The Twin-Pronged Approach: an Update

9 Mar

As previously reported, in the six or so months since I completed my last writing project, I have been working on two manuscripts at once, a new departure for me. The rationale was that when one project ran into the buffers, I’d be able to switch to the other instead of working unproductively and wasting my time (at which I am a genius). I’d also been unable to decide between the two projects that had pushed themselves to the front of the queue and begun screaming “write me!”. And so half a year later, how has it been going?

Through the summer holidays and on into the start of autumn, I worked on a sequel of sorts to my previous novel (there’s still a little revision to be done on this in the light of writing friends’ comments). By that point, I’d done a lot of planning and written about 15000 words. That’s pretty good progress for me since I tend to dwell upon every word that I use, to labour over the shape of each sentence and passage. As remarked before, the practice of freelance journalism enabled me to write faster but I’ll never be able to pour out words like Jack Kerouac or Philip K Dick (which reminds me of a passage in a story that I wrote…). And then as inspiration began to run dry in October, I jumped train.


Jumping trains…

Since that time, I’ve been working on my alternative history about the recent European experience. Again, there has been much on-going planning to be done. I’ve also been integrating photographs that I’ve taken into the text (perhaps similar to the one above), an approach borrowed from one of my literary heroes, W G Sebald (and for whose widow, coincidentally, the mother of my children once kept books). I now have 25000 words and counting on this project with no sign of a halt in sight. So, thus far, the approach is still yielding dividends, but I’ve yet to jump back to the first project. We shall see what happens when we arrive at that station…

All text and image © PSR 2013


4 Responses to “The Twin-Pronged Approach: an Update”

  1. Mari Biella March 9, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    Your twin-pronged approach is similar to mine, Paul. I find it very helpful to have two works on the go at the same time: when one runs out of steam (which happens frequently, alas), I can turn to the other. Like you, I don’t write particularly fast, so it sometimes seems like a very slow process indeed.

    I know what you mean about ideas that jump the queue and scream “write me!”. I find that they’re like that: some (most?) have barely taken their first breath before they die; others are content to develop slowly, over the course of months or years; a few are prodigies, and demand to be written at once. They seem to take on a life of their own.

    I like the extract from the story, by the way! I’m beginning to recognise your characteristic passion for experimentation with words and language!

    • Paul Sutton Reeves March 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

      Hi Mari and thanks for your comments.

      I’m encouraged to hear that jumping back has worked for you. As I say, I’ve yet to return to the original project but am hoping the work will benefit from it when I do. I’m the same in having a multitude of ideas, ranging all the way from a few scribbled sentences to abandoned works of 100000+ words. And, needless to say, most of them have come to naught. I’ve usually found a single idea rising to the top, but for some reason, not on this occasion. And both of them were originally conceived four or so years before I had time to begin them. How are your projects developing?

      I’m pleased to hear that something of my writing style comes through in the snippets that I post on here. I have a deal going with words. We both have to work hard in the effort to make things happen. That particular extract comes from my collection of experimental short stories (along with three of the other examples in the ‘Writing’ section of my blog). It visited a handful of publishers some years back to no effect!

  2. anytimefrances March 9, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    To use Irish phrasing ‘you’re a divil for the work Paul, aren’t you’? I would be too myself but I’ve tried to slow down the rate at which I write so that these days it’s hardly anything. There used to be a time when I’d pile up the jotters and then have the displeasure of asking myself what I might do with them. I’ve filled bruscar (rubbish in gaelga) in Parnell Street in Dublin with them when I had to come away a few years ago. I think I’m too scatter-brained to create something which would make sense to a reader; one needs to be disciplined to write to reader taste.

    But as you say you have to write in industrial quantities to be good at it. Trouble with me is that I don’t seem to think in terms of ‘project’ as I like the free-wheeling feeling of just sitting down with a jotter and writing and then checking it over, hoping that with the discipline that one takes on in checking one writes better after each ’bout’ or ‘spate’ of it. The pain of reading what I write is so hard to take sometimes it acts as an inhibitor to that sort of writing and so I often try to write something with the needless-to-say obligatory minimum of its possession of beginning, middle and end. It’s good to have an ambition, so they say.

    I read a story by Mari this week and it was very enjoyable. It reminded me that I did, many years ago, write a story with those virtues because hers had sorts of mermaids in it and mine had just one, who rescued me when I was drowning and took me to her amythest cave somewhere off the coast of Skerries, north of Dublin. I was rescuing an elderly woman from being blown off the wooden bridge in Dollymount when I fell into the water, however, I’d saved her and maybe deserved to be saved myself. I’m sure mine wasn’t marketable or even share-worthy but the recollection of it feels good and its now having a distant relation in Mari’s wonderful story makes it all the better.

    I think your working on two projects at once must be quite effective as you can take your mind off one and let it rest for a bit which must I think make for a more thoughful story. I can see that you write very well; I think it was an Irish short story writer, O’Flaherty or O’Faoleann who said a page a day of ‘lapidary’ prose was good going. I love reading your blogs as you show that you take care over construction and think you must be an inspiration to many.


  3. Paul Sutton Reeves March 9, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    Hi Franny and thanks for the comments and kind words! I suspect that I inspire my cat and not much else…

    No, you’re right, I don’t make things easy for myself. But if writing were easy and required no effort, where would the challenge be in that? That’s why I’m sceptical about the claims of those who say that they’ve written books in a few short months or a matter of weeks (as explored in a previous post). Writing is like acting or any other art. Look at what Daniel Day Lewis or Mark Rylance have achieved. Sure, they have great talent, but they’re willing to put in the hard work required to create something of worth. As you say, writing certainly requires discipline.

    I also make great use of notebooks, but mostly for whatever my WIP might happen to be at the time. And I still have them all, piled up in boxes! I recall reading an interview with a novelist who’d lost an important notebook, saying that in some ways the notebooks were of greater value to her than the finished artefact, which is what I infer from your comments.

    Those story ideas sound interesting… That Mari has a way with words! And lapidary – that’s another fine word and very apt in the circumstances.

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