ambition, beauty, blogging, character, craft, creative writing, creativity, emotion, experience, fiction, inspiration, passion, plot, process, psychology, purpose, social media, stoicism, Uncategorized, wisdom, women, writing

Two Pages(13/10/16)

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The two pages this morning were solid, the back and forth of the relationship between the protagonist and her mother has been a quiet source of pride for me in capturing both the narcissism and it’s impact. I know a few narcissists, and I hope that I have done them proud. It also allowed me to go and revisit the earlier part of the book for reference, which is something that always makes me feel especially competent. I love it when I read it, a reference to something that you experienced as a different person but now seen in an entirely different light. What was text becomes subtext, and what was subtext becomes text again.

I used the quote above, because so often, strong emotion is seen as impediment as much as inspiration. Either in using your art to resist it, or explore it, in the same way that you would handle fissionable material with proper protective materials. All emotion is energy trapped by a thought, and our emotions are layered, they form traps and barriers as well as they do weapons. If I have said hurtful, dismissive things then it has been because I have felt hurt and dismissed and in it’s own way, it’s to continue a severed connection, usually to something that felt real but turned out to be illusory. James Baldwin once said –

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However, and this is where I lose the literary cachet and respect that the last paragraph might have garnered from you, I like to use emotion in much the same way as the subway scene in Ghost shows. All your love, your hate and focus it to the tip of your finger and then push. Sometimes it’s exhausting, like pushing a penny uphill with your nose and I am well aware that I am touching on ‘woo’ here but stay with me. If you can get it out of your body, then that energy goes into a page.

A sentence.

Three words.

I love you. Sometimes from the same person, that can lift you up like taking flight, then in a different context, you no longer believe them and it feels like a date stamp, a meaningless gesture and you feel betrayed that they would use that. Now you can say that word in any number of ways, and have it mean any number of things. Words have a utility beyond imagining, it’s why I love them so much. It’s why I built a blanket fort out of them to hide inside when the world is too much to bear.  It’s not the same as throwing yourself into your work, because no spreadsheet can ever comfort you. It’s a distraction but art/writing etc is where you can take what is useful and discard the unnecessary parts.

People do that to one another all the time, and artists are above all else, people.

In other news, I am now free to finish editing the rest of Until She Sings. After a tangential introduction from a former acquaintance, I am going to bite the bullet and invest in Pro Writing Aid, as a nifty bit of software on annual subscription which illuminates my flaws and sends me into spasms of fearful anguish at my appalling grammar. It’s an investment I will make in myself, part of an ongoing reinvention in order to keep pursuing my goals. There are no more notes coming from the agent now, as they said that it would be repetition of points already sent and fortunately, I have already done a solid run through so it’s more pruning and weeding than digging for the last part of the book. If this is to be my first published book, and I cannot say, because as much work as I’ve put it into it, it doesn’t guarantee me of anything at all. The work is what will last long after I have gone. I am not afraid of rejection,  just don’t enjoy it and having experienced it, professionally and personally, I would rather focus on the professional rejection because I can do something about that. Art harder, as Chuck Wendig said.

I also pitched Lawful Evil and the new untitled book, which will be a personal work expressed through metaphor, names changed to protect the guilty and all that but outlined and informed enough that I can talk to the agent about it’s veracity. Things are moving faster, my cultivated self image and ambition is reaching escape velocity and good things are happening.

Ten thousand joys, ten thousand sorrows.

Thank you for reading.

 

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ambition, blogging, creative writing, drafting, editing, fiction, inspiration, plot, process, purpose, reading, Uncategorized, work, writing

Two Pages (15/09/16)

Returning to this after a throbbing headache editing session that broke me a little bit was a thing of relief. It’s not that I consider myself perfect with the book that I have been working on for the better part of five months since I finished the draft, quite the opposite, in that I could cut the whole thing to pieces but it would sacrifice the narrative voice.

What was gratifying was that I can see where I have progressed since that point. I don’t entertain self deprecation or self pity too often, more an acceptance that I am working to improve, that I am in competition only with myself and that I set my own conditions for victory. I used to rely heavily on ‘and’, there was a pendulum between lush detail and narrative austerity in my writing, and now there’s a degree of balance within that. Editing, as painful as it can be, reveals your foibles and doesn’t mitigate them. What irritates you will definitely irritate a reader, and you don’t edit for the kindest, most supportive reader, no you write for the asshole who’s looking to find fault in every sentence. If you can silence them, then you’re ahead of the game.

