Been reading round a whole bunch of independent publishers, and having fun! What’s more, vicariously shoplifting. Must be something in the water, but two good 2019 reads feature shoplifting protagonists. Finer Things, by David Wharton, Sandstone Press — love that cover, takes me right back to the 1960s. That’s Delia, a real success at her career as a professional shoplifter, surviving the seedy underworld of London. We hope. Then there’s a cover with a green dress, Run, Alice, Run, by Lynn Michell, Linen Press. It’s our present times but ranges back to Alice’s first ever shoplift and the decades (and lovers) in between then and the mess of revived shoplifting she’s landed herself in.
So what is it about shoplifting? A tip I used when writing my novel now **agented**!! by InterSaga was: think of something your protagonist would NEVER do, totally out of character. Then have her do it. It wasn’t shoplifting. But… that tingle, that thumping heart, that daring to do something illicit.
It’s about doing it when events or emotions push you over the edge into what-the-hell. Like writing.
I’m in a peculiar state these days, one familiar to writers and artists. Liminal space is a term I’ve just learned from the book Whatever Happened to Barry Chambers*. It is a time in between, a time of knowing and not-knowing. One door is firmly shut behind me. The next door is right there — but not yet open. Whether it’s my completed novel, now being pitched by my Yes! agent InterSaga. Or another life changing event (think of arriving to start uni, think of late pregnancy with your first baby). No amount of anxiety or imagination can change what lies ahead… but it’s definite and it will happen.
A strange state of forced patience, of trying to just value this in between, moment by moment. ‘Without any irritable reaching after fact’ said Keats, coining the term negative capability. Which is a positive thing. In fact it’s what writing the next novel is all about. A blind plunge into the unknown, the blank page.
PS — see my new crazy papiermache works here. And a new haiku here.
PPS — *By Barry Kay, the book is a memoir of a truly remarkable split upbringing.
Calloo callay it’s soon London Book Fair day, and yes I am going to the ball. Got a badge that says author and A Body of Knowledge on it… in case anyone asks. Meanwhile the sap is rising and I am getting to know two new characters in Next Book. I sit down — resisting, cross at the blank page — and start a scene with main character and new character. They talk, they come alive!
Crocus harbingers: spring show today in my front garden.
Do it, just do it. After the not-knowing, but vowing my trust that it would come, ideas for Next Book are pouring out. But all higgledy-piggledy (Happy Year of the Pig, by the way). How to tame, how to order. I don’t know, but keep on writing. It doesn’t matter. Get the words on paper, fix them later.
I now have three different starts for this novel. Have already diverted a fourth to be used further on. One challenge is to know the back story, but provide it later. Get into the story, the voice, the action. Get the characters talking to each other: Lo! They become people! And anyway it will all get moved around when I am much further in — so interesting to find out what is going to happen next!
Meanwhile heartening news, agent A has read all of A Body of Knowledge, and we meet this week! She misses the characters, we are plotting our path together, and I’ll be able to tell her of characters to come…
Waiting waiting working waiting — negative capability Keats called it. While one book is out seeking an agent I thought I’d better start the next. You know, just in case a scary Yes email comes and among other things the question is: what-when is your next? I have the idea, I have the main storyline, I’m doing some (interesting!) research, but… I need the voice. And you know what? I am positive it will come. I have learned to trust. To keep working around the edges, and tolerate the creative state Keats identified: ‘when one is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.’
Can I stretch it to tolerating rejections of A Body of Knowledge? Yes, that too — part of the game. Just send my adult contemporary novel about a fairytale-telling therapist out again again again. However, now it has a new title: The Misper’s Tale. I like the first title, but perhaps it promised darkness and this is not a suspense-ridden crime story; it is gentle, thoughtful. Even if it does have police procedure in it.
A new winter haiku on my haiku page here. Hmmm ‘punching the sky’ — a bit of irritability there?
Golden November. And it’s NANOWRIMO too. If you’ve never done it and you want a breakthrough in your writing, DO IT; guess I’d better put the link in here. Talk about patterns of writing, this go for broke method led me to the novel I completed in late spring. I am now submitting A Body of Knowledge to agents, a whole ‘nother adventure.
Of course once I had the breakthrough — after two agonising days of facing the blank page and writing rubbish, and only then finding a voice I didn’t know — I had to keep writing for the whole month. The flow was fantastic, and the freeeedom to write any old how. Besides that, there is no such thing as a novel in a month (but it’s fun to say). Once you get to the end of November you’ve got 10-20-30-50??000 words. Rest, recover, keep writing. And then edit-revise-rethink… a very different kind of pattern.
Patterns, seasons… time to add an autumn to my haiku page. Click here for a peek.
‘I’m not happy when I’m writing, but I’m more unhappy when I’m not.‘ So said Fannie Hurst from the source you’ll see in my teachingcreativewriting blog here with scores of freebie writing exercises for writing tutors. It’s an exercise I call Quote-match. What did Stephen King say? How about JK Rowling? Hemingway? You may object to what Agatha Christie said… Alternative, look at this page of this site. Have a happy teaching term!