Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Reading and Recovering

I lost a couple of day's worth of work this week. Something buggered up on my memory stick, corrupting my latest novel file. It was beyond saving so I lost a few hours worth of work. What made it worse was that once I had got over my initial frustration I couldn't rewrite what I had lost. Every time I tried my brain was too intent on remembering what I had written before and reproducing it verbatim. So, I put it aside and got to work on the first draft of a short story instead.

It's finished now and I'm back to work on the novel and everything is progressing again.

No news to speak of otherwise on the story front, magazines are all very quiet.

In June, I mentioned an argument I had had with housemates about what a writer should read and one of the arguments was that a writer should read the classics. I don't agree. I see where my housemates are coming from, if you want to do something start at the beginning, but to me reading the classics is very much like a racing car driver having a go in a Ford Model T; interesting, but hardly conducive to better driving skills.

But, I acknowledged to myself, I can't just dismiss the classics, perhaps they do have something to teach me. They are, after all, the classics. So last week I finished reading A Tale of Two Cities and what did I learn? Bugger. All. It was a fine story for its time as I'm sure are many of the classics but I picked up no real tools that would help me with my own writing.

Perhaps I chose the wrong classic, I don't know. Maybe if I read War and Peace I'll learn something that will make me a better writer. But maybe I won't. Well, how about Great Gatsby? How about Wuthering Heights? Why don't I just spend the rest of my life reading books everyone else tells me are great hoping I'll find in them something I could just as easily be searching for in books I actually enjoy?

The problem I feel with people who insist on only reading the classics is that their reading lists all look the fucking same. Who decided these books were 'the classics' anyway? Dickins doesn't seem all that to me. Wodehouse wasn't that great. To Kill a Mockingbird was fantastic, I did love it, but I didn't feel there was anything to learn from it. Harper is simply more talented than me. Or at least more talented at writing that kind of book, don't know how she'd fair writing sci-fi for teens.

Anyway, rant over. I'm reading The White Tiger, Booker Prize Winner. It's ok so far. Nice in a look-into-modern-India journalism way. No real story to speak of. Classic? Probably not.

Also feel I should mention this. Hannah was a close friend and I miss her a lot and her death coloured my writing a lot. News story seems a bit divorced from reality for me. I never met the guy that killed her and never will. Hard to hate someone you've never met.


Thanks for reading.

Monday, 17 November 2008


A delayed post again.

Luckily little has happened. I'm working hard on a scene in chapter 31, hasn't quite come together yet, just haven't found the right mixture of things to add to it to make it sizzle yet but I'll get there.

This week, before launching into chapters 30-39 I made a book plan. Now, normally I don't do plans, I just like to add ingredients and see how they work, I like to go with the flow, following my finger, find out what the characters want to do and steer things a little by just adding the right ingredients to alter their courses to where I want them to go, it is a very subtle manipulation that I hope will work out. But at the moment I needed a book plan, to lay out on paper all the themes and events I need to happen so I can set them up, add hints, think them through, sometimes it's nice to just brain dump onto a single A4 sheet of paper and make sure all the important things have been considered. So far it's worked quite nicely and once I've got past this scene I hope that chapters 31-39 will be fairly smooth sailing.

And now I've just jinxed them.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Middle of the Road Revisited

Right, I mean it this time. I am now half way through the whole novel. Huzzah!

Chapter 29 was wrapped yesterday and I'm well into number 30. The next ten chapters are quite intimidating at the moment, all that clutter to be tidied, rewriting to be done and such but I'm sure once I get stuck in it'll be rather fun. Plus, the final 50 pages are pretty much set in stone. I know exactly what I want from these chapters, hopefully they'll play ball and allow themselves to be those things.

The short story front is quiet, things still with mags so now there's nothing else to do but sit back and play more Fallout 3.

Life is good.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Like a Red Rag to a Bull

Today I thought I would talk about clichés.

From early on in my writing career (if I can call it that), and in most people's writing careers, I'd imagine, it was drummed in that clichés are to be avoided at all costs. Like the plague, if you will.

As I have progressed, I have found that this is not the case.

Case in Point. This morning while writing I conveyed my main character's anxiety by describing how he was taking his water in very small sips as it felt as though his stomach had 'shrunk to the size of a walnut'. Now, you might agree that the walnut analogy is a cliché. I think it is. But, you see, the thing is it gets the point across. Quickly and succinctly the reader will know what I mean. Walnuts: small, wrinkled, wouldn't fit much water. Anxious stomach, possibly small, possibly wrinkled, doesn't fit much water. Quick. To the point.

I could have tried to avoid the cliché. I could have sat and strained my brain for another way to say it, found another thing that it could have been as small as, but why, when there's perfectly good walnut phrases standing idle? Why strain over this small sentence when I have anxiety-ridden events to be describing? Clichés have their place, they've become so well known because they work, because everyone who has read them know instantly what it means, it conveys something everyone relates to.

There are books that avoid clichés at all costs. Though I haven't read many, the Star Wars books are good for this. "Cut through a ferrocrete bunker like a neutrino through plasma." Pardon me? 'Hot knife through butter' works just as well, better in fact. The reader will go 'yup, know what that means, what happens next?' instead of stopping midway through the action to think 'ferrocrete? neutrino? plasma? Oh! You mean like a hot knife through butter!'

There are of course better writers that will think of something better than a stomach the size of a walnut to describe my character's situation. I can't right now, and I'm too busy making sure the story works than putting in a clever little, original line that might jar the reader's attention from what's happening. Rather a good story that lasts in the mind than a good line, read, admired and discarded in the space of a half-second.

Ahem. Anyway.

No real news this week. F&SF rejected Promises, Promises with a standard rejection. Grrrr. I'm going to wait until Weird Tales rejects No Longer Living before I send it again. The novel is going fine, just put chapter 28 to bed and working on chapter 29.

Oh, and I came up with a title for my third novel. It's going to be called White Rose. I came up with it on the way to the shops and it works on a lot of levels for what the story will be about. Hurrah!


Thanks for reading.