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So…now I have completed the first draft of my third novel. Hmmm…yes…indeed.
I did this through ‘NaNoWriMo’ (National Novel Writing Month) where you are challenged to write fifty thousand words in one month (November). For the second year running I am a winner and have miraculously completed that many words and my novel has a start, a middle and an end (round of applause please!).
If you had asked me whether I was capable of such a thing a year and a half ago I probably would have laughed at you in the way that we often laugh off things that might challenge us. The kind of laughter born of disbelief and fear.
Of course there is still lots of work to do with editing my novel and rewriting. I now have two novels that require such extended work. Only the novel that I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2011 is in any kind of finished state.
Despite the work ahead it should still be a gratifying feeling to accomplish such a creative feat, and I do feel proud of myself. In a way…
But then, being the miserable bugger that I can sometimes be, I wonder about what it all means. And, yet again, I find myself wondering why I am doing it? The writing I mean…
The first thing, and this is a hard thing to admit, is that it is a bit self-indulgent. If writers (or artists of any kind) are honest, they are often creating to entertain others, and thereby seeking to gain approval from others. We all want to be adored after all? Don’t we?
Although, I have to admit that there is a certain terror when someone I know actually reads something I have written. This is always a difficult thing. If a friend or family member reads your work then aren’t they obliged to tell you they like it, even if they don’t? So you can’t always trust what they say…
Praise from strangers is better. It is a bit like when I play gigs. Singing to strangers is always easier and less precious than singing to friends.
I guess I am just rambling now. My real question is this. Do I dare now call myself a ‘novelist’ simply because I have written some novels? Am I a novelist if no one has ever read my work?
Franz Kafka never had a novel published in his life. He only ever published short stories in magazines (like ‘Metamorphosis’). He later instructed his friend Max Brod to burn all his manuscripts before he died. We have Brod to thank because he ignored Kafka’s request and published works like ‘The Trial’ and ‘The Castle’ posthumously anyway.
Would we call Kafka a novelist if Brod hadn’t published his work and burnt it instead? If we knew he had written novels but no one had ever read them?
I am not sure what I think about this. I suppose if you write a novel (however good or bad?) that makes you a novelist…even if you aren’t published or make a living from it…
Perhaps I will challenge myself over the Christmas period. Often when we meet new people, perhaps at parties, they ask us “What are you?” to which I sometimes reply “I am a human being, what are you?” Or they ask “What do you do?” to which I sometimes reply “I like to lie on the sofa, what do you do?”
Flippant and silly I know, but maybe, just maybe, this Christmas I will be brave and when somebody asks me one of those questions I will answer “I am a novelist…”
Do you think I will dare?
What do you think?
I have not posted so much this month due to being immersed in NaNoWriMo (google it if you are unsure what this means) for the second year running. As it stands I am about five thousand words from hitting the fifty thousand target and am hopeful I will be a winner again this year.
Again I have amazed myself that I am somehow able to write so much in such a short space of time and am hoping that this year’s novel – entitled ‘An End of Poppies’ – will have a start, middle and end to it, just like last years did. I suppose I like to use NaNoWriMo as some kind of mad plotting technique.
Anyway, as any good writer knows you need to have breaks from all those words, ideas and characters that are continually fighting for space inside your jumbled head.
So this year one of my breaks was to write some music. A theme of sorts, if you will, for my novel. I am not sure that this piece of music entirely encapsulates the feel I was hoping for, or reflects the book, but at the end of the day I will leave you to judge it on its own merits.
And just for fun I am not going to tell you anything about my story. Instead I challenge you to come up with your own ideas of what my book might be about from the music (oh and the clue of the title!).
I hope you enjoy it…let me know…click on the link below…
© 2012 Simon Poore
Last week I was lucky enough to have a few days on the Isle of Wight with my mother and five year old daughter. For those of you not from around these parts, the Isle of Wight is that island that hugs the south coast of England.
I had never visited it before and wasn’t sure what to expect, especially in October. But I was pleasantly surprised. The Isle of Wight often seems as if it is a place from a rosy bygone age. It has beaches and cliffs and castles and rolling green hills. I would recommend it for a visit.
So as I am embroiled in NaNoWrimo (National Novel Writing Month) and busy furiously typing out my third novel I thought I would post some of my photos from the Isle of Wight. Have you been there?
