Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Time Flies, Dung Beetles

The new Volkswagon Beetle raised eyebrows.

I don't often think about time. All I understand about time is that there isn't enough of it and it's running out.

A couple of months ago, I was in one of my local shops and I was chatting with the woman behind the counter, as we often do, and then she noticed my son with me and her eyes lit up and she was all over him: Hasn't he grown et al. This happens a lot.
I momentarily imagined my son walking into his local shop at my age. I wondered if the light in the cashier's eyes would be gone. Does she like him because he's a child, or because of who he is? When he's grown up, it won't be his fault that he's no longer a child.
Anyhoo, I couldn't see the thought leading anywhere so I dumped it.

My son and I just spent the weekend with my mother. For whatever reason, she dug out some old letters that she has kept for almost forty years, and she invited me to read them. One was from her father. It was dated 1973 and was written shortly before he died from, I believe, a stroke. He wrote to express his adoration of his young grandson and explained how his young grandson made his day.
It was nice to know that I had made an old man's day, and had made him very happy in his last days. Although I can't really take any credit.
But I've been thinking that one of the best reasons to write is to make other people happy.

How a wasp might see my son holding a rubber chicken.

Act II is finished (bar all the revisions I need to make). I've just totted up my word total and I'm pretty much on track: together, the first two acts come in just shy of 70k.
I'm estimating that the final act - the shortest of the three - will come in at 20k, or a little less.
And that doesn't seem like a big number at all. And so, to everyone who stands at the doorway to a new ms, I hope you'll take heart: if you write a little bit here and there, whenever the time is available, then you'll soon discover that the job is almost done. Every few words helps to chip away at the total count. Keep plugging away and next thing you know you'll be at the editing stage!

Oh, the editing stage! Currently, there are approximately 7,620 things wrong with my ms. But if I've learned anything, it's that I can deal with every problem my ms throws up, and that it grows inexorably, becoming prettier and more shapely with every passing day. I've battled through a hideous weekend of writer's block, and I've found the heart of my novel, and I've figured out how to bring more conflict and a meatier reversal (charge swap) into my opening, and I've discovered which sub-plots actually add very little and can go, and which strands duplicate other strands and can also go, and how to regulate the reveals such that they build and how to recognise the difference between a standard reversal and a major, end-of-act, reversal ...
And I reckon that the best way to learn all of these things and much more is to throw oneself into the ms and just write.

One last thought, and I'd like to think there's empathy out there:
I seem perpetually torn. There are moments, sometimes days, when I am convinced that I am creating something worthwhile and, dare I say, marketable. (Okay, I admit it, sometimes I think I'm writing something that is quite good.)
And then there are moments and days when I feel that I am pushing this invisible dung ball around with me everywhere I go, and that when I write, I am slapping more invisible dung onto the ball and it is growing and one day somebody will look at it and it will cease to be invisible and they will give me a very peculiar look.
Reckon we need a pic of a dung ball.

I'll leave you with a poem composed by my son:

The Dragon Who Ate Our School
* * *
It all started this morning at eight,
whilst the dragon demolished the playground gate.
She poked the teacher while he was writing the date,
until she noticed a tasty roof slate.
Mr Jones knew his fate,
so he ran away before it was too late.
She's undeniably great,
she's absolutely cool,
the dragon who ate
the dragon who ate
the dragon who ate our school.
Suddenly the dragon started to chase Miss Lee
while the children were playing elevens and chanted out number three.
The dragon bumped into a massive tree,
and then we looked at it and out popped a bumble bee.
Finally as the teachers tried to run free,
all of the children were full of glee.
She's undeniably great,
she's absolutely cool,
the dragon who ate
the dragon who ate
the dragon who ate our school.

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