Saturday 15 January 2011

2011 - The Story So Far...

Okay, so the bright shiny New Year is well and truly out of its box and already looking a bit worn around the edges, so I guess it's time to pack away all the bubble-wrap and maybe spend a while hunting fruitlessly for the warranty card. Oh, it's only 12 months, what could possibly go wrong?

2011's off to a decent enough start for me. I have my first acceptance of the year, from the very lovely Waterhouse Review. The story is quite an old one, and I've been hoping to find a home for it for a while. It's one of those stories that I've never been entirely sure what to do with and people seem to either love it or hate it. As a result I've swung back and forth from having loads of confidence about it to being convinced it's the biggest pile of crap ever. Deep down, though, I'm convinced it's a story I want to tell, and that's helped keep my enthusiasm for it at a reasonably high level. I've tinkered with it a lot - it's had at least three titles and has been edited into at least three different tense-and-viewpoint combinations. A few weeks ago, after leaving it "resting" for several months, I went back to it and thought it seemed a bit over-worked, so I stripped it back to basics and pulled it through a deep edit (in the process putting it into yet another format - this time third-person present tense). I felt that did the trick, so I sent it off and - lo! - it was accepted.

It's interesting - I think this is probably the longest time I've experienced between me writing a story and finding somewhere to publish it. Effectively it's a collaboration, between me as a writer about four years ago and the writer I currently am. Personally I feel it's worked pretty well, although there are parts that maybe aren't quite as smooth as I'd like. I hope that's a sign that I have improved in the intervening time and have a better grasp of structure, character development, pacing, etc. However, because it's a story I've lived with for so long I'm not convinced I can be even slightly objective about it, so I'll be very interested to hear what people think of it when Issue 3 of The Waterhouse Review goes live in April.

In terms of new writing, there's not a great deal to report. I seem to be dealing with a lot of Real Life™  at the moment and that's getting in the way of cranking out much in the way of fiction. I have started work on something I hope will be a potential competition entry, although it's early in the process and could very easily amount to nothing. Still, I'm going about it in a way that's unusual, for me at least, in that I'm just keeping a very loose idea of the framework in mind and filling pages (well, two pages so far) of a notebook with ideas of things that I may want to include, not worrying too much about how they'll all fit together or indeed whether they'll actually got into the story at all. Usually I approach stories in a very linear fashion. I let them stew and develop in my head and once I've got a fair grasp of the plot I take that as a prompt to sit down and type out the first draft. Subsequent edits may introduce drastic changes, but more often than not the basic structure remains relatively fixed. I know other people work in the kind of way that I'm attempting here, so I'm looking forward to seeing how this one turns out.

So, in terms of writing, 2011 so far has meant slow progress into unfamiliar territory. But I'm hopeful that it will form a sound basis for a successful year, propelling me forward to my goal of someday being some sort of actual writer.

Oh, and just as a parting remark, I can thoroughly recommend A.L. Kennedy's What Becomes, which I'm just coming to the end of. It's a collection of twelve short stories and they are superb. Not the cheeriest of themes, it has to be said, but Kennedy has a dark, dry sense of humour and there have been several moments when I've literally laughed out loud (something I do very rarely when reading). Often with a collection there's at least one that I reach the end of and think, "Yes? And?" - but these are all diamonds. Highly recommended.


Teresa Stenson said...

I like that, the idea of collaborating with yourself from a few years ago. Good luck with the new story, sounds like a very, excuse the naff expression, 'organic' way of going about it. It's nice, to have that gestation time. And to try new ways of working. I like sketching around ideas when they are very new, and that's actually led me to my latest project, which is a kind of picture book. Maybe.

I have A.L Kennedy on my 'read this writer' list.

'someday being some sort of actual writer' - funny - first off, I reckon you ARE, but also - the amount of words you've added in, to make this less direct and therefore less showy is funny and very English, and I do the same kind of thing.

Dan Purdue said...

Shhh, Tree, don't give away our secret writing techniques...

That 'collaboration' thing sounds a lot more pretentious than I meant it to. I just meant I noticed a significant change in the way I had originally structured the story and the way I'd phrased some things, compared to the way I'd tackle it now.

I've been kicking around the new piece for a while now. I seem to have kicked it into into a corner so hopefully now it's not moving about so much I'll be able to start writing it.

The picture book sounds exciting. Hope that goes well.

And, yes, read A L Kennedy. "What Becomes" would be a great place to start. I really liked "Day" as well, and "Indelible Acts", so I'm going to be delving into her back catalogue in the next few months.