I have decided, sober and in the cold light of day, despite much trepidation and every common sense cell in my body saying ‘no’, that I shall participate in NaNoWriMo for the first time. This is a commitment to write a 50,000 word novel draft in one month starting tomorrow. I think 300,000 wannabes took part globally last year, what could possibly go wrong? So, yes, I have to write 1500 words tomorrow morning! That is, 1,500 words ….
Why undertake such a crazy mission? It has taken me two years to have a second completed draft of 80,000 words of the current manuscript and I aim for 500-1000 words most days, so the odds do not look good.
And yet. And yet, I have reached the stage of the current manuscript where I need to put it aside for a time and let it lie fallow (one of the few things I remember from my school days, that plus ‘why sea breezes?’) as I have applied for an ASA mentorship, entered another competition and need to ‘let it go’.
And also – drum roll – I have the plot and characters and setting for ‘my next novel’, published nothing yet, but it sounds good, right? and so I do have a flying start and am, believe it or not, eager to have a go at it and see where it might lead me. By nature I am a ‘plotter’ stemming from churning out academic books and articles in my past life as a university professor, and being a ‘pantser’ will be good for me; a bit like cold showers, AFD’s, clean living and long runs in the morning are ‘good for me’.
Anyway, I am committing myself publically to keep the pressure on myself; please feel free to check on me and keep me honest. Oh and wish me luck.
No, I am not talking on this post directly about my novel, though precisely this does happen to Tom on the Camino, nor about Gone Girl which is a neat re-working of the theme. In the so-called real world, the non-literary world let us call it, what would you do if you become suspicious and then convinced that your lover is a killer?
Infidelity leaves love a twitching corpse, but there is expectation of a full recovery [in time, as they say]. With murder, dead is dead.
Do you confront your lover? Well, you had better be right in your suspicions because if you are wrong you can kiss that relationship good bye.
Do you empathise and understand? Maybe the victim ‘deserved it’ or you convince yourself it is so; maybe it happened a long time ago, maybe you can find extenuating circumstances.
Do you simply love them and accept it – ‘love conquers all’
What is your moral responsibility?
Do you turn a blind eye because it is all too hard and horrible?
Do you watch and hope to learn more,sleeping with one eye open?
Do you ‘do your duty’ and turn them over to the law though it tears your heart apart?
And what if you are wrong?
I have written scholarly books in a previous life, so I have omitted the stuff I knew; for example, writing is hard work [oh yes!]; there is no other way to start than to write one word and then another and then a sentence and a paragraph etc; if it is boring and unclear to you, well, it will be to everyone else and it is amazing what the human mind can conjure up to avoid sitting in front of the blank page and creating a masterpiece.
No doubt these are the staple of writing workshops and you already know them, dear reader. I did it the hard way.
1. Have in mind for whom you are writing – note that I am old-fashioned and cannot end a sentence with a preposition. Write for an audience, not simply for yourself.
2. ‘Nice’ and ‘good’ characters are boring; make them complicated and imperfect.
3. What makes me most uncomfortable and even distressed as a subject is what turns out to be my most authentic and engaging writing.
4. Insert ‘shame’ in 3 and it is doubly so.
5. Eliminate the adverb.
6. Avoid generic descriptions and declarations, always make them personal and specific to the characters’ points of view.
7. Show, not tell. Yes, yes, a total cliche but especially important to me as I spent years as a university professor teaching and writing to explain and analyse. Great for teaching, death for a novel.
8. Following from 7, ‘less is more’.
9. If it feels flat or inauthentic to me, it will to a reader. Dump it and try again; perseverance no matter what is not always the answer.
10. Swallow hard – gulp – and be prepared to discard entire drafts.
which was my entry in the Writers Victoria ‘six word story’ competition and which received a prize!
Thank you Writers Victoria!
It is the first time I have entered any form of literary competition, so you can imagine my happiness at this modest success and the encouragement it gives me to persevere with my longer forms of fiction writing – not that I was ever going to give.
Many of you will know that the concept of the six word story began when Hemingway was challenged and came up with this poignant pearl:
for sale, baby shoes, never worn
So, please forgive my moment of boastful self-congratulation and now I return to the grindstone of good old Scrivener.
Onwards and upwards!
Having used the Austen device to tear my lovers apart, it is time to use that old standard in mysteries, namely, the RED HERRING. Heaps of them!
By the way, from whence comes the term ‘red herring’? Someone out there will tell me.
So, for those who have been paying attention (thank you, thank you!) who are the obvious red herrings upon which suspicion may fall for the deaths of the pilgrims?
Now that we see a possible religious theme and the playing out of a macabre ritual through the placement of corpses on various church steps and patios, who is our most likely red herring candidate?
Given the usual twists and turns of mystery stories, will one of the aforesaid herrings actually be the killer?
Will it be like ‘real life’ where there is rarely one truth? Don’t be alarmed, I am not going post-modern on you (in any event, so passe), but it may be that there are competing truths….
Oh and to make it clear, I am going to be a complete rat and not give any answers. I do want you to read the book when it does appear – no holding of breath though 😉