My Writing Plan

Further to several paragraphs of angsting and thinking out loud, I have made some decisions about what I want to write and where that fits in long-term.

The first decision is to cease writing short stories for the moment. While it is pleasant when I do well in competitions, and even more pleasant when I get paid actual real-life money, there are too many prestigious longlistings and near-misses to make it worth my while at present, financially and professionally, to write any more. Plus the stories I write are, I suspect, not conforming to current fashions.

Therefore I will concentrate exclusively on writing novels. Now that I’ve mastered writing one, I might as well keep working on more. The novel that is currently with my agent is set a century in the past, and its theme is the betrayals and exigencies people can force on each other during war, and the power of romance and redemption alongside it.

I like big historical themes like that, with living, breathing characters who stay in the reader’s heart, right in that heart’s city centre, and don’t float along like literary abstractions on the perimeter suburbs. I wish to write more novels in that style, particularly revering writers like Némirovsky, and feeling humble when I think of her accomplishment. I wish to write as many novels as the muse will allow me in the next few years and I will strive to do my best.

That’s my plan.

My Writing Plan

What Kind of Writer Are You?

Recently a professional in the business, someone whose opinion I respect, asked me where I saw myself as a working writer. He meant, what sort of thing did I want to write? What genre do I want to work in? What is my plan?

And I realised I didn’t have a plan, at least not a conscious one. And that it was high time I got one.

Up till now, I’ve exclusively followed my heart. It’s led me along a course of short story writing, various starts and stops at a novel, and finally to the project that has consumed my energy for the last two and a half to three years. This is the novel that got me into the final of the Novel Fair. A tale of passion, power, betrayal, war redemption. I was tweeting to Arlene Hunt today, one of the Novel Fair judges, to thank her for her belief in my novel and how crucial her comments were to the process. She modestly pooh-poohed this idea, but it’s true. She was the first to explain to me that it was a big work – in that its passions and themes were grand and operatic, like the opera singer character who opens it. Hearing that from an outside witness helped me understand my own work better.

But I still haven’t answered the question. What is my plan? What do I want to write? Continue reading “What Kind of Writer Are You?”

What Kind of Writer Are You?

Paris

From parisinfourmonths.com

Having completed the novel and being on a break from writing, it was time to relax. I am just about to return from the City of Lights, where I was whisked away on a beautiful long weekend.

I have been to Paris several times, and it never gets boring. The beauty of the place just keeps hitting me at every corner; the bench in the sun in the Jardins du Luxembourg, the view at the top of the Sacré Coeur, the sweeping walks along the Seine where buildings of majesty and beauty are casually littered along the right and left banks as if such aspirations were perfectly normal. My travelling companion and I walked for miles, doing a loop of the canal St-Martin to the Bassin de la Villette and then to Montmartre, around by the Louvre and back to Bastille. And there was the obligatory stop at the ice cream shop near Notre-Dame.

My last visit was in August of last year, when bruised and exhausted at the corruption, pettiness and raw chill of this country, I more or less fled for a long weekend and met a few writers and drank mojitos during an open mic at a bar off the Place de la République, people spilling onto the footpaths, rowdy and cheerful in the heat outside even late into the night. I remember nobody appeared to care about anything political other than Valerie Trierweiler, the mistress of President Hollande, who still couldn’t manage to make him look interesting.

When here, I always drop into Shakespeare and Company, the bookshop founded by Joyce’s champion, Sylvia Beach and re-opened by George Whitman in 1951. I love its old-style windows, its narrow passageways – with apologies to wheelchair users – and piled-high rows of books. On the first floor, there are nooks aplenty to rest in, a piano, and at the front a library where every Saturday a drop-in writer’s workshop is held and which is free the rest of the time.

And on that topic, a writing-related event – Shakespeare & Co were involved in the Paris Literary Prize in which my novella, A Trifle, was long-listed. To my great regret, I did not make the final seven on the shortlist. The lady behind the counter reassured me that there were many hundreds of entrants – up to 600 – so getting on the longlist was impressive. Still, missing out on that massive prize, argh! That would have been lovely.

Anyway, home tomorrow. I’ll spare you the obligatory “me outside the Eiffel tower” pic 🙂

Paris

I Love Writing, But…

…you know what I hate?

Well, dialogue. I hate dialogue, when you have to be constantly on the alert for the bits in the middle of the conversation where you “zoom out the camera” so you don’t have talking-head syndrome. Or when the dialoguing characters get lost and you have to pull them back to where they’re supposed to be doing. Not to mention where you put the commas if you’re breaking up a sentence to say “he said”, “she said”, or “replied” or “answered” or whichever damn verb.

And I love writing, but sometimes description is a pain. Like Margaret Atwood said, somebody looks at you like an injured animal. But what sort of animal, what sort of injury? And you have to think, and then you have to go and look up species of animals in wikipedia and whether they’re behaving properly for the season in question and and and…

And I love writing, but I could really do without the bits you have to fill in. You know, when you need to explain something and you haven’t filled it in properly and have to go back and do it before you can get to the meaty bit? And how to do that without taking too long so the reader gets bored and wanders off and makes a cup of tea and you’ve lost her, lost her for good.

And I love writing, but I hate trying to sort out the narrator. I mean, you try limited third person, but then realise you need to get something from the point of view of person Y which is not narrator person X so you try omniscient and then get that thing E.M. Forster warned about where the writer degenerates into a showman. So you have first person and immediately the page is littered with “I, I, I” which you can only sort out by having more passive voice to limit the perpendicular pronoun, but passive voice is YUCK.

But still, I love writing, if it weren’t for constantly having to sort out the plot. Now if I wrote literary fiction I wouldn’t have to worry about such superfluous nonsense, I would make like Milan Kundera, but wait, even he had a storyline to stick to. Plotting is a beeyotch because plots tend to come with more holes than a secondary boreen in Lisnaskee and half your time is spent filling the damn things up and even then not knowing if you’ve managed to do it.

But I do love writing. Apart from all that.

I Love Writing, But…

Watching My Hands At Work: Festschrift for Adrian Frazier

Ten years ago, I left my job in Galway and became a student of the inaugural MA in Writing programme headed by Adrian Frazier in NUI Galway. I have very fond memories of that time, and of the encouragement given to me by Adrian and by my tutors such as Mike McCormack and Louis de Paor, who happens to be a co-editor of the above named volume published in Adrian’s honour.

My story “Infinite Loop”, a tale of music, programming and tender, fragile love, which was published in the New Irish Writing section of the Independent in 2011, is featured in this volume which is available on order from Salmon. It will also be launched next week, Thursday 9 May in Charlie Byrne’s bookshop in Galway at 6.30pm.

When I started the Masters, I was in a rather unhappy and vulnerable place in my life. My confidence was not high at all. I have very happy memories about spending time writing and getting that confidence back, very slowly and gradually, and meeting wonderful people. So I am delighted to be featured in this book. And I’m grateful to Adrian, Mike, Louis and all the others who gave me the power to believe in myself.

Watching My Hands At Work: Festschrift for Adrian Frazier