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Posts Tagged ‘write club’

Tonight …

… there is Write-Club.

Yes, welcome to the glamorous world of my Friday night, when Peter M Ball and I sit in a selected lounge room, laptops at the ready, more blocks of choclit than one can shake a stick at, and we …

Well, we write. That’s it. We catch up in the first hour and eat dinner, trade gossip, market info and strategies, then we sit on the comfy couches in our slippers and dax of track and write. And if anyone stops writing for more than 60 seconds, we yell ‘WRITE’ at each other. It’s all very encouraging. Or, as my boyfriend observes, it’s really too stupid to be something we just make up.

Pete is working on Black Candy, a novel and I’m working on Prohibition Blues, the short story on which Lisa Hannett and I are collaborating.

Boo yah!

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#1: if you’ve got a headache, no amount of positive thinking will make it go away.

#2: staring at a screen will most likely make said headache worse.

#3: ideas that may occur to you when you’re caught between a drugged sleep and a blinding headache will either be (a) crap or (b) really good, but completely beyond recall.

#4: you are grateful that the handset of the landline has died completely.

#5: when the headache goes away and you wake up to find the neighbour’s cat sitting on your chest, staring at you as if you should be feeding it, then it’s time to go to write-club and get some words out. And feed the cat.

funny pictures of cats with captions

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Always interesting to get another perspective on Write-Club – http://www.petermball.com/2009/12/11/awesome-things-about-2009-615-write-club/

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steam

Yesterday, I lost words.

On Friday at Write-Club, I’d finished a 6000 word first draft of a story. I left it alone on Saturday to percolate. On Sunday I felt I’d give it a read over, maybe do some editing if the spirit moved me thus … which, happily, it did.

I started on the hard copy as is my wont and marked up the first five pages, then went to the soft copy and made those changes, also doing some extra writing and re-writing as I went, for this is my process. Feeling fine, I went further and did on-screen editing of a further six pages – pages I knew were clunking and holey as donuts. I knew they needed attention to transitions, story logic, character inconsistencies, set-up, connections, etc. But that was a first draft, so it was okay. Second draft is where you start making sure the bones are connected under the story’s flesh and that the flesh itself is nice and firm.

I was so happy with the work I did. I stopped when I heard my brain begging for choclit and the story was looking at me as though I’d worn out my welcome. This was fine – always stop while you’re ahead otherwise you may just be writing crap on top of a run of good stuff.

Then I closed the document. Then I emailed it to myself from my work PC. Then I opened it to check I’d attached the right doc … and found that I’d not saved the changes. And the auto save on the PC was apparently not working.

I didn’t cry because, quite frankly, my brain shorted out. There may even have been wisps of smoke coming off my head and out my ears, accompanied by a slight scent of eau de burning. But I think I was suffering the kind of numbness you get when a shock is so great that your brain ceases to operate – when the only thing you can do is carry on with the ordinary things that you know you can do successfully. Like making a cup of tea without inflicting self-injury – who can bollocks that up? You need to know, somewhere in the back of your wounded grey matter, that some small task is easy for you. And after all, the accidental deletion of tea is an unlikely occurrence.

It was the agony of delete. I didn’t want to use that line, but I know Jason Fischer will read this and if I don’t preempt the pun it will open up a world of opportunity for him.

So, I went home. I had my hard copy notes for the first 5 pages and I sat down and re-created those. The worst thing is the nagging sensation that what you’re doing now just isn’t as good. You’re not working with the same spark you had when you were rewriting the first time around, when your brain was floating and free and you were shifting words and paragraphs and new ideas were being generated like a universe forming and wheeling. Oh, no. This, this thing you’re doing now feels workman-like … it has all the finesse of a bad builder slopping cement between the bricks of a shaky wall. It feels like you let your pet monkey go play out on the road and it got squished.

It feels awful.

And I have tried all the little tricksy bits to recover the file, to suck those lost and abandoned words back onto the page. And nothing works. And so all I can do is this: howl into the void and excoriate myself. And, of course, pick myself up, put salve on my grazed literary knees, pull up my frill-topped socks and shine my lil black Mary-Janes, and just start over again. Pen to paper, fingers to keys, brain to ideas, no crying. Suck it up or go home, solider.

