Sunday, 2 January 2011

Writing, Saving, Sending to Email, Losing chunks of plot on the way

As some of you may be aware, I technically failed at NaNoWriMo this year. In my mind, I didn't so much fail as use the time to begin writing my MAGNUM OPUS - a work of such startling similarity to a series of books I haven't even read yet (The incredibly popular and apparently ball-explodingly amazing Millennium Steig Larsson collection) that I might as well become clairvoyant. Not that my book will be anywhere near as fantastic, or expertly written. What I mean to say is that it is a twisty-turny crime thriller, set in a Scandinavian backdrop. When I woke up a few mornings ago realising what had happened - essentially that I had sub-consciously thought "what a good idea" and copied these ideas down into Microsoft Word - I was angry and gutted. I seriously had hoped to be sending manuscripts to publishers in around a year's time. Now I'll be lucky if I don't get sued for copyright infringement for having the occasional dream about the insanely hot main character, gangster and icy-hearted but issue-riddled Jedrzej.

Ah Jedrzej. I will melt your heart. Once I finish the book you are in and you become real. Which is how it works, right?

I haven't written fiction since I left high school. Since I started my so far ill-fated career in journalism/copywriting/absolutely anything, please just employ me, I have only written about personal experiences, features about rats looking for love (look it up, it's on this blog somewhere) and thousands of gig and album reviews (I have typed the words "garage band", "folksy" and "quirky" more times than anybody ever should have had to) NONE of which I have been paid for, unless you could count the odd pint I can cajole people into buying me, in which case I have in the last 4 years earned about £5.20's worth of Fosters. As you have probably gathered I have as a result spent a long time working in retail to supplement this income. Fiction hasn't really played any part of my career, only popping up when I read on the train or while I was on holiday. One of my most impressive talents is that I can read at an ultrasonic pace, often finishing novels within an afternoon. It makes my book collection massive, and it also means I have read a lot of terrible books through necessity. In one week on holiday I read a book about 16th Century Danish lute player Music & Silence, a brilliant book by Margret Atwood The Year of the Flood, Black Mischief and Engleby (Vintage International) (which took me a record-breaking six hours with lunch included because I was frightened and wanted it to be over). I'd like to remind you at this point that I was on holiday, and although four books in a week is not truly impressive on it's own, I was also spending a lot of time having fun, going on bike rides, becoming wholesomely drunk on local beer and vodka, and generally taking pictures of everything I saw. Also, I never skim. I have to read every word. It's a bit obsessive of me, I know, and it means I end up reading a lot of receipts and the back of biscuit packets, but there you go. I like to read, but it can become a chore, especially when I know I should put the book down and go to bed, but my mind calculates that I only have an hour max left until I finish, and if I leave it til tomorrow reading the final climaxwill be a very unsatisfying endeavour. I go through cycles, where I read obsessively for about two weeks, nomming all sorts of word-nourishment in my path, getting through all my previously untouched Amazon order piles until they are all finished, and then I stop for another few months. I can't read casually. I am either totally engrossed and reading at traffic lights, or I'm not reading at all.

Which is why I don't usually write fiction. I never have an idea interesting or exciting enough to become engrossed in. I could never write chick-lit or a jolly little paperback about a fox that loses his top hat (as much as I'd like to - children's books are one of my most favourite things, and I have indeed read a number of decently characterised chick-lit novels out of necessity on trains and national express coaches), simply because I'd never be totally immersed. I have to invent a world i can walk around and touch in my mind's eye, a phenomenon that I almost entirely blame on my compulsive completion of RPG shoot 'em ups. I love having a different universe to explore, and people to play with and learn about. I feel as fondly towards Nico Bellic as I do towards McNulty or the Mayor of Casterbridge, and so playing games doesn't seem like a waste of time to me. It feels like a useful endeavour. How reading seems more socially acceptable than gaming does, I have no idea. Telling someone you've recently read a Karin Slaughter book is seen as interesting, but letting somebody know you just unlocked several thousand achievements from practicing head shots on infected zombies isn't seen as a real way to spend your time. I disagree. reading intensely violent books is just as sadistic, if not more so, than playing a game. A game you can turn off. A book and it's accompanying universe stays with you forever.

I'm not sure how this turned into a rant about gaming, but I'm fairly sure it has something to do with the fact that my mum does not have a TV and I have not rescued any Mexican fugitives or blown up a mine full of cannibals for at least a week. Instead I read Michael McIntyre's autobiography. In my defence, it was a present from my sisters for Christmas. As you can imagine, it is terrible, and as a result I am now annotating it with humorous and helpful comments of my own. So look forward to that. It will be my second greatest achievement, after becoming the WHSmith's bestseller for people who like reading books about gangsters and gun crime on the train to work.

My author name will be Katie Cronshaw. Look out for me next to my comedy restyling of horrible autobiographies in the "Probably Shit" section.

1 comment:

Jo said...

*sigh* I too failed at NaNoWriMo this year, not least because even I found what I was writing about so depressing, that merely the thought of opening MS word made me want to cry.

Your writing career has so far paid you more than mine has. A couple of pints here and there so totally wouldn't go amiss right now. Thus far, my writing career has earned me roughly -£2500 and a personality disorder. Awesome.

If you want to get into writing fiction though, my advice (suggesting you'd even want it - seeing as it's coming from a whopping failure such as myself) is to just start writing about something that happened to you, even just a small life event type thing, and then keep adding to it. As the word count racks up, the story will beging to stray from you, your reality, and into something totally new. You'd be surprised how much your imagination can lead you away from reality and into some whole other realm that you hadn't even thought of yet. Sometimes I feel like my fiction has sprawled entirely from my sub-conscious. Which kind of weirds me out.

Anyway, longest comment ever. You've probably fallen asleep by now.

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