Inspired by my talk last weekend, and thinking about the close interaction between fact and fiction, here’s a prompt for you.
Take a key moment in history; so something that ‘literally’ stopped the world, not just your world, so let’s say, as is the case in my novel, the death of a president, maybe 911, Diana’s death, Elvis… ? and then write a short piece of ‘alternative history’ as if it never happened. So you will need to use fictitious characters perhaps or make it a memoir piece where the event affected you, but now let us see what happened if something else happened instead… So, for example, JFK Airport used to be called Idlewild and, in fact, this is the name of Mark Lawson’s alternative history novel, if Kennedy had not died as he did and make him the icon he is, would the airport still be called that? In fact, that is the case in this novel; Kennedy is still alive years later. Perhaps juxtapose what might have happened with what did happen, so some of you might even want to write two versions…? I will leave that to you! Allow your imaginations to run wild… and not be idle! See what I did there 🙂 Groan!
Happy Being YOU!
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I find myself this week back in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco and then climbing the dizzying heights of Pacific Heights and down to Pier 39. Contrasting neighbourhoods. No I have not jetted off to the states again (more’s the pity) but am back in the minds of Frank and Richard in the next novel. It’s already had a fair polish but needs some overhauling and the ending is in my head but not on a page. So here I am back there. What these characters are telling me is I know Frank’s voice really well (ex con, hard but soft) and Rich is more of a challenge as he is a bit of a bumbling prof recovering from a mental breakdown.
So for me to be suddenly back with these guys feels like a real treat. I have done a lot of work on this one but now I think it’s time to get to sorted. It’s pacey and psychological this one, darker too.
Because I’ve been to San Francisco a few times, one in particular on a fact-finding mission for this book, I feel more comfortable than perhaps I Am Wolf where I have never been to Alaska or Moscow. One of things we did in San Francisco five years ago (see I said I had been working on this for a while) was walk in Golden Gate Park, ride the amazing carousel that is in the novel and wonder where a body might be found near the carousel. Yep really. But what you can’t capture from Google earth are smells and the feel of the place. So I also had my notebook and asked what scents I could pick up on — get a feel for the place in the early morning. What I love about San Francisco is the fog, very atmospheric, right?
So I must leave you now to get back into character. While Frank has his issues — and so does Rich although I think your sympathies are with him from the get-go, Frank is the likeable rogue and so I hope all of that comes across. Well — I will have to make sure it does. Being a writer is like being a character actor.
Have a great Wednesday, y’all!
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Many writing books talk about the need to find a fictive dream state and to become lost in the pages of a book.
That’s what reading is all about for me, the entrancement, the total immersion into it. And while a good movie does that in all its glory, the difference with a novel is the immersion is more active. By this I mean your own mind creates the details that colour it, based on how effectively the writer has worked to create it. I tend to think of it as the interplay between what the writer creates and how the reader imagines it.
Ever wondered if the world you see in your head is the same as another person reading the same book?
Stephen King talks about this in his book On Writing, in his description (that I have also talked about here before) of telling the reader to imagine a kitchen. Now we all have different kitchens in our head. Now he tells you there is a table in the centre. We all have different tables. But now he says there is a cage on the table (different cages?) but it’s when he says there is a while adult rabbit in the cage with a number 8 on the side in royal blue lettering, we all see the same thing. It’s about drawing the reader to see the relevant part, the rest is only detail and if you want the reader to know it’s a big country kitchen, then you use a line or two to set it up — but only if it’s relevant.
It’s the skill of the writer alongside the reader’s own interpretation and experience that I think must feed into the image that comes into the mind. So it seems likely the extraneous details we see will be different, but the relevant parts will be the same. So writers take heed — don’t give too many extraneous details or you are entering the world of fillers. Sure we need colour, but overdo it and we’re not moving plot.
I rarely seem to find myself in that being so lost in a good book I don’t want to climb out of it state, but when I do find that, wow I love it!
In my writing while I don’t set out specifically to make that happen, I certainly hope it does. For me it’s about creating something that really captures people, characters people can love and a plot that keeps them gripped. I hope I have achieved this with my novel — the feedback so far says just that, people not wanting to put it down. Phew. I hope that continues to happen as I will know all the hard work did something special. In the end.
