Category: writing about writing

I’ve been developing a character at the back of my head, possibly for a series of short stories, possibly for a novel. Thought I’d share some of the vague things I’ve begun noting down.


He wanted to make them doubt, bleed them dry. It all came down to morality. A construct, stitched together as it was from the abuses of empathy by another figment of humanity – The Social Construct.

Like a pathological nest of russian dolls; one construction vomiting out the next, ad nauseum. Each one subsuming the last.

If you go back far enough though there was a common root for everything mankind had created.

There was no escaping it; all of us slaves, whether we admitted it or not. Beneath everything they writhed, just one lifeform of many that made human biology their home. One which, unlike the others, was not just a mere passenger. It rode up front and whispered in your ear. Guided your hand. Stroked your pleasure centres.


I received a query from a gentleman in Canada who compared himself to Alan Hollinghurst and Edmund White (two authors whom I love, incidentally). Unfortunately, the query was vague about anything else to do with the book and did not attach any pages for me to read, so it was clear he hadn’t followed submission guidelines. Thus, he received my standard form rejection:

Thank you for your query. I’m afraid that your book isn’t right for me at this time and I’m going to pass. Please keep in mind, however, that the publishing business is a subjective one and this is only one agent’s opinion. There may very well be another agent out there for whom your work would be a better fit.

Due to the sheer volume of queries I receive on a daily basis, I regret that I am unable to give you a personalized reply or offer any additional feedback on your query.

All the best,


In response to my polite form rejection letter – and you have to admit, this is a polite form rejection, right? – I received the following diatribe. I haven’t redacted the author’s name, because I think that other agents might want to know just what they’d be dealing with if they chose to represent this writer:

Colleen Lindsay:

Thank you for making it clear, through your response to my query, that you are unquipped (sic) to represent fiction writers who are working at the very highest level today.

Best of luck with your list of minor writers, third-rate writers, irrelevant writers, non-writers.

You lose, silly woman.

Patrick Roscoe

No, Mr. Roscoe.

You lose.

You lose because you’ve proven that you are incapable of behaving as a professional writer. So congratulations, Mr. Roscoe. You just got the fifteen minutes of fame you’ve been so desperately seeking. I do hope that you’re happy with it. I know I am.

UPDATE! Another note from Mr. Roscoe!…

read more @ The Swivet [Colleen Lindsay]: What NOT to do when you get a rejection: Example #873.

poetry month - april 2010

Every cause in the known world seems to have a day dedicated to it but who exactly is in charge of this shit exactly and what gives them the authority to attempt to control our thoughts like this? In newspapers and light and vapid news programmes the call will be sent out that today is the day or the month where we’re supposed to think about these things. International no smoking day? How about international lick my festering lungs clean day? Leave your contact details in the comments and i’ll set it up.

April is international poetry month. Of course, it’s not international good poetry month so prepare for pain. Prepare to have poetry of all description shoved down your throat. One of the books I’m reading at the moment, reality overload, has a number of paragraphs discussing this approach to poetry – a sort of flattening of value and draining of meaning wherein all poetry is the same and is merely a commodity to be consumed. It’s a pretty involved book which I’m going to have to re-read with a dictionary on hand, but I’ve garnered alot from it. I hope.

I used to write alot of poetry, in a completely untutored way, but I don’t like alot of poetry.  I used to do open mic readings alot as well. The types of places that have poetry readings are usually the kinds of places that cultivate culture like one would attempt to conservate an endangered species and as such draw crowds of, well,  a mixed bag. The events ended up feeling quite sterile. I once got a knowing nod of respect off of an acclaimed poet as I got off the stage at one of these quite sterile feeling events – the event being centered around her reading.  Her name is Pascale Petit and she was really quite good but her performance was totally marred by, dare i say it, the ambience of dead air. The poem in question was this one and it’s honestly a total mess, formless and making makebelieve at having a structure. Stil, there’s something about it that I’ve always liked.

In later years, having decided that the vast majority of poetry readings/open mic opportunities carried this same weight of dead air, but still finding myself writing and developing, having this sense in my head that poetry could be vital and full of life (the way it seems to be in Manchester at the moment), I started doing readings at an open-mic night at a club. Obviously, such spots were intended for musicians and I was in fact the only writer who read there. My performances there went pretty well. People used to come up with me and attempt to converse, ocassionally buying me pints of lager. On one ocassion the noise of people talking drowned me out and I started shouting. The moral of the story i guess is don’t ever give me a live microphone.

