Tuesday, July 22, 2014

For my next trick...

Yes, I have another one up my sleeve. Actually, I have more than one but one at the time. And I should finish off the edits on my first of course. And I will. I have time set off to do that and to sort of the synopsis the week after next. Luckily I know a cupboard where I can find solace during this evil task, even though I should probably heed Hemingway's wise words and continue to edit sober.

But once it's out there I can start on my next one. Although I have two short stories I really want to write before that... Time. There's not enough time!

And my next one is pulling at me, enticing me with the articles I had emailed to me after my consultation last Thursday. (It was an interesting consultation, which will most definitely require a mention by my biographer.) I want to start putting pen to paper (metaphorically of course - I mean I want to get a new laptop) and shape my protagonists' lives, worlds, hearts and heads. Mess them up real good.

It's so exciting to be back here again. At the start of a new project, looking at a page that already has its first sentence on it. I just hope I remember this excitement in 6 months time, or 8 months time, when I am tired and hate my novel and the only thing I want to do is burn it.

I'll be sure to keep you lucky sods posted!

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Sunk Cost Novel?

So. I finished my novel 10 days ago. Woo hoo. And I've only celebrated 3 times. I obviously wish I were in New York so I could celebrate at Molly's - it is after all the setting for Abby's (and all the other bars in my writing). The feat has had a taste of anti-climax to it too - I almost felt like it wasn't a big deal. But it is. It's a massive deal.

But today, after I'd smacked me into place and stopped telling myself the novel is garbage, I'm thinking about all the times I wondered if I was just committing the sunk cost effect and should delete all of my writing, give up the notion of a novel and suck up that life is nothing more than minutes and reviewing ethics applications and hating almost everyone I work with expect one person I don't hate and seven I don't really hate but just dislike (I kid! well, kind of, maybe).

Which leads to the question of how you would know when it's sunk cost fallacy or when it's just really hard going but something you have to do? I've said all along when people have asked if this was my first novel, that no it isn't but it's the first one I'm going to finish. So did I finish this one just because I have been stubborn and by doing so I committed the fallacy? But isn't that what you need to get to the end of things that are hard, stubbornness (and people who will let you cry on their shoulder when you're doubting yourself and tell you to just finish it)?

But really, who cares? I've been through the process, fallacy or not, and I came out alive on the other side. I've learned a lot, things which I will implement for my next one (oh yes, there is another one - it's been brewing for months, and it's, according to UP, genius) so maybe the process will be simpler. This one has just been through my good friend's editorial so I will look through the suggestions and do a little edit. Then my little fairytale will go off and seek representation. And even if it gets rejected over and over again I don't care - I got this far and I will go all the way one day.

So conclusion, I don't believe in the sunk cost effect. At least not when it comes to novel writing. It's hard. It's not always fun, a lot of the time it's just painful. But it's rewarding to make stuff up, to create worlds by stringing words together, characters with souls (and no, no one is in my novel - I may have borrowed a few traits here and some other there but c'est tout), life.

This is who I am.

Monday, March 24, 2014

On being a writer

I couldn't sleep last night. Not one of my usual insomnia nights when I wake up after a few hours and then am unable to go back to sleep until 30 minutes before my alarm goes, but one of those when you're just about to fall sleep and then all of a sudden you're wide awake and that's it. Could be because I felt really stressed as I had a shit weekend from a writing pov (pardon the pun) - I spent maybe one hour tinkering with a chapter - not accaptable. I need this novel to get to the end so I can move on and start the next.

So, anyway, as I'm lying there I started to think about a blog post I read the other day about writers and mental illness. This is of course nothing new, that writers are often thought to suffer from depression. Like PC so quickly pointed out when I sent him the link "As we all knew..." (He then went on to tell me I'm a "genius - obviously" when I told him the title of my next novel; he's a very clever man.) The post talks about how writers think too much and how we turn our reality into plot and the people in our lives into characters. And to be honest, haven't I spent my entire life doing this? Maybe this is why I'm so fickle - nothing (no one) ever comes close.

