Well, let me begin by explaining the premise that this is all based upon. It is day 1 of the thirty that are inherent in any November to living memory (and, some may say, many beyond). I was advised to spend the previous week or so in organising the structure of my novel so that when I sat down here today at the laptop keyboard I would be able to formulate my 50,000 words with much less difficulty (they never said it would be easy). This, like so many things I do (or have done) is something of a ‘Stream-of-Consciousness’ (reduced to just ‘S-o-C’ from now on, unless I forget) writing process that I have used to good effect in the past. My thoughts are that to structure a piece of writing too exactly will tend to leave little room for Mother Nature to insert her little ingredients or for my ‘nurture’ to inflict it’s quirkiness of style into the mix. Before this becomes a recipe for disaster, I must add a pinch of warning. Not all of what I shall write forthwith will be understandable or demonstrably possible; but, from my experiences and my readings of plays, novels, take-away menus and the like, I have the wherewithal to create such nonsense that can only be dreamed of in certain pre-decimal circles of the 60s.
At the risk of having extremely long paragraphs and readers who may possibly lack the stomach for a long-haul flight of fancy, let me declare here and now that if anybody wishes to (that word that means to get off something like a bus) from this novel idea at any time, could they please signal the driver so that he can slow down and they can alight (there it is) from the vehicle of my words safely.
There, a much shorter paragraph – glory be.
If you have got this far then either:
a, you know me (or know of me) – and therefore were forewarned of the direction this might take;
b, you are a bold explorer with the desire to finish a journey once started;
c, some other explanation (I opted for a catch-all ‘c’ as a list to ‘z’ may have tested even my patience).
This does not mean that all that I write will make even this much sense. I am, in truth, explaining a little about ‘my’ writing process and that could give some clues to where, what, why, when, who, and really why I write the words in such an order (or disorder – not sure which, possibly both, singularly and together).
My preparation for this did involve my sitting down at the laptop and belting out a story beginning that ran to a tad over 2,000 words (1/30th approx. of 50,000 is 1666.66*). The story was not the start of a structured novel that I had within me that really needed to be read, it was just a ‘S-o-C’ novel that almost wrote itself (in that a writer’s cliff-hanger requires the writer to solve it; the story also creates the cliff-hanger or the cul-de-sac that that the writer is writing himself (and his characters) into. One man’s flight to Sweden for unlimited fun becomes a stop-over in Aberdeen ‘ the Granite City’. Where that story would end up I have no idea (I’ll add it as an appendix – cue joke that it may be removed if it gets inflamed; or not – I often say that ‘I don’t do jokes’ and this is true, I love ‘observational humour’ and hope that you can bear with me when a bad pun infiltrates what is surely a serious writing process).
Serious, indeed. So serious that I have been concentrating so hard on spelling most of the words above correctly that I have left the freezer door open (not a major disaster) and left my ‘Sad-and-Lonely-Meal-for-One’ in the microwave long after it was ready to be eaten (just a re-heat required). These are a few of the pitfalls of ‘serious’ writing. They are not on the scale of ‘untended bath overflowing’ or ‘pizza over-cooked almost beyond edibility’ but, they are the ‘shapes-of-things-to-come.’ I have just noticed that by ‘ hyphenating words together the word count is ‘1’ rather than the ‘6’ and ‘5’ that I should have recently had in this paragraph. But, then again, the extra two sentences to mention this fact have more than made up for it, so I shall continue with the over-hyphenating (and if it gets out of hand I shall just write into a brown paper bag).
Any the wiser?
At this point (very early on, to be frank – and no jokes about you being ‘Gladys’ thank you) I am considering whether I may have just been thrown off of my very own train of thought for not having a purchased ticket to any destination wheresoever. And the spell check doesn’t like ‘wheresoever’ so I’ll write it again. If it gets changed when (or if) I do a proper ‘spell-check’ later (I know I will, but let’s just suggest that I am a Maverick!) then you won’t understand that last bit (or I shall have to rewrite it… or delete it… or just let the blindingly obvious errors stare you in the face. Such is my way with words that I am on to the next one even before the ink of the last one has appeared on the screen (literally, but not literally, if that makes sense – no, I don’t suppose it did).
