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Archive for the month “August, 2012”

My novel: an identity crisis

Well, actually, crisis might be stretching things a bit as the first draft has only just now lurched past the 10,000 word barrier like a marathon runner that smokes 40 a day – a mere foetus of a novel, with no identity at all yet to speak of. But, the question of identity did occur to me this week, prompted by a question Kirsty Wark posed to Ian McEwan in this weeks book review show. The question was about literary fiction and did he consider his work to be in that category.

Now, I’ve heard the term, but what does it actually mean? A lot of the publishers in Writers & Artists Yearbook seem to contrast it with commercial fiction, but doesn’t this suggest that would make it non-commercial? Whose going to write that? And wouldn’t that then include all the unsuccessful novels languishing in the EPub world as well?

I’ve also heard it described as the sort of book used in literature classes at school and uni. Let me see (he says dredging back ancient memories of ‘O’ level English). That would include Chaucer’s ‘The Nuns Priests Tale’, Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V’, Dickens’ ‘A tale of Two Cities, Graham Greene’s ‘Brighton Rock’ and H.G.Wells ‘A History of Mr Polly’. Now, while I might wish I hadn’t been made to read all of them, they don’t seem to have much else in common – and if they are all considered literary fiction, were they always in this category? I mean, Dickens was widely read in his day as a popular novelist. So what’s this category all about?

Why am I bothered? Ah yes, the identity crisis. I’m beginning to suspect that the novel I’m writing isn’t falling into a neat genre category. Yes, it does have elements of fantasy, BUT, all the elements I’m including are actually practised by occultists and shaman today. It also has (or will have) demonstrations of occult theory in practise woven into the storylines, hidden for those who know about such things to discover. The work will just as much be about a persons development through magical means in overcoming their mental limitations such as fear and anxiety as it is about fantasy.

Perhaps the best I can do is call it contemporary fiction, but this sounds so bland.

What do you think? What do you know about what makes literary fiction, literary fiction? all ideas appreciated…


This week the muse just wouldn’t appear; I sat at our usual meeting place (my PC) and she just stood me up – can you believe it, fickle bunch these muses. However, I didn’t just go home with my tail between my legs (technically, I was already at home, and I don’t actually have a tail, but you get the drift). No, instead, I just toughed it out. Wrenching out a couple of thousand words. One at a time. The hard way.

Now I know that in the cold light of a new day, and hopefully with a muse that doesn’t have a blag on, these words will turn out to be pure unadulterated c**p, and that no amount of polishing will improve them to the point of useability – actually that reminds me of an old boss I used to have that called that process turd polishing; he would say you could polish and buff it up as much as you want but all you get in the end is a shiny turd! Anyway, I digress… the point is that sometimes you just have to work like this, work through the idea desert to the oasis of literary gold.

The cold light of day arrived, and rather than condemning this weeks efforts, the muse (duly present and unapologetic as ever) posed an altogether different question, one slightly more disturbing than usual. That is, what proportion of a novel should be dialogue, action, description, scene-setting, etc. I didn’t know. I looked in my ever-expanding library of ‘how to’ books on writing and they didn’t really help either. I wonder, is there a magic formula? Does it depend on genre? Or am I worrying unduly? Thinking about what I have written so far, there is a lot of dialogue and not nearly as much action (although I still have the main action scenes to write). Have you ever heard of a ‘nirvanic’ ratio – if so, do tell…

Letter writing

Have you ever written a letter to a magazine? Did you know that some magazines actually pay for well written letters? Many more give a prize to ‘letter of the month’. I think I remember reading some time ago about someone making quite a lucrative sideline doing this on a regular basis. So this week I decided to give it a go – in the immortal words of Jeremy Clarkson ‘how hard can it be?’ Actually, for me, harder than I anticipated.

The first problem was that relatively few of the magazines dealing with the sort of things I might write about, what you might term ‘specialist interest’ pay anything for letters – the majority of ones that do, are in areas I just can’t be bothered with. However I did find a few.

Second problem, what to write about. It’s only a letter I told myself; just a couple of hundred lousy (well, hopefully not so lousy) words. Eventually though I managed three pieces and have sent them off – we shall see…

How anyone though turns this into an income stream worth talking about eludes me. Do you know? Have you ever turned letters into cash? Tell me about your experiences in this field.

I’m only a man

So stereotypically I shouldn’t be able to multi-task right? Well most of the time (annoyingly) that is correct, but this week I was lured away from the novel in hand by a half written book that has been languishing on the hard drive for a couple of years.

The book was going to be an accompaniment to a course I teach on Hypnotherapy, NLP and Shamanism. As it turned out, the course ran perfectly well without it, using a number of other set books. My business partner though is moving to India next July, so this September will see the last running of the course (wipes away a tear). For some reason, this put the book in my mind and I blew the metaphorical dust from its non existent dust jacket and started to reread what I had. I discovered the soul of another, different book lurking within the 50,000 words and reaching for MindMaple (see a previous post) started to flesh out the alternative.

Now I’m thinking should I carry on with the half-finished non fiction or the quarter finished novel? Or perhaps keep them chugging along in tandem – but as I said, I’m only a man to whom multi-tasking is usually limited to drinking coffee and watching TV at the same time…

How many pieces of writing do you work on concurrently? How do you decide which to write on and when? Do you find it invigorating or distracting to work like this? And most importantly, do you find one piece suffers while the other one prospers?

Let me know….

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