A Novel Idea

Posts Tagged ‘Food

I’m not a starving artist, I’d never let it get to that stage. I’m also not flush with cash.

I’m of the belief that you do your best work when you’re not distracted by hunger, family dramas or daytime soapies.

Saturdays are splurge day. A recharge day which is not as frugal as the rest of the week.

It starts with a sleep-in. Strangely I need much less of a sleep-in since becoming a full time writer even though I’m working harder than I did in my demanding corporate career.

Next I have a real coffee from the local cafe. Smooth thick crema. No more than a hint of bitterness.

Saturdays are not all relaxation and rainbows (although yesterday I saw a double as the rain cleared).

I have to run the grocery gauntlet, but Connor does the heavy lifting, so it’s not so bad. In fact this weekend’s shop is likely to be the most enjoyable all year – A4 paper was on special. I now have a year’s supply.

Saturday night dinner is the most extravagant of the week. It involves a bottle of wine and a dish that takes longer than you’re prepared to spare of a weeknight.

Last night was grilled salmon with potatoes dauphinoise accompanied by corn and glossy green beans.

I can highly recommend the version in The fundamental techniques of classic cuisine by The French Culinary Institute.

We’re talking creamy cheese potatoes but more decadent than a simple au gratin.

This perhaps sounds like a fancy-smancy meal but it’s actually not that expensive. We go to the source for fish which means we pay at least a third less and it tastes amazing.

The Gruyère cheese in  potatoes dauphinoise makes the dish. It’s earthy and morish. In small quantities it’s affordable.

Similarly if you’re a meat-eating writer on a budget, don’t go the supermarket steak option. Make steak the special dinner it used to be. Eat it once a month and you can afford top-end happy cows.

If you don’t like food, I don’t see how you can be a good writer.

Good writers transport you into the character’s world. You can not only see and hear it, but you can smell it, taste it. Touch it.

Patrick Suskind’s novel Perfume is an extreme example of this. The protagonist has a perfumer’s nose so the olfactory is heightened in description.

I once read Helen Keller’s description of being stuck in a tree as a thunderstorm emerged. She used her other senses to make us feel the texture of her fear.

If you allow yourself to fully experience life, with all of your senses you can capture those on the page.

Write well. Write often.


(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

  • In: Food
  • Comments Off on Little luxuries

I promised I’d tell you what I missed about giving up my corporate job to become a writer. As I’m writing my first novel, until I get published, many budget items once considered essential have fallen victim to the saving knife.

Some expenses are easy to give up. So much of what a professional woman spends on herself is about how she looks to outsiders.

What I’ve given up:

  • Daily wake-up cappucino – Cafe coffee has become a twice a week treat. It’s a lot easier to work without caffeine when you love what you do.  Now when I do sip the silky milky brew I actually notice the buzz afterwards. 
  • Manicure, Pedicure – I can do this myself. In fact I’m branching into colours I would ‘tut-tut’ at in an office setting.
  • Haircut – Unfortunately my hair is not simple to cut. More like wrestling with Medusa. I can’t do it myself. I figure I can move from monthly to quarterly trims.
  • Clothing – Not needed (new pieces that is).
  • Dry cleaning – Generally not needed. I would say get rid of it altogether but I managed to shrink my crepe silk frock by hand washing it myself. Sob.

The list goes on.

What do I miss right now?

Lunch money.

I was never one to eat a bought lunch everyday. At first it was to save money for the next holiday or just to get ahead. As I progressed in my career, bringing my own lunch became a tactical necessity and time saver. Meeting over-run? No problem – I’ve brought leftovers. 

Once a week, to escape the office, I would have a sit down lunch somewhere. Often it would be Sushi. Soft pink salmon, perfectly cooked rice and a hint of wasabi. A hot bowl of miso soup. Tempura prawns. Sushi’s not just a meal, it’s an experience. I loved watching the chef turn mighty slabs of fresh fish into delicate dishes.

