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Two Pages (04/10/16)

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  • It was a good two pages this morning. I’m always wary of these scenes, they’re important and I try to balance the need for pace and information with the tenets of solid writing. The one applied to this morning was that if you have two characters talking, they should not tell one another things that they both know. Revelations matter in the context of the book, and I have this nagging suspicion that the scene is too early in the book, but it needed to come out and so it did.
  • I chose the quote above, as much because I agree with it’s sentiments and Sarah Waters has become part of my lexicon of ‘go to’ writers, in that I will read anything of their work. I include:
  • Joyce Carol Oates
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Stephen King
  • Joe Hill
  • Paul Tremblay
  • Alice Hoffman
  • Warren Ellis
  • Chuck Palahniuk
  • Don Winslow
  • Stephen Hunter
  • George R R Martin
  • Jason Arnopp
  • Justin Cronin
  • Neil Gaiman
  • John Connolly
  •  Benjamin Percy
  •  Gillian Flynn.
  • John Niven
  • John Irving
  • Barbara Kingsolver
  • In terms of writers who’ve no longer offered up work on account of, y’know, death I have started to explore Charles Dickens, Vladimir Nabokov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Jane Austen.  There’s so much to learn and I am finding new authors all the time. Yesterday, I found out that I can take up 15 books out at a time from the library and it was such a relief because I could do that twice over and still find things to read.

 

  • Non-fiction, the stuff that informs the books and hopefully shows that I am speaking from a place of relative confidence in the details, that’s more a matter of finding the material that gives me the best information. The quality of the writing matters there, because I don’t enjoy struggling through stilted, if earnest writing to find information. Google is a modern miracle but I retain information from books in a more organic way.

 

  • I am not a pretentious person. I can be quite stoic, I enjoy being a man, which is an odd thing to say these days but I do. I like how my mind works, I enjoy seeing my work progress, even the wrestling with doubt that afflicts me about my talent is still enjoyable because it means that I am progressing, I am fighting myself for an ideal that I may not achieve. There are amazing books on shelves that no one reads, no one can predict what sells and what doesn’t. I’ve said it before, but I make my success about the process for now rather than the outcome.  Making myself write every day is a pleasurable practice, as much meditation as work. It’s like gardening on a sunny day, sometimes all you get is scratched and dirty, but when it’s done and you take a step back, it feels wonderful to have done it.
  • Writing has changed me, and the writing has changed as a result. I used any number of identities when I was avoiding writing, political activist was one of them and when they all hit barriers, I gave up. Writing is, and I remember the comedienne Bethany Black, the thing that I have found that I don’t want to fail at anymore. I write for, and about women because that was what came out on the page and I like to leave a certain amount of the reasoning and process in my subconscious. If I started to truly analyse myself, there are limits that we apply in the journey. What comes up is what gets put out there, and so there are women of all types in my books, and there’s no manifesto to that other than to tell a good story as well as I can. To get good at it without necessarily defining what good is other than the reaction of the reader.

Thank you for reading. Please leave comments and questions below. You won’t because no one reads this but I do it regardless. We all need to create and sit in what Hakim Bey called ‘Temporary Autonomous Zones’, liminal spaces where we can think, speak and play without fear of judgement or scorn. This is mine. Tell me yours.

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Dark Places

It is a good book, not as disturbing as Sharp Objects nor is the plot as engaging as Gone Girl but it represents a transition between the two books in an interesting evolution. There is a sense of rural noir, the desperate bleak horror of what an economy in freefall does to people and how that horror compels some terrible, long reaching decisions and consequences. There are moments of nihilistic decadence, and the narrative shows the lies and self deceptions as having a reach beyond the immediate.  Yet for all it, it lacks the passion of the first book and the inexorable logic of the third. It is still a cut above the majority of it’s imitators but it slightly dips for me.

At the moment, I am working on an uncomfortable dinner scene that moves things forward and reveals some hidden subtexts that arose between the first draft and this, that gave me some really powerful insights into the book and the characters. These moments are really what shape the story for me, they’re borne out of that time spent marinating in the universe of the characters as well as a general playfulness, best espoused as  ‘what if’.

It’s good to be in this place, where the book is evolving and I can also cut away the dead ends that clutter a first draft. I aim for a smooth, legible read and resist anything that reads too much like WRITING’ to me. The story, the book is the boss and although beautiful language is aesthetically important, whatever poetry exists does so at the story’s behest. It has to follow it’s own logic, and sometimes that frustrates me, especially when there are points where it feels like I am trudging rather than flying through things but that’s necessary sometimes. I can always cut. I can always cut. Two pages a day builds up a routine where it becomes autonomic on one level and frees up mental real estate for when I come across story issues.

I’ve started The Martian by Andy Weir, which has an engaging, avuncular voice as well as a well staged increase in scale and urgency. Science is amazing but here, we get to see how even the simplest of tasks can be fraught with danger in the most hostile environment known to us, an alien planet. The tone is engaging and even from a layman’s perspective, Weir makes the explanations of the dangers and trials involved as tense as a gunfight.

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Gone Girl

I’ve not seen the film but I will. I’ve read the book and loved it enough to reread it.

Gillian Flynn does the work.  It’s a great story told well and more importantly,  it’s original and refreshing in its darkness and ambiguities.  She writes with a bleak honesty whilst never being derailed from the job of telling a story about marriage,  men and women and secrets.