Sunday, 23 November 2014

So hard to start a new chapter

The novel wordometer clicks over slowly. I am now just a few keystrokes shy of 36k. 
Every thousand words or so I start a new scene (a chapter or part of a chapter) The first line of every scene is always a mission. Each scene must be afforded the respect it deserves. The reader must be sucked in anew. A great opening line in scene one can make a reader think 'this book might be interesting'. After that the challenge is to dare the reader to put it down. As a writer that is one dare you hope to lose. 
The opening line of subsequent related scenes is but one half of a couplet. We normally associate couplets with poetry but I think it works in this context. I found this origin of the word couplet: "two pieces of iron riveted or hinged together." 
The last line of every scene should be 'riveted' together with the opening line of the next pulling the reader through the temptation to bookmark the page. For example, you could finish a scene as follows; "The events of the day hadn't gone as planned, the full extent of which wouldn't be apparent until he got to Grandma's house."
That wraps up a scene and plants the seed of expectation. The opening line of the next scene at Grandma's house must justify the turning of the page. 
I have no idea what happened at Grandma's house but I certainly know what happened when my main character arrived at the hippies house expecting to have a meeting with his friendly cop. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Riding Through Sand

Writing a novel is a bit like riding a mountain bike through sand. Not the small patches, but rather the long and unavoidable stretches you encounter on remote jeep tracks during races. 
The first time I encountered sand like that was on a race in the Cederberg nine years ago. It ended with me deposited on a bed of ground hugging thorns except they had taken to hugging my backside. 
Such was the misery I decided I would skill up to avoid a reoccurrence. The first thing to do is understand what you did wrong so that you can figure out what to do right. The biggest mistake was trying to hold my line. I tried to force the bike along a given path. The "come hell or high water" approach is doomed to failure in this instance. 
My new method has served me well in the years since then. When I see a sand trap approaching I increase my cadence and then follow the bike. Meaning that I don't dictate the line. I allow the sand to direct the bike any which way it chooses and I go with the flow. Sometime that flow results in me cascading over thorn bushes or  cutting a new path through the veld. Once through I point my bike back in the right direction and get on with the job. 
From time to time as I write my plot hits a sandy patch and it's fun to see where it takes me. 

Writing is easy.

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

Ernest Hemingway

Oh the imagery that quote evokes. I see the writer slumped over a typewriter, wracked with angst. The frenetic tuk-tuk of keys striking parchment in a desperate attempt to find words that will give voice to the story within. Finally, with a flourish, nicotine stained fingers reach forward liberating the sheet from its bonds. Rheumy eyes scour the page. Even as the crumpled ball arcs through the air in search of the dark recesses of the cabin a new gladiator takes guard. 

This NaNoWriMo rookie is almost like that sans the typewriter, angst, rheumy eyes, cigarettes and pile of discarded paper. I also forgot to mention the the lack of the story within. 
The couch is snug as long as there is room for a comfortable cushion and space to put my feet up. The cell phone is a great substitute for a chunky typewriter, or laptop computer for that matter. 
And The Big Bang Theory is a great way of entertaining myself between keystrokes. Not so difficult to be a writer after all. 

Monday, 3 November 2014

NaNoWriMo Day 3 Update

Day 3 of NaNoWriMo finds my main character (MC) in the company of his annoying albeit faithful friend. A rising desperation to locate a character abducted in Chapter 2 has the MC's friend uttering the words "The dog ate it". 

The characters are emerging from the pages as I write. The personalities evolving. A main character who at times takes himself too seriously has a sidekick who is the perfect counterpoint. The MC is on the verge of stumbling into an underworld that shakes his perfect world. 

I have found writing to be an all consuming and exhausting process. The fact that I am writing on my cell phone means I am never far from a keyboard. As the plot emerges in my head it is instantly committed to 'paper'.
Creating things is what I do, but there is a vulnerability in writing that does not exist in other forms of creativity. If I make a contraption that ticks the boxes of form and function I am satisfied. Questions like "but what does it do?" arouse no feeling of disappointment. Appreciation doesn't come easy in a technical knowledge vacuum. But everybody reads. 
Some people claim to write for personal satisfaction but is that really the case? 
Somerset Maugham once commented that a book is incomplete until it has a reader. André Maurois wrote, "He, the writer, has written with the deliberate purpose of revealing the truth about himself and about the world as he sees it. The revelation can have no point unless it reaches those for whom it is intended."
I as a writer should be mindful of my audience and should craft a story that resonates with them. Some will like it and some will think it sucks. 

My quote of the day is also by AndrĂ© Maurois: "We appreciate frankness from those who like us. Frankness from others is called insolence."