Sunday, August 27, 2006

All in a Day's Work

Having failed dismally to write anything of my novella yesterday, I was surprised that, sitting down to it this morning, I was able to complete the first draft. I did that most pleasing of things, "got to the end." The story is told. The plot and character decisions are all made. What remains is the rewriting, improving the grammar, getting rid of inconsistencies, explaining what needs explaining, and removing that which is over explanatory. I've written enough to know that this piece doesn't need any kind of major surgery. All the plot decisions, I'm happy with - in any novel there's endless other turnings you can take, and yet when the idea is fundamentally sound, then it becomes clear where the internal logic takes you. I'm not sure why I'm sharing all this! This blog was originally meant to be about "the creative process" but became, inevitably, more about the literary "world", in one way or another. Yet, a blog's a diary, a writers' diary, and it's these "first drafts of (personal) history" that are worth capturing. So, I've spent 4 days writing the "difficult" 3rd section of the novella; which is around 10,000 words, so though quantity isn't the point, it's a pleasing return on my time spent - a quarter of them were written, apparently with ease, this morning. It was Cyril Connolly who said that writers drink because they have to have something to do in the afternoons. I've written at all times of the day; but getting something done before noon is particularly pleasing. I have to find something to do in the afternoon that's all! I guess when I start a "piece" I'm unusual in that I don't have a plot to work from or synopsis; what I have is an "essence", an idea of what I'm trying to get across. Over time, that can change, and I guess, this novella which began as a man facing a midlife crisis, and it being about his inability to change his life, became change through the destructive; though he's the last person to realise that's what he's doing. It's both a common theme (surely he's Hamlet?) and an unusual one for me; much of my fiction is circular, it is about the consequence of actions, and is often redemptive - this piece, though not all depressing, is anything but redemptive. It's the stranger walking off into the distance having survived whatever disaster's happened. One inspiration for it was Peckinpah's "Straw Dogs" - too much criticism of the movie is concentrated on the rape scene - what interests me about the film, is the unusual way with narrative - it is Dustin Hoffman's character who is, in many ways, defending a dead end, not for any principle, but just because that's what a man has to do. You want him to walk away from his pyrrhic stand - it's King Harold at Stamford Bridge, not realising the real battle is a few hundred miles south, at Hastings, it's Othello killing Desdemona only to satisfy a dignity that has lost all meaning.In a small way, that's what I'm trying to replicate in this novella; how a contemporary man with everything apparently perfect in life, has to make his own pyrrhic stand. I chose a "barbecue" as his breaking point, partly because of the cliche of men fighting to master a barbecue, but also because it seemed the only thing "real" for a life dominated by a bureaucratic/electronic world.

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