A Post about Nothing

Forgive me followers, for I have been lax. It’s been more than a month since my last epistle. It’s not for want of material, nor lack of motivation (oh, alright, I confess – a little bit of that), it’s mostly about bad time-management. So this is a little post about nothing, just to plug the gap really.

It’s started thundering and lightning as I start to write, which I will take as a sign, but leave it to you to decide whether that’s a positive or negative. And just now, that’s joined by the sound of softly-falling rain. It’s been raining on and off for a couple of weeks now, as those royal watchers following the Harry and Meghan trail to the Invictus Games might have noticed, but I have no intention of complaining. Eastern Oz has shrivelled to a browner shade of brown over the last two years, and any stock remaining has shrivelled with it, so every time the sky clouds over, we cross our fingers and hope it falls where it is most needed. Bill, meantime, has dragged the hose out to our balconies, so he can clean the glass without disrupting our neighbours on the lower levels. Good guy, Bill. And in another example of bad time-management, instead of taking over preparing the dinner which he had started, I’ll stay here glued to the keyboard.

When I left you last, I had just sent off my manuscript for evaluation by the agent. Two years of research, give or take. Two years of writing. The bad news is, it wasn’t making the grade as a novel. To get there, I had to distort true events to a level with which I wasn’t comfortable. So, after a fruitful discussion, we agreed I would start again. This time, I am trying to structure it as a memoir. I’m 13,000 words into a first draft. I took great heart from reading an article about Markus Zusak last week. After the huge success of The Book Thief, it’s taken him thirteen years to come up with his next, The Bridge of Clay. Reading his candid interview, it seemed to me the only great difference between our experiences is that his last book sold sixteen million copies.

While waiting for the agent’s response, I busied myself with other projects which had piled up. Without going into the reasons why, I have recently come into a few collections. One of them is books. A lot of books. Around six hundred if you really want to know. Great books. Mostly non-fiction, on a range of subjects to suit an enquiring mind, with a slant towards military history, as one example. Sadly, I can’t keep them all. But I so want them to go to homes where they will be truly appreciated. In the first instance, I’m waiting for an antiquarian (which these books aren’t) and second-hand book dealer to take a look. The pedigree of Berkelouw Books goes back to 1812 Rotterdam, so their outlets are places where people go shopping for their special interest. I’ve sorted the books alphabetically by author and piled them in my hallway as a start.

It was a little tedious unpacking carton after carton, so every so often I broke away to sort the coin collection that has come to me. It’s an eclectic collection, with hundreds of coins from around sixty countries, as well as the pre-decimal and decimal Australian coins. Some have a reasonable monetary value, others simply curiosity value. I set about examining each and every coin, as I wanted to appreciate them in the same way as the giver had. To facilitate a discussion with an auctioneer, I was compiling a spreadsheet on every coin in the collection. Working through country by country, alphabetically (cause that’s how my brain works), I was up to  ‘P’ when . . . the laptop blew up.

You guessed it. I hadn’t backed up.

After trying several self-help fixes which I researched on the iPad, I decided the problem was that the motherboard had blown, taking out the monitor, and I crossed my fingers the hard-drive was intact.

I knew my eight-year-old laptop was long in the tooth, but I hate shopping, so had been putting off buying a replacement. Now I was forced out the door. Between researching, looking, talking to salesmen (and they were all men), cross-checking, procrastination, indecision, and several phone calls to my techie, another week went by. The good news is I finally made a decision, and he recovered my hard drive. That means all those photos from our Canada trip are still secure, assuming I ever get back to blogging about that trip.

And the back-up is now working properly. 11am sharp, every day.

A friend counselled me that this is a propitious moment. The universe decided it was time for new beginnings – a new laptop for a new manuscript. I may as well believe in that. I’ve got nothing to lose.

But meantime the coin collection has dropped down the priority list, pushed out by the return to memoir writing. The remaining coins may be scattered around my study for several months, perpetually stuck at “P”. And that’s before I start on the hundred or so commemorative medallions.

Oh, by the way, it’s already stopped raining again. But the sudden storm has delayed the opening of the Invictus Games by half an hour. Just enough time for me to copy edit and press publish.

35 thoughts on “A Post about Nothing

  1. When I saw the title I thought “Hello how did I get here:?”
    After reading of your good fortune in getting your trusty old laptop back, I’m feeling tempted to have my trusty old steam driven ASUS looked at, I’d just love to have my old Windows 7 and all the goodies that I’m missing, more than I miss the War Office, when she toddles off for another brief holiday without me 😀 That was a beauty that storm, haven’t seen one like that for yonks!
    My Coco went bananas 😈

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had to grudgingly accept Windows 10 in the changeover, but it’s proving to be not too painful.
      As I mentioned in an earlier comment, it is worth weighing up the costs of upgrading versus replacement, but my friend is ecstatic with his $500 upgrade.


