Background artiste from 'Better than Stars'

Sunday, 20 November 2011

How do you keep going when nobody cares?

Maybe I could have put that better. I'm sure somebody cares. Your mother, your partner, your dog. My cat likes it when I write. It means I sit in one place, and he can play the try-to-get-on-her-lap game ... but I digress. Those are not the people I meant. What I actually meant to say was, how do you keep going when the publishing industry doesn't care? When there are no deadlines?

I suppose what would be helpful now would be for me to give some sage advice, but I don't really have any. This was more on the lines of a post to open up the subject for debate. If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

I suppose what most of us do is try to create artificial deadlines - artificial because it won't actually make any difference to anyone else if we don't meet them. Nano functions like that, and other co-operative ventures between writers. I set up little personal deadlines. The only people who will be affected at the moment if I don't finish my current book are my children, who will never inherit the royalties - but I doubt that's keeping them awake at night.

That was one of the benefits of doing an MA in Writing: plenty of deadlines then, and stimuli ... but now it's over, and most of us, apart from the one or two who got agents and/or publishers (it did happen) are finding it hard to keep up anything like the pace.

Of course you're doing it because you enjoy it - even when it's the most frustrating thing in the world. When the plot's hit a wall and the characters won't speak to you, and when you realise you've got to rewrite the whole s***ing 60,000 words. And that's when one of the people who does care (see above, but probably not the dog) will say "But it's just for fun, isn't it?"

And underlying it all, the elephant in the room if you like (sorry Sally), is the real question: if nobody cares, how long before you stop altogether?

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Scribbling with Light

I didn't take my camera with me to the firework display, otherwise I'd post a pic.

Maybe that's just as well. Others more skilled than me will be showing images of dark skies lit up by chrysanthemums of fire ... pictures which say everything but nothing about what it was like to be there at the time: a shower of silver that was both a tree and a waterfall; a cluster of sparks scurrying across the sky, squealing like aliens; the warmth of the mug of mulled wine and the closeness of friends. And above all the experience of what is essentially a performance in time, which has everything to tell us about the importance of pacing and of building to a climax: the anticipation after each lull of a bigger and louder display, until the conclusion which fills the sky and makes you feel as if you are being hammered into the ground with sound.

How disappointing it would be if it wasn't like that.