This made me think about Howard Jacobson's Zoo Time, which is a novel about a novelist. There are a lot of things in the novel that I can relate to, like when the novelist talks about his characters and how they have to take on a life of their own, surprise you, but like people in real life can turn out to not be what you thought they were and you can't stand them. (I've had that problem with M all through this novel - she's just not doing for me so, fickle as I am, I just can't be bothered.) I've read half of it so far and think it's an interesting novel is for a writer (though I'm finding it hard to get through actually - I've even had to put it aside half way and read another book for a while; I didn't find this with The Finkler Question but that could be because I read it during a period when I was preoccupied with Beshert and Jewish...um... stuff...). 

One of my favorite bits in Zoo Time is this:

The impulse to write is an impulse to alter the conditions of your childhood. Not to falsify them, but to make the world other than the hellhole it looks to you when you're young.

For me this really sums things up. I'm not saying I had an unhappy childhood. But looking back, it's was one massive hellhole. I don't even have to look back - I was emerged in a hellhole daily. I wasn't depressed - it was just... Not interesting enough. 

Of course I don't think all writers are depressed (drunks) - some writers are successful without having the neurological similarities of someone who suffers from psychosis (but here I'd like to say then we need to look at what they write about). Likewise, not everyone who thinks too much and suffer from depression has an urge to write. But as I was lying there, sleepless, I wondered for those this applies to:

Do we write because we are depressed or are we depressed because we write?

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Break-up or stay a little longer?

So here I am again, after another weekend when I didn't get enough done because I just can't face editing any more. But I can't actually finish it unless I get the this editing done. 

It isn't even the novel I set out to write any longer. I would need at least another 50000 words for that and I don't have it, not for this one. Yes, it has beautiful sentences, and it has soul and pathos, and wit and all those things - I love a lot of it. But I just don't feel it anymore. 

What I do feel is like when you're in a bad relationship where the sex is still good so you hang around for that reason and that reason alone. But you know you really should end it because life's out there and who knows what will come along if you just dump this clown.

But I'm so close. I can't just walk away. The orgasmic accomplishment I'm going to feel when I type "the end" - I can almost taste it.   

So I guess I'll give it until the deadline of my birthday weekend. Then I am, and I think I've said this before, going to print out a copy and burn it. Just like you do with all your old boyfriends. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Seedy basements

Having spent my evening with eight complete strangers in a basement in central London (which sounds oh so promisingly seedy but in realty so very boring) getting my first chapter dissected, I have come to the conclusion that if I keep getting feedback on every version I write, I will never ever finish this novel. 

There must be a time when you say, "alright, it's not perfect and it will need more work here and there" but then you just get on with it. 

The points made by the eight strangers were all valid and a few of them where things I have been thinking myself. (Note someone counted the usage of "fuck" and thought 11 "fucks" in 5678 words were just a few too many. Buddy, that's nothing - Eliza swears a lot; what can I do?) And of course there was a lot of amazing critique as well - my descriptions, use of language, the irony, humor, pathos, the way it transports the reader to a place and makes them feel and engage - with both places and the characters, the clever way of weaving my threads so delicately and never losing them. Someone even compared Jack to a Murakami character! 

But although I will go back to the seedy basement in the near future to return the favor, I don't think I will submit more until I'm done. Isn't that what you have editors for (editoR in my case as I've sacked two; not told them yet - they are just too unreliable when it comes to follow through - snacka går ju men snacka så det går...) to read the thing as a whole and then pick out all the things that you have to change (usually most of the novel)?

Feedback is always good but when it means you will never get to the end, then I think it might be best to just push through. And in the mean time just show it to the people who think your writing is as beautiful as the aurora borealis. After all, getting your fragile writers ego boosted on a regular basis doesn't hurt, right?

P.S. As I've sacked my American editor I need a new one - should you fancy reading my most fantastic novel in the near future please apply within.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Messier messes of mess

I'm currently outdoing myself in the mess department. I can't find myself in this mess, never mind things I might actually need like my keys and phone. Everything is upside down in my apartment, at work I'm chasing myself for work which I was supposed to have done days or even weeks ago, trying to get to the gym 4-5 times a week so I don't have to have surgery to reduce my breasts is impossible and I think I'm going to have to get a cleaner because, as so astutely said in August: Osage County, washing my underpants is getting in the way of my drinking. And as if that wasn't enough, the mess in my head is worse than ever. Perpetual. Obsessive. So what's new?

