Blank page banishment

So, follow-up book to my latest – The Hundred and Fifty-Eighth Book. Where to go, what to do and which characters to involve.

I spent a couple of days performing usual tasks – turning a dollar, putting washing on, walking dogs, making lists, and, feeling ill at ease with myself. I like that grounding feeling of the on-going project even though there’s editing to be done, maybe chunky re-writes and agents to try and beguile. I need the early morning fix of the big idea; the lines and paragraphs that will gradually meld into another 90,000 odd words to be tweaked, sworn over, possibly abandoned or hopefully read and enjoyed by others.

So, in my writing studio this morning, (bed with many pillows, cushions, tea, etc) I just wrote stuff, quite a lot of stuff; my brain soon became engaged (mostly) and I was enjoying the process, whatever the outcome. That seems , for me anyway, the way to work when faced with the scary empty screen page with pulsing cursor at the top – a clock marking time, or the notebook and chewed pencil.

I like this quote by David Mitchell on the subject:

A blank page is also a door – it contains infinity, like a night sky with a supermoon really close to the Earth, with all the stars and galaxies, where you can see very, very clearly . . . You know how that can make your heart beat faster?

 

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Sevens into sevens

I sat back after pressing the ‘make yourself an edit copy’ on Lulu publishing yesterday and realised it was the seventh time I’ve done this – (well, not ordering copies – that would have to be well into the forties or so, counting all the edit copies in total I’ve requested) – the seventh time as in the seventh book. Seven novels in seven years . . . quite a lot of ink, paper, worn computer keys and brain-space in all . . .

Now along-side the agent-hunting, social-media and the rest of real life, I need the next rolling project – the thing that keeps me on track with writing. So far it’s a follow up to the book I’ve just finished (at least to edit trawl) – The Hundred and Eighty-Fifth book; a novel-version of an odd little short story called The Katbells Fishing Community; the third in the Londonia/Hoxton series, or perhaps something else that hasn’t occurred to me yet apart from odd tweaks of thoughts and ideas.

If it is the follow up to the 158th it’ll be futuristic, set in London – or what’s left of it – possibly a large domed commune atop Hampstead Heath where the inhabitants spend quite a lot of their lives playing vast jigsaws. Anyway, I’m off back to the city soon, so I’ll indulge in much walking, thinking and plotting and hopefully the idea will become entrenched enough to start off my new daily writing workout.

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I’m a writer, really I am.

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A well-established author acquaintance recently told me to say this in the morning when I look in the mirror – well, often half a day passes or more before I look in a mirror, but it was nice of him to say it as he meant it.

I have ‘been published’ – short stories and a children’s book but am seeking that real affirmation that what I do currently is as good as friends and contacts have told me – and that my work could be published and put on shelves in shops.

Hoxton got as far as submission and has been turned down after I had waited in that rather comfy little bubble of hope for a considerable time. Yesterday I moped a little but soon recovered knowing I just need to find the right person at the right point.

Here’s an extract from my other working novel, developed from a short story called The 158th Book, where the main character, Hamish (at this point in hospital after falling though a floor) asks himself the question: when is it OK to say you are a writer.

The ward is quiet this morning, just the sound of the squeaky-wheeled medicine trolley and my adjacent neighbour reading a crossword out loud. He stops, exasperated by a clue.

    “Hamish?”

    I turn, wincing a little at my shoulder’s protest.

    “Leroy?”

    “Dog crossing undefined wilderness sometimes in underwear’. First letter P.”

    I look at his old black face, grey eyebrows furrowed in friendly question and wish I could help. Crosswords always elude me.

    “. . . er. Something to do with the night sky?”

    He peruses the page again: “P . . . mm. Nope. What about, ‘oves snared within foliage’? Three words starting with S.”

    “Sheep-eating plant.”

    “ . . . . S. H. E.E.P. Yes . . . man, how’d d’you know that?”

    I’m stunned myself. “I just remember feeling horrified that there is actually a plant that reaches out and grabs large animals.”

    “Not in London?”

    “No. Peru, I think. Although, apparently brambles can do the same thing.”

    “Blackberry plants can eat sheep?”

    “Not as such. It’s the thorns . . . the sheep gets stuck as it tries to free its wool from the plants, gets more stuck and eventually dies, thus nourishing the bramble bush – for ever pretty much considering the size of the animal.”

    Leroy looks impressed. “What did you say you do?”

    “I’m a writer.”

    He nods, smiles and goes back to his crossword and I sit there thinking about that phrase. ‘I’m a writer’. Do you become a writer when someone with special powers says so – like a chief editor at a major publishing house? Or are you allowed to just say, ‘I’m a writer’ if you write?

Audio story

I love them: Dickens, Dorothy L Sayers, Bill Bryson, Jake Arnott, etc; listened to over and over, and will be again, no doubt . . .

Now I have one of my own – my words, the ones I wrote, edited, dreamed about and swore over . . . so amazing to hear them narrated by such a talent as Anton Lesser.

Thanks Cracked Eye! Great site of stories, artwork, audio, films . . .

 

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The Hundred and Fifty-Eighth book, read by Anton Lesser, now out on Cracked Eye