Sometimes I’d have a craving for pasta. Or a deli sandwich. Ham and cheese croissant.

Everything tastes better when someone else is making it for you.

Lunch today was a salami and cheese melt on rye bread with a little side salad. Prepared at home at half the cost of a bought lunch. If only I had a cleaning up fairy.

I’m not complaining though. Whether I’m eating peanut-butter sandwiches for a week straight or drinking tea to keep warm this winter rather than running up a heating bill, I’m fortunate. I have a luxury people much richer cannot always claim: time.

I intend to spend it wisely.

Write well. Write often.


(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

  • In: Food
  • Comments Off on The chocolate is safe

Today’s word count: 1,236.

  • In: Uncategorized
  • Comments Off on What I don’t want to admit

Here I am, brazenly quitting my job, delaying my dream wedding by a year, turning us into a frugal one-income household. All so I could write. So I could let the novel clanging around my brain escape and get paid for it.

It was all going so well.

I banged out three chapters. I had people read it (people who have no incentive to stroke my ego). They liked it. Wanted to read more.

I got brave. I sent it into a competition.

I kept going. Chapter four materialized.

Then I did something that sounds like a really good idea for a beginning writer.

I went to a writer’s festival.

The Sydney Writers Festival.

That was last weekend. I haven’t written a new word since.

OK, that’s an exaggeration. I have written this blog. I have also edited my previous words. I’ve handed in a university assignment. I’ve texted.

But I haven’t furthered my story by even one new word all week.

Why? I’ve been asking myself this since Monday afternoon.

I have a daily word target. 800 words a day, 6 days a week. That may seem a lot, or it may seem miniscule to you. I’m not a fast writer. At least not so far. I currently owe my story 3,200 words. ACK!

Why this debt of words? I blame the festival.

The highlight of the weekend was sitting approximately 5 metres away from Peter Carey, listening to him discuss his new novel, Parrot and Olivier in America. This made me feel good. He seemed like any other person, albeit with an exceptional talent.

I went back for a second day of back to back author panel discussions. I absorbed.

I pondered.

I came to the realization that though my novel has a clear ‘voice’, I don’t know my characters well enough to write purely in their ‘voices’. This is a problem.

It’s not that I don’t know my characters. I know what they want, I know their fears. I know their passions. Yet somehow I’m still not fully in their heads.

How do I know this?

The dialogue. The words of the main character and his sidekick are virtually interchangeable.

If they were fully formed characters that wouldn’t happen.


Clearly it’s not the festival’s fault. Being in the presence of so many authors, talking about their own work, sometimes entertainingly, sometimes not, made me examine my own.

Essentially I’m not letting myself write because I don’t really know what I’m doing.

I know enough to string sentences together, but I have a gap. An experience gap.

I’ve never written at novel length before. I’ve never had to construct characters of such depth.

I’m worried this is going to take some time to ease into. I don’t have the luxury of time.

I have a deadline. I’ve sent the first three chapters into a competition. If, by some wonderful happening my work actually rates a mention and makes it ‘on the list’, I have to cough up the manuscript. The full manuscript.

I now have 30 days to write another 37,000 words. Not only do I need to snap out of this not writing limbo, but I have to bump up my daily word count by more than 50% to 1233 words.


Deep breath.

I’m playing hard-ball. No chocolate until the 1,233 words are written and saved each day. No, that’s not consequential enough.

Unless I write at least 1,233 words each day, the entire chocolate stash is being thrown out.

That’s more like it. Connor has a sweeter tooth than I do. If I have to throw out the weekly chocolate ration, there’ll be hell to pay.

Write well. Write often.


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  • Violet: Thanks Alannah :) Apologies for not replying sooner: I'm finally catching my breath and the year is almost over!
  • Alannah Murphy: I remember your first post, way back when I had my old Here Be Dragons blog, and I am glad you are still writing. We all find out, sooner or later, ho
  • Violet: Good to hear that Aaron. Good Luck with your work.