I’ve spent a long time with Until She Sings, through it’s iterations and at one point, a complete rewrite. There are a few suggested cuts from my agent, which I am going to go with, but last night, I was word blind so have asked someone to look at it for me and come back with suggestions.  It’s a bit of a slow build, ends up being outrageously erotic and a few months ago, was the peak of the book but with the change in focus, a stronger narrative and a bit of a rethink about the structure, it doesn’t really fit as it was. I

In the greater scheme of things, it doesn’t matter, it’s a quality problem to have and although I agonised over it, I trust my agent entirely and they know the readership I am going for better than I do.  I can only know myself, and so the scene will not survive the editing process. The things you learn matter if you can see them in context and apply them to your purpose.

Show up, do the work, go home. Come back tomorrow, do it again, keep doing it. So, three paragraphs of lamentation there, but it will be okay. I’ll have forgotten about it tomorrow.

Please leave comments and questions below and thank you for reading.

 

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ambition, blogging, books, craft, creative writing, creativity, drafting, editing, fiction, inspiration, process, purpose, Two Pages, Uncategorized, work, writing

Two Pages (12/09/16)

A little bit of place setting this morning, nothing spectacular and it was a bit forced but it still got done. An exploratory draft should be an arena where you can perform badly once in a while, whilst understanding that there will always be good days, bad days and indifferent ones. What I do, though, is keep going. There have been days where I’ve been sick, sad, tired, happy, unsettled and aggrieved but there were still pages written that day. Entire books speak to periods of my life, and the inspiration for them is there to me, but the pages get done in order to allow myself to get back and reshape or cut them.

I seldom get precious about it anymore, my commitment is to the truth of the project and within that, I offer up a consistency of work, and a promise that the work will receive my energy and attention. I’m not chasing trends, merely writing the best possible book with what tools and energy I have available to me. I work on my craft and although I am more beset by rejection than by success, these times are important to me. I’m learning all the time, finding joy in the process rather than the outcome and not letting rejection define or limit me.

It’s never personal, they don’t know me as a person, they only see the story and if it doesn’t fit their aesthetic, if it’s not to their standard, then they should reject it. No one owes me anything, no one wants to read my stuff unless there is a compelling reason to do so. It does not stop me writing, and it motivates me to improve. Usually this takes the form of new stories, because perfection is like chasing the horizon, you abandon the work as is, and apply the mistakes to new work instead. I work fast, and when motivated to do so, especially fast indeed. I post less scraps than I used to because when the work is out there, I want it to be presented with the cachet and approval, the quality control of a publisher behind it, in whatever form that takes. An audience deserves the best possible version of my work and if they’re willing to pay for it, that matters. I know that my work will never be as immediate as a viral video or a tweet, but that serves as part of the appeal for me, in the construction to make it worthwhile. I don’t want to change the world, I want to entertain, to make people feel, even if it passes a lunchbreak or makes a dull commute bearable. I want to talk about things and tell stories. I always have but now there is an import behind each day’s writing that drives it onwards.

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Two Pages (09/09/16)

This morning was about inserting a scene to bring in someone from the initial thumbnail at the start of the book and to fill an interesting question/plothole that got raised during the writing. It also allowed me to expand on some observations about the protagonist’s mother, who is the antagonist of the ‘internal’ plot so when problems arise, they are oftentimes opportunities in different clothes.

Some mornings, it doesn’t always flow but you keep going until it does and even then, so long as I finish, it doesn’t have to be perfect. I can edit a bad page, but not a blank one. I know where I have to take this scene, and what needs to happen in terms of ensuring that the conventions and obligatory scenes are put there. I am returning, or really discovering what a pleasure it is to write to a classic structure, rather than attempt to break convention or herald some bizarre form of new literature. I want to entertain and within that, is the requirement to give people what they want, but not necessarily in a way that they expect. I don’t write for mass appeal, because people are individuals and their feelings and opinions change on a momentary basis.

No one knows what will sell, or won’t in any artform. All I can control is the quality of the work I produce and then trust that it invites attention, possibly acclaim from people who are gatekeepers to publication and distribution. I experimented with self publishing, but made a right hash of it, resented the sheer amount of marketing I had to do and felt it was invasive and too blunt to be effective. I found myself soliciting reviews that appeared to have the same cheery voice as every other self published review does, and it might have been a fear of success manifesting, but I wanted someone to say that it sucked at the time. In hindsight, it did to a degree and I’ve written a lot more, and really worked on my craft since then. I want to build a career where I write and equally enthusiastic people handle the things that they are enthusiastic and competent about. I’m only a half-bright thing if I pretend that I can turn my hand to every aspect of the business and I cannot. If my purpose were PR, marketing or publishing then I would be blogging about, or better, doing that.

