Friday, 15 April 2011

I'm getting this feeling that somewhere in my brain the entire plot of this novel is planned out. The story arcs are all there, the characters are fully formed and someone knows where it's going. Each day I sit down to write a little bit more and often it's really hard to drag something out. Then suddenly something just appears as if it were a giant map in total darkness and one searchlight goes on. That's all I get - one pool of light. I scribble it all down - I'm back to writing longhand these days because it just seems...right. What I've written is sometimes surprising and often sends me off in a whole new direction of thinking about how these characters behave towards each other. 

I so wanted to be totally organised and plan things out properly just like Iain Banks, I really did. It seems though that I rather like an organic feel to much of what I'm doing. Each day I reflect on the thousand or so words I've churned out and how that's going to fit into this Great Plan I have outlined. 

The best bit about it is that I wrote the end some years ago - that's all there complete and set in jelly. I know where I'm going but each day brings new ideas of how to get there. It's still entertaining me too and that's the most important bit of it all, after all, we are our own first reader. So I keep coming back to pondering how She ended up behaving like that. What was it, what is it that makes us the way we are? 

Today I also received a new book from Amazon - Daniel Defoe's 'A Journal of the Plague Year'. There is a small church locally that stands alone, a good half a mile away from the centre of the village. Apparently this happened to a few churches throughout the UK. Various plagues hit and as villages were decimated so the people left the infected houses or burned them down and settled further away, leaving the stone churches to ruin. Once the Victorians came along they often rebuilt and revitalised the church but by that time instead of being at the heart of the village these churches stand in splendid isolation. 

What's all that got to do with the novel? Well the opening scene (at the moment) is set in a churchyard. I used this local churchyard because it's always better to go and write from direct experience. Then I became fascinated with this idea of isolation from the community - it's a theme that runs through the novel too. So now I'm tentatively researching the plague. It may never appear in the novel. Or it may end up being very important. Just now I don't really know...and I like that. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

What to add to the pot and how brilliant is Iain Banks?

I'm writing again. I'm putting more into the pot that was my novella. I'm wondering how much to add, what to add and how far this will take me from my first idea. I started the novella with a very clear scene in my head - the final scene and I worked back from there. The novella is written in Poetic Prose which is lovely to write as it twists and twirls, is full of curlicues of language and a dreamy sense of the world. It's also rather intense and rich; rather like expensive chocolate. Too much of it is just too much. To offset this expensive chocolate truffle of writing I decided to put a more traditional narrative alongside and then weave the two together. The problem is that every novel I pick up these days I scrutinise closely for its inner workings; how has the novelist structured their plot, what tense is it written in, how are the people characterised, how much is told and how much shown, and so on. Each answer throws up more questions and thoughts to consider for my own writing. 

At the moment I'm racing through Iain Banks's 'Song of Stone' which is not a book I'm particularly enjoying in many ways but having been completely transfixed by 'The Wasp Factory' I'm holding out and waiting for the big reveal. Banks is a masterful author. I heard Banks being interviewed on the World Service and my admiration for his abilities deepened. This is a writer who plans out every part of his novel meticulously before he begins to put pen to paper. I've always been something of an 'organic' writer...or perhaps better described as 'a wing and a prayer'. That's fine for writing short articles which is where my writing background has lain. It's even fine for writing poetry because you can keep coming back and worrying at the edges until you are happy with the piece. 

But fiction? 

I think it's a bit like driving to Scotland or the South of France. You could just get in the car, point it in the right direction and muddle your way through. You'll get there, especially if you've been there before or you're a confident experienced driver. Perhaps though it's better to have the route mapped out first. Know where you'll stop for lunch and loo breaks. Decide where you'll stick to the motorways and where you'll do a bit of sightseeing and take the scenic route. 

Iain Banks writes as if he's surveyed the entire route, bought guidebooks, planned the journey menu, timed each break, estimated the fuel consumption, avoided all the traffic jams and still managed to be exciting. He's not a man in a hat who pulls a caravan and notes down his mileage. This is a writer who, by planning meticulously, has the freedom to play I-Spy and listen to 'Just William' on the car stereo on the way while eating travel sweets. Iain Banks is a writer who won't run out of fuel or get a puncture on the Paris Peripherique.

At the moment I might be able to get us to Calais.