Since I’ve decided to give being a ‘novelist’ a go my poetry output has dropped a hell of alot. I want to come back to the form, give it a studious attempt for a change, but I barely trust myself to write a novel, let alone write a novel whilst studying and writing poetry, so it’s gonna have to wait.

Which brings us to this post on writers rainbow I found wherein the author encourages the novelist to step away from the keyboard and take on the techniques of the poet for a while.

Poetry, for me, is an intuitive process, very different from my work in fiction and prose, in which everything I do is analytical and purposeful and organic to my nature. I come from a storytelling family, so that has to have had some effect on me. I also continue to have trouble finding poetry that resonates with me. For such a short form, I find it wears me out, all the same. I like a puzzle as much as anybody else, but let’s keep it to jigsaws, crosswords and sudokus, I say. Give me access.

But one thing I admire about poets is their relatively low-tech writing practice. Most poets I know can write poetry wherever they are, whenever they are. A pen, a notebook, and a moment is all it takes to get them writing. Prose writers, on the other hand, are keyboard junkies (to be fair, if I hand-inscribed everything I ever wrote, I would have a terrible case of writer’s cramp!) who need outlets, laptops, perhaps a mouse and a thumb drive, to get their work achieved. Not all prose writers are like this…

I totally get what she is saying here. I used to fill notebook after notebook with scribbled notes and poems like i was shelling pistachios (i have a thing for pistachio shells) but since I’ve been on the prosetrain… My current notebook is like 3 years and it’s still far from filled.  It’s definately something I miss – the spontinuity, the writing by intuition alone. these days notes are thought and grown invitro before even reaching a page or screen. There’s still intuition and spontinuity, but nowhere near as much.

Still, what is said is no absolute. Not all poets work this way. Not all prose writers work at the opposite end of the spectrum. The point is, i think, new perspectives and techniques are always valuable as your never quite sure where they will lead you and any creative process should be something of wandering into the unknown.

International Poetry Month « Writer’s Rainbow.

Reality Sandwich post on using the tarot to relieve block, develop characters and write chapter outlines

It’s an excerpt of a chapter from a book called Write Starts, for which I cannot find a review. Still, the idea is somewhat compelling.

I’ve been dragging my arse slowly through the I Ching for a while now and a month or so back (or was it a few weeks ago? I suck with time) I was struck by the idea of using it in my writing: The idea of writing a novel guided by the I Ching seemed like a deliciously twisted and interesting proposition. Maybe i’ll try it with some short stories first…

Review of David Shields’ book “Reality Hunger: A Manifesto”, a book declairing with nary a shade of grey that the novel is dead, which pretty much takes it to pieces for a variety of reasons. Still, The Lyric Essay looks like an interesting little form/sub-genre.

Lots of assertions get made in “Reality Hunger,” so many that it’s easy to get lost in the maze of explaining and evaluating them. It seems true to me, for example, that reality TV, memoirs and other documentary-based forms feed a popular craving for the authentic, the unscripted and the unpredictable, even though the demand for certain formulaic storylines pressures creators to tweak “reality” into a more conventionally satisfying narrative. On the other hand, I can’t endorse Shields’ opinion that too much emphasis on plot is what makes contemporary novels boring and is causing a lot of people to stop reading them. Then again, the people I know who have stopped reading fiction do seem to concur with Shields that “more invention, more fabrication” is not what they want from a book. Which is why none of them, in turn, would agree with his insistence that the distinction between fact and fiction is often immaterial.

But I’m going to set aside all of those eminently arguable points for the moment and consider the manifesto-ness of “Reality Hunger,” evident in such mottoes as, “The novel is dead. Long live the anti-novel, built from scraps,” and “Plot is for dead people.” Shields is far from alone in his taste for bold and sweeping aesthetic calls-to-arms. A manifesto makes people feel that their writing (and reading) is caught up in and contributing to some greater movement or cause — possibly one that will be looked back upon by future generations with as much admiration as we feel today toward, say, the surrealists, the beats, or the writers who clustered around the old Partisan Review.

