This is my second blog about the Carnegie Scholarship, for which I’m writing a first draft of a novella over the course of six weeks, starting 12/6/2012. See below for my first post, which was all about what the scholarship is and how I came by it. In this follow-up, I’m going to talk a bit more about what I’m actually going to write. Sort of.
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James Joyce once wrote:
Reading two pages apiece of seven books every night, eh? I was young. You bowed to yourself in the mirror, stepping forward to applause earnestly, striking face. Hurray for the Goddamned idiot! Hray! No-one saw: tell no-one. Books you were going to write with letters for titles. Have you read his F? O yes, but I prefer Q. Yes, but W is wonderful. O yes, W.
I have entitled my first three chapters I, 1 and One. I have become Stephen Dedalus.
Which implies that I’ve got three chapters written, which I certainly haven’t what I’ve got is the start of each of the first three chapters written, and a whole lot of words highlighted in green, green being the colour of LOOK THIS UP LATER TO SEE IF IT MAKES SENSE.
What I do have is a working title: my working title is: Surveillance Dugs.
And I also have about two thousand words down, which is more or less the right amount.
I’d certainly forgotten how difficult focusing on writing fiction is. I’m sure that the more I do it, the more I’ll get back into the habit, but for these past two days it’s been a real struggle not to just stand up and start tidying things up – or worse, flicking to my internet browser and read the news – after every successful half-paragraph. So far, I’m just writing from home, which has a good and bad side. The good, is I’m in a comfortable environment, with a nice large monitor and comfy keyboard, within easy reach of my kettle. The bad is that I’m surrounded by all the regular distractions of everyday life. I might try some coffee-shop writing with my netbook on weekend mornings when I’m not at work, and if that seems to be working maybe try to make it into a habit.
But if I’m finding it a challenge to sit and write multiple paragraphs (that I’m happy with!) at a time, it’s also outrageously enjoyable. Obviously the whole story’s still at its most embryonic; I think I’ll be able to get caught up in it more once I know the voices that I’m writing with better. But already I’m getting that nerd’s fizz of success when I manage to complete a simile without the whole thing wriggling away down the stairs like a slinky.
So what am I writing, I suppose is the next question? Hm. It’s.
First, let’s revisit that Carnegie application. I made a few comments in there about what kind of piece I would be writing. Summarised, my claims are:
Drawing on my dissertation research, I will set the book at least partially in a created Secondary World.
I will draw on a real-world location ‘probably in rural Scotland’
I will use the funding towards research for the project, including spending time towards the end of the 6 weeks travelling to relevant settings to spend time ‘on location’
I will attempt to produce a ‘literary’ piece of work
So obviously I’ve been kicking all these around in my head since I found out I had the scholarship, and I’ve come up with … not a story that meets all the requirements, necessarily, but certainly a starting-point that could potentially become such a story, if handled well (ha!)
So the idea has three strands, temporally and causally disparate at the outset. One is set in the near-future and is the easiest to write, one is set in Scotland almost two hundred years ago and requires me to do approximately the same amount of research as my entire degree did, and the other is set nowhere and nowhen remotely recognisable, and seems set to be both the most fun to write and by far the most difficult – this is the most overt ‘Secondary World’ element. In style, I think it’s going for something more indebted to High Modernism than Postmodernism, in that it’s a story experimentally writ, rather than anything that experiments with the basic concept of ‘story’. It will probably be more narrative than most proper Modernism, though – more a tale with a Modernist inflection than something that actually fits the genre.
But what the hell do I know? I’ve barely even started. All that I’ve done is come up with a vague idea of just how much work is going to be needed to write a piece of work that’s anywhere near as good as I want it to be.
And the answer, apparently, is a lot. Which is of course absolutely as it should be. Tomorrow I’m going to head down to the second-hand bookshops and pick up some history reading to help with the details of narrative strand 2.
But god damn, blogs are easier to write than stories.