I have a busy week of normal writerly things before the trip to Essex and Bath at the end of next week and the big 50th Kennedy anniversary. So this morning it’s all about getting back to the writing.
Have a good week y’all!
Ps I am now available for a blog tour if anyone wants me in the spotlight?
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It’s been an odd time for me when, unusually, I have not been quite as upbeat as usual, odd given all the exciting things coming. Some of this has been the things beyond my control but looks like we have a cover to reveal really soon. Some of it has been the time of year — some financial and some I guess just that the freelancer like me never really stops and I could do with a good break away and some pamper time. But all that will come in good time I don’t doubt.
The last few days have been very wet and while I do love to be cosy inside and there is something aesthetic about the tap-tap-tap of rain on glass as I work, it has also meant less fresh air. Rosie the pooch does not like to walk in the rain and so not only has she had all this energy to play off, I haven’t given my head space to breathe.
This morning we managed a walk before the rain comes (if it does) and I feel so much better for that. I also realised as I walked how much thinking I do in that important time. Some of it is plans for the coming months, some dreaming about what it will be like to have my little house near the family when I eventually find a buyer for my house. And some was thinking about the important changes I am currently making to the new novel. While it’s a complete draft it needed more and now somehow I find myself a traveller in a foreign land. While I am having to write about Moscow, having never been, my protagonist now finds herself in a ghost town outside Moscow and that brings me new and exciting challenges. This is when pennies to travel to these places would help! But I am writing these scenes and making some needed changes.
So maybe a walk does really give us that head space we all need.
What do you think?
The cover is coming … reveal here VERY soon … give in to the muse and see where it takes you …
Never Stop Believing in YOU
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There was a sense of detachment as I walked this morning; of being connected to everything and nothing at the same time. Of looking in on myself.
It’s a still September morning and a mist scarfed the mountains of Snowdonia. I could hear every footstep as I walked along the lane, every voice carried in the cool air, every car somewhere on the top road.
And I could hear the soft jangle of Rosie’s lead as we walked. Me and my little dog.
And as if all sound dropped I had this thought — what if I am the only person left in the world? Imagine if no one else is here. If I open my eyes and everything I know is gone.
I have these odd thoughts and lately a few have come, all dully noted in my book. I am running my workshop on How to Write A Psychological Thriller in November, and in much the same way a new story will percolate, drip slowly into being while I’m not thinking about it, so the ideas that will form the basis of this workshop will do the same. I am setting an exercise and so these scenarios are all part of that. All to be explained later.
But as I rounded the corner of the lane, in the odd but beautiful silence, I knew what was missing from the new scene I’m writing for I Am Wolf when our protagonist goes back to the village north of Moscow where the feral child was found; now nothing more than a ghost town, every person long left for the city — something that happened a lot in Russia in the 90s. I need this same sense of peace and disquiet. That is how I imagine such a place would feel.
Even in the peace, we find answers.
And I will leave you with that thought.
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There’s a really lovely sense of achievement when you finish a project, and as you’ll all know, those writers out there; sometimes you wonder if you’ll ever finish when you consider how many rewrites and edits are needed to produce what you hope looks like something written without effort, the words gliding onto the page as if they just came out that way.
Yesterday I sent back my novel with one or two small additions at the end, sentences really but one does mean something significant — waiting on a reaction as to whether this needs to be there or not. But then I think we can say, apart from the proofing by someone else for errors we missed — we are about there. So today I will finally be back to the other novel. And I woke up with this odd idea buzzing in my head and some really interesting characters and oddly for the first time ever the story is set where I grew up. Now maybe it’s because I am wanting to move back there, who knows, but it’s a story now percolating and most likely will be a new short story. But I love it when that happens and even as I stood in the shower all I could hear was this little boy and his sister talking to me. Or maybe I have been hanging out with clairvoyant friends too long! The voices will get you — beware.
What I love is how one project ends (although at the same time is just beginning!), another comes and they line up one after the other. I don’t really believe in writer’s block — they’re just there 🙂
So what next? Well we’ll see what the editor thinks and hopefully sign off on the edits. I hope to see the cover soon.
In the meantime it’s onwards and upwards and I love it.
How about you? What are people enjoying at the moment book wise?
Happy Wednesday from lush green wet Wales 🙂
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