Monday, 11 September 2017

I'M BACK AGAIN.


It has been some time since I was in this space but things have happened for the delay, namely the break down of my computer and the modem not working correctly and consequently my head in a haze and oh, a little travelling by me. So, now, I have a new modem, a brand new computer and, sigh, a new draft of my latest book to work on! Exciting and challenging at the same time. It's only words, as The Gibbs Brothers put it in one of their best songs but hey what a lot of time and energy and love goes into linking one word with another to make a story. It is odd to think of it in that light, one word at a time, one sentence at a time, one paragraph at a time, one chapter at a time and eventually, with any luck, not only a complete story but a good one. I have completed lots of words, around 70,000 at the last count but I expect to change a lot of them as I do another draft. It is the thinking about what has been written that makes a writer reconsider not only what they have said but how they have said it. Writing for theatre, as I have done, it is much easier to decide on how much of the story is showing and how much is telling. The criteria of drama being to show and not to tell. In a narrative fiction this can be a little more difficult. How much do I describe in a garden setting? Does the reader really need to know how many pansies are secreted behind the rose bushes and what colour they are? Well, if the pansies become part of an investigation into the death of a character, then I guess it is an important detail. Those adjectives need to go in. Likewise, how much detail of the fabric of the curtains in a room is required? If the specific details tell the reader something about a character, such as he or she hates paisley patterns or is fearful of swirling shapes or wants only the best quality plain velvet in their house then this is something that tells the reader about that person. So each single word can alter the feeling or comprehension of a person or a scenario. So, it is only words that count and as a writer words are all I have (apologies to Barry Gibb) So, on with the telling and the showing in as much or as little detail as is necessary.
Note: I did not give the finer details of my new computer. Not necessary to explain my delay in writing this blog. 
I am now off to red the book of another writer I admire to motivate me to re write my work and to work towards making it better. The word for my current mood is 'good''. I hope it describes yours.








Saturday, 19 August 2017

New challenges

I have just returned from being on a panel discussing Fiction at the University where I completed my Masters Degree. It was challenging to be seated in front of a crowd all of whom wanted to know how we write fiction but also many who wanted to write a book themselves. Not many questions were asked of the panel from the audience yet there was much nodding of heads as a particular topic was raised, or frowning faces when another was discussed. Each of the five authors on the panel had so very different stories to tell and so many varied ways of going about it. It challenged me to consider my points of view on several matters but also how I approach the task of writing itself. I was alone in stating that there was no such thing as writer's block, serving up the belief that it is only a pause in the telling of a story that makes a writer temporarily stop and reconsider how the next sentence goes. My solution was simple; continue to write but something other than the novel they were working on. Write an email, a blog, a letter, a shopping list., or a sentence that describes what the next paragraph should be about. Or go for a walk or a swim or have a coffee while staring out at Nature or talking to a pet. All this is a distraction for the brain allowing it to recuperate and get back on track, to be fresh for the next sentence of the novel. The point being that it is only the pause of an idea that cannot be written down at that exact moment and not what is loudly proclaimed as writer's block. The other writers on the panel disagreed with my idea, which was a challenge for me, yet I still retain that belief. So while it is good to be challenged it does not mean we have to abandon our beliefs if they are based on rational thought.  This of course applies to many aspects of life, as well as in the fictional world of story telling. Passion in a topic can be instructive as well as destructive. It is for the mind to sieve out the irrational and be strengthened by the rational. My next challenge is to complete the next sentence of the novel I am working on!

Saturday, 29 July 2017

The power of the Imagination

One of the things that a writer needs most is the skill to transform the imaginings that tumble around in the head into something concrete, like a story so well structured that other people can understand what the words convey.. The result can be powerful in both emotional and mental terms, it can draw a reader into wanting to know more about the topic, or it can be dismissed as too tough to read or is not written well enough.

This interpretation of an idea into something solid is not of course restricted to writers.  Inventors need a great deal of imagination. In their minds they conjure up an idea, whether that be how to build a bridge, or use the power of steam to drive a train, or how to enable words typed into a platform to be transmitted around the world, via space.  And what of those people who imagined they could send a man to the moon. Then what of the people who transferred that concept into practicality.

