Friday, March 27, 2009

It was an accident Officer!

I've read several author interviews recently where the writer claims to have fallen into writing by accident, conjuring images of them lurching around looking dazed having produced a masterpiece without noticing. Can this really happen?

Maeve Binchy apparently used to write letters home from a kibbutz in Israel to reassure her parents that she was still alive, and they sent them off to a newspaper because they were so good, sparking a successful career.

Jane Harris started writing a short story about an ex-boyfriend who happened to be a transvestite, to amuse herself while living in Portugal in the early Nineties, as there was no TV, books or money. Sparking a successful career.

Susan E Philips and her best friend decided one day - just for fun - to write a book together. After some months they apparently worked out a system. Sparking a successful career.

Catherine Spencer fell into writing as she approached the menopause, ready for a change of career, and after eavesdropping on a conversation about writing for Harlequin decided it was too good a challenge to pass up. Sparking .... you get the drift.

I don't completely believe these cases are accidental though. I suspect writing's not something you fall into unless you already have the urge.

Am I wrong?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Just tell the story woman

Things are moving along on the writing front (she says defensively.) I've sold a couple more stories, and I've started writing a new novel that I'm really excited about. It's a measure of how excited I am that I've written the equivalent amount of words as Novel 1, in about a third of the time. (I'm not very good with Maths so that might not make sense. I've written it quickly, let's put it that way.)

I feel guilty about abandoning Novel 1, though I'm hoping to go back to it at some point. It had got to the stage where some major things needed changing and I couldn't quite muster the strength. Plus I'd had this other idea you see, which wouldn't lie down and shut it's face.

The thing is, I keep remembering a quote I read on Gonna be a Writer's website - "you shouldn't practise writing you should practise finishing the writing projects that you start" - or words to that effect, and they keep tugging at my conscience. If I give up and start something new every time the going gets tough, I'll never get anything finished.

'Just tell the story, woman,'
is a sentence I say to myself quite a lot. When I'm bogged down, or I've reached a saggy bit, or I've whittled away at the same paragraph over and over again until it's a completely different shape, to avoid Moving On.

But when the story won't budge and the whittling's out of hand, isn't it better to start something that feels like it might be the right shape already, with a bit of careful honing?

Okay, that's enough with the woodworking analogies.

Maybe I should have been a carpenter?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It's a Crime

One our library's best customers is a lady who's getting on a bit, likes a ciggie (judging by the smell of the books when she returns them) and reads a lot of crime novels. When I say a lot, I mean she takes out around ten or twelve on a Saturday and brings them back on a Thursday. Naturally, this means she's read just about every crime novel we've ever had in the history of crime novels, but she gets Very Angry when she can't find anything she hasn't already read.

'Utterly ridiculous,' she tutted and huffed yesterday, twirling the spinners round in an agitated fashion while I was trying to shelve. 'I've read all these, duck,' she said to me, when I accidentally caught her eye. 'I miss your table.' She looked longingly at the space that used to house a display of New Arrivals until it was deemed to be In The Way. Maybe she thought new crime novels materialised overnight, by supernatural means.

'Maybe you should try some of our other branches?' I suggested.

'I 'ave duck,' she said calmly. 'Read 'em all.'

'Would you fancy trying something different?'

'Like what?' She looked at me, outraged. 'I know what I like,' she said affronted. 'But it's very hard to find in this lot.' She gestured at the library in general and that, dear reader, is where I cut my losses and fled. I've had the conversation before, and it didn't end well then.

The fact is, she's read so many crime novels that the authors simply can't keep up with her.

I mention it on the off-chance that one of you might be writing a crime novel. Could you please finish it, publish it and get it to me by next Thursday please?

I'm scared she might be planning some crime of her own involving me, some handcuffs and possibly a couple of cigarette ends.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Red nose and cheeks

Saw this on lovely Debs blog and thought it was worth looking silly for a good cause. If you fancy a go you can download yourself a red nose here.

I'm blushing because I've received a couple of tasty awards. One is from that fine wordsmith Dumdad all the way from Paris, and I've been assured I can keep it all to my greedy self...

... and the other is from the the very writerly JJ in bloomin' Bangkok, so it's gone all International. This one I've to pass on to three worthy bloggers, so I hereby nominate Amanda, Anna Scott Graham and Lorna F.

I'm really chuffed. Plus, spring has nearly sprung. I've hung washing out today.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Drawing the Line

One of my favourite authors, Julie Myerson, has sparked a debate after writing a book about her son's use of cannabis and how it led to the heart-wrenching decision to throw him out of their home.

Now this is a tricky one, because her son did not give his permission for the book to be published and tried to have it blocked. In fact he's furious, and has branded his mother 'slightly insane,' saying, "This book is simply an extension of her maternal journalism. My mother has been writing about me for the past 16 years."

The extract I've read is beautifully written (as are all her novels) and in a way I'm curious to read it because (apart from the drugs, thank goodness) I can relate to it all too well, and her son's reaction could be said to be that of a typical teenager, and in a few years time he might be mature enough to read it and understand. BUT. Would I have written and published it? No. Maybe as a memoir or form of therapy, knowing it would never be published, but I tend to steer clear of including family traumas in my writing. It's hard enough living with them, for heaven's sake! I need my escapism, but of course that's a personal choice.

It may even be a good thing if it's opened a wider debate about the potential mental health problems that long-term cannabis abuse can cause, and how it can destroy a family, but just like sex scenes, I couldn't write it myself - with or without permission.

Is there anything you wouldn't write about, or is it just me?