State of Play

Man, I’m looking forward to when that baby gets born so I can finally catch up on some sleep!

No, wait.

Still in the depths of a sustained busy like there has not been since I cleverly arranged to finish my Masters thesis in the weeks leading up to my wedding. Achieved the rare trifecta of working Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Unsurprise: this has severely hindered progress on Day One in the novel vs. baby race. But I am not downhearted. When I get through these weeks I might be able to put some proper time in and make up the deficit. It’s about how much I want it done, innit?

Timely link: Chuck Wendig on how to be a writer. (Thanks to the people who took a look at the opening pages of D1, by the way. Comments v. helpful.)

Right. Back to work.

that writing thing

So in the race of novel vs. baby, I’d say baby has a slight lead at present. I’m 30,000 words in but have had to slow down and go carefully so I don’t miss a corner and run completely off the road. Upside is, I know where I’m going (as much as I’ve ever known where I’m going in this writing thing) and the situation keeps giving me more to write about.

There are speed bumps too – where I start thinking too much about what’s going on subtextually or philosophically. I have a bad habit of just dragging that stuff up into text. (I don’t know that it really is a bad habit, exactly; it feels like a reaction against bad/overinflated “literary” style. But it isn’t always an appropriate for what I’m trying to do, this being a case in point.)

Ultimately I’m just trying to write some characters I care about facing difficult situations. If I get that right, then i have to trust that everything else will fall into place around it.

It’s good stuff, this writing thing.

Day One

So, following the writery thoughts inspired by yesterday’s blog post, and a chat with Billy on Monday, I sat down yesterday with my handsome moleskine and proceeded to scribble out a bunch of useful stuff on what might be the next long-form writing project. I have a bunch of notes about it already scattered here and there – I wrote what will probably be the opening line when I was last in Edinburgh in late 2008 – but this brought them together and developed them in a very pleasing way.

The idea is one that has been kicking around in my head for a decade, and it will not leave me alone. I think it’s a good, sound idea, but all it’s been this whole time is an idea – not a story. It’s one I’ve played with in several media, the only version that ever made it to other people was a role-playing game using the idea in 2005 (Lucy, Gregor, Paul and Cat took part). This version will be massively different from that one, not least because of the different demands of the form.

As with every single long-form creative project I’ve done, I’m trying a different process here. I’m working hard on development of the idea before actually setting pen to paper to write anything. Character notes, scene ideas, lines of dialogue, potential connections. Not exactly outlining, more accumulating a dense cloud of potential around the core idea and the narrative starting point. It seems like it’s working for this project, so far, the notebook pages seem to carry useful content and there’s a definite increase in value looking at what I have now compared to where I was a month ago. It still feels open and free to potential, which seems important. It might be a happy medium situation, loose enough to breathe and explore, planned enough to go somewhere reliable.

I guess that deep down I’m terrified of creating another Ron the Body. I love RtB, I think it’s a good novel and that the right publisher could make money from it. But it took years of my life to get where it is, and I can see it with enough impartiality to know that the publishers who have turned it down have done so for good reason. I still hope to find that right publisher who’ll be able to get behind it, but I don’t begrudge anyone for not taking it on. (Side note – at the Hicksville launch, I bailed up VUP publisher Fergus Barrowman and introduced myself with “You rejected my novel”. He winced, but I told him I’d really appreciated his thoughtful, insightful and ultimately encouraging letter, which I guess did enough to convince him I wasn’t about to stab him. We talked for a few minutes about RtB, and it was a very worthwhile chat.)

I don’t want another RtB. I want to make something that I am creatively passionate about which is also clearly publishable. And I want it finished and submitted swiftly! This note-taking and development process feels like exactly the right way to head in this direction. My writing efforts have been tilted in other directions the last few months, but I’m itching to get back into my own fiction, and this is likely to be the project that gets the green light. We’ll see how it goes I guess.