Friday 19 September 2008

I'm Back, Tired But Happy

I'm sorry about the pic, but I just couldn't help myself. I arrived home yesterday afternoon and eventually managed to catch up with Lost in Austen and laughed (in delight and surprise) at the Darcy water scene (bliss). Sorry, I shall now engage my brain and get on with my post.

Essentially I popped over to London to attend the RNA talk given by Penny Vincenzi, although I also made the most of the time by meeting up with my good friend Andrea. I haven't seen her for a while, so we spent an exhausting day shopping, chatting (sis and Ma were there too) in a lovely little pub and then Rach (sis), Ma and I bade fairwell once more to our pal and we tootled off for an evening of merriment at my step-brother Alan's new house, where my step-father was waiting for us to return (probably enjoying a bit of peace, I should think). Great fun, but I'm still getting over it all.

What a lovely person Penny Vincenzi is. She entertained us all for an hour telling us anecdotes on how each book was written. Basically, Penny doesn't plot in detail but starts every book with a 'what if' in her mind. For example, what if someone came into a huge amount of money, what would happen and how would they deal with it. In 'Windfall', she tells the story of a doctor's wife and the repercussions of this happening to her.

In her present book, An Absolute Scandal, she writes about 'what if' you lost everything. This book, which I've started and am loving, is about the Lloyds scandal in the 1980s, the devastation it caused when people involved lost their fortune.

Most of us find that at some point in writing our books, we get to a part where the story seems to stop and doesn't somehow work. Penny was asked if this ever happens to her and if so, what does she do in this situation. She answered that she doesn't stop writing and go shopping, what she does do is go back to where the story was working, delete the part that didn't and then go forward again. She once deleted 20,000 words and although it was painful, at least she knew what didn't work and then continued with what did.

She said that her characters tell her what they will and won't do and at times they surprise her. She describes how she killed off one character and although she hadn't expected to do so, knew that it had to happen. Mind you, she did receive hate mail when the book was read as the character was loved by so many.

Someone asked how she edited her work and she said that she starts by reading what she'd written the previous day and edits this as she goes through it and then when she reaches the end, she keeps writing.

Penny was also asked if she sets out to write a certain word count each day. She said that she didn't, but does write for a certain amount of time each day and has even written as many as 7,000 words in one day. It takes her one year to write each book, and given that her present book is 881 pages long, I think that's pretty good going.

At the end of the talk, she was kind enough to sign my book. I thoroughly enjoyed her talk and found it not only interesting to learn how she works but also enjoyed her anecdotes. More than anything I learned that despite having written (I believe) fourteen wonderful books, she is very disciplined and doesn't use a difficult days writing as an excuse to take a break from her work. She sits down and works through it and keeps going until it's finished.

Oh no, I've just realized that the dog is due to be clipped in 25 minutes and I'm not dressed yet. Opps.


Pat Posner said...

Glad you had such a good time, Debs, and thank you for sharing the Penny V talk.
I hope Grumpy 'enjoys' his trim *smile*.

Kerry said...

Glad you have a lovely time!!

Tamsyn Murray said...

Sounds like a lovely day was had by all. Penny does sound lovely, if rather enviable!

Lane Mathias said...

Glad you had a lovely time.
I love hearing how writers work. Thanks Debs:-)

One more Lost in Austen. How will it end I wonder?

Jenny Beattie said...

Thank you for the picture Debs. Yum yum.

HelenMWalters said...

Sounds like a fascinating talk. Glad you got so much out of it.

Carol said...

I don't write but still find it fascinating learning how other people do it!! I don't think I could sit down and write a novel....even if my life depended on it so am always in awe of anyone that can!!

Lovely pic as usual :-)

C x

Helen said...

It's funny but I didn't think much of this Darcy actor (Colin Firth has a lot to live up to), until he got into the water and loosened up a little!

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

pat posner - PV was very interesting.

R has gone to collect Grumpy from his ordeal. No doubt he (G not R) will sulk for a few days now.

kerry - thanks, it was great fun.

tam - I would love to be able to write like she does, mind you I would love to earn my living writing full stop. Ah, I can dream.

lane - I love that too.

I'm loving Lost in Austen and was wondering the same thing. Also, when will be see Elizabeth Bennett again, or will Amanda end up with Darcy, so exciting.

jj - he is rather delicious, isn't he?

helenmh - it was certainly worth going to.

carol - glad you like the pic, I just couldn't help myself.

helen - I was glad that he lightened up a bit too, and thought it clever of the director (or whoever decides these things) to have the water scene.

Amanda said...

Don't be sorry about the pic ... I can live with that. :-))

Thank you for sharing your experience of listening to Penny Vincenzi, very interesting. It's good to hear how writers tick.

Flowerpot said...

Sounds a great day Debs. I love Lost in Austen too but I had to tape the last 20 minutes - just remembered!

Karen said...

Great post Debs! I LOVE Penny Vincenzi and have read every single one of her books, having discovered her years ago - I'm eagerly awaiting her next one!

Amazing that she writes a book a year, considering how long they are, and it's inspiring that she just ploughs through no matter what. Something I definitely need to take on board :o)

I bet Grumpy's looking dapper now!

Unknown said...

Must remember to keep asking myself 'what if' as I'm working on wip......thanks for the report and the photo - lost in Austin isn't here :-(

Melissa Amateis said...

I think I would have to lay in bed and eat copious amounts of chocolate if I had to delete 20,000 words. :-)

Christina Phillips said...

I love finding out how other writers work! And I'm horribly guilty of caving when the going gets tough - though I'm trying hard to keep my bum on the chair and work through the blocks now!!

Troy said...

I have so much admiration for a good author. I know I could never do it in a million years.

Even the best films fall well short of the books they are based on. So much better in the mind's eye.

Lost In Austen has been brilliant - so clever. I wonder what book they might try this formula on next?

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

annie bright - you obviously have great taste in men too :)

Glad you liked the report.

flowerpot - I like to tape it and watch it without teenagers and husband laughing at it whilst I try and enjoy it.

karen - she is incredible and was actually awaiting a call from her editor to let her know if the ed was happy with the book that she's just finished.

G looks v handsome, but is traumatized, as usual.

liz - I have written 'What If?' on a post-it in bright red ink and stuck it on the shed wall in front of my eyeline to make sure I keep remembering this.

Lost in Austen is certainly a different take on P&P but great fun.

melissa marsh - I tend to lie on my bed and eat copious amounts of chocolate for far less traumatic experiences, in fact, any excuse will do for me :)

christina phillips - I'm having to practically glue myself to the chair at the moment as I'm working through the corrections I need to make for HH&S.

east anglian troy - I agree, I always prefer the book to the film and like to have read it first before watching the story on screen.

Loving LiA, I think it's so much fun and would be interesting to see what else they can do it with.

Anny Cook said...

Ah, how lovely to find someone else that uses the "what if?" formula. Of course, my books always end up waaaay off the trail, down in the ravine somewhere, but they're fun so I suppose that counts. Thanks for sharing her notes!

I'm deeply envious of your shed!

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

Thanks for coming by. I need to remember 'what if?' but usually get so involved and probably way off trail too.

I love the shed, it's peaceful although rather untidy with paper/books/pens everywhere :)

Annie Wicking said...

Thank you for your picture... Now I know what you get up to in your shed.... I would wander across a river for such a view...

Great blog too

Annie W

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

Annie wicking - he is rather wonderful isn't he?