Monday, 18 May 2009

The Great Big New Pain in the Arse

Far too long without an update- naughty sen, to your bed.

The last week or so has been quite a difficult one writing-wise. When I sat down to start on the new project I was immediately met with a big fat problem, namely, whether or not to write it in the first person. While I was finishing Bad Apple Bone and this project was beginning to form in my mind, I always imagined it to be in the first person. I wanted to try writing an entire book in that style, mainly because when I've done it in short stories I've found it quite enjoyable, and a couple of my favourite writers almost always write in the first person- namely John Connolly and Michael Marshall Smith.

So when it came to the first day of writing, I sat down all ready with my character's voice and the opening scene and... I completely dried up. It felt terribly forced and awkward, and I didn't like it. Mostly, the character just sounded like me. Like me writing a book. This was not what I had planned at all, and even worse, my brain was already re-writing the chapter in the third person. I was crippled with indecision- should I soldier on with my original plan, despite how wrong it felt, or abandon most of my plans for the book and keep to my usual style?

In the end, I did the only sensible thing and wrote the chapter in both the first and third, to see how they compared (this was, by the way, an incredibly painful thing in itself. I am really fucking lazy you see, and writing the same bit twice drove me up the wall). I couldn't help noticing how much easier the words came though, and how much more enjoyable it was the second time around.

So I think I've learnt some things from this:

1) You can't pick a style of writing just because you like the sound of it and because you admire people who do it well- it may simply be inappropriate for the project.

2) I've spent two years on Bad Apple Bone essentially learning how to write (successfully or not I cannot say) and that was in the third person. Perhaps I should use what I've learnt, and carry on improving as much as I can.

3) There will be another time for a big first person story. Yes there will. Possibly in one huge mad rush in November.

I'm on to the second chapter now, the characters are getting to talk to each other and I'm finding out strange things about them. There are lots of juicy bits about it that I love, I just need the framework to make itself a little more obvious, and it's still being difficult and fairly unpredictable (I only realised fairly recently that it all makes a lot more sense if one of the main characters is dead) Not to mention that the sodding thing doesn't have a sodding title!

But I think I'm getting there. Chapter 3 is in my sights.

Friday, 8 May 2009

You deductive motherfucker, you.

Here then, is a blog about bits and pieces and things, and not about writing, for the time being.

I think I’ve figured out what makes The Wire so good*. I mean sort of aside from the acting and the wit and the sexy theme tune. It’s the complete and utter lack of any needless exposition. At no point do you find any characters sitting around discussing the plot or what has happened in the previous episodes, in a handy summary so you can catch up or refresh your tired brain. In fact, The Wire moves at such a zippy speed, and the characters are so realistic in their chatter that it’s actually a real bloody effort to keep up with what’s going on (I’ve heard of people watching it with the subtitles on, and to be honest I don’t blame them). The Wire, in fact, doesn’t care if you can keep up with it or not, it just tells its story at a breakneck speed and gets on with it. Or perhaps it actually credits you with the intelligence to figure it out; even if you didn’t quite figure out the significance of that scene, or catch on to who’s who just yet, it knows you’ll get there in the end, and that it’ll be a more exciting ride for all the complexities.
And that’s why it feels so different too. So much of our drama is so clearly signposted with exposition and foreshadowing that I’m surprised they don’t give out instructional guides with each programme. Taking an example at random *ahem* Doctor Who suffers from apparently being written for very tiny children much of the time. Alright, yes, kid’s programme, and I know comparing Doctor Who to The Wire makes absolutely no sense at all, but so often NuWho (hate that phrase) is written with a big pink crayon, with no acknowledgment of the intelligence of the viewer. Yes, kids are clever. Particularly the ones who watch Doctor Who. Perhaps it would be nice if Who surprised us with a plot that was difficult to understand because it was complex, and not because it just makes no bloody sense (the recent special being a case in point).

Anyway. I did not mean this to be a rant about Doctor Who. What I meant to say is; The Wire is excellent because it treats you like you have a brain, and more of that please.

*I am aware, by the way, that I am late to the Wire party and it's been out years and so on. I don't have proper telly, alright? ;p

Monday, 4 May 2009

The End

Alright. Okay. So I think it's finished.

After very almost two years, I have finally written those last little words for Bad Apple Bone; The End.

It's a strange feeling. I've been fiddling about with it this afternoon, thinking "That bit needs to be moved. Need to take that out. There's a little bit missing there..." but I've come to realise that these are all editing issues, things that can be polished and fixed in the redraft. The important thing is that I've come to the end of the story for William and Noon, and it's time to let it be for a while. The book needs to rest. I need to rest.

I'll probably leave it alone for, roughly, around 4 or 5 months; it's vital to get a bit of emotional distance from the bugger before I begin the painful process of chopping and slicing and making the whole thing make some bloody sense. During that time, I will be enjoying the novelty of researching a new project, and the beginnings of a new book. As well as looking back on what I've learnt, which I hope is an awful lot. When I started writing Bad Apple Bone I didn't even know I was writing a book, and had never really contemplated that underneath it all, what I really wanted to do was make stories. I know that for certain now, and if nothing else ever comes of my first proper full length novel, I'll always have that marvellous little epiphany.

And one last big thank you to all the people (you know who you are!) who have provided endless encouragement and a cheering section when I was flagging, or feeling the terrible urge to go and do something else; you've all been excellent, and are truly very hoopy froods.

sen xxx