Mmm, I promised to come and talk about my writing today. I think some of this might be known to all of you already, but it’s come as a bit of an epiphany to me. I’ve always been a bit behind the times, probably because I spend my time thinking about big animal bottoms instead of what’s going on around me.
Can’t I talk more about bottoms, instead?
Oh alright then.
So I’m still reading ‘Structuring Your Novel’ by Robert C Meredith and John D Fitzgerald and I’m doing the exercises at the end of each chapter. They have two sets of exercises: one lot refers to the novel that the reader is trying to write, and the other ones are about the devices used in the example books they suggest we look at. I’m doing the ones that refer to my novel because I haven’t read the example novels that they are using to illustrate the techniques.
(They use Madame Bovary, Tom Jones, The Grapes of Wrath, The Pearl, From Here to Eternity, To Kill A Mockingbird and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. Tom Jones has been on my classics TBR pile for years and all the others apart from the spy one will probably go on as I find them in secondhand bookshops. For someone who loves books I’ve a shocking great abyss in my knowledge of some of the classics. That could be a post for another day.)
It’s an odd book. I can’t tell if they make it more complicated than it really is, or whether it’s the way it’s written. But with my reservations come an absolute certainty that it’s what I need right now. I’ve finished loads of books and promised myself I’d go back and examine, dissect and pull apart exactly what the author did to construct it and make me feel the stuff I felt and yes, never ever gone back and done it. But they’ve done it for me. Even though I haven’t read the books, they are all so famous I know enough to get what’s going on.
They can say deeply irritating things, such as: ‘A very popular type (of novel) mainly written by women for women readers – though one suspects clever male writers may author some of them – is the romance novel.’ Page 143. Clever men? Written by not-clever women for not-clever women? Why are the men who write them clever, but not the women? Am I being a bit touchy?
And they can sound a bit patronising: when they want you to concentrate really hard on one of the theories they write the point in bold. One feels a little like they might say it really sloooowwwwly and quite loudly were they speaking aloud to you.
They talk about the different between a story with a plot and a story with a storyline. A story with a plot has an emphasis on events (event driven, as I know it) and a story with a storyline the emphasis is on character (character driven) the essential difference is that in the second one the character changes as a result of the incidents. I was under the impression that all/most stories now are character driven.
So if lots of it is irritating, why is it a book that I need?
I’ve been pottering along, knowing roughly what my story was and what I planned to happen but I’d never put down clearly what I felt about my intentions. That thing of writing down the story in one sentence… one of the Novel Racers wrote about that months ago; I thought about it then and went running for the hills. I couldn’t locate succinct words - I got rambling verbal diarrhoea without a great sense of what ... what I …
I HADN’T THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT I INTENDED. What was my attitude to what I was writing? What was the purpose to the story – what did I believe in that made me want to tell it?
So none of it is rocket science, but they've made me stop to think … I should really have thought before I began writing, but I didn’t. So I apologise if you all know all this, but I thought I could just ramble through it making it up as I went along. Maybe some people do, but it’s not worked for me.
This is getting a bit long, but lastly it's made me wonder about starting again ... again. Or maybe planning and then writing from the start (again) for NanoWriMo.