So, I hear you ask, is the whole book, novel, series, extended piece of purplish prose going to be like this? That ‘may’ be the case, but I think that this excited start may tail off into a more-organised, well thought out, carefully constructed, integrally sound, morally satisfying- who am I kidding? Of course it’s going to be like this, but with variations. Everybody has a novel within them; this one has lots of me within it. Watch the following pages (well, read them is probably a better idea) and see where the ramblings of a strangely weird (or weirdly strange – your choice) writer can be taken.
NB – I am really going to have to stop and actually ‘eat’ my tea. It’s no good starving to death slaving feverishly over the laptop keyboard trying to compete with the bare bones of my unfinished novel through the lack of sustenance. So, although there is no break in the writing here, be aware that between one sentence and the next there can be minutes, hours, or even lots of minutes.
And back! You wouldn’t know the amount of time that the author (me) has been away from this novel, but in that time I have achieved many things. Well, I had my tea. But, this leads me to a thing that I have with novels. I hate to leave the poor girl dangling by her fingertips several hundred feet above the long, and pretty definitely fatal, drop into the Grand Canyon below to go off and do the washing up. If I was there poised above her in the American state of Arizona (which is where the GC is – I thought it was, I checked, and I was right!) I would hardly leave her there and pop off on some errands with the expectation that she would still be there when I came back an hour or so later. But, in a book… the reader can down the words at that point and go away (sometimes never to return) and raise children and take them through their education before returning to that moment and our daunty maiden would still be there with her blanching fingers gripping on for dear life. Down side to this is that upon returning the reader may find that she only had minutes to live. I think it is best for everyone involved if a reader stops at a moment in the narrative of the book where there is a hiatus of happenings. Thus people can just relax for a while before the inevitable occurs.
Sorry, another long paragraph. I will ‘try’ to keep them shorter, but may have to exert some form of ‘control’ over my writing that is obviously lacking normally. The other thing about writing for long periods of time is that you should sit in a comfortable writing chair. I am not. Thus, I have the beginnings of back-ache. Lighting and posture are most requisite (nice word) for the art of writing.
Shorter paragraphs allow for breathing between ideas and the sectioning of coherent and related themes. It may not always be the case that I use strict guidelines (to be honest, It may never be the case) but, reading the words written shouldn’t be harder for the reader than the writing of the aforementioned words was. Discuss.
So, imagine a freight train (or ‘goods train’) of perhaps twenty pieces of rolling stock (I think that’s a technical term). Each freight car (or ‘goods car’ – I think there’s an American / English variation going on here) is full of highly explosive… explosives. Now if the first freight car was to explode there is a very high likelihood of the next one exploding within a very short stretch of the imagination – quickly followed by the other eighteen, generally in order. Well, that is often what happens with my ideas. But, here is where I would like for everything to be in slow-motion. If the first explosive idea is amazing and the total conflagration of ideas that follows is stupefying, what have we to say about the individual ideas as they happen? Are any lost in the process? Was the seventh one brighter, or more worthy, than the thirteenth? Was it only idea number five that had any future as a novel, but idea number six flared brighter, but faded faster, thus eclipsing it?
These thoughts are part of my ‘S-o-C’ thought processes. As I put down the pen, pull away my fingers from the keyboard, or switch off the Dictaphone, I then have ideas that require me (be it ever so unpracticable) to commit those ideas to a hard copy. How many ideas have been lost through the lack of a writing medium? How many times have I sung a little tune and then failed to sing it in any similar way when my recording device of choice is running? How often do I hear my warbled voice followed by the words ‘well, the first time through was fantastic, if only you could have heard that one!’ The answer: all too often.
That all reminds me, yet again, of the Philip Larkin Essay that ‘was but never was marked.’ I had managed to work on it fearlessly without ceasing from mortal toil for many hours; pulling relevant quotes from Phil’s works; backing it up with sourced and annotated notes about his life and times; honing the answer of the essay to the question; only to fail to ‘save’ that essay. It may not have been earth-shatteringly great (probably a B+ at best). But, it was far superior to the essay that took its place – the depth of intention and commitment to the first draft was lost by the failure of one ‘save!’ Penalty shoot-out at the ‘Not OK Corral’ springs to mind, though that is just an ‘eye-candy’ phrase that interrupted my flow. It happens – as you will see.
NB Checked ‘Corral’ as ‘Coral’ also an option: I ‘was’ right, but when you think on these things too long the meanings and spellings blur and you can’t even spell your own name with surety. It happens.
