writeafirstnovel

follow a rookie writing his first novel

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

A week of reading

From the title of this post you can probably guess just how much (or little) actual writing I managed to do this week. Now, I am one of life’s great procrastinators – why do something today when there are an endless stream of tomorrows; right? But, the main reason I haven’t written anything this week is that I opened a book to read. Just a little something to accompany my morning coffee ritual. However, some books are just too damned good to put down and in my opinion Stray Souls by Kate Griffin aka Catherine Webb is one of them.

It has everything I try to put into my own writing – it is contemporary, based in a real place although it has a strong magical element, witty and in places laugh out loud funny. Every sentence is considered, loaded with humour. It is a fine piece of writing and one I would be chuffed to bits if I could manage anything half as good.

It did get me thinking though; is it always a good thing to read material closely related to your own writing?

On the one hand, you can learn from it. see what is possible. Gain heart from the knowledge that others are interested enough in your specific genre and subgenre to write about it themselves. On the other hand, it can point up all your own inadequacies as a writer (when it is this good) which is fairly depressing. Personally and on balance, I think it was a good experience, because it is only by reading writing that is better than you can do yourself and striving to be at least as good, that you can improve.

So ‘kudos’ to you Ms Griffin and back to the keyboard for me…

 

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A progress report

Some weeks you just have to get your head down and grind it out. This has been one of those weeks. The biggest milestone was that I passed the 30,000 word barrier (yay, put out the bunting and clink our wine filled glasses in an orgy of self-congratulation) well, not quite; a quick coffee and a fleeting smile was more the order of the day as I put my head down and carried on.

Taking a bit of a time-out to reread some of what I have written already I note that it does look a bit like it has been written by a committee rather than just me. Both in terms of style and level of detail, it is a little uneven. Still, I resisted the urge to edit – we’re in first draft county at the moment and the black hills of editsville quite a long way off in the distance; but at least I can see their outline now…

Still, with the weather as dire as it has been (and is forecast to be for some time yet) what else is there to do but sit here in the warm, writing, looking out at the snow and the cold and drinking coffee.

Life is good 🙂

Fashion in writing

It strikes me that writing like most anything else is subject to fashion. At the moment the ’50 shades’ trilogy has captured the imagination in a way that no S&M novel had before. Is it the better than what went before? No, not really. So the question becomes one of why? Why this book and why now?

Well, if I knew the answer to that then I would be writing the next big thing myself. Fashion is transient and fickle. It is really hard to get a handle on it, or its moods. Somehow, the subject, the timing and everything else is just right and a book takes off. Inevitably then a whole host of books of the same ilk are produced and for a while these do relatively well. Then moods change, the fashion train moves on to the next station. In its wake a few stragglers are produced which look and feel deeply out of place – there is nothing more grating than something only just out of fashion.

Alongside fashion though is the time a book is written in. You often don’t need to be told that a book was written in the 1890’s, 1920’s 1970’s or whenever – the style and feel of the book gives it away. I was reading a book by A.S Byatt (The game) this week. Without looking at the publication dates I just knew it was written in the late 1960’s (1967 as it turns out). Why? well, because the pace was much slower than a modern book, the depth of characterisation greater. The descriptions of the intensity of feelings and angst levels matching and reflecting society at that time. It is a brilliant book, but one I feel, wouldn’t find a publisher today. Which is a shame.

This got me thinking. Is it possible to write a book now as if it were written in a different time. Could we even do it, given our worldview, life experiences and assumptions would be radically different. I’m not sure we even notice them changing. I lived through the 1960’s, but could I really step back into the mindset of the time to write like that. I doubt I could even if I wanted to and going back to an age before I was  born, I wouldn’t know where to start.

Historical fiction is not for me. I neither read much of it nor write it. I admire the dedication of people who do, the research they do is incredible. But even then, it is still a piece that is written about the past from a modern mindset. And I’m not sure how popular it would be if it wasn’t, as the readers worldview is very much ‘of the present’. I suppose the trick is to make enough concession to the past to make it seem authentic. As with much else in fiction, it needs to be an approximation to reality, not reality as it is, because that often makes poor reading.

So, fashion is all-pervasive. From the subject to the language it is written in and the prevailing attitudes of the day. Is it any wonder that writing the next big thing is a lottery. But the thought that what I am writing might be, just might be it – Ah! that gives me a warm glow…

 

The saggy middle

No, I’m not talking about the excess weight around my waist that has been carefully sculptured over the past five decades, but rather that part of the novel that is neither the beginning nor the end.

Actually I’m rather excited about it. Up until now it was only something I had read about in how-to books. A part of the story that can run out of gas, or meander along without purpose, just sort of waiting for the end to appear. Free wheeling along, making up the word count, with very little actually going on. A bit tired, like me on a day after the night before.

The thing is though about a saggy middle, the actual thing is, you have to have written enough words to qualify for one! By my reckoning, as I’m aiming at a respectable 80,000 words, 20,000 may be considered the beginning and 20,000 the end. As I have just surpassed the 28,000 barrier, I’m officially in the middle.

So, saggy or not – bring it on!

 

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