Friday, March 30, 2007

Ideas Above Our Station at WH Smith



A bit of nice news: Route's latest anthology, Ideas Above Our Station, which includes my short story, On A Roll, will be part of an Easter promotion at the major UK chain WH Smith's Travel stores at airports and railways stations. It's a 3 for 2 promotion which runs for two weeks from March 31st - so all of you in the UK, or travelling through, when you pop in to buy those two books you've been wanting, why not grab a copy of Ideas Above Our Station too?

Thank you.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

If it doesn't work on paper... how about the Big Screen?

I have had a very interesting day. I was at one of my writing groups last night and they were critiquing the story I had given them, when someone said, This would make a great film. Ker-ching! Something clicked in my head. Yes it would, I thought to myself. Maybe that's why i can't get it right on paper. The story involves quite a lot of technical details about making bizarre-looking cakes. I kept re-reading these sections and thinking, Gosh this is boring, but yet it's essential. I couldn't get past this feeling.

So today, in about two hours, I sat and re-wrote the story as a film. Well, I've done the first ten pages and a synopsis. I've adapted a short story into a radio play before, and that was a wonderful process. But the visual aspect of a film, now this is a whole different cluster of felt tips, as they say. I could see it in my head - I can generally picture what I write in my head, but this just felt filmic, somehow. And I loved being able to just give directions for something without having to explain it at great length in the main character's voice-over. A picture is worth many hundred words.

What's the rush? Well, there is a scriptwriting competition for fledglings such as myself, so I did it, all in the correct script format, which took rather longer than writing the thing. And then I submitted it online. We'll see. If I win I get a load of script consultancy and some cash.

I won't win. But this is a great exercise in trying a story in a different form. Paper may not always be the correct media. And it's so refreshing to try something new for a change!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

To cut a long story short

So the Guardian is weighing in on the subject of brevity now. They've asked well-known writers (mostly novelists) to attempt an Ernest Hemingway and write a story in 6 words. Some of the results are rather lovely (Ali Smith, of course, and Helen Fielding), some are a bit like some strange code where many words are missed out, (Jeffrey Eugenides).

I am wondering whether I appreciate this focus on the short form or whether by skipping straight from novels to a frankly ridiculous six-worder, which is not really a story in my opinion, The Guardian is rather taking the piss. I sway between the two: on the one hand, this is a welcome but extreme demonstration of how every word must count, but on the other hand, six-word-stories are not exactly a commercially viable form. Why not ask all these same novelists to cut their longest novel down to a short story or even flash fiction? Now there would be an interesting exercise in cutting away the fat!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Snow and sunburn

A small observation: four days ago, walking around Jerusalem, I got sunburned. Today I wake up and snow is falling.




?????

Answers on a postcard, please.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

writing and rewriting

I have been very inspired and enlightened by Kay Sexton's fascinating blog post Rushing to Judgement and the comments from other writers and Kay's responses. I had never before considered the fact that "creating" a story and then revising/working on that story require two different parts of the brain. Kay even suggests writers don't both create and revise in the same physical location, because if you are in "revising" mode when you are creating or vice versa, this can cause trouble.

Wow. That really spoke to me. I was aware, as a journalist, that writing journalistic articles uses a completely different part of my brain than fiction-writing. I even went as far as to buy a second computer, a little laptop, dedicated purely to fiction-writing, just to keep the two worlds separate. But I had never looked at the fiction-writing process as being split into two. I had always sat down at my laptop, whether at home or in a cafe, and perhaps done a little creating of something new and then a little revising of some works-in-progress.

But when I am creating, I enter into that zone where I am completely focussed on what I am doing and my critical faculties are switched off, I am somehow letting the work come through me, listening to my characters speak and letting them tell me what the story is. It's partly meditative, and partly who-knows-what, that magical state when you aren't trying to write, you are simply opening yourself up to the flow.

But obviously - well, obvious now that Kay has drawn my attention to it - this state is absolutely no good at all for revising. if my critical faculties are off, or at least subdued, how can I look at my work with a critical eye? The ideal, I believe, is to be able to read your work dispassionately, as if it was someone else's, and critique it. Generally I am feeling kind of blurry and swept away after creating for an hour or so, how can I then revise, even if it's something else?

So, the other day I put this to the test and sat down with a couple of works-in-progress with my Revising Brain switched on. And it was great. I got so much done, because I was in the right space to analyse what I'd written and be pretty ruthless.

I am still a little nervous, though. I haven't written anything new since that day, and I am a bit worried that I won't be able to get back into Creative Mode. Completely irrational fear, i know. I just have to be a little organised in advance and plan what I am going to do in a particular session. Planning is not my best trait.

This fiction writing, this is hard work!