As you can see: lots going on in the wonderful world of the imagination; along with a taste of experiences past remembered (a bit Proustian) and a sense of the moment intruding upon the creative process. If I was to be writing in the midst of a thunderstorm would my writing be tempestuous? Or could it retain a separateness and be calm and ripple-free? I know that the experience of the storm would then give me the means to describe from personal knowledge some of the detail, but could I do just the same from a reading or a performance of ‘The Tempest’ by William Shakespeare (my hero)? I think that the reality is: both are options, but personal immersion in the ravages of the rain and the noise of the thunderclaps would be far more ‘personal’ than the second-hand reading, however persuasive it is. I shall, in all likelihood, refer further to Mr Shakespeare in the pages to come. A fiver to you if I don’t.
But, as Hamlet once said (just to keep the money in my pocket) ‘To be or not to be; that is the question…’ So, do I ‘write to live’, or ‘live to write’? I don’t see myself as a ‘million-selling’ author, as I am neither populist, nor lucky; but within my small pond I am a ‘small’ fish. I do this writing (and poetry and singing) because it seems to be what I do. I miss it when I don’t have access to it (either by circumstance or condition) and when I get my teeth into the writing routine (and by ‘routine’ it means doing as much as can be done when there is quality to be had) I am engulfed by the need to start, proceed and (often) end pieces of the length of Half-Haikus (my own invention) and up to the long and rambling ‘quirky’ narrative poems that tell the stories of ‘Speedy McCreadie’, ‘When the Daleks Stole My Blueberry Panckes’, When Edgar Allen Poe Stole my Tuna & Mayo To Go’ and ‘Ickle-Wickle, to name four.
My poetry book, when published, will probably reach a select few. If I pushed my focus to concentrate upon ‘one thing’, then possibly that ‘one thing’ would be pushed as far as it could go and achieve… who knows what. Perhaps it is a fact that ‘those who never try… never fail!’ Perhaps. But I am trying this fifty-thousand word escapade, so there may be hope for me (and my words) yet.
Time for another break. My back is a little better after the removal of myself to a different writing location – would I write better in the warm and sunny south of France or in the wet and windy south of England? I think that is a moot point, as it will not be happening that I write from anywhere further afield than London (if I can brave National Express again) and most of this writing will be done within a 20-mile radius of my Southampton hometown (for information and correctness, Southampton has been a city since 1962).
I shall return with day two’s writing (which may include some thoughts from the rest of today, or may not, depending on me) tomorrow; having written far too many words today. Goodnight, sweet reader (Stephen King always talks to the reader as if to a friend, or at least a friendly ear).
NB This following section is the transcript from my iPhone recorded thoughts upon some of the previous; upon stopping writing whilst thought still continued – it is FYI (For Your Information)
“Just a thought: (I) left the writing and had the thought cross my mind that perhaps first thing in the morning was to start the writing from the south of France. How likely would it be that I was actually in the south of France? Very, very ‘un-likely!’ But… creative fiction? Something between 9pm on a Friday night and 8am, or possibly local time of 9 or 10 am on a coastal terrace of a rather lovely hotel in the slightly warmer climes of the south of France, possibly somewhere like Nice or Cannes or… other places on the south of France… Tuscany? No, not Tuscany; what is the other one… Occitaine… or… um… Provence – that’s the one – I knew it was somewhere like that; I know a little bit of geography… occasionally, and perhaps… yes, perhaps somehow through an abnormality from life something happened that I did find myself, with my passport – which I haven’t got, obviously – I’d be unlikely to carry it on me when I needed it – I would find myself whisked away to the south of France just to do ‘writing!’ Now how nice would that be? And, like Alistair Maclean in Barbados, I would write the novels that would sell and be made into the blockbuster films. How marvellous? How unlikely, but, how marvellous? So, then the thought process was that I would dictate this on to my phone and it could be printed out verbatim, in the morning, as my ‘thought processes.’ So, probably another few hundred words possibly from today I can put to tomorrow. Or, actually, as they are today’s perhaps put them as an appendix, another appendix – Appendix 2’ to the story. So, I’ll consider that path in the morning. At the moment at least it’s down on a recorded medium – wahoooh! – which we have been into before, and take it from there. So, a further ‘goodnight!’ Goodnight!”