Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Ubud Literary Festival

The last few weeks have been a little crazy: in preparing to leave for Bali, being at the lit fest, and then coming home again and trying to tackle the snow drift of jobs that have been piling up - which is all a bit irrelevant, except for the fact it means a three week break from my novel.

I'm a little supersticious of taking any break from the writing, especially when the novel is flying along, but sometimes there's no choice. Shit happens. You are sick, your children are sick, the novel is stuck, you're out of enthusiasm for the novel, for writing in general.

So - I try and find ways to make this work for me. One nice aspect of a forced break is that it gives you a chance to put the book away for a while, and then come back to it a little fresher, a little more like a reader will come to the book. And that's a great thing to achieve, because you start to see the saggy bits or the bits that really shine.

Sometimes - and this is the same with many problems, not just writing - taking a break allows your subconcious to bubble away quietly, and then the solution or inspiration will suddenly spring upon you and surprise and delight!

I'm half way through the book. 50K in, and as this is a novel based on real events, the second half is vaguely set out for me. It's up to me to decide how to deal with these recorded events: maybe by following them like a dot to dot drawing, or filling in the gaps between.

I've almost finished digging through the snow-drift, but having waited this long I'm happy to wait a little longer. I hope to start reading next week, and deal with the results, and then pull the story along. Just add a thousand words or so.

Notes to self:
1. Make sure the 50k so far works
2. Make sure the characters are full and rounded and empathetic
3. Make sure I have enough characters to carry the story through the second half of the book. This is the most important one, I think.

This all brings me back to the reason I was away: the Ubud Lit Fest. I'm a fan of lit fests, mostly because I'm a writer who enjoys reading to an audience. Writing is such an isolated art form, my audience is usually a simgle person who picks up a book alone, in a room, maybe years after I have written the book, and opens the book to the first page, and starts to read. No other art form is the artist so divorced from the audience, so readings give me a chance to feel the audience reaction, like an actor or musician.

I used to feel somewhat schitzophrenic at lit fests, as you go from no one to speaker and then back to no one again. But I don't feel that any more: I like lit fests. They give me a chance to meet other writers, and to talk ideas, inspiration, techniques, experiences and problems with agents and publishers. They're the closest thing writers get to conferences, and the conferencing usually goes on with a bottle of wine. Because writers are solitary creatures, by necessity, which is not something that seems to hold true for artists, who seem to mingle much more easily.

Ubud is a beautiful place, and there was a great bunch of writers and artists and literary types around. Its a credit to Janet de Neefe, and all the other people involved, all the more remarkable that this festival is less than 5 years old.


Wynn Bexton said...

No doubt you had a marvelous time in Bali (lucky you!) There's an International Writers (and Readers) Fest. happening here in Vanocuver in a couple of weeks and also the Surrey Writer's Conference at which I volunteer. I prefer this one as you get to schmooz with lots of other writers and sit in on workshops. I usually get the job of introducing writers at their workshops such as Diana Gabaldon, Jack Whyte and Jean Auel. Kind of a thrill! Also to meet lots of agents, publishers, editors etc. I find these festivals to be very enriching and inspiring.

Justin Hill said...

I imagine Jean Auel would be interesting to listen to: and great that there's such a range of writers. In the UK, where I've more experience of lit fests they don't delve into fantasy/sci fi writers so much, although crime seems to have more 'acceptability'. It's a personal gripe of mine: tons of literary novelists could do with learning some of the story telling skills of the genre writers.