Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Not As Bad As You Think (I bloody hope)

Amid the debris littering my desk (scraps of paper, half-drunk cups of coffee, pens so old and mashed they vomit red, blue and green and lie in the little lakes of their own making, war-torn Lego men courtesy of my son…and yes, I do believe that is a regurgitated fur-ball - eewwww) I am determined to find a prominent place for the notice ‘It’s not as bad as you think’.

Why? Because trust me, over-writing can suck the very life blood from your work, leaving it in much need of a laxative.
Try and remember your reader is reading your story for the first time.  Their eyes and minds will be fresh and eager rather than bleeding.  Chances are they won’t give a flying-f about the correct use of the Oxford comma, or occasional lapse in the sequence of MRUs, not if your story flies, not if your characters rip free from the page and not if you have succeeded in transporting them into a world they never want to leave.

If you have done a half decent job on your story (getting the GMC up front and central helps), they will not be bored stiff  to the point of applying leeches to their eyelids and throbbing temples. Chances are they will be too engrossed and therefore forgiving of little tics and errors.  (Best to avoid sloppy typos and spelling though, they’ll skin you for that or worse, abandon your book).
So, don’t hate your manuscript. Recall the verve that rushed through your veins as you punched out the first draft. Because that is what it means to write from the soul and that’s what will give your book its unique personality.  All over-writing ever achieves is frustration on your part as the writer, and a Mogadon-effect in the reader.
Hence my new mantra:  It’s not as bad as it looks…maybe?
Caveat: This mantra does not excuse crap writing! 
Second Caveat:  Those elipsey things (brackets) are all mine, and I'm on trend.  My own trend.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Bloody Afflictions!

Of all the afflictions a writer might hope to avoid, ‘memory like a sieve’ must rank near the top.  I have a tough job with names (even have to run through the register when addressing one of my own kids), and book titles too.  This makes it hard to share/recommend/enthuse about a good read.

And it’s no bloody fun when you’re trying to track your own work.

I do a lot of my writing in my head. Driving to work and home again. Zoning out in meetings so tedious I want to open a vein. Even sitting here blogging right now. One part of my mind is always preoccupied with the story I’m working on.  Problem is, the minute I hit the computer, it all seeps away, can’t even find the thread to tie a knot in it, half the time.

Carry a notebook, you might advise.  Ah, no thanks. I already have three points on my licence (for doing 34mph—yup, still pissed off cos I forgot to send off the fine and got hit for £230 rather than the original £60), and have you ever noticed how in a meeting, your closest neighbours are always checking out what notes you’re taking. Besides, I’ve tried scraps of paper and lose them every time only to come across them months later, to wonder WTF.

Yet I plod on, always back-reading what I’ve already written (which takes hours) in the hope that something will stick for good or better still trigger some random thoughts from earlier on.  Why? Cos that’s another affliction of mine, a cussed stubbornness not to yield any ground.

Yes this all makes me a difficult person to live with but I do have one saving grace, I value my friends, and damn straight, I never forget them.

Got any afflictions you want to share?

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Weird Shit...

Exploring your earliest memories can produce some weird shit. Here’s one of mine:

When I was three, four at the most, I would climb a tree at the bottom of the garden (more a wasteland really, as I was born in Zimbabwe), straddle a branch and argue the merits of flinging myself into the prickly shrubbery below. Why? Because the fairies had promised to reward my bravery with a little red suitcase if I did.
I didn’t have any particular need for a suitcase, red or otherwise. I’m not sure I even wanted one. But every day, I’d climb that damn tree and the argument would commence.
‘Wow, a red suitcase. From the fairies. Just gotta jump.’
‘Hmmm. It’s a long way down. It’s gonna hurt.”
“No pain, no gain.”
“I don’t want to die.”
“The fairies won’t let you die.”
“They might if they find out, I’d much rather have a pair of red shoes than a stupid suitcase.”
“Careful. They can probably read your mind. Quick jump before they reach up and drag you down.”

I never did make that jump and to this day, I  wonder regularly what would have happened if I had.  Would the existence of fairies have been irrefutably proven? Was I demented even at that tender age? Would the fairies have been offended if I’d asked for twinkly red heels instead? Did I fail some kind of divine test by not jumping? What the hell was it about a bloody red suitcase?
Being me, I’ve got plenty of other little memories like this that tease and torment but this remains the strongest and I revisit it a couple of times a year in search of some answers.  To date without much luck.
So what’s your earliest memory, does it haunt you still? Feel free to share, I just have.  
Hark, is that knocking I hear? Men in white coats you say? Okay I’m outta here. You lot be brave.