Sunday, 30 October 2011

Nano, Nanot

I've enjoyed this week.  Pottering about relaxing me writing muscle has helped me de-stress.  It's a funny thing how you don't notice you're stressed until the pressure is off.  There's a certain joy in doing nothing, thinking random thoughts and mucking about with things you don't usually have time for.  Even the dusting has been more fun than usual.

I had thought this week might give me a chance to come up with a brilliant idea for a new project, but it hasn't.  And to be honest the thought of churning out a frenetic load of new material so soon after finishing the last one doesn't fill me with unbridled enthusiasm.  So sadly I'm stepping down from this year's Nanowrimo.  

But those of you who are giving it a go, especially the Nano virgins trying it for the first time, I will be cheering you on and may drop into the website from time to time to see how you're doing.  Feel free to buddy me as flyingtart.  And remember the most important thing is taking part - everything else is a bonus.   

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Thank God

Now I'm on hiatus I at last have a chance to catch up with the serious business of social networking.  Don't you just hate the way your writing interrupts all those interesting forum discussions and Liking someone on Facebook?  And now of course there's Google+, not to mention Twitter.  It's a mad whirl of socialising.  If only that pesky writing didn't get in the way.

I struggle with forums, I really do.  For all my intentions to stay off the bloody things I find myself inexorably drawn back.  However much they wind me up with pointless arguments, over developed egos and plainly bad advice every attempt at staying away only results in me joining a few more. And there are lots of them these days.  

So when I do get back to the writing I may disconnect the internet, that great Thief of Time.  But for the moment I'm enjoying my little holiday and wasting time to my heart's content.  It's so interesting to know where minor celebrities buy their underwear.  Don't know how I managed for years without knowing little titbits like that.

Sunday, 23 October 2011


I should be celebrating.  Yesterday I finally stamped 'finished' on draft 3 of WIP and just to prove the point printed the whole thing off.  (At this stage I'm done with major plot tweaks so I reckon it's worth having a hard copy for future read throughs).  Yes, I know, I should be jumping up and down, kissing the cat (if I had one) and lining the living room with bunting.  But I'm not.

Maybe it's just me, but when I limp across the finish line I'm so sick of the thing it's more of a relief than a joyful starburst.  Now I just feel flat and at a bit of a loss.

With nine days till the start of Nanowrimo I am still dithering about whether to start something new.  But I'm torn.  I really feel exhausted and the thought of having to churn out 1700 words every day for a month doesn't fill me with unbridled enthusiasm.  But who knows, this time next week my juices might be flowing again.  You never know.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

My Stationery Fetish

I wrote recently about my word fetish - how's yours going, by the way?  Are you filling the OED with lots of spurious words like I told you to?

Well, words aren't my only fetish.  I also have a fetish for stationery.  

Of course it matters very much what is written on paper, but how much of buying books is to do with the feel of it?  When I was a teacher we were conscious of the importance of books as sensory objects.  The feel and smell of paper is just as important as the words in getting kids reading.  And what is true for kids is undoubtedly true for the grown up variety.

There is nothing more seductive to me than fresh smooth pages in a book.  This is why library books - and I'm not knocking libraries for a moment, I'm too scared of librarians - are never as satisfying as buying a new paperback.  Old books can't seduce us like new ones.  

And in my case it's not just printed books.  From my youngest years I've loved notebooks too.  Those little glossy red Sylvine memo books were my idea of heaven.  I've recently discovered Moleskines - not made from moles after all, but never mind - and they have that satin sheen my fetish lusts after.  What is it about clean new paper? I wish I understood.  

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The Last Scene

So I have made it to the last scene.  But it's not as simple as that.  Of course not.  

I now have two more scenes to add earlier on.  And there will be more revision later.  BUT I think I finally have a story that hangs together well enough to justify the effort.

Sometimes getting the words out is like wringing a wet towel.  My muse is resisting this job, as she does when I've been at it for a while.  She gets bored and longs for something new and shiny to play with.  But I have to be the Editor from Hell and force her to go on.  I don't particularly enjoy it, but that's the way it goes.

So happy feelings that the end is nearing, and spurred on by the prospect of thinking about something else.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Great Writers: Cormac McCarthy

I can't remember whether I already mentioned it, but I'm having a Cormac McCarthy binge.  So far I've read The Road*, No Country for Old Men, Blood Meridian, Child of God, Suttree and currently on Outer Dark.  His books are like nothing I've read before, and proof that the rule book of writing is there to be ground into the dust.  On the face of it he does everything you're advised not to do.  When I first started reading The Road I was painfully conscious of his lack of punctuation, lack of speech tags, repetition and odd grammatical - even poetic - structure.   But the odd thing is once I got past the first few pages I stopped noticing all that and became immersed in the story.  

He writes in a cinematic style that drives the narrative forward like a freight train.  There are no coy niceties here.  He deals with the horrific underbelly of human nature - characters lovingly drawn warts and all in extremis, facing or causing death, indulging the worst depravity, living on the edge of human endurance.  His images of poverty stricken America belie the American Dream and he doesn't shy away from reality or try to glamorise it.  At once it is absorbing and fascinating, repellent and disgusting.   

I love it!

*Just watched the film version of this and it's terrific.  Every inch as bleak as the book but terrific and true to the story.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Nano, Anyone?

Nights are fair drawing in, eh?  October already.  How did that happen?  And now autumn is definitely with us the prospect of Nanowrimo looms on the horizon.  Are you taking the plunge this year?

Last year I finished the second draft of WIP during Nano, so it was useful for me although I seem to remember being beset by illness and snowstorms. I'm currently nearing (hopefully) the end of third redraft of same.  If I manage to get it done and have time to outline something new I may give Nano a go.  But part of me feels the need for a break so I may just stand on the sidelines and cheer everyone else on instead.  We'll see.

How about you?  Will this year's Nano give birth to your breakthrough novel?

Sunday, 2 October 2011

A History of Film

I'm very much enjoying A History of Film, An Odyssey by Mark Cousins, currently being aired on More4 on Saturday evenings.  It's an eye opener for me to see the whole story laid out from the earliest beginnings of flickering images on a screen, the first footage of a moving train causing its audience to panic that they were about to be crushed when it entered the auditorium.  Hard to imagine now.  These days moving images are everywhere.

The interesting aspect of this series for me as a writer is the way film developed as a story telling form, probably the main story telling form of the past century.  The techniques of filmmaking can be used in novels too; the close-up, the scene cutting.  Because of the influence of movies novels have become more cinematic, more visual.  But the advantage novels have is fiction needs practically no budget and can be even more powerful because it engages the reader's imagination as the setting for its scenes.  That's why everyone's idea of how a film adaptation of their favourite book is different, and of course why it can be disappointing.  

If you haven't seen any of it, I've linked to the latest episode on the Channel 4 website.  It's worth a look.