Losing the Plot

Song: Phyllis Nelson – Move Closer “Hey baby, you go your way, and I’ll go mine… but in the meantime…

So it turns out moving house takes up more time than I imagined.

My wondrous month of November has been packed full of:

  • Lovely chats with every utilities company in the history of the world to tell them I’m cancelling. My “Thanks, you’ve been very helpful today” was followed by a stony silence more than once. I think niceness scares people in call centres.
  • Endless trips back and forth with cars full of junk. Don’t try moving house in a 1.1 Kia Picanto. It’s like typing a novel using only one finger.
  • Hiring both an end-of-tenancy cleaner and carpet cleaner. The carpet cleaner ended his visit by GIVING ME A C.D HE HAD MADE OF HIMSELF SINGING. Is that… normal?
  • Searching through all my boxes of clothes to find a dress to wear to the Domestic Sluttery Book Launch. There was free vodka, Sian’s speech made my eyes a bit soggy, and there was free vodka. I had a headache the next day.
  • Reading Good Girls Do Swallow by Rachael Oakes-Ash. It’s a very readable book about body image, eating disorders and the pressure put upon women to be slim in order to find happiness. Somehow it made me feel both utterly inspired and terrifically greedy at the same time. I think I need more time to digest that one.

Anyway, somehow another month has slipped by and I haven’t blogged. Which, bearing in mind my last blog was all about how I was going to do NaNoWriMo, probably doesn’t fill you with optimism for me reaching the 50,000 word target.

…And you’d be right. I did manage a paltry 10,000 words, but this experience was not as forgiving as I’d hoped it would be. I wish I’d dedicated my month to it, but it has filled me with more resolve for next year.

Now, onto the title of this blog. As well as time-restriction, too much wine and a whole lot of life getting in the way of completing the novel, I was also struck by a strange sensation of being bored by my own writing. I know, I know: NaNoWriMo isn’t supposed to create masterpieces, it’s supposed to create vast volumes of words to sculpt and refine over the following months, but my main issue – above and beyond the others I’ve mentioned – was I didn’t take the time to find a story before I started. It was a bit of an obstacle when you’re trying to write almost 2,000 words a day.
“Ooh, I’ve started my novel! Right! What should happen now?”
“……………………..” (for about an hour and a half) 
“Shit. I really haven’t thought this through.”

You can be as flouncy as you like, and shove a whole collection of snazzy similes, jazzy juxtaposition and witty…wit into your masterpiece, but actually most people want to open a book and step into a world, rather than bask in your creative genius. You’re aiming to be a story-teller, not an instant classic. The story, and what you’re trying to say through it, is everything. YOU NEED A STORY, LAURA, FOR GOD’S SAKE WHERE IS YOUR STORY? Ahem, anyway, you get the point.

Someone recently told me ‘You do realise people are everything, right?‘ and it made more of an impact than they intended. I tried (too hard) to create winning characters, and I think I had some potential, but to do it properly you need to test them in actual action and drama – like we are all tested in our daily life, making decisions on how to act, when to be honourable and when to lie, what to say, what not to say – otherwise they’ll remain ‘clever ideas’ rather than becoming actual people to your readers. I view my favourite characters from novels I’ve read as old friends that hold a special place in my memory  – I don’t really sit there and marvel at how succinct and innovative their dialogue is and how nicely the writer described the tree they were sitting next to.

Don’t get me wrong – some of my novel actually wasn’t entirely abhorrent to me. And the pressure to squeeze out such vast quantities in such limited time does force you to let your imagination run wild, so I’ve stumbled upon a few trinkets of possibility for future writing. It’s just, in an awful lot of it, not enough happened, and those possibilities weren’t stretched as far as they can go. It was a learning curve I’m glad I didn’t miss.

So here we are, on the very verge of the most romantic, magical and inspirational month of the year. Everywhere you look, there’s a story. It’s my job to find a good one.

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One thought on “Losing the Plot

  1. You did better than me on Nanowrimo. I managed a couple of thousand words. Better than a few years ago when I signed up for it and didn’t write a word. Writing is odd. Don’t consider 10000 words as paltry.

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