Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Blinkers on

So I have 50,000 words of the novel now and it is rapidly slithering out of control.

Writing a film script is tough, writing a novel is tougher. At least in the first draft. With film you have a specific scene, you decide what order you want those scenes, I use index cards, other systems are available, then you get the charcters in the scene, you decide what they want, and then you put obstacles in their way, then you see how they get what they want.
Conflict is all. Economy of words, and what is happening between the lines is all powerful.

The trouble with prose is that you are able to go on flights of fancy. Without the rigid parameters imposed (necessarily) by screenwriting, the mind wonders, it tries to cram in every aspect of the scene, every sense must be catered to, every whim of the mind appears on the page. Both mediums are hard, very hard, to get right, but with prose every little idea has a knock on effect, your mind recalls snippets of conversation, moments in the past, a look from a former lover, an awkward moment from a conversation over 20 years ago, a perceived slight at the hands of someone older, a hairbrush tangling in the hair, a smell, a taste. It's really quite distracting.

But then I suppose that is what a writer must do, like actors we are only at our best when our emotions are right up there at the surface, able to draw on every tiny aspect of our lives. It is not a healthy thing we do, days pass without proper connection or conversation with others. The curtains remain drawn, the door remains locked, and we chip away trying to get that word or phrase. We are as Robert Downey Jnr pointed out at the Oscars, 'the sickly little mole people'.

Is it worth it you may ask?

I think so yes, you don't choose writing it chooses you. As with all art forms. You can ignore and let the 'what if?' thoughts fester in your soul, or you can take a leap and get it out of your head and onto the paper, where is lies lifeless and not what you felt it should be. You then work on it, work on it, work on it, try to get every word exactly as you want it. A myriad doubts linger, keep you awake, make you think 'this is pointless'.

And then what?

You have to let other people read it, and give you their opinion.

OTHER people.

THEIR opinion.

What new hell is this?

So the novel oozes onward, the story loses shape, the friends read it and think, what exactly? Even if they tell you they like it do they really? Are they merely stroking your ego out of kindness?

Who knows?

You must just keep going and hope that when you get to the top of the mountain all that time spent with your face up against the rock was worth it.
You must look at the view, enjoy it, feel the accomplishment, feel the achievement.
And then?

You have to rewrite and edit, every single word, every single page, whilst keeping the whole end product in mind.

You've reached the top of the mountain. Now you must lower yourself safely down.
And hope the rope doesn't break.

Reading: MIND GAME: How the Boston Red Sox got smart, won a World Series and created a new blueprint for winning by the writers of the Baseball Prosectus.
Listening to: Troublegum by Therapy?


  1. This is good (and a timely reminder to me). A question: when you are writing, can you read? And what do you read? Are you eschewing fiction until you have completed your novel? As a reader, one is immersed in another's world, which becomes part of one's own sensibility, which must have at least some affect on one's writing, however minimal. It's a problem I am experiencing at the moment, reading contemporary fiction, including yours!

  2. I tried the not reading whilst writing thing. Doesn't work for me. After I read Steven King's (surprisingly) brilliant book on writing i changed my approach. I now read 3 or 4 novels and a non-fiction book at the same time, whilst writing. Seems to work and I never feel a bleed into my own work really.
    It makes me hungry to put my own words on the page, picturing someone picking them up and reading them. If that makes sense.
    Was all set last night for the game, glass of vino, ESPN America live, then we got thumped and it rained all bloody night (afternoon) disappointing!