© 2012 Simon Poore
My latest work in progress is a novel called ‘Cradle Island’. It is a kind of young adult/SciFi adventure with a hint of steampunk for those of you who want to pigeon hole it into some kind of genre. See some of my old posts if you want my opinions about ‘genre’ and how I don’t really follow that kind of thing – I tend to just write what I enjoy, if anyone else enjoys it then that’s a bonus.
This novel has whales and sharks, romance and conflict, questions of how society should or shouldn’t work and of course speculation about the mysteries of human ‘nature’; amongst lots of other things.
Sooner or later I expect I will publish an excerpt chapter on this very blog, but that will have to wait until I am at the editing stage. So far I have completed seven of the planned twelve chapters of the first draft. Currently that means about 60,000 words and I am pleased with its progress.
But now I have hit a problem, a perennial problem I seem to keep coming to with my writing, the problem of time. At my advanced age (email me with guesses, I dare you!) the months and years seem to flash by; the grains of sand dripping ever faster into a bigger pile at the bottom of the glass bubble. My problem is actually having or finding enough time to do the things I love. One of which is of course writing.
There are a number of aspects to this problem. The first and most obvious is what some might call ‘Real Life’. This is a thing that keeps getting in the way. I am not complaining about my job or my social life or all the everyday things that seem to take up so much precious time.
For example I love spending time with my daughter; her delightful five year old imagination inspires more that I could have imagined. I dearly love playing and writing music. And, surprisingly there are times when I actually do enjoy my job (For those who don’t know I am a teacher, and again young people are inspirational great to be around).
My current problem is that I would like to finish the first draft of this current novel by November. November is the month of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where writers are challenged to write a novel (at least 50,000 words) in thirty days. Last year I amazed myself and wrote the first draft of my first novel – ‘The Last Englishman’ (currently hitting the slush pile of an agent near you!). Anyway I really want to challenge myself and write another book, like I did with that one in November. I enjoyed writing from scratch, with no plan. The problem is that if I don’t finish the first draft of ‘Cradle Island’ by November I feel I might lose momentum with it. And I really want to finish it. This means writing about 50,000 words between now and November.
So, my question is this, is it possible to write 50,000 words over the next month or so and then another 50,000 words in November AND juggle my ‘Real Life’ in between?
And when I think about it I think two things. Firstly this seems likes a tall order, perhaps too tall, I may fail. On the other hand it’s just another challenge; a challenge to be enjoyed; after all I love writing. And if I don’t complete both by the end of November then it’s not the end of the world. I will know that I gave it a good go. My books will get finished…in time…
As someone who is fairly new to writing (I only started about a year and a half ago) I have recently come to a realisation; maybe even a revelation. In the end my ‘Real Life’ isn’t getting in the way, and that’s because writing is part of my real life…
© 2012 Simon Poore
I thought I would be brave and share a short extract of my novel, provisionally titled ‘The Last Englishman’, or ‘The Last Englishman and the Bubble’…I know, I know, titles are so hard! I wrote it for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) back in November and have been editing it ever since. It’s plot is immaterial at this point, I just felt like sharing. I have no idea if it’s any good, but then does anyone ever know when they create something? As always any and all comments are welcome…hope you like…
Libraries. I always loved libraries, libraries and museums, obviously. I loved that Sammie loved them too, though her approach was very different to mine. Again, obviously. The first time we went to a library together it was her idea. Saturday morning and she announced that we were going to the library. I say ‘announced’ but what actually happened was that she screamed at the top of her voice from the shower that we had to go that very morning. In fact we had to go that instant.
She wore thick black tights and black pumps, like a ballerina in negative. On top she wore one of my jumpers. A big thick navy cable sweater. For her it was like a dress; a provocative short dress. She wore long beads over the top, like a flapper from the twenties, and a beret, with her curly hair stuffed inside. She understood so well, that dressing was display, display of personality. She understood it both consciously and unconsciously.
In the car I asked her what she liked to read. We had only been ‘seeing’ each other a week or two and I couldn’t believe we hadn’t discussed books, although she had made a point of perusing my book shelves that first night when she came to my house. Later she had told me that you could judge someone by the books they had, or didn’t have. In the same way you can judge someone by their choice of shoes.
“Shoes are so often the windows to the soul,” she had said. Males who are sloppy in their shoe selection would be judged as sloppy people. Females who chose the wrong heel gave the wrong impression to men they wanted to attract. It became a game with us; imagining the lives of strangers by their shoes.
