Tuesday, 12 August 2008

New words up there on header...


I was contacted by Josie Melia, a fellow member of New Writing South, to let me know she has started writing comic screenplays, and also started a blog.

I have been so slow with the novel recently. Putting it all down on a proposal for the University was not good for the creative process. Over the eighteen months I've been writing it, and enjoying, and finding out, I hadn't ever really looked closely at what it was 'about'... or set out in detail what happens. Deliberately. I don't know how to work like that.

As soon as I had, some of the magic went out of writing it. It didn't seem a journey of discovery any more. It felt like I was standing in a lit window with no clothes on, and although I kept trying to write, if I was unhappy with something it got deleted completely. So I would get to 50,000 wds, rejoice, then a day later find a scrap I didn't like, and get rid. Back to 48,000. Then six weeks later, 53,000. Then back to 51000. Its painful. But if I KNOW a section is poor, I don't want to keep it, or let other people massacre it, do I??? Recipe for disaster, that.

The I read Josie's blog, and followed a link to a blog called Emotional Toolbox (I know... I know... cheesy!!) it has the Confucius quote above. It seemed good, solid, and there also seemed a reason why I was reading it now.

There was synchronicity in reading that email, and finding that quote, when I was honestly feeling like throwing in the towel and waiting until October for the first residential weekend to talk stuff through.

Go slow, just do bits, seems to be the message. But don't stop completely.

OK Confucius...

Interesting, I went back to that blog just now to check the spelling of Confucius. The quote has changed to one by Edison. very nice, but not quite.....

checked out, back in (she's getting a lot of hits!!) I liked the next one too:


"Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit." Conrad Hilton

(Success in this case will be actually finishing first draft...! )


Tania Hershman said...

I like your new quote. I would add - not just stopping but going backwards. I feel like I could pause for breath every now and again, as long as I don't slide back. Not sure what that means - metaphor, shmetaphor. Anyhow, not cheesy - whatever helps, helps!

Are you still writing flash and poetry? That is definitely part of the moving, always moving. We don't have to either walk or run, we can skip, jog, crawl...forwards.

Ossian said...


I remember listening to the podcast (linked from above) and finding it a bit of a horror show. One thing that stuck in my mind, and which was mentioned in several different ways, was that they took people who were passable writers to begin with and rendered them completely unable to write.

They are generally positive, but for the life of me I can't figure out why, considering the facts they describe. I'm afraid I'm rather in the Raymond Chandler way of thinking, something to the effect that he never saw courses making anyone able to write who wasn't already able to write. According to this podcast it might have the reverse effect, though. Also these pontificators hate anyone who comes in thinking they already know how to write - so beware.

I don't see the need to ask anybody about novels. It's like going to a trainspotters conference every day for three years, I imagine, anistening to them witter on about minutiae of academic waffle. I admire people who can waffle for their country and alma mater, but I think of them as being like those entertainers who can recite things very, very fast and make everyone laugh.

I doubt there is anybody in a university who would have any better idea about novels than yourself, with the possible exception of Martin Amis.

The one good thing that you get is time, but then they make you waste it all doing things you don't want to do, and taking part in brainwashing and packdrills or whatever.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Ha! Os you make me amile!

I have to admit I was expecting the downturn, as I'd heard that a top poet refused a post at a University, when he was advised that it would stop him writing as well. Creation or academe...? He chose creation.

I figure the following: 'Knickers'!!!

I know I can 'write'. I don't need anyone to tell me I can or can't. There's been enough external validation of that. I know I can write short stories, to whatever standard I can.

What I don't do when writing a short story is plot. At least, when I do, it falls flat on its face (viz my Willesden entry last year!)

My norm is to create the story fast, or sections thereof. Then work at it to improve it.

That don't work quite so well for marathons as for sprints, I find. So I need structure advice, I need feedback on voice, on thematic coherence... Ive got so many threads Im losing em.

Also, I've got an accomplished poet for tutor, so of course by the end of a few months I will become T S Eliot Mk II. (Did you know T S Eliot is an anagram of 'toilets'?)

Freshness of voice isnt what is wanted anyway... viz the comment in the recent Sunday Times article, that up and coming good writers are EMULATING their masters.

Well ahoy there me hearties... I dont want to emulate no one. I may be inspired by, and acknowledge the influence of... but emulate?? nah.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi T

I am still writing poetry, and have teamed up with another MPhil studemt who is a v good one, winner of multiple awards... and she is being v kind and giving me feedback. She is working on prose for the first time... so it's a mutual aid society at the moment.

I'm also working with dear D on the letters project. Thats a daily shot in the arm, nothing negative about it at all... blissful. And just like a warm bath after the cold shower of forcing the novel out.

Douglas Bruton said...

I tuned in again today and straightaway saw the header (before seeing your post on it's new place)... I thought it must have always been there and I had simply missed reading it before.

I was about to feed it back to you, spoon by spoon, when I read the post that announced it was new. And so, being new, it must be something that is already beign digested... by you.

So I am heartened that you are back up... spirits lifted. And this is all part of the process... and when self doubts assail us we must take up arms and slay them dead.... and that is a battle sometimes... and men at arms (and women too) need squires to help them, to lighten the loads they carry.

Best always... and not a little waffle in there, too... but the heart is in the right place, even when the mouth is a cup that overspills and overspills.


Vanessa Gebbie said...

You carry on overspilling, D. Tis appreciated.

Douglas Bruton said...

'It's not the destination; it's the journey'

(sorry, think that might be from a British Airways TV ad)

But, some truth in there, I think.


Vanessa Gebbie said...

hmph. Five star accommodation, please, throughout. First class flights, and a destination that looks like Cleethorpes.

kate said...

A few thoughts, for what they’re worth:
If you’ve written mostly short stories, a novel can come as a shock – it’s a much baggier kind of craft, with an almost scary amount of space. There’s no space for mistakes or unnecessary writing in a short story; in a novel there can be a lot of ‘B’ roads. Trying to make each section as perfect as a short story is self-defeating. 2.A bit at a time is good – there’s an excellent book called ‘Bird By Bird’ – you probably know it already - which is good thing to say to oneself – it’s calming. 3. Writing a novel always takes at least a year longer than you think it will. Having written five, I feel I know what I’m talking about! But there’s a whole world there and it yours to make and that takes time. (I know, He rested on the 7th day, but I bet He didn’t, He tinkered with things, added a valley here, a mountain there, took it out, changed them round, and then decided, that will have to be it .It’s the best I can do at the moment. So here we are, with Slough.) 4.An outline, or a synopsis, is not a bad idea as long as you know it’s not written in stone – for the book I just finished, I wrote quite a long synopsis and then continually changed it as the book took off in a different direction. It’s a way to touch base as well, when you get to the middle of the book and you feel you’re drowning. It can be a useful tool, depending on how it’s used.
You probably know all of this much better than I do, but I thought I’d mention it – you are not alone – whatever you feel, it’s part of the process.
what was the Confucius (sp?) quote by teh way? I cna't seem to find it on that site

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hello Kate,

what a lovely lovely post. Thank you SO much! It is just weird how I'm feeling at the moment... unable to really 'get it wrong' therefore unable to get anything down. Im so used to getting stories wrong, and tinkering then getting them better. And even though this is stories, that approach wont come through.

nemmind, it will. Today I was working with a biro and a pair of scissors. Literally cutting n pasting a story.

I know nothing is set in concrete. I know I can change everything, and probably will! And its is lovely to know that others have got stuck in this bog before!

the quote is the one Ive put up there on the header...