Archive | May, 2015

Group Think

31 May

Ten years ago, when first I moved to the East Anglian town in which I now live, I joined a recently formed writing group. I stayed for five years, until the group began to run out of steam. This month, another former member and I started up a new group. The time seemed right. One never knows whether these enterprises will achieve take-off or not, but its beginnings have been quite promising. There’s a good mix of experience, the members all having been published or having won competitions at some point in their careers. From my point of view, it’s a partial remedy to ‘writing in a vacuum’, that experience of working for years on a project, no part of which anyone else has seen, apart from the snippets that I’ve shared here with my five readers…

A fractured view

I think the fractured approach to long projects that I’ve developed over the last decade might have caused some consternation among the new members. In essence, I weave together a number of threads, each of which throws light on the others until the entire fabric of the narrative becomes clear. It’s not for everyone… ‘I’m not sure where this heading’ one comment ran. Well, it could be that my recent style takes some getting used to or that my latest project is unreadable rubbish! Clearly, I like to think that it’s the former but you can never be sure with your own work, can you? In any case, having put almost three years’ worth of effort in, I have no choice but to see it through.

Here’s what the soundtrack to my writing technique might sound like (yes, it’s called ‘Fracture’):

And here’s another little recent extract, addressed to the point!

Consider my Anti-Story, then.  You may take the conspiratorial, Anti-Stratfordian view of it if you wish.  I can sympathise.  I know something about disputed authorship myself.  You point to the material facts of my life, such as they are – the cramped, low-rent accommodation, the rota of unskilled and temporary manual occupations, the social strata in which I’ve moved – and attribute my story to someone else.  Even a fragmented, non-sequential account such as this, you suggest, implies a certain level of education.  You scour the manuscript for your bargain-basement Bacon, that discount-store Earl of Derby.  Iivo-Jaan Knuutssendaal, Tarrin Olavssens, Jaako Noorii, the Rosi-Ikon, the Eegnatjaans, Pappajuul… you discover a host of potential candidates, eager to put themselves forward. And then there’s the matter of my own name.  Peettruusens, Pettroesaunus, Petersen… I can’t even spell that with anything approaching consistency, you argue, so how could I have possibly authored such a monograph?  And what are the names of the cities and countries in which I claim to have lived?  What evidence can I show of my existence?  I have no answer.  There is only the text… 

All words and images © PSR 2015 

Cutting a long story short…

20 May

In a recent post, I wrote about having set down 108,000 words of my latest manuscript. I felt that 120,000 words should just about see the job done. I envisaged that it would be shorter than my last novel, which weighed in at 150,000. Now it’s reached 114,000 words and the end is nowhere in sight.

I simply don’t write to what’s considered a commercial length in the Anglophone world. Since the turn of the century, I’ve written two novellas (at 25,000 and 35,000 words each, viewed as too short) and two very long novels. After rewrites and editing, a carefully crafted book will be the length it needs to be. In the case of my fiction, from an industry perspective, that’s either too short or too long, then. If I lived in a less conservative country, it would be one hurdle fewer to jump.

Words, words, words… Words get lost in an avalanche of verbiage. Published words, self-published words, words on blogs and Facebook and Twitter and ten thousand other forums… And that’s not to mention the spoken word on television and elsewhere. We tumble down the never-ending scree of wasted words. How can any individual’s lovingly shaped and painstakingly considered words ever reach an audience amid the rumble of a billion clichés and truisms? I don’t have the answer. I suppose there’s an irony here in that my most recent works have more words than publishers desire. In fact, at the moment, they each have over a hundred thousand words more than publishers want since they have no interest in them…

Marching onward - another 150,000 words

Marching onward – another 150,000 words

Someone recently told me that blogs are finished and Twitter is where we now need to be. If that’s so then heaven help us… The minimal number of hits my sadly neglected blog receives these days might seem to bear this out.

It would be nice to have my fiction published but that’s not why I write.  It’s my means of relating to the world. I’m incapable of stopping. I think anyone who is a writer rather than a would-be acclaimed author will recognise this. And so onward I travel, marching toward another 150,000 word tome…

Anyway, in the meantime, here are my 546 latest words, if you should feel inclined to read them.

I shifted from city to city.  One year, I found myself in the far south-east of the continent, in a land of meteorological extremes.  I arrived during winter.  For three months, the temperature barely climbed above minus thirty.  The ground was snowbound.  As the ice thawed and winter turned to spring, temperatures began to soar.  By May, the daily average never dropped below thirty-five.  And at midday in July, it was regularly hitting forty-five.  As a consequence, the city was practically uninhabitable for several months of the year.  Its citizens had come up with a solution.  On the surface, the city looked like little more than a large village.  A sprawling temple-like edifice, all domes and turrets, occupied the centre of the settlement, surrounded by a cluster of squat stone buildings, their walls a metre thick, the apertures in them tiny.  Beyond the centre stretched acre upon acre of ruins, resembling the abandoned remains of an ancient city.  Beneath the surface a different story lay.  The city had moved underground. 

Here, the climate was temperate.  The city’s main thoroughfares comprised an elaborate network of underpasses and subways.  A labyrinth of smaller tunnels ran off them.  What natural light there was arrived via a series of shafts.  Otherwise, the passageways were illuminated by the stark white light of strip lighting.  Of necessity, these tunnels were colour-coded and network maps were positioned at every intersection.  Without them, even those born in the city would soon have become hopelessy lost.  All three of the city’s railway termini were located underground like metro stations.  Shopping districts were arranged along the sides of cavernous halls with open spaces at their centre.  The tables of café-bars occupied part of the space and in the evenings and at weekends, citizens gathered there as they would in the squares of any other city.  Much of the populace lived and worked below the surface.  The “mole-hole”, the “warren”, the “ants’ nest”… the inhabitants had many names for their city.  If their subterranean existence bothered them, they didn’t show it.  They were by nature a taciturn and melancholy people.  It wasn’t without reason. 

The city harboured dark secrets.  During the war, the male population had all but been eradicated.  All men up to the age of seventy and boys aged twelve and over were rounded up and taken to a wood beyond the city limits.  There they were shot and their bodies shovelled into a mass grave.  Afterwards, rape became a daily ritual for the womenfolk.  Much of the city was destroyed by around-the-clock shelling (the citizens were safe from this now, at least).  Liberation was followed by strict authoritarian rule under which summary arrests were commonplace.  Relatives or friends would disappear into the basement of police headquarters, never to be seen again.  No one ever spoke of these things. 

That city of cave-dwellers didn’t seem to speak of anything at all.  I learnt none of their language.  I made no friends.  Operating tunnel-boring machinery on the night shift, I received my written instructions in German, as did all migrant workers.  After a year or more living as a troglodyte, I began digging my metaphorical escape tunnel, burrowing my way underneath that figurative perimeter fence.  I got a new job in another country and moved on. 

All text and images © PSR 2015