RIP: The novel – Laura Miller –

via booklifenow

Writing characters from other cultures/ethnicities can aparently be a minefield. It’s not really something I’ve thought about, being such a tragic whiteboy obsessed with my own little tragic whiteboy thoughts, but if it’s something that you’ve thought about doing then it can be useful to have a guide:

A good deal of transcultural writing’s bad reputation is owing to authors and audiences who act like Invaders. In one unpublished story I’ve seen, the writer took a sacred song here, a tattoo there, snapped up a feast featuring roasted pig and manioc root from somewhere else and presto! South Pacific Island culture at our fingertips! That this Islands analogue was inhabited by blond, blue-eyed people may have been meant to soften the act of appropriation by distancing readers from its victims. Or the point may have been to allow the blond, blue-eyed author or reader easier identification and access. The effect, unfortunately, was one of cultural theft squared. Not only were the appurtenances of the culture removed from their native settings, they were placed in the hands of people deliberately marked as racially distinct from their originators.

Further controversy is generated when certain authors reject the equivalent of Tourist status, under whatever name that status is presented to them. They prefer to see themselves as Guests: welcome everywhere they go, almost indistinguishable from those born to the cultural territory they’re visiting. A territory where they’re enjoying themselves so much they keep putting off their scheduled departure.

A Tourist can become a Guest, if the locals like what they see and ask her to return. But before taking on the Tourist role, a writer or reader will have no contact with said locals. When first learning about and incorporating aspects of another’s culture, then, we ought to act like the best of all possible Tourists: to stay alert and to be observant, watch for the ways our own background influences how we interpret our surroundings. We ought to remember that we have baggage. We ought to be prepared to pay for what we receive (but more about that below). We ought to be honest about the fact that we’re outsiders. And since we’re in an unfamiliar setting, we shouldn’t be ashamed of occasionally feeling lost. We ought to swallow our pride at such times and ask for help, ask for directions.

Appropriate Cultural Appropriation.

via booklifenow

There’s also a book on this very subject called Writing The Other, the authors of which will be guest blogging over at booklifenow this week, so if it’s something your interested in be sure to stop by there to check it out.

More writerly insight gleamed from the olympics:

The bigger, more common reality, however, is not the tragic story of the near-miss, but this: just because you have published one manuscript does not guarantee that you will publish all of your manuscripts. Every time you submit your work, you enter it into conditions which you can’t completely predict or control. Just because you may have landed your work with one publisher doesn’t mean you’re going to walk into a publishing house in the future and sign the dotted line with your next manuscript without first submitting your new work to intense scrutiny. Your next manuscript, and the one after that, and so forth, will have to earn its way and survive on its own every time.

Dammit! Why didn’t I become a chartered surveyor like mummy wanted?!?!?

Everything I’ve learned about writing this year I’ve relearned by watching the Olympics [series Part Two] « Booklife.

Ten Rules for Writing

Elmore Leonard has written a book called ‘Ten rules for writing’. It’s like a hundred pages long but most of them are blank or filed with illustrations. The Guardian have a two part article that includes not only Leonard’s ten rules, but also additional ones from other writers. This is inspirational stuff and it’s always good to think about the mechanisms of writing every once and a while. Here are Leonard’s advice on adverbs, or maybe they’re all his rules. There are ten of them:

Using adverbs is a mortal sin

1 Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look­ing for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2 Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, but it’s OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks.”

3 Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But “said” is far less intrusive than “grumbled”, “gasped”, “cautioned”, “lied”. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated” and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.

4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” . . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs”.

5 Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

6 Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”. This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apos­trophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.

8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”, what do the “Ameri­can and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story.

9 Don’t go into great detail describing places and things, unless you’re ­Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

But there’s loads more advice from other writers including Neil Gaiman, Jeanette Winterson and Zadie Smith. I think i might print these off so i can pour over them when i’m feeling creatively congested….

Part One

Part Two

via boing boing

nice little piece about giving your novel/short story/film/whatever a title and a few things to avoid.

In short, there seems to be very little correlation between producing something brilliant and the ability to come up with a half-decent name for it. Perhaps it’s a different skill set entirely. I sometimes think there should be professional titlers: Just as we wouldn’t ask a carpenter to tar the roof of our house, we shouldn’t expect writers to work outside their métier. But even if the perfect title is destined to elude us, I do think it’s possible to identify a bad one—even, I think, to lay out some basic ground rules for what to steer clear of.

items from the list provided include “The Faux Poetric but Authenically Meaningless” and “The Alliterative Tongue Twister”.  Each comes with examples and definately worth a click even if your not struggling to come up with a title.

as an aside, I’m still quite taken with the title my novel-in-progress has at the moment. It was the first, which broke at least one of these guidelines, and frankly trickles off the tongue.

(seriously, i will be posting extracts some time soon, i just need more time!)