To keep it all in perspective, I watched this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoBTsMJ4jNk to remind me that some days, nothing goes write [sic] for anyone. ‘It’s a Mr Grim about the reaping …’ – there’s something special about Terry Jones in a dress.

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Some people have asked “Do you really just sit around and write?” Well, yes, we do. And here it is documented below. Result of the evening: Pete = one novella finished; Angela = a 6000 word first draft, taking the collection up to 73k. Huzzah.

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This evening, I head to Write-Club at Pete’s place http://www.petermball.com/ – the real place, not the virtual one.

I am charged with the bringing of the essential choclit items (aka brain food – the literary equivalent of Thing Rings, making writers more productive and more able to either defeat or perpetrate evil, as is one’s wont). Pete is cooking, which is good – for I am lazy.

Today was one of my Friday writing at home days; I cleared about 1500 new words. Then I lay on the couch for about 3 hours and did research reading. I woke up last Saturday with this story idea in my head; I had a fairly srawny-looking skeleton, but I knew I liked the idea and I could flesh it out (feed it some carbs). I’ve typed up my notes, made more notes and scribbled a preliminary scene breakdown … I feel comfortable that the story, “Lavender and Lychgates”, will come out in the end.

But it’s this strange and frustrating place I’m in at the moment, where I’m still feeling my way, knocking on the doors and windows of the narrative, trying to find the best ways in and out; tapping on the walls and floor to see if there are any hollow spaces where words and story might hide. And the thing of which I keep reminding myself, the thing that keeps me grounded when I’m feeling lost, is this one question: what does this character want. The more I write, the more I become convinced that for a story to work properly, it must be grounded in an exploration of desire, want and need. Maybe that’s just me … it often is, let’s be honest.

But the coooooool thing about today is that tonight, I will crack the 70K mark on the short story collection, Sourdough and Other Stories. “Lavender and Lychgates”, is the second last one for the book. Then I just need to finalise a re-write of “Under the Mountain” and getthe whole schmeer off to my four beta-readers. And then it will be ready to go out into the world and make its fortune. I will, of course, be equipping it with all the traditional tools for this endeavour: a swag tied to a pole, a red cape with a hood, and magic beans. What could possibly go wrong?

Onward and upward.

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My talented friend and writing buddy, Peter Ball (author of the rapidly becoming notorious novella Horn) and I have been conducting Write Club for nigh on two months now. This started out as a result of me whinging about my writer’s block and Pete regaling me with the tale of how Holly Black (Spiderwick Chronicles) and Kelly Link (Magic for Beginners, Stranger Things Happen, Pretty Monsters) get together and sit in a cafe and just write (and presumably drink coffee). (Man, I hope that story’s true or my world is built on a marshmallowy foundation.) The idea is a support group of one to keep you on track putting down new words and to stop your inner editor from getting a hold of you.

So, once a week, we have Write Club in one of our living rooms – although I think my house may now be about to be deemed unsuitable as it has wireless, which defeats the purpose – we brew copious amounts of coffee, eat an amount of choclit roughly equivalent to the weight of a small child, and just write. If one of us stops writing for longer than 60 seconds, the other person must yell ‘WRITE!’ at an annoyingly loud volume. It’s like a jumpstart for writers – the literary equivalent of an electric shock. In a quiet room, with only the light tapping of keys, it can be quite effective – and messy if you’re in the middle of sipping your coffee.

But the point is: it works. I’ve managed to get the first draft of my novel done, to get a novella started, and am now on the rewrite of the first draft of said-same novel. Pete’s hit 60k on his novel and can now see the light at the end of the train tunnel.

Write Club works. I highly recommend it. It works best in a group of two or three – any more than that and the temptation to talk becomes a bit too strong – as Clive Barker said in Weaveworld ‘After three, the multitude’.

Next, Project Mayhem, writer-style.

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