“That man at the bar is obviously a spy,” she said, one night in the pub, “counter intelligence, M.I.5.; he has chosen to dress down to fit in with the ambience of the place, but his trainers are so expensive, so ‘de rigueur’ that he has over compensated!” I loved her games.
She told me that she didn’t have a “favourite book or genre” and I left it at that as we drove into the library car park. Once into the library I was just moving by habit and heading for the history section, which is conveniently located next to the magazines. I like to choose a book or two and then grab a comfy chair and flick through a magazine I couldn’t be bothered to buy.
She grabbed my arm as I was heading off.
“Wait,” she said, “we don’t have a plan,”
“A plan?” I said, confused.
“We need a plan,” she said smiling. She took my hand and dragged me to the front desk.
“Hello young man,” she said to the guy behind the counter. He was probably older than us but she called him young man anyway, probably because he looked a bit ‘hippy’. He had long hair and a Metallica tee shirt on. Trying to be younger than he was, and Sammie knew it. She read people so well, it was like second nature.
“Hello,” he replied, sounding bored and not looking up.
“Do you have a list, or map, or catalogue showing where all the different kinds of books are please?” she was smiling and leaning her head to one side like a child. Acting dumb as if she had never been in the library before.
The man looked up and smirked at her feigned ignorance, but I could see he was taken in by her smile. It was obvious he fancied her and would succumb to her charm.
“Our catalogue is online,” he said, “if you have a library card, you can use your number to access the catalogue on any of the free terminals.”
“Would you please be a dear and show me?” she asked, brushing her fingers over his hand on the counter. Needless to say he did. Came round the counter and logged into the computer for her.
“How many sections are there?” she asked.
“142,” he said, pointing at the screen, “including fiction and non-fiction, periodicals, large volumes and non-lending,”
“How fascinating!” she said, turning and winking at me like a bank robber, then sending the man away with platitudes of gratitude.
“Ok, choose a number between 1 and 142,”
I chose 73, because that was the number of my house. She chose 22; the number of her house. Then we had to find the first book shelf in that section. And from there we had to get the seventh book along from the left in the middle shelf. She said that seven was a lucky number as it was, at that point, how many times we had slept together.
I got a book on how to do crochet and macrame. Patterns for making ridiculous colourful ponchos, fashionable in the nineteen seventies.
We met back at the magazines and she showed me her book; a biography of Winston Churchill. Of course the sensible part of me protested and argued that we should swap books. But she laughed at that and explained that we couldn’t return to the library until we had actually read our books. She said it would expand our minds.
It was the only book I have ever read about crochet and it bored me to tears. We sat in bed together reading our books and telling each other about them. She was like the ‘auto-didact’ from Sartre’s novel ‘Nausea’. She figured if you read widely rather than restrict yourself, you would understand more. It became our regular library game, and she was right. I learnt all sorts of things I would never have known about. Including Jean Paul Sartre.
Sammie was always making fun games out of the most ordinary of situations. Even on that day after the library. We sat and had dull watery coffee at an ‘antiques fair’ in a church hall. We were walking past and she just announced that we had to buy something for each other there. We only had the coffee because she liked the old lady who served it. Well more accurately she liked the old lady’s hat, and tried to buy it from her.
I wondered out loud to her whether calling it an ‘antiques fair’ was a misnomer; against the trades descriptions act or something. Most of the junk there was worthless and over priced and not exactly ‘antique’; just stuff people didn’t want anymore and donated to the church. She, of course, would have none of it.
“Everything is just future antiques,” she said, “everything! Your mobile phone is already an antique!”
“Well yes…yes but it still works!” I said.
“What I mean is that all of these things for sale here were once loved by someone, maybe took pride of place in their home, and maybe we should rediscover the pleasure they can give. As a historian you should be able to see that surely?”
Again she was right; she had a way of opening my eyes and making me see the world through a different lens. We bought tat and tried on third hand musty clothes and laughed, holding hands as we perused the stalls. I still have the silver pocket watch I bought that day. I keep it in my pocket, though it has never worked. I don’t know why I keep it. I guess sentiment is all I have now.
Now everything is antique, just like Sammie described it. Everything on the planet, including me. And maybe I am the last to cherish all those things we made and did. All the lives and all the loves over the centuries comes down to me. Remembering it. Maybe that’s why I put my hand in my pocket and run my fingertips over the smooth silver of my watch; feel its weight in my hand. The weight of all the centuries. Maybe that’s why I am typing this…
© 2012 Simon Poore