Finishing the novel in the midst of this mess - challenging. But I'm trying. And I'm trying hard. After the difficulty with rewriting Chapter 1 completely I've definitely put it to bed. It was particularly hard because nothing in the second half of the chapter was no longer relevant to the story, and I had to cut so much of what I considered to be really good writing and ideas I wanted to explore further. I do love my sentences - they are rather beautiful. But before Chapter 1 is ready for my editors, I'm taking it to a new writing group on Tuesday - it's going to be interesting to hear what people I have never met (I don't even know their names) have to say about it.

On to Chapter 2 and 3. For some reason I started working in parallel on them, which is not a good idea. Yesterday I spent looking through all the comments I've had on the various versions of those two chapters (and changing hyphens to dashes - god damn it Word!) and decide what I thought were valid points. Today I was supposed to finish them both but here I am blogging instead. I will though. Jag ska bara...

But truthfully I'm really quite excited. By the 101st birthday celebration - that's my FINAL deadline - I will have finished my first novel and start my second. I have my three editors lined up - one has no choice, the other two have expressed their wish to read it. All the themes are coming together, and at a workshop on Friday I was told the way I manage to weave the story around the themes is really impressive. To which I had to admit that I'm not even aware of it half the time. I was then told that in that case I have an incredible talent. Which I do. I kid, I kid! 

Well, I half kid. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Let go - easier said than done?

So the somewhat arrogant, argumentative, obnoxious, challenging, annoying man that makes me want to punch him in the face told me I have to let this novel go. I should finish it, obviously, but know that this one isn't going to be perfect and probably not get published. Then I should move on to the next project. (Which is already at the planning stages and involves me getting a shiny 11 inch MacBook Air - business crucial.) And I hate when a somewhat arrogant, argumentative, obnoxious, challenging, annoying man that makes me want to punch him in the face makes a fair point.

To end it quickly, just to finish it, might be the right thing to do, to send it off out into the world and see if it can fly. 

This whole thing is really stressing me out. It's taking too long. I don't have time; I don't have energy. It depresses me that I don't have time and energy. It depresses me I've still not even managed to rewrite chapter one. I've tried, sat down despite being deadly tired, only to get as far as taking out the odd "that", tighten up a sentence, remove an "and", but ripping out the second part... Not so much. But, of course, working like I have these past weeks isn't really conducive conditions for productivity. Another four weeks off and I could easily finish it.

But I think what's most problematic is that the novel as it stands, even with the first five chapters rewritten, isn't doing what I set out for it to do when I started this project. The novel lacks some of the ideas I wanted to explore - or they are there but not developed enough, not tangible enough. This is partly due to the difficulties I've had writing Morgan. Her complexities turned in to my own emotionally retarded issues and that didn't work - I tried to write the stripped version of me without any walls of defense and sarcasm. Bad idea. Way too close. So I tried to make her nothing like me, but that didn't work either as I had no connection with her and she turned into a complete weirdo. I can see her clearer now, but she's still uneven. Maybe because I don't want her to be an antagonist as that was not my intention. My mentor kept saying the reader needs to know they can dislike her, but I never meant for her to be disliked. But I think, maybe, once I change her in the first chapter she'll be nailed. Just need time and energy to dig into the first chapter and the ability to just cut out stuff if it doesn't quite work with the new take, even if I think it's really good...  

The other thing that's holding me back from ending it quickly and move along is my unwillingness to waste Jack, Morgan, Ben and Eliza on a novel where they are not used to their full potential as they were intended, where the internal (and external) conflicts and psychological dysfunction haven't been fully explored and not created a big enough bang. At least Jack and Eliza are way too awesome to allow to end up going out with a tiny "poof". And there's the sunk cost fallacy - I don't want to have spent over a year (or we are really coming up to two) on a novel and then finish it up just so I can get it done when I'm not complete happy with the end result.

Someone else, also very annoying but who I less frequently want to punch in the face, told me to just finish it and then let someone read it. Brilliant idea of course. But I can't finish it unless I'm happy with it, unless I feel all my ideas have been fully incorporated and allowed to develop and be explored. My next novel is not about this and these are not necessarily topics I want to explore again.  

It is indeed a conundrum, but perhaps if I get my promised writing days in January I can solve it. But I'm not ready to let go just yet.

P.S. Note how clean my language is! Not a single expletive. Fuck.