Well, the short story is finished, and firmly into novelette territory. It’s a strange thing that when I set out intending to write a novella every word has to be squeezed out, and when I set out to write a short story it ended up about three times as long as I’d intended.
The villain has been identified, the heroine has moved on a little. I enjoyed it, and I just about figured out who did it.
And now I’ve realised I don’t have a title for it. It had a working title, which was the name of the heroine, as a label for the word file. I have no idea what to call the finished story. It’s a murder investigation, set in the supernatural druids world I’d previously come up with for the novella (and steals one setting from that novella, which will never see the light of day otherwise!). It’s based in London, and has a private investigator, who mostly works for the druid clans. Hair is key to the plot. Any ideas? No, me neither.
I’m putting the story away for a couple of days now, so I can come back to it with fresh eyes for editing. I’m wondering whether I should try to follow Stephen King’s advice on editing (2nd draft = 1st draft- 10%) or stick with my usual approach, which is to add words in the second draft because I usually don’t write long enough. Let’s hope that by the time I’ve made that decision, a title will also have suggested itself.
Well, that was a slightly longer gap than it should have been. The truth is, that while I’ve been doing a fair bit of writing in the last (gulp) nine months, most of it has not been fiction based. I’ve been working fairly hard at the day job doing a lot of academic writing.
I have had one interim success, which was the publication on Every Day Fiction of one of my shorts. To be honest, I completely missed the actual publication day and found out some time later.
It’s ironic that the last post should have been about the completion of the novella draft. It was so dreadful I haven’t revised it. Mostly because I realised that the reason that I hadn’t been able to write the book I wanted to write was that the heroine was actually in love with the wrong person. Or possibly that I had crowded my hero out by inserting in someone else. So while I’m thinking about how to fix that (and I have some ideas) I’ve started work on a new story set in the same world, which is probably going to end up in the novelette category (i.e. it’s going to be about 10k when done). I’m enjoying it, and my new heroine, who is much more kick-ass and much more in charge of her own life.
This year the one new year’s resolution I’ve managed to stick to (so far) is to read 100 books by women before I read any by men. I’m about 25 in so far, and one of the interesting things is that I’m not finding any problem in finding things to read. There are maybe two or three books which I’ve come across this year that I’ve really wanted to read but have had to put off. I am perhaps reading a slightly different range of things than I would have done – less literary fiction and fantasy and more sad books, but that’s partly because I bought two ten packs of books from the Book People and that means reading what they sent! I have another 35 books lined up to read before I have to start thinking about finding some new ones. There are probably another hundred books scattered around the house which I haven’t read, some of which are also by women. This is a frightening statistic, although if you don’t tell anyone, no-one will know.
In that line, anyway, an interesting Guardian books podcast on women and women’s writing:
At long last (and I’m talking almost a year here) I’ve finished a draft of my novella, which has been titled various things, but to which I mostly refer as ‘ghouls and druids’ in my head. It is a fairly poor draft, in that there’s a lot of things which need fixing, a lot of stuff which needs adding but it’s a draft. (I am constantly in awe of Dean Wesley Smith who can write from beginning to end, one draft, one copy edit and done. He goes back and fixes stuff when he realises he needs an extra scene to make this one work. I can’t do that. I have a list of things which I need to go back and add – which should help with the fact it’s currently a mere 22,354 when it was supposed to be around 40k.)
This left me with the kind of buzz that required a cup of tea and a very long sleep, but it’s a definite buzz. The irony is that this isn’t the book I meant to write at all. The one I had in my head was the book whose events happen after this novella, but it became clear when I tried to write that last summer that it wasn’t going to be written until I’d dealt with the events leading up to that point. To a large extent this is getting down on paper the story that I have been telling myself in my head all year.
Anyway, part of the facilitation for this is the new 100k words in a 100 days challenge, which started at the beginning of July. Having decided to restrict myself fiercely to only fiction words this time around (I didn’t meet the goal last time either, but I wrote around six times as many non-fiction as fiction words, and I do that anyway.), I’ve hit a mere 3849 in the first 14 days of this challenge. But: the first draft is done, and the first additional scene/ subplot is in my head, ready to go. I will count it a success if by the end of the challenge (October sometime) I’ve got a workable draft ready to go to beta readers. Even if that isn’t 100k words!
The ebook of Journey to Crone is available for free on Amazon today and tomorrow, in both the US and the UK.
As I may have mentioned before, there are some much better poets than me in it, so it’s definitely worth downloading if you have a Kindle/ Kindle app. The paperback is also discounted until July 1st if you order it through the Chuffed Buff Books website, down to £5.99 + shipping.
Charles Dickens, rejecting an invitation from a friend:
‘It is only half an hour’ — ‘It is only an afternoon’ — ‘It is only an evening,’ people say to me over and over again; but they don’t know that it is impossible to command one’s self sometimes to any stipulated and set disposal of five minutes — or that the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometime worry a whole day … Who ever is devoted to an art must be content to deliver himself wholly up to it, and to find his recompense in it. I am grieved if you suspect me of not wanting to see you, but I can’t help it; I must go in my way whether or no.
Morning coffee chat with colleagues at the day job, we ended up talking about ‘wonder’ and whether everything is rationally explicable. Two of us against the psychologists felt that there was still some room for mystery in life, the something that cannot be explained within the constraints of language.
Then I went back to my office and started writing a lecture on creativity and education, when I found this from Philip Larkin:
[Poetry is] born of the tension between what he non-verbally feels and what can be got over in common word usage to someone who hasn’t had his experience.
I’ve had a post about rejection lined up to write and post for a couple of weeks now, which is why there haven’t been any posts in the interim, but yesterday something happened and I want to write about that. Iain Banks died.
I met Iain Banks precisely once, at a reading in Waterstones in Leeds. He was charming, intelligent, and funny. (There was also a man at the reading dressed all in black carrying a cane with a silver death’s head as the handle. That outfit is waiting to appear in a story.) I met him briefly when he signed the book he was there to promote. I was pleased. Not all your favourite authors are as great as their writing.
Banks wrote a socialist utopia in the form of the Culture. He wrote satires on modern life, and he wrote wonderful liminal genre-bending mind-bending fiction. Some things he wrote were uncomfortable to read, but they were always powerful. He had the big ideas and the tiny ones. I’m looking forward to buying his last novel, The Quarry, when it comes out in ten days’ time. He asked his publishers to bring it forward so that he could see it. I find it unbearably sad that he won’t see it in the shops, but he did get to see actual copies of it.
I’m not sure how it is that these people, some of whom you may never meet, manage to make such a big impact on our lives, so that we grieve for their passing. In some ways I think it’s because when you read what someone has written, you get an instant pass to the inside of their head. They may not know us, but we know them. Not in the easy how many sugars do you take in your tea way, but in the slightly sinister rummaging through an empty house when everyone’s gone out for the evening kind of way. And sometimes you find, rummaging in that house, that there’s a person you wish you knew.
Most of all, though, there’s the mourning for the words they’ll never write. The books we’ll never get. The stories that stayed inside their heads and didn’t make it into ours. Because they wrote stories only they could write.
Iain Banks was the kind of writer I want to be.