The Blurb #14: The Land Of Underwater Birds – The

via mental floss

The biographical details printed on the back flap of his sprawling, ambitious new novel, Chronic City, merely hint at the scope and genre-bending nature of Jonathan Lethem‘s fiction. Since publishing Gun, With Occasional Music – a fusion of Philip K Dick, Raymond Chandler and Alice in Wonderland – in 1994, Lethem has flirted with science fiction, noir, fantasy, literary fiction, memoir, and Shakespearean pastiche to formulate a body of work that – on the face of it – is so eclectic in style and approach that each novel seemingly could be the work of a different writer.

The publication of his breakout novel – 1999’s Motherless Brooklyn – perfectly encapsulates his diverse and scattergun approach to fiction. An inventive, evocative crime drama centring on a language=obsessed Tourette’s sufferer, it managed to win the Macallan Gold Dagger but also a National Book Critics’ Circle award – an impressive and unusual achievement, especially considering the novel that preceded it: Girl in Landscape, an odd reworking of The Searchers (with apparently inadvertent nods to A Passage to India) set in space.

When asked at last week’s reading at the London Review Bookshop about the wildly different nature of his work, and whether this was a help or a hindrance to his work, Lethem was wholly positive about his polyglot sensibilities. There was no peril, he said, in moving from one genre, geographic location or style of writing; in fact there could be no other way to write his books. Alluding to his 2007 essay “The Ecstasy of Influence“, Lethem suggested that his novels were as much born out of his reading as of his experiences – something backed up by 1997’s As She Climbed Across the Table, which is in many ways a literary billet-doux to Don DeLillo. It wasn’t so much that Lethem wanted to be the man who never wrote the same book twice; it was just that he was incapable of doing so.

Creatively speaking, his argument was both logical and sure-footed: after all, no one would deny writers the absolute right to choose the subject and style of their work. But such diversity is not perhaps the best way to endear yourself to a readership, or to receive a consistent critical reception. A writer’s novel may be their own, but once published it becomes the preserve of the reader – and readers tend to want to trust that their authors will deliver the kind of book expected of them.

Toby Lichtig took John Irving to task earlier this week for his endless recycling of themes and preoccupations, but for many readers this is not necessarily such a bad thing. Yes it sometimes seems hackneyed, but the appeal of the familiar cannot be overlooked. If an author’s work is all over the place in terms of style, it’s often easy not to bother keeping up with them. With so many demands on readers’ time, and such a wealth of choice, an author who deviates wildly from their established milieu is simply adding layers of doubt for readers – which is what makes publishers nervous.

In an industry obsessed with creating brands – whether in genre or literary fiction – constantly confounding your publishers and readers can leave authors struggling to attract either. It’s debatable whether Lethem would have had the same kind of five-book support for his genre-bending fictions – even with all his awards – in the current climate, but I’m sure that there would be some grumbling from the sales department eager to sell in another fantasy-crime novel featuring a returning character.

The problem is, as Lethem highlighted, that one can only write the books you feel compelled to write. And while for the vast majority these are thematically, geographically, stylistically or generically linked to each other, for the few – the brilliant, yet perpetually overlooked Chris Paling and the incredible but under-championed Nicholson Baker for example – such similarities are much harder to tease out. Finding a readership is a long struggle, keeping one an even more titanic battle – even without adding your own obstacles along the way.

Jonathan Lethem may contend that there are no perils in an eclectic approach to fiction, but the mixed critical and commercial response to You Don’t Love Me Yet, the follow up to Fortress of Solitude, shows that readers don’t always thank you for pulling their comfort blanket away from them. Artists are duty bound to create the work that they imagine; unfortunately, however, readers are not compelled to read them.

What writers risk in not repeating themselves | Books |

<via >

gaming + poetry

An interesting essay by my friend Matt Dalby, a poet and sonic explorer of some merit, as to the lessons poetry could learn from gaming.


Can poetry learn from gaming? Like music and film gaming in the last thirty years has built a massive audience while being at times enormously complex and abstract. Unlike most music and film gaming requires active participation from its audience in a way that is in fact wholly different from what might seem like the analogous processes of reading complex literature. And without intending to be provocative gaming – and I mean both designing and in some cases playing – is a genuine artform. Like film – another technologically enabled artform of the twentieth century – gaming draws on a huge range of disciplines.