It is the fortunate disposition of  humans that over time evolution increased our capacity to imagine and so prove ourselves to become the most prolific animal on earth, as well as the most wonderful yet dangerous of creatures. So imagination can be used for good or for bad, depending on the interpretation.

I set myself a task. It is one you can perform.I wrote a few sentences as the opening to a story.

"The way he talked it was obvious there was not much in the top paddock. Not that it mattered for the job he was applying for. A wounded wombat could do it. Still, he was the only one who applied, which was strange, considering."

The task is to now imagine where that story can be taken. There must be a dozen, maybe even three dozen, stories that can sprout from this simple imagined scenario.  SO GO FOR IT. Just write a few hundred, or a few thousand words, to complete a story.  Every person would come up with a different one. Such is the power of the imagination. It is brilliant.

Monday, 3 July 2017

OVER THE RAINBOW

Checking my photos the other day I came across one of a rainbow, almost all of it, arching over my house. Now there is supposedly some good luck in this. or is it only the pot of gold at the rainbow's end? Has anyone ever found this pot of gold? There's the rub. Who is going to say if they do? Searching for that pot of gold is really akin to what a writer does. There is that ongoing search for an event, an idea, a character, something that can be bound into a story that is not only valuable but entertaining and interesting for the viewer/reader. It does not matter whether it is a novel, a film, a TV show, a stage play. They all have the same need, to enlighten other people with their dazzling colours, their confident structure, their overarching ideas, their desire to please.  So, being the eternal optimist, I intend to look at my rainbow every day and recall the dozen or more publishers who rejected the first Harry Potter book and think that maybe some day my pot of gold will arrive at my doorstep via a worldwide publisher who is a wizard at marketing my books. Watch this space! Tell me of your experiences with rainbows, pots of gold or anything else to do with creativity. Love to hear from you.             



Wednesday, 7 June 2017

LOOKING FOR 'STUFF.'

PURPLE IS A COLOUR THAT REPRESENTS JUSTICE, WHICH IS WHY US FEMINISTS LIKE TO USE IT BUT IT ALSO HOLDS OTHER MEANINGS.  IT'S A BIT LIKE HOW I DO MY RESEARCH. I GO LOOKING FOR WHAT I WISH TO DISCOVER AND THEN ON THE WAY COME ACROSS SO MANY THINGS I NEVER KNEW . THIS NEVER CEASES TO  AMAZE ME. 
FOR INSTANCE, I RECENTLY READ THAT THE SONG, 'WHEN YOU AND I WERE YOUNG, MAGGIE' WAS NOT WRITTEN BY AN IRISHMAN, AS I THOUGHT, ALONG WITH THOUSANDS/MILLIONS OF OTHER PEOPLE. BOTH LYRICS AND MUSIC WERE WRITTEN BY TWO CANADIANS IN  1866. IF ASKED THIS QUESTION IN ONE OF THOSE TV SHOWS I WOULD CERTAINLY  NOT HAVE WON THE BIG PRIZE. 
ANOTHER THING I LEARNED WHEN DOING RESEARCH ON A DIFFERENT TOPIC WAS THAT THE MEN ON APOLLO 10 DID EVERYTHING THAT THE FAMED APOLLO 11 MEN DID, EXCEPT ACTUALLY LAND ON THE MOON. ALL THOSE APOLLO CREWS FORGED THE WAY FOR THE MOON LANDING, YET WE HEAR NOTHING OF THEM. 
AND SO IT GOES. I COULD QUOTE A HUNDRED FACTS I DISCOVER DURING RESEARCH FOR MY BOOKS, NONE OF WHICH I ACTUALLY USE IN MY WORK.  BUT THEN EVERY NEW DETAIL ABOUT PEOPLE AND THE WORLD  GIVES ME A BROADER PERSPECTIVE. WHO KNOWS, ONE DAY I MIGHT WRITE ABOUT A SPACE TRAVELER WHO WRITES FOLK SONGS?

I'VE ONLY JUST REALISED TOO THAT I HAVE WRITTEN THIS IN CAPITALS. I TOOK MY EYE OFF THE BALL FOR ONE MINUTE AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS. I MUST WATCH THE BALL CLOSER. BUT THEN I JUST MIGHT MISS SOMETHING.
ELSE.

