Thursday 29 November 2007

I blogged a lot recently about my experience of being edited. Having fought my way through this temporary but necessary obsession, I've decided to move on to another topic. I suspect you're growing bored of reading about my editor's cuts. If you want to hear, more, please let me know and I'll oblige (or find another excuse to delay revealing the extent of my ignominy.)

Now that my MS is all but complete (I daren't say complete yet, after my earlier debacle, before I hear the editor's judgement) and I've not been thinking about it to the exclusion of all else, I find my plot and characters popping into my head at random times.

Ideas seem to appear in my head when it's impossible to write them down. Today, for example, I had several flashes of inspiration ("Sounds great!" you might think) at these times: in the shower, driving my car, walking from one building to another in a cold drizzle, and sitting in a meeting (obviously). (Not so great now.) I also usually have crucial ideas just as I'm going to bed, exhausted by the double life I've been leading (working all day, then writing from 6pm till 1 or 2am).

My question is this: Do some writers have ideas while sitting sensibly in front of paper or screen, a pot of fresh coffee to hand, and no distractions? Is it possible to be sensibly creative? Does creativity require a certain amount of chaos from which to spring, or am I just trying to justify my scatty approach to writing?

Friday 23 November 2007

I cracked on, and I'm on top of the edits. Why did I ever glibly say, "Writing's easy"? Thank you, those of you who've experienced the process, for not laughing at my naivety. (Not in my hearing, anyway.)

I am really enjoying blogging again. I've received so many supportive comments from my blogbuddies. It has really made a difference and kept my spirits up. (I know I should say 'kept me sane' but...) Seriously, we hear so much about all the evils in the world, it's comforting to know the world is full of goodhearted people being kind.

I've been edited and I have to say that, painful as it sounds, I loved the experience. I've been on an amazing journey of discovery, learning to control my creative talent. I'm not skilled yet, but I'm on my way. I won't reveal how many of my 80,000 words I cut, but my title, Cut Short, took on a rather ironic significance . I'm not sure I can admit where I went off the rails. Perhaps it was inevitable, as I've churned out 6 books in a year, without much thought. "Can it really be this easy?" I thought. Guess what: it isn't.

Yes, I've been edited, and I loved every minute of it. I've had the cut, and been initiated: I am now a writer. Of course, I've said that before, and I'll have to wait and see what my brilliant editor says to the revised MS...

Thursday 15 November 2007

"I never want to see anyone, and I never want to go anywhere or do anything. I just want to write." (P.G.Wodehouse)

I'll return to my blog next week but for a few days I have to focus on Cut Short. There are revisions in the pipeline. The eagle-eyed among you may notice a change from the cover design here and the final cover on the book, behind which lies a story in itself.

In short, I've received THE dreaded letter from my editor, and I have to do some WORK on my MS. Enough of all this writing for fun, it's time to sort my MS out. I promise to blog all about it when I recover from my insane writing fest... if I recover. It's a ... sorry, no time to think of a word ... got to crack on or crack up (or both).

Wednesday 14 November 2007

There I was, feeling - well, clever - because my book is on Amazon, when my computer silently announced it was configuring and shut itself down. I waited, outwardly calm, for what seemed a long time. At last a little white arrow appeared, hovering in the centre of the darkness, like the finger of God: Let there be icons.... I waited. No icons, but a little flag appeared. I waited for other shapes to emerge from the blue haze on my screen. My computer sent me another message. Tablets of stone? Configuring updates. "Fine," I thought, "configure all you like. I'm not worried." I was aware of my fingers, tapping wildly on the desk top. (That's the top of a desk, to me.)

I sat, staring at the ocean blue of a screen teeming with life, whirring invisibly beneath its surface, until a tiny revolving circle appeared; a spinning planet had emerged.

I was late for work but couldn't tear myself away until my screen was restored. So I sat suspended, a fly in amber from a vanished universe, clinging to a world I will never understand. I was thrilled when my computer made a small beep. Something was happening within its hidden depths. I glanced at the green light for reassurance and it gave me hope.

Is this the equivalent of some religious mystery, I wondered, this unholy trinity of hard drive, mother board and screen that reveals its meanings to us? Its high priests are technicians who can fix malfunctions (which happen when I've done something wrong)? I'm an enforced devotee, at heart a heretic.
I thought I really would be late for work, when a familiar icon appeared. Click. My screen was back. A small box appeared, ghostlike in the corner of the screen. Click here to see the solutions found for your computer. I didn't want to know, didn't dare click any more keys, but I heard myself murmur, "Thank you."

E.M. Forster set a story in a future where mankind has become entirely dependent on technology. People's limbs have withered through lack of use and they can barely move. There is no need; machines do everything for them.
The story is called 'The Machine Stops'.

Friday 9 November 2007

A little voice has been clamouring in my head since I signed the publisher's contract, telling me this is all a dream. That voice has now been silenced. Cut Short by Leigh Russell has appeared on Amazon.

Thursday 8 November 2007

Remembering my original claim that I was going to share something of my experience as a new writer on this blog, I thought I should say something about that, as well as asking questions about life, society, writing - and important matters like how to use italics in a blog!

I write murder stories that seem to develop in one of two ways. I don't start at the beginning of a story and work chronologically (or any sort of logically) through to the end but begin by writing the exciting, dramatic scenes first. They're the most fun! Then I go back and fill in everything else, like plot and characters.

I may start writing with a murder scene. This raises questions. Who was the victim? Why was this person killed? Who was the killer? The story spins off from there.

Alternatively, I might begin with a discovery. A body is found. Who found it? Who was the victim? Why were they killed? Who was the killer? And I'm away.

It becomes a question of problem solving, like a kind of jigsaw to fit characters, motivation and opportunity together into a plausible story. I love the challenge of solving the difficulties this raises and am in the middle of one right now. A body has been found in an unlikely place. How did it get there? who is it? why? - I'm stumped for a plausible plot line, and having enormous fun trying to work out something good.

I love the idea that I need never ever be bored again, for the rest of my life, because there's always some problem to resolve.

So if you see someone with a faraway, slightly deranged look in their eyes, muttering to themselves, it could be me, working out how the body got there..... Best not say hello, it might be someone else who is demented, talking to themselves and gazing wildly round not seeing what's in front of them, lost in another world altogether.

I'd hate to have to do this to a deadline! Oh, and it beats doing crosswords. I was never any good at them anyway.

Wednesday 7 November 2007

I foolishly undertook to write a new post every Wednesday so here goes.

Casting about for an idea, paradoxically gives me an idea, because I've been wondering l about this very subject lately: where do ideas come from? I mean the ideas that spark creative endeavour. Did Shakespeare have any problem, with his licence to use existing plots? We insist on originality in art. Encouraged by a tireless media assault to aspire to size zero figures, perfect teeth, etc. why should we yearn to be clones outwardly yet insist on originality in art? Is art the last refuge of the individual in our society?

I'll focus on characters. My publisher advised me to keep reading, for ideas, but I find my inspiration in life. No offence to the human race intended, but I can't sit long in any cafe, stand in a station, or walk along the street, before I realise that the peculiar characters I create as a writer, my odd little works of fiction, are no stranger than many real people. Life is bursting with possibilities.

Sometimes a character just pops into my head or develops on the page in front of me without intention on my part. I suppose I've had the idea unconsciously working iself out for a while, but it seems to just appear from nowhere, ready formed.

So my question this week is this: where do ideas come from? I wonder where other people find theirs .