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this writing lark

Once again it is 1 am and I am sitting at my kitchen table, thinking about stuff whilst in a state of woeful weariness. This is normal. I've been thinking about this writing lark. I've been thinking, specifically, about the two novels I am writing, or attempting to write. The main one, whose basis is in my NaNoWriMo effort (extracts here) is one I love dearly, but I am really struggling to get it to fit the 'feel' of the story that I want. In other words, I'm floundering.

The second novel has a different problem. I have a strong sense of the sub-threads, and indeed have some quite clearly defined scenes, characters and thematic motifs, but I can't get the whole thing to tie together. In effect the core central plot is a bit pants. It really doesn't work, isn't particularly original and makes me slightly unhappy. Not good.

In short I don't think I am skilled or experienced enough, yet, to write the two stories I have been trying to write. I need to take a step back, look at them a little dispassionately and maybe have a break from them. The frustrations of dealing with the issues are both disheartening and off-putting. And I don't want that.

So what to do in the meantime?

As you may know I had a little bit of good news with the Wasted flash fiction competition (yes, yes, I am still very pleased with that). The competition was judged by Nik Perring, a short story and flash fiction writer, author of Not So Perfect, a collection of very short stories recently published. He had some very  nice things to say about my entry and that, coupled with the fact that his writing is both excellent and explores a number of themes that I am particular to, has drawn me further into the flash fiction/short story fold. Oh, go and read his work, it is superb stuff. Seriously.

As I blogged elsewhere, I have often written snippets and short stories around any central theme or plot as part of a world-building exercise. It helps me establish cultural, social and historical themes, as well as the feel of the characters and the flavour of the world being built. It is also good practice.

One of the things that has always struck me, and more so because of the Wasted competition and my subsequent exploration of similar writing, is the essential need to have a story beyond that of the one being written/read. Whether explicit or not, there needs to be an implication that this is merely a window into the existence of a whole reality, with its flavours expressed or hinted at. This is what I love about my fellow entrants efforts in the competition, that there are layers of story beyond the story written, as there are layers of characterisation and history and consequence. In a sense this feeling can be effectively heightened as it allows the reader to bring their own imagination to bear, constructing realities beyond the one delivered. One reads, one recognises, one empathises, one extrapolates.

As intimated previously, I am always fascinated by the inventiveness and creativity which people bring to bear on the short form, working within the limits of word counts and theme to produce something original, impactive and resonant. For me, as someone who both enjoys taking a thousand words to say what should be in said in ten, and vice versa, the skill of the short form is as great as that of the long.

I start to meander.

So, I am going to pull back from the novels for the moment, and let my subconscious work on the issues at hand, and concentrate on two things.

The first is a more active engagement in flash fiction and short story writing, both competitively and for the fun of it. I enjoy the process, the application and the output. I might even become good at it.

The second is slightly off subject matter. For many years I have been working on a collection of poems around two semi-mythic opposing entities in a world that is only partly our own. The poems themselves are dark, primeval, often brutal, sometimes whimsical, occasionally raw. I have a very strong sense of where this collection is going, and what needs to be added to it to complete it, and I think I need to bring it to a close sometime soon. It needs it.

I am not one to walk away from a plan completely, sometimes I just need to change emphasis or focus, or mix it up a little. It often helps.

It is now 2.30 am. This is also normal. I am off to bed.

the lake district

run me ragged: summer-time edition