Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Note to Self – the Friday ‘Fess-Up


OK, ’twas bad. I only wrote about 500 words of my novel this week (but I exercised a lot). What I wrote was okay, but made me realise that I need to go back and tweak something in Chapter Three. I am constitutionally against going back and tweaking – forward, ho! being the motto – so this post stands as a note to self. 

I had the first five chapters up on Authonomy, but have taken them down again. Authonomy is an experiment by Harper Collins where unpublished writers can showcase their work with the hope of attracting agents and publishers. The site is in beta at the moment, and is mostly being used by writers with works in progress to get tips and advice from other writers. After a week there, and one or two useful tips (thanks, Litlove), I decided that I am not ready to have unfinished work in the public eye. I would rather put something up when I am satisfied that it is complete, or follow the standard route of finding an agent.

I am planning my writing retreat in two weeks’ time. A dear friend has offered me the use of her flat in Kreuzberg, Berlin, and I think I am going to take her up on it for a long weekend towards the end of the month. Just the amount of time I will have free for writing on the train alone makes me shiver, let alone mornings, afternoons and evenings with nothing to do but feed my body with food and my soul with writing. The thrill is almost too much to bear, dear readers.

I was very moved this week seeing a group of farm workers (probably strawberry pickers), clearly shipped in from somewhere east of here, spending their hard-earned euros in Aldi on cheap chocolate and coffee to take home as presents. The chapter I’m working on deals partly with someone hoiked out of her culture and thrust into another, and the alienating effect that has. I was touched by the pleasure and the excitement that these gifts brought the gift bearers, and amused by one guy being unable to wait till he got home to taste the Aldi Amaretto (I like it myself: an interesting combination of almonds and petrol) and having a big schluck right there in the parking-lot. So many societies depend on people from other cultures arriving to do their dirty work, much like the way white South Africans used to depend on black domestic workers to do their dirty work (and still do) – a topic also raised in the novel.

I am still stunned by the grind of novel-writing, and today stared at my bookshelf at the names of authors ranged along the spines of books. Every single one of them, I thought, from Joseph Heller to Margaret Atwood to Jane Austen, went through what I am going through right now: creating the strong architecture of a novel on which can rest characters, situations, themes, emotions, conflicts, resolutions, inspiration, all of which need to be brought together in a coherent and satisfying whole. I feel simultaneously exhausted and thrilled.

Let’s hope this next week will be a better one in my writing world. Good luck to all the other writers out there. I also hope your week is inspiring and productive.


Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

15 thoughts on “Note to Self – the Friday ‘Fess-Up

  1. Charlotte – I am thinking of doing exactly the same as you on the authonomy site. I’m really not sure that it’s a healthy place for me to be (I was going to write about this later on). The writing retreat sounds gorgeous! And your description of Aldi Amaretto made me laugh out loud. We need to link hands spiritually with all those past authors as no one, but no one, writes without pain and frustration and uncertainty. I love the way you picture them all lined up – a shelf load of support!

  2. I am full of admiration for the discipline and hard work that you are putting into your novel … stamina and sustained effort and maintaining the forward impetus and I love the snippets of information that you let fall about your characters . I’m looking forward to reading it one day.

  3. That retreat sounds like a great idea. Make sure it’s in a neighbourhood without distractions – and I hope it pours for two whole weeks!

  4. Liking literate kitten’s ‘fess up Friday. I’m discovering so many good blogs like yours!

    This is the first I’ve heard of Authonomy. I can barely hand my drafts over to my critique group much less put them out there for the whole world to see. What I wonder is: Are there any success stories coming off it? Any novelists actually landing an agent or publisher?

    I’ll be checking in again. Have a great weekend, Lisa

  5. I think you are very brave for having put your stuff up there on Authonomy. I found with my novel-in-progress I was very interested in having people read the first couple of chapters just to see if the idea was intriguing, but after that I wanted to squirrel it away and work on it. I doubt I’ll show chapters again until it’s closer to being done.

  6. Oh your writing retreat sounds so lovely…and, yes, terrifying! I wish you an inspiring and productive week as well 🙂

  7. I think the fact that you ARE writing your book, and not just talking about it (as I do) makes you enormously admirable. I suspect that I haven’t done it because in my heart I don’t believe I have the self-discipline necessary to grind through all that slog you have described.

