Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Last Rewrite?

I'm hoping that today is the beginning of my last rewrite of The World According to Boring John.

It needs a rewrite, for sure. I read two sample chapters and whilst I was happy with the Dear Zadie chapter (very happy), I was not happy at all with another chapter, The Man Who Loved Making Lists. (It was too long, and it didn't 'work' - well enough, anyway.)

I then decided to re-read the full manuscript - some 8 months after last working on it. Verdict: an enjoyable read, with lots of good bits, but the middle section sagged.

So I now have a few notes, from myself and from some published authors to process. Bill Broady, Jill McNeill and Kate Long all gave me some useful feedback on the chapters that they read. It's up to me to see how much (if at all) I agree with their comments (removing all the "hee hee's" is going to be a bit tedious, for a start - but maybe it's necessary).

I also think I'm going to begin rewriting near the middle of the manuscript on a chapter I'm fairly happy with, before I have to get my teeth into the chapter that needs most work. :-O And then I can progress through the book from that chapter onwards, in order, and finish my rewriting efforts on chapters I'm happier with near the start of the manuscript. (Otherwise I feel I might end up with a polished beginning and an unpolished end. And that sounds painful, as Boring John might say.)

But before all that can begin (tomorrow) I have to organise my writing space, tidy my notes, find my various critiques etc. Yes, it sounds like more procrastinating I know but tomorrow will be different.

Arvon Course #2

Little bit late adding this blog post, as I went on my second Arvon Foundation creative writing course between August 11th and August 16th. However, write it I shall. (I should really be starting a final rewrite of The World According to Boring John - again! - hence this blog update, first. Ah, procrastination...)

So, the course was tutored by Bill Broady and Jean McNeil, both of whom have had several novels published and both of whom demonstrated a good deal of knowledge (and love) for writing. The course was titled (I think) Where Do I Go From Here? but it was quite similar, alas, to the Starting to Write course I did in Oct 2006.

Still, I got enough ideas about where to go from here - enough inspiration - to determine that I needed to rewrite my first novel, at least one more time, and to decide what my second novel is going to be about (and when I shall start to write it: January, 2009).

What did I learn at Arvon?

Well I learnt that I should read more. And I should write what I want to read. (Hurrah, for that one!) And I should write more, too.

I also discovered that Stephen May, the soon-to-be-departing Centre Director at Arvon Lumb Bank, had not only taken a Masters in Creative Writing, recently, but by successfully finishing it he'd also managed to write and get published his very first novel, called Tag. This gave me food for thought, indeed. Maybe I should also do the Masters thing to get my novel published - I've certainly got the spare time to do so. (Stephen had also written a book about Creative Writing so I may well be comparing apples with pears with that assumption.)

What did I want to learn at Arvon, this time?

I didn't want this Arvon experience to be about writing, per se; I wanted it to be about 'being a writer'. So I didn't do any creative writing apart from the morning exercises, some of which I was reluctant to do as they didn't 'fit' with my 'current writing style' (and some of which inspired me to think of a good idea for a second novel - so it just goes to show you that writing prejudices aren't that useful).

I actually wanted to know the answers to questions, if truth be told, questions (to tutors) like these:
  1. Where do you get your ideas from?
    (Actually, I'm not that bothered about this answer as everyone's creative process is different. I trust my own process. And ideas, not acted upon, are pretty worthless anyway.)

  2. Do you think my ideas are valid?
    (This was an important question before I went on the course, but it isn't now. Ideas either work or they don't. My first idea for a novel may not work (I think it does) but I've learned a lot from having the balls to go with it until the last line.)

  3. Do you use the writing exercises we do on an Arvon course to help you write a novel?
    (Answer, most likely, is no. Interestingly, Bill Broady said that he would never let anyone except a few trusted individuals look at his work in progress, as a writer. And I am exactly the same with that. Arvon encourages this, though, and many students seem to value this professional feedback. It horrifies me, though, for anyone but me (or Boring John, obviously) to get to murder my little darlings. Lol.)

  4. Do you like being a writer or would you rather it never happened?
    (Alas I never did manage to ask this question. But it still feels a valid question.)

  5. Can an author write about himself and it not be autobiography or memoir; can it be fiction?
    (I now think that authors do nothing but write about themselves; I think it disingenuous to think otherwise.)

  6. Are there really no rules to writing?
    (Answer: yes, as long as you realise that the real answer is no!)

  7. Do you write what's inside of you or do you write what will sell?
    (This was one of the few questions that the tutors answered, actually. Bill Broady encouraged us all to be true to our writing selves and to write what was inside of us, and then he went on to slag off some Scottish chappy writer (I shouldn't name him) who Bill thought had done the very opposite after a brilliant first novel.

  8. How much time do you spend learning about writing? And isn't the best way to learn how to write, to write?
    (Both Bill and Jean are self-taught writers. Say no more.)

  9. Do you ever quit reading novels? I do! (Sorry Bill*.)
    (This question was not answered satisfactorily. Or perhaps I didn't quite know what the real question was.)

  10. How many novels do you read per year?
    (Answer: MUCH more than me. Lol.)

  11. Do you think it's useful to write short stories?
    (Answer: of course. Trouble is: I don't.)
I didn't ask most of the questions above; I forgot. But some questions were answered anyway, and some answers I discovered for myself.


Yes, it was another great Arvon experience, and I managed to get an idea for a second novel (titled: You Only Die Twice), but I don't think I shall do Arvon again. (Unless I discover that Arvon Lumb Bank is the only place I can come up with ideas for novels. Lol.)


(*) I failed to read Bill Broady's Eternity is Temporary (reading only 30 pages or so). The reason: I wasn't interested in reading about punk rock or homes for the elderly.

The thing is, after writing The World According to Boring John, I only seem interested in reading fiction that isn't just 'good fiction' - it has to be 'different' or it has to be definitive. For example, I can happily read The Old Man and The Sea or Of Mice and Men as these books are almost faultless (as well as short); I can read Happiness(TM) as it's a book about self-help (an interest of mine); or I can read Finding Myself because it's 'odd'.

But I can't read Eternity is Temporary nor can I read Laurie Lee's As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning or many, many other books (Do I have a problem? Lol.) No, it has to be 'odd' or faultless or spiritually provocative (e.g. The Alchemist) otherwise it's in the bin. Sorry, Bill. (You see, I really do need to read more, to become a better reader.)