I’m fascinated by the tiny differences between a book that works and a book that doesn’t. For me, I can tell which of my stories are well-told and which barely scrape par but, while I’m writing, I can’t really tell if a story is going to be good or not.
Another strange thing is, my judgement of what is a good book bears little relation to which of my books sell well. I guess that is why agents and booksellers prefer ‘genre’ books, because they have a ready-made audience.
Me, I just keep writing.
Four weeks and one day to go before I send in the script for Jago.
Briefly, I was on social media for a project I’m working on. I’m back off it, thankfully. Social media promises infinite communication to all – but as I’ve often quoted, if you use social media to connect, you’ll find it a desert.
This blog doesn’t count – blogs are ancient: I might as well be writing on parchment with a quill pen.
I think, in regard to the issue below, the question I need to answer is, what story am I telling?
When I know that, I could write the story in the dark.
I began writing out scene cards. Well, not scenes, sections. Colour-coded sections. Then I laid them out. I’m thinking of putting them in a pile. I might add more detail to each card. But mostly, I haven’t got a clue how to proceed.
When I began writing I shunned all writers groups and I avoided any sort of writerly ‘advice’ – I instinctively knew I’d be better off learning the writer’s craft by writing, and I did.
It’s not difficult to write. Here are my two rules of writing:
Finish what you start.
But because I’ve been teaching myself how to use First Draft via YouTube, I’ve begun to get videos recommended to me on the old ‘how to tell a story’ malarkey. There are lots of theories about how to write a story, and many many videos explaining these theories but, again, instinctively, I recognise a thicket of confusion when I see it.
So I’ll complete this script. I’ll send it off. It’ll probably get turned down – most do. Then I’ll go on with my next story.
I’m really suspicious of that hackneyed writer’s phrase “kill your darlings”. I understand the point of it, but I think people repeat it without ever thinking what it really means.
This came home to me today when, after four days’ break from scripting Jago, I suddenly realised I had to lose a main character. Not because she is one of my darlings, though she is, but because she takes up valuable real estate in the script.
I can save about 12 pages by deleting her, without any detriment to the story itself. This realisation spurs me onto being more focused and more brutal about my treatment of the story.
After all, this is going to be “Mean Girls meets Blood Meridian”. For kids. (I really don’t like that pitch, but I haven’t found a better one. Yet.)
I took a break from tearing down a shed and completed the epilogue of Jago on the screenplay. The epilogue is the punchline that links the first novel to the second. I now have 40 days to turn 142 days of rough screenplay into 120 pages of gleaming visual storytelling.
If I thought about it too much I might get a bit stressed, I might feel the pressure. So I won’t. I’ll just get started.
In the middle of all this earnest nonsense about writing, I like to live a real life too. Yesterday and this morning I’ve been dismantling a shed, and am now going to shift it to the front in order that the skiprats can collect it when they drive past in their scrap-wagon.
The space behind the shed is overgrown with ivy, and there are both rats and hedgehogs in there somewhere, so I’ll need to ensure my border terrier, Angus, doesn’t get in a scrap with them. It’s in his nature.
I’m a fan of MC Beaton and the Hamish Macbeth novels. Literary comfort food, for sure, but great fun too.
Due to Beaton’s ill-health, however, the most recent book was done as a collaboration. I’m always dubious of this sort of development – the most recent Jack Reacher novel, written by Lee Child’s brother Andrew, wasn’t that good – and after about three lines of page one I could tell this wasn’t written by Beaton.
However, despite the stylistic change, I quickly realised that I was in safe hands. The new writer, Rod Green, manages to keep the characters and the mood, if not exactly the irascible, often impatient prose of Beaton.