  2. I loved reading this post, and the comments on it, Gwen. It is such a fantastic slice of life, I can thoroughly identify with. Life doesn’t happen all neat and tidy among the words of our blog post, but in the chaotic day-to-day realities. I struggle these days just to get one post out a month! Yet, life has not stopped. It is a tad messy at the moment, and my desire to get excited about writing blog posts has dwindled to something that is barely alive. Yet, I’ve just lumbered through a third edit on a novel that has been slow in the making, and now it needs to go to an editor to see if it is worth persisting with the project, or dump it in the bin. I often encounter advice that reads “write the book you want to read”, which is great, but not necessarily what publishing houses would like to sell. And then there is self-publishing . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jolandi. What a lovely comment!
      I think in some respects it was easier to write my first book, because the idea that it would ever get published was so unbelievable that I never really bought into the idea. And maybe the publishers knew I would be a one-hit wonder, as they didn’t sign me up to a second.

      Now, I do find myself angsting over the thought that an agent or publisher is “so not going to like this”.
      I absolutely endorse your plan to get an external edit. Self-publishing is no longer a vanity option, just as long as you know you are putting out the very best version you can. Any editor worth their salt won’t tell you to dump it in the bin, but they should be honest enough to tell what is working, and what is not – and hopefully, provide suggestions for how to fix the later.
      My agent, although she is telling me a form of “dump it” is coming from the perspective of what she can pitch to a publisher. We did discuss sending the novelised version to an editor, before coming down in favour of a re-writing it as a memoir.
      She may also feel the current ms is unpitchable, but I feel so strongly about it, that I too may try the self-publishing route eventually if it comes to that.

      And good luck with all your current projects. Perhaps the Portugal renovation work may have a hiatus over winter? It will give you a chance to refill the coffers I imagine.


      • I love how you are tackling this re-write with so much positive energy, Gwen. And I am sure it will be just wonderful. You are a gifted storyteller, and memoir, I think, is one of the most difficult genres to get just right. And you certainly did with your first book.

        Self-doubt is such a crippling enemy that writers have to face, but I also love the fact that editors exist to help us along the path.

        Michael is heading to Portugal mid-November for a quick week. (Far too cold and primitive at the moment for me!) They will sink our borehole then, and he has some land clearing he want to take care of, although for that, we have called in the help of Frank the Digger, once more. You are quite right about refilling the coffers, Gwen. We need a bit of a break. Perhaps until spring.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It is so good to hear from you again. If I might make one observation regarding the ‘bad news’ and the fact that ‘it didn’t make the grade’. If ever anyone was only ever permitted to write one book, then I wish I had written a book as wonderful and important as “I belong to no one.” But I don’t imagine you will ever rest on your laurels.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much. You are such an ardent supporter and I appreciate that. Truly, madly, deeply.

      I reread a portion of my memoir the other day and I was surprised just how different the tone of this current manuscript is. I’ve written several versions now, but the voice keeps coming out the same. Odd. But then – I don’t really know what I’m doing!

      I had fun writing the failed version/s. All the same, I feel much more comfortable writing the current one. But it’s growing a bizarre structure that I doubt will be accepted. Let’s see where it leads.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Gwen – you are the only person I know that can write so well about “nothing”. Excellent blog! You will get there with your book and, every now and then, just have a look at the coins and you’ll get two jobs done in one!!


  5. Oh how very, very annoying about the book, but slightly better news on the laptop and, hooray, some rain at last.

    I am interested after reading about your manuscript about the difference between a novel and a memoir with regard to publication. Is it to do with the marketing of the finished book? Do your publishers know it is a different readership for a novel about the past to a memoir? I would have thought there was a sizeable overlap of people. What is the difference between a family saga novel and a memoir of a family – is it that one is purely fictional and the other has some facts? I suppose, as usual, it comes down to economics and the publisher’s bottom line.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My great-grandmother went through many struggles, including a divorce in 1890ish, and culminating in dying in an asylum for destitutes.

      As a novel, readers (apparently) can’t deal with such harsh, grim reality. I had to have her triumphing over the setback of the divorce, not becoming a victim as a consequence of it.

      There is a preponderance of commercial women’s fiction aka chick-lit, and if my book was put in the “novel” genre, then it would compete in that market for sales. Some are good, some are really the modern version of Mills and Boons. I struggle to read much of it, and usually only do so to compare and learn from the structure.

      Yet many of the books I throw away impatiently get five star reviews on Goodreads, so yes – the readership is quite different.

      I thought I was writing a family saga – but again, it was too realistic. So I have switched from third person to first person (the dreaded “I”, but a trademark of a memoir), and at the moment my tenses are all over the place from present to past and a touch of future (that will probably earn me the cane). I can’t foresee that approach to tenses will survive an external edit.

      My problem at the moment is that the manuscript as it is may not be interesting enough to rise above someone writing their deathly boring family history. Doubtful it will attract a publisher in its current format. But if you had to make a comparison, then we would be marketing to the type of person who prefers to read a biography.

      For this attempt, to inject a bit more colour and drama, so that it reaches that overlap you refer to, I’m probably better re-reading “Searching for the Secret River” by Kate Grenville as a role model of how to do it.