Perhaps this is something poetry should learn? That the distinctive and successful artforms of the past hundred years or more have been social in execution and in consumption. This is even true of those forms that use a narrower range of disciplines – the various popular musics from jazz and blues onward for instance. Why should a poem be the work of one person? Why should a poet’s work be solitary? Isn’t the Romantic notion of the solitary genius getting a bit old? In fact isn’t the idea of a writer slightly peculiar? A detached individual creating work not for large groups but for large numbers of detached individuals.

Although in retrospect continuity with older forms can be seen both film and music – as gaming later – invented new ways of communicating with their audience. Film uses shorter scenes, much closer and more distant perspectives, juxtaposition, and a whole range of techniques unavailable on stage without the same technology used by film. Yet for all the novelty of their techniques film music and gaming have been able draw audiences into and guide them through complex sequences of events and ideas. Poetry on the other hand often seems to be more like an arcane kind of crossword.

So what does this mean? That the solitary poet should be consigned to history? That poetry should be an essentially social artform? That poetry should use technology to reinvent itself? I don’t know. I’m trying to find an answer. While slow starting mutapoem is one possible attempt to create a social poem. Sound poetry has been another field of investigation concentrating on the technological aspects this time. In recent months I’ve felt that somehow using gaming might be another avenue to explore.
Be sure to read the article in full, as well as the comments, to get the most from this piece.  I will be posting the follow up when it becomes available.

santiago’s dead wasp: gaming + poetry.

Ah, boxing day. The ultimate day of lazing around. After a late late night of boozing and talking and watching Billy Elliot for the first time, activity is at an all time low.  I’ve managed to emerge into the day without a hangover but the same cannot be said for my girlfriend, who is currently napping. I’m discovering espresso based over-dosing in the sanctity of my own home with my new espresso machine. Right now I’m at the violent shaking stage…. This is definately my last latte for a while.

So, just some quick insight into Billy Elliot. I know this film has been out for quite some time now, and the fact that I hadn’t seen it before last night could be seen as blaspheme in some circles, but that’s just the way i roll. As a piece of filmmaking it is suburbly written and constructed. It reminds me of the very best of the holywood narrative technique and directing, cut with a healthy dose of social realism played not only for pathos but also for humour.

And that’s all she wrote. For now. I think i’m about to vibrate outside of the visual spectrum so before I do i’m gonna finish this coffee and flick through a new book on writing i just got. More on that later.

peace and fucking.

The Reality of a Times Bestseller

For all the writers out there. I came across these articles a few weeks ago and have been meaning to blog them ever since. They contain quite alot of useful  information on the bookselling market, especially concerning royalties, and are well worth a read. They’re US-centric but i think it is to safe to say they provide a rough rule-of-thumb no matter where you are.

A few years ago I made a promise to my writer friends that if I ever had a novel hit the top twenty of the New York Times mass market bestseller list that I would share all the information I was given about the book so writers could really see what it takes to get there. Today I’m going to keep that promise and give you the stats on my sixth Darkyn novel, Twilight Fall.

The Reality of a Times Bestseller | GENREALITY.
More reality of a Times Bestseller

what the what?

You may have noticed a series of posts delinearated by roman numerals and that these posts have a bit of a narrative vibe about them.  That would be because they do indeed represent a narrative, a growing one, an experiment. The idea is that i try really hard not to think about this story except for when I sit down to write another, small, part of it. This has nothing to do with NaNoWriMo and is more a way for me to blow of steam concerning the novel i’m writing, which, as i have mentioned previously, I’m all pent-up over lately.  It’s something I can just sit down and do without any thought for the overall narrative, or for characters, just to see where it goes.  This way I feel like i’m being productive even when I’m not working on the novel. Like today, for instance, i have a bunch of stuff to do that doesn’t involve writing, so i have no time to sit down for the 3-4 hours that i would normally reserve for the novel. But i can still do those things whilst ocassionally sitting down to write a paragraph for this experiment, see? That way the writer in my head doesn’t feel like a slackerbitch loser. Plus, being written in short bite-sized segments makes it easier to read online.

Anyway, hope you enjoy it.

Sartre: Yeah, after I took mescaline, I started seeing crabs around me all the time. They followed me in the streets, into class. I got used to them. I would wake up in the morning and say, “Good morning, my little ones, how did you sleep?” I would talk to them all the time. I would say, “O.K., guys, we’re going into class now, so we have to be still and quiet,” and they would be there, around my desk, absolutely still, until the bell rang… The crabs really began when my adolescence ended.  At first, I avoided them by writing about them — in effect, by defining life as nausea — but then as soon as I tried to objectify it, the crabs appeared.  And then they appeared whenever I walked somewhere.

via Dangerous Minds.

