What is the next thing I can do?

I have a hypothetical scenario for you:  You have an event coming up in your life relating to your chosen passion.  It’s just around the corner and you’re hugely excited.  This is it, this could be the making of an incredible new life and it’s almost here!

You dream of people flocking to your door wanting to know who you are and can we have some more please.  That sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

Then the event happens and reality gives you a rather unwarranted (well, it may seem that way) kick up the backside as you realise you haven’t hit the big time.  Okay maybe you sold a few books/paintings/photographs, but you are still sat at home and your phone/email is as quiet as it used to be.  Now what?

Wind back to just before the event.  If you have some free time dedicate it to answering these questions; ‘what if this doesn’t launch my career?’ and ‘What is the next thing I can do to get people to notice me?’

After the event there is a possibility you could disappear into a funk because after all your hard work, nothing happened.  Setting time aside beforehand will help prepare you if it didn’t go to plan.

So after being absent from my blog for quite a while you are probably wondering, why this and why now?  I have a secret.  I have been getting into photography in the last few months.  Next week (19-23 August) I will be taking part in an exhibition in London.  I’m really excited and nervous about it.  It could be great or it could be a damp squib.  Here’s hoping for the former.  If it is the latter, I need to be better prepared than I am now.

Disclaimer by Renee Knight: A Book Review

This book isn’t good.  No, this book is excellent.  While it didn’t grab me straight away, I was certainly hooked by the end.  Coming after ‘The Improbability of Love’ this book helped to restore my faith in storytelling.

So what is it about?  The blurb says

‘When an intriguing novel appears on Catherine’s bedside table, she curls up and begins to read.  But as she turns the pages, she is horrified to realize she is a key character, a main player.  This story will reveal her darkest secret.  A secret she thought no one else knew…’

Perhaps its me but those three little dots have a deeper meaning than at first appearance. Coming after that blurb they they tell of something insidious.

When the story is read it has disatrous consequences for not just those involved but her family too.  Isolated doesn’t even begin to explain what is happening.  Catherine is forcibly pushed out from her family.  What happened in the past was unforgivable. The problem is, what is written in the book is a false version of events.

By the time the truth comes out, severe damage has been done.  The author of the book, Stephen Brigstoke, decides to make amends for his sins.  Now everyone knows the truth  Catherine considers whether it is a good idea to rejoin the family.

As you might have guessed, I have skipped around the story without revealing too much.  When you come to read it, I know you’ll love it.  Be careful though, it is a story for adults.

 

Show, Don’t Tell

As a fledgling writer you are taught that you should ‘show, don’t tell’.  But why, you might ask? What is the harm in telling anyway?  For that matter, what do you mean by that phrase?

Let me give you an example of show first:

Michael crept across the darkened kitchen and stopped at the fridge, his hand resting on the door.  He glanced round before opening the door. The light from the fridge made his skin glow as he fished for his favourite snack, salami.  After giving it a sniff he devoured the cylinder of pork.  Closing the door, he licked his fingers and returned to bed.

And here is an example of tell:

Ever since he was a child, Michael had fostered a secret habit nighttime eating.  The first time was at the age of eleven he had woken during the night with hunger pangs.  Desperate to have something to eat, he snuck downstairs and gobbled a plate of cheese left on the side.  His mother, Maureen, wondered who had eaten their food until one night she caught him red-handed.  The scolding she gave out did not deter him however.  He knew what he was doing was bad for his health but he could not help himself as he stole across the kitchen and raided the fridge.  This time he went for the salami.

Here’s the problem, in the first example the story evolves before your eyes.  You get an impression that Michael is probably impulsive by nature.  You don’t know what the original cause was for this secretive eating, you are left to your own conclusions.

In the second example I have told you the reason.  In order to do that I had to pull away from the story to tell you.  The flow was been disrupted in order to give you this piece of character-building information.

The reason I bring this up now is because of the book I am reading ‘The Improbability of Love’ by Hannah Rothschild. Parts of the book are engaging however Hannah does have a habit of telling rather than showing.

In short bursts, I admit, it is useful to tell some back story.  When it stretches to two pages and the story to one paragraph, then I have a problem.  While I haven’t finished the novel I keep asking myself the same two questions ‘Do I need to know the motivation of every character in the story?  Do I need the life history of said characters too?’

Currently, the answer is no.

Death of a Bookstore

I’m in a bit of a quandry here.  I love book shops.  I love the smell, I love picking up a book and having a quick glance.  Book shops have this wonderful atmosphere, similar to libraries.  You know a wonderful world of adventure awaits and all it takes is to find the right book.  So in a way its a bit like pot luck, always searching for the book that’ll get you hooked.