      Nevertheless, I “plod” along getting words on paper. My theory is you can’t edit what you haven’t written. . . . and by the way, at the moment I am blending fiction into it, but again, I may be chastised severely. In essence, I am back to what I meant to do in the first place. . . . that style that Thomas Keneally called “faction”. But he used that when writing Schindler’s Ark (movie Schindler’s List) and if you remember, even that had a happy ending (via those who survived and triumphed).

      I have sympathy for publishers. It’s not that they are deliberately trying to put us down. But in today’s economic climate, they can only take on what they think will sell. No more room for being experimental just for the sake of it. They are only reflecting what the populace wants to read :(-

      So the outcome is, once they find an author that people want to read, then they stick with that author, give them a multi-book deal, and we see the story churning out, over and over.

      Meantime, we “newbies” have to come up with something that will compete against that if we are to be considered.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oh wow Gwen, thanks for your info and views. It looks like you hold a clear and succinct overview of the world of publishing fiction and I suspect many other authors, published writers, newbies and the unpublished, will recognise the situation you describe.

        I don’t see what’s wrong with adding colourful interpretation to facts as long as there is a core of authenticity for a memoir. Let’s face it nobody really wants to know what everyday real life is truly like second by second – you breathe in, your breathe out – but I thought folk were still interested in vicariously experiencing people’s tragedies even without a happy ending. Perhaps in these times of political and social upheaval it is that people only want a soothing, feel good conclusion? Unvarnished reality is harsh and there really aren’t any happy endings. (I have just finished watching a rerun of the 1995 BBC TV adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and the saccharine ending particularly jarred despite it being a book I have enjoyed reading more than once.) Maybe we are hunkering down and publishers simply offer more of the same familiar, reassuring escapism, as you say, they know will sell.

        I can still hear various lecturers discussing truth and authenticity especially considering autobiography and pretty much concluding it was all more like ‘personal fiction’ as individuals self-selected their preferred versions of their lives. By that score it looks like ‘faction’ is beckoning.

        On the preference for happy endings you might like to take a quick look at this pre financial crash article – I suspect the sentiment has become more entrenched. https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2006/mar/02/books.booksnews

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Two years of writing is a big investment—I admire your ability to ‘pick yourself-up by the bootstraps’ !’m sure I wouldn’t be able to do it! So congratulations on starting again. I’d love to hear more about this book as you publish your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is a big investment – yes and no. My memoir (shameless plug attached) was ten years from first word to first sale. This current work is a story I am determined to tell, but I doubt I will pull it off to a publisher’s satisfaction. I sometimes talk about it in posts, but it is a little like counting chickens before they hatch. I could end up with a lot of egg on my face – to push that metaphor to its extremities 🙂 lhttps://www.amazon.ca/Belong-No-One-Gwen-Wilson/dp/1409164896/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1540201692&sr=1-1


  7. Life does have some strange twists and turns. I need a new laptop too (not that mine has stopped working but it was only one of those mini-laptops with not much memory and even less staying power in the battery – it last for less than two hours) BUT we do not yet have fibre broadband in our village – despite all the cabling put in last year – and seemingly no chance of getting it any time soon, I’d quite like a storm to knock out our exchange so we have to have a new one.
    Good luck with the re-write – and the cataloguing – sounds like fun!! Our university library was left 13,000 + books a few years ago
    https://www.glyndwr.ac.uk/en/AboutGlyndwrUniversity/Newsandmediacentre/Newsarchive/PressReleases2013/GoldsteinLibrary/ – the most exciting thing about cataloguing them were all the strange items Professor Goldstein had used as bookmarks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What an amazing legacy, and a great coup for the university. Many of these books have passages marked in pencil, and then the page number cross-referenced at the front. It’s very interesting to see what.resonated with the reader.

      I’ve just been getting my grand-daughter’s 18 month old Chromebook operational again The biggest problem is storage, and every time Microsoft send an update it gobbles up all the free space. Really, it’s just a glorified tablet. I bought it for her schoolwork, but wouldn’t choose that again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I had the same problem with my mobile phone – the updates take up more and more memory – I think it’s their way of making us buy new every couple of years – I try not to get the updates if I can.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. The storm was dramatic in Pyrmont. Front came over as a huge alien mothership of cloud pitchforking lightning among the populace. And we are off to the Invictus basketball on Friday. My boss is frontline organiser for the educational aspect of it all. She gets to met Harry and Meghan as well!!!


    • It passed through quickly here, but the cloud mass that had formed over the ocean, close to shore, was weird, like clouds within clouds enclosed in a huge rectangle a mile or so long. Very strange.

      I see you are still in Pyrmont – I wondered . . . had to go to a physio recently and she is covering the Australian Invictus team. It will be exciting to be there in person. Enjoy!


  9. Those projects sound daunting Gwen! Good luck with everything, including your manuscript. It’s been heavenly weather here in Berlin but next week the pattern is expected to change and we’ll have rain and more winter-like temperatures – break out the long underwear. Trying to figure out my next stop after December – thinking Malta and a warmer climate.

    Liked by 1 person

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