I am available for children’s parties, by the way 🙂

It was good work this morning, 177 pages now, into the second act and looking forward to tackling the set up and pay off for the return of the ‘external plot’ which is more visceral and serves as a counterpoint to the reflective emotional underpinnings of the ‘internal plot’

As before, please leave questions, comments and such below in the comments. Thank you.

 

 

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Nothing Keeps Me Anywhere 15/04/2015

I sat and wrote at the kitchen table, the light was perfect and I sat down with relish. These scenes form the climax, and they’re important which makes me feel slightly nervous and insecure, so I can see the passive voice creeping in but I go with it anyway. I’m simply blurting out what happens, then later I can refine it into something more robust.

I’ve fudged things, amplified the amount of attention a weigh in on the undercard probably gets, but I’m showing the scale of the challenge that awaits Andrea, and by proxy, John our protagonist. You never want to undersell things so much that people read it and skip onto something more beguiling. Elmore Leonard talked about how he only writes the bits that people don’t skip. When it’s at this exploratory stage, I’m looking to get the raw foundation down and then later, it’s cutting, proofing and polishing.

I’m still too close to it to say what it’s truly about, the controlling idea comes from distance and contemplation, then once I have that, the book becomes around shaping it around those themes. These aren’t manifestos and I try not to spend too much time navel gazing because it’s a touch conceited and I would rather spend time making new work or working on projects so that when the time comes, I’ve got things to show people.

It’s a beautiful day here, go outside and make eye contact. Do things that remind you that you have a body and senses.

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Nothing Keeps Me Anywhere 13/04/2015

It really sang this morning, a little bit of exposition, not hanging too heavily in the moment as I am keen to move things onward but I was conscious of still showing, rather than telling too much. In this process, where I’m emptying my head of everything that the story demands, I’m still also aware that I don’t want to waste any time writing anything that’s there just for the appearance of value.

It worked really well. I wrote quickly and yet I started to more wholly foreshadow the third act climax, show the preparations for a major MMA fight in terms of the physical need to make weight and a level of fitness plus whatever ambient needs the strain of impending competition does to someone and the people around them.

I’m too close to it to say if it works as a book overall, certainly there’s more discipline in terms of not producing too bloated and sprawling a piece, so it’s more improvising over a chord progression and less free jazz.  I can’t even be sure that it works as a story, even though it roughly follows three act structure, although within that, there are subplots and developments, I’m working from within rather than without. I’m more a gardener than an architect, but when it’s working with smaller pieces, I like the space to let things and characters breathe.

See, already thinking of it as something I’ve written rather than something I write. Which means new projects to consider, as well as a solid proof of the second book that I can send to the agent and hopefully start thinking about making the transition from writer to author, an artificial distinction but one that’s important in my larger goals.

Appropos of nothing, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is hilarious, Titus is the breakout character yet Ellie Kemper underins it all with a solid, likeable performance that hints at genuine trauma without it dragging down the simple yet often overlooked concept of being funny. Actual laugh out loud funny, and my laughter is used to frighten local children into sensible bedtimes.

 

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Nothing keeps me anywhere 04/03/2015

I’ve moved things forward.  These two pages were character moments,  a breath before I get into the set pieces that I’ve got a rough idea of what happens. 

Although I can go straight to them, I like to build up to them in a first draft so I can say that there’s a good foundation before you find that the roof offers the best view.

This has been an interesting story to write.  Lots of challenges and opportunities throughout this and I’ve tried different things here.  It’s a book I think that represents me continuing to work on my weaknesses thematically and structurally as well as challenging myself. 
None of those things guarantee that the book will find a place with a publisher but something useful has emerged because I’ve learned to work with the tools I have and to test myself.  Each project builds courage and that might lead to something greater in the future. 

So on with my Saturday and I hope that you can get outside and involved with the world around you. If you’ve got a workout planned, an errand to run, a date with a lover or a meal to prepare then apply that energy to it as you would if you were making art. In turn,  when you make your art, treat it as a work. Finish it then breathe. 

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