  8. Charlotte: You and bloggers like you, particularly on Fess Up Friday, have inspired to attempt a novel, as I have interrelated stories already half-written that need to spread their wings in a larger context. Fessing helps me get a fly’s eye view of the painstaking process. Your weekend off sounds like a delight for a mother of young children and writer.

  9. I recently came to the conclusion that this novel of mine is a marathon, no matter how desperately I want it to be a sprint. The further I go, the more work I realize I have to do when this draft is complete. I don’t know what I was thinking when I started it, but it won’t be ready to query this year, that is for sure. But I like what you say about the other writers…you are completely correct. They have all managed to do this, and so can we. It seems like we are in similar places…I definitely feel like I’m trudging through right now.

  10. Charlotte, I too am a writer. And I have big dreams. But until I read the book, Harmonic Wealth, I would settle for ordinary. Every so often, I would get inspired and jot down a few ideas for the screenplay I’ve always wanted to write, but most of the time, I would just stick with the familiar and leave it at that.

    Not anymore. Since I learned the idea of going “3-For-3”, I’ve seen big changes in my life and that dream no longer seem far fetched. I’m writing EVERY SINGLE DAY and already have the first five scenes of the screenplay completed. And I’m enrolled in a screenplay writing class!

    “3-For-3” means THOUGHTS, FEELINGS, AND ACTIONS aligned. So rather than just dreaming about writing and waiting for the story to miraculously appear, I stop and walk through those steps each evening after work: I clear my workspace, open my computer, and then go 3-for-3. I think about the screenplay coming into form, feel the joy and pleasure of the writing, and then act – and begin to type.

    I know this seems really, really simple but 99% of the time we forget to go 3-for-3. How often do you think to yourself, I’m gonna lose 15 lbs. and then never do any feeling or acting? Sometimes these things are super-simple. It’s working for me.

    Here is the link to read more about the concept of 3-for-3 in James Ray’s Harmonic Wealth:

    Good luck with the Authonomy post, and KEEP IT UP!

    a JR Fan

  11. 500 words or 5000. I think your perseverance is inspiring.

  12. The whole being yanked out of your own culture is an odd feeling, isn’t it? And how is it that the Lidl near my house is also permanently populated with Eastern Europeans? I’m sure the ASDA down the road is cheaper, but they all end up at Lidl. Haven’t seen any drinking in the parking lot yet, though!

    I admire you no end in the novel-writing department. I go through the agonies of hell just producing non-fiction pieces. Don’t think I’d cope with the stress of creating a while world & characters…

  13. Hi Charlotte,

    I’m tagging you for my Five Facts Meme.

  14. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Whilst I don’t want to appear too defensive and I know where your sentiment re. domestic workers in South Africa comes from, there are South African’s who employ domestic workers to clean (ironic considering your choice of the word ‘dirty’) and I clean my own toilet. I would hate the entire world to base their opinion of ALL white South Africans on your comment.

    This should no longer be seen as a black-white issue. I know many black and indian families with domestic workers. This is about employment of a massive unskilled labour force in this country to feed their families. I employ 10 domestic workers who support more than 100 people. As long as these jobs are seen as ‘dirty’, these employees will continue to be patronised and treated with contempt and they will continue to treat their jobs with complete disrespect (I am busy firing 3 people for stealing, poor performance and for abusing vehicles). They need to be seen as JOBS, with employment contracts, acceptable remuneration, performance reviews etc. (I am pleased to add that I was about to sit down to a performance review with my one domesitc worker when I read your blog! My staff are paid 3x the government statutory minimum wage.)

    Good luck with the book!

  15. Kerry, you make a good point and thank you for standing up for the model and humane employers like yourself. There are millions of you, black, white and Indian, who treat their domestic workers professionally and expect professional behaviour back. You are modelling exactly how the relationship should pan out. Unfortunately, there are others who don’t have this respectful, professional attitude (I have witnessed it) and like many other things that have to work their way out of the South African psyche, this will take its time to change.

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