Yeesh, what day is it? Wednesday?

Weekends are a time of relaxation and alcoholic recovery. Then you have that Sunday, the sunday before your girlfriend has to go back to work, and everything is laconic and foreboding. With the coming of Monday the Death of the Weekend is made official with a return to activity.


I wouldn’t say I’ve been being inactive, not entirely. I’ve done… Stuff. Bits of housework. Web reading. Plus, I’ve been in a rather thrilling email exchange with my friend Merryn.

Sometimes you need a distraction. Sometimes you need to take a break, to change focus.

I’ve been tortuing myself with a novel recently. It’s my first. It’s troublesome. Most writers get nowhere with their first novel. Sometimes they’re abandoned. Not this one. I refuse. It will be finished and it will be good enough to catch someone’s attention and get published. I don’t even think i want to go down this particular genre path but i’m loathe to let it lie. The sooner it’s done the sooner i can get onto the next one.

But i’ve tied myself in gordian knots over this thing. My head is a tangle of confliction. I am on the verge of a mental breakdown. Or, I was. I saw the edge, it was pretty. If i hadn’t stepped back i could’ve happily gone over. But i did step back. Unconsciously, i guess i knew what needed to be done. The unconscious was just waiting for the opportunity.

I didn’t get into this novel entirely on purpose. Originally it was just going to be a short story mash note for my girlfriend, a gothic fairytale inspired by her, but things soon started growing out of control. The characters were too interesting to let go, the setting too perverse not to let grow. So I kept going. It starts off being completely in one characters point of view. It stands as a kind of prelude, a microcosm of things to come. It totally needs rewriting but i’m reticent to go back without reaching the conclusion the first. If i go back now then surely it will require even more editing further down the line as ideas and imagary wax and wane. So i keep at it, heading for roughly marked out points along the narrative timeline, seeing things being born that I never knew to be. I guess at the end I will have to look over the entire manuscript and deconstruct it, see what needs to be made more explict, what needs to be toned now, and which bits need to go all together. I’m stuck on this course now and I refuse not to see things to their conclusion.

But as i mentioned, I’ve gotten myself terribly uptight about the whole thing.

I have lots of ideas for stories and focus has always been a problem of mine. I used to flit from idea to idea, go so far and then let my interest peter out. Worse still, my attention is torn between the novel and the film as medium of expression. I chose to go to film school as apposed to studying creative writing and it has fractured my vision. This isn’t neccersarily a bad thing but it sure does complicated my thought processes. I chose to focus on the novel above and beyond all else simply out of a desire to stick to something through to its conclusion. It does mean though that I’m plagued by other ideas veying for my attention. I’ve been trying desperately to keep them at bay but the motherfuckers are persistant. So persistant that one of them went off in Merryn’s memory which caused it come up in our email exchange over the novel. She’s enthralled with it and offers a few opinions about things which add an interesting angle. Soon we’re in a back-and-forth over the narrative, characters and themes. There are possibilities forming.

Merryn is an academic by trade. I met her whilst she was studying for her critical psychology PhD (or something) at Cardiff university, but it’s not like she hasn’t done other things in her life, not like she doesn’t have other interests. Things in UK academia aren’t looking very cheery at the moment and she has taken to viewing this film project as something more tangible than a possible full-time academic position. That has to tell you something about the post-PhD employment scene as well as just how great this film idea is. 😉

We’re still just spawning ideas, not quite onto the outline yet. Thinking is very much caught up in marketablity whilst balancing creativity. I’ll keep you updated.

So, I’ve taken a holiday from the novel, trying to make it feel like a real holiday by keeping my head busy with other things instead of feeling guilty about doing nothing. I’m building up my reserves of eager.

Cat Hepburn

scriptwriter | spoken word & voice over artist | arts facilitator


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Cultural terrorism with a splash of self regard

Street of Dreams

A literary blog of poet, playwright and essayist Rachael Stanford


Curiosities, exploration, strange things and history

On Space

Boredom, Architecture and Modernity

Leave In An Orderly Fashion

Don't let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.

Never Quite Broken

What you did not build up, you cannot tear down.

Society X

the Great Universe

sonja benskin mesher

writing site, a daily blog


~Weaving Words in her Web~

Helen Shanahan

Visual Artist


Artists and Free Thinkers Ignite!

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