Can words been seen as stock? I’m not too sure, but for my purposes today that is what they are and that is what I’ve been counting. My writer’s shelf is embarrassingly bare; I am not the most prolific of souls and sometimes it gets me a little disheartened. I also write in fits and starts and can never tell how long each burst will last. Finally, my short stories are utterly bizarre in their gestation – there’s usually a research period into the subject matter with a vague idea of how it’s meant to be told, several abandoned handwritten starts in a notebook and then a flourish of typing when I transfer the bones of the drafts to the laptop and begin to flesh the bones out. This can take months. Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. There’s a tale I really wish to tell about rapper dancers (the kind with swords and bells, not a dreadful cacophony of words and noise and thrusting naked parts). Research is complete – I even played one of their songs note by halting note on my much abused recorder to get the thread of it – and nada. Nothing. Abandoned pages, no story. Just one very bemused and anxious dog sticking her nose up the end of my instrument and begging with me to stop the dreadful racket.
So, bare cupboards. Lots of scrag ends, little tangible. To get over this hump I’ve had a look at the work I was attempting to complete last year. Two novels, Breaking the Angel and Poison Prince remain incomplete. However, looking behind that at the drafts so far I’m actually pretty happy. BTA has shifted shape a number of times, being the first vague idea I ever had for a novel. It’s now at 63,387 words – and I’m aiming for it to be complete at 80,000. I’m finally happy with the structure and direction. I am way over the initial writing crisis with this one and I am planning book 2, ensuring that certain threads are planted in the story arc at this stage to give continuity without being heavy handed. Given that at work I churn out 20,000 word reports on a pretty frequent basis, I can see the finish line for the first draft with this one and I’m going to prioritise it this winter / spring because then I can actually say ‘bloody hell, I wrote a novel!’. It may never go anywhere other than my laptop and Wattpad, but I really don’t care – the mental line of finishing will have been crossed. And without a forcible / sackable deadline, I am a crappy starter / finisher. An excerpt:
What was illusion, I wonder now? What parts of Gabriel should I have trusted – or should my own intuition regarding his motives towards me be my reference point? It’s easy to love something that beautiful; such elegant eye candy. When he smiles and bestows his glory on me – on any woman – you become transcendent. He raises you up.
Then just as quickly he can drop you down again.
I should have taken more note of his words, I suppose. He was trying to tell me I still had the opportunity to fall on the side of nominal good. To avoid his mistakes, regardless of the fleeting pleasures they could bring.
Gabriel was the one for all my life. That’s all I knew at eighteen.
Poison Prince started as a bit of fluff, drawing on my memories and diaries as a teenager. It’s fluff that’s reached 30,000 words and is completely different to BTA in that it is much more contemporary coming of age and has no magical realism or fantasy woven in. Him Underfoot has read the draft so far and been consistently amused and on occasion a little bit shocked. I haven’t held back. He has mildly suggested it may be something I never, ever let my family read…and he has a point. This is the catharsis book. I wrote this first section over a concentrated 2 month period and then just…stopped. Work / life / Christmas got in the way. Guilt over not finishing BTA. I got side tracked. As much as this amuses me, I need to park it for a while until BTA is at full draft stage and I can devote my full attention, frustration and occasional seething anger at it. Along with my never ending love of dodgy 1980’s music. It is plotted in full, which helps. A quote:
My brain was in denial that disco day. Right up until I got home, that is. I walked through the door to a scene from a badly lit soap opera; Bernadette sprawled gracelessly on the settee, makeup sliding from her face and eyes like coal pits. My father was holding court in the kitchenette, a glass of dark liquid being liberally poured down his throat as he bawled insults at his dear wife. I was pretty sure the liquid wasn’t cola.
Their argument was in full flow, and as I walked unwittingly into their midst so unfortunately was a glass ashtray. Shaped in a lucky clover leaf design, it was just the right size to whack into my nose – arguably my cutest feature – and leave a considerable dent therein. Not content with mere reshaping, a bloody effluent came pouring out of my left nostril and splattered the lino as it overflowed my inadequately small hands.
Then there is the short story dilemma. I do not consider myself a strong short story writer, yet I do on occasion produce work I am proud of. When they work (very infrequently), it’s like they have been delivered to me from another dimension. I know how much work I put into them, the research, the marination, the execution, more marination, then editing and more editing. They are highly subjective and much more literary than my novels. I find them mentally exhausting to write – there is a reason I call the loose collection The Repository of Lost Souls.
But they have another purpose. With Charybdis published, and The Bone Queen to follow this year, they give my writing a legitimacy it didn’t have before. They make me actually think, hey, I can do this and people don’t think I’m a screaming weirdo lunatic. They may be sad and odd but they’ve connected with people.
That’s not why I write them. I sat down today unsure what to write or where my thoughts were going and I began to write Scylla, a companion piece to Charybdis. Now she’s been floating about in my head for a while (yup, research done) but she’s never coalesced into anyone tangible. Today she did. It’s early days, early drafts (only 2 abandoned paper based starts), but I am broadly happy with where the first draft is going. The only botheration is that I’m back at work tomorrow and all writing will now be parked until the weekend. So I’ll lose the flow (and no, there is no creative writing at work, I am too busy writing issue based, emotionally exhausting assessment reports trying to find money for amazing charities).
Broadly speaking, I feel I am starting the writing year in a solid place. I have tangible, realisable goals and it was a pleasure to be writing properly today. I’ve written this post to remind me of this, when I flag. When I lose myself in the Universe of Procrastination (aka the Internet). So that when I come back here in a year’s time I can reflect on one completed manuscript and another in progress (if not in full draft). The only thing holding me back is me. I’ve never been here before, and it feels like the sun is dancing on my keyboard, bringing life into my fingertips.