Controlling creativity and negativity in the writer

Controlling creativity is something that feels deeply unnatural to me. Surely cretivity is about playing, experimentation and being free? Isn’t it an oxymoron? 

As I sat down on Sunday morning to begin editing ‘The Wish Bone,’ all sorts of negativity crept in – it’s no good, you aren’t as good as you were back then, it’s too long since you wrote anything. Fear. 

Path in Austrailia

With my novel it’s like endlessly climbing the same  mountain. Each time you re-start you seem to be at the bottom of the pile.

Hemingway said,” Writing’s easy – you just sit over your typewriter and bleed.”

So on Sunday I fiddled around with facebook, couldn’t resist checking my emails, and kept reading over and over Caroline’s words, worrying about how the plot fitted together. Then I tired meditation, something new to me, which for me just means sitting in a room on the floor and trying not to think about thinking. There is no rest from the busy mind, it keeps me awake at night, inhabits my dreams, leaves me exhausted. 

So, in the end I forced myself to sit there and focus on the text and the words, and I gave myself an end time – one o’clock. As the deadline approached I suddenly entered the ‘zone’ and I was away. I edited 5 pages – it’s slow but then it was re-writing, as it really wasn’t as polished or meaningful as it should be. Stephen King in his book ‘On Writing’ which I can recommend says you need to get closer to the truth, and that’s what I was aiming at. 

In the afternoon I had a much more productive day with my  family than usual. Becuase I’d only allowed myself to be creative in a time frame, I could then be free to really be with my family when I wasn’t writing. And I promised myself I’d write the novel everyday. Have I? Well yesterday I was just too busy checking out instructional video’s from the 30 DC project, and tonight it’s my writing group, so no, not yet!

Happy writing and reading everyone. 

Editing Chapter 24 – how to avoid cheap sentiment in writing

I’m feeling very chuffed with myself as I have finally finished editing Chapter 24 which tells the story of Freddie at Bristol Kite Festival. I had to write in a whole new character into the scene and increase the pathos. But it’s done and the word count for the edited novel now stands at 75,698 words. I have a childish pleasure in knowing how many words I’ve edited. Though as Mark Twain says in The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” 
Freddie flies a Black angel kite like this 
Chapter 24 has always been a favourite of mine – it’s got emotion and power, it’s a high point in the book, and it’s got a bit of magical writing about kites that uses extended metaphor to mirror what’s going on in Freddie’s world. Freddie doesn’t normally do sentiment being a 14 year old boy, but here I let him have a bit of fun linguistically. 

A few weeks ago I took Chapter 24 to my writing group and P, (he likes to be anonymous) said, ‘Grace, you’ve got a puppy moment in the scene. I don’t like it. Too obvious.’

I considered, and I knew he was absolutely right. I’d written this chapter as if it was a film scene. Queue: tears, soppy music, and heightened emotion. I was cheating. I was giving the reader a scene which wasn’t deserved. It was too predictable, too expected, too easy. 

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” – Robert Frost.   

I’ve gone back and made it sharper, edgier. Now Freddie has a mix of emotions and the high points are counterbalanced with rougher edges and dark humour. 
One writing technique I’m using which is very useful is to read my work out loud when editing. In a novel like this which has three first person narrators the voice is all. It won’t work if I get the voice even slightly off. It will stand out. 

Getting the specifics right is also really important – what references does Freddie use, or any 14 year old boy? Am I being consistent across the novel? The more I read it out loud, the more I can hear if my own voice, or  use of language, is getting in the way of my character’s voice, and the more I can hear Freddie’s voice. Reading aloud helps as I can hear the duff note and when the rhythm falters.

 For now, it’s done. 

Spring ought to be sprung

When I was growing up in the countryside I used to spend a lot of time with my dog, walking around the lanes and fields. I knew what month it was by looking at the flowers in bloom.

I’d wait for the bluebells to appear in the secret wood, watch for the peppery heavy flush of cow parsley to froth up in the hedgerows, the fine May months when the grass had the unfurled, first-born green shine to it.

Summer was overblown, when the heat and dust of harvest had played out the colours of the grass, leaching away its strength.

It worries me deeply that the seasons have become so unreliable, so unpredictable. This long dull winter refusing to shift feels so wrong, and damp climbs the walls of the house. So, in memory of heat, warmth and light some pictures: