How to get dressed (and be novel)

There are at least 200 ways to dress a novel. I’m quite sure the one I’m currently writing already exists as a fully-formed, gorgeous thing glittering in the ether – yet not glittering, more shimmering, catching the light as it moves, that’s all – and my writing of it is one of many ever-changing, fallible potential attempts to grasp some grounding down of it. It’s a hot air balloon whipping around in the wind, deafening me with its mechanisms and about to leap away at any moment, but utterly mesmerising and I want to jump fully in and sail away with it, even risking a shudderous drop down into the canopy of a hardwood tree, if it comes to that. It is already a thing quite happily, thanks very much (my novel would say, if Platonic Forms could speak). As a papery manifestation it might not exist yet, but the novel in the purest sense is already exactly its own self, complete and self-satisfied (though I like to believe it needs me) and my bringing it down to earth through fingertips and the sensations (being drip-fed its relative epiphanies – but who is the character thinking of and what is the sound of their voice? But what exactly is at stake for the protagonist and what exactly do they fear?) is only the experience of leaning closer and closer in.

Percolation. The shimmering thing, which I picture hovering playfully about the air above me, now free of its weighty balloon paraphernalia but magic and light as air itself, glowing, sometimes close by, perhaps in a field I’m walking through, other times more majestically, a cosmically colourful thing in a dark universal, star-lit sky, allows itself to be revealed by a heady mix of me concentrating very hard on it and forgetting about it completely. Continue reading

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Believability

At current time of writing (point zero, all blank page ahead), I believe I’m going to write about believability. I’ve even written the blog title in the box above in advance, which I believe I never do.

I’m currently battling with believing that believability is going to be believably achieved in my novel, which is straddling the alternative paradigms of:

1. believability (by way of character motivation; why on earth would the young, beautiful girl say yes to the alarming, unlikely thing?), and
2. eyebrow-raising incredulity.

Believe me, it’s a narrow tightrope to waver across, and achieved (I suppose) by a mix of skill and faith. The problem is that what I believe, you (reader) may not.

Things I believe:
– The scariest, most offensive deadlines are the most useful.
– The brain works in mysterious ways. I.e. sometimes you find Continue reading

How to carve a life

It’s Nyepi Day here in Bali; day of silence (we are not allowed to go out onto the streets among other rules; patrol men say so!) after the night of monster spirits, the Ogoh Ogohs, being paraded through streets across the country and ending in fire. Today is a new year, day one, blank slate, day of reflection (from 6am this morning until 6am tomorrow morning) and, in my case, laundry day.

Yesterday, the supermarket (to which I was kindly driven by the homestay family member, Made, with some friends I’d acquired within hours of arriving here and invited along for the group outing, much to his enthusiasm), was absolutely packed with a long line of kitchen-less tourists stocking up on storecupboard essentials as if an apocalypse was nigh. If apocalypse just means ‘new beginning’, ‘revelation’ or ‘uncovering’ (from the Greek apokálypsis), it’s kind of true, of course, according to the Balinese. A box of walnuts cost nearly a fiver, and some heartily healthy granola (coconut, banana, rosella, red rice, oats, cassava…) cost about the same. I stocked up frivolously (peanut butter, juice, a peach, that kind of thing), and took great refuge in the fact that spending in a different currency doesn’t always feel like spending real money.

I write this on a terrace, eating some unidentified green substance with a spoon Continue reading

The Others in our Heads

At a writing event the other day, someone read something out during which the main character licks their third left molar ‘and does all the other things we do when we’re uncomfortable’. As the rest of the paragraph washed over me, I automatically licked my own (having calculated at lightning speed which molar the author meant; third from left, third from right?) and observed several others around me discreetly trying the same. Yes, we all agreed in silence while not meeting each others’ eyes; this is what we do when we’re uncomfortable. We lick our third left molar.

Details make for good writing, which is all about truth, whichever brand of truth particularly on offer.

I looked up a book today after a personal recommendation (a book recommendation is a sort of gift; it should never be fobbed off lightly) and read some online reviews. The book had been shortlisted for a massive international prize. ‘Boring boring boring’ said one dissatisfied customer under a 1-star review (zero isn’t an option, as another reviewer noted) entitled ‘Stupefyingly boring’; she went on to announce that she ‘will never again buy novels about men living inside their own heads’. At this point, and after some other reviews (some adoring, some more mixed) mentioning themes of displacement and genre-defiance, I was positively salivating and I couldn’t order it fast enough. Continue reading

Hallmarks of a good-bad decision

Making decisions has never been my strongest talent. Even as I write this, I don’t know exactly what I’m going to write about. It’s great, isn’t it? I have absolutely zero plan. I wonder if you’ll read on. I’ll probably write on – here in the attic bedroom I have brought my laptop up to especially, only because I have the urge; that formless, purposeless yet driven urgency to find out what I’m finding out about, what I’m figuring out; all via the wonderful medium of webbity blogging.  Continue reading

Ways to write a world

I wrote a whole world, once. Then I wrote another. Then another.

What is there to do with these worlds, afterwards? They sort of linger, lolling about in your head.

It’s a funny thing to finish a world; it’s a sudden decision to stop; simply to stop putting down the lifeline of its words or thought pattern. You walk along and hear a character’s voice, remarking on something which has amused him; speaking words which he is certain, by the way, is the kind of thing he’d say; he’s become quite witty – quite worldly, even stuck in that fertile ring of performance you formed with your sentences, that belt you put around him, that supposed perimeter defining him, a sort of spritz put about the sense of him. Continue reading

Zephyrs & Value (in a world of paper)

I find it quite interesting (by which I mean annoying) that when I play a piano piece I used to know very well, but which has – through my recent abandon of it – started the gentle cascade towards only semi-memory, it is the old favourite parts that I mis-play, or forget completely. I get to the most beautiful part of a piece; the section I would once have felt my way through with my eyes closed, or while gazing absently at the blue picture frame in front of me (which used to belong to my Grandma and contains a poem about how much more we would value the world if it were small enough to fit in our hands), but this time my fingers freak out and have no idea what to do. Continue reading