Tuesday, 31 August 2010
Sunday, 29 August 2010
Saturday, 28 August 2010
Friday, 27 August 2010
Thursday, 26 August 2010
Wednesday, 25 August 2010
Tuesday, 24 August 2010
I was at a dinner party a few months ago when the bloke next to me, on hearing I was a novelist started to tell me all about the novel he was writing. I have to admit I glazed over - I like reading novels, not hearing about them - and I particularly lost interest when he told me he'd only written a couple of pages. I hope he proves me wrong for his sake, but I doubt very much if that novel will ever get written.
Writing a novel requires a lot of energy. 100,000 words or so takes a lot of typing even without the concentration on the story telling. Somehow you have to sustain your energy and enthusiasm for at least several months, if not several years. Story telling is in part a desire to communicate. If you’re doing that communication to all and sundry at dinner parties you’re dissipating the energy you need to keep going with your story. Worse, with frequent telling, you may become bored with your own story before you’ve got it written down.
So don’t tell anyone what it’s about. Keep that desire to yourself, communicate with the page, not chance met strangers. I’m frequently being asked about what I’m working on at the moment, and I usually shrug and say, it's a novel. If some one pushes, I say something about it being more of the same stuff. People give up at that point (if they haven't already). It's not being rude, it's about saving your energy and enthusiasm for the important stuff, the words you're writing, and not the words you're saying.
Monday, 23 August 2010
‘I can’t do it,’ Abigail said, doing that stupid soppy thing with her eyes that makes her look like a pug about to be sick. Pathetic.
‘Give it to me,’ I said, grabbing the jam jar from her. I’d show her.
‘I can’t do it,’ Abigail said, looking at me with big eyes shining like stars, so fragile, so helpless, for a moment I could hardly speak.
‘Give it to me,’ I finally managed, gently taking the jam jar from her delicate fingers, hoping that this time I’d get the lid off.
The dialogue is the same, the actions are the same. The only difference is the narrator’s attitude. When I read I like to know how the characters are feeling about the situation, otherwise I might as well be reading a script. I want to feel I am in the scene, experiencing it through their eyes. Their attitudes to life might not be mine, but this is how I’m going to understand them and, in understanding, get involved with their story.
As a writer I find attitude is a useful tool, especially if I’m finding a scene difficult to write. I stop for a minute and ask 'What is my viewpoint character’s attitude to this situation or these people? How do they feel about what they can see?' Then I write the scene using character attitude to drive it, and the scene almost writes itself.
It's really useful if you're stuck and don't know what to do next. Just put them somewhere and describe it through their eyes. At the very least it will get you going, and usually it's getting going that's the problem, not carrying on. Try it, and see what happens...
Sunday, 22 August 2010
Saturday, 21 August 2010
A good idea is one that matters to you. That's why it's no good telling me all about your amazing idea and suggesting I might like to write it up. The idea is amazing to you, so you should write it. It's not MY amazing idea, so I'm not going to spend the best part of a year slaving away - writing is hard enough when it matters. The next thing to look for is scope. When you think of your idea, lots of possible directions should come into your head. Some writers use spider diagrams for this stage - you know, those ones where you start with a word in the centre and radiate ideas, joining them with lines so the end result is a page of words all linked like a spider's web.
I prefer to play What If. What if this happened? How would I react? What might happen next? What would make it really tough? What if that happened? And so on. With A Single to Rome, I started with What if you thought you were going to marry someone, and then they dumped you? How would you feel? What would you do? Would you want revenge? (By the way, that's why my working title was 38 Bonks.) I knew I wanted to send Natalie to Rome because I'd been a student there and fancied writing about it, so why was she going? To escape, fine, but who was she going to stay with? How would she meet them? What if they had their own problems?
In answering those questions I was able to start writing, and in the process of writing the novel, ditch some of the original questions and ask new, more interesting ones (which is why it didn't end up being called 38 Bonks, although that stayed as the working title because it makes me laugh). Good ideas inspire good questions. Good questions inspire good answers. Good answers mean - I hope - good novels. It's either that, or this year for Christmas I'm asking for the deluxe idea set.
Friday, 20 August 2010
Thursday, 19 August 2010
Wednesday, 18 August 2010
Tuesday, 17 August 2010
Monday, 16 August 2010
Sunday, 15 August 2010
Saturday, 14 August 2010
Hmm. I'm all for being supportive, and there are times when we need the back up from our friends and family regardless of the facts, but I don't think it's always helpful. There was a comment in the paper last week from Martin Freeman (the new Dr Watson) about this. He remarked on those people who auditioned for shows like the X Factor who had been told by their family they could sing, and then were cruelly exposed on national television.
In both these instances, although the supporters were being kind, I felt that some tougher talking would be better. Constructive criticism may hurt sometimes, but in real life we can't all win the race, we can't all get a certificate just for entering. Sometimes you need to know that what you've done isn't good enough. It's hard, but there it is.
And if you know it isn't good enough, you have the chance to make it better, and that's the great thing about writing. You can always make it better.
Friday, 13 August 2010
Thursday, 12 August 2010
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
And then they stop functioning.