Monday 28 March 2011

Today's novel update

Wow! 12,135 words and I've only just got past the half-way stage. [Cue daft celebratory dance around my tiny study.] My initial expectation was 13,000 for the whole thing!

Since my last update, I've added a whole new section of the story - a back story - which has needed new characters I wasn't expecting. It's all kind of writing itself at the moment. Sometimes, you'll read interviews with authors who say that the characters come alive on the page, and dictate the direction of the story - and it's perfectly true. It does happen!

The current method of writing that I am using is: wait until the first line screams at you, then write. Simple. The subsequent writing may be just a page or it may be 1000 words. The waiting around part is a bit worrying - I should be writing, after all, and instead I end up cleaning - but then the sentence appears and I'm off.

As you've probably gathered, this is one of those waiting parts. I thought writing about it might help... well, it still might.

Anyway, here are some weird facts about my story. One character is in a coma (which is quite challenging to write about), one doesn't speak, and one is running around the world setting up a cult. Isn't humanity great??

Monday 21 March 2011

Novel in Progress

I thought it might be interesting - for me, at least - to have a diary record of my current novel-in-progress. You know, just in case it becomes a huge bestseller I'll be able to look back on its infancy with affection and pride.

So, here's to the 8149 words that have currently made it onto the computer!! There's another 500 words or so in a notebook (although that figure is always increasing, because I can't stop writing this particular story), and by the time I've typed them up, they'll be about 750 words.

Hmm, I know... it's quite short for a novel. I'm expecting the full, on the computer beginning to end story will be around 13,000 words (roughly chosen because I like the number 13 - 10 didn't seem enough, and 15 too high). Then I'll wipe it all off and start again, re-writing from a print out of the whole document. Deleting it forces me to re-write, rather than just add in random sentences which wouldn't increase the word count by very much and make the whole story feel disjointed. Re-writing from the print out means I'll scribble all over the document, then type it again, making further additions and changes as I go.

I once read of a writer doing this very same thing, although I can't remember who he was. He was clever and had a secretary to decipher his work and retype it for him, before he did the same thing again to the fresh manuscript. I remember he used green ink. This apparently could happen countless times before he was happy with the final product.

The current story is being written in short chunks at random which means that when I print it out, I'll lay it all over the dining room floor and literally cut-and-paste it into order. I'm really not suited to the 21st century.

Just so I've got something to write about next time, I'm not going to say what the story's about... yet!

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Competition season

It's that time of year again when all the literary competitions come out in force and all my unpublished stories go out, hither and thither (no one uses that expession anymore - I wonder why??). Of course, there are competitions throughout the year. but for some reason, as soon as the sun comes out, everyone wants to hold one.

I'm not sure I enter into the spirit of the thing properly. I know, judging from the comments that organisers make in their rules of entry, that I am expected to write a new story - some competitions force me into this by having a theme. I, on the other hand, cannot write to order, so I rifle through all my old stories and send off the most suitable. If there's no suitable entry, I don't enter.

Which means, at this time of the year, when my muse is playing in the garden - happily skipping up and down and spouting all kinds of new ideas - I am to be found in a dark study making lists of what should go where, and when it should be there. Which is exactly what I am doing now - or, should be doing now when I stop writing this.

On a slightly different note: I would like to announce that a new novel has just been conceived!! Well, I say novel. It ought to be a novel, but at the moment reaches about 5000 words. I haven't written a novel for a while, so this will be an interesting experiment, if nothing else.

Friday 4 March 2011

World Book Day

Oops! I'm a bit late with this post. I thought World Book Day was tomorrow, but it was - in fact - yesterday (but only, according to their website in UK and Ireland, because the actual day is 23rd April, which falls in the school holidays this year).

If you've got children, you'll know all about this initiative - which aims to celebrate the written word - because schools give out vouchers to encourage children to buy books. If you're an avid user of libraries, there will have been displays (showing the correct date, so I'm obviously immune to posters). If you watch the BBC, you'll have seen them advertsing a whole evening of book related programmes tomorrow - I've already set myself to record it.

I think it's a wondeful idea, to have people all around the world enjoying books, talking about books, going to readings or groups they would otherwise not do. And even if just a few people in every town started reading more generally because of it, then that's a benefit for publishing and writing in general.

There are two points related to this that I've just thought of. (The point of this post was advertising only.)

1. Publishing has to be inventive and fresh and new. But think of the last few years: Harry Potter was inventive and fresh and new, but spawned a few other - however loose - imitations. Vampires have been everywhere, mostly teenaged and angst-y. Before that Bridget Jones practically invented a genre of her very own.

A writer has an idea, maybe mermaids (note to self: no one's written about mermaids yet!) which is new and fresh etc, and it becomes published. Suddenly every publisher wants mermaids and related sea-creatures, so my book - that I've spent years writing - about zebras is rejected for not following the current fashion. Perhaps, somewhere out there, someone would be dying to read a novel about zebras, but all they can find is mermaids. Publishing needs to stop following fashion, or we'll just end up going round in circles.

2. My next point is about encouraging children to read. From personal experience, this is very hard. They come home clutching their voucher, run out to the nearest bookshop and spend it. Brilliant - that's the idea. But actually getting them to sit down and read for pleasure is practically impossible. There are so many other distractions. When I was a child, my favourite past time was reading. I loved Mallory Towers especially, and spent many weekends re-reading the series. I understand that I was unusual, but my kids - boys, so maybe that's why it's so different - will only read when specifically directed, and then only for the briefest time. My eldest would quite happily stop half-way through a chapter, very often never finishes a book, and normally grabs the closest book when I ask him to read so the story is completely missed. I don't know how to resolve this, and would love suggestions.

Enjoy your reading!

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Cheers, Chuck!

For the past two weeks or so, I've been scribbling in a notebook: full scenes, short sentences, random things that people might say, character traits.... and so on. It's been liberating and fun, and best of all they all relate to the same story. All these scenes etc have now been attributed to just five very flawed characters and a rather sinister plotline.

Unfortunately, the main bulk of this was written when I was reading Diary by Chuck Palahniuk who I've mentioned a couple of time before on this blog. The problem is, his style is infectious. Granted, it got me writing with abandon, but in his voice; so now as I start to move the words from the notebook to my computer, I have to edit Chuck out and put me in.

Sometimes I feel I just make work for myself!