Monday, February 22, 2010

On Novel B: A Love Story

When discussing the theme for this month -- a window into my novel in progress -- I said I would look at:
  • those cloud-burst moments when an idea arrives perfectly formed (check)
  • the issue of point of view and narrative voice (check); and
  • why I keep falling out of love with this manuscript.
Some of the answers to the final question are contained in the previous two discussions. There are other answers, or at least, other discussions I could have about this subject, but I won't.

Talking about falling out of love, relationship breakdowns or break-ups, is something you only do when you're down/out/broken. We've all played dutiful friend for someone who needs to unload during or after a relationship meltdown. But try talking to that friend after they've decided to get back together with their ex: you'll get a rather different, rather more general story. The friend has not forgotten the irksome things about their partner, or the wedge that drove them apart in the first place, but they have attempted to move past them: there's no benefit to be had from dwelling on his/her chewed down nails or a drunken kiss at a work Xmas party.

Same goes for me and Novel B. We've made up. It helped to talked things through this month, to see what I've got, and what lies ahead of us. We've decided it's worth another go, worth sticking it out. Sure, I could bad-mouth Novel B, and there’s plenty it could say about me. But where would that get us?

In the spirit of renewed vows, growing optimism and ever-present generosity, I will instead point the budding (and blossomed) writers among us to a piece from the Guardian Online. To commemorate-slash-spruik Elmore Lenard's new book, Ten Rules of Writing, the Guardian asked a number of successful writers for their own rules.

Novel B and I like Margaret Atwood's ninth rule:
Don't sit down in the middle of the woods. If you're lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.
The two of us can have a good chuckle about this now.

Novel B also likes the advice from Jonathan Franzen (“Finish what you're writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.”) and the even more succinct Colm Tóibín (“Finish everything you start.”)

Zadie Smith offers sage advice (“Work on a computer that is disconnected from the –internet”) but on the topic of distractions, Phillip Pullman’s entire response says it best:
My main rule is to say no to things like this, which tempt me away from my proper work.
I’m going to try to use this in a work email one day, you know, when I feel like burning bridges.