Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Friday ‘Fessing


I went on a writing retreat and wrote 12,000 words.

But you already know that.

Instead of reflecting this Friday, I am going to state my goals for the coming week. These are:

1. Plug the gap in Chapter 8 and send it to the cheerleaders

2. Start Chapter 9

3. Refrain from indulging in negative thinking

4. Keep exercising

Simple isn’t it?

So while I don’t have anything more to say about the writing process, I do have something to say about reading. Writing fulltime (or as fulltime as a mother-of-three with freelance writing gigs and a gym habit can be) has turned me into a Very Intolerant Reader. A book that I would usually persevere with gets tossed aside if it doesn’t hit buttons in the first few paragraphs.

The books that have hit buttons this week:

1. The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam by Lauren Liebenberg

A poetically-told tale of two sisters growing up on a Rhodesian farm at the height of the bush war. Funny observations of adults by children. Ends with a dark twist. Beautiful.

2. The Chameleon’s Shadow by Minette Walters

A return to form from this writer of superb psychological thrillers. A soldier disfigured by a bomb in Iraq returns to London and is under suspicion for a number of violent rage-filled crimes.

3. The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy by Fiona Neill

Reading popcorn that provoked the question, am I a slummy mummy? Are any of my friends? And if so, do we care?

Books that have failed to push buttons:

1. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This has been given to me twice by people whose reading tastes coincide with mine, and both times I couldn’t get beyond the first paragraph. For another day, no doubt.

2. Personality by Andrew O’Hagan

The story of a little Scottish girl with a big voice who goes on the talent circuit and finds fame. The premise doesn’t really interest me, but I picked it up at book-club and am persevering with it out of literary interest. O’Hagan uses a variety of perspectives to tell his story: first person, third person, letters, screenplay-style dialogue. It has not caught me emotionally and if the person I borrowed it from wanted it back tomorrow, I wouldn’t feel deprived, but I am studying his shifting perspectives to see if the novel works as a whole.

3. Teacher Man by Frank McCourt

I lasted about 40 pages. This is another exercise in ego from McCourt – his third book All About Himself, with frequent faux-modest references to his own fame. If you’d like to read the “Irish yokel done good in NYC thanks to naked talent” story all over again, then read this book. If you want insights into the teaching process and sensitive remarks on the making of teenage minds, then don’t.

Good luck with your writing week, dear writer friends. I will be trolling past, via the lovely Literate Kitten, to see how you have been doing.


Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

13 thoughts on “Friday ‘Fessing

  1. 12,000 words!!!!! Wooooohoooo!

    You’re awesome!

  2. You are doing beautifully – I am so psyched for you. Now that you are deeper into your process, are you finding it harder or easier? I think I am now emotionally involved much more, and more determined than ever to make this a good, smart book but I also feel farther from the completed product than I did when I began!

  3. If you have any advice on that “Refrain from negative thinking” goal, could you please share it. Meanwhile, you’re description of Frank McCourt is exactly why I never read anything other than Angela’s Ashes. I have a friend who’s been pushing Minette Walters on me for some time. Must get around to reading her.

  4. I’m so glad to read that you can’t get off the ground with some books that come highly-recommended by others. I have dutifully slogged through so many books in my lifetime, and only in the past year came to the conclusion that if the book can’t pull me into itself, I just can’t finish reading it.

    I used to feel it was some kind of sin to borrow or buy a book and then not read it.

  5. I so need to set some proper writing goals. Last night I ate half a bar of Lindt chocolate and thought about writing, which isn’t quite sufficient, is it?! Funnily enough, the book I’m reading is one that I had been about to toss aside because it was hitting no buttons… then suddenly it got so good! It’s turning into one of the best books I’ve ever read. Weird… I’m glad I never abandoned it. The reason I didn’t was because, being honest, I couldn’t be bothered to start a different book. I’m feeling so idle right now.

    My Grandma (who lived in Ireland during the same era and *knew*) said that Angela’s Ashes was a load of made-up codswallop and he sensationalised the whole thing. Despite knowing that, I did quite enjoy it but the next book was far too “I’m great”.

    Well done on the 12,000 words – now that is going to be an inspiration to me to get off my backside and do something!

  6. I’m always reading several books at a time and never get through them all. With nonfiction, I feel I’ve gotten the gist half-way through. With fiction I decide I could care less what happens to the characters.

  7. Charlotte, that’s such a cool “Friday fessing” sentence – “I went on a writing retreat and wrote 12,000 words.” I think you are the new inspiration for the Friday fessing group (or at least for me). Tomorrow I’m going back to the gym for starters!

    Book-wise I’m also Interested in the Liebenberg and I have some vague idea that I like O’ Hagan, although I agree with you that the premise of this book doesn’t look riveting. And it’s nice to have vague misgivings about McCourt’s subsequent books confirmed.

  8. Wow, Charlotte, absolutely inspiring you are!

    And you are right, there are so many books out there, if they don’t grab the attention within a few paragraphs or pages, out they go. Our time is precious, and what we put into our minds, ditto.

    You go, girl! I am really impressed by your FOCUS!

  9. You’re doing better than me Charlotte. I have not been on a retreat though there have been times when I’ve wanted to run screaming away from the world, and I feel I’m lucky to have managed about 12 words in the last month. I’m off to look for The Voluptuous delights… I too am reading intolerant due mainly to severely curtailed reading time so I get really upset if I’ve wasted it!

  10. I agree on the reading intolerance stance, there is so much to read out there, so let’s only ready the better stuff. I agree about the Waterforelephants – I got to the end but did not really twig why it was meant to be SOOO good. I think I will find myself agreeing with you on Personality, I really must learn my lesson and never bother with books that are not recommended by my 3 Reliable Recommenders (one of which is you! ) Your positive list does look good though…

  11. Good for you, Charlotte, for chucking away writing that doesn’t absolutely fascinate you. I am very intolerant and can get into only about one book in three. Even ‘best sellers’ hyped by the New York Times, have turned me off. The same thing happens to our own work. We might charm one reader and displease three others.

    Please do not entertain negative thoughts. Forti nihil difficulius ——- nothing is too difficult for the brave. You may laugh, but an absolutely positive approach to everything in life is an amazing stimulant and will get you everywhere you want to go.

    If you think you can’t solve a problem; or, on the other hand, if you think you can solve that problem, you will be right both times. I urge you to believe this. I have experienced it so many times in my life.

    Walk on the sunny side of the street.



  12. Yea! It been fun catching up with what you’ve been doing. Sounds like you are headed for a wonderfully productive summer.

  13. Woohoo! 12,000 words!!! Tell that negative voice that you’ll listen another time, you’re on a roll and it is not useless what you are writing!! it all serves a purpose……what is the Friday Fess up, if I can ask? Not that I’ve been doing any writing lately, though that voice is nagging constantly and spiders are starting to fall on me, so I know it’s time again. And hurray for putting books aside you don’t want to read right now. Great post, Charlotte!!

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