Monday, November 30, 2009

Who the Hell is Willard Price?

Contestitis Chronicus has struck again. This time, the aim is to write some kind of tribute to an author who postively/negatively influenced our desire to become writers. The first (actually the second) name that came to mind was the late and great Willard Price, whose books I used to devour in my early teenage years. Here is my off-the-cuff attempt at (what is probably extremely bad) poetry.

Lots of fun to write. If you feel the urge to give me any helpful comments, please do so! I don't need to submit this until mid December.

While working b'ind the counter of my local Borders store,
A customer of youthful age approached me to implore,
That I should share my wisdom on which new book he might buy,
Ideally, without vampires, ghosts, or broomsticks in the sky.

Delightedly, I gave a grin and bid him walk this way,
Towards the tiny scrap of paranormal-free YA,
And reaching for the titles, I drew out something nice,
A ripping-yarn adventure tale, by author, Willard Price.

He screwed his stud-pierced nose at me, and stared like I was mad,
Then uttered words that stung me, worse than any slap I'd had,
“Who the hell is Willard Price?” he gave a mocking cry,
And I fought hard, against the urge, to poke him in the eye.

“You’ve never heard of Willard Price?” I kept my tone polite,
“It’s gripping, thrilling, heads above this modern YA shite,
Willard takes you places so exotic, far away,
'Twas he who made me want to write, and so I do, this day”.

“Well good for you,” the youth looked bored, his heart no longer in it,
“I write too, I text at nearly 50 words per minute.
But maybe I should simply listen, to my friends' harangues,
And buy that new release about the fairy with the fangs.”

And as he left, I sadly slipped the book back in its place,
There to wait for someone new, to set their heart to race,
Who the hell is Willard Price? The modern youngsters say,
But they don’t write them, like they used to, back in Willard’s day.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Am I the Only One Who Notices This Kind of Thing?

This is on the ground floor of our building. It's truly beautiful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Seven Weeks

That's how long it's been since I posted the Ghost of Ping-Ling. Several authors whose blogs I follow have recommended that the best thing to do in this situation is forget it and get on with life, pretend you never even sent it in the first place. This is very sensible advice. I would go so far as to rank it alongside "eat lots of brussel-sprouts" and "always remember to floss".

I have tried to keep busy. I've written 35,000 words of my next project, edited a short story, drawn about eight sketches, watched ten movies, even managed to read a novel and a half. But I can't help thinking about my manuscript. Has anyone read it? Is it sitting, covered in a layer of dust, on a shelf somewhere? Is it in a brief-case on its way to a meeting? Was there some sort of horrible mail mix up, and it's currently propping up a wonky desk in a government office in Liberia?

Who knows? Wherever it is, the waiting is very tough, and this whole thing about forgetting it and getting on with life is not as easy at it seems.

I will never complain about the query system again. The query system is like having a bandaid ripped off. It's not pleasant, but at least it's fast.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Driving Without Headlights

Since I finished GPL, I've plunged into my next project, an adult fantasy called The Weight of Souls. My aim has been to finish the first draft by the end of the year, giving me a target of 1000 words a day between now and then. As of tonight, I'm sitting at 23,000 words, a bit under where I need to be seeing as I ended up taking a couple of (desperately needed) weeks off.

My approach to writing this draft has been similar to that advocated by NaNoWriMo, as well as most of the authors whose blogs I follow. I call it the "Driving Without Headlights" approach. The aim is to sit down and write, with only a minimal outline and just a cursory idea of where the story is going to end up. You never go back and revise, and you don't stop to read what you've written. You keep ploughing on until you reach the end of the first draft, at which point you sink your teeth into what will almost definitely be an enormous amount of revision, if not a near-total rewrite.

The philosophy behind this approach, I think, is that too many people get bogged down in editing or preparation, and end up never getting the book finished or, sometimes, even started. Characters and situations also have a bad habit of doing their own thing, bouncing off each other in such a way as to make any planning and outlining null and void. I can testify to this, because I've seen it happen in everything I've written, and it's certainly happening in my current work in progress.

It's the first time I've used this approach, and I see it as an experiment as much as an exercise in producing another novel. At the moment, I'm not convinced it's the best way to write a book. Sure, using this approach will help you get the draft finished. Sure, it will avoid wasting time planning something that's unlikely to go in the expected direction anyway. But I'm wondering whether the end result will be little more than an elaborate outline that took several months to write and, when you sit down to do the editing, will only have to be replaced by a 'proper' draft. I've even seen authors refer to this first, pell-mell draft as "draft 0", knowing it won't be good enough to be graced with a number "1".

At times, when I'm writing the Weight of Souls, I'm totally clueless as to where it's going or what's supposed to be happening, though I have a string of loosely associated ideas in my mind for what I want to occur. Because I'm not reading back over it, I'm worried that, when I do, I'll shake my head at the absolute morass of dead ends and dragging narrative, loosely cobbled together with the ragged remnants of what once seemed such a good idea, and I'll have to start over totally.

Of course, I could be wrong, and I'll end up being pleasantly surprised. It's definitely an experiment worth carrying out, if only to find out whether this style works (or doesn't work) for me.