New jobs and TV eats itself - British writer Mo Fanning

The joys of a new job

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The thing you miss most when you start a new job though is a licence to moan. As a writer this is your thing. In your old job you got to huddle round the kettle and whine about how Debbie from Accounts spends half her day on Facebook. You got to spend lunch breaks in the pub with disenfranchised colleagues setting out how you’d do things differently, if only the powers that be would listen. To be fair, it’s why you quit. It just isn’t done on the first day in a new job to roll your eyes when someone jumps up in the middle of a meeting to punch the air and whoop about how the customer is king.It’s on the tip of your tongue to stage whisper ‘Moron’, but you have to hold back. For one thing, you’re an outsider. Everyone’s been told to be on their best behaviour and not scare off the newbie. Add to which they probably have you down as a spy – or the sort who runs to the boss telling tales.

Try snorting with derision when the person assigned to talk you through processes and procedures waves lyrical about how each customer is lovely. The look you get combines disbelief with fear. They look around for the hidden camera, convinced they’re on an episode of ‘Undercover Boss’. You can’t blame them, TV these days seems to have all but done away with the script. Channel 4 might as well screen live feeds from CCTV cameras. It recently reached new levels of stupid with Gogglebox. A fly-on-the-wall documentary about people watching fly-on-the-wall documentaries. And I do know the phrase fly-on-the-wall dates me, it just feels slightly more honest than the word ‘reality’. I’m waiting for the show to sidestep into the surreal idea of Googlebox people watching Gogglebox. I’m almost sure there’s a novel in there. Or a short story at the very least.

Can you hear the writer at the back?

Moving away from TV, is it me or has the world got louder? First thing in the morning, Brighton should be populated by eye-contact-avoiding drones clutching overpriced coffee. When did people start shouting so early and needing to drive inappropriate cars over speed-bumped side roads? Why are the once empty buses now crammed full of pushchairs and pensioners? It’s making me hanker for the quiet life, me, Mr Fanning and a field, perhaps a few dogs. So what I’m saying here is buy my novel and help keep at least one more person off the streets. It could be my seat on the bus that lets you rest your weary soul. Perfect karma and all for the price of a paperback – or a digital download if you’re feeling particularly modern.

The new day job has rather got in the way of progress on a new novel. I was a good way into things when stress took over. Given this has been my life for the past two or three years, it didn’t really surprise me, though it did feel even more ill-timed that usual, given I was quite enjoying the writer work in progress. I’m back on board with it now and progressing slowly. Of course the worry remains that nobody will want to read it. The thing that keeps me going is that I would buy it. I would read it. I’m enjoying how the weaker plot points come back to haunt writer. I find myself asking ‘why would she do that’, ‘how would anyone think that could happen’ and the like. I put much of this down to my attempt to embrace the snowflake method of writing. And when I say embrace, I really mean pucker up and air kiss. The work on creating a linear plot, character studies and sample scenes is paying off.

Being a writer

I’m also tending to patchwork more than before. With a novel, I always find there are set scenes I’m looking forward to tackling as a writer. Scenes fraught with high drama or knockabout comedy. Rather than wait until they arrive naturally in the plot, I’m writing them ahead of time, then dropping them in to edit in view of what has changed since first imagined. It’s proving a good exercise in that it keeps my characters on message, they don’t do so much out of character. It’s also curbing my tendency to rush to these scenes with sketchy chapters that read like shopping lists rather than natural progressions.

Someone told me a story just the other day about a writer who hit the big time with their first book was struggling with the second. Over dinner with a fellow scribe who’d only been ‘discovered’ after writing her tenth book, he mourned the pressure. The fear lay in having missed out on making mistakes in private, well away from the critics. The ten-book veteran had all the luck, he insisted, she’d been able to get it wrong in private. A bit like when rehab child stars whine about missed youth. Having so far packed four finished novels into boxes for burning, I can only hope I’m half way to pay-dirt. And to be fair, looking back on some of those early books, burning was too good for them.

Ideas keep coming

Encouragingly, an idea for the next novel has come into my head less than midway through the current one. This is how it used to be in the glory days of first writing. It’s another noncommercial idea, but another thing I’d love to read.

So, with this I leave you, again promising to make this a more regular sort of affair, something we can set both our watches by – if I wore one. I don’t. New boss stared at me in wonder and asked how I ever get to meetings on time. Easter lies around the corner and I’m hoping for a spell of better weather. And some quiet. And of course, the chance to actually get a crack on with the new book instead of making excuses. Sound familiar to anyone?

By Mo Fanning

Mo Fanning is a British author of dark romantic comedies including the Book of the Year nominated bestseller 'The Armchair Bride', 'Rebuilding Alexandra Small' and 2022's hit holiday romcom 'Ghosted'.

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