Friday, August 10, 2007


Aghh! So, I ended this week with 1,500 less words than I had last week, and have spent most of the time trying to work out how to move the story on in an interesting way. I haven't found a solution and I'm probably going to be gumpy all weekend, until I can get back to the computor on Monday morning and try and work out what I'm doing.

To make matters worse, this morning I read the first page of a novel my editor sent me (also about 1066 - which is vaguely the point at which my novel is heading to) and it seemed so much more lyrical than my own writing - which opened up another load of worries about my writing. Am i a good enough writer?

The weekend's arrival meant I had to give up on the novel as it was, and sat on the ferry and read a book: and it gave me all kinds of ideas for how to push on through this problem. I seem to remember the other novels being like this, higher and harder hurdles to keep jumping, which challenge you in all manner of ways, and some of the jumps you make, and some of them you have to keep taking run-ups to. And some of them you have to just give up on, and come back the next day and see if there is another way round. Giving up and reading another book does seem like a great way through problems - because there's no other option than to work out a solution.

I suppose the other solution is to give up, and this has always struck me as the difference between published and non-published writers. Published writers dont give up. And heh, we all start off as amateurs.

The problem is I have a pet theory that our strenghts and weaknesses as a writer stem from our strenghts and weaknesses of personality: which then lands me in all kinds of personal angst when I'm feeling my writing is inadequate.

Notes to self:

  1. Create some scenes for the minor characters: which will hopefully take some pressure off the main story line, and also give me some alternative storylines to explore, as well as adding depth to the canvas the main character is on
  2. Go back and brain storm motivations for the characters at this point in the story. What is their greatest fear at this point?
  3. Landscape: try and tie these in more closely to the mood and the subtexts in the plot
  4. Prise out interesting conflicts: is my list of main characters too limiting?
  5. Read Renault for inspiration from a master
  6. re-read the whole book so far
  7. read something inspirational! (*the green knight or heaney's beowulf)
Notes to self when finished this draft:

  1. Explore character's motivations and add as much flesh as possible
  2. titivate
  3. Read Thomas Hardy's poetry

Note to self when reading other people's work:

  1. how to make characters empathetic
  2. how to convey a sense of love/affection for home and people and country


Justin Hill said...

I don't know if you remember our correspondence a couple months back. I'm one of the world's other Justin Hills who write, although not as well as the one who can claim rights as the original - the rest of us are just trying to catch up.

In one of those e-mails I told you about a story - long-form journalism - that I was starting. I had hoped to have it finished by now, but I ran into some of those hurdles you wrote about in this post about halfway in. I would have hoped that those hurdles could only plague one Justin Hill at a time. Guess not.

Wanted to let you know that I found some encouragement in your post, and your blog in general. Keep posting.

Another Justin Hill

Justin Hill said...

Hi Justin!

I'm glad it's inspiring, it's hard to tell how much use the blog is, as it says so little about the book itself, but talks in abstracts. I was feeling i should alter it a bit, but youre the second person to say it's been encouraging, so thanks for that.

In your email you ask about the time frame of this novel. It's hard to say really. I spent most of 2005 working on a novel that i never really started, which was set in modern Yorkshire. That aborted idea gave me the inspiration for this novel, and I spent most of 2006 researching it, and then started in about November 2006. My time frame has varied wildly: i was originally planning an epic novel that covered the entire period before the Battle of Hastings. That would be a novel along the length of Lord of the Rings, or A Suitable Boy, which would probably take me two years, if I made good time.

But the way the story has come out, and the stories of the main characters aren't really coming out in a way that would work as a single novel, and so I'm breaking them up as seperate narratives, which may run concurrently vaguely along the lines of Alexander Durrell's Alexandria Quartet.

So afew weeks ago I had 60,000 words written, which is a short novel. Now i have the first 30K of two novels, but the one I'm working on at the moment is coming along very nicely, and I'm hoping to get the first draft finished by Christmas. That's quite an optimistic timeline, and I could well go on into next summer, depending on how well the story develops. I find my writing is freshest, and most powerful and dynamic as close to the first draft as possible, the more editing I do the most the spark is diminished, so if I do finish by Christmas, then I'll be delighted.

Wynn Bexton said...

I noticed you said "read Reneault" well you know she is my Muse and I go over and over her work and through her have learned to craft what I am writing about ancient Greece. I also read other historicals and learn from them, although my pleasure reading time is limited to bus travel usually.

I agree that the sponateous bits we write are usually the freshest and require the least editing. Just browsed through my notes and snippets to the end of my book some of which I wrote ages and ages ago and I was simply amazed. Can't even recall writing some of them and for the the most part they are clean, clear and sparkling. What I'm doing now is mostly connecting the dots and hopefully will finally have this Homeric epic finished by the end of Fall!