For non-writers, that’s ‘work in progress’, by the way. And what better time than January to move on?
I have now redrafted eight chapters of TWE in first person and with a number of plot tweaks. I think I like it more than I did, but for now, (pace the odd competition) I don’t think I’m going to take it any further. I will be posting it on Authonomy to get some critical feedback, and should an agent or publisher appear on the horizon I’ll be chaining myself to the desk to finish it, but unless that happens it will be on the back burner, a project to pick up when other writing stalls.
Meanwhile Julia McCutchen has been talking about an ‘emerging vision’ and that’s what I now need to tackle. I make no apologies for being coy myself, especially as I’m still not quite sure what ‘the vision’ is, or what it may turn into. But I’ve got to the point where even if my goal isn’t clear, some practical work has to be done or it might never emerge at all and just rattle around in my head annoying me.
What is it? It’s certainly not a novel, (not now, not yet?) and may not even be fiction. I have actually made a start at writing it as a film script, because this is how it makes sense to me. It also frees me from doing more research and allows me to concentrate on action and dialogue. Since I have never learned or even considered screenwriting, this is a huge leap in the dark, but one that feels right for now. I’m even happy to think of it as a precursor to something else, as an artist might do a preliminary sketch before starting on the main canvas.
In time I may add some W.I.P. pages to the site . Anyone who’s interested in the background will get some clues from the new links in Current Research.
So, Happy New Writing Year!
And long live the WIP.
Trawling my local library for something in the creative non-fiction category, I spotted Simon Winchester’s The Map that Changed the World and decided on the basis of the opening pages to bring it home. The first few chapters had just the kind of imagined detail that kept me interested in the life story of William Smith and his geological explorations, and just as my attention was starting to wane, Smith’s story became a local one. He (and I) are now in the mining villages south of Bath, where Smith was employed to build a canal. Geology that was feeling rather abstract comes to life when attached to a landscape I recognise as the A39.
This also feels like a good time to mention Patrick Gale’s The Whole Day Through, a novel with some non-fiction thrown in. I only wished I had taken it on my recent trip, as the end pages contain not just the obligatory ‘book group notes’ (is it only me that finds these horribly patronising?) but also a concise guide to the town of Winchester! Even after the event I found Gale’s notes illuminating, although the cynic in me wonders if the publishers put all of these extras in to mask the elegant slimness of the book itself .
I did enjoy the novel (a beautifully written story of former lovers who meet again in middle age) which I consumed in its entirety during a subsequent train trip to Birmingham. Sadly, this meant that I had no time to look out of the window and spot interesting geological features.
In view of the sluggishness of the fiction market and my ongoing historical research, I’ve been seriously considering the concept of creative non-fiction. As a one time fan of Dava Sobel, I think I at least have an inkling of what’s involved, and a fellow writer has encouraged me with the news that C.N.F. really is easier to sell, particularly as it attracts men as well as women readers.
It was partly with this in mind that I sat down in front of last night’s Desperate Romantics – BBC’s much vaunted new take on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood .
The preview, I admit, had aroused some misgivings on the casting front. Could Aidan (Being Human) Turner let me forget his fabulously sympathetic vampire, and lead me to an understanding of Dante Gabriel Rosetti?
The answer proved to be no, and Turner wasn’t the only problem. The casting was so bizarre that I failed to get a grip on any of the main characters with the exception of the fictional narrator and Effie Ruskin (played by the ever classy Zoe Tapper). After the show I found myself on Wikipedia refreshing my knowledge of the Pre-Raphaelites and discovering that the first episode was in factual terms probably correct. Rosetti was a louche. Ruskin was impotent. But the fatal combination of casting and production (whimsical incidental music and the stridently modern dialogue) prevented me from believing a word of it. An interesting case of truth proving, if not stranger than fiction, certainly less plausible.
The book on which the series is based will be published later this year. Fingers crossed it that this isn’t the first time a T.V. tie-in reduces book sales. Meanwhile, if you know of any good examples of creative non-fiction, please add your comment!
I’m left wondering what the series is trying to do, aside from adding a bit of colour to a drab mid-week schedule. Creative it may have been, but unless subsequent episodes pick up, I can’t see it will offer any new insight into the period or even tell a compelling story. I would think that a work of creative non-fiction might do both.