Wednesday, 21 December 2011

SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE

Well, that’s about it for another year. Time to hunker down by the fire, with a glass of something, a book or two. Catch up with friends, family. Make an arse of myself on New Year’s Eve.

Thank you for all your lovely comments and encouragement. Apologies for several barren spells; on the 31st I’ll resolve to post more frequently!

I wish you much peace and happiness over the festive period. And despite my godlessness being on the fundamentalist side, I’ll leave you with a carol. Until next year. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

SHORT STORY COMPETITION


It's (almost) here. Short FICTION's 6th Annual Short Story Prize.

First Prize - £500 + publication

Runner-up - £100

Entry is £10, which lets you submit two stories, plus gets you a copy of our next issue (worth £10).

All stories are also considered for publication.

What are you waiting for? Get polishing those stories. Details here.

And come and 'like' our FB page to keep in touch.

Friday, 9 December 2011

LITERARY MASTURBATION


I’m coming to the end of the book’s final edits, changes suggested, though not insisted upon, by my editor. We’re not talking wholesale dismantling here, the culling of a main character, dramatic alterations in plot or tense. More the last brushstrokes, correcting slips in voice, a scene that’s been under- or over-played.

But there was one section I found hard to banish. A moment my character reflects on a number of philosophical issues germane to her situation. I felt it was, er-hum, very well written. Clever, even. It revealed an insight, not only into her intellect, but allowed me to demonstrate a passion and eloquence for a subject matter that resonates greatly for me. And this is where the alarms should have rung loud. Fortunately they did for my editor, who saw it for exactly what it was: literary masturbation of the highest order. Authorial voice, a pretentious one at that, had permeated what was until then a perfectly adequate piece of narration. Like an opportunistic egoist I’d hijacked the scene for my own garrulous needs.

And so, with much reticence, a little resentment and one eye shut, I did the necessary: highlight and delete. (Or if you think something meritorious for a future outing: highlight, cut and save elsewhere.)  It really hurt. Hours had been spent. But with the hindsight of a day or two, I see the sense it made.

Be prepared to kill those darlings. Especially the ones that excite you most.

Monday, 5 December 2011

DANCING WITH DEMONS


So, the next book. Barring some final tweaks to the previous, it’s all about the next novel now. And considering the Orwell quote down there in the sidebar (‘Writing a book is like a long bout of painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if not driven by some demon’), I thought I’d reflect a little before launching myself proper into the next abyss.

Yes, this time there’s a certain necessity to it: I’ve signed a deal for two books, so am contractually bound. There’s a deadline involved too.

But fear-inducing as this could be, it isn’t going to be the factor that compels me to return again and again, day after day, month after month, to do battle with a flashing cursor, to dance with Orwell’s demon.

And some dance it is. Self-doubt: in my ability, in the book itself. The sheer scale of the beast: it’s not just that you have to write 100,000 words, they have to be flipping good. The stamina required: it’s tough enough when things go well, with the book and life in general, but you can’t only write in the good times. The isolation. The endless revision/re-drafting. Elements of plot that won’t come together. Characters who won’t behave. I’m not bemoaning the dance – it is, after all, one I’ve chosen. But there were several times, deep in the long months / years of composition last time round, that I swore (Steve Redgrave-esque) never to do this again again: If you see me anywhere near a pen, you have my permission to shoot me. I at least thought I’d do something else in between – a play, another story collection, find my much neglected guitar.

But I realized my fiction almost always emerges from a unifying concept, a single theme and event, in a very visual, almost filmic way. The characters and setting and plot all follow. And so once this is in place, risen from my subconscious, my primordial swamp, it gathers momentum almost regardless of me. And this particular idea, this mise-en-scène, came to me months ago, when I didn’t have time to nurture and indulge it. So it was banished to the dark corners of my mind, where it seems it’s been lurking, a parasite to my thoughts and memories and dreams, coalescing them all before allowing the slow secretion of narrative possibilities. Sleep is disturbed, every day ephemera viewed through a haze of irrelevance. Friends increasingly ignored.

So you see essentially there’s little choice. It will not be ignored. The possession has begun.