Monday, 22 May 2017

NEVER STOP LEARNING

As a writer I am always researching. I ask a million questions every day. Not always getting answers I might add. I search not only online sites for a specific subject or in other people's works but just everyday things all around me. Just looking and listening is a kind of research, even if a little more abstract. How exactly does a bird flap its wings? What songs of a bird are specific to territory claims? Why is one wild wallaby happy to come close to me and stare as if really interested in what I am, while another bounces away at the first sight of me? Why has such and such a book sold millions when I, among many others, think it was pretty mediocre? And why does this best seller author get applauded by the industry so much? Is it that publishers pay for so much advertising and opinion that it rolls over like a stone gathering moss and so more and more people buy because it is apparently well accepted by the promotional companies? IS this a form of brainwashing? This last question leads to the one of why most humans are so easily brainwashed. Most of us have succumbed to commercial advertising for over a century. We buy far more products than we ever need, or, sadly we pay a lot more for them simply because they have a Brand name that has had millions spent on promoting it. Many more have succumbed to the belief systems of various creeds that promote their belief as the only true one, which in turn leads to dangerous results such as killing or injuring those who oppose your belief system. I write this on the day of such a killing in Manchester UK. Yet another attack against innocents, mostly young people who were simply enjoying music at a concert. It is a real tragedy, no matter who caused it and no mater what was put into their heads. No amount of research seems able to untangle how a thought can be turned into horrific action, which of course has been happening throughout the history of humankind. Us and them mentality seems to have existed since the year dot. Evolution hit upon a creed, survival of the fittest, while belief systems provide the stimulus. We are all flawed creatures to some degree and this is what writers write about. Writing about death and horror can ask questions yet sadly not provide answers. Back to the drawing board
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Saturday, 6 May 2017

PENCIL VERSUS KEYBOARD


A recent event (floods) in my town means that not all shops, banks and offices are currently open for business. All will be open in the not too distant future but for the moment I am doing things a little differently. People's birthdays  remain on the same day and bills once received need to be paid. So, this week I have done something not done for ages. I actually wrote out cheques in my best hand, wrote carefully the addresses to which the letters must be sent, popped the cheques plus the butt of the invoice to be paid into an envelope,  slowly stroked my tongue along the sticky bit on the envelope, pressed the flap down, pressed on it, flipped over the envelope and placed a stamp in the correct right hand corner. This ritual was done for several bills due for payment. I had a nice collection of hand written envelopes. Strangely it gave me such a feeling of satisfaction that I grabbed some blank notelets out of my drawer, kept for unknowable emergencies and decided to actually write a letter to some of my family and friends. One was for a birthday coming up soon, one was just to check on the well being of a family member, one was a 'lets catch up on the gossip' type of communication and another were the basic facts about health and welfare of myself and family. Then I kept going until all ten of the notelets were used up. It was such a pleasant way to communicate. By writing in long hand I felt more in contact with the person I was writing to. Was it a much slower? process.  For me, not really, because although I type faster than I hand write I have always to go back and check my typing, and retype the errors, usually considerable. Whereas having lived with and loved words for so many years they not only come easily to me (years of learning spelling, grammar and vocabulary at school and Uni) but I can somehow pour emotion into them as well. I have to say placing my hands on a pen, then holding the notelet or bill in the other and passing on not only my words but my emotions is an incredibly intimate thing to do and I loved it. The result, a small but for me immensely personal pile of envelopes ready to be posted was a pleasant sight; bringing back the joy of receiving hand written Christmas and Birthday greetings, of receiving a letter from a lover or a friend, of being in touch with a grandmother who's letters were written with a nib pen and deep blue ink in a romantic scribbly almost Gothic style, with curls at the end of each letter. Each letter of the alphabet a work of art and  written with love. 
This might all sound like romantic rubbish, or nostalgic nonsense at least but I do find there is a great difference in writing by hand and by keyboard. I am trying to duplicate the intimate sense of communication in this keyboard blog. Let me know if I have achieved some semblance of it.
I also have to confess that the first draft of my short story collection, as well as my mystery thriller, were written in long hand before the second draft appeared on my screen via the keyboard. If asked to describe the difference for me I would say that I write with my heart with a pencil/pen and my head on the keyboard.  Both are important for any creative process so I think I will stick with this method. Most of my favourite writers do go straight to the keyboard and I bless them for their outputs. For them the keyboard wins every time. For me? Lets say fifty fifty.