Saturday, 26 January 2013

Missed a day

My promise to myself to try and do some writing, even just a little bit, every day in 2013 has already come unstuck. I was crossing off today's date on the calendar this morning when I realised I'd forgotten to write anything yesterday. So that lasted all of twenty-four days.


Still, I blame The Reign of Terror coming out on DVD. I went to have a look for it yesterday afternoon, as there's a shop very near where I work which usually has the Doctor Who releases out as soon as they get them in stock, usually three or four days before the official release date. They did indeed have them on display, but it turned out their card machine was knackered, so I had to head off to the nearest cashpoint. This was after having thought to myself "I won't need a coat, it's literally just outside the door..."

This on a day when temperatures as low as minus ten had been recorded in some parts of Norfolk. Brrrr!

Anyway, I'll try and get back on track with Another Life, although as you can see from the above photo I'd literally only been doing tiny little fragments. I haven't sat down and done a sustained piece of work for a while now. Rachel's section is nearly done, although towards the end I have fragments of it rather than a whole linked section - I need to sit and go back through it, the news bits and the stuff I did on it last year, before I can have the first draft of her part settled, and then move onto work concertedly on Linda's section.

Elsewhere... I await a verdict on Wicket from the latest publisher to whom I have sent it. I was discussing this with someone at work the other day, explaining how I was very lucky to have been given the opportunity to submit to it to this particular publisher, as they don't usually look at any unsolicited material. This person asked how they would usually get new writing then, and I explained it would have come from contacts such as agents.

"Why don't you get an agent, then?" this person suggested, as if it were the easiest thing in the world.

I did explain that I have been trying to do that for quite some time, and it isn't really as simple as collecting ten crisp packets and sending off for one. And this was an intelligent person who has a responsible and and important position at work. Clearly, the process of becoming a writer looks a lot easier from the outside!

I've also this week submitted a short story to a new writing website called The Puffin Review, which is just in the process of being set up. No word back from them on that yet, but we'll see how we go.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Talking about writing

Copies of my first - and so far only! - published book, on sale in Norwich in October 2011.

I've written before on this blog about the publication of Treasure Quest: The Book back in the autumn of 2011. It's non-fiction, but still my only professionally-published book to date, and I remain rather proud of it. For what it was - a tie-in book to a local radio programme, to raise money for the BBC Children in Need Appeal - I think it was very well done, and we managed to sell all of the two thousand we had printed, so we must have been doing something right.

Soon after the book came out, my BBC Radio Norfolk colleagues David Clayton and Becky Betts asked me to come on-air as a guest on their show to talk about it. David and Becky are the presenters of Treasure Quest, which I produce on Sunday mornings, but in 2010 and 2011 they also had their own separate Friday morning show, full of fun and whimsy. They gave me a rather generous interview slot, and we branched out from talking about the Treasure Quest book in particular to writing in general.

There aren't many unpublished novelists who have been afforded the opportunity to talk about their work for fifteen minutes on the airwaves of the BBC, and we covered a lot of ground about what I write and why I do it. They seemed oddly fascinated by it all. I don't know of how much interest it was to the general listener, but I thought I'd put it up here on the blog for anybody who fancied a listen.

So here we are, a sixteen-minute chat about writing from the David and Becky show on BBC Radio Norfolk, originally broadcast on Friday the 14th of October 2011.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Genesis of a novel

Nearly a year ago now, in February, I came up with the idea for a novel called Another Life. It drew on a character, a situation and indeed a title that had been in my head for a while, but which I could never think of a way of fashioning into an actual story.

Then, something occurred which rarely happens to me – I actually sat down and thought hard and tried to work out an interesting, hopefully original storyline... And it worked. I suddenly knew what Another Life was, how it fitted together, and how the story should be told. I was so excited that I couldn’t stop getting up and walking around the room, thrilled to have come up with what I thought was a pretty bloody great idea.

Alas, however, something occurred that often happens with my novels. The storyline idea was great, but the actual writing of it, the turning of this idea into words on the page, presented a problem.

Another Life is – or will be – a fairly short novel, told from the alternating perspectives of two women, Linda and Rachel. I won’t talk much about them here, because I don’t want to give much away. But I was pretty confident that I knew Linda well, I knew who she was and how to write her.

Rachel was more difficult. I felt much less certain that I could write well the type of character she needs to be, or that I even knew how to properly express some of the thoughts she has and the experiences she has been through. Because I knew she would be the more difficult of the two to get right, I decided to start with her. I felt if I could do a half-decent job on Rachel, then Linda would be easy.

My estimation was – and still is – that the two characters will get about 30,000 words or so each. Last spring I got about 23,000 words into Rachel, quite a way in, and had to surrender in despair sometime in April. I’d started off with great optimism and enthusiasm for the project, but as Rachel’s section went on I became incredibly glum about the quality of what I was writing.

It just wasn’t good enough. Not for the first time, I was burying a good story idea under poor quality prose.

So I abandoned Another Life, although even at the time I didn’t think it was forever. It was an idea I was too enthusiastic about for that. I just thought I’d have to give it some time, come back to it with  a clearer head at some point, and start again.

Later in 2012, I started writing little fragments of Linda’s section. If she was going to be the easier character to write, I reasoned, I may as well have a go at her before I went back to tackling Rachel. Nothing too intense, just tiny fragments here and there, a few hundred words every so often. But it was all right. It was okay. I didn’t hate myself for it as much as I ended up loathing myself for what I’d done to Rachel’s section.

So along comes 2013, and a promise to myself to get Another Life written. Late on New Year’s Eve, I came up with the idea that I’d try and write something every single day in 2013. Not necessarily a huge amount. Even just a couple of hundred words would do it. But at least something. Some effort being made.

And so far, it’s worked. I’ve done three thousand words this past week – no more than a thousand in one day, and usually just two or three hundred. But if I keep up even this slow rate, I’d still have three thousand words a week, 156,000 for the year. More than enough.

And I’ve been writing Rachel. I didn’t intend to, I just kept having ideas for bits for her section – new parts, or improvements to parts I wrote last year. I even started reading back over some of the earlier chapters I wrote for her first time around, and do you know what? The first couple in particular are... fine. Even quite good, in parts.

So Another Life may not be a complete disaster. It may yet almost be able to capture a little of the notion I have in my head for what it is. I am very confident that it will, at least, get finished.

And then...? Well, we’ll see.