Sunday, 29 November 2009

Looping The String

Start as you mean to go on. That means not feeling guilty when life -- or laziness -- gets in the way of writing. Tell yourself you are nurturing your idea -- giving it a chance to develop unimpeded by a corset of restricted time.

Do the dishes and think about your characters --talk to them as you scour the pots.

Mop the floor and visualise your heroine mopping floors or interrogating suspects or falling under the wheels of a milkfloat. How does it happen? What do you see? hear? feel?

Maybe you play out a scene that does not fit into your story outline. Write it anyway -- or at least dictate it to a recorder. Most computers nowadays allow you to record using a microphone.

So you have to learn how to do that?

That's what I call looping the string. You give yourself permission to stop the frenetic flurry of words you pound out to achieve an arbitrary word target. You allow yourself to learn a new technique, take up a new interest . Everything is grist to a writer's mill.

A how-to article on recording your voice on computer may sell to a writing ezine or on an article content site. Learn something useful and pass it on. Start publicising yourself as a writer.

Let one of your book characters follow the same learning curve --add another element to the novel in progress. Alternatively file the idea for a future book.

Always remember readers love to be entertained but they also love to learn something new in an entertaining fashion.

The more loops you have in your string, the more enticing your work becomes.

So never feel guilty about time out from writing. Some good will always come of it if you look in the right direction.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Long String Author

How long does it take to write a book?

How long is a piece of string?

Floundering for years trying to teep up with Book in a Month schemes, reduced to a wreck by competitive friends annually hitting the
November Nanowrimo 50,000 words novel target, I have at last realised this is not for me.

Hurrah, my life is now my own. I am in control. No longer in thrall to an excessive daily word count, I shall have time for work, housekeeping, family, friends -- and not in that order. Since when did housekeeping ever loom large in my vocabulary?

I am a longstring author, relieved of all the pressures and guilt caused by setting impossible targets.

As a journalist, I was always a deadline junkie. I write best under pressure. And at the start of my bookish aspirations, I needed to set daily or weekly targets. I needed to think I could complete a book in 30 days or less . A year seemed far too long to invest in one project.

I would be bored. I wanted to see a resuilt. I wanted to hold my book in my hand. Time was ticking on. I could be dead in a year.

I had not taken into account the steep learning curve needed to write a novel or non-fiction book. I read books all the time. What else was there to know?

Quite a lot, actually.

I have now written four manuscripts, all completed, all of which I am heartily ashamed of.

Would I read them?

Yes -- but then I read anything from marmalade labels at breakfast to dire student essays on Lady Macbeth that would leave her demoralised beyond redemption if she only knew.

Would I ask a friend to read my manuscripts? Never.

So why can't I get it right?

I have at last realised that when I wrote to deadlines, I had collected the material, mulled it over and had an angle I knew was right for that particu;lar story. It was an instant snapshot of a situation.

My fast-baked novels cannot work for that very reason. They are a series of snapshots, not a film. The stories are incoherent, the characters inconsistent.

The answer of course lies in the editing --but why edit over and over for months? I could be taking these months to allow the story to evolve in a more leisurely fashion more suited to the way my brain works.

Yesterday I told myself I was just making notes to remind myself of an idea. ( I am one of those people who talk to themselves and play out whole scenes of dialogue as I do the dishes then promptly forget them or else lose interest.)

I wrote two pages which ungummed my boots from the muddy mire in the middle of book five. I switched off the computer, went to work happy and have stayed happy all day. I don't have to write 2000 words a day or even 1000 words a day. I just have to write something that helps my story along.

I may find myself thinking about my book every day but I don't have to switch on my computer every day.

I have to do the living too or else my characters end up as bookish caricatures who have no place in my world or anyone else's.