staff meeting.

9 thoughts on “>Decisions

  1. carolwarham 7 July 2010 / 11:59 am

    >I can't be a lot of help but my gut feeling is take the books/WIPs that you are going to enjoy. Not anything that feels like a millstone or a drag in anyway. That way you will come away feeling productive, relaxed and having had an enjoyable time. Hope that helps.


  2. Devon Ellington 7 July 2010 / 12:24 pm

    >Packing the writing bag is always the biggest decision of any trip.My suggestion is to get the galleys done for NIGHT CRAWLER before you go. Then take CATCH THE RAINBOW and the new work, along with some of the research books for them. Are you driving? When I'm driving to a gig rather than taking mass transit, I get a milk crate and pack the books for the project/projects in it and stick it in the back of the car, then keep it by my desk. Easy to cart around, and it's all in one place. Actually, that's how I keep my projects sorted — I pull what I need for the project and have it in a crate by the desk, then return it to my library when the project is published.I suggest letting any non-fiction be organically inspired by the place. Notebook, camera, pick up local research materials as you need them, but see what grabs you.From your list of books, I think they're all a little too dry for a writing retreat. I'm trying to remember your library of writing books, and it escapes me at the moment.There are certain books I use as fuel when I'm on a writing retreat. Do you have any of them? I'd suggest them, if you've got them:SOMETIMES THE MAGIC HAPPENS by Terry BrooksESCAPING INTO THE OPEN by Elizabeth BergWRITE AWAY by Elizabeth GeorgeMAKING A LITERARY LIFE by Carolyn SeeTHE FOREST FOR THE TREES by Betsy LernerI'D RATHER BE WRITING by Marcia GolubBIRD BY BIRD by Anne LamottTHUNDER AND LIGHTENING by Natalie GoldbergI also like to take writers' published journals or volumes of letters. Thomas Mallon's A BOOK OF THEIR OWN is fabulous, and Joyce Carol Oates's journals from 1972-1983 are wonderfully inspiring.Don't know if these suggestions help or make it more complicated!


  3. Devon Ellington 7 July 2010 / 12:26 pm

    >PS I'm honored you're taking 5 in 10 — I just clipped some articles myself to give it another go. I've got some short story deadlines to clear out in the next few weeks, and then I'll do the exercises again. I'm feeling a bit stale, and they get me going agian.


  4. Diane 7 July 2010 / 3:17 pm

    >Carol: The WIPs are pretty fixed and solid, I have to get them done. It's the new stuff that's flexible. I love books on writing, and I love reading books, so those will be my relaxation as well as being practical. But yes, I will try to concentrate on what I *want* to do rather then what I feel I *have* to do, so thanks. :o)


  5. Diane 7 July 2010 / 3:23 pm

    >Devon: Yes, those are good suggestions, thank you. I don't have many of that kind of writing book. I tend to read them and pass them on (WRITE AWAY and I'D RATHER BE WRITING are 2 I did have). I DO still have the mystery writing one edited by Sue Grafton, that's always a nice one to read while I chill. I *like* the practical, hands-on variety as they get me working and keep me inspired and motivated. I have to keep a notebook permanently open while I read them.I might try and get NIGHT CRAWLER done before I go. That's a good idea. Although I find proofing quite relaxing, a nice wind-down (or warm-up) job.I don't have crates, but I do have folders. And those will definitely be coming with me. If I was feeling flush I could buy some boxes from Staples or somewhere, but as I'm quite a chunk down on my wages at the moment, I can't really buy anything new.(This bit is duplicated on yours as well.) I always have “5 IN 10″ close to hand because it’s so good for me to dip into. There are small exercises, there are larger exercises, and while I’d rather do it all in order, I can do it out of order when it suits too. I love practical stuff like this, it gives me the kick up the pants I need and, like you, I find I come up with fresh ideas when I’m otherwise feeling stale. I also have results quicker, which means a pat on the back sooner. And it makes me think and it makes me read the papers, so I’m exercising the little grey cells too while keeping on top of the news at the same time.


  6. Melissa Marsh 7 July 2010 / 6:36 pm

    >If the Voices book gives you a bad gut feeling, I say let it go.I am still very much looking forward to reading Catch the Rainbow!


  7. Diane 8 July 2010 / 8:42 am

    >It does, but it's also contracted. However, if it doesn't want to be written there's nothing I can do about it.Did you read Night Crawler yet?


  8. Devon Ellington 8 July 2010 / 11:57 am

    >With VOICES — it's contracted, which means someone else thinks it's viable, and you made a commitment, so see it through. Perhaps you just need to approach it from a slightly different angle. It's challenging you. It's saying "How badly do you want this?" — you've landed the contract, of course there are now a million obstacles to getting it done. It's often harader to get something done that's already been accepted than something which hans't.It's a test of your own resistence; dig in and attack from a different angle. Get it done. Use the time away to think about it, but not work on it.Once there's a contract in place, in my personal code, it gets done, no matter how difficult it is. I couldn't make a living otherwise. You still have a cushion of a day job, but once you go full-time, you don't have the luxury of not making good on a contract.Rethink the approach a bit, talk to your publisher about a slight change of direction, and then just dig in and do it. Will you have some long, rough days where you stare at the computer, struggle, and feel like crap? Of course. It's par for the course. But finding a way to make it work will teach you and liberate you in a way that nothing else can. Hey, we're Pisces with Neptune in retrograde — everything is 15 times harder than it needs to be right now. Not meeting this contract will be an act of self-sabotage not just on a professional level, but on an internal, psychic level that will take a long, long time from which to recover.Think very carefully before you do something like jettisoning the project."It doesn't want to be written." YOU are the writer. Take responsibility. This isn't fiction, where the unconscious mind morphs into the characters and takes control. This is something wiith tangible roots in the real world. YOU are in total control. If it's not bering written, it's not the book's fault.


  9. Diane 8 July 2010 / 12:08 pm

    >You're right, of course, and I can always rely on you for the kick up the bum. :oDIt's the pictures, though. I don't have any pictures. I did have a few, and they all got wiped when the drunk wiped my hard drive. I thought they were backed up but they weren't – MY FAULT. I gave one batch of really good photographs back to the owner and then HE lost them and the others never let me borrow their pictures again. Many of the interviewees couldn't afford a camera 60 years ago and I can't afford to pay commercial rates from picture libraries, newspapers or libraries.I have words. I have lots of words. The words are not the problem, it's just a figure of speech.I've not pulled the plug yet, though. I'm just considering it. My new deadline is end July … It has to come with me if I'm to meet the deadline.


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