And then there is the staff.  The best shops have the sort of staff you wish you could work with.  Always helpful, sometimes offering a beverage (where do they get these people from?!) and just generally being great.

Here’s my problem.  Not all book vendors are created equal (let’s not get into books being sold at the supermarket.  I’m just as guilty, but it isn’t right).  There are the awesome sort of book shops that I described above and then there are discount book shops.

The atmosphere is totally different in a discount book shop.  In my experience (let me stress this point here and now. I have not been to every book shop ever so I can’t comment on all of them) they are filled with, how can I describe this? Books that you can’t seem to buy anywhere else.  Is this a good thing?  It depends on what you are after.

At the risk of sounding snobby (okay, fine, I’m being really snobby here) books at discount stores seem to be of a lesser quality.  I don’t know, perhaps its just me, after all when they are sat on the shelf, I can’t tell them apart.

Anyway, back to my quandry.  Today I spent a grand total of three pounds sterling on three books (that’s right, one pound each).  This is ridiculously cheap.  There is a reason for this.  They were bought at a discount bookshop that was having a closing down sale.

So being snobby (I think we’ve established this point) I should feel happy about the shop closing, but I’m not.  Going through the books on display made me feel like a vulture picking the meat off a corpse.  Dare I say it, I felt a little, dirty.

I don’t want to see bookshops go under, no matter what they are like.  But what can I do to save them? Perhaps I should get off my overfed western backside and do something rather than just complain about the disintegration of the high street.  Now there’s a novel idea.

Editing Lesson No.1

Every single character must have a profile.

First I’ll give you a little bit of background to ‘Unit 16’. A couple of years ago, not long after I first started writing, I wrote a short scene.  Perhaps I should explain, I get ideas/scenes and need to get them down. Most of the time I don’t do anything with them but occasionally I do.

I liked what I had come up with and had always planned to take it further.  Two years later, I did.  This scene became the prologue for ‘Unit 16’.

When I wrote the piece it was exactly as I imagined in my head.  Which is fine, until you make a story from it.  Because the characters were not fleshed out I spent some time addressing that.  Except for one of them.

This particular character dies on page one of the prologue.  I thought to myself, why does he need a profile?  He doesn’t live beyond the first couple of paragraphs, it’ll be a waste of time. That would have been fine if he didn’t have any influence on the rest of the story.  He does.

That led to the minor (ish) crisis that was the subject of last week’s blog.  Fumdamental questions were not asked; Who is this guy?  What does he do?  Why is he about to be killed?

Answering those questions is what I’ve been trying to achieve last week.  Unravelling this character has helped pin down the time period of the prologue.  Having thought long and hard about it it looks like I can potentially keep the year as it is but possibly change locations.  It feels such a relief that I can essentially keep things as they are!

Plot Holes

How I wish I had the literary equivalent of a plaster which I could apply to any plot hole to cover them up.  Alas there is no such thing which leaves me the difficult task of correcting the error.

Plot holes are fine and dandy when they are small but when they look like they could scupper the entire story, then you have a problem.  That’s what I’m facing now and I’m not finished editing the Prologue yet!

For some reason I decided to peg my story in the real world.  Okay, so its a fictional story but what surrounds it is real.  The problem comes when reality doesn’t quite match up with what you have in your head.

The best way to get around it is to do more research until you find firmer ground.  In the last couple of days I have been lucky enough to find some, however, it is nebulous at the moment.  For one thing it brings the prologue forward by five years.  The second issue revolves around the location.  The world can change a lot in five years.

I guess I shouldn’t complain too much, after all the next firm ground occurs a further seventeen years into the future.  Picking that would incur a whole host of problems (aka re-writes).  I have already come to the conclusion that the more I edit, the more I have to learn.

 

 

Photo from shutterstock.com

Guilt, Or when you know you haven’t done enough

“I really admire your ability to write so much every day.  I know I couldn’t do that/ I don’t have the time/ I wish I could do that…”

How many times have I heard the different variations of that and thought, I’ve not done as much as you think.

And then the guilt sets in.  Tonight I shall do more, I vow.  I’ll employ my best tactics; reserve treats until I’ve got something down, turn off all distractions (phones, T.V etc).  I’ll create a space for myself, time alone.

It works, for a couple of days. But then I’ll say to myself, don’t forget to blog or, don’t forget to work on the piece for the writers’ group.  So I’ll concentrate on that before it too fizzles out. Then I’m back to square one, again.  What have I done to tackle it?  The current answer is to break it up into bite-sized chunks throughout the evening. Is it working?  I’ll let you know when I’ve got around to implementing it.