Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Ideas sausage

I have another idea. This could be a big idea, a small idea or an idea that looms out of the mist only to retreat again but rather like the story idea I had before, its dammed ticklish. When it thinks I've forgotten it, it pops up again like, well, just like a pop up advert that the computer hasn't managed to screen out. I have taken note. 

This week I have started three new classes. There was some doubt over whether there would be enough numbers but old friends have returned and much to my amazement lots of new people have signed up. Why aren't they out there gardening or surfing or flying kites? Is it because creative writing is flavour of the month, or because they are looking for love (only one success story in that genre through my classes so far...come on people!), or is it because writing is just so brilliant. Of course, it's all of these!

Anyway, the thing is, I have had a further idea that has tacked its way onto the one above and its dead simple. I have an umbrella idea for the whole novel (remind me of this in six months) and this morning I wrote a couple of pages. Later, I felt depressed. Why would anyone want to read this? What would make them turn over? On my way here, I realised they wouldn't be turning over because what I'd written was the end not the beginning. Ho hum. So all I need to do now is stick 80,000 words or so on the front. Just about as easy as writing sausage sentences, where each word starts with the last letter of the previous word. Difficulties shall leap, pinging great tears soon. Now watch here. Eventually you understand...

Don't panic, I'm not going to write a novel in sausage sentences. Give me sorting out the M&S hanger box any day. But now my ideas are starting to string themselves together,  I'm interested to know what happens. Let's hope my readers are too.

ps new link on the left to good essay by Raymond Carver. If you don't know who he is, find out.

Monday, 27 April 2009


I have the hiccups. I'm trying to think of any books I've read where a character got hiccups and can't think of one. I wonder how I hic would write it hic if I did. There doesn't hic seem to be a good hic way of describing the hic violence hic  of the spasms hic that are currently undermining my grip hic on the world. I hic should not have hic bolted my hic food. 
God, hic and I haven't even had hic a drink. Hic

Back hic tomorrow. This hic is beginning to look like a hic  telegram. Stop.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

What happened in the end?

Last night I had a dream about the process of writing (how sad is that?) in which I was in the kitchen making a story from recipe book. 2lbs of main character, sieved, with 6oz of adversity and 2oz of resolution to be kept back then warmed up and drizzled over at the end. 

I finished the story I began last week and the end that I ended up with wasn't the same end I had in mind when I started. Something serendipitous happened along the way which took me in a different direction and led to a much more effective finish.

 I've walked round with a first line in my head for nearly a month but no story to go with it. Then I had a teeny-weeny idea for the story, very weak indeed, the equivalent of woman goes to shops, looses purse, comes back, but I got started because I have great faith in the telling and more importantly, I knew that my heroine was to come out of this story stronger than when she went in. I also had a theme, because I was writing for a competition. A theme is a useful device, but it isn't rocket science to come up with one. Think of an abstract noun: love; jealousy; anger; grief; alienation. They're all themes. It is in the concrete happenings during the story that themes are revealed.

So there were my ingredients. One line, a main character, a theme and weakest of all, a plotline.
I started. I wrote about 750 words and then scrapped 700 of them, my usual bad habit of not getting on with the plot fast enough, but also a useful exercise in which I get to know my character. I kept the theme in mind which gave me certain parameters and at about half way through, turned to the web to do a little piece of research about a road name. This was when the serendipity occurred. I'm not going to say the precise nature of what it was but it meant scrapping an entire character and a very funny scene, but it was worth it.

The significant thing, now I look back, is the ability to recognise the need to change when it occurs. During the writing process for a short story, my mind is always on it, tickling away, I glance down every avenue of possibility just in case there is a fantastic vista that way, but I've learnt to glance and not linger. Occasionally there is a fantastic vista though and you just have to go look.

Altogether, for my 2,500 word story I wrote about 3,500 or even 4,000 and it took many hours. I redrafted some inner soliloquy into dialogue for more variety and hinted at something instead of saying it directly, for more intrigue. I did keep the first line though and the last line wrote itself while I was busy trying to work out what it would be. I'll let you know how I get on.

Monday, 13 April 2009

All of a Perk.

It's holiday time and I'm feeling particularly perky this morning. The internet connection here is woeful and Twitter is over capacity. The weather is cloudy and in a minute I must get the ironing board out so that my outfit for this afternoon's family party doesn't look like a complete mess (note to self, buy crinkle fabric frocks in future). 
The reason I am feeling good is because I have a story in my head. I've worried away at the premise for a while and wrote the first couple of hundred words without knowing where I was going. Suddenly, I saw a chink of light. Now I am a happy Easter bunny. I hope you are too.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Keeper of the Book List

I am the Keeper of the Book List. It was decided last night in a brief ceremony at the close of book club that involved a few cheers, gulps from the wine glasses and, I'm sure I overheard, remarks along the line of, thank God someone else is mug enough to do it. 

Yes, I'm in a book club. You mean you're not? Then pop along to your library or bookshop and find one immediately; grovel on your hands and knees when you ask to be let in or, failing that, get a few friends together and start your own. Mine is in its tenth year and going from strength to strength. I'm still not sure who is going to like what and I am often surprised by people's choices but the fact that I have now read umpteen books that otherwise I wouldn't have even registered, let alone read, has been...well, darlings, I have to say, it's been marvellous.

This weekend I read one of Patrick O'Brian's sea faring tales. I only knew of his existence because of the movie, Master and Commander, I hadn't realised that the movie was based on a compilation of several of the twenty books O'Brian wrote starring Jack Aubrey and his doctor pal, Maturin.

Now, there's only so many technical terms for bits of sailing ship that I can take. Minus a map and with my woeful knowledge of C19th history I nearly baled out several times, but the knowledge that I would be attending the group without having read it kept me going. And guess what? On P113, I suddenly started to like it. By the end, I was quite taken. It was a very odd read though. During discussion I realised that reading the previous eighteen books might have helped understand the big story, but it didn't matter really. It didn't matter that I had to re-read bits owing to their obscurity, that I didn't understand half the plot or most of the minutiae concerning the navy and sailing ships either. What I did like was the oddity of the construction and the focus on the humdrum lives, their clothes, food, manners and the description of natural history and scientific discovery. 

Riveting, I can hear you thinking. No, it isn't exactly that, but it does cast a spell and an unexpected one. I might read another, and I suspect that's how a little obsession starts. Patrick O'Brian was completely obsessed, no question. All that research, twenty books (written in longhand) with the same two characters? Perhaps that's why I like it, because from in between the lines shines forth a lifelong passion for his subject. A dull glow to begin with, by the end, I felt positively illuminated. I was very surprised. 

Good old book group. Thanks, Penny, good choice. I'll add it to the